LAWRENCE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
VOLUME 9 NUMBER 4
A Look At The Earlier
By Gussie Davis Cole
Let us not begin with any history before the eighteen hundreds for the
settlement of this section that became known as Flat Creek Valley. There is no evidence that the French or Spanish explorers ever touched the soil any closer than around Black River on the east.
We have evidential facts to prove that Indians occupied the local grounds of Denton. Truman Moore, now living in Walnut Ridge, lived his early days in this Denton community, where they found arrowheads around their home and other surrounding places, apparently made and used by the Indians. There were mounds they called Indian mounds. A large spring very close to Truman's home could have been an ideal source of water for a group of Indians.
In an adjoining community, Anchor, on Highway 117, the place homesteaded by the William H. Judkins family, that has about an eighteen inch circle which has been hollowed out, apparently for pounding corn to make meal. That appears to be proof that Indians had made their homes there. It is near an everlasting spring that would attract a group of Indians looking for a place to make their homes. Gussie Cole remembers that their family found arrowheads on the same homestead on Highway 117 while she and her husband, Eslie, owned the place from 1927 many years.
As far as can be known, no white settlers saw Indians in the Denton area. Indians had been removed westward out of this part of the country by treaty with the United States in 1810. The story of the trail of tears was a sad occurrence.
Before Denton was a village in the Flat Creek Valley of western Lawrence County, settlements were being made in the early eighteen hundreds by the white near abundant, gushing springs that formed the free-flowing Flat Creek. The soil was fertile, affording ideal locations for homes. The military road, was opened about 1811, running north and south. A road which had been run between
Powhatan and Smithville crossed at the very spot that was waiting for this
little village, Denton, which became a flourishing trading center, and continued on into the years of the eighteen hundred seventy-five and nineteen hundred thirty space range.
The influx of settlers into the valley started about 1850 and continued ten years, the greater number coming from 1850-1854. We will name some of the families and dates in addition to those mentioned by Farris Herren in his story of the eastern end of Flatcreek. Some were W.L. Wasson, 1851; A.F. Phillips, 1851; John Davis, 1854; S.W. Dodson, 1853; Allen Moore, 1851; W.E. Moore, 1852; W.G. Howard, 1850; Joshua Moore, 1851; S.W. Moore, 1850; Jefferson Webb, 1851; D.W. Moore, 1850; Jeremiah Brady, 1851; John Wesson, 1851; W.G. Hammond, 1850; John L. Matthews, 1852; G.B. Richie, 1854; W.J. Matthews, 1852; Thomas J. Guthrie, 1854; Marston Morris,1850; W.G. Morris, 1854; W.H. Richie; W.M. Moore, 1851.
A few who were a bit later in the valley were James Davis, Emanuel Goad, Merdoc McLeod, John W. Wasson. All these played important parts in ways of the development of the valley - that is we give them honorable reference. A better part of them were farmers. Most of the food and material for clothing was produced by farming. We will say, though, the meat that supplied the table was brought in by the hunters. We are sure wild game, such as deer, turkeys, raccoons, opossum, and squirrels, was plentiful.
Hiram Darter brought in a copper-bottom evaporating pan for making sorghum molasses. The sorghum molasses was an important substitute for sugar in those days. Sugar and salt were luxury items.
Blacksmiths were kept busy making carpenter tools for the newcomers. Many of the settlers who came in built their one room log cabins and also rough furniture with crude tools. Some others acquired lumber off the boats that were coming in on Black River and built homes, churches, etc. of greater detail.
While early settlers were attaching themselves close to the road that led from Powhatan to Smithville, facts prove that evidently the log church-school building, which was later called Old Bethel, was erected in the early 1820's and given the name New Hope. It is stated that in the 1820's on invitation of some devout women in Lawrence County, Reverend David Orr of Missouri came to the county, remained, and preached for several years in what is now Lawrence and Randolph Counties. Facts learned through Walter McLeod's research leads up to proof that the first church established in the early 1820's in the Bethel area was first named New Hope. Reverend Charles Lee, then of Imboden, relates the words of Uncle John Goodwin to Mr. McLeod that he (Uncle John Goodwin) was converted in a meeting held by Reverend David Orr
at New Hope in 1823 when he was 17 years old. He stated that Uncle John said the church afterward died down, and he joined Smithville Church, which also died down.
