Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Pen to Podium Event Highlights Arkansas Quirks

Joe David Rice, author and former tourism director, talks about
his book during the last Pen to Podium event of 2019.
About 50 people gathered on a cold, November evening to hear author Joe David Rice talk about the quirky characters and odd past of Arkansas during the last Pen to Podium event of 2019.

“These little stories just disappear,” said Lee Ann Matson, who attended the lecture with her husband Russell Matson. Small historical facts are important and must be preserved, Russell added. “They are the reason for the way things are,” he said.

Author and former tourism director Joe David Rice spoke about his two volume book set, “Arkansas Backstories: Quirks, Characters, and Curiosities of the Natural State,” at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, at Arkansas Heritage at 1100 North St. in Little Rock. Rice’s book is chalked full of forgotten stories that helped shape the way Arkansas is today, attendees said.

Rice’s lecture was part of the 2019 quarterly “Pen to Podium: Arkansas Historical Writers’ Lecture” series, which was sponsored by the Arkansas State Archives and the Friends of the Arkansas State Archives. The event was free.

“The stories involving robber barons, scoundrels and wannabe politicians are fascinating,” Rice said about his book. “I think even non-history buffs will enjoy learning about some of the incidents and characters that have helped shape this state.”

Rice, a well-known writer, researcher and adventurer, has investigated Arkansas’s unique and lesser-known historical facts, places and people. His book delves into details like how the first sitting member of Congress was shot to death in Monroe County and how the CIA used secret contracts with an Arkansas organization to train animals for clandestine activities. He talked about how Arkansas had, then lost Watson State Park, which was the first state park exclusively for African Americans. He also talked about how diamond tycoons kept Arkansans from industrializing and profiting from what is now Crater of Diamonds State Park.

Rice first published “Arkansas Backstories” in 2018. A companion to his original book was published this past April. Both books, volumes 1 and 2, are available through stores online.

Ann Beck, who attended the lecture, said she learned a lot of interesting facts about Arkansas and is now interested in visiting places like Zack, Arkansas. The community in Searcy County is little-known and rural but has cabins and was once home to Elton Britt, a famous country and western artists who ran for U.S. president in 1960.

For more information on Arkansas history, contact the Arkansas State Archives at state.archives@arkansas.gov or 501-682-6900. Visit the Arkansas History Channel, by Gary Jones, for a summary video of Rice's lecture. Other Pen to Podium lectures are available on YouTube

A Conversation with Terra Titsworth

Terra Titsworth, archival manager for
imaging and preservation, photo
courtesy of the Arkansas State Archives
Terra Titsworth is the archival manager for imaging and preservation at the Arkansas State Archives. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock before joining the Archives in 2016. She previously worked for the Arkansas Commissioner of State Lands and the Arkansas State Auditor for a total of about 10 years. Titsworth manages the microfilm department, gives Archives tours focused on the microfilm process and has lectured as a professional chef including presenting food demonstrations at some of the ASA’s foodway symposiums. She recently took a few moments from her busy schedule to talk with us about her work at the Arkansas State Archives.

Q: What’s your job title, and how long have you worked at the Arkansas State Archives?
A: I am the archival manager for imaging and preservation and have been with the Arkansas State Archives for about four years. My job focuses on microfilming Arkansas newspapers, periodicals and historical records for preservation and research purposes.

Q: What do you do on a typical day at Archives?
A:  I manage a small staff of three. On a typical day, I work with historical societies and libraries regarding film orders and special filming projects. I spend a lot of time filming Arkansas publications, as well as, processing and duplicating film for our research room, regional archives and film orders. I am also responsible for the maintenance of our lab equipment and cameras, all of which are used in the microfilming process. I perform a multitude of tasks, so you may even see me ironing newspapers to prepare them for microfilming.

Q: How did you become interested in Arkansas history or working at the Arkansas State Archives?
A:  Since early childhood, I have been fascinated by all things old. When I decided to major in history in college, I originally planned to teach, but I decided preserving the past was what I really wanted to do.

Q: What’s the most important or interesting thing you’ve discovered while working at Archives? Why?
A:  I found my grandfather’s genealogical research in the microfilm vault, which was pretty amazing. A decade’s worth of his work, dating back to 1583, was neatly preserved on microfilm. It is a treasure.   

