By Bible Speaks
Your History! - Brother Russell and International Bible Students from Â Arkansas 1913
By Guest Nicole
A common belief holds that our rural ancestors, especially in upland regions such as the Ozarks, lived happily in primitive little worlds independent of the larger society. And while there is a grain of truth in this generalization, settlers on the Arkansas frontier found themselves inextricably bound to the larger national and regional economy, government, and culture. How Ozarkers reacted and reluctantly adjusted to being part of the national scene is the subject of Hillbilly Hellraisers, a fine new book by an up-and-coming young Arkansas historian, assistant professor Blake Perkins of Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge.
Many modern Ozarkers have little in common with people who lived in the Ozarks prior to World War II. In the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, many Ozarkers turned to political populism as they fought the growing economic inequalities of the time. They believed that moneyed elites were to blame for many of the challenges facing working people. Defiance of the federal government was a central tenet of this "Populist Ethic."
An impressive example of the populist impulse in the Ozarks--as well as the entire state and region too--was the Brothers of Freedom movement. Founded in 1882, it established lodges across the western and northern parts of Arkansas. The main organizer was Isaac McCracken of Ozone in Johnson County, a Canadian who moved to Arkansas by way of Massachusetts and Wisconsin. This group later affiliated with the larger national agrarian movement known as the Farmers' Alliance. An estimated 100,000 Arkansans belonged to the Farmers' Alliance by 1890.
While the populist movements of the late 1800s involved massive numbers of people, they did little to improve the condition of "the wool hat boys," as populist Gov. Jeff Davis described his avid agrarian supporters. Though the governor was full of reformist bombast and received substantial election victories, Davis "effected practically no substantive change for working people during his long political career," Perkins concludes.
One of the best known means by which Ozarkers defied the government was by flouting the laws on making and selling whiskey. Corn, which was one of the main cash crops of the Ozarks, brought farmers only a few cents' profit per bushel, but that same bushel could produce more than a gallon of "moonshine." Illegal distilling was a federal offense, and confrontations between U.S. officers and local moonshiners sometimes resulted in tragic results--such as the August 1897 Searcy County shootout in which two deputy U.S. marshals were killed.
A ballad resulting from the shootout lionized the bootlegger Harve Bruce and contained these lines: Old Harve Bruce he done well/Killed Ben Taylor dead as hell/Old Harve Bruce [was] never tried/Shot Clay Renfro through the side.
Many poor Ozarkers viewed World War I as another example of the government sacrificing poor people in a fight with no benefit for the people doing the fighting. "It is a rich man's war, but a poor man's fight" was a common refrain heard whenever Ozarkers discussed the conflict. Hillbilly Hellraisers has a chapter titled " 'Silk-Hatted Fellers' and Their War" which recounts an ongoing effort by Ozarkers to avoid the draft.
The first violence over the draft occurred not in the Ozarks but in the Ouachita Mountains in Polk County near the border with Oklahoma. On May 25, 1918, the Polk County sheriff and a posse of 36 men attacked the draft resisters in their hideout in the mountains south of Mena. Two resisters were killed and three wounded, and numerous prisoners taken. One of the resisters was sentenced to death--Ben Caughron, a socialist and vocal opponent of this "rich man's war." Gov. Charles H. Brough refused a pardon, preferring "that an example should be made in this case."
In less than a month after the violence in Polk County--referred to by some as "the battle of Hatten Gap" after the village near where it occurred--a violent clash near Oxley in Searcy County resulted in the death of an army deserter and the arrest of several other resisters.
Interestingly, the resisters at Oxley tended to be members of small independent Baptist churches--"churches of the disinherited" as Perkins described denominations which today most likely do not harbor too many socialists among their membership--Churches of Christ, for example. The newly emerged Holiness and Pentecostal movements also tended to oppose the conflict in Europe.
Religion played the central role in the Cleburne County Draft War of July 1918, a conflict which pitted County Sheriff Jasper Duke against the Tom Atkinson family of Rosebud. The extended Atkinson family members were "Russellite Christians," today known as Jehovah's Witnesses. Then as today, Jehovah's Witnesses were opposed to military service. An initial attempt to arrest Atkinson resulted in the death of a posse member. A second attack later on the same day resulted in a 45-minute shootout, but the draft resisters escaped. The governor sent a militia company to help with the pursuit, and the resisters were eventually captured.