Statements from other sources are that New Hope, through the efforts of David Orr, was organized (or reorganized) in 1828. Later, Uncle John reunited with the church. The church stood as one type of Baptists for a while, but sometime in the 1830's disagreements, arguments, etc. took place. The missionary believers drew off and left the anti-missionaries in possession of the house, which name they changed to Bethel. The group that withdrew had their meetings in the homes of the members for worship. There was no fixed place for the meetings. The James Brady home was frequently mentioned in the reports. There seems to be no connection between the present New Hope Church and any New Hope Church prior to its organization. It appears to be an entirely new organization, which was made on Saturday before the third sunday, the 20th of July, 1844. The organization was conducted by Elders P.S.G. Watson and James B. Cobb at the home of Carny Straughan, which was
near the site of the present church. The following persons became members by presentation of letters from other churches: C.C. Straughan, John P. Winders, Mary Winders, John Park, and Nancy Park. George W. Wilkerson and Wm. Oldham were deacons.
At the beginning of the 1850's, a great influx of immigrants set in. Many of the settlers were great supporters of the church. A church was built in 1853. It was a frame building about 24 x 30 foot. It soon proved too small for the growing membership, and in 1859, a large shed was built, where services were held in suitable weather. Great camp meetings were something to be remembered. Each year people as far away as 30 miles attended. For the accommodation of the campers, cabins were built along the path to the spring, which was two or three hundred yards away. All this time the church was increasing. In 1873 the church building was enlarged. You will see the picture of it with a singing school class grouped on the outside.
Let us get back to the occupation of the ones living in the Denton area at the earliest. The Moores set up a cotton gin, right? That made it profitable for cotton farming. Hiram Darter brought in (as we related) the copper-bottom evaporating pan for making sorghum molasses. Sugar and salt were luxuries, and molasses was a much needed supplement for sugar.
Some families left Virginia and Kentucky, where they were raising tobacco, and came and brought their slaves and continued to raise tobacco. They made plug tobacco and received profitable sales. Their slaves were very beneficial to the owners. They helped clear the land, cultivate the crops, and build the barns for storage of the crops.
Arkansas was one of the slavery states, as with others, Delaware, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Maryland, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas. There was being much disagreement and disharmony within the nation because of the slavery, and to announce the conflict, President Lincoln made this decisive statement, "And whereas our own beloved country is now afflicted with faction and civil war." Slavery, as we say, was the problem that had been brewing and had come to a focus in 1861.
The conflict continued until 1865 with war between the northern and
southern states and was severe. The men that were of military ability in the southern states were in the fighting and that left the women, children, and slaves, if there were any, to do or take what might come. Really, there were no battles in the Denton area. Federal troops passed through a few times, they say, raiding the homes. Grandmother Davis tells how they kept their cured meat in the wood box, hid from the jayhawkers. They were not soldiers, but robbers, that invaded for valuables, etc.
After the war, Carpet baggers came through and deprived them of their rights, compelling them to take oaths of allegiance as citizens. The men from here were in service east of the Mississippi. We only have the names of four that were enlisted from this area - Joe Judkins, Robert Lane, John Davis, and Wm. Moore.
Joe Judkins became a member of the Twenty-fifth Arkansas Infantry and gave valuable and efficient service until the close of the war. He was engaged in twentyfive battles. He entered the confederacy with the rank of Orderly Sergeant and was advanced to the ranks of Lieutenant and Captain. He was twice wounded while leading his men against a superior force.
Robert Lane, a young son of Wm. Lane; entered the Army and was never seen or heard of later.
Wm. Moore entered the service, took sick, could not keep up, and was discharged.
John Davis enrolled in the Army at New Hope. Through his service, he was taken as prisoner. When the conflict ended, he was paroled at Jacksonport in 1865.
During all this struggle and fighting, no settlers came to the area. Things were on a standstill. Even the dwellers could make no progress, but when hostilities seemed to be cleared, they were up and ready to get going again. This could be a time of much development. New inventions were rapidly merging in. We need not have to mention what changes in the way of living were taking place. Horse drawn carriages and wagons replaced the ox-wagons. Gasoline vehicles were coming into the area, soon. Manufactured furniture was constantly replacing handmade house furnishings.