Q: Why do you think the Arkansas State Archives is important for Arkansans?
A:  I believe the Arkansas State Archives is important for Arkansans because we provide access to the past. We are an educational repository with an enormous variety of material. In the microfilm department, we have more than 13,000 rolls of newspapers and currently film about 150 Arkansas publications.   

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A:  The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that I am preserving Arkansas’s story for many generations to come. The film I create today can be viewed in 500 years, if treated properly. It’s amazing to think something I worked on today will be ready and available for researchers hundreds of years from now.  

Q: How do you see archiving evolving in the future?
A: The drive for internet access to everything and the move to digital formatting will change a lot about what we do here. I still think microfilming is the best way to preserve documents, newspapers, etc.  It only requires light and magnification to view. The accessibility and authenticity of original documents are concerns I have with the move to digital archiving. For example, digital records can deteriorate more quickly than microfilm and can become difficult to retrieve as technology changes.

Q: What do you wish people knew about Archives?
A:  The Arkansas State Archives has been preserving the history of Arkansas since 1905, making it the third oldest archives in the nation. We are still actively archiving and preserving material, but the Archives can’t do it alone. We need donors and outlets like newspapers to provide print products we can use for microfilming. As more newspapers move away from print products, it’s possible we, as a society, could miss out on the preservation of our current history. I wish more people knew about our services and our efforts to grow participation.

Researching Birth Information

Little Rock Birth Records, September 1881, microfilm roll 4566,
Pulaski County, courtesy of the Arkansas State Archives

When researchers come to the Arkansas State Archives, they frequently ask: “Do you have birth certificates?” Birth certificates can help genealogists locate vital information that helps trace family lineage, but the records are kept by the Arkansas Department of Health Vital Records, not the Arkansas State Archives.
Birth certificates can be difficult to find for several reasons. The state of Arkansas did not start maintaining birth records until 1914, so many people never had an official certificate.  Plus, vital and medical records are not open to the public, which means researchers must use alternative methods to discover birth dates.

Luckily, the Arkansas State Archives houses records that can substitute for finding individual, historical birth certificates. Below are some research tips: 

·         Visit the Arkansas State Archives and look through our 15 published indexes that were put together by the Arkansas Genealogical Society. The indexes contain early births records filed between 1942 and 1967 for individuals born before 1914 and who needed proof of birth for Social Security. The Social Security Act was signed into law in 1935 and ongoing monthly benefits started in January 1940.

·         Researchers should look at county records too. County governments sometimes house delayed birth records or certificates, which are birth certificates not filed within one year of the date of birth. The records contain the birth date, parents’ names and approximate place of birth. Researchers may also find birth records at the city level, such as Little Rock and Fort Smith. These city documents contain reported births within the city limits starting in 1881. The city birth records give genealogists the date of birth and parents’ names.

·         Researchers often can find a birth date by looking at U.S. Census records, which contain ages of people. Families can request census records on individuals from the U.S. Census for the years from 1950 to 2010. Individual census records from 1790 to 1940 are maintained by the national Archives and Records Administration. More information is available online.

·         Another great source for information are school census records. School Census records range from 1891 to 1978. They were done every year and include the birth date of school age children. The Arkansas State Archives has school census records for some counties for certain years on microfilm, but does not have them for all the counties in Arkansas. If the ASA does not have the records you are interested in then check with the county courthouse, although they may not have them either.

·         Church records can be helpful for baptismal records, but can sometimes be difficult to find. The ASA has some church records, but one can also contact the church, the parent parish to the church, or the Dioceses for these records.

·         If you know a date or date-range for the person’s birthday, you might find information by looking through newspapers for a birth announcement. The Arkansas State Archives houses thousands of newspapers that are easy to navigate through microfilm. The newspapers range from 1819 to present day.

·         The ASA also provides free access to Ancestry.com at each of its three branches. Various types of birth records from around the world are available through Ancestry.com.  New records for Arkansas and other locations are continually being added, so if you have not found someone in the past continue to look in the future for those names as the new records might provide additional information.

There are various other sources available at the State Archives that may help researchers find an ancestor’s birth date or other genealogical information. Next month, we will look at how to locate marriage and divorce records, which can be used for tracing family histories. Marriage records, for example, often reveal maiden names, parents’ names and birth information.

