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Vol 24
Summer 1965
Early Days In Osceola
earliest settlers were Edwin Jones, John P. Edrington,
Thomas DeWitt, William Bard, E. F. Lloyd, J. W. Whit-
worth, J. C. Bowen, Charles Bowen, E. H. Fletcher, John
W. Williams, and F. R. Lanier.' For many years the town
consisted of a small collection of log cabins on the bank of
the Mississippi. Osceola became the county seat of Mississippi
County in 1833. In 1872 the town consisted of a score of
buildings, including four stores and two saloons.2 In 1875
it was incorporated the second time, having first been in-
corporated in 1843. The census of 1880 gave Osceola 317
The principal source of history for Osceola can be
found in the files of the Osceola Times, founded September
1, 1870, by J. B. Best, according to the Dardanelle Inde-
pendent Arkansian of June 8, 1877. Another source gives
John 0. Blackwood as founder. In the fall of 1872 W. L.
Lyles succeeded Best. In the fall of the same year. Lyles
retired leaving the paper under the editorship of Leon
Roussan. The earliest extant issue of the Times is that of
July 5, 1873, contains the valedictory of John 0. Blackwood.
Leon Roussan was born in Missouri in 1838. He served
as a Confederate in the Civil War. He came to Osceola
in 1870. In 1879 he married Adah L. Pettey.
The earliest extant issue of the Osceola Times carried
the following ads of Osceola businesses: Matthews and Son,
dry goods; W. T. Bowen and John 0. Blackwood, boots
'Mabel F. Edrington, History of Mississippi County, Arkansas (Ocala,
Florida, 1962), 33.
2Osceola Times, Nov. 11, 1893.
and shoes, cigars and tobacco, family and fancy groceries,
and confections; Berry Henwood, provisions, groceries,
fruits, wines and liquors; B. F. Butler, Star Saloon; J. H.
Sheddan, dry goods and groceries; Stonewall Saloon, supply
of groceries in addition to liquor; Gold and Trousdale,
variety store; W. P. Hale, dry goods and groceries; Charles
H. Gaylord, dry goods, groceries, and hardware.
January 10, 1880, the Times carried ads for the follow-
ing: J. M. Cayce and company, staple and fancy groceries;
Butler's Saloon; D. Matthews, dry goods and groceries; G.
R. Brickey and Brother, dry goods and groceries; J. L.
and J. H. Edrington, general merchandise and groceries; and
A. L. Cissel, dry goods, January 13, 1883, the Times carried
these ads: N. L. Avery and Co.; Martin McDonna, gun-
smith; Edwin M. Ayers, sawmill; Gaylord and Wynne, drug
store; G. R. Brickey and Sons, variety store; William E.
Moss, staple groceries: Joseph Goetz and Son, shoemakers;
George W. Boyce, blacksmith; and John McGee, barber.
General stores in Osceola in 1889 were as follows:
James Liston; N. L. Avery and Co.; J. K. P. Hale; L. A.
Morris; A. Goodrich; A. R. Brickey and Brother. Charles H.
Gaylord and Ben H. Bacchus were druggists. N. L. Cart-
wright was in the saddlery and harness business. Brown and
Brother and T. N. Tucker were liverymen. Mack Murry
was a blacksmith and wagonmaker. E. 0. Faber, B. F.
Butler, Buck Hall, and James Perry kept saloons. Charles
Jewell was a jeweler. Robert Goetz was a shoemaker. A
Mrs. Summers kept the Planters' Hote1.3
Business ads in the Times December 30, 1899, were:
L. G. Cleere, family groceries; Abner Driver, meat mar-
ket; J. C. Brickey, drug store; J. B. Mitchell, drug store;
J. E. Whitworth, barber; B. C. Bradley, gunsmith and
locksmith; John Lawrence and Co., groceries; and E. E.
Walker and Co., groceries.
In public education Osceola had a slow beginning.
There was no schoolhouse in the district in 1875. On
'Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas (Chicago,
Nashville, and St. Louis, 1889), 43.
August 21, 1875, J. E. Felts placed a notice in the
of a public meeting to consider the question of building
a schoolhouse. It was announced on October 16, 1875, that
a private school, the "Methodist High School," would be-
gin the following Monday with Rev. R. Doggett as teacher.
A house for the school was rented from John L. Driver.
Members of the board of trustees were authorized to accept
subscriptions for the school. In 1876 a private school for Ne-
groes was being taught by Esther Taylor in the Negro Bap-
tist Church. Forty Negro children were in attendance.4
1877 saw the beginning of public school education.