Let us now come to some facts about the village of Denton. In this
Flat Creek Valley, at the crossroads of the Powhatan and Smithville and the military road, there were businesses and homes near. A post office was needed. Ceber Denton, who lived one and one·-half miles west of the crossroad, circulated a petition in the community for a post office. David Davis had a store in the village and was granted a position as postmaster from the Postal Service in Washington, D.C. The post office was given the name of Denton, in honor of Ceber Denton, who circulated the petition. That was March 6, 1894 when David took over.
There was a post office kept at Denton around 60 years. After David Davis, there were five acting postmasters before the mail was all changed to rural routes in 1954. They were Berry Field, William Dent, John Bowen, James Turnbow, and Everett Moore.
We are getting ahead of things here. Maxine Davis Mize has given us a record of early facts. Henry Moore and Will Penn were merchants in the late 1800's. David Davis, as was mentioned before, had this store in the town and kept the post office there, after he was made postmaster. At an early date, John Bowers had a business and was postmaster from May 1917 to March 1920. W.J. Field kept this store going after Mr. Bowers left. Back to an earlier date than these stores, Allen Moore operated a grist mill south of Flatcreek bridge. He also put up the first cotton gin. Emanuel Goad had a second cotton gin, which was run by oxen power. Montie Stairett was the first blacksmith.
Dr. James and family came from Tennessee and settled by a large
spring near where Bethel Church was located. Mrs. Temperance James was reared in Tennessee and was a Wesson before marriage. Dr. James had acquired his doctorate in St. Louis in 1865, and after locating here, he practiced medicine in this community many years.
Dr. Morris was an early doctor here, too, and Doctors T.C. Guthrie and M.C. Richardson began practice training under him. Henry Guthrie took about a year's training from Dr. Morris, too.
W.J. Field and Ores Field were last to run a cotton gin in Denton. We must mention the large store Con Sullivan built in this Denton community. It could have easily been called a department store in those days. He kept a variety of goods. People came from miles around to shop there. Oscar Moore was the main clerk there, though at some time, he moved away and put in a store for himself.
Denton had milliner shops for years. Flora Davis sold hats around the early 1900's. When the family went back to the farm, Cora Field did sales in her home. Later, Fannie Guthrie put in a milliner shop in her home and continued sales there until the family moved to Walnut Ridge, where Fannie had a large sales there. The Denton ladies went to Black Rock for their hats from the Magness sisters, after Mrs. Guthrie's leaving. Hats for the ladies were a must in those days.
The Turnbow family bought the Sullivam home and store and continued there for years, at least until around 1937.
Charlie Moore was blacksmith for years. His wife, Mary, was telephone operator, and when the Moores left to go to California, the Turnbow family took over the telephone office. The Turnbow family kept the store and post office, too.
Arthur Field was Denton's barber for years. After his death, his daughter, Wilmalien, kept a line of groceries there in the barber shop building. She and her mother went to Jonesboro, and later, they and Pauletta and their families landed around Fayetteville.
A grist mill was kept in operation around Denton at all times. Bert Jones was miller at one time. W.J. Field ran a grist mill at a time before he family went to Leachville. Earl Field clerked in a store, after his family went to Leachville.
Here at Denton, W.J. and Ores Field ran a sorghum mill in the molasses making season. Manse McCarroll and his daughter, Othel, ran a sorghum mill for years. John Cummings had a molasses mill, too.
The use for sorghum syrup for cooking was handed down through the generations. The Davis children still like to speak of the delicious molasses cookies and stacked dried fruit cakes made of the cookie dough and fruit that their mother, Flora, kept a supply of for their daily school lunches. There was no better dessert and no better "Mother" who made the goodies.
Everett M. Moore and family moved into the little town of Denton with a small population in the year 1937. The house they bought was one that Leonard Moore built. Leonard was strictly an expert on this carpenter work. Everett was good at building and constructed a nice building for a post office and room for a small store. He kept the post office 17 years. It was at that time the United States Postal Service discontinued the Denton Post Office service, mail to Powhatan.