Our staff is here to provide some research services and to help individuals start their genealogical research. Find more information about our services by contacting the Arkansas State Archives at 501-682-6900 or start researching by visiting our website. Researchers may also find records online through our online catalog.

 Baxter County School Census, Mountain Home, 1946, microfilm roll 6347,
courtesy of the Arkansas State Archives 

‘Yellow Jack’ Plagues Arkansas, Sparks Fears

Arkansas Democrat, 1878,
Arkansas State Archives
On Aug. 13, 1878, Kate Bionda died in her bed in Memphis, Tenn., and became one of the first deaths that year from Yellow Fever, a disease that quickly spread throughout Memphis, the Delta and the southeastern U.S.

Yellow Fever, also called “Yellow Jack,” eventually killed about 20,000 people in the fall of 1878 in states that included Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Symptoms included fever, pains, severe liver disease that yellowed the skin and vomit blackened by blood. Arkansas residents were mostly spared from the deadly outbreak, but towns, such as Helena, were hit by the disease.

The mechanism by which Yellow Fever spread remained mostly unknown as late as 1898. Medical consensus held the disease, like the common cold, was spread through air. H.R. Carter, a surgeon at the United States Marine Hospital, wrote in a pamphlet about the treatment of the disease and said it was known to spread by air 220 meters from the carrier.

However, Carter made an important observance: The disease happened to be most frequent in swamps or wetlands. Carter and his colleagues dismissed the idea that mosquitoes carried and spread the disease, even after Dr. Carlos Finlay published findings of such in 1881. Finlay’s theory was not recognized fully until 1900, after a U.S. commission investigated. 

During the 1878 outbreak, doctors and medical experts agreed the best way to protect people from Yellow Fever was to quarantine affected areas and refuse to allow people in or out. In areas unaffected by the disease, such as Little Rock, this quarantine plan received hearty approval from the public.

Often the demand for quarantine came from the general public. On Aug. 26, 1878, a citizens group met in Little Rock to demand the State Board of Health implement quarantines against Memphis and New Orleans. They demanded no boats use the rivers from Memphis or Louisiana. Further, they insisted no trains operate over the Little Rock-Memphis railroad. Sensing the State Board of Health might resist such harsh demands, the citizens resolved, “that any members of the Board of Health who are not in accord, fully and heartily, with these resolutions in their language and their spirit, are most cordially invited to resign.”

Over the course of 1878, there were only a handful of Yellow Fever cases reported in Arkansas. In those few instances, the town was immediately placed under quarantine. When a case was reported in Washington, Arkansas, in Hempstead County, police surrounded the city to prevent any coming and going.

As the death toll mounted in Memphis, panic spread in Arkansas. On Oct.  2, 1878, T.F. Freeman, a prominent grocer in Augusta in Woodruff County passed away after suffering symptoms similar to Yellow Fever. Rumor had it a box of dry goods slipped through the imposed Memphis quarantine and made its way into Augusta where, like a Pandora’s Box, its contents quickly spread Yellow Fever in the town. Once the rumors spread, the citizens of Augusta and all towns along the railroad’s route from Memphis packed their belongings to flee.

Alarmed, the State Board of Health convened an emergency meeting on Oct. 8, 1878, to formulate a plan to combat the spread of the disease. On the same day the State Board of Health met, another person passed away from what seemed to be Yellow Fever.

Doctors in Augusta rushed to the bedsides of the victims to assess whether the sickness was a result of Yellow Fever. Dr. James E. Lenow agreed: It was Yellow Fever. He said there were three deaths in Augusta from the disease.

Some doctors, however, disputed whether the deaths were from Yellow Fever. Many townspeople claimed Freeman, whose death set off the panic, was an alcoholic and succumbed to liver damage from years of alcohol abuse. Nevertheless, after much discussion, the doctors agreed Augusta should be quarantined and railroad traffic ceased through the town.

Despite the quarantine, many Augusta residents fled on foot. Those who avoided armed pickets set up on the roads to prevent them from escaping found themselves wandering the countryside looking for shelter. As these refugees began to forage for food, many farmers in the White River Valley established armed guards around their farms to prevent possibly infected people from coming onto their property. Some farmers went so far as to set fire to unoccupied buildings on their farms to prevent squatters from taking up residence. By Oct. 15, an estimated two-thirds of Augusta’s population had fled town.

