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Mid-Century Special Edition BLYTHEVILLE COURIER: NEWS BLYTHEV1I,LE, ARKANSAS, TUESDAY, OCTOB Section B Pages 1-20 Mississippi County Young in U.S. History ^History of Blytheville Is the Story Of an Ever-Expanding Community City's Population Grows by 15,919 In Past 50 Years In the 50 years that have passed since the turn of the :entury, Blytheville lias grown from a town of 302 persons to a young city with a population 54 times that of 1900. It has grown from a village in a wilderness of swamp and 1 timber lo a modern agricultural capital. It has passed through lum- ber-sellinK anct cotton-growing phases o£ its economy and branched out into diversified agric.ulture. __ It h'as begun the aaiuisi- i^jtion of industry and has its Seyes on additional industries to bolster its economic growth and to absorb tabor turned from the fields both by acreage controls and increased mechanization of agriculture. Along with the city's sudden post-war growth, it has suffered accompanying growing pains. Some of these pains have been relieved and relief for others is under way. Although the existence of Blytheville goes back 70 years, it is less than 60 years old as an incorporated town. Key. Blylhe Came In 1880 It was in 1880 that the Rev. Henry T. Blytlle came to the Chickasawba District of Mississippi County • rd laid out a tract of land for the village that was lo bear his name. Prior lo coming here, the liev. Mr. Blythe farmed in the Crooked Lak'e vicinity of •Mississippi County, where h« had set tied In 1853 after leaving Lauder- date County.'Term. He had lived in Tennessee and Mississippi in the years following '^jU"' birth in. Southampton Comity, At lirst. this village—consisting principally of Ihe Rev. Mr. Blythe's gin. sawmill and store— was known »s Blythesville. Later the "s" was oropped, but it is uncertain just when this --appened. Competition soon developed over the name ot the predominate village In the Chickasawba. Blythe:• ville had scarcely been established when a family; named Cook that lived in the Ghickasawba .community to the west "moved in" and took over the post office. They moved it to Cookstown. a village tlijy had set up. : 'and changed the name to Chickasawba. It i s believed lhat irritation over having to go to Chickasawba to gel their, mail caused the residents of Blytheville to organize sufficiently lo get back their post office. At an> rate, they succeeded in 1800 ill getting the post office moved back to within the limits rf Blytheville and re-christened it with the village's name. Incorporated 1891 Blytheville's official existence an incorporated lown dales from May 19, 1891. when residenls of t^tiic village brought to Osceola—the i|lpounty seat—a petition bearing 2B riamcs and asking an Incorporated status for their community. This report was granted by the County Court. There was another Incident volving spirited competition for community. leadership of North Mississippi County. In 1000, an election was held to 'determine whether Blythcville or Manila would be the county scat of Ihe north half of the county. By a one-ballot box margin. Bly- lheville won after election officials "threw nit" all except the Huffman box. They charged lhat the other boxes were filled will, votes cast by men brought in from the river for just that purpose. Mack fiounsaville served as the first mayor of Blytheville. A nephew of Blylhcvilles first mayor J. A. Rounsaville, resides at 201 South Lilly. It Is not definitely known who served as the town's first law enforcement officer, but J. P. Allison served briefly the second town marshal. Another early law enforcement officer was John T. Collins, who served as a lown police officer In 1852. Laler, In 1915, he was appointed to fill the unexpircd term of Sheriff Sam Mauldin, who was slain by a bo6lleggcr. Wallace Blythe and Jack Bishop followed Mr. Rounsavlllc as mayor j§!id they were succeeded by C. L. "iitchell In about 1802. Prior to Mr. Mitchell's induction as mayor no records had been kept by city officials or else these records had been destroyed. Franchise Granted In 1903, tht firsi utility franchises were granted. The city council granted R. C. Rose the rlgh to build and operate a telephone system. At nearly the same time W. W. Hollipeter and S. E. Smith was granted a franchise to se DeSoto's