Later the Moores were the only residents within the circle of the little town that were left. They must have been lonely, and looking around, they found a nice house at Imboden they could buy for a home. They also found wonderful neighbors in Imboden. Loma is still making a nice garden each year, which she enjoys so much. Her flowers around the home tell you someone cares for their home.
Here you will find a history of the Denton community from the time Everett and Loma moved to Denton with their family and a picture of them taken about the time they (the Moores) moved away to Imboden.
We have not yet mentioned other current happenings that would be of most interest to all who will be reading this. Our neighboring communities, Eaton on the south and Rock Cove on the north, got mail at Denton Post Office for a time after the post office was established.
The Eaton Post Office acquired the family name of the Wid Eatons, who settled on Crow Creek seven miles south of Powhatan in 1872. Rock Cove community never had a post office. The residents received their mail through rural routes and are still fortunate to have. Denton and Eaton now have rural mail routes, making it better for all residents.
Rock Cove had settlers at an early date. Guthrie Geurin did some research to find how Rock Cove community took this name, but to no avail. Could it be there was a narrow gap between rocks somewhere in the area?
I appreciate you who have come along with me and afforded help for this write-up.
I have had some falls that injured and hindered me all along through my trying to put together some facts and memories for this history.
Let us stop short now and be waiting for someone to bring us "The
Rest of the Story."
Record of Flat Creek (Community
By Farris Herren
There is a stream in the western district of Lawrence County called Flat Creek. It has its beginning at various springs just east of Smithville and Bows into Black River, about three miles south of Powhatan. Early settlers began to come to this valley about 1815 and during the period 1835-1860 this valley was filled with settlers. They belonged to good families from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia. They acquired land and made permanent settlements. A few of them mentioned in the old records, who settled in the eastern part of the valley, were Stuart, Guthrie, Matthews, Webb, Davis, Darter, Brazwell, Howard, Rainwater, Brown, Ivie, Lawson, Mitchell, and Sharp.
They were a progressive group of people and knew the importance of church and school. Eli Lindsey is given credit with having organized the Spring River Circuit of the Methodist Church in 1815. So at an early date, local Methodist preachers held church services in the homes. In about the middle of the 1840's, the settlers built a log house to be used as a church and also as a school. It was located on the Marston Morris farm, which later belonged to the Ivie family and today belongs to Marlin Strong. The site is about oneself mile down the creek from the present Herren home, which was then the Matthews home. The Thomas Guthrie home was about 100 yards north and some years later Ben Ivie built a two story brick home one fourth mile north. Mr. Ivie made the bricks at a spring nearby. The Ivie home was on the new road between Smithville and Powhatan.
My grandmother, Margaret (Matthews) Herren (1852-1938), drew for me a rough sketch of the Flat Creek Campground. The building was about 25 x 30 foot and was constructed of hand-hewn oak logs. The roof was of hand-hewn cypress boards. The building faced the west and the only door was on that side. There was a stone fireplace for heat on the south side and openings for windows on each of the north and east sides. The benches were of split logs with four pegs of legs. There were no black boards nor writing paper. They used slates. In the front of the building was a large brush arbor and between the arbor and creek was a spring. Surrounding the house and arbor were a number of cabins, where people lived during the camp meetings.
The only schools were subscription schools. A sort of contract called "Articles" between the party of the first part, the teacher, and the party of the second part were parents who signed and agreed to pay for the instruction of their children One of the teachers was Wm. M. Matthews, who agreed to teach a three months term at the Flat Creek Campground, beginning on the l3th day of November 1876. The subscribers agreed to pay $ 1.25 per month for each student. The parents who signed were John Sharp, A.M. Smith, Parnes Truman, Mary Langford, Mrs. Kelly, John P. Webb, Hiram Darter, and R.A. East.
A receipt given to Wm. J. Matthews and signed by Dr. J.A. Basye shows that he, Dr. Basye, taught a subscription school at Flat Creek in 1864. He was paid 7 I/2 cents per day for each student. Another receipt dated 6/8/1868 shows that F.M. Wayland had taught a subscription school at Flat Creek and was paid 71/2 cents per day for primary branches and 10 cents per day for higher grades.
