Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Famous Folk Singer Penned Songs of Arkansas Heritage, Civil War

James Corbett Morris, known as Jimmy Driftwood, plays his homemade guitar.

Arkansas folk singers and songwriters have a long tradition of using American history to connect with audiences. Among Arkansas’s most famous folk singer-songwriters is Jimmy Driftwood, who traveled the U.S. with his homemade guitar in the early 1960s.

Some of Driftwood’s songs used little-known historical events. For example, the song, “He Had a Long Chain On,” tells the story of a boy who awakened to a stranger outside his window. The stranger looked sad and wore a long chain. In the song, the stranger refuses help removing the chain, saying “I guess we had best let it be.” He then walks into the wilderness dragging the chain behind him.

Driftwood said the song was about people who opposed joining sides during the Civil War. These men wanted nothing to do with the war, and many joined secret societies, called “peace societies,” for protection. Peace societies used elaborate hand gestures and verbal passwords to identify members. A member might say “It was a very dark night” and another would answer “Not as dark as it will be in the morning.”

Members of the societies used the passwords and gestures because they were targets.

In November 1861, Sam Leslie, a prominent citizen of Wiley’s Cove Township in Searcy County, wrote Gov. Henry Rector to complain about a peace society in his community. Rector then demanded society members be sent to Little Rock, “where they will be dealt with, as enemies of their country whose peace and safety is being endangered by their disloyal and treasonable acts.” 

Confederate militias rounded up suspected peace society members across north-central Arkansas. Men were chained and marched for up to six days to Little Rock to stand trial for treason. Society members who didn’t escape were forced to enlist in the Confederate army or stand trial. Most enlisted and later deserted. Men who went to trial were acquitted and sent back home.

The marches are largely forgotten, but as a child, Driftwood’s parents told him stories about them. His mother told him the man with the long chain might come to visit if Driftwood misbehaved. Later, Driftwood incorporated those stories and histories into his music. As a school teacher, he wrote folk music to teach history to school children. Driftwood continued to teach, write, perform and support folk music in Arkansas for decades. When he died in 1998, he left behind a legacy of music that continues to captivate audiences and preserve history.

Wednesday’s Wonderful Collection - W.S. Davis medical ledger, MS.000497

W.S. Davis, born in Tennessee in 1856, began practicing medicine in 1876. He moved to Indian Territory in 1878, and to Logan County, Arkansas, in 1879. He eventually settled at Owensville, on the middle fork of the Saline River in western Saline County, Arkansas. Davis married Mary Camer of Independence County, Arkansas, on July 28, 1875. They had two children, John and Sophie. Dr. Davis was a member of the masonic lodge and an associate member of the Saline County Medical Society. He practiced medicine in Saline County until his death on June 14, 1939.
These ledgers contain patients' names, fees charged, and other bills and financial records from W.S. Davis' medical practice in Saline County.
This collection is available on microfilm only.
·         1886 (Reel MG03520)
·         1888
·         1891
·         1896
·         1899-1902
·         1904
·         1906
·         1910-1914 (Reel MG03520-MG03521)
·         1914
·         1917-1922
·         1921-1924
·         1925

·         1928-1930

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Pen to Podium Keeps History Alive!

Ben Boulden

We wrapped up this year’s Pen to Podium lecture series with a fascinating look at Fort Smith during the early 1900s.

Ben Boulden, historian, author, professor and former journalist, recently discussed unionization among women in 1917, the Red Light District that temporarily legalized prostitution and powerful women who helped shape Fort Smith. His lecture is from his book, “Hidden History of Fort Smith, Arkansas.”

Attendees were treated to rough-and-tumble stories about Fort Smith residents and how and why the city remains different from other Arkansas cities.

Boulden’s lecture helped us keep history alive! Thank you!

Vinnie Ream, 1847-1914, sculptor
Kate Sandels, Federal Court official

Next up in our Historical Writers’ Lecture Series, Dr. Blake Perkins will discuss the history of defiance unique to people in the Ozark Mountain region.

