Volume 2 - Number 4
Lawrence County Historical
Reminiscences of Black Rock
As Recalled By Charles Penny
PICTURES OF BLACK ROCK
In response to requests for more human interest stories, the Lawrence County Historical Quarterly interviewed Mr. Charles Penny of Black Rock, who has an interest in history and a wealth of stories to share about the past. This article tells of life as it was in Black Rock in the early 1900's and along the Black River as Mr. Penny recalls it.
"You'll have to just ask me
said Mr. Penny. "I can tell a story about most
"When I was a child," he said when asked about life along the
"they had 15 or 20 regular packets, and they ran mostly from here
(Black Rock) to Newport and Pocahontas and on up to Poplar Bluff
sometimes. Most of the packets were log boats or cross tie
boats. They also hauled cotton, corn, and brought in
supplies. That was even after the railroads started
Before the railroads came in, everything came in by
steamboat...all building materials. This building (the old drug store) was built around 1900. Railroads didn't just come in and start hauling everything all at one time."
According to Mr. Penny, there were
excursion boats which probably quit running about 1912.
would run from Black Rock to Clover Bend and back...just a small
excursion. The boats had entertainment on them, and there was a
dance floor and food was served. Mr. Penny said some of the
mothers tried to
keep their children away from the dance area. The charge was probably not over SOc or a dollar.
Some of the boats carried groceries, and people living along the river would meet the boats when they docked and buy their groceries from them.
"We used to have a river taxi service that ran from here to Powhatan," he continued. He told of the trains...two each way every day...that would bring attorneys over from Walnut Ridge to attend court. There were no connecting roads into Powhatan, the county seat, so the attorneys would take their clients, and witnesses to Powhatan in speed boats provided for that purpose. There were several speed boats with onboard motors which made the 21/2 to three mile trip several times each day. The Angle family owned taxi boats.
"A lot of people made their living on
the river," said Mr. Penny "digging up shells. There were a lot
On the walls of Mr. Penny's building are three pictures of huge catfish caught between Black Rock and Powhatan. The smallest weighed 49 pounds; another 56; and the largest, 73 pounds. The father-in-law of Mr. Penny, Drew Rice, owned a livery stable. Drummers would come in by train and hire a hack at the stable to transport them and their big trunk containing their wares. They would make a loop through Powhatan, Eaton, Lynn, Saffell, Strawberry, Cave City, Smithville, Denton, sometimes Imboden, and back to Black Rock. Around 1908 there were five hotels in Black Rock...the Cottage, the Commercial, the Ozark, the Frisco, and the Southern. Of these the Southern was the largest, boasting 25 or 30 rooms.
Mr. Penny remembers visiting Bonita Spring, a resort, when he was a child. The medicinal spring was about a mile and a half past the cemetery, and people went there for water and to stay at the big hotel there.
When asked about a woman dentist, who
had practiced at Black Rock, Mr. Penny laughed and said he remembered
well. He still boasts a tooth that was replaced by Dr. Donna
after he knocked his tooth out one night when he fell while running
a bunch of boys. He believes her family were steamboat people
who came in during this era. "She was good one," he recalls, "the kind that didn't just tear your head off."
Mr. Penny values his collection of old newspapers from the early twentieth century. They carry many poems, stories, personal items, advertisements, but few news stories as we know them today.
Around 1908 the population was given as 1400, and during this time there were three newspapers located in the town...the Blade, the Democrat, and the Lawrence County Telephone. The March 26,1908 edition of the Black Rock Democrat carried a column of River News.
The steamer, Minnehaha left this morning for down the river. The river is down to a 10 ft. rise'. The steamer, Columbia is tied up at Newport for repairs. The little launches are busy towing barges loaded with logs for the mills. The steamer, Minnehaha is at the wharf here having some slight repairs made. The steamer, George Pope is below on lower river work.
The B. F., Weir is an all around boat. It has great power for towing.
The ferry at this place is running and teams can get out to Portia. The steamer, Columbia came up Tuesday night and took on coal and will go out today. The steamer, Columbia left last night for down river ports.
The steamer, Pocahontas with Captain
Huff in charge came up Monday night, and as it passed Powhatan
ferry, it found the wire rope up and ran into it and finally cut it in the middle of the river. In the same issue there was a column of Imboden news: Several parties from the county report having planted corn.
The river has gone down and Dr. Ketcham and a number of others are preparing to snare a lot of red horse as they come up on the gravel bars.
It is said that John Hill may run for
sheriff. Well, he will have plenty of time to make a canvas
deposits. (Mr. Hill was connected with an Imboden Bank. Editor) To one who has lost his money, it looks
like the same old game. We miss the many persons that formerly came to mill here, but it has burned.
The bank suspended and politics have not gone wholly right and with it all it is dull here and most everyone is out of humor.
Echoes of the recent bank failure
sounds in the air and that some mad men come to our town is
mildly, for they come by the dozens with blood in their eyes, and if they were certain that they could get hold of
the right parties more blood would be visible. Things have already been bad enough, but on next Friday Judge Maxey is to be here in the interest of the depositors and it is feared there may be serious trouble.
Henry Kelley, left, lived all his life near and in Black Rock. He is past 90 and now living in a nursing home in Walnut Ridge. Clay Sloan, now deceased, contributed much to the development of Black Rock and Lawrence County.
"Peter Todd agent for the Southern
Company at powhatan oldest and most reliable nursery in the
Trees are sold as labeled. See Mr. Todd." This reminded Mr. Penny
of a large peach orchard that used to be located on a hill about a mile
south of town. There were 40,000 peach trees in this orchard and he
this was really a beautiful sight when they were in bloom. The
were hauled into town in wagons and then loaded into railroad cars to
shipped to market. He expressed the opinion that if this could be done
raising peaches could again be profitable using modern techniques for the care of the trees and their fruit.
An amusing incident that Mr. Penny recalls concerns Mr. J. Krone who owned a store. One day a woman called and asked Mr. Krone to deliver a lamp wick. Lamp wicks were selling two for a nickel, but she wanted only one.
Indeed Mr. Penny is an interesting person and, as he said, he can tell a story about most anything.
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PICTURES OF BLACK ROCK