Another source of conflict between Ozarkers and governmental authority was a program intended to eliminate Texas fever among cattle herds. Due to the prevalence of the tick-borne disease among southern cattle, the U.S. Department of Agriculture established a quarantine in 1891 which greatly curtailed the cattle industry in Arkansas and the South.
An initial effort to deal with the problem through a volunteer cattle dipping program did not work, and eventually a mandatory dipping fee of five cents per head was assessed on all cattle. Small-scale cattlemen were furious with the twice-weekly dipping requirement, which was not only costly but also required rounding up the herd and driving them to a central concrete dipping vat set into the ground.
Once again, it was in the uplands where the dipping program ran into trouble. Vats were blown up in Izard and other counties. In March 1922, a federal cattle tick inspector from Jamestown in Independence County was shot from ambush and killed.
One of the most interesting chapters in the book recounts how the Ozarks changed dramatically after World War II. Nothing has brought more change to Arkansas in the past 50 years than the influx of non-natives, especially retirees from the Midwest. The impact has been felt culturally, economically, and especially politically. As Perkins notes, in-migration is a demographic change which continues "largely unabated into the second decade of the 21st century."
Hillbilly Hellraisers is published by the University of Illinois Press, contains 296 pages, and sells for $24.95 in soft cover.
Tom Dillard is a historian and retired archivist living near Glen Rose in rural Hot Spring County. Email him at Arktopia.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editorial on 10/29/2017
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“Horrifying” is how witnesses have described the latest in a string of executions in the American state of Arkansas. Convicted murderer Kenneth Williams was sentenced to death by lethal injection. Here’s what happened during his execution according to a reporter there.
By Guest Nicole
By Guest Nicole
By The Librarian
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By Jack Ryan
FRANKLIN COUNTY (KFSM) — An Area Agency on Aging transportation van driver was booked into the Franklin County Jail Wednesday (June 22) on suspicion of failing to stop the rape of a 9-year-old boy.
Jordan Byrd, 71, is facing charges of felony permitting of child abuse and a misdemeanor for failing to report the child abuse, according to his probable cause affidavit.
The affidavit states a 14-year-old boy raped and sodomized the 9-year-old boy in March while the two were the only passengers on the van driven by Byrd from their alternative schools in Fort Smith and the incident was captured on surveillance video.
The video shows the first sexual assault begins at 3:53 p.m. and lasts for six minutes, according to the affidavit. The suspect forces the victim to perform oral sex and the victim could be heard loudly saying it hurts, the affidavit states. Byrd could be seen looking up several times during the assault, but does not say anything or try to intervene, according to the affidavit.
The second sexual assault, during which the suspect sodomizes the victim, can also be seen on the video, the affidavit states. The victim can be heard screaming in pain, but again, Byrd looks up several times during the assault and does not say or do anything to stop it, according to the affidavit. Only once the screaming gets worse does Byrd ask what is going on and the suspect tells him that he hit the victim, but Byrd does not stop the van to separate the suspect from the victim, the affidavit states.
The assault stops after Byrd asks what is happening and eventually the suspect is dropped off by the van, according to the affidavit. When the van stops to drop off the victim, the victim asks Byrd if he saw what the suspect did to him, to which Byrd replies “huh” and does not say anything else, but does wave at the victim’s parents as he drives away, the affidavit states.
A supervisor at the Area Agency on Aging told investigators Byrd did not report the incident to the agency and she had heard about it through someone else, according to the affidavit.
Several days later, investigators interviewed Byrd, who told them he did not see the first sexual assault, but did see the second sexual assault, the affidavit states. He said he knew what was happening and described the suspect and victim as having a “relationship,” according to the affidavit.
The victim’s family is now suing the Area Agency on Aging of Western Arkansas and Valley Behavioral Health System, according to Fort Smith attorney Joey McCutchen who filed the lawsuit in Sebastian County Circuit Court.
McCutchen said the 14-year-old is also being criminally investigated.
Valley Behavioral Health System in Fort Smith provides mental health care for children and adults. According to the lawsuit, the suspect was a patient at Valley Behavioral health at the time of the sexual assaults.
The lawsuit states the treatment facility officials knew the 14-year-old patient would masturbate in public places and posed a threat of causing permanent physical and emotional harm, including rape and/or sexual abuse to others who were minors. It states the treatment facility had an obligation to tell the transport officials of the patients condition, but did not.
The lawsuit also states the 14-year-old suspect is related to Byrd, who has since resigned from his position.
The victim’s family is seeing damages upwards of $75,000 for the victim’s medical treatment past and present.
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