Dr. Blake Perkins
Perkins is assistant professor and chair of the History Department at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge. His book, “Hillbilly Hellraisers: Federal Power and Populist Defiance in the Ozarks,” has drawn praise for its insightful look into how rural people in the Ozarks reacted to and resisted federalism in the 19th and 20th centuries. That history continues to impact people in the region today.

Perkins’ lecture kicks off our third year of Pen to Podium events. We are proud to promote Arkansas history and offer Arkansans a chance to learn about their own heritage. Our lectures are free and open to the public.

So, mark your calendars! The next event is 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, at the Department of Arkansas Heritage! We hope to see you there!

Boulden and Stacy Hurst, director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage,
take a moment to pose for a photo during Pen to Podium this November.

Check out our video of Boulden's lecture below or on YouTube at!

Grant Applications Open!

We are now taking applications for the Curtis H. Sykes Memorial Grant Program! The deadline to submit an application for this cycle is Jan. 2.

Tatyana Oyinloye, African American 
history program coordinator
Anyone interested should call 501-682-6892 or email Tatyana Oyinloye at We also are planning workshops to help applicants through the process. Visit our website for an application!

This grant is open to individuals and groups and supports preservation efforts and public programming projects related to African American history in Arkansas. 

The Black History Commission of Arkansas has funded five grants this fiscal year, which started July 1. The grants are:

  • Lake View “Heritage Space”
  • Scipio Africanus Jones: an Introduction for Arkansas Children to the 1919 Racial Turmoil around Elaine, Arkansas
  • The location and gravesite marker for Clay and Mary Baylor
  • The Black History Quiz Bowl
  • Preserving our History/Archive

The Sykes grant has funded more than 90 projects with more than $250,000 overall in the past 15 years. Past projects have included historical research, exhibits, workshops, publications, oral history interviews, documentary films and cemetery preservation and documentation.

The maximum amount for the grant is $3,500 per project.

The deadlines for the grant application cycles are:
  • Jan. 2
  • April 2
  • July 2
  • Oct. 2

Students Present Bicentennial Project to SARA

(From left to right) Hope Public Schools superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart, SARA Archival Manager Melissa Nesbitt, student Drake Mason, SARA Foundation board member Richard Reed and high school principal Bill Hoglund gather Nov. 9 to honor a student-led research project on public education in Hempstead County.

A student-led history project is now a permanent part of our branch archives!

Students from Hope Public School’s Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) program recently presented our staff with an overview of research on the history of public education in Hempstead County. The project, “200 Years of Education in Hempstead County,” is in honor of the county’s bicentennial.

Current students Drake Mason and Jacqueline Culley and recent graduates Jackson Bowlin and Elizabeth Bamber put the yearlong project together. The students conducted 10 oral history interviews and used resources from our branch to complete a timeline and to create a 40-minute CD. The research project delves into the county’s education from its earliest days in local Roman Catholic Church parish schools to 2018.

The project celebrates the formation of Hempstead County on Dec. 15, 1818. The county is among five original counties to make up the state of Arkansas.

On Nov. 9, superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart, Mason and principal Bill Hoglund presented finished copies of the project to Archival Manager Melissa Nesbitt and SARA Foundation board member Richard Read. Another copy will go in the Hempstead County Bicentennial Time Capsule, which will be sealed in December.

The research project is just one example of how the Arkansas State Archives and our branch serve the community and preserve Arkansas’s history.

“Promoting education as well as inviting collaboration and teamwork are part of the core values of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, of which the State Archives is a division, and projects like these help further that mission in serving all Arkansans,” Nesbitt said.

For more information, contact SARA at 870-983-2633 or view the video below or at

NEARA Honors, Seeks Volunteers

It’s time for researchers to get started on their manuscripts for our upcoming NEARA Award for Exemplary Archival Research. The winner earns $1,000!

The award is open to anyone. We are happy to help researchers with topics or delve into works in progress. Deadline for submissions is Feb. 1.

The winning paper gets a cash prize and will be kept on file at our branch office and the Arkansas State Archives. The paper also will be considered for publication in a statewide journal.