Weeks later, the first hard freeze came, killing the mosquitoes that had been spreading the disease. The epidemic was the last major outbreak of Yellow Fever in the Mississippi River Valley.

Even after the discovery that Yellow Fever is spread by mosquitoes, Arkansas maintained its quarantine policy. During an outbreak in Louisiana in 1905, Gov. Jeff Davis ordered the Arkansas National Guard to block every major entry port and prevent anyone from entering from the south. There were no reported cases of Yellow Fever in Arkansas, and the quarantine was lifted in about three months.

Despite the critics of the quarantine policy, the disease did not spread in Arkansas like it had in Memphis. The outbreaks in Arkansas also led to an increase in sanitation laws in towns throughout the state, which kept the mosquito population down as a result. New state and federal laws and medical advancements also helped combat Yellow Fever outbreaks.

For more information about Arkansas history, visit the Arkansas State Archives at archives.arkansas.gov, email state.archives@arkansas.gov or call 501-682-6900. Visit the Arkansas State Archives' online catalog to find books about Yellow Fever in Arkansas.

New Accessions in November

"All about Arkansas" cards, undated,
Arkansas State Archives
Our new accessions in November included “All about Arkansas” parks and tourism cards, historical books, family records and more! Your Arkansas State Archives houses more than 21,000 books, over 10,000 artifacts and millions of historical documents and photographs. Visit us to find historical Arkansas!

Archival Collections

·         Sillin-Monroe-Sprague family records and Bible records, 1800s to 1959, donated by Russell Baker.
·         Friends of the Arkansas State Archives, board meeting minutes, July 27, 2019, donated by Russell Baker.
·         Bobbie Kennard-Shiloh Museum collection of “All about Arkansas” cards produced by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, 14 cards, undated, transferred from the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History. Originally donated to the museum by Bobbie Kennard.
·         Scipio Africanus Jones Curtis H. Sykes Memorial Grant final report and three copies of the book “Africanus Jones: Both Intelligent and Wise,” written by Pat Kienzle, 2018-2019.

Published Material

·         “Powhatan Indian Place Names in Tidewater, Virginia,” by Martha W. McCarney and Helen C. Rountree, 2017, donated by Russell Baker.
·         “On the Edge of the Ozarks: Oral Histories from the Arkansas River Valley,” by Kristen Kloss Ulsperger, Jason S. Ulsperger and Kayla Osborne, 2013, donated by Russell Baker.
·         “The Gems of Pike Co.,” including vol. 30, no 2; Vol. 29, no. 4; and vol. 30, no 3, donated by Russell Baker.
·         “Album of Yesteryears,” catalogue for the Bicentennial of the Revolutionary War in Arkansas, donated by Russell Baker.
·         “Arkansas Colonials, 1686-1804: A collection of French and Spanish recordings listed early Europeans in the Arkansas,” by Morris S. Arnold, 1986, donated by Russell Baker.
·         “Images of Stories from England, Arkansas,” author and date unknown, donated by Russell Baker.
·         Arkansas Genealogical Society Fall Seminar catalogue, 2019, donated by Russell Baker.
·         “Mayflower Families through Five Generations,” Vol. 4, second edition, by Bruce M. Campbell, date unknown, donated by Doris Compton.
·         Index to the “Doodlebug” newsletter and journal, prepared in October 2019 by Bill Sayger, Central Delta Depot and Museum, and donated by Bill Sayger.
·         “Brickwall Gazette,” Vol. 23, no. 11, Genealogy Society of Craighead County, Arkansas,  November 2019, donated by the GSCC.
·        The History Newsletter, date unknown, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, donated by Russell Baker.

NEARA Collaboration Reveals Intimate, Historical Stories

Linday Penn and Taylor Harbin at work at NEARA
Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives staff is researching and writing articles to submit to the Lawrence County Historical Quarterly for publication. The quarterly magazine is published by the Lawrence County Historical Society and covers the history of the county.

“Lindsay Penn, our intern and a Ph.D. student in the heritage studies program at Arkansas State University, and Taylor Harbin, our archival assistant, have uncovered some fascinating stories that spotlight daily life in Lawrence County and surrounding communities,” said Fatme Myuhtar-May, NEARA’s archival manager. “They both share a passion for research, genealogy and history, and they use our own archival resources for inspiration.”

