Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Uncle Frank Part 2 by Jane Wilkerson


Throughout my experience with genealogy, I have learned that no matter how hard one tries, it is almost impossible to uncover the entire story, at least with a single attempt. It takes many documents just to get some sense of who our ancestors really were, as I realized while trying to piece together the story of my third great grandmother, the mysterious, much-married Millie Miller. The story of my uncle Robert Franklin “Frank” Browning story was no different. It would come to light through newspapers, court, and census records, to reveal a complicated life, one that remains in large part a mystery.

As readers may recall, in the first installment, I established that Uncle Frank did time in the Arkansas penitentiary on a manslaughter conviction. Researching into the 1905 shooting of the victim, T.W. Midkiff, in the newspapers of the day was only the beginning. It led me to the realization this was not Browning’s first incident with the law, and that these troubles were not the only surprises his past held. So, I resolved to keep going.

The starting point needed to be with what I knew. Several years previously, I had located and identified my family on the 1900 Census for White River township, Independence County, Arkansas. At the time, Frank Browning was living with his siblings and was employed as the town marshal of Sulphur Rock. If he had been a lawman, I wondered, what happened? My main goal became to search newspapers between 1900 and 1905 to see when he went from being “the law” to an outlaw. Unfortunately, information from the local paper was limited: the Batesville Guard was spotty, issues were missing[1], but I had a nearby backstop: the Newport Daily Independent. The papers published a daily edition so, give or take, I would be looking through as many as 365 days of newspapers per year, ones averaging six pages per issue. Papers promised to take a good while, but there was a bonus: I might be able to pick up information on other relatives while looking for “Uncle Frank.”

Happily, at least for me, it did not take long for Frank Browning to make his appearance in the Newport Daily Independent. On March 25, 1900, during the period in which he served as Sulphur Rock’s town marshal, he was accused of murder in Newport. Apparently, while Browning (as reported by the newspaper) visited a honkytonk in Newport’s thriving tenderloin district, he shot and killed Fred Stievater, a freight brakeman on the St. Louis & Iron Mountain railway. As would be the case in the 1905 incident, whiskey seems to have been involved. Browning quickly pled guilty but claimed that he had acted in self-defense; he was sentenced to one hour in the Arkansas State Penitentiary.

Over the next couple of years Browning appears to have stayed out of trouble, but by 1903 he again found himself on the wrong side of the law. In July, Browning was charged with assault against one V.G. Richards. Both men were charged and Browning pled guilty but stated that Richards was the aggressor. The next incident for Browning came in October. He got into a drunken brawl at Batesville, which resulted in Bragg Kimbrough’s face being slashed several times with a knife. By now I had gathered enough information to tell me that Frank Browning’s actions were not out of the ordinary for him, especially when alcohol was involved.

Since I was having such success with the newspapers, it seemed wise to continue, not just looking for Uncle Frank, but also for other relatives. I switched my focus to the Batesville Daily Guard and continued until 1920. Keep in mind that this searching was done before digitized papers were made available online. I spent many of my Saturdays off at the Archives, trolling through page after microfilmed page. These fishing expeditions paid off; the information was rewarding. During this period both of my great grandfathers, George Washington “Wash” Browning (Frank’s brother) and Charles F. Cole ran for state and county offices, so I learned about their campaigns. It also gave me an opportunity to spot and jot down mentions of relatives who appeared in the society section or the community news. These mentions, brief though they were, gave me insight in their everyday lives. But best of all, I uncovered leads as to Frank Browning’s life after he was pardoned by Acting Governor X.O. Pindall in April 1908.

Frank or the family were not mentioned in the papers anymore that year after the pardon, so I began to wonder if he had returned to or remained in the area. The Batesville Daily Guard did not yield anything at the beginning of 1909, so I thought about giving up, until I scanned the April 10 issue. “Wash Browning…who has been employed in Louisiana for several months, returned to his home.…” Wow: I had never known that my great grandfather was in Louisiana. This tidbit encouraged me to continue and it paid off. The April 28 issue reported that “Wash Browning…was in the city Tuesday and subscribed for the Guard, to send to his brother, Frank Browning, who is now in New Mexico.” With this, I picked up the trail again. Without this news item a brief bit in the local news column, my search would have ended, but now I had a new place to look for my troubled uncle. I could follow up with the 1910 United States Census for New Mexico and see what he was up to!  Therefore, I did. In the hamlet of Otto, Santa Fe County, New Mexico, I found Frank Browning listed as a general farmer. But—he was no ex-Arkansas bachelor farmer: he had a family. Listed in the household with him were his wife Sally and stepdaughters Mandy and Verdie Montgomery. Who were these people?  As I mentioned in the first article, Lilly Owens had been his only wife, or so I was told. Had I opened a can of worms? 

To figure out the situation, I returned to the basic principle of genealogy: start with what you know and work backwards! From the census schedule, I learned that that Sally and her daughter were all born in Missouri. This pointed me to the 1900 Census for Missouri. Were they there? They were indeed. I found Amanda “Mandy” and Verdie Montgomery with their grandmother Nancy Donison in Castor, Stoddard County, Missouri. The relationship was sealed when on the 1880 Census they were reported as together, with Sally, and living in the same place. The only difference was that Sally gave the enumerator her formal name, Sarah.

At this point there were two questions going through my mind: Where was Sally in 1900[2] and why was this marital detour important to the story of my uncle Frank? The thing that sparked the next move was recognizing that Dexter, the town from which Frank Browning sent the infamous telegram (see the previous instalment of this column for details) is also in Stoddard County, Missouri. Was he contacting Sally Montgomery at the time?  Where they already married? A little more digging in the 1900 United State Census led me to Sally Montgomery living in a boarding house at 113 Plum Street in Newport, Jackson County, Arkansas. She was listed as a widow and working as a cook. Later, when going back through the Newport Daily Independent, I found in the February 3, 1904 issue a marriage notice for Sallie Montgomery, listing Dexter, Missouri as her place of residence. Now the pieces started to come together: Chances were good that Sally and Frank met in or around Jackson County, Arkansas.

