I’ve walked around the Shady Grove Cemetery between Eureka Springs and Berryville numerous times looking at tombstones and the names inscribed. It is impossible to do so without noticing that two of this area’s most historic families, the Worleys and the Gentrys, are amply represented. Two men buried in the cemetery are David Worley and William Wesley Gentry.
I recently wrote about David Worley based on a short article that ran in several regional newspapers in the year 1902. It said in part, “Eureka Springs, Ark., April 29 – Dave Worley, 85 years old, grandfather and great grandsire to more than a hundred living persons, died at his home on Keels Creek, five miles south of here, Sunday.”
I expressed some confusion as the article’s information didn’t match what I thought I knew about Mr. Worley. Paula Breid kindly alerted me that this very topic had been extensively researched by sisters Lucy Johnson Kell and June Johnson Westphal. They wrote about their findings in an article titled “Our Elusive David Worley” in the June 2001 edition of the Carroll County Historical Quarterly.
What they found is that the newspaper reporter had likely confused the particulars of two different deaths that occurred in the Keels Creek area within a few days of each other. William Wesley Gentry also died in April 1902 and the details of his life and family closely match those of the newspaper article.
Mr. Gentry would have been nearly 85 at the time of his death, while David Worley was only 63. Also, the man in the newspaper article is said to be the “grandfather and great grandsire to more than a hundred living persons.” Records show that David Worley had 16 grandchildren at the time of his death, all under the age of 13. William Wesley Gentry, on the other hand, is said to have had 62 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.
These elements and other evidence uncovered by Lucy Kell and June Westphal seems to conclusively solve the mystery and confusion caused by the original 1902 article that landed on the front pages of newspapers from Little Rock to St. Louis.
There have been several different unrelated Ratliff families live in the Eureka Springs area since the founding of the town in 1879. One such family consisted of John and Christena Ratliff and their two sons, Amos and Charlie. They arrived in Carroll County in the late 1890s from Lawrence County, Ohio. The marriage dissolved soon after and John Ratliff returned to Ohio, leaving Christena to raise the two boys.
At the age of 20, son Amos married Beulah Jones of Eureka Springs, but the union was not a happy one. They separated about the time that Amos was jailed for robbery, reputedly to raise money for gifts for his wife.
When he was released from jail on September 20, 1920, he found Beulah in a buggy with prominent local farmer John Berry. Amos shot them both in the back. Mr. Berry, age 25, died, but Beulah survived. John Berry was buried in Beulah Union Cemetery south of Eureka Springs in an unmarked grave. Records show that a veteran’s tombstone was later acquired for Mr. Berry, a WWI veteran, by Congressman Claude Fuller.
While awaiting trial for murder, Amos Ratliff was released on bail and had the idea he could regain his now ex-wife’s affections if he had money to yet again buy her gifts.
Winifred Frazier lived south of Eureka Springs on 40 acres she’d purchased after moving to Arkansas from Kansas. It is believed that Amos Ratliff thought that Miss Frazier was going to withdraw a large amount of money from the bank on the day he robbed and murdered her. She had been to the bank that day, but had only withdrawn enough money to cover her small farm’s expenses. I’m told by a local old-timer who remembers hearing about the murder that so much blood had soaked into the wooden floor of Winifred Frazier’s house it had to be chipped away with an axe.
Amos Ratliff eluded the law for a time, but the fugitive was finally captured and stood trial for the murder of Frazier. He was sentenced to death and electrocuted October 14, 1921 in Little Rock.
While doing some research, I came across this short article that ran in newspapers from St. Louis to Little Rock in the year 1902:
“Eureka Springs, Ark., April 29 – Dave Worley, 85 years old, grandfather and great grandsire to more than a hundred living persons, died at his home on Keels Creek, five miles south of here, Sunday. He had fifteen children by his first wife and nine by his second. In the funeral train was a wagon in which rode one of his granddaughters with ten of her children ranging from one to twelve years. The remainder of them were compelled to find other accommodations. Fifteen years before the war, Uncle Dave was a slayer of bears and trapper of wide renown throughout North Arkansas.”
