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Maberry - Vanished Town on the Cache River

by Gary Telford


Maberry, now a ghost town six miles west of Cotton Plant, was founded by the late Richard and Rachel Newman Jones, early settlers, in 1842. Little remains of the town, but some members of the younger generation have heard tall tales of the gala days "back when" and they know something of this early village. The site is now a part of the A.L. Crittenden farm.

To Richard and Rachel Jones were born two children, Barney and Elizabeth. After the death of Mr. Jones, his widow married George W. Maberry, about 1853, and the town became known as "Maberry."

When it was in its heyday, Maberry, nestled among the trees on the banks of the Cache River, was a shipping point by boat for a large timber and cotton business. In the main store was housed everything necessary for homes and farms. A ferry boat was operated across the Cache River on the upper road to Surrounded Hill and to Des Arc on the White River.

The town stood in a grove of century-old walnut and oak trees, and the large roomy home of Mr. and Mrs. Maberry was on a hill about 400 feet from the boat landing. The broad, winding road leading into town was an avenue of huge walnut trees, and the spacious front yard was a riot of color and perfume in old-fashioned flowers.

The Maberrys were the parents of 17 children, but only a son survived. At his parent's death this son, the late Albert Freeman "Free" Maberry, then a young lawyer who had married Minnie Andrews in February of 1860, took charge. He continued to build the river town and add to his farming interests. Of his two daughters, Edna died while quite young, and Gladys survived them.

In the early days the town had a post office, sawmill, cotton gin, and a still. It also had a large furnishing store, planing mill and undertaking establishment, livery barn, hardwood stave mill and blacksmith shop. The citizens attended church services at old Ebenezer three miles from Maberry.

Albert Freeman "Free" Maberry owned several steamboats, the George Maberry, named for his father, the Gladys Maberry, Black Diamond, White Swan, and the Olympia. He received the title of captain after obtaining his pilot's license to operate these boats on the Cache from Maberry to Brassfield and to Devalls Bluff on the White River. Groceries, dry goods, hardware and furniture were shipped from Memphis to these points by train, then loaded on the boats for Maberry. Once there was a boatload of three-quarter size wooden bedsteads, all alike with turned posts, that were purchased form a hotel that had discontinued business. Another boat brought a half load of wooden washboards salvaged from a sunken steamboat.

Johnny Clements carried mail from Cotton Plant to Maberry by horseback twice a week and then after years the mail was carried daily in a buggy. This was made a rural route after the establishment of a slack barrel stave mill on the new Missouri and Arkansas railroad at Daggett.

In the halycon days of the 1880's the Maberry home was a center for entertainment, and the doors swung wide to the young people from nearby towns invited for meals, picnics, and parties under the hospitable roof. On a large Indian mound nearby stood a summer house and pavilion, often the scene of old-fashioned square dances with music furnished by the country fiddlers.

Captain Maberry's principal crop was cotton, but he also raised cattle, sheep, and hogs. In July, after the laying by of the crops a big barbecue was given for the hands and invited friends form nearby towns.

After the old-time dances and fiddlers passed into oblivion, the Maberry's purchased a player-piano from the old Leurman Hotel in Memphis. It was the first such instrument in this area.

In 1910, after the death of Minnie Andrews Maberry the captain married Mrs. Fannie Glass Catlett, a childhood sweetheart.

In 1905, he erected a large stone building in Cotton Plant (the recent May 5 and 10 cent store), and opened a general merchandise store with this slogan, "A. F. Maberry Buys Anything and Sells Anything." The large building on the corner of Main and Ammon Streets, which has been torn down, was built by one of the most colorful figures in Cotton Plant history, "Free" Maberry. It contained the first and only elevator in Cotton Plant, and some of those who might have remembered "Free" Maberry might have said he probably installed it because he was too heavy to climb the stairs to the second floor. Needless to say, this was quite an attraction, and a ride in the elevator was well worth a trip to the store for those willing to trust the contraption. The building was also unique in Cotton Plant because it was made of simulated stone - concrete hardened in molds to make it resemble stone. It was often called the "rock building."

Mr. Maberry was an ardent believer in advertising, always under the slogan, "We Buy Anything and Sell Everything." Some of the ads in the two newspapers would seem to justify the slogan:

    "Ladies fall skirts at Maberry's are the kind that make the boys leave their happy homes."
    "Sweetest candy in town, 3 lbs. for 25 cents."
    "O mama, what a beauty! The complete toilet set for $1.50."
    "200 gents colored collars at Maberry's for 10 cents a dozen."
    "New latest Baby Irish mackerel for 5 cents at Maberry's"

    "To the friends and customers of my store: I am pleased to announce the exclusive agency for the celebrated "Birdsell" wagons and a carload is in transit, consisting of log wagons, 2 and 4 horse road wagons, and 1 horse delivery wagons."

    "Beginning today, we will in the future handle the very best bread made in Memphis, including Vienna bread, small and long rye bread, white bread, Cream Bread, etc. We now have one of the finest refrigerators in town, where we keep fresh butter and all kinds of fresh lunch goods. We are agents for one of the largest carpet rug, curtains, etc., houses in Chicago."
At one time the telephone office was on the top floor of this building.

He continued his extensive farming interest and the practice of law until his health failed. He died in 1924 after an automobile accident. His daughter, then Mrs. Gladys Sutton, carried on his business activities.

With the building of good roads and the coming of automobiles, the town began to fade, and all that remains of Maberry are a few tenant houses, the river, and acres of rich cultivated land. The family burying ground a mile away has old tombstones dating back more than a hundred years.

The old home and store burned in 1939, and the late Mrs. Richard McClain, (Gladys Maberry) sold the plantation.

A few stones which marked the graves of some of the early residents of the Cotton Plant area were found on the A. L. Crittenden farm near what was known as the Maberry Community. The oldest stone was that of Richard B. Jones, who was born Augusta 21, 1817 and died December 23, 1851.

It is thought that G. W. Maberry, second husband of Rachel Newman and father of A. F. (Free) Maberry is also buried there, but no stone was found. In 1833 he bought an Indian fort on the Cache River near the site which later became the Maberry Community.

This cemetery is located three miles west of Cotton Plant, then northwest about a mile on Maberry sand road. Legal description: As close as we can determine, it would be the Southeast (SE) corner of the Southwest (SW 1/4) Quarter of the Southeast (SE 1/4) Quarter of Section 28, T5N, R3W.

The following is a list of graves marked in this cemetery:
    Maberry, M. M., (no dates)
    Maberry, A. F., b. August 13, 1856; d. October 3, 1924
    Maberry, Minnie Andrews, wife of A. F., b. July 17, 1860; d. October 16, 1884
    Allen, Sallie B., dtr. of R.P. and M.M., b. February 6, 1876 (1877); d. (stone broken)
    Maberry, Rachel Newman, wife of G.W., b. October 19, 1825; d. June 14, 1883, age 57 yrs.
    Jones, Richard B., b. August 21, 1817; d. December 23, 1851
    Newman, G.W., b. July 17, 1875; d. December 9, 1906 (broken stone - by Newman)
Researched and compiled by William Gary Telford, Published April 28, 2004, Woodruff County Monitor.

Remember: "A Family Tree can wither if no one tends it's roots." If you have comments or additions to this story you may contact me at wgt@centurytel.net or Woodruff County Monitor, Atten: Gary Telford, FAMILY ROOTS, P. O. Box 898, McCrory, AR 72101