From here my search went back to the Batesville Daily Guard and I picked up my reading again, starting with May 1909. Up until 1917, news on Frank Browning was missing (although this disappointment was mitigated by finding reports of other family members’ activities and shenanigans).  That year, however, he reappeared in a local brief in March, which reported that his nephew Jeff Browning was going out to New Mexico for a visit. Later in the year, the paper reported, Frank returned to Batesville for good. He came home alone, though; what had happened to his wife and stepdaughters? There was no mention in the paper of what happened to them and of course, my family was as far as I knew ignorant of this episode in Frank’s life. Had they died, or simply moved on? That would haunt me, until thanks to Chronicling America’s online, searchable newspapers,[3] I got a hint of what happened to one of his stepdaughters.

In the August 11, 1918 Tombstone Epitaph, Tombstone, Arizona Frank Browning was mentioned as the stepfather of Amanda Courtesy Montgomery, 25, formerly of Dexter, Missouri. She had been a witness in a United States District Court trial against one Frank Whitt. Whitt was charged with “white slavery” under the Mann Act, for transporting Montgomery from Arizona to New Mexico. After her testimony, which apparently had exonerated Whitt, Montgomery was charged with perjury. To escape charges, she attempted suicide by taking 24 mercury tablets. Browning was notified that Montgomery was in critical condition and not expected to live. The newspaper article revealed that Browning offered to pay $100 of her medical bills if she lived, but nothing toward her funeral were she to die. She ultimately did pass, so presumably my Uncle Frank was not “out” the $100. This story, appearing far from where I would have expected Frank’s name to surface, demonstrates the potential of patiently “trolling” for family history treasures: it illuminates Frank Browning’s western life and suggests a certain hardness in his character. It also raises the question of when he moved home to Arkansas: in the story, he is described as being “of New Mexico” in the fall of 1918, a year after the Batesville paper reported him returning to Arkansas. Hmm!  The story also leaves questions unanswered: Was Amanda’s mother Sally deceased at the time, since it was the sister, rather than mother Sally, who was contacted by the authorities? And, the Epitaph story notes that “the circumstances of her marriage to Montgomery are not known,” suggesting that Amanda was thought to be a married woman.

Through this and other research I truly learned to appreciate the value of trolling—or, perhaps, “strolling”-- through local newspapers. Most of the time, genealogists focus on spotting marriage announcements or obituaries, but there is so much more, buried in the local columns. Without each news blurb and occasional articles, I would not have been able to fill in even a little of a 20-year period of Frank Browning’s life. Combing through newspapers also allowed me to find out about other family members. Traditionally, many of the Archives’ patrons have been family historians, patiently reading microfilm, but I’ll be the first to admit that things have gotten a little easier, particularly if one is researching late 19th-century or early 20th-century ancestors; the next time you want to read an Arkansas (or another state’s) newspapers, looking for ancestors, visit Chronicling America from the comfort of your home. The site is free to the public and brought to you by the Arkansas State Archives through a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities and Library of Congress. Or, visit our research room to browse the largest collection of Arkansas newspapers in the State and talk with our experienced staff about other resources to explore. Who knows what you may discover? 

[1] Many of the early issues for the Batesville Guard did not survive for the Arkansas State Archives to microfilm. The Independence County Historical Society most graciously let the archives borrow them in the early 2000s for a second filming. Newspapers are acidic and breaks down quickly, so it is difficult to put them in permanent storage. A side note: when organizing the papers for filming this writer discovered many of the early issues came from the home of my great grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles F. Cole.

[2] One might ask, what about Sally’s whereabouts in 1890?  The answer, or lack of it, has to do with the destruction of almost all of the U.S. Census schedules for 1890 in a 1921 fire at the Commerce Department building in Washington D.C. A few counties’ records survived the blaze but none with a bearing on this story.


African American Migration in Arkansas, Where Did My People go?

The Black History Commission of Arkansas and the Arkansas State Archives will be hosting a virtual symposium on Saturday, February 6, via Zoom from 9:45AM until 1PM.  The symposium’s theme is: “African American Migration in Arkansas, Where Did My People go?” Presenters will be Dr. Brian K. Mitchell of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and Dr. Story Matkin-Rawn and Dr. Kenneth Barnes of the University of Central Arkansas.

Topics include: “African Americans, Arkansas, and the Other Great Migration 1865-1920”; “Any Place but Here: The 1860 Expulsion of Free Blacks from Arkansas” and "Arkansas's African Migration Movement in the late 1800s."

This event is part of an ongoing series of symposiums and other events sponsored by the Black History Commission of Arkansas. The mission of the Commission is to collect materials pertaining to African American history for the Arkansas State Archives, to encourage research of the state's African American history, and to cooperate with the Arkansas Department of Education to develop materials that support the teaching of African American history in our public schools.

The symposium will be available for sign-in beginning at 09:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada), with presentations beginning at 09:45. Advance registration is required and is limited to 100 participants; register here:

 The Arkansas State Archives is an agency of the Division of Arkansas Heritage. Established in 1905, it collects, preserves and makes available a wealth of materials documenting Arkansas’s past, including the largest extant collection of Arkansas newspapers.  The State Archives is located in Little Rock and operates two branch facilities, the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives in Powhatan (Lawrence County) and the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives in Washington (Hempstead County).

The symposium is open to all; teachers may earn up to three professional development hours through attendance. The symposium is free to attend but advance registration is required. For more registration or other information about the symposium contact Tatyana Oyinloye, Coordinator of African American History Programs at: or call 501-682-6900.


Letters to Santa by Brian Irby

 by Brian Irby

In the 1880s, many newspapers began publishing letters to Santa Claus from local children.  The idea was that the children would write to Santa about all the things they wanted for Christmas, and Santa, who happened to be a subscriber to the local paper, would bring those toys to the children on Christmas day.  The Arkansas Gazette in giving mailing information for the letters reminded children, “It is the best way for them to get him to bring them what they want.”  Newspapers across the state were flooded with letters.

Some kids were struggling with whether Santa was real or not, but wrote in anyway, just in case.  In 1896, Jack Mitchell in Little Rock, despite all the teasing he had gotten from older boys who told him Santa was not real, continued to believe in the Jolly Old Elf, “because everything I ask for you always bring it to me.”  Bessie Deshon of Little Rock had no doubt whether Santa was real or not, but worried that he might get her confused with someone else or forget who she is and make the mistake of bringing her the same thing he brought her last year.  She also gave him a choice on how to enter her house on Christmas Eve, down the chimney, through the window, or through the door, “these three are at your disposal.”  In case he decided on the chimney, Bessie promised to make sure that her dad did not have a fire in the fireplace that night.

