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Category Archives: Arkansas

Brooks Blevins’s refreshing new book, A History of the Ozarks, Volume 1, The Old Ozarks


Brooks Blevins has given us a fresh and refreshing new look at the early history of the Ozarks in the first volume of A History of the Ozarks, published in July 2018 by the University of Illinois Press. I bought my copy through Amazon.

This history is refreshing because it includes many aspects of Ozarks history that I have learned and forgotten, as well as including lots of things that I never knew.

It is fresh because it does avoids the errors of many histories of the Ozarks. The introduction is essentially an essay to counter the stereotyping of the people of the Ozarks. I highly recommend the book just for this part.

In addition, the book sidesteps many errors of previous histories, rather than:

  • being confined to either the Arkansas Ozarks or the Missouri Ozarks, Blevins covers both and a little of the Oklahoma Ozarks,
  • overlooking the contributions of women in commerce as well as on pioneer homesteads, instead, he tells us about Betty Black’s ferry and Polly Hillhouse’s pioneer farming enterprise,
  • treating Indians as as though they were here and suddenly gone, we learn about the internal divisions among the Osage as they confronted loss of hunting lands, as well as many other groups of Indians who lived in the Ozarks while being pushed westward, eventually to Indian Territory,
  • describing the landscape merely as rugged and rocky with poor soils, we learn that different groups of settlers had different preferences and abilities, which were applied to various types of forest, prairie and bottomlands, and
  • leaving out slavery and the economic contributions of enslaved persons, the earliest substantial industries, such as the Maramec ironworks, depended heavily on involuntary servitude, as did the founders of Springfield

There’s a good balance of cultural history, political history and economic history, leavened with a few tall tales, such as that of Duke, who tamed a herd of elk calves and taught them to pull his wagon, carrying him away from the Ozarks when too many settlers came in.

I’m anxious for the next volume, which takes up with the gathering clouds of the Civil War.

 

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Judge corrected for merging both Carroll County judicial districts



Eureka Springs and Berryville, both towns in Carroll County, Arkansas, are just eight miles apart, separated by the valley of the Kings River. The Arkansas legislature in 1883 created a judicial district for the county west of the Kings River and the another judicial district on the east side of the river.

But in 2010, for reasons not explained in the Arkansas Supreme Court’s opinion, Parker v. Crow, Eastern District Judge Gerald Crow ruled that henceforth there would be only one judicial district in Carroll County.

Eureka Springs, west of the Kings River, is a tourist town and art colony, known for its Victorian architecture, with bathhouses, galleries and restaurants in a setting of steep hills and narrow streets, all maintained with strict building controls.
Berryville sits on a stretch of prairie east of the Kings River, surrounding by rolling hills and cattle and poultry farms. A Tysons poultry processing plant and a Walmart Supercenter are among the town’s largest employers.

In 1869, as northern Arkansas began to recover from the ravages of the Civil War, Boone County was created from the eastern portion of Carroll County, with Harrison as the county seat. Carrollton, a settlement 20 miles southeast of Berryville, was no longer at the center of Carroll County, and Berryville’s boosters succeeded in having the county seat established in Berryville in 1875.

In 1883, the Eureka Springs Railway was extended south from Missouri, and Eureka Springs quickly blossomed into a small city of hotels (quaint and magnificent) and bathhouses, fed by the waters of dozens of springs. The same year, the Arkansas General Assembly passed Act 74, creating two judicial districts for Carroll County.

Judge Crow’s bold attempt to merge the two districts probably left the Arkansas Supreme Court dumbfounded, but the opinion restoring the two districts simply cites some basic principles of American government to indicate the degree that Judge Crow’s opinion was off-base.

Judge Crow’s first contention was that the 1883 act of the legislature creating the two districts was unconstitutional because it attempted to create a new county, even though the language of the statute specified that the districts were to keep separate records as though they were in different counties, but that Carroll County should in all other respects “be one entire and undivided county.”

Judge Crow also determined that at 1997 legislative act, among other laws, repealed the 1883 act by implication. The Arkansas Supreme Court recited the rule that repeal by implication “is never allowed except where there is such an invincible repugnancy” that the old and new laws “cannot both stand together.” The 1997 law, and the others, may be messy and partially inconsistent, but they did not specifically repeal the 1883 act.

Almost as an afterthought, the Arkansas Supreme Court examined the Arkansas constitution, noting that the power to establish or dissolve judicial districts was a legislative power, not something that a judge could do.  Quashing Judge Crow’s attempt to merge the two judicial districts, the Supreme Court said that his order “shows a plain, manifest, clear and gross abuse of discretion.”

Is it necessary to affirm the right to hunt and fish in state constitutions?


“I liked it better when I was hunting birds there,” said the mediator, when he figured out the location of the garages at a Branson condominium. Seven attorneys gathered to attempt to resolve a dispute over rights to use four garages at the condominium.

As the Ozarks and much of rural America becomes suburbanized, many people want to protect their cherished traditions of hunting and fishing. In ten states, citizens have amended their constitutions to affirm the right to hunt and fish. Oklahoma has done so and the proposal is being considered in Arkansas and Tennessee.

As I hear people in the Ozarks express themselves about land and water and fish and game, I hear the same arguments that have been made to affirm the rights of native peoples to continue their hunting and fishing traditions, some of which have been protected from state regulation by federal law.

The Ozarks have been populated by people of mostly European ancestry for nearly 300 years. After many generations, it’s no wonder that members of old Ozarks familes feel like they need to assert themselves to hang on to their culture. And those whose families haven’t been around as long would naturally want to feel secure in their adopted traditions.

Getting outside in the Ozarks


Within a week, the heat wave will have run its course and we’ll surely have a little rain. Then we can get moving again in the wonderful Ozarks outdoors and watch the greens become gold, orange and red.

Here are some links for outdoor activities Read the rest of this entry

Growers vs. packers vs. USDA


The disputes between growers (of cattle, hogs and poultry), the small number of purchasers (packers) and the USDA dwarfs the Shirley Sherrod affair in economic importance, especially in the Ozarks.

While the character assassination and redemption of Shirley Sherrod was essentially contrived by and blown up by the media, the real economic tensions between those who raise animals and those who buy them and convert the meat into consumer products has reached a point at which Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill asked the USDA to propose regulations to address several problems.

The problems arise out of the unequal Read the rest of this entry

Mid-2010 economic outlook for the Ozarks


On January 3, 2010, I posted a glum summary of published economic reports from Federal Reserve Banks in Kansas City and St. Louis and other sources from the metro areas that surround the Ozarks. My rough guess is that the economic activity in the Ozarks is primarily generated by the surrounding metro areas, which create demand for goods and services produced in the Ozarks, an idea that looks something like: Read the rest of this entry

“Winter’s Bone” and the image of the Ozarks


This summer, people around the country will be seeing the movie version of Daniel Woodrell’s 2006 novel, “Winter’s Bone.” They’ll wonder if the movie shows life in the Ozarks as it really is. The movie was filmed in Taney and Christian counties in Southwest Missouri, during the winter of 2009. You can see the trailer and read a synopsis of the plot.

This movie, with its glowing reviews and big success at the Sundance Film Festival, raises a couple of interesting questions: Read the rest of this entry

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