Exploration Preceded Granting of Charter by 292 Years Although the first white man set foot here more than 400 years ago, Mississippi County is a comparative youngster in the light of American civilization. When the Territorial Legislature chartered Mississippi County (it w.as.formerly a part of Arkansas and later Crittenden County) in 1S33, for instance, the United States was beginning to assume the mantle of a world power and the stales east of the Mississippi buzzed with industry and acri- culture. NEW YORK STORE, 1902—This _ operated by Joe Isaacs. II was located on what is now East Main Street on a site opposite 'the Blytheville Hospital. By the house it right i» the old Annoret Road. Mr. Isaacs lirst came to Blytheville in 1802 Later, the New York Store was purchased by Walter Rosenthnl. who presently operates it al 218 West Main nils original building was lorn down shortly before World War I. The woman'on horseback is Miss Maj Waldron of Memphis, sister of Cook Waldron. who lived here- then. After mana B lu g a hardware store here for two years, Mr. Waldron moved lo Birmingham, Ala., in 1902 and entered the real estate business. rlbuling system. Mr. and Mrs. "Derby Rogers operated the first telephone exchange here for several years before it taken over by "the Southwest Bell Telephone Co. The electric company was later •sold to the Missouri and Southeastern Power Co. and in 1922 the Arkansas-Missouri Power Co. was organized to. serve this area. An ordinance passed in 1905 by the City Council forbade further use of the old' cemetery located between Walnut Street and Chick- isawba. It is in thi cemetery thiA the Rev. Mr. Blythe, who died Feb. 19, 1904. is buried. The monument Marking his grave is one of he three that remain standing today. Blytheville's population apparently reached or passed 2,500 mark in 1907, for it was in 'that year the the town was "promoted" to a city of the second class. Three years later, the federal census listed a population of 3,849 for Blytheville. Advent of the railroad was a factor Ihe the first decade of the 20th Century. Hrsl Railroad: 1!>0« The first railroad to reach Blytheville was the St. that contributed heavily lo growth of Blytheville during Southeastern whose tracks Louis were extended here from Missouri In 1900. This was followed by construction of Ihe Paragould and Southeastern from Paragould and the Joncsborb, Lake City and Eastern. Thi; «it. LOMIS Southwestern Railway Lines, better known us the Cotton Belt, held controlling interest in the Paragould and Southeastern, and extended those tracks to Blythcville in 1!)07. In 1907 the S'. Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco) purchased the line formerly operated by Ihe St. Louis and Memphis Railway Co. and made Blytheville a major point on the line First concrete attempts lo obtain a waler conipany here were made in 1910. but bids invited by the City Council were rejecter) that year, presumably because they were too high. Actually, the move for a water company began In I90R but dldn'' t-et beyond the discussion stage for two years. A proposal oy J. E Thompson of Nashville finally was accepted but the franchise was assigned to the Blytheville Water Co. in 1911 before conslruction was complclcd. After sc cral delays, the system was completed and accepted by the city In 19U. " enlly year, according to a bill presented the council. 11 became the Consumers Wulcr Co. later and In the late 1930s was taken over by the picsent Blylhevllle Water Co. The city's first se wer district wa orj,"nlzed In 1911 but It was 101. before the first paving district was set up Blylhevllle became » city of the first .-lass Feb. I, 1916, after the population requirement 6t 5.000 WHS met. The \§m tederal census showed However, the utility appar- went into receivership lhat that Blytheville had grown to 6,441 UP . U,ht plant ,nd power «,- Si not quite By the ne double Its 1910 figure census in 1950, jumped to 10,098. lirowlh Slows 'Growth of Blytheville slowed considerably in the 30>, and by the I94C census the population had reached only 10,652— an increase of just 654 It was a lar different story dur- :g the following decade. Aided by the influx of people and business during and immediatclv following World War II, Blytheville's population took a Jump to 16,221 by 1950— an increase of more than 10 times that