Some kids had to deal with parents who just did not understand the magic of the season.  Birdie Robinson wrote to Santa care of the Arkansas Gazette to complain about her mother not putting up a tree: “Mama says that it will make her floor dirty.”  Despite this, Birdie seemed to take after her mother’s fastidious tidiness, asking Santa for a wash tub, clothes pins, and a clothes wringer.

Alvin Roy Solomon in Helena, wrote to Santa in 1899 that if Santa brought him all that he asked for, Alvin’s father, who was a tailor, “will make you a nice overcoat to keep you warm all the winter.”

Many times, what the children wrote to ask for were questionable items.  For instance, Eddie Retchum of Little Rock wrote in 1892 that he wanted Santa to bring him a box of cigars and a diamond ring.  Eddie finished his letter with, “I seen you when you lived in Morrilton.  I did.”  Most children wanted fireworks for Christmas, including three year old Noah Young of Little Rock who wished for them in the midst of his oranges and candy in 1911.  Thad MacDonald, a five-year-old in Fort Smith, wrote in 1904 that he did not want any fireworks, since “I can get them at the store any time.”

In 1900, George and Jay Sloan of Pine Bluff promised to be extra good, if only temporarily: “Now Santa Claus we will try and be good boys and not build any more fires or chase the calf nor dig any more bricks out of the walk until after Christmas.”  John Bell Duckworth promised to take a bath on Christmas day and, in order to do so, asked for two hundred feet of hose.  He did not explain why he needed such an inordinate amount of hose, but he did finish his letter by saying that he was cash strapped and asked Santa to leave him a five dollar bill.

Frank R. Timmus of Little Rock worried that his political leanings might prevent him from receiving presents.  He supported Democrat Grover Cleveland in the 1892 presidential election, but his mother told him that Santa was a Republican.  “I hope you are a good Democrat,” he wrote to Santa, “and will bring me a drum, train of cars, cannon, fire engine, bicycle, candies, fruits and nuts, and anything else you may think of.  And if you are not of our party, I hope you will think as kindly of me as you can.”

Often the letters were quite somber.  An 1896 letter from John Lawrence Fein of Little Rock recalled that the last Christmas was quite sad with the passing of his sister Agnes.  Letters from the Children’s Home orphanage were especially poignant.  A little boy named Paul wrote Santa to ask if he had any new mamas: “I want one.” 

Frances Lockhart wrote to Santa in December 1917 about her father who was serving as a chaplain at Camp Pike.  “We are more lonely now than ever before,” she fretted, “because our Papa has gone to the army and we won’t have him with us any more till this war is over.”  Not only were the children asking for their fathers and mothers who had gone off to war to return, many of those soldiers also wrote to Santa asking for the same thing.  Robert G. Allen, Jr., a second lieutenant in the army wrote, “To Genial S. Claus: Please, sir, if it can conveniently be arranged, sir, Lieutenant Allen, sir, would like very much,, sir, to have a discharge, sir.”

Often the letters took on a humanitarian streak.  World War I had created a humanitarian crisis in Europe as refugees streamed across the continent in the wake of the war.  These refugees were very much on the minds of many children in Arkansas, who wrote to Santa to ask for him to help them.  Martha and Emma Lee Schen wrote in 1918 asking Santa to “visit the little Belgian children with lots of nice things.”  Erlean Wyatt of Batesville echoed Martha and Emma’s pleas: “Dear Santa, while I am happy I think of the dear little children across the waters where this terrible war is, who are so sad and to think they will not have our good Santa Claus in their homes this Christmas.”  Paulean Wyatt of Rosie, Arkansas, joined in to ask Santa to intervene for the “little children in France, Italy, Germany, Russia and all the other countries where the little children are so sad.  I wish I could help them all.”

Occasionally, new technology would creep into the letters.  The craze for listening to recorded music was reflected in the letter from Batesville’s Edna Lance, who wrote in 1920 about her love for the Victrola.  She promised Santa that if he stayed a while after delivering the presents, Edna would play some of her new Victrola records for him.

These letters are a unique snapshot of life over a century ago.  What they reveal is that kids have changed little over the past 120 years.   

Eradicating the Cattle Tick Proved Controversial by Brian Irby


In 1866, Texas cattlemen herding their cattle into Missouri and Kansas found themselves under scrutiny. Missouri and Kansas cattlemen complained that the Texas cattle brought with them a disease they called Texas Fever. The disease was mysterious, with no known cause, but it was devastating to the cattle herds, spreading quickly and proving to be fatal to most infected animals. By the middle 1880s, some scientists believed that the disease was caused by a parasite found in the blood of infected cattle. Others speculated that the disease was the result of cattle eating garbage while being transported to farms. In 1892, researchers made another discovery: The parasite was transmitted from cow to cow by ticks. The disease’s scientific name was bovine babesiosis. The parasite attacked the red blood cells of cattle, causing anemia, fever, and then death. 

Veterinary scientists noted that the major outbreaks could be found along most train routes that ran from the southern United States into the Midwest. Other than disinfecting the train cars and removing infected cattle from common grazing areas, they were at a loss as to how to curb the spread of the disease. Treatments for infected cattle often included quinine or a mixture of digitalis and whiskey, but they were rarely successful. In 1906 alone, the United States Department of Agriculture estimated that over four and a half million cows were infected east of the Mississippi, with another eleven million infections west of the river. The cost to the cattle industry was estimated by the Bureau of Animal Industry (an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) to be around $40,000,000 annually.

Strangely, observers noted that Texas Fever was more prevalent in areas where fewer ticks were found, instead of in areas overrun with them. This meant that in areas with a higher number of ticks, the cattle had already been infected and recovered, giving them immunity to Texas Fever. Additionally, veterinary experts also discovered that most southern cattle had likely been exposed to Texas Fever as calves and were now immune. Unfortunately, cattle in the north part of the state and into the Midwest had not had the disease and were susceptible to catching it from ticks transported with southern cattle. This led the federal agricultural department to designate a quarantine of southern cattle below the Missouri state line. For Arkansas cattle growers, this meant that it was difficult to sell their cattle north to the lucrative beef markets in the upper Midwest, a circumstance that cost them thousands of dollars a year.