Entries must not have been submitted elsewhere or published previously and must not exceed 35 pages. Papers must contain citations from documents housed at NEARA to qualify. The award focuses on Lawrence County territorial papers from 1815 to 1936, but other time periods will be considered.

A three-person panel will decide the winner, who will be announced this April.

The award honors Lawrence County Historical Society volunteers who saved territorial records after the Powhatan County seat was abandoned in 1963. Volunteers later lobbied for a regional archives, which was established in 2011.

The award is funded by the family of Eugene Sloan, a Jonesboro lawyer who was born in Powhatan in 1892, and sponsored by the Arkansas Historical Association. For more information, visit

Historic documents filed at NEARA

Besides the NEARA award, we also want to say “thank you” to volunteers who participated Nov. 10 in Volunteer Day. Volunteers and staff processed more than four boxes of material and created 75 new files indexed into our database.

Anyone can volunteer. We teach volunteers how to handle archival materials and how to make those records more accessible to the public. Currently, volunteers are unfolding and processing court case files from the Walnut Ridge, Lawrence County Court Records Collection. The goal is to have those cases searchable in our database within the next year. For more information about volunteering, contact NEARA at northeast.archives@arkansas.govor 870-878-6521.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wednesday’s Wonderful Collection - Agnes McDaniel Loewer papers, MS.000147