Penn said she is proud to contribute research that will benefit the magazine and NEARA.
“As a Lawrence County native, I have always enjoyed listening to stories about local history and reading the quarterly journals,” Penn said. “I’m proud to contribute to the research of local historians — past and present — who have diligently worked to preserve the history and heritage of Lawrence County. Uncovering interesting stories at NEARA is an essential part of that preservation effort.”

In the process of indexing court records, Penn and Harbin uncovered details about local people and events that run the gamut from sad and tragic to salacious and absurd. Among them is the case of Margaret Kendricks and Serena Pace, two women who were charged with murdering their newborns in the winter of 1886 to 1887. The mystery deepened when Penn discovered Margaret, 19, and Serena, 21, were stepsisters. She also discovered a male relative mysteriously left Arkansas at about the same time the babies died.

Ultimately, the jury convicted Kendricks of involuntary manslaughter and recommended “six-month and one day at labor in the penitentiary,” but Pace’s final verdict remains unknown. Both women denied intentionally killing their newborns. Kendrick said her child was stillborn, and Pace, who pleaded guilty, claimed “if she killed the child, she did not know it.”

Penn and Harbin are researching two other cases. In the first, a doctor from Lauratown sued another doctor for slander in 1910. In the second, a man named Tom Scott was murdered in 1924. The jury convicted and sentenced Seymour Christie to 10 years in prison for Scott’s death, but in a dramatic turn of events, Harbin found a newspaper article that said Christie’s son-in-law, Tom Adkins, confessed to Scott’s murder.

“It’s easy to forget history happens at every level of society,” Harbin said. “We spend so much time focusing on presidents, generals, celebrities and entrepreneurs that we forget about the ordinary people. There’s plenty of treasure in your own backyard, if you know where to look.”

The research Penn and Harbin are doing is significant because the information is gleaned from archival documents at NEARA. The research highlights the branch’s extensive collections and the research value of those collections, Myuhtar-May said.

“The research forges an even closer bond between NEARA and the Lawrence County Historical Society and promotes the importance of local historical research and publications,” Myuhtar-May said. “Ultimately, research of this kind needs to be encouraged because it highlights the value of preserving archival documents, not just as material relics of the past, but as a living, breathing source of history.”

Black History Commission of Arkansas Awards Curtis H. Sykes Grants

The Black History Commission of Arkansas recently met for its
quarterly meeting at the Arkansas Heritage building in Little Rock.

The Black History Commission of Arkansas approved several Cutis H. Sykes grant awards for projects meant to preserve or spotlight African American history in Arkansas during its regular meeting Nov. 14.

The Curtis H. Sykes Memorial Grant Program offers grants that provide support for African American historical preservation and public programming projects in Arkansas and is open to individuals and groups. The commission accepts applications year round.

Grants were approved in November to help fund the publication of books, a second edition of “Blood in Their Eyes” and “Girl Power.” The commission also agreed to partially fund research for another book, “Shades of Slade,” by La Donna Leazer. The book will be about Malvin Slade who was born to a slave mother but grew into prominence and became a key figure in the development of some Arkansas communities near the Louisiana border.

Local author and business owner Phyllis M. Hodges, who was previously awarded a grant for her book “8 Years of Unforgettable History: the Allure of America’s First,” was awarded a grant for her new book, “Girl Power.” Hodges plans to do in-person interviews and compile stories and accounts that spotlight renowned Arkansas women and girls “with emphasis to motivate minority females,” according to her application.

Another grant, awarded with some conditions, will help pay for a theater performance of “Death by Design” at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center next year. The hour-long production is about events leading up to a fire in 1959 that burned down a dormitory at the Negro Boys Industrial School  in Wrightsville, Arkansas, and killed 21 boys.

A Sykes grant will go to help publish a second edition of “Blood in Their Eyes,” which is a historical account of the massacre of African Americans in Elaine, Arkansas, in 1919. The book will be printed by The University of Arkansas Press. The Elaine Massacre is the deadliest racial confrontation in Arkansas history and among the bloodiest racial conflicts in the U.S. The Black History Commission held a symposium about the massacre this past June

Commissioners previously met in August and approved two other grants: one for the Arkansas Association of Black Psychology Professionals’ “A Centennial Commemoration” event in 2020 and another grant for “The Fire That Uncovered History & Culture of Hot Springs – African Americans Trunk and Trophies” submitted by P.H.E.O.B.E. in Hot Springs.