In 1891, the federal government took action to prevent the spread of the disease. The United States Department of Agriculture established a quarantine zone that stretched from the southern border of Kansas to Virginia. The new law prevented cattle from being shipped north via train unless it was for immediate slaughter. There were exceptions to the law, however. Cattle that bore a certificate that they had been dipped and were tick free might be transferred north without any restrictions. In Arkansas, the state government also established quarantines to protect areas of the state. One such quarantine line was created along the state’s western border to prevent cattle from Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) from entering the state.

The quarantines were not always effective, however. A cattle inspector found infected cattle in 1906 in Benton County, despite the quarantine against cattle from Indian Territory. After an investigation, he hypothesized that cattle from Indian Territory were being smuggled into Missouri. Since there was no law preventing Missouri cattle from entering Arkansas, it was easy for cattlemen to then sneak infected cattle into Arkansas.

Because of the difficulty in keeping infected cattle from slipping through the quarantine lines, officials with the state Department of Agriculture argued that the only real effective means of ending the problem was to establish a tick eradication program. In July 1906, agents began a state program to eradicate ticks in Arkansas. As part of this program, agents from the Bureau of Animal Industry began holding educational meetings for cattle growers around Arkansas. They explained that the tick was the real menace and discussed methods to eradicate the ticks from cattle. As they traveled the state, they also inspected the local cattle. They found that of the 7,474 cows they inspected, 1,481 were infested with ticks.

Despite the educational efforts, many cattle growers remained skeptical about the cause of the Texas fever. Many still believed it was a matter of keeping grazing areas clean of rubbish. A Bureau of Animal Industry agent lamented, “It is easy to be seen that the carelessness or indifference of one man may counteract the work of all.” 

The quarantine laws allowed for areas to be removed from the restrictions if inspectors were not able to find any ticks and thus declared the area clear of danger. This would place the area above the quarantine line, allowing them to sell their cattle without restriction and also prevent infected cattle from coming into their area. This proved an effective incentive for local ranchers to be vigilant about following established government guidelines for tick eradication. H.H. Perkins of Marion County urged his fellow cattle growers to abide by the law and to work to get rid of ticks in the county. “Think of what this would be worth to the cattle owners of Marion county [sic], not only in the freedom of our access to market, but in protection against infected cattle being driven into the county from the south as has been done in the past, for the government would maintain a rigid quarantine against that just as it does against us taking cattle into Missouri without their undergoing inspection. Let’s get above the quarantine line,” he pleaded. Despite his urgings, the county remained under quarantine.

An early remedy for killing the ticks was to smear crude oil over the cow’s legs and sides, causing the tick to suffocate and die. Cattle growers used this method twice a week on their herds. Another method was to put a sulphur mixture on the cow.

In 1909, the state legislature passed a law to make inspections in quarantine areas mandatory. If the inspector found infected cattle or ticks on cattle, he was required to treat the animal to remove any of the ticks. Anyone who attempted to avoid having his cattle inspected was subject to a fine ranging from $25 up to $500. To pay for the eradication program, the legislature levied a tax of five cents per cow.

By 1913, three fourths of the state remained under quarantine. Inspectors continued to find cattle throughout the state infested with ticks. John Page, Commissioner of the Bureau of Animal Industry, estimated that the ongoing presence of ticks cost the state of Arkansas $2,225,000 annually. In reflecting on the loss of money to the state, he argued, “Just think of it: Enough money to buy winter shoes for all the children of Arkansas!  Enough to buy a dress for all the mothers in Arkansas!  Enough to place a Bible and a spelling book in the hands of every man, woman, and child in Arkansas!  What a toll we are paying for our neglect in not getting rid of the pest.”  His solution was to build dipping vats in all the counties of Arkansas so that every cow could be dipped in a solution called Kil-Tik to kill all the ticks in the state. Around the state, counties banded together to establish eradication districts, whereby they would pool monetary resources to pay for the erection of dipping vats around the district. This proved to be an effective means of paying for building the vats. By the end of 1914, there were 200 dipping vats in operation in Arkansas. Areas in which a vat operated witnessed a noticeable drop in the infection rate.

However, many cattle growers remained skeptical of the program. Rumors circulated that the solutions used in the vats were harmful to cattle. Skeptics claimed that dipping cattle caused them to die or greatly reduced the amount of milk given by dairy cows. J.R. Seales, a farmer in Cabot, wrote to the Arkansas Gazette claiming that the compulsory dipping laws were an undue burden on farmers who had to carry much of the cost of the eradication program. Additionally, two of his cattle had died recently, “cause unknown, but I can’t help believing the dipping is responsible.”

Often this skepticism took the form of violence as some cattle growers resisted local laws requiring them to dip their cattle. Scores of dipping vats were dynamited under the veil of darkness across the state. Three vats were destroyed in Faulkner County in the summer of 1917. That same week, someone scooped the solution out of the vat in Rosebud in White County and pitched it into the White River. A few weeks later, in Little Rock, person or persons unknown destroyed a vat just east of Forest Park.

Worried about the rise in violent opposition to dipping cattle, several cattlemen organized security guards to watch vats at night. Sometimes even this did not prevent destruction of the vats. In August 1916, in Barber, Arkansas, a small hamlet in Sebastian County, L. Pyles was entrusted to guard the local vat following the destruction of another vat earlier that month but was called away by an emergency on his farm. While he was away, P. Moore, a critic of dipping vats, quickly blew up Barber’s vat. Fort Smith law enforcement brought out bloodhounds to search for the culprit and followed a trail to Moore’s house where he was arrested. Opposition continued into 1918 when four vats were destroyed in a single night near Mena. Anti-dippers also burned down the houses of those who had been vocal in their support of the program.

In addition to the work of law enforcement to prevent damage to dipping vats, the Bureau of Animal Industry stepped up its educational work. They urged private citizens to build their own vats and dip their cattle to demonstrate to neighbors and skeptics that doing so does not harm their livestock. Additionally, farmers were concerned about the lack of funds available to both build sturdy dipping vats and purchase the dipping solution. State agriculture officials appointed W.A. Denman, a specialist in tick eradication, to travel the state visiting local businessmen with the hopes of raising the money needed to build dipping vats and purchase solution. His travels were successful. In Arkadelphia, he encouraged the Arkansas Lumber and Supply Company to furnish timber and concrete at cost for the project. Other businessmen in other parts of the state followed suit, and soon more vats sprang up across the state. In Jefferson County, several farmers created the “Dip the Tick” educational program to instruct fellow cattle raisers on how to eradicate the ticks. Even with the efforts of the private sector, money again became scarce in 1916. United States Congressman Henderson Jackoway pledged federal aid to the program.

