Nancy's Lawrence County Corner

May 10, 1951

From Times Dispatch - Walnut Ridge, Lawrence, Arkansas
By Chas. B. Lee

Early History of Lawrence County

Maybe I should write some about the place to which my father moved in 1880. He had previously lived east of Opposition on three or four places where his three boys were born. In 1880, Opposition was about as large as it ever got. The two military roads -- Springfield to Powhatan and Pocahontas to Ash flat, crossed in the place. Another military road ran north and south, about a mile and a half west. Most of the some 16 dwellings lay on the east side, where there were three streets. There were four stores, three blacksmith shops and Mr. Ball owned a sawmill and cotton gin near the creek on the east side. They were run by steam and the press at the gin was powered by oxen or horses.

Two Mill Incidents

At noon one day the mill blew up, killing two men -- a Mr. Long and a Mr. Ragsdale. Mr. Bender ran into the mill and shut it down. Folks considered it a very brave act. On another occasion, the mill burned down. The next morning, boy like, I stepped into some hot embers over my boot tops, to saw a file. Mr. Ball quickly carried me to a hole of water. Yes, I had a burned and scaled foot. The mill was not rebuilt and the gin was converted into a cattle barn. All the east side of Opposition is now gone, except Bud Watts lived on the Bender housesite. In 1880 a new two-story schoolhouse had just been built. There was a log building at the south end of the graveyard. It was here, I understand, that Prof. J.C. Eaton, founder of the Imboden Academy, began teaching. The graveyard dates later than the Civil War, but the last time I was there, I could not locate the first graves nor the building site. Some half way south of the graveyard, to the creek, stood an old arbor made of hewn timbers. The posts were socketed in three-inch auger holes in both sills and plates. It was covered with clapboard. It was here that folks had their schools and protracted meetings. The meetings were Baptist and Methodist. This was before the days of Cambellism in the vicinity. I think this arbor became a meeting place for pilfering boys, as I remember being with such a gang there once.

The first school in the new building was taught by a man named Dulaney. He had a large school of some eighty pupils. The district then included Old Oak Leaf, Ravenden and Mt. Olive. It seems all the teachers there were good. The Flat Creek territory and Smithville gave us several teacher, including Al and Bill Judkins. They gave Bill Judkins a big dinner at the close of school one term. He like chicken gizzards. So the women gave thirty-one gizzards to him. He gave a dollar prize to the pupil who learned the fastest. It was my first full-school. My class had a boy in his second year, who I had caught up with. He received the prize. I have always thought that I should have had it. Henry and James Mitchell, both scholars, taught us. I remember one crabby overbearing teacher. He had one dull boy who he severely whipped every day.

Now about the Balls.

Uncle W.J. Ball must have settled at Opposition early, but I do not know the date. I understand they came from middle Tennessee. I knew all the families before any moved to Ravenden. Sam had a dry goods store. Trick or John and George had a drug store. The elder Mr. Ball ran a general store. Joseph was running this store when he was killed under mysterious circumstances at Hoxie. Joe Ball had not married. Thomas Ball married Sissy Stuart, a sister to Pete Stuart. His only living son resides at Mammoth Springs -- Buster Ball. Dolph died before he was grown. Donnie married G.H. Gray, Jr. Judia married Hardy Anderson. Mrs. Thomas Ball, after Mr. Ball’s death, married Thomas Watts. Their family is still living. John (Trick) Ball married Bamma Townsend and moved to Ravenden when the railroad was built. Dr. George Ball had about five grown girls and a boy, but I know little about them now.

Sam Ball married Maggie Wells, a daughter of Uncle Hughie Wells, whose place was northwest of Imboden on the river. After Dr. Cleo Ball was born they moved all stores to Ravenden, where as all know, they ran a large business. In the spring of 1885 I stayed at uncle Hughies with my brother-in-law who lived with him. There I say the most money I ever saw in a bulk. There was a large dish pan full of silver; two jars of gold; and a lot of paper money. This was all placed in a meal sack and carried off. I asked my brother-in-law about it and he told me that there was $14,000 in the sack.

Uncle Bill Ball

Uncle Bill Ball was a strenuous Democrat back in the eighties. W.S. Morgan lived in Opposition and was an active member of the Alliance. One Sunday evening Mr. Ball threw some rock through the window of the Morgan home. My father, as Justice of the Peace, fined Mr. Ball $100 for “rioting.” He appealed the case and the Judge instructed the jury that one man could not commit a riot, so the jury turned Mr. Ball loose. for several years Mr. Ball was not on speaking terms with father and he would not let us boys cross his fields.

