Doniphan log haulers at Tyler in 1917.

The Long Road From Doniphan to New Donipha


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y dad, Tom Edwards, had worked for the Doniphan Lumber Co. mill in Doniphan, Missouri, on the Current River. Then after the mill moved in 1906 to near Kensett in White County, Arkansas, he farmed for his mother and ran the blacksmith shop.   In the wintertime he made ties and sold them to the railroad.  His older brother Wyman had gone to the mill at Blytheville, gotten a job in the mill and sent for my dad.  Daddy talked it over with my mother Ora, and they decided to go and try it out.  Times were hard and anything was better than living on egg money and what ties he could sell, and living with grandma wasn’t easy.   So we went to Blytheville on a train.  Uncle Wyman had asked Daddy to bring a quart of moonshine with him so he could have it for Christmas.  Daddy thought it would be nice to take him a half-gallon so he could have some too.  Prohibition was on, WWI was just over – the war to end all wars.  I was just walking good and guess what, I turned over the suitcase in the station and the fruit jar cracked.  Everyone heard it in the station but they had just called the train and we had to get on. 

Soon the moonshine started smelling up the train.  The windows were closed and it did get to smelling, bad.  The men on the train started talking about the “revenoors” who were going to meet the train and arrest someone.  Daddy got scared, raised the window and threw the suitcase out.   But no revenoors, no one arrested, and Daddy hired a black man to go back and find the suitcase and bring it to my Uncle Wyman’s house.  It had all we owned in it. 

We stayed in Blytheville quite a while.  My brother Manuel was born there. We got a car, a King.  When my brother was about four months old, my mother fell ill.  Daddy’s sister ‘Felly came from New Doniphan where she and her husband Fred Bass lived.  Daddy hired a black woman to wet-nurse my brother and take care of us.  When my mother died, Aunt ‘Felly gathered us up and Daddy drove us to New Doniphan.  He went back to Blytheville to finish up what he had to do, get rid of our furniture and close the house, quit his job at the mill and then go back to New Doniphan.  Times were still tough.  For a while he worked at a sawmill near West Point, then he got on at the mill in New Doniphan.  All this time we lived with Uncle Fred and Aunt ‘Felly.  We used to play in the clay banks on the main road to Kensett, which were pale yellow. I thought that all the kids were blond because of all the clay.  Daddy traded the King for a Chandler and found new romance with Mae Wall, whose mother, Mrs. Ora Fry, ran the hotel in New Doniphan. 

Uncle Wyman got on at the new Doniphan mill, went to the top and left for the mill at Glenwood, in Pike County, where he sent for my dad.  Daddy and Mae got married and moved to Glenwood, but my brother Manuel and I did not go until quite a time later.  Glenwood, which is on the Caddo River, had a mill which eventually moved to Springfield, Oregon.  Uncle Wyman got to the top in Glenwood, too, and went to Chicago.  I left Glenwood in 1928.  When we lived there, the men always tipped their hat to the ladies and stepped to the side.  The colored if they had to be in town, not only tipped their hat but stepped off the sidewalk.  A sign in town said, "Nigger, don't let the sun set on you here."  Their town was on the other side of the river. There were ball games near the mill between the whites and the blacks.  Daddy and a Mr. Crump were the engineers at the Glenwood mill.  They worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day.  We lived on Candy Street, which was red and white striped, and the big shots lived on White Row. We had electric light and running water on the back porch.  On White Row, they had an inside toilet with a pull chain and a bathtub, real high class.  

(The author is a member of the White County Historical Society.)