Despite the opposition to dipping cattle, the program seemed to work. Most cattlemen took part in the program without protest and by 1921, inspectors declared the tick eradicated in half of the state. By 1928, most of the state was released from quarantine, and the cattle tick was declared officially eradicated by 1943.


The Story of Austin the Slave and the Antebellum Court System in Arkansas by Fatme Myuhar-May


Austin's Indictment page 1
Austin was a young slave of no more than twenty years of age, who was owned by Benjamin Watson from Independence County, Arkansas. On August 2, 1853 – a Tuesday – Austin and Watson “had a conversation, in which the slave talked improperly to his master,” according to a court file preserved at NEARA. The court records do not elaborate on the precise way Austin was improper with his master. However, one can reasonably assume that a minor verbal objection, a slightly raised voice, or a simple “haughty” gesture on the part a slave would have struck any slave owner as impertinent and punishment worthy. After all, antebellum southern society expected slaves to be completely obedient to their masters and not give the slightest impression of insubordination. Thus, enforcing obedience in the private as well as the public realm was critically important because the preservation of the slave system depended on it. To that end, both slave masters and the courts endeavored to instill fear of severe punishment, including death, in slaves, to protect the status quo. The Arkansas Supreme Court, in the case of Austin, a Slave v. the State of Arkansas, asserted as much: “In preserving this lawful subordination upon which the best interests of the community, of the master and of the slave so radically depend, every citizen in common with the master has an abiding interest.” The antebellum courts, therefore, functioned to enforce that subordination to preserve the system of slavery, not to mete out justice, when it came to slaves. The story of Austin, who committed a murder in self-defense, exemplifies that fundamental role of the judiciary.[1]


Austin's Indictment page 2
On the night following the “conversation” with his master, Austin expected to be whipped or otherwise punished by Watson for his perceived impudence. To protect his body and dignity, Austin brought a stick with him from the fields, when he returned from ploughing. Upon entering his designated quarters at Watson’s place, he told his wife – most likely a slave woman also owned by Watson – that “they were going to take him [beat him], but that he would not be taken by his master or anybody else.” Austin further told her that “he would knock the first man down that came into the room.” After dinner, he went out into the yard with the stick in his hand, which he propped “upon the yard fence,” and “picked up another stick” from the yard to defend himself against potential assault. It seems abundantly clear from his actions that Austin fully expected to be attacked that night.


In the evening, Benjamin Watson went on his rounds of inspecting the premises “where the schoolboys and hirelings were.” Austin steered clear of his master by “le[aving] his own room and [going] to the chimney corner of the dwelling house” in an apparent effort to avoid a confrontation.


The next morning, August 3, 1853, the young slave “went to mill” as expected, but upon returning, he “bundled up his clothes and took them away.” Later, the courts would interpret Austin’s action as an intent to run away, and perhaps he was indeed preparing to flee if he feared for his life. For the rest of the day, however, the young slave went about his business by getting “some tubs as he was ordered to do,” and by going “to the woods for some hoop poles as he was [also] ordered to do by a witness, [a hireling] … who was doing some work for Watson, the master….”


It was during the time that Austin was harvesting hoop poles in the woods that Mrs. Watson, “the wife of the master, had sent a message to her husband … to the effect that [Austin] had run away.” Thus, while Watson was organizing for the pursuit of a runaway, Austin emerged “from the woods with some hoop poles—and an axe in his hand.” He had not fled, after all. At this point, at least three men – including Watson – advanced toward Austin “for the purpose, as expressed by Watson, of correcting him.” One of the assailants was Hiram Payne, a local white man, and an associate of Watson’s. According to the Arkansas Supreme Court’s summary of the event, “when Watson and these others approached the appellant [Austin], … he retreated but they overtook him in the road and ordered him to lay down his axe[.]” Austin “refused, and said that he would not be whipped by Watson or anybody else.” He also warned his attackers that he “would kill the first man that attempted to take him.” He then kept walking, presumably back to his quarters or to where the hoop poles were needed. As Austin watchfully kept going, “Watson and the men [followed] after him.”


In a critical moment in this unequal and tense stalking game, there was an attempt at a conversation between Austin and Watson, seemingly to resolve the situation. It is not clear who initiated the conversation, or what was said between the two. If it was Austin’s last-ditch effort to appeal to his master’s reason or humanity to spare him, the young slave did not succeed. From the circumstances, it appears that the talk was merely a ruse on Watson’s part, designed to distract Austin so that the others could overtake him. The attackers were, after all, mindful of the lethal axe in Austin’s hands. Sure enough, at the very moment of the conversation, Hiram Payne “walked rapidly … from behind the witness [Austin] …, having in his hand a piece of pine plank, … Payne … drew his stick upon Austin.” Quicker than Payne could strike, Austin “warded off the blow … with his left arm and with his right struck Payne with the axe.” “Payne was hit with the whole edge of the axe in his head[,] … penetrating to the brain.”


These events unfolded on a Wednesday and Payne died the following Saturday, August 6, from the wounds inflicted on him by Austin in self-defense. Predictably, the young slave was promptly arrested and charged with premediated murder. His trial began in early September of 1853 in Independence County, Arkansas, and ended in May of the following year. His case reached all the way to the Arkansas Supreme Court on appeal. Crucially, even though he killed Payne almost accidentally and in a desperate effort to protect himself, the high justices did not take self-defense as a mitigating factor because of Austin’s condition of servitude: he was a slave.  As the Arkansas Supreme Court opined, citing precedent:

When a slave is in rebellion to the awful authority of his master, whatever force that may be necessary to bring him within the pale of subordination, graduated upon principles of law and humanity let it come from what quarters it may, invades no right of the slave, and consequently does him no such wrong as the law can recognize as a mitigation or excuse for crime.

(Jacob vs The State. 3 Humph. R 493)


In other words, no court would consider mitigating factors when a slave committed the crime of insubordination to his master, especially when the act resulted in the murder of a white man.


