The Marriage of Jack and Betty McCall

The Cedar Grove Items column of the December 21, 1933 edition of the Berryville Star Progress announced the marriage of Jack McCall and Vella “Betty” Southerland. It’s interesting that when they applied for the marriage license at the courthouse on December 4th, they are recorded as “Jack McCall, 22, of Eureka Springs” and “Vella Southerland, 18, of Rockhouse”. This article, however, is even more geographically precise by indicating the bride is from Cedar Grove and the groom is from the Walker Settlement.

John Southerland Furlough

The enforcement of prohibition laws complicated the life of John Benton Southerland on several occasions. He was 54 years old in August 1928 when convicted by the Carroll County (Arkansas) Circuit Court and sent to prison. This article from the October 17, 1929 edition of the Berryville Star Progress newspaper reports he’ll be released after the Arkansas governor granted him a furlough.


This is a summary of homesteading by the ancestors of Jack and Betty McCall in Arkansas.

In 1888, Jack’s great-grandfather John Smith McCall homesteaded 160 acres on the west side of Rock Springs Road near his son George’s farm.

In 1885, Jack’s grandfather Charles Marion Ray homesteaded 120 acres south of Grandview.

In 1884, Betty’s grandfather Thomas Benton Hall purchased 40 acres from the federal government near the Cove Community of Carroll County. A year later, he homesteaded 80 more acres south of Berryville.

In 1883, Betty’s grandfather James Proctor Southerland purchased 40 acres on the Kings River from the federal government. In 1888, he purchased another 40 acres. Between 1888 and 1891, he homesteaded an additional 160 acres that joined his farm.

In 1882, Jack’s grandfather George Robert McCall homesteaded 80 acres on the east side of Rock Springs Road. In 1905, he homesteaded another 40 acres.

In 1860, Betty’s great-grandfather Joseph Calvin Houston purchased 40 acres on the Kings River from the federal government. Between 1882 and 1891, he homesteaded an additional 280 acres on Kings River. It should be noted that the extended Houston family homesteaded 1,760 acres in Carroll and Madison Counties.

In 1857, Jack’s great-grandfather John Smith McCall purchased 40 acres from the federal government in Jackson County, Arkansas.

In 1855, Jack’s great-great-grandfather Josiah McCall purchased 49.17 acres from the federal government in Jackson County. He died five months later at the age of 57.

In 1849, Betty’s great-grandfather Thomas Hall is first listed acquiring land from the federal government in Carroll County, though he’d been in the area for many years. He would go on to homestead several tracts of land in the vicinity of the Kings River.

Eureka Springs Independent Column – Granny

A quiet and shy girl, Betty Southerland was born on the last day of 1914 in the remote Mason Bend of Kings River located between Eureka Springs and Rockhouse. Her education started at the tiny Cedar Grove School located on her father’s farm just a short walk from the log house in which she was born. The school was comprised of Betty and her siblings and the children of a couple other farm families.

Betty’s isolated existence was expanded when the decision was made to consolidate her school with the larger West Concord School District closer to Eureka Springs. A nervous wreck at the thought of the change, Betty now travelled six miles every morning to attend the unfamiliar school. Little did she know that it was at Concord  that she would become dear friends with schoolmate Dorothy Wolfinbarger.

The Concord School was located on Rockhouse Road near Keels Creek where the Concord Fire Station now stands. Behind it loomed a bald knob that is now being covered by cedars. My understanding is that the view from the top is borderline spectacular, but that isn’t why Betty and Dorothy would climb the steep trail. No, they climbed that steep mountain because the acoustics were so good. As was the rage at the time, both girls yodeled and they would make the rugged trek to the top to do so. They’d yodel together or take turns and then listen as their voices bounced around and echoed back. They’d shout or sing songs and listen.

Betty was my “Granny,” my mother’s mother, and I used to badger her for stories. Several times she told me about her school closing, but she would then recall Dorothy with as much affection as anyone I ever heard her talk about. When Granny would recount this story, it was with a fondness and wistfulness I rarely saw her display when she recollected the events of her physically hard life. The power of childhood friendships came to mind recently with the news that Dorothy had passed away at the age of 98. (Incidentally, Dorothy was the sister of my paternal grandmother Lola Weems.)

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for September 5, 2013

Excluding the federal government, the largest landowner in Carroll County is the Nature Conservancy. For years The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas had recognized many threats to the rivers of the Ozarks, and analysis determined that the most important river to protect was our own Kings River. In 2010, the Nature Conservancy purchased seven miles of the Kings River and established the Kings River Preserve. It has been called a crown jewel of the Conservancy’s work in the state.

The preserve is so large because the previous landowner spent decades building the property, which eventually encompassed 15 different farms along the Kings River. One of the farms now owned by the Conservancy is my great-grandfather Southerland’s 600-acres located primarily in the Mason Bend near Trigger Gap.

Tim Snell is the Associate State Director of Water Resources for the Nature Conservancy of Arkansas and has been instrumental in the preservation and management of the Kings River Preserve. Talking with him, he said that the seven-mile stretch purchased is nearly pristine and there are many reasons to keep it that way. The preserve not only provides habitat for several rare species and a wilderness quality float location, but the Kings River feeds Table Rock Lake that provides drinking water to dozens of communities.

Soil erosion along the river is a major cause of water quality degradation, especially during flooding. There has been progress stabilizing the riverbanks with a multitude of advanced methods, including the planting of 40,000 additional trees. The Nature Conservancy has an extensive cadre of scientists, specialists and technical advisors who have provided expertise to improve the river corridor meandering through the Kings River Preserve.

There is always talk of eco friendly tourism in Eureka Springs and it doesn’t get any greener than this. If you get a chance, call a river outfitter and see for yourself.

The bluffs and otters and trophy small mouth bass are impressive, but what amazes me are those giant crawdads found only in the Ozarks. Did you know they can get nearly a foot long?