Legend of the Owl Eyes Silver Mine
By W.J. LEACH
There is no way of knowing whether fact is the mother of legend, or whether it’s the other way around. The legend (or maybe it’s a fact) of the Owl Eyes Silver Mine as has been heard and repeated and verified, after a fashion, for about a hundred years is still told and retold in the Judsonia community.
The general theme has placed the silver outcropping in a cave, the location of which is at present uncertain. However, the mark of identity was a certain large oak tree near the cave opening. This particular tree had the distinctive bark irregularities that gave it the appearance of a pair of owl eyes -–thus the name Owl Eyes Mine. If there are any who know its location, they are keeping the information to themselves.
A rather detailed account of this "mine," including a quote from a much older report, appeared in the White County Record some years ago. The quote from the old account named a Mr. Kitchen as the person who brought some of the silver ore to town and showed it to several people. This was in the 1880s.
Then there is the mine out from Beebe, sometimes referred to as the White Oak Mine. A vertical shaft served as entrance to this mine. The shaft was covered with white oak logs. Descent to the first level was by ordinary ladder from ground level. Tom Armstrong gives the most complete account of the mine that is currently rumored in Beebe. According to Tom, who remembers the description of the mine as was told to him by an elderly man when Tom was a young man. He told Armstrong of visiting the mine when he was a young man as it was some 30 years earlier when he heard the story and the man who told him was well past 70 when he related the incident. This would place the happening before the year 1900.
According to this account, the young man went with two older men in a wagon from Beebe to the site of the mine and back to Beebe, the round trip taking about six hours. They were at the mine only a matter of 20 or 30 minutes. "It was all very clean and orderly, yet almost hidden. A passerby would note only a few oak logs in a small clearing." A team traveling at a brisk trot could pull a light draft wagon or hack at a speed of about 10 miles per house. However, no team could maintain that speed for even one hour, and surely not for several hours. On the other extreme, a slow walk for a horse is about three miles an hour. So with average speed and allowed for crooked roads, the distance traveled would not have been less than six miles, nor more than 15 miles from Beebe.
A Mexican priest is mentioned having come to Arkansas in the 1900 having a map dated 1580 (DeSoto’s time) searching the upper Red River country for silver. He did locate zinc deposits in Searcy country. The same book mentions the Indian squaw saying, "If white men knew what’s in Norristown Mountain, their horses would wear silver shoes."
Then there is the real thing – argentiferous galena – in the Kellog Mine between Jacksonville and North Little Rock. This mine has been worked intermittently since before the Civil War. It produced more than 3000 troy ounces of silver in 1925 besides the lead production.
There are known and verified findings of lead ore in both the Sidon and Floyd areas. So, some legend, some fact, all within White County or within a few miles of the county. Who knows, will the future prove that the legend is the mother of fact?
There is further reason to suspect mineralization of some significance along basic fault lines some of which are known to exist in the southwestern part of White County. The principal basic fault lines run from the western boundary of White County to the point of intersection with Bayou Des Arc. Very limited research and testing has been done in this area. As recently as the winter of 1980-81, galena ore was found on George Orvis’ property southwest of Floyd.