A contract was given to Willis B. Matthews on 11/6/1878 to teach a three months term of school at Flat Creek, beginning on December 18, 1878. He was to be paid $33.50 per month. The directors who signed the contract were Henry M. Lawson and E.M. Moffit.
To be located nearer the center of the district, in 1884 a new site was selected. This new site was about one mile east of the first location and was on the Powhatan-Smithville road. Of necessity it was again near a good spring. The following is copied from an old record.
Lawrence County Arkansas
To the school directors of District No. 7 and the building committee of the M.E. Church South, I, W.F. Babb, agree to the said building committee to build said school and church house for the sum of $ 100.00 and $97.50 according to specifications or as near as materials and ability will permit.
Then a receipt dated and signed by W.F. Babb on October 7, 1884 stated that he had been paid in full and the house was free from any lien for work done.
This second and last building, which was 30 x 50 foot, was a box type house. It was built of first class pine and cypress lumber and was placed on massive stone pillars. It was furnished with black boards, factory made seats and desks with ink wells, and a wood burning stove for heat.
When I started to school there, I remember the pump organ and swinging oil lamps with decorated glass shades. 'These were used by the church. Some of the early preachers were Jonathan Wayland (1816-1885), Isaac Brokfield, Andrew Boyd, John M. Steele, and Hugh Rainwater. Hugh Rainwater was licensed to preach by the Flat Creek Church, October 25,1857. Hugh Rainwater (1814-1874) and his wife, Sarah (West) Rainwater (1819-1875) are buried in the yard of their old home place, which is about one mile down the creek from the first site of the church. Two of the last preachers to serve as pastors of the church were Bro. Baker and Bro. Black.
In about 1923 the church group removed to Denton, leaving the building in possession of the school. Soon after this, the school put a new metal roof on the building and during the W.P.A. days in the early 1930's a new floor was put in with a stage in the back. The building was lowered about 18 inches and new stone steps were added in front. Also, a new retaining stone wall was put cross the front near the highway and the playground was leveled.
For entertainment, the school produced amateur plays, had literary programs, kangaroo court, baseball, basketball on an outside court, spelling matches, and other athletic events, often competing with other rural schools or communities.
Following is a list of other teachers who taught at Flat Creek: J.W. Mitchell, W.B. Mitchell, John Roe, Will Judkins, O.T. Massey, R.C. Waldron, Virgil Erwin, Luke Johnston, Dexter Davis, Ada Davis Kelly, Jim Porter, Coye Moore, Una Davis Haley, Charlie Smith, Madge Laird, Virgie Cravens, Flora Cole, Ernest Winchester, Agnes Rainwater, Jean Mae Johnston, Vella Justus, Ferrell Justus, Leslie Lovelace, Billie Clinton, Amy Bratcher Goff, Julian Smith, Russell McLyea, Fred Ward, Octavia Hudson, Mae Miller, Ruth Price, Armal Crabtree, Floyd Pickett, Elbridge Cole, Hazel Matthews, Maxine Davis, Julia Hall, Lillian Smith, and Farris Herren.
By 1947 the number of students dropped to approximately 15. Many teachers had gone to factories to work, where they could get more pay. By petition the patrons of Flat Creek asked to be annexed to the Black Rock School District and Black Rock accepted. The old building and decay was rapid. It soon collapsed and then burned. Today Willie Ray Croom has a brick residence there.
As for the first site of Flat Creek, the only evidence left today is a small mound of dirt and rocks where the fireplace was and some stones used for foundation. I was there in 1930 with some Methodist ministers and each of us got a small piece of the decaying logs for souvenirs.
In the early days most of the settlers were farmers. They grew most of their food, raised cotton, and sheep for wool. They spun the cotton and wool into thread and then knitted articles of clothing. Today, we who are left here have found other ways of making a living. Some produce beef cattle. Others work in factories, clerical work, etc. Thanks to modern inventions, we have better means of communication and travel.
After the church and school, the next two great things to happen to the Flat Creek Valley was getting electricity in 1947 and a black top highway (No.117) in 1966.
Flat Creek has lost its identity as a community, but we are looking forward to greater things.