When I was a teenager, Jack McCall gave me some catnip and told me to give it to the young cat that I’d recently adopted at the Good Shepherd Humane Society. Miss Kitty still ranks as my favorite cat. Grandpa Jack meant for the catnip to be a treat for her, and it certainly was. She swooned and purred and didn’t know what to do with herself. I didn’t get quite that excited after finding this article, but almost.
But as tantalizing as this information is, I don’t know what to do with it because it doesn’t seem to fit anywhere. There is a David Worley buried in the Shady Grove Cemetery, but he was only 63 at death. He married a relation of mine, Jemimah Harp at Cassville, Mo., in 1865. He’d recently returned to the Ozarks after being released as a prisoner of war in Georgia. This David Worley only had eight children of his own that I’ve been able to trace, though he did gain an additional seven step-children when he remarried after Jemimah’s death. I’ve never been able to come up with the name of his parents, so the Uncle Dave Worley of the article could be his father. Or uncle.
Either way, the “slayer of bears” sounds like quite an interesting character.
I like milk and ice cream and all kinds of dairy products, perhaps a little too much. Sometimes I wonder where the milk I’m drinking comes from; I doubt that it’s local. Dairy farms were once common in Carroll County, but sadly, they’re about all gone. The 1950 Federal Census of Agriculture shows that there were 10,298 milk cows in Carroll County. The same census for 2012 shows only 375.
Eureka Springs had three competing commercial dairies in 1943. They all bottled their milk in glass and delivered it door to door. Hoag Dairy was located down Greenwood Hollow Road, Rhiels Dairy was located in Dairy Hollow and Ripley Brothers Dairy was on Pivot Rock Road. I’ve heard it said that milk tasted different back then, and it probably did. Most of our milk now comes from the big black and white Holstein breed, known for producing large quantities of milk. Back then, the local dairies usually used the smaller Jersey and Guernsey cows that produce less milk, but with a much higher cream content. I’m told that Hoag Dairy used Jersey cows and Rhiels Dairy used Guernsey. I’m not sure about Ripley Brothers.
There was also a company in town called Alpine Dairy. It didn’t own any actual cows, but purchased raw milk from local farmers and bottled it for resale or turned it into butter and cheese. The company had a storefront on Spring Street for a time. My mother’s father, Jack McCall, was a local farmer who milked cows. He sold his milk to Kraft to be made into cheese. Grandpa had to set his milk out in big cans at the top of the lane for the truck from Berryville to pick up. It was also common not too long ago for families, even in town, to have a milk cow. My grandparents, McKinley and Lola Weems, kept a family milk cow at 1 Magnetic in Eureka.
The 1950 Census of Agriculture shows that 1,812 farms in Carroll County had milk cows, but only 158 of those farms had milking machines. That left a lot of cows to be milked by hand, another dying art.
In school, geography was a favorite subject of mine. If I had a good teacher, it was like traveling without leaving my desk. And I liked how places could be quantified by such things as population, elevation or precipitation. When not in Arkansas, I read everything I could about it and searched the sports page for mention of the Razorbacks. As a homesick army private in Germany, I would walk into town on my day off and visit the big German bookstore. There I’d go through the travel guides of the United States looking for mention of Eureka Springs, or at least of Arkansas. Sometimes I hit pay dirt and would try to decipher the German to understand what was being said about my hometown and state.
Now when I yearn to travel to new locales, circumstance usually requires me to do it as I did in school, from a desk. I’ve had a passing interest in New Zealand ever since I was a lad and my father told me about his visit there in the 1960s. I remember his saying that New Zealanders were more British than the British.
Occasionally, I become obsessed with a location. Besides visiting “Kiwi” websites (New Zealanders refer to themselves as Kiwis), I’ve discovered listening to radio stations over the Internet. Now I need a daily fix of talk radio out of Auckland for my news. The commercials are interesting. Since New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, it is the beginning of summer there, so supermarkets are advertising fresh strawberries. Everyone is gearing up for the big traditional Christmas barbecue or trip to the beach.
All of this leads to my pondering how our visitors hear about Eureka Springs, especially our foreign ones. I don’t have much direct contact with tourists anymore, so I wonder what the trends are and if there are versions of me overseas obsessed with Eureka Springs or the Ozarks, hoping to visit.
If you are now interested in a trip to New Zealand, I might save you a journey to the Eureka Springs Carnegie Library by telling you that I have all of the New Zealand guidebooks checked out.