Calamine Incident

I have this story from Uncle Bill Hightower of Batesville which may explain a lot about Calamine. Before the coming of the railroads, Uncle Bill Ball and Uncle Bill Gray used to sell cattle in New Orleans, carrying them by boat. The zinc mines also shipped zinc by way of New Orleans to England. On one occasion, Bill and Gray took several bars of Zinc and gave them to a U.S. Marshal to be assayed. Officers of the zinc company were all arrested and sent to federal prison for smuggling silver as zinc. The mines were closed and have never been re-opened. The last time I was in Calamine, I could not locate much mining signs. even the old grinder and smelter were gone. Uncle Bill Ball had a brother who lived at Opposition in the eighties and later moved near Williford. There were several children. My brother, R.P. Lee married his oldest girl. Aunt Sarah Ball was a Caraway, sister to my brother-in-law, E.J. Caraway. Caraway is the father of the Caraways near Egypt. Uncle Bill Ball had tow daughters, Bettie and Hattie. Bettie married Joe Hollowell. The oldest of their children were my schoolmates at Opposition. I have many pleasant memories of the two girls. Miss Maude was a very nice lady. She never married. I think Mrs. Wolf is yet living in Thayer, Missouri. Joe Hollowell’s father, Dr. Hollowell, lived about a mile west of Opposition in 1880. It is told that he was a deputy U.S. Marshall, and located some moonshine stills in Sharp county and led a raid on one west of Smithville, where they took some prisoners. A gang was formed to rescue the prisoners and the gang overtook the officials near where Mt. Olive now is. Fighting broke out and one of the prisoners was killed before they reached Hollowell’s house. As a result of the incident, several left the country for a year of more after the incident and there was evidence of bad feeling about the countryside. Leton Helms was mixed up in the affair and while in trouble was converted and became a Baptist preacher. He devoted the rest of his life to that reckless territory. Miss Hattie Ball married Frank Graves. Miss Ball’s wedding was very nice. I was a very small boy, but remember everyone was there and I recall Miss Ball’s wedding dress and the wedding supper. It has been some 67 or 68 years ago, but it is yet fresh in my memory.

The Ku Klux Klan

Many of our younger generation do not know of their father’s relation to the above notorious and secret organization. Many migrated west because of their membership in it. There were at least three local Klans in Lawrence county. I was told by a member that Lawrence county was represented in a bunch of 300 who met the carpet baggers on St. Frances river, sunk their boats and sent the back north. This was during the Brooks and Baxter war in Arkansas. When a Klan needed a “visitation” they notified a distant Klan, who would make the visit. A certain married man near Ravenden was attending negro dances. The Stennett Creek Klan made him a visit, but his father-in-law was visiting him that night and he knew the Klansmen. This saved the man a whipping. The visit reformed him. A young colored man wrote some letters to a white girl and mad other attentions. One night some dozen men “visited” him. When they turned him loose, they told him to be gone by the next evening. But he left fight then with his clothes in his arms. This last visitation may not have been made by Klansmen. A certain prominent man had been abusing his wife constantly. A runner went through the countryside calling all men to meet at the Gray ford. Some 40 men had gathered when Uncle Jim Gray learned about them. Being a friend to all, he acted as mediator and the man, by promises, escaped punishment. I have since wondered if he violated him probation as he left the country in a hurry.

Religious Affairs

Now about the religious affairs at Opposition. As noted earlier, the oldest settlers who were church members, were Methodists or Baptists. The Methodists had a house in Ravenden before the Civil War. I am sure Old Salem, near Annieville, existed before the war, if not Old Friendship. There were no Baptist churches except Old Jackson. The Arbor and new house at Opposition was community-built. But Uncle W.J. Bass was general boss, so there was never any other kind of preaching after the church was established. The founding members were mostly Baptists, preachers and all, who had never had any other baptism. Jenkins, Flippins, Rose and Josephus Lemmons were the first. However, Uncle Joe Lawrence told me he say Lemmons baptize a man and the man in turn baptized Lemmons. About the close of the last century, Rev. Joe Blue was the first to re-baptize anyone who had already been baptized. Frank Graves had been an Elder for 14 years when he was re-baptized. Rev. Bynum Black was baptized by and elder in the church and preached that day. The church at Opposition never had any pastors or Sunday school. The Evangelist appointed the Elders, who were the only officials. Uncle Bill Ball was the leader and main support of the church. He not only kept the preachers, but was the main financial contributor. At first all brought their dinners and had a social recess. Most everyone soon joined who lived near Opposition. Originally they waited until the close of the protracted meetings before baptizing, which gave them, sometimes, a large number for baptism. but, Rev. Joe Blue changed this practice to immediate baptism. The aggressive character of this denomination is well known and commendable. For that reason they have been able to hold the Spring River and Upper Strawberry country. I should know, for I was raised and worked among them, and had a few debates with them. I feel like I never had a real enemy among them.

The End

Nancy Matthews

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