shown from 1930 lo 1940. (This 16.221 is a preliminary figure an- noLnced by district census officials this summer; a final tabulation is scheduled to be announced by the Census Bureau in Washington sometime this fall.) Construction of many of Blythev: le's public buildings wns - scattered over the first 30 years of the city's history. In 191!). the Mississippi County Court House in Blytheville was built at a cost of S175.000. In 1923. a boud'Issue floated by Ihe city financed construction of Blytheville Hospital. These bonds are still being piid out. Blytheville's City Hall was completed and dedicated in 1923. It was bunt at a cost of sflO.ono and also was financed by a bond Issue thai still in 1938. bring paid out, construction of Haley Field football stadium north of Ihe high school be^an. It was completed in lime for use during the 1939 football season Work on the sncli- •<m was financed both by the WPA and by local funds obtained through the sale of non-interest bearing bonds. The last of these bonds inn- lli •:(! in 1948 ami all have been rr.- tfvcd — some through surrendcrinc of the unnds by the holders and others through payment of the principal. Walkoi Park and the Mississippi County Fairgrounds — representing an investment of StOO.OOO by the neoplr ol Blythevilie and the Works Progress Administration—was completed in 193G and dedicated on July 4 of Mai year Army Arrives Blythcvlllp's post-war growth had its beginning early in Ihe war itself when In 1042 the Army Air Force selected a 2.(!40-acre tract northwest of the city for an air field, ft wis completed at a cost of $10.000.000 and used as a training base for pilots o! twin-engine aircraft, surplus by the War Assets Admin-' Istration in July. 1947. the city was Elver, first ^choice In taking over the site. In s an out-right grant. Ihe city was given the runways, all airport facilities and about 1,200 acres. A year later, the city was given the remainder of the base with ex,"ptlon of Ihe Veterans Housing Quarters, which the government reUIneo and leased to (he American Legion Post here. Deed to Ihis porlion was not delivered unlll early 1949. however. Applicillon for » deed to the remainder of Ihe base was filed by the city later In 1949. This application was filed with Ihe Public Housing Admlntslratlon. but to date '.hat agency has not token »ny act-on on Ihe request. This delay li believed caused by a. variety of things, ranging from "red lane" to a reluctance by Ihe PHA to relinquish any activity Ilia might tend to reduce its reason for existing. The air ba.se area soon was pul to advantageous use and industries and businesses were quick tn move in. A $20,000 allocation from Ihe federal government in 1948 pavet the way for the new administration building under construction at the airport. Tins is expected to be completed 50011. i Gas Move BegdiK - : III August, 1947, a move lo bring natural gas to Northeast Arkansas and Blytheville was launched In Forrest City at a meeting o! representatives from 22 towns and ci'ies in this area. At this meeting, the Ktutorn Arkansas Natural Gas Consumers Association was formed. A major objective of the group was to have each of the municipalities adopt uniform franchises which could be presented to one natural gas distributor. Such a franchise was adopted by the Blytheville city Council in March, 1943. It was In early 1950, however, that a definite plan to bring natural gas lo Blytheville and Northeast Arkansas was advanced. Actually two proposals were offered — one by Arkansas-Missouri Power Company and another by T Raney and Sons, a bond firm J. in Little Rock that represented the group that later organized Mid- South Gas Conipany. After much discussion of the two proposals—during which friction occasionally arose - the Ark-Mo proposal wns accepted by Ihe City Council early this year and a franchise awarded. This progmn Is to bring pas to a total of 16 points in Southeast Missouri and Northeast Arkansas. Laying of pipeline Is to be completed by early next year, according lo Ihe franchise. In an attempt lo alleviate parking problem, the city began Ui- slallalion of parking meters In 1948 Other meters have oeen Installed until about 400 are now in service. The >ity completed payment for them In lale August. A growing problem during Ihe past-war years was the Inadequate sewer system which