I don’t have many prized possessions, but one I do have is an old wooden chair with a hinged back, a kind of antique recliner. I like the chair, but part of what makes it special is that it once belonged to Dr. Pearl Tatman. You’ve probably heard of Dr. Pearl or seen her house at 265 Spring Street.
She first came to town as Dr. Pearl Hale in the late 1800s. She was born in New Hampshire and is said to initially have had a difficult time being accepted as a female doctor, but stuck with it and established a flourishing medical practice. She became known for her compassion and hard work. She took many maternity cases and brought a whole generation of Eurekans into this world.
Not long after her arrival, an Iowa-born pharmacist named Albert Evans Tatman came to Eureka Springs. They fell in love and married. She encouraged him to pursue his dream of also becoming a physician: Albert attended the Georgia College of Eclectic Medicine and Surgery in Atlanta. The Tatmans adopted a daughter named Daisy, who later married Clyde Perkins. Albert died of heart disease in 1925 and after his death, Dr. Pearl began buying land on Onyx Cave Road until she had a farm of several hundred acres.
By the 1940 census, Pearl Tatman was in her late 60s, living on her farm and working 20 hours per week as a medical doctor. She had fallen and broken a hip and had trouble getting around without a cane. The census report also listed two others of her household, her “unadopted daughter” Laura O’Connor and farmhand Tillman Wolfinbarger. Dr. Pearl died in April of 1944 and left $100 and her property inside the city limits of Eureka Springs to Daisy Perkins. Everything else was left to Laura O’Connor.
To be honest, I first became interested in Dr. Pearl because on January 2, 1921, she was in a house at the top of Magnetic Hollow with her medicine bag delivering my grandfather, McKinley Weems, but I was soon impressed with the legacy left by this strong woman. And I have her chair.
Before the advent of mechanized refrigeration, ice was a luxury. The only ice that the earliest European settlers to this area had for home use was collected in the winter off creeks, ponds and rivers. A hard freeze meant quantities of ice could be cut and packed in sawdust in cellars or specially built ice houses. Sometimes ice stored this way would last through summer.
The first commercial ice plant in Carroll County was the one located near the train depot in Eureka Springs. Southwestern Electric employed an ice deliveryman who traveled around town in a horse drawn wagon delivering ice that was put into wooden iceboxes to keep food cold. Customers displayed cards that indicated the size of order they wanted. One long-time deliveryman was George Head.
I’ve heard about George Head from a variety people and have never heard an unkind word said against him. In a 1949 Chicago Tribune newspaper article about square dancing in the Ozarks, Marge Lyon said George Head was “the best liked guy in town.” The article continues that he directed Saturday night square dancing, while “teaching perspiring, panting tourists who don’t realize what they are getting into until they are midway of a set.”
For a variety of reasons, George Head was popular with the children of Eureka Springs. He taught them to square dance as Hedgehoppers in the annual Folk Festival for one. For another, he allowed kids following the ice wagon on a broiling hot summer day to grab ice chips. If none were available, George Head would stop and chip ice for the children.
George and Ruby Head raised their family on Elk Street in Eureka. Besides working for the electric company and delivering ice, George was a volunteer fireman for 38 years. When he became fire chief, I’m told he was the best one the town ever had. At the end of his life, George Head was the mayor of Eureka Springs. He died in 1971 and is buried in the city cemetery.
I opened up the November 16, 1978 Eureka Springs Times-Echo and saw my wife looking back at me from page 3, though she was only 11 years old. She, along with classmates Clyde Osterhout, Jessica Lux and others, were winners in the school poster contest. Over on page 2 is a large photograph of Paul Anderson with art teacher Barbara Ackley. He won the grand prize in the contest and his artwork would soon grace the cover of the new Ozark Gardens menu.
The lead story of the week is about the ongoing plans to build a city parking lot on Water Street in the wooded valley between Douglas and Steele. City Administrator Karen Grulkey updated the city council about problems with the appraisal process when Mayor-elect Marcile Davis said she wasn’t in favor of the location. After input from City Attorney Ed Buice, alderman Bill Reasor introduced a motion to drop the Water Street project completely. The motion failed when only Truie Walsh and Bill Reasor voted for it. Al Westphal, Richard Kelley and Dave Drennon abstained. I believe Water Street is now a city park.