Agnes McDaniel was born in Searcy, Arkansas, on June 26, 1893. She married Charles F.W. Loewer in Little Rock on August 27, 1919. The Loewers had one son, Charles McDaniel Loewer, who died in 1923. Agnes McDaniel started as an assistant bookkeeper and cashier of the Underwood Typewriter Company before being promoted to manager of the supply and employment department. In 1914, she was appointed assistant secretary to the Mayor of Little Rock, becoming the first office secretary of the Little Rock Young Women's Christian Association the following year.
Agnes McDaniel Loewer was a leader in numerous professional, civic, and social organizations. She served as the president of the Y.W.C.A., superintendent of the women's division of the Arkansas State Fair, secretary-treasurer of the Southern Heritage Foundation, charter member of the Little Rock Women's City Club, the Arkansas Historical Association, and the Arkansas Beautiful Commission. She was also a member of the Arkansas Federation of Women's Clubs, Little Rock Federation of Women's Clubs, Arkansas Pioneer Association, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Arkansas Federation of Garden Clubs, Confederate Civil War Centennial and Arkansas Territorial Sesquicentennial committees, Arkansas State Pioneers, and the United States Spanish War Veterans Auxiliary.
Through the efforts of Mrs. Loewer and other concerned citizens, the State Legislature established the Arkansas Commemorative Commission in 1947, responsible for the renovation, management, and operation of the Old State House at 300 West Markham in Little Rock, Arkansas's first capitol building. Agnes served as the committee's Executive Secretary and Director from 1947 until she retired in 1972. Agnes McDaniel died on September 18, 1975, and Charles F.W. Loewer died February 20, 1976. They are buried in Roselawn Cemetery in Little Rock.
This collection contains correspondence, professional materials, cards, notes, music, and scrapbooks kept by Agnes Loewer.
·         Personal
o    Correspondence
§  1. 1918-1921: Charles Loewer to Agnes McDaniel Loewer (Box 1)
§  2. 1927-1934: Charles Loewer to Agnes McDaniel Loewer
§  3. 1936 April-May: Charles Loewer to Agnes McDaniel Loewer
§  4. 1937 March-May: Charles Loewer to Agnes McDaniel Loewer
§  5. 1937 June-August: Charles Loewer to Agnes McDaniel Loewer
§  6. 1937 September-November: Charles Loewer to Agnes McDaniel Loewer
§  7. 1938 January-April: Charles Loewer to Agnes McDaniel Loewer
§  8. Undated: Charles Loewer to Agnes McDaniel Loewer
§  9. 1918-1934: Others to Agnes McDaniel Loewer
o    Other
§  10. 1916-1917: Notebook, miscellaneous notes (Box 2)
§  11. Biographical material
§  12. 1923: Charles McDaniel Loewer, birth announcements, correspondence
§  13. 1923: Sympathy cards and notes, following death of son
§  14. 1923: Sympathy cards and notes, following death of son
§  15. Undated: W.G. McDaniel (Agnes McDaniel Loewer's father), obituaries, funeral papers
§  16. Undated: Genealogy/family history
§  17. Undated: Financial records
§  18. Undated: Retirement, correspondence
§  19. 1923-1974: Guestbook (Box 3)
§  20. 1937 June 20-30: Vacation scrapbook
§  21. Undated: Poetry scrapbook
§  22. Music (Box 4)
§  23. Music
§  24. Miscellaneous cards
§  25. Miscellaneous
§  26. Audio recording on paper disc, Charles and Agnes Loewer
·         Arkansas Commemorative Commission
o    Civil War Centennial Commission
§  27. Civil War Centennial Commission, schedule of events, brochures, timelines
§  28. Civil War Centennial Commission, newsclippings, news release, brochure, and lists
§  29. 1961 May 6, September 12-13: Centennial dinner and medallion ball, correspondence, programs
§  30. Re-enactment of secession convention, correspondence, newsclippings, pamphlets (Box 5)
§  31. Re-enactment of secession convention, correspondence, newsclippings, pamphlets
§  32. Statewide activities, schedule of events, concert programs
§  33. Out-of-state activities, invitations, correspondence, newsclippings
o    Other
§  34. 1958: Butterfield Overland Mail Centennial, newsclippings
§  35. 1963: Washington commemoration, newsclippings, correspondence
§  36. Flag gallery/Civil War flags, program, poetry, project outline, pamphlet, Dixie date book
§  37. Arkansas landmarks/historical survey, correspondence, newsclippings
§  38. Gowns of Arkansas's first ladies, newsclippings, correspondence
§  39. Governor and Mrs. Orval Faubus, Christmas cards
§  40. Christmas cards/stationery
§  41. Miscellaneous correspondence, newsclippings (Box 6)
§  42. Subject file: Civil War, correspondence, timeline, map, newsclippings
§  43. Subject file: Currency, newsclippings
§  44. Subject file: Flags, newsclippings
§  45. Subject file: Pea Ridge, newspaper, booklet
§  46. Subject file: Pea Ridge, newspaper
§  47. Subject file: Prairie Grove, newspaper, correspondence
§  48. Subject file: State capitols, newspaper
§  49. Subject file: Women of the Confederacy, newsclippings, speech notecards
§  50. Subject file: Miscellaneous historical, newspaper, maps, timeline
§  51. "Troop Movements at the Battle of Cold Harbor," maps (Folder 1)
·         Professional, civic, and social activities
o    52. Arkansas Federation of Women's Clubs, correspondence, members list (Box 7)
o    53. Arkansas Federation of Women's Clubs, newsclippings, correspondence
o    54. Arkansas Federation of Women's Clubs, newsclippings
o    55. Arkansas State Fair, newsclippings
o    56. Better Homes Committee, pamphlets
o    57. Business and Professional Women's Club, pamphlets
o    58. Camp and Hospital Council, correspondence, newsclippings
o    59. Chamber of Commerce, Cultural Affairs Committee, correspondence, reports
o    60. City Beautiful Commission, pamphlets, correspondence
o    61. City Federation of Women's Clubs, booklet, correspondence
o    62. Confederate Home, correspondence, newsclippings
o    63. 1928: Confederate Veterans Reunion, newsclippings, pamphlets
o    64. 1949: Confederate Veterans Reunion, newsclippings
o    65. 1938: Cooperative Camp scrapbook (Box 8)
o    66. 1936-1938: Council of Social Agencies, Housing Committee, correspondence, newsclippings
o    67. Garden Club, correspondence
o    68. Lighthouse for the Blind, correspondence
o    69. Southern Social Register, invitation
o    70. 1933-1936: Tour de Books Club scrapbook
o    71. Underwood Typewriter Company, ad with photo, business cards
o    72. United Daughters of the Confederacy, report, newsclippings, correspondence
o    73. Young Women's Christian Association, correspondence, newsclippings

o    74. Miscellaneous