had been rapidly outgrown. A move to solve this problem was launched early Ihis ycai and is.still underway Surveys conducted by Black and Veatch. a Kansas City, Mo., engineering firm, resulted in n proposed Improvement program and suggestions tor financing it. Report Relng Studied report has been presenled While Mississippi County pioneers shivered under malarial attacks, Georgia planters surveyed cultivated acres. And as peace officers in Tenncs- e, Kentucky and MU.sou.rl wondered at the disappearance of crini- iuaLs, armed men came out of Hie wamps and got jobs in Mississippi lumber camps. Mississippi Countyls recorded history began, however when Fernando De Soto gaicd for the first time on the Mississippi Biver In June, 1541. May Have Visited County With more than 600 men. he began making his way up the river and it Is believed he visited an In- riian village in this county. His accounts of the trip reveal that he stopped at an Indian village known as Pacaha. Historians offer little in the way of proof as lo the location of this village, but the late H. M. McVeigh of Osceola, who probably did Ihe mojt exhaustive research on the comity's history, ha.s maintained lhat Ds Soto and his men landed at Barfield, former Indian village site, and then pushed Inland to the village of Casqui which stood on Pemiscot Bayou, near Blytheville. Another village Is known to nave existed on the northern ihores of Big Lake. It is thought by some historians that this was Pacaha village. The peaceful Kaskuskias Indians received De Soto wilh hospitality of whicW Mississippi Countlans could be pfoud. The story go&s lhat the Indians, badly In.need of rain, asked De Soto to pray to his Goa. Ralnx Brought Prestige The Spanish priests offered wooden crosses and their prayers. Rain was forthcoming and the Knskas- kias <or Casqui held the first while nian to invade their lands In worshipful esteem. De Soto didn't rate this area loo highly, however. He reported that fever (probably referring to mula- ria) stalked Die swamplands and himself became sick either while In this area or shortly after leaving it. Oddly enough, he later ril-cover- ed the hot springs of what is now Hot Springs, ArX., and reported the waters there as beneficial. However, he was to die before returning to Spain. In 1903. a farmer east of Blytheville found a French coin dated 1500. The French explorer Msr- quette did not make his tick up the Mississippi until alter ICOO It is believed the coin was dropped by one of De. Solo's troopers. After De Solo's departure, the Indians here lived in comparative peace until the early part of trie 19th century. Cornwall—Flrsl County Seal Mr. McVeigh says Iho Ilr.-,t county feat was located on the site of an old Spanish encampment and was known as Corm*ill. It wns opposite the Chickasaw Bluffs. Osceola waa incorporated Jan. 12, 1843 and a^ain Oct. 4. 187fi. The two men generally believed lo be Ihe comity's first men to make their homes here permanently were a man named Carsons and William Ketlums. Carsons' Lake Township evidently took its name from this early settler, who with Heliums spent his life here trapping, fishing and limiting with the Indians. These two white men were livin in the county as early as 1812. Among the first families of the [ county (all of whom were living here in 1823) were the Bracken family; John Troy: Thomas J. Mills, first representative; Edwin Jones, first county judge: J. W. Whllvrortn. first clerk: Y.. F. Lloyd, first sheriff: S. McLung. coroner; G C. Rarficld. surveyor after whom Barfield Point was named; John C. Bowcn: sheriff for 12 years: "Cedar Jim" Williams; F,lijah llnford and Peter G. Reeves, a hunter of some r_ Kmissau. OoctK and Summers. Blylheville. which some historians as recently ns 50 years ago spelled "Dlylhesville." for years ran a poor iccond lo Osccola as Ihe county's leading community. B.uIk-lil aiosl Afllvr One historian prior to the turn of the century listed Blylhevllle having around 200 persons while Osccola had a population of nearly 1.000. Then. Barficld was Ihe most nc- live area commercially In north Mississippi County. A listing of early Blylhevllle businessmen Includes (he following names: dosnell. Avery, Davis, slsk Williams, Artkiiis, Jones. Oglesby nhcn. Mlze, Bishop. Flemens, Orna- by. Bison, Blylhe, Scruggs and Moody. The Civil War affccled Mississippi