It was also reported that United States Senator Dale Bumpers would be the keynote speaker at the upcoming Chamber of Commerce banquet. An $8.50 ticket, purchased at the Chamber of Commerce office located in the Municipal Auditorium, bought a meal of cordon bleu.
Also on the front page is a photograph of Ruth Eicher, Jeanette Bullock and June Westphal being sworn in as members of the Historic District Commission. Previously, Charles Freeman and Clio Miller were sworn in by Mayor Charles Robertson. There is also a photograph of Eureka Springs native, Sheriff Jerry Colvin.
I perused the restaurant ads, wondering where people may have had plans to eat out for Thanksgiving the following week. Inn of the Ozarks and Eureka Inn had competing Thanksgiving buffets planned. The Hylander Steak House also had a special menu advertised. Miceli’s and the Spaghetti Mill have ads, though it wasn’t clear if they were open Thanksgiving Day. Tastee-Freez announced they’d be closed so they could stay home with the kids.
Four miles down Rockhouse Road off US Highway 62 in Eureka Springs is an old house leaning precariously under the unrelenting force of gravity. Informed it was once the home of Cora Pinkley Call, I drove to take a look. On my first pass, I didn’t see it because I was looking in the woods on the east side of the road. Turning around, I drove north and saw the small dilapidated building in the pasture on the west side of the road.
Cora Pinkley Call was a prolific and well known regional writer. As a child she was often sickly and spent her time writing or observing nature on the George Washington Pinkley farm on Kings River. She died in Eureka Springs two years before I was born, in 1966.
Because Cora Pinkley Call was McKinley Weems’ aunt, I swung by and picked him up. We traced our way down Rockhouse Road and looked at the house some more. McKinley said he couldn’t remember Aunt Cora ever living there, that it used to be the Roy Gaddy place. He said that he always knew of her living with her husband Miles Call on Mill Hollow Road. Miles Call was a postman in Eureka Springs after having farmed and soldiered earlier in life.
McKinley did tell me this old family story. In the early 1940s, he went fishing on Kings River with his Uncle Miles. They were on the old Pinkley place and passed a little house. Uncle Miles said, “Do you know what that is? That’s the weaning house.” It turns out that George Pinkley and his wife Mary Jane Harp had a second house on their farm for their children to live in when they first married. They had four sons and six daughters and when the next child married, they would get their turn to move into the weaning house.
But the weaning house was not the same as the house four miles down Rockhouse Road. I talked to more people and looked through land records but never figured out for sure when Cora Pinkley Call lived in the house, but had a good time trying.
I received an email from my sister Barb Mourglia the other day. In it was a short message that expressed some things about Eureka Springs and change and the passage of time that resonated strongly with me. You may know Barbara from her volunteer work against domestic violence. This is what she said:
“Eureka Springs has been home to me since I was brought home from the hospital to Rocky Top Road in 1985. It was a gravel road then, and I swore I wouldn’t be able to cope if it were ever paved. They did pave it, though. Chip and sealed it. I survived, but I still reminisce about a time when dust rose like a cloud when a car drove by. Some people don’t understand that. Now, when I visit my childhood home I see cars fly by going at interstate speeds.
“A few weeks ago, I was thinking to myself, ‘I hope the Office Supply (at the bottom of Planer Hill) never closes.’ When my Aunt Terri’s store Happy Things closed last year, I felt like a part of Eureka that lived inside me died. Then, I received news of the Quilt Shop closing and now the Office Supply. These shops have been here at least as long as I have and, in my mind, are concrete fixtures of home. I appreciate the little things like how the Office Supply smells upon entering. It just gives a feeling of comfort and stability, similar to the way you could count on classic rock playing when you entered Happy Things. Maybe some Tom Petty. You’re probably thinking I’m one of those sentimental types, and you’d be right. I keep stuff. I cry about absolutely anything that stirs up the slightest emotion. I suppose everyone has places or things that define the way they see their home. Eureka is a special place, built on little experiences and the people who provided them. I’m thankful for the three women, Terri, Kristy and Sandy, who ran those three shops for so many years. They helped shape the way I see the place that I call home.”