The Sykes grant programs has funded over a hundred projects statewide since it started in 1997. 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.

For more information, contact Tatyana Oyinloye, African American history program coordinator, at 501-682-6892 or at Tatyana.oyinloye@arkansas.gov. Guidelines and forms are also available online at http://archives.arkansas.gov/about-us/bhca/curtishsykesmemorialgrantprogram.aspx.
Author Phyllis Hodges (far left) listens to Chair
Carla Coleman (left) during the BHCA meeting in November.
Also pictured are commissioners Pat Finley Johnson,
Jesse Hargrove and Ricky Lattimore (far right).
The Black History Commission of Arkansas will meet next at noon Thursday, Feb. 13, at the Arkansas State Archives, at 1 Capitol Mall, suite 215, in Little Rock.

Conference Reveals, Preserves African American History

From left to right: Tatyana Oyinloye, ASA staff, and  Black History
commissioners Carla Coleman, Jesse Hargrove and Ricky Lattimore
pose with Gen. Gracus Dunn at the 40th Annual Conference
on the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc.

Three members of the Black History Commission of Arkansas, a governor’s representative and an Arkansas State Archives employee recently attended a national conference focused on 400 years of black history.

“Because of slavery, it can be very difficult for African Americans to locate their ancestors,” said Tatyana Oyinloye, coordinator of the African American History Program at the Arkansas State Archives. “In part, this conference is a place to educate and teach new avenues of finding African American ancestors.”

The 40th National Conference of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc., (AAHGS) in Washington, D.C. drew hundreds of people and featured keynote speakers who addressed genealogy and history. Arkansas Black History Commissioners Carla Coleman, chair; Dr. Jesse Hargrove, vice chair; and Pastor Ricky Lattimore attended the conference, which was themed “400 Years of Black History: The Struggles, Challenges and Perseverance.” Oyinloye and Jennifer Siccardi, a representative from the Governor’s Office, also attended. 

Conference sessions included presentations on African American genealogy, oral history and plans for DNA testing. Attendees also heard about significant history, such as the story of Elizabeth Proctor Thomas, a free black woman whose home was torn down during the Civil War to create Fort Stevens near Washington, D.C.

The conference is the largest, international African American conference that promotes African American family history, genealogy and culture, according to the AAHGS website. Commissioners and Oyinloye visited historical sites and learned about history that paved the way for African Americans across the U.S.

“Every year, I learn new things that help me help people in Arkansas get one step closer in researching their family history,” Oyinloye said. “You also have the opportunity to share your stories with others from across the U.S. People have actually found long-lost relatives during these conferences.”

Oyinloye said she visited the Lincoln Memorial, U.S. Capitol, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, African American Civil War Memorial and Museum, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture and Historic Sotterley Plantation in southern Maryland. “I actually was able to go inside an original slave cabin,” Oyinloye said.

Commissioners and ASA staff have attended this conference for many years. During their Nov. 14 quarterly meeting, commissioners said the experience was amazing and that the conference was full of little-known facts. The information will lead to better research skills, more understanding and a better ability to preserve African American history in Arkansas, they said.

Giving Thanks: Soldiers Celebrate End of War and Thanksgiving in 1918

Thanksgiving dinner at Camp Pike, Nov. 28, 1918

As World War I drew to a close, soldiers around the world – and in Arkansas – prepared for celebrations.

On Nov. 10, 1918, Benjamin Franklin Clark, a soldier in training at Camp Taylor in Kentucky, wrote home to his girlfriend, Flora Hamilton in Enders, Arkansas. Clark believed the Great War, having raged for over four years, was finally coming to an end. He penned, “My, when it is over, the quickest way home will be too slow for me.” A day later, he got his wish as the German army signed an armistice ending WWI.

Back home in Arkansas, soldiers at Camp Pike, the military training camp for soldiers in Arkansas, were gearing up for Thanksgiving. With the end of the war, officials at Camp Pike planned to have a Thanksgiving celebration that was unmatched in Arkansas.