Countinus much In Ihe same manner the present Korean situation affects them. . . . ihat Is, the populace was unsettled and apprehensive, but relatively unharmed. However, Federal cavalry contingents did make foraging Ihrustis mlo the county. Federal troops at Fort Pillow, for Instance, reportedly came across the river and later erected barracks from material they obtained from homes In Osceola. Officer Oiplurfrt fn 18C4. Charles Bowcn mid Elliot Fletcher, holli officers of this county's three Confederate Army companies, were captured In Ihis comity by a. Kansas cavalry group, which Immediately fled to Missouri. Of Ihe nearly 300 men Mississippi County sent to flghl for the Confederacy, only n few were alive at the end of the iwar. Charles liowcn, Elllolt Fletcher and Robert Hardin commanded the three companies, at least part of which participated in the battle ot Shiloh. At the end of the war, Mississippi County's troubles, like those of Ihe rest of the South, were not over. The year 1812 broiifiht unrest among the Negro population which laler gave rise lo the Blackhawk War. Charles Dowcn led a group which dispersed one group of Negroes when violence flared In Osccola Blackhawk War Is probably a misnomer In ninny ways. Apparently it amounted to scat- lered exchanges of shots and HUtc more with no pitched battles actually coming off. Osceola Builds Cuurl House Osceola's county court house was creeled in IB82 at a cosl of SS.500 indcr the laic County Judge' S S til—A far cry from (lie ribbon of blacktop linking Blytheville wilh points north and south was this version of U. 8. Highway 01. This photograph, owned by Mrs. Roy Walton ot Blythcville, showi Ihe highway as it was shortly after Ihe first decade of the 20th century had passed. years ago Semmes. One-hundred the population of the county was a mere 2.2G6—541 of whom were salves —and Ihe county produced only 155 bales of cotton. The Important economic birth -if Mississippi County however, seems to have come around the turn ol this century. Three factors loom most Important In development of Ihe county: 1. Growth and Influence of the l.ce Wilson Co. in the southern sector of the county: 2. Advent of |hc limibcn Industry In north Mississippi County: .i Agitation on the part of a fi far-sighted land owners for better R. E, Lee Wilson, founder of the Lee Wilson Co,, did much to brim;.,, to the attention of northern mills t the valuable timber resources oflti Inrge-scale operations were concerned. The Chicago Mill and Its 600- .ricts In the face of stern opposl- «""' payroll shut down, Many of Mississippi Counly. He was also Instrumental In selling up drainage improvement dls- lion. The story goes lhat Mr. Wilson was once threatened by a mob n Osccola because he persisted bi pushing for belter dratnaec. The group was opposed Ip Ihe taxation which would be necessary to establish the drainage districts. Dr.lver Was In*lrumenlal John B. Driver of Osccola was Inslrunicnlal In setting up the St. Francis Levee nlstricl In 1893, which resulted In > Mississippi Hirer levee system which extended from Point Pleasant, Mo., lo Helena, Ark, According lo John A. Fox, an engineer connected with early drainage piojects in this county. Mr. Driver and his son. W. J. Driver, brought about legalization of the drainage Improvement district by Hie slate legislature. As the land of Mississippi County became better drained, and more accessable, the great limber resources of this men drew Industry . . which has long since vanished Largest of Ihe Umbering opera- lions were probably those operated by the Lee Wilson Co. and the Chicago Mill nnd Lumber Co.. which wa^ located In Blylhevllle Ahlcd l»cve.|(>|iincnl The lumber industry was greatly responsible for the development nf the northern end of the county, old timers maintain. The Chicago Mill at its peak employed approximately 800 men nnd with other timber industries was Ihe economic heart of Blylheville wiien very few acres of the cut- over land were cleared and under cultivation. Most of the mills iilllized native hardwoods—nsh. gum. oak. maple .sycnmore. elm, willow, cottonwootl and cypress. As the Chicago Mill boom tended, the comnany built Us ex--- -.,. own railroad, the Blytheville, l.cach- vlhe and Arkansas Southern, and expanded lo the eastern portions of Cralgheari County (Ihe company had other properties in