Austin went on trial for the murder of Hiram Payne in the Circuit Court of Independence County. Presiding over the trial was the Honorable Judge Beaufort H. Neely. As the trial commenced, an all-white male jury was impaneled, and witnesses were heard.  Austin almost certainly never stood a chance of winning, but the forms of impartial justice were adhered to, including the right of counsel: the judicial process afforded Austin, as an indigent, a court-appointed lawyer. During the trial, moreover, he could present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and file motions in his defense. “Austin, a slave, the prisoner at the bar is without counsel to conduct his defense,” read the court documents, “and … the court thereupon appoints H.F. Fairchild and R.S. Anderson Esqs. to defend him.”


The records indicate that attorneys Fairchild and Anderson did everything they could to save Austin, but they could advance only so far against a system seemingly designed to safeguard the institution of slavery. As soon as Hubert F. Fairchild was appointed as Austin’s lawyer, he motioned the court to exclude any evidence “about the boy [Austin] & his conduct upon Tuesday, the day before Payne was struck.” The defense attorney characterized admitting such testimony “as being not proper” since it would prejudice the jury against the prisoner. In other words, Fairchild was reminding the judge that if evidence about a slave’s insubordination to his master was allowed to stand in court and go to the jury, then the result of the trial would be a forgone conclusion: Austin would be as good as convicted at the onset. Fairchild’s interpretation was in fact confirmed by the prosecution. The State of Arkansas, in the person of its prosecuting attorney, John A. Byers, openly acknowledged that “the object of such testimony … [is precisely] to show [the] rebellion of Austin against his master & [to] connect… [his conduct] with the alleged murder of Hiram Payne.” Judge Neely overruled Fairchild’s motion and “permitted the evidence of [the] acts & conduct of Austin on Tuesday [the day he “talked improperly” to his master] to go to the jury.”

On September 8, 1853 – the same day the court appointed Hubert F. Fairchild as his defense attorney – Austin pled “not guilty” to the charge of premeditated murder. In the course of the proceedings, the state introduced a witness, one Matthew R. Prior, who gave sworn testimony that “he or another person with him has asked the defendant [Austin] what he had against Hiram Payne, the deceased, to injure him, to strike said Payne [like that].” The records do not specify what exactly Austin said in response to this interrogation, but in court, the witnesses interpreted his words as a confession to premeditated murder. Presiding Judge Neely heartily agreed with their conclusion. Apparently, the court saw no problem with the testimony, despite some troubling possible disqualifiers: (1) that when Austin allegedly confessed to the murder, he was already “committed to jail on the charge of killing said Payne”; (2) that he “was tied in chains when they asked him such questions”; and (3) that one of the witnesses providing evidence as to Austin’s “confession” served as his prison guard and had thus enjoyed ample opportunities to torture the prisoner.


The witnesses’ assurance that “they did not promise or threaten him [Austin] in any way” was, however, enough for Judge Neely to accept their testimony at face value. It may also be worth noting that all these witnesses were white men, affiliated in one way or another with Watson, the master. When Austin’s attorneys objected to the admissibility of such a dubious testimony, “the court overrode the objection.” Later, the Arkansas Supreme Court had this to say on the matter: “[I]t is insisted that as the confessions now so made in response to that question which it is urged implied the guilty act of the prisoner and was made to one of his guards at a time when he was in chains and being brought to jail upon the charge in question that they ought to have been excluded from the jury” (emphasis added). Simply put, the justices believed while Austin’s “confession,” such as it was, should never have been presented to the jury, it was nevertheless “admissible” as evidence of his guilt.


Benjamin Watson, Austin’s owner, was among the star witnesses of the prosecution. He had been, it should be remembered, the chief reason for Austin’s killing of Hiram Payne; this might have been pretext for casting reasonable doubt as to the truth of his testimony … but no one else saw it that way at the time except, perhaps, other enslaved people. Even though Watson’s sworn testimony is missing from the records, it is not difficult to imagine what he might have said in court: that Austin had been disrespectful and that he (Watson) meant to discipline him, which was completely within his power as his master, but that the slave had then committed a heinous act of murder. In other words, none of what had happened had been Watson’s fault and all of it was Austin’s. Nevertheless, Watson’s testimony might have elucidated on what exactly Austin said to him, or what the two of them talked about when Payne attacked. Apparently, these and other questions were also on the mind of Austin’s defense attorney Fairchild, when he asked the judge to put Watson on the witness stand for cross-examination:

“[T]he defendant [Austin] moved that Benjamin Watson be put upon the stand as the witness of the State for the purposes of being cross-examined by the defendant upon the whole cause which motion was founded upon the facts that said Watson’s name was endorsed on the back of the indictment as a witness for the State & that he had been summoned by the State as a witness & that he had been sworn in chief.”


Brazenly enough, Judge Neely denied cross-examination, after objection was raised by the prosecution.

Unlike in the matter regarding the admissibility of Austin’s confession, this time the Arkansas Supreme Court strongly disagreed with the judgement of the lower court. “[The question before us is] whether the owner of a slave is competent as witness in a prosecution involving the life of the slave. In this case, he [Watson] was offered as witness on part of the prisoner [Austin]. The State objected because of his [Watson’s] pecuniary interest as owner and the court [Judge Neely] sustained the objection.” Citing yet another precedent, the Arkansas Supreme Court elaborated:

The master has the custody of his slave and owes to him protection and it would be a rigorous rule indeed if the master could not be a witness in behalf of his slave. What would be the condition of the slave, if the rule which binds him to perpetual servitude, should also create such an interest in the master to deprive him of the testimony of that master? The hardships of such a rule will illy comport with that humanity which should be extended to that race of people. In prosecutions for offense, negroes are to be treated as other persons: and although the master may have had an interest in his servant, yet the servant had such an interest in the testimony of his master as will outright mere pecuniary considerations,”nor can he be deprived of the benefit of that testimony by the mere circumstance that in a civil point of view he was regarded by the law as property. (Isham vs The State, 6 How. (Miss) R. 35).” Recognizing these principles of law, public policy and common humanity … we adopt them without hesitancy …, and therefore think it clear that the Circuit Court [of Independence County] erred in refusing to allow Watson, the master, to testify when offered as a witness on the part of his slave Austin [emphasis added].