The amount of food delivered to Camp Pike was staggering. There were 24 tons of turkey, 24,000 pounds of potatoes, 3,000 gallons of ice cream, along with a generous quantity of cranberry sauce.   Due to the number of soldiers in the camp, Thanksgiving festivities were divided by unit. Soldiers and their guests quickly overwhelmed the dining room of the 162nd Depot Brigade, forcing them to relocate dinner to Sixth Street and South Avenue.

Camp Pike Thanksgiving, 1918
The day’s events began with a victory service at the YMCA auditorium. The auditorium was standing room only for over 2,000 soldiers crammed into the building to hear a chorus sing “The Star Spangled Banner.”  Rabbi Louis Witt opened the program with a speech reminding the audience, “Two years ago, on Thanksgiving, I well remember we gave thanks to God for having kept us out of war… But when we understood that the war was one of right against might, and heard the cry of the nations, ‘Where is America?’ our answer went forth and our boys by the thousands could be heard in a steady tramp, tramp through the streets of Paris… America has done her duty, America has saved her soul, America has shed her light of liberty on the world.” 

Camp Pike Thanksgiving menu, 1918
Gov. Charles Hillman Brough followed Rabbi Witt with the keynote address, reminding the crowd the war was over, and they could be thankful for peace – a peace that was permanent. At the conclusion of the governor’s remarks, Col. Charles Miller addressed the audience remarking the soldiers at Camp Pike should be thankful for the educational opportunities they had received and urged them to take what they had learned home with them to use to make their communities better places. Miller was followed by a 60-man chorus of Camp Pike soldiers who were accompanied by the 11th Battalion Band. They were directed by George Knapp, a song leader on the camp grounds.

The 112th Ordinance Depot Company did its best to rival the 162nd Depot Brigade’s dinner. The 112th Ordinance Depot Company held a dance in their mess hall, which was decorated with autumn leaves, pine boughs and festoons. The company enjoyed a seven course meal followed by a 2-foot-wide cake decorated with the company’s insignia.

Officers and men of the Quartermaster’s Department found their mess hall decorated with flags and national colors. The 126 soldiers and their guests enjoyed roast pork with apple sauce, mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, apple pie, bananas, oranges and apples.

All soldiers not on guard duty were given the day off, and there were plenty of activities to occupy their time. As a benefit for the Soldiers’ Entertainment Fund, camp officials scheduled a vaudeville show at the Liberty Theater on Camp Pike. The show, advertised as “A Breath of Broadway,” featured music, dramatic plays and the Great Chapetta, who performed an escape act from a whipping post.

Tickets to the event were 20 cents for general admission and 50 cents for reserved seating. As a premium for those who bought reserved seats, patrons received a program in the shape of a military hat. J.M. Edgar Hart, director of the War Department Commission on Training Camp Activities, organized the event, saying, “The people will be able to see a $5 show for the mere sum of 25 cents or 50 cents, and the money obtained will be for an excellent purpose. Surely the civilian population will support us.”  The day’s festivities were concluded with a boxing tournament.

The end of the war brought many celebrations. That it happened right before Thanksgiving might have been a coincidence, but it made the holiday that much sweeter.

For more information about Arkansas history, visit the Arkansas State Archives at archives.arkansas.gov, email state.archives@arkansas.gov or call 501-682-6900.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wednesday’s Wonderful Collection - Walter Dormitzer collection, SMC.0004.0009