Miss Fannie Fletcher taught at the Driver School. Mrs.
M. A. Goodrich taught at the "Goodrich Schoolhouse,"
and Nestor Taylor was teaching in the Negro Baptist
Church. In all 129 students were enrolled in public school.
In January, 1878, John T. Mathes opened a private
school. Another private school, the Osceola Male and Fe-
male High school, began in 1879. The faculty consisted of
J. A. McAlister, professor of mental and moral science;
J. H. Brown, principal of the intermediate department; Miss
Fannie Morris, principal of primary department; and Miss
Ella P. Rountree, principal of the music department.
A contract was awarded to A. Sloan in 1879 to build a
public schoolhouse just outside the corporate limits of
the town. It cost $1800.
Private schools continued to exist. Miss Maggie Duffey
opened a school for little girls in February, 1881. In October
of the same year Joseph Borum was teaching a private
school with fifty-five pupils. By 1882 the private Male and
Female Academy had one hundred pupils. Miss A. Stan-
field opened a private school in March, 1883, in the old
"Dramatic Hall." Miss Fannie Fletcher opened a private
school in September, 1884 . R. M. Carrington began a private
school in February, 1889,5 but closed it the next month
because it was found that "three private schools were rather
too many for our town."
'Osceola Times, April 22, 1876.
'Ibid., Feb. 23 and March 30, 1889.
M. C. Irwin organized a penmanship class in the
summer of 1886 with twenty pupils. The terms were a
dollar and a half per pupil for the term of thirteen days.
Public schools continued to struggle along. Fifty-four
students were enrolled in the fall of 1883. By 1892 125
pupils were enrolled in public school.
Various activities and organizations were concerned
with culture. By 1876 the Osceola Literary and Dramatic
Association was offering performances. A typical program
was that announced in the Times November 18, 1876. The
program was as follows: "The Charge of the Light Brigade"
by M. Heinz; "How Not to Get an Answer," by Adah Petty
and Lizzie Brown; a three act comedy, "The Rent Day";
"Call Her Back and Kiss Her," by Ed Goss. In 1877 the
Association sponsored a lecture by H. M. McVeigh, and
a debate on the subject: Resolved that the miser is of more
benefit to society than the spendthrift. Another debate
was on the subject: Resolved that Caesar was a great man.
The Reading and Social Club Rooms were under the
auspices of the Literary and Dramatic Association. The
Rooms were furnished with books, newspapers, and
periodicals, tables, lights, and comfortable seats. In 1878
the Association presented "The Test of Truth" and
"Harvest Storm." In 1879 the Association presented "Ten
Nights in a Bar Room" to an overflow crowd.
In 1884 was organized "The Lodge of Knights and
Ladies of Honor" with a membership of forty-three. The
Philomathean Club was organized in 1886. Its object was
the study of music and literature. In 1890 the young people
organized a literary club, whose programs consisted of read-
ings, recitations, and debates. The Current Topic Club
began in 1894 with Dr. T. G. Brewer president. The club
sponsored debates. The Pansy Book Club began in 1897.
In April, 1898, Miss L. A. Pulliam read a paper to the
club on Darwin's theory of evolution.
A number of activities of Osceola inhabitants can be
classed as entertainment or recreation. In the summer of
1873 an old fashioned gander pulling was advertised at
Stonewall Landing. The day's activities were also to include
tilting at a ring, in which horsemen running at full speed
attempted to pick rings off with a lance. This activity
was common in the South before the Civil War but is
rarely found as late as the 1870's.
Traveling stock companies sometimes gave perform-
ances at Osceola. Steamboat excursions were common. One
on the West Wind occurred in the summer of 1874 during
which the young people of the town danced all night.
Baseball was a regular summer feature. As early as
1875 Osceola had a team called the Eckfords. The sport
was still in vogue in 1898 when Osceola defeated Luxora
37 to 36. There is a reference to football in 1873 but croquet
was then a more popular game.6
In 1880 Dan Rice's Floating Opera House and Museum
stopped at Osceola and gave an entertainment consisting
of "delightful music, mirth, drama, and laughable panto-
Boat races on the Mississippi attracted large crowds.
Runs were made one mile up the river and one mile down.
In 1883 a team made the two mile run in eighteen min-
utes and four seconds.
Young men organized a brass band in 1883 with
W. E. Moss president. They ordered instruments and hired
a teacher. The following year a glee club was organized
with M. Heinz as president. A dancing school under Pro-
fessor James was held in 1885 with thirty-eight pupils at-
Hunting was the most popular of all sports, especially
duck hunting. In the fall of 1879 John B. Driver, T. C.