Even as the high court’s justices made references to lofty notions of humanity and to treating slaves “as other persons,” they agreed with every single ruling of the Circuit Court of Independence County – specifically Judge Neely – except one. Nobody was surprised then, when on September 16, 1853, the all-white-and-male jury issued the following verdict: “We find the defendant Austin, a slave, guilty of murder in manner and form as charged in the within indictment.” The “guilty” verdict for Austin was almost certainly a given from the start. The court itself, in its charge to the jury, had summarized the state’s version of events in a way that effectively prescribed the outcome. It told them “that if they formed [the opinion] that the defendant [Austin] was in rebellion to the authority of his master, then Payne had the right to take the defendant & to use such force [as] was necessary to take him & that if the defendant then attacked Payne & slew him[,] he was guilty of murder[.]” On September 19, 1853, Judge Neely sentenced Austin to death by hanging. The execution was scheduled for October 14, 1853. The judge ordered that “between the hours of ten o’clock in the forenoon and three o’clock in the afternoon of said day, he [Austin] be taken from … [the jail] to the place of execution and that he then and there be hanged by the neck until he is dead.”


Attorneys Fairchild and Anderson lost no time in launching an appeal of Austin’s death sentence with the Arkansas Supreme Court. However, they first had to petition the Circuit Court of Independence County to stay the execution in order “to give him [Austin] an opportunity to present his case and have a hearing thereof by the Supreme Court of this State.” They filed the petition on September 27, 1853, and Judge Neely granted the application. He delayed Austin’s execution “until Friday the 4th day of November 1853.” However, when the attorneys presented evidence that the “Supreme Court is not now in session & it will meet at its court room in Little Rock on the 1st Monday of January 1854,” another stay of execution was granted until the high court could hear Austin’s case. 


It was on February 27, 1854, when the Arkansas Supreme Court finally heard Austin’s case on appeal. The justices sustained all of Judge Neely’s reasoning, including the death sentence, except in one instance: not allowing the defense to cross-examine Watson, Austin’s master.  It was on this single ground that they remanded the case back to the Circuit Court of Independence County, ordering the lower court to permit the cross-examination of Benjamin Watson. “[I]t is the opinion of the court,” the ruling read, “that there is error in the proceedings and judgements of said Circuit Court in this: that said Circuit Court erred in refusing to allow Benjamin Watson to testify when offered as a witness on the part of the defendant therein. It is therefore considered by the court that the judgement of said Circuit Court in this cause [is] … reversed, annulled and set aside.” The Court further ordered that the “appellant [Austin] recover of said appellee [the State of Arkansas] all his costs in this court in this cause expended.” 

On the more critical matter of whether the murder was premeditated or not, the Arkansas Supreme Court’s verbose ruling boiled down to this: It mattered not at all if a slave committed a crime in self-defense, but only that he committed that crime as a result of his insubordination to his master. Insubordination entailed punishment, and the master was within his right to discipline Austin in whatever ways he saw fit. The justices made it abundantly clear that their foremost duty was to protect the system of slavery, and not the life of the slave. They stated as much in their ruling:

[W]e are free to say that the tranquility of the public at large, the security of that master[,] the value of the slave as property[,] and the just protection and comfort for the slave himself[,] all depend so essentially upon his entire subordination to the lawful authority of his master that we would hesitate long before we would declare otherwise than that the principle laid down in this charge was any other than of sound and general principle of the common law of slavery as it exists in our slave states.


Austin was returned to Independence County to be tried again. His defense attorneys made one last, desperate attempt to stave off the execution by appealing to Judge Neely for a change of venue. On March 8, 1854, Fairchild filed a petition for a change of venue from Independence County on the ground that “the inhabitants of this county are so prejudiced against the defendant that a fair & impartial trial of the case cannot be had in this county.” The petition was granted, and the trial moved to Smithville, Lawrence County, Arkansas. The new venue made little difference, though: on April 29, 1854, the jury of white males from Lawrence County, under the leadership of foreman Samuel Jones, issued the same verdict as the previous one: “We, the jury, do find the defendant guilty of murder in manner and form as charged in the indictment.”


The records do not say when Austin was finally executed, though executed he certainly was.  But what they show with abundant clarity is that a slave accused of insubordination by his master stood no real chance of escaping punishment in Arkansas’s antebellum slave society, save by running away.

[1] This narrative is based on the case files of The State of Arkansas v. Austin a Slave (1853-1854) and Austin a Slave v. the State of Arkansas (1854), preserved at NEARA. MSCNE.0070 Lawrence County Court Records, Box 19, Folder 40, Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives, Arkansas State Archives, Powhatan, Arkansas. 

Lemke Drawings by Bridget Wood


Lemke Drawings 

by Bridget Wood

“Once a teacher, always a teacher” is a well-worn saying, a truism that, happily, has a core of truth to it.

The best teachers—at any level--both know their subject material and constantly look for ways to reach their students, whether in a classroom, in presentations or through publications.   This last category includes works ranging from dense, scholarly tomes to accessible, popular treatments.  In the middle of the last century, a respected Arkansas academic turned his hand to interpreting Arkansas’s past for the general public. His project created not a staid conventional history book, but instead an enjoyable graphic series, published in the state’s newspapers for all to read and enjoy, and today preserved in the Arkansas State Archives.

Walter J. Lemke (1891-1968) was born in Wausau, Wisconsin, and moved to Arkansas when recruited by University of Arkansas President John C. Futrall. Lemke served as head of the Journalism Department at the University of Arkansas from 1928 until his retirement in 1959. During his time in Arkansas, Lemke adopted the culture of the state, involving himself in historical study and educating audiences. He was active in several heritage organizations, including the Arkansas Historical Association, serving on its editorial board; the Arkansas Genealogical Society; the Washington County Historical Society, in which he served as president; the Prairie Grove Battlefield Development; and the Butterfield Overland Mail Centennial Celebration.

The Walter J. Lemke collection (MS.000379) at the Arkansas State Archives includes 447 drawings, each one created by self-taught artist Lemke, depicting figures and episodes from Arkansas history. 366 of these, one for each day of the leap year, were published in select Arkansas newspapers in 1936 in honor of the Arkansas State Centennial. Featured first under the title of “This Day in Arkansas History” and published again in 1938, restyled “Arkansas Anniversaries,” these daily drawings offer a wide sampling of early Arkansas people and events.

Lemke’s 366 daily drawings provide a quick and fun entry into Arkansas studies, accessible and suitable for adults and children alike. These black and white sketches provide visuals of early Arkansas activities and have been known to spark additional research from viewers. The “cast of characters” is diverse, including authors, educators, early territorial and state politicians, historians, lawyers, mailmen, martyrs, newspaper editors, religious representatives and war heroes. The illustrations feature early travel by hoof, rail, air, and boat. The growth of rural and metropolitan areas is illustrated by sketches of county courthouses and school buildings, some of which still endure.

