The Courier News from Blytheville, Arkansas on October 10, 1950 · Page 2
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The Courier News from Blytheville, Arkansas · Page 2

Blytheville, Arkansas
Issue Date:
Tuesday, October 10, 1950
Page 2
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;• SECTION'-, A—PACK. TWO St. Francis Basin Transformed to Rich Cottonland Engineers Barely Finished Big L«ve« Before Flood Came Continued from Section A Page 1 photographs and with funds secured from the large lumber companies, published a brochure or booklet, .calling this region the 'Garden Spot of the Mlsslssipp Valley,' In which I foretold the future of the St. Francis Basin. Ten thousand copies were printed and distributed In northern states to attract possible Immigration. Takes Lumber Firm Jofi "About that time Mr. Herman Poepcke, head of the Poepcke- Llcht Lumber Company, one of the largest land and lumber operators In the area, whom I had come to know quite well, made me an offer to become assistant southern man- t*:tr for his firm, which I accepted, "The company then owner! 108000 acres In Mississippi. Potnsett and Cr.Ishead Counties and hart iusf acquired the Marked Tree Lumber Company holding, about 87.000 additional acres. My Job was to fret out about 22.090 feet of logs a year and help develop the land as It was cut over. "One of the first steps In which I had a hand was the establishment of headquarters at Blythevllle. then a small settlement of about 300 people, occupying a site In a small area of cleared and cultivated land, and the building of a box plant at Chlckasawba nearby. Then negotiations were entered Into with the . J. L. C. & E. to move our limber lo Barfielrt landing on the river from which point we took It by barge to Cairo. III., saving about {5.00 per 1.000 over the former rail rate. "Ihe next thing I gave particular thought to was getting the St Francis River and Little River op; ened up so as to afford a better , out-let for our drainage. . Organized Improvement District : "With that thought in mind I proposed and organised the st Francis River Improvement Associ- , ation, with John B. Driver as Pros. Ident. arid aroused interest all along the route from Kennett. Mo., to . Wynne. Ark., hoping to secure from Congress tome definite approurf - tlon that would open the river. - The district engineer's office at .Little Rock had been expending .; about t8,ooo a year doing tempo rary work such as pulling the togs and Impediment from the stream which would float back' to be removed again next year. {100,000 would have done the Job completely and effectively, If expended In one ' year, and we. would have bepn given an outlet for the drainage of all o! ;that region north of Marked Tree. '. "Not being ab!e to get any help : from the Committee of Congress on ; Rivers and Harbors. I then attempt- ,fd to get iome help in the way of .surveys and estimated from the'ne- partment o! Drainage Invcstlga<ion, which came under the Agricultural .Department. "I went to Washington In 1904, I think it was, and called on Dr. Dwood Meaj .then head of that bureau, hoping to get some help in tht way ot profiles across the basin and suggestions of how (o proceed. Dr. Mead was very sympathetic and told me how much that -ort of work was needed in many areas In the United States, but said his bureau wai entirely without funds. I asked how much he would have to have before he could aid us. He did not answer, so I asked it {25,000 would be enough, to which he replied, 'If we had that much money, we could do a lot of investigation.' I left htm, s?ying 'Dr., I am going up on the Hill and try to get that amount for you.' He smiled thinking how disappointed I wan goii.g to be. j Conprreas Circs Money "I remained In Washington a week and succeeded In getting this amount added to the A-ricultural Bill as an amendment. It oa^.sed while I was there and I went rkht BLYTHEVn.LE (ARK.) COURIER NEWS EARLY DRAINAGE WORK—Steps in the early-day digging o! ditches to drain the swampland that Mississippi County was near the turn of the century are shown In the series of pictures above. Taken in the early 1900's, they show a Moating sleamshovel working 'Sis way down a ditch with barge-like quarters and machine shop following close behind. In the top photo, the steamshovel takes a bite out of the growing ditch. The center photo shows a rear view on the same ditch. Below, the finished ditch. These photos are owned by Mrs. Roy Walton, 116 North Ruddle Road. was to me at the time, organized opposition developed "when I• prepared to organize the first drainage district and let the ron- tract for the Grajsy Lake and Tyronza Canal. I had purposely made <he cost as small as possible—rather fitting the dimensions of the canal to what I thought the land owners would stand, than dimensions I knew the case required. The old timers who owned the plantations already developed in the neighborhood of Osceola bogjm to stir up all kinds of opposition, telling the people that what I proposed to do would ruin the county, that water would back up in the canal Irom the St, Francis River and flood their lands. "Then, too, they argued. If it were successful, so much land would be opened up that labor would be scarce and so much cotton would be raised that the price would fall. Feeling ran high anrl I was the object of their wrath. It went so far that I was to be strung up or run out of the country. They gathered at the court house on a set date and were going to oppose the fonna'.ion of this district and the back lo see Dr. Mead .who had bren j levying of the tax, if they had to following even-thing done .?nd resort to violence, when I walked into his office, be I.anrlnwners Pacified *as most profuse In hi= thirte H- "R E. Lee Wilson and some ot th"n called to his room Mr. C G. my clo;e friends advised me not Elliot. Chief Engineer of Drain* ?e. (o meet them, but I hart nothing to and introduced him to me srviiir. rear and believed I coulu pacify 'EUIot. this man is resnonsible for them. I walked boldly into the our hjvinc S2.VWO for this cipn-rt- meeting and stood up on a desk, Just below Caruthersvllle, Missouri, I tan Assistants March. 1903. One of the greatest floods of the river up to that time had passed Cairo and was threatening the entire levee line below. - ; ;..' • "A cavinr%ahk below Cairo had marie it ncrceMary lor the upper St. Francis Levee Board' to let a contract the previous year for construction of a new levee about two miles long and * half milt back of the levee threatened by the caving bank, it was about a 25-foot levee and the contract had been let lo Capt. Bedford Forrest. Dad weather had delayed him so that a gap some 1.000 feet long was uncompleted. Men and teams were working furiously to complete the new levee ahead of the expected rise, but as the river and old levee was crumbling off, and It seemed but a matter of hours before Ihe levee would cave In and let > mighty flood through the incompteted gap in the new levee and flood the entire St. Francis Basin in Missouri and Arkansas. "I had left the Levee Board the Consultation Called "Mr. Pharr asked all of us to meet him and Reynolds at Car- ulhersvllle one Friday morning, early in March .to hold a consultation as to what should be done to avert a break. "Mayor Lucas and his Corps came up the St. Chi^ca and we met and personally Inspected both the old le.vee and the new levee and the Incompleteu gap. We came back to Ihe boat and discussed the situation for several hours. Reynolds was in- sistant that the quickest way was to build a re-enforcement around the point where the levee was caving in, I stood owl for completing the gap in the new levee. Finally Reese came over to my plan and then the others voted to adopt it. They were all good enough to let me undertake the Job. after 1 had wished it on myself, so I acted. An expression that 1 hart remembered for many years in a crisis were the words or General Forrest. •Get thar firstesl with the mostest men.' previous winter and was then As- | "Each engineer undertook n spec- sislant Southern Manager of the '"' ; ~* ' " ' Chicago Mill & Lumber Company S. P. Reynolds was Chief Engineer of the Missouri District; Harry Pharr was chief of the Arkansas St. rrancis Board, and Mayor E. W. Van C. Lucas was U S. District with Capt Reese. Mr ial job. Mayor Lucas was to wire Memphis for two large boats to be sent up as quickly as possible, Reynolds was to secure as many portable threshing machine engines as he could have brought to the barrow pit area between Ihe an electric light line extended clo levees, Pharr took charge of having over the new levee from Caruthers- vtlle and Ihe Chisca was lo go on - - s up on a , . c ,,, e sca was to go on m"nt and I want von to eo i"rk to ! , im j fl .!ked them to let me speak to ilVIOlt y and Monte Gardner as Civil- up lo Cairo and bring back a. lar»e Ark^rsjs -n-ith him and fe w. - ' ' — ~" •with him and fee *e ran do.' "On my return, I called n sen- frnl meeting of all of our ne-iplc at Wvnne, and Mr. E'liot outlined w>'?l hr honed lo be rble to an for 11*. On the train «oine back to Memphis from Wynne he said to me. 'Mr Fnx. I don't, know how soon we can begin work because our force since Jus httn greatly our appropriation depleted hausted, and I have only two vaimg men now working down on Alber- marlc Sound but I will send them clown to you as won as possible. Thtv are Arlhtis E. Morgan and L. U I'.idlnger.* From that point on. your own Mr. Hidinger can best tell you what happened. "The survey 'and Investigation were made and resulted in the Mor- pan Engineering Company being formed to execute plans for a comprehensive drainage program costing nearly >IO.OW,000. but the construction of these canals really gave the impetus to the St. FraiicU Basin and to Ml.wlsalppl County particularly. which resulted In it's b«- comlnj Ihe richest agricultural area In Ihe United States. Twn Recallrd "The time Is too short lo permit my giving many of the tictaih and Interesting episodw that loolc place In thow early ilruggles, but two of them stand out pre-eminent as dramatic experiences that may be nipntlonKl. "Unbelievable -s It may fc JFOU today, and unexpected u the other one 13 point near Moore, thirn. Finally after allaying tholr; fears ami correcting the false talcs That they had heard, they agree*! to let it go through on my promise that if it failed I would surrender to them for a lynching holiday. "It required about a year to cut the canal—one dredge starling at Clear Lake and miles ctown at a anil MrFarren Saw Mill lour mile.s back of Luxora. I had managed to finance construction' by getting some of (he large land owners like Chicago Mill and Lumber Co., the Three States Lumber Company anil the Moore and McFarren Company to underwrite the bond Issue and by persuading my old friend, Mr. Pollard, who had done much canal consVrucUon in Southensl Missouri, and the Canal Construction Company of Chicago lo accepts warrants tor part payment of their work, "When the last hloclc connecting the two stretches was removed by Pollard's rtrcdsc, there was a large crowd assembled to witness the event. The water went out with a weeks, so efectlve hid been the outlet that many thousand acres between Luxora and BlylhevIHe werr free ot water tor the" first time In history. The demonstration had It's effect. From then on i WM Stl [ e a ,..(t was hailed as a little tin god. tavn Break Prevented "One other dramatic episode In connection with the tally development of the Basin was (.lie prevention of a. break In the levte line centrifugal pump we could uat to keep out the jeepage. 1 »'as to jo on to Cairo and St. Louia and get a large outfit camped near Wickliff, Kentucky, that had about 29 dump-cars and then jet from the Frisco im such help »s 1 could, Men, Kqulpmrnt Gathered "At 2 o'clock p.m., the chlsca started for Cairo &nd reached there in lime for me (o take the midnight train Into St. Louis. "I had gotten our General Superintendent of Transportation, C. L. Smith, on the phone from Caruthersville nn<l Instructed him to get MacArthur's Brothers' outfit on barges and bring it to Caruthersville as quickly ns possible, and to get a large pump I knew of, down to the wharf to load on the Chlsca when we arrived. Smith was one of those fellows who did not ask questtons or give excuses, when you told him to do something he did it. Our barge tow boat, the Herman Poepke, and several of our large barges were then at Cairo, and by noon Saturday he had hauled those dump-cars 12 miles overland to the river and loaded them and had them on the way to the threatened break, "Before leaving for Cairo, I had also gotten Koenig's labor agency In St. Louis on the phone 1 and asked him to meet me Saturday inorning, on ny arrival, and had sent a wire to B. L. Winchell, President of Ihe Frisco RR for an appointment at 9 o'clock. Koenig met me on my arrival St. Louis, and f told him of -he situation and asked him to get '00 men to leave on a train at four o'clock out of St. Louis, that evening nncl 500 to leave Kansas City on tlie Missouri Pacific nuout the same lime. He was well known and knew where to find his men and I depended on him. He got the men, 500 Men Dispatched ^t 9 o'clock 1 ivas ushered into Pr»sldent Winchell's office and 1 think, from what he told me ten years afterward, 1 must have scared him badly. Anyway, before I left liim, Instructions had been given by him to dead-head a train load of workmen and an express car loaded with four centrifugal pumps to Caruthersville and Mr; Carl Gray, Division Superintendent at cape Girardeau was instructed to give me every assistance l and cooperation possible. I saw Mr: Gray years afterward when he was President of the Onion pacific RR and we had a great time talking over that experience. "I had seen the president of the Missouri pacific and* arranged for the 500 men to leave by special rain that evening »nd then I took he regular 4 p.m. train back to Caruthersville. "We all worked like beavers all Saturday night. The quarter-boats were ready when the men arrived. Carl Gray helped me build 3 miles of track down the levee from the north so dirt could he taken In i}' train. McArthur Brothers' outfit had been landed South of the gap and a track had been laid from TUESDAY, OCTQBElt 10, 1 950 Project Includes Liftle River Basin Plan Formulated By East Arkansas Group 8 Years Ago Continued from Section A Page 1 by the Mississippi River Commission in August, 1948, and sent to Hie Budget Bureau In Washington. On March 2, 1949. the Arkansas General Assembly completed passage of a measure which authorized tile commissioners of the St. Francis Levee District to contract with the federal government for this work. It gave the Levee Board (he right to serve as sponsor for tile project if approved by landowners In the district. The Budget Bureau approved the project IM March, 1549, clearing the way for presentation In the House. The House of Representatives approved the plan that summer and approval by the Senate soon followed. However, an appropriation bill to provide funds for the project remains to be passed by Congress.! Approval by levee taxpayers in last week's election has cleared the way for this. Obstacle Ix>oms One obstacle, however, looms In the path of this Improvement work —the Korean war. The war could bring about a curtailment of construction work through shortages of vital materials and the feeling .n Congress that government spend- .ng at home should be reduced In favor of defense expenditures. Already, strict criteria have been set up for judging proposed projects and deciding their eligibility for funds. In cutting appropriations for flood control and navigation projects, a House-Senate conference committee said last month that only projects which contribute to national defense n'ill b» Initiated during the period of partial mobilization. Th« commllUe bued 1U vl«wa on a letter from President Truman that instruct*! the Army "to give first priority to those activities which contribute directly to national defense." However, dralngage ofllclala here say that the vast St. rranda project may it least b. started because of its .effect on a vital agricultural area. T "ey '«' "the economic Import- anc« exceeds the cost." 000,000 hu been «ked in order to launch th, wojelt Uve* Bo»rd official. h»v. Plained that should the w tail work or d«Uy the protect colection of the new levy hw gun, payment* of the added cents-an-acre Ux would most Ilk.i, cease until work could resumed Actual auspenalon of the tavy, ih».; »y, would hinge on th. board'. having enough money on hand to finance maintenance of whatever work had been completed by then. lo 5. T. Lowry Company Sam T. Lowry, President Cotton Merchants 64 South November 6th Street Memphis, Tenn. Grownups Hove Fun LOUISVILLE, Ky. —(/Tj— Grownups can have fun playing children's games. That fact has been learned by recreation directors from the tr- playgrounds. They play the games as part of their weekly meetings. They take refresher courses In such things as marbles, rope skipping, hopscotch, kick the can and wheelbarrow racing. hign ground 2 miles south of the levee lo the gap. The centrifugal pumps were set up and removing the seepage water from the barrow pits, and dirt was moving. "By 3 o'clock Monday morning, the gap was closed to full grade and section and the St. Francis Basin was saved from overflow. The old levee caved in a few days later, but the new levee had been completed. DELTA BRAND TARPAULINS Delta Tent & Awning Co. 296 East St. MEMPHIS 3, TENN. 1910 E.J.Cummings &Co. Cotton Sellers 49 Union Ave. Memphis, Tenn. Presenting A RECORD OF 40 YEARS SERVICE IN BLYTHEVILLE ;s of Title FHA Loans Farm Loans Mortgage Loan Correspondent for: Prudential Insurance Company of America National Life Insurance Company Equitable Life Assurance Society TERRY ABSTRACT & REALTY CO. 1950

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