These are some of the ones who taught at the Bethel Church building. There was no complete record kept of the teachers who taught in the log building, which we have learned was first named New Hope when David Orr came. Some of them were George Thornburg, Elvira West Raney, Mollie McBryde, Maggie McLeod Peacock, J.C. Eaton, Maggie Davis McLeod, Jasper N. Hillhouse (taught 1875), and Willis Benton Matthews (taught 1879). Augustus (Gus) Moore, it is thought, was there in the 1870's. The picture of Mr. Moore with a group is apparently the only photograph of the Bethel Church that is kept. It appears there were visitors there in the picture.
The Denton School House
This building was erected in the year of 1881. It is a sought out fact that Willis Mitchell was first to teach in the new building. We have the picture of Mr. Mitchell with 46 students. The smaller door is not seen in this picture. It is an entrance for the stairway to the upper story. Records show us that an upper room (or hall) was constructed for meetings of fraternity groups. It was used by the Odd Fellows and Masons. The school house took on the name of "The Hall" and was called that by some as long as it stood, 1923.
We will give the names of the teachers from 1881 to 1923, as we have
said - Willis Mitchell, Jim Jaggers, Henry Cole, Leora Smith, Lawrence McLeod, Lois Warnick, Clarence Smith, Mary Simpson, Luke Johnston, Marcus Heath, Jim Alexander, Jim Porter, Clarence Taylor, Coye Moore, Taylor Davis, Lawrence Osburn, Gertrude Sullivan, Gussie Cole, Lawrence McLeod; from 1923 until the school consolidated with Lynn. Leora Smith, Ella Childress (who still has her 1927-'28 teacher's license - 60 years of keeping is not bad), Ernest Winchester, Hubert Coke, Dot Cavenar, Floyd Pickett, Armal Crabtree, Ruth Andrews, Frank Andrews, Kenneth Cole, Joe Dent, Bennie Hardin, Pauline Penn Clements, Imogene Dailey Davis, and Denton Penn.
Pastors of New Hope Church
(From its organization in 1844 to present.)
J.J. Cobb D.C. Mays
R.S.G. Watson Roe Caldwell
C.B. Borah J.R. Barnett
J. W. Miller L.F. Baine
J. Howard L. DeVore
R. Ross C.C. Sledd
R.S. Eaton W.L. Yeldell
W.I. Cornett C.G. Davis
D. Wagster F.H. North
B.F. Holford 1844 -1944
G.B. Borah F.H. North
John Judkins E.O. Martindale
S.A. Armstrong V.E. Temple
S.D. Bowers A. Teel
D.T. Hunt W.L. Peppers
J.B. Butler Kenneth Threet
R.B. Bellamy J.l. Cossey
Abernathy Maurice Jones
J.T. Winchester Marvin Boswell
T.C. James Woodrow Behannon
J.N. Weaver Fred Savage
C.C. Marshall Harold Russell
T.M. Carter Gerald Nash
W.H. Meridith Alvin A. Harms
J. Piper (interim) Truett Murphy
H.B. Wilson Gerald Nash
Denton's Postmasters and Mail Carriers
POSTMASTERS DATE APPOINTED
David Davis 03/06/1894
Berry W. Field 12/22/1904
Wilham P. Dent 08/22/1910
Berry W. Field 02/224/1911
John B. Bowers 05/31/1917
James T. Turnbow 03/18/1920
Discontinued October 31,1927; mail to Imboden.
Re-established September 29,1934
Discontinued April 30,1954; mail to Powhatan.
Calvin Montgomery was Denton's first mail carrier, after the Frisco Railroad was completed in 1883, carrying mail between Black Rock and Denton.
Robert Childress was one of the earlier carriers, after Montgomery. He left Denton in October 1915 with his family, going to Walnut Ridge, where he took a post office job.
Kent Childress kept the job a long while, then he and his family moved to Pocahontas.
Other carriers for the Denton Post Office were Mansfield Manse) McCarroll, Paul Cameron, K. Durward McLeod, Lehman Hackworth, Rhea Starr, and Leslie Clements, who took a contract beginning in 1947.
Much before this time, routes were established in the rural areas for mail delivery, probably about the years of the 1920's, making it convenient for the people. Taylor Howard was carrier for the Smithville area going east. This type of delivery has continued since.
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