The sketches take note of natural wonders in the land and sky; one panel commemorates a great display of falling stars. Another reports a meteorite that landed in Arkansas soil. Readers are reminded of natural disasters in the form of earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods; of how edible and otherwise useful crops grew in abundance; and of wealth-building discoveries of natural resources including oil, bauxite, and diamonds.

The illustrations feature stories of struggle and change; Lemke reminds readers of the work of modern Arkansans’ forebears, primarily Euroamerican; Native Americans are present in some episodes but African Americans, enslaved or free, are largely absent from Lemke’s narrative. Images recount tales of epidemics and battles, innovations and disasters, occasional lawlessness, justice, and woman suffrage. Lemke presented Arkansas’s history as episodes part of a social evolution, from undeveloped border country to a modern state with a diversified economy and bright prospects.

Lemke’s daily drawings are freely available for viewing at Lemke’s other 81 Arkansas images, published in 1937, under the title of “Men Who Made Arkansas History”, are also available online at We encourage educators to use these illustrations as classroom aids or even coloring sheets.

Once on our Arkansas Digital Archives site, browse around—the website holds hundreds of thousands of Arkansas resources from the Arkansas State Archives. The content is diverse and ever-increasing!

Letter from the Director January 2021


ASA Director David Ware
Outside my office window as I write this, I can see a relatively full parking lot; the empty spaces that appeared in the days before Christmas and continued through the New Year’s weekend are empty no longer. Soon, with the start of the 2021 session of the Legislative Assembly, the Capitol Hill parking lots will become zones of competition as legislators, government staff and workers in the various agencies of the Capitol complex all contend for a not-quite-adequate supply of spaces close to their respective buildings. This is, of course, nothing new: in 1939, a planning commission proposed acquiring the property due north of the Capitol, to create a formal approach to the building and to make room for new parking lots.  This plan was not immediately pursued, but in the years following World War II, the land—occupied by residences and commercial properties, including a liquor store (converted from a filling station) built to resemble a giant mushroom and a cafĂ©—was bought by the state. The structures were cleared and the ground landscaped; today, what might have been a humble but useful parking lot is the site of the Capitol’s rose garden.

Proposed Development North of the Capitol

As time passed and Arkansas’s government grew, adequate parking remained a challenge. Parking spaces lined the streets of the Capitol Mall; parking lots appeared behind the Education building and atop the hill just west of Wolfe Street.  One other parking lot is worth mention: when it was installed, it broke the hearts of many young people. I refer to the lot located just west of One Capitol Mall, the building familiarly known as the Multi-Agency Complex or “Big Mac,” which happens to be the home of the Arkansas State Archives.  In the years before the Capitol complex’s postwar expansion, the area was a low-lying zone with a few houses on it, prone to occasional flooding as high water on the Arkansas backed up into Wolfe Creek.  In the early 1950s, Secretary of State C.G. “Crip” Hall proposed making the flood zone into a fishing pond for the youth of Little Rock.  The pond would be stocked and maintained by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, whose offices were on the north side of the Capitol Mall, overlooking the pond.


The pond was built, and it proved popular; over its approximately two decades of existence, countless young people learned the noble art of angling along its banks.  Adults were permitted to help their children, but the fishing was reserved for the young alone.  Ultimately, though, recreation yielded to the demands of more serious things: the pond was drained, graded, and paved in the 1970s to serve as a parking lot for One Capitol Mall.


During Construction of Parking Lot

The pond may have disappeared but memories of it survive. During my years working in the Capitol I frequently received requests for pictures of the pond; these almost always came from once-young anglers, who remembered the good times they had along its banks, swatting mosquitoes and casting, forming habits of pleasure which have lasted long after the pond itself went dry.  I remember their happy stories as I look out over the concrete expanse that was once water; I am grateful to have a parking place down there, but in these gray wintry days, a pond would be a welcome reminder of warmer times to come, ones with the promise of relaxing with friends, with a line in the water.


Aerial View

Elsewhere in this issue, Brian Irby looks at what was once a common element of Arkansas newspapers in the weeks before Christmas: children’s letters to Santa Claus.  I enjoyed the excerpts from the missives and one in particular caught my eye: in 1899, young Alvin Roy Solomon of Helena, promised Santa that if he brought Alvin all that he asked for, Alvin’s father, who was a tailor, would “make you a nice overcoat to keep you warm all the winter.”


Using the online genealogical resources available in our research room, I looked for more information about young Alvin.  I discovered that he was the son of Samuel and Bertha Solomon of Helena; Sam was indeed a tailor with a well-established business in the Queen City.  The Solomons were members of the Beth El congregation, but Alvin’s writing to Santa did not particularly surprise me, since even then, “Santa” was a secular seasonal figure, whose appeal (like that of receiving gifts) transcended racial and religious boundaries.  What did surprise me, however, was Alvin’s age: he had been born in March of 1896, making him all of three and a half years old when he made Santa the conditional offer of a warm coat. Alvin was either a child prodigy or (and this seems more likely) he may have had just a little help with that letter.


We cannot know how Alvin Solomon fared in that Christmas season, but we know a bit more about him.  As a young man who knew his duty, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served during World War I.  He returned to Helena in time to be a witness to the racial violence that swept Phillips County in 1919, known today variously as the Elaine race riots or, more often, the Elaine Massacre. He remained a Helena resident all his life, marrying a local girl in 1933. In 1996, labor historian Kerry Taylor interviewed centenarian Alvin Solomon about the events of October 1919; the interview forms part of Taylor’s collection of newspaper clippings, primary documents, notes, secondary sources, and miscellaneous materials on the Elaine Massacre preserved in the University of Arkansas’s Special Collections.


Alvin Roy Solomon died in 2001, at the age of 105.  He is buried in Helena’s Beth El cemetery, along with other family members. He was a witness to history: his letter to Santa reveals something of the customs and life of being of a young Jewish boy in a prosperous Gentile community, while his late-life testimony casts light on one of the darkest episodes in Arkansas’s history. His story is one of the thousands of Arkansas lives worth exploring; I am grateful to Brian Irby for making the introduction.