Edrington, W. B. Edrington, and Henry Cook killed 170
ducks in two days. Ducks were a regular item on the mar-
ket. In 1880 a want ad offered ten cents apiece for them.
The Times on October 23, 1880, said, "Ducks are being
brought into town by the wagon load, and selling for 25c
per brace." A party of eight hunters in 1881 killed 110
dlbid., Sept. 6, 1873.
'Ibid., Oct. 23, 1880,
ducks in one day. The same year a party from Memphis
killed 700 ducks. The following was in the Times Novem-
ber 25, 1882: "Mr. W. E. Moss shipped 400 ducks last
Tuesday on the steamer Mark Twain." Mallards then as
now were the commonest ducks, but the blue-winged teal
was also common. William Vaughn and T. C. Edrington
brought in thirty-six teal in one hunt. In February, 1886,
William Vaughn, John Sherill, and Felix Lanier, Jr., killed
140 ducks and a number of geese in a single day. In the
same month four men killed 500 ducks, 35 geese and a
swan, all of which they shipped to the Memphis market.
Turkeys were plentiful. In a single day in 1884 Wil-
liam Vaughn killed seven turkeys. In December, 1886, Jules
Sherill killed seven gobblers and two wild geese. On an
October day in 1889 William Vaughn killed thirty-three
squirrels and four turkeys.
In 1882 bear meat could be purchased on the Osceola
market for ten cents per pound. James Lawrence brought
in the carcass of a 400-pound bear in 1891. In November,
1885, Joshua Dillingham killed two bears on one hunt.
Martin McDonna, the town marshal, went bear hunting
in 1885 and was caught in a bear trap.
Panthers were still rather common in the 1880's.
Joshua Dillingham went to his bear trap in 1883 and found
in it a panther ten feet and two inches long.
In its early days the liquor problem plagued Osceola.
In 1883 the town had three blind tiger saloons. The town
at the time had a two-mile law, which prohibited the sale
of liquor within two miles of the town, but an illegal trade
went on. In 1885, the law having apparently been re-
pealed, the county court issued seven retail liquor licenses
within Osceola. A prohibition alliance was organized in 1887
with F. B. Hale as president.
Public improvements came to Osceola in the 1880's
and 1890's. In the summer of 1888 a sewer system was in-
stalled. Water mains were laid in the fall of 1890. Electric
lights came in 1894. The town at first depended on a wind-
mill to pump its water, but in 1895 an engine and boiler
were set up to replace the windmill. Osceola's first tele-
phones came in 1889, when Elmot and Osceola were con-
nected. In 1897 Osceola was connected with Barfield, Lux-
ora, and San Souci. The next year Blytheville, Carson Lake,
Nodena, Golden Lake, Bardstown, and Pecan Point were
brought into the system.
The town's first bank was organized in 1891. The bank
directors were: W. P. Hale, S. S. Semmes, J. B. Driver, F.
B. Hale, N. L. Avery, J. W. Rhodes, and James B. Driver.
W. P. Hale was elected president. In September, 1891,
ground was broken for a bank building to cost $3,300.
Agitation for a railroad through Osceola began in 1890,
when a large crowd gathered at the courthouse to discuss
the subject. A committee was appointed to solicit subscrip-
tions consisting of R. Archillion, John B. Driver, S. S.
Semmes, H. C. Dunavant, and James Liston. But the rail-
road was long in coming. A meeting was held in 1897 to
discuss a railroad from Osceola to Deckerville. About July
1, 1899, a railroad finally reached Osceola. Walter Driver
made the first freight shipment, 400 sacks of potatoes.8
In the early days Osceola seems to have been well
supplied with physicians. In the earliest extant issue of
the Times Dr. J. E. Felts had his card as physician and
accoucher. In the same issue is the card of Dr. Henry S.
Palmer. In 1875 the card of Dr. W. V. Taylor "late of Mem-
phis" made an appearance. In the same year is found the card
of Dr. Frank L. James. Dr. Gustavus H. Trask began
practice in Osceola about 1869. He died in the cholera
epidemic of 1873. Dr. Robert C. Prewitt, a Confederate
veteran, came to Osceola about 1877, when he opened a
drugstore. He was practicing in Osceola as late as 1882. In
1882 are found the professional cards of Dr. C. F. Hedrick
and Dr. F. C. McGavock. The next year