Walter Dormitzer was born in 1862 to Henry and Anna Dormitzer, Bohemian immigrants. He was an importer/exporter who traveled extensively, collecting art and historical memorabilia. He lived in Nigeria during the late 1800s and collected Yoruba art that he later donated to the Newark (New Jersey) Museum. His autograph books are highly sought after and contain autographs of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He owned the Watson and Dormitzer firm with his partner Calvin A. Watson. He and his wife Carrie Auerbach were members of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Essex County, New Jersey. He died August 15, 1935, from the effects of malaria contracted when he lived in Africa.
This collection contains correspondence written by Arkansas governors and senators, collected by Walter Dormitzer. Biographical newsclippings about the politicians are included with some of the correspondence.
·         Governors' correspondence (Reel MG00203)
o    1840 May 1: William S. Fulton, Washington, District of Columbia, to Captain M.C. Young, Washington, District of Columbia
o    1842 February 3: William S. Fulton, Washington, District of Columbia, to Lewis J. Cist, Cincinnati, Ohio
o    1842 August 14: John Pope, Washington, District of Columbia, to L.J. Cist, Cincinnati, Ohio
o    1846 March 8: A. Yell, Washington, District of Columbia, to A.T. Keller
o    1846 September 28: Elias N. Conway, Little Rock, Arkansas, to John C. Rives, Washington, District of Columbia
o    1850 January 19: P. Clayton, Washington, District of Columbia, to Corcoran and Riggs, Washington, District of Columbia
o    1864 December: Isaac Murphy, Little Rock, Arkansas, to Mark B. Robinson
o    1868 June 6: Isaac Murphy, Little Rock, Arkansas, to A. Bill Perry
o    1871 December 11: Powell Clayton, Washington, District of Columbia, to Major Benjamin Perley Poore
o    1872 August 14: O.A. Hadley, Little Rock, Arkansas, to H. Storm
o    1877 January 29: W.R. Miller, Little Rock, Arkansas, to Henry Storm, New York
o    1878 September 9: Elias N. Conway, Little Rock, Arkansas, to Henry Storm, New York
o    1883 October 19: James H. Berry, Little Rock, Arkansas, to [Lyle Thoburn], Bellair, Ohio
o    1883 October 26: Powell Clayton, Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to [Lyle Thoburn], Bellair, Ohio
o    1884 October 11: O.A. Hadley, Raton, New Mexico, to Lyle Thoburn
o    1885 February 16: Simon P. Hughes, Little Rock, Arkansas, to Mabel [Cristty]
o    1890 January 25: Elisha Baxter, Batesville, Arkansas, to "Sir"
o    1890 October 30: A.H. Garland, Washington, District of Columbia, to Lawrence F. [Busch], Allegheny City, Pennsylvania
o    1897 April 25: W.M. Fishback to Elliott Danforth
o    1900 October 8: Dan W. Jones, Little Rock, Arkansas, to S.B. Costron, New York
o    1910 December 21: Jeff Davis, Washington, District of Columbia, to Gardner Richardson, New York
o    Undated: H. Flanagin [fragment]
·         Senators' correspondence
o    1839 January 20: A.H. Sevier, Washington, District of Columbia, to M. Spaulding, Washington, District of Columbia
o    1846 May 24: W.S. Fulton, Washington, District of Columbia, to D. William Jones, Washington, District of Columbia
o    1848 January 27: Chester Ashley, Washington, District of Columbia, to "Sir"
o    1848 February 9: R.W. Johnson, Washington, District of Columbia, to Ritchie and Heiss
o    1849 March: S. Borland, Washington, District of Columbia, to ?
o    1855 February 21: W.K. Sebastian, A.B. Greenwood, and R.W. Johnson, Washington, District of Columbia, to [T.] C. Dobbins, Washington, District of Columbia
o    1855 December 29: W.K. Sebastian, Washington, District of Columbia, to William R. King
o    1858 December 17: William S. Fulton, Washington, District of Columbia, to C.L. Alexander
o    1861 February 27: W.K. Sebastian, Washington, District of Columbia, to C.L. Alexander
o    1869 April 5: Alexander McDonald, Washington, District of Columbia, to [?], Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
o    1869 May 27: Alexander McDonald, Washington, District of Columbia, to W. Wakeman
o    1870 March 8: B.F. Rice, Washington, District of Columbia, to [?]
o    1871 March 16: B.F. Rice, Washington, District of Columbia, to Ben Perley Poore
o    1872 June 4: Powell Clayton, Washington, District of Columbia, to W.H. Morgan, Washington, District of Columbia
o    1877 October 13: S.W. Dorsey, Washington, District of Columbia, to Benjamin P. Poore
o    1881 April 9: J.D. Walker, Washington, District of Coumbia, to [?]
o    1886 November 1: A.H. Garland, Department of Justice, [Washington, District of Columbia], to "Mr. President"
o    1887 August 31: A. McDonald, New York, to G.B. Patrick
o    Undated: James H. Berry
o    Undated: James K. Jones, Washington, District of Columbia, to G.B. Patrick
·         Miscellaneous
o    List of United States Senators
o    Senators from Arkansas
o    Governors of Arkansas
o    Undated: Newsclipping, "Powell Clayton, of Arkansas, to be Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of United States to Mexico"