other coiln- llc.s In Arkansas, however!. Near the height of Us operations Ihe Chicago Mill owned a reported 50.000 acres In Mississippi County Much of this land, which sells for hundreds of dollars per acre today, wns obtained for a mere S2-51 per acic. Depression HI! Hard The depression carried a one-two punch for llic county In 1932. local imbcr resources bar! practically -iccn exhausted as far as profitable the men and practically all th» equipment were moved to Tallulah, La. Although the larger timber Industries here reaped their profits anrt left, they served as a means toward bringing the county further along the - - - • the road to being Arkansas', and uallon'a richest agricultural counties. Development ot the land lh« mills had cleared began almost immediately. Improvements In dra'lri- age facilitated Ihis development. However. Ihe county did not reach Its progressive era, agriculturally speaking, until Ihe pneumatic tlr« came Into its own. Sleel Wheel* Unclem Heavy slcel-wheeled tractors with lugs were useless most of the'year on. most, of Mississippi County'i flat, slow-draining land. : It was In (he mid-thirties thai piieumatlc-lired traclors becamn popular In the country. Since that time, Ihe county's entire agrlcullurs has been riding on rubber llret. Significant In the development of the county was Ihe advcnl of th» soybean. .vluch credit for Ihe groundwork which was laid in developing soybeans as a major crop here must go to former County Agent Ed In 1930 he began a campaign Ho have 10.000 of this county's acret planted In soybeans. At that lime.- the beau was used to replace nitrogen in the soil and for pasturage, it had practically no cash value when harvested. i\cre:ig« Soar* The soybean acreage of the county grew lo 15,000 In 1937, when It was on the threshold of becoming a big tionoy crop in Mississippi County, and helped give farmers a .secondary cash Income when controls began to bite into colton acreage. Tilts year farmers planted approximately 147.000 acres in soybeans, In the past decade, the county has grown and progressed mainly due lo Increased value of Us agricultural products and more efficient farming methods. Industrially. perhaps, Wilson leads all other areas. A small Industrial empire, all of which In related to farm products, has been built In Wilson. Other notable industrial develop- Sne COUNTY YOUTH Page 16 II This publicly by Mayor Doyle Henderson and Is currently receiving ,-on- sideratton by the City Council. A plan for financing Ihe work Is !n the process of being evolved on Ihe bash of several suggested methods. Cost of a new sewer system Is scheduled to run more Ihan 11000000. The city's greatest Jump In physl. cal S!M look place In the years following World war II. In 1M7, » S« BI,VTireVTI.T,r GIVEN P*«t 1« repute. Par.kfls Provide I.lrcllhrxxi Wood-burninsr river packets provided most of these men wilh thtlr livelihoods. They established clear- Ings on the river banks and sold cord wood to the boats, Many years before Ihe charlcrlng of Blylheville. Osceola was chosen Ihe county seal. That city, with » population of about 300, held its first municipal cleclion November 20. 1875. Leon Roussan was circled mayor: John O. Blackwood. recorder; Alexander Goodrich, Berry Kenwood. B. F. Jones, Daniel Matthews and F. M. Petty, aldermeu. Early merchants and professional men of Osceola Include (he names Dunavant, Prpwitt. Jones. Felts. McVeigh. Thompson. Scmmes. LIs-. ton, Avery. Hale, Morris, Butler, Goodrich, Simon. BrlcXcy, Oaylord, Barrhu*. Carlwrifiht. Borum, Tuck- •r, Murry, Fiber, H«ll, Ferry, Jewell, HI.VTHKVIU.E IN 1911—Thi. looking southwest from lh« courl house—lhat was laken in 1912, Die year Tom W. Jackson's livery stable (right! was completed. Sullivan- Nelson Chevrolet Co Is now located on Ihe site of the livery stable. Railroad and Walnut Streets. Th« two- story brick house In the ccnler of Ihe picture Is the former p. A. Giecnlee home. Later It became the hom« of the Blythcville Courier News. In about 1926, Edgar Harris, owner of the Courier News, remodeled the front of the building and added * two-story wing on the west side. Tall colonial columns wer« added to lh« front, in 1941, 13 years afler the newspaper had been purchased by Harry W. H»lne4. the prwenl publisher, this structure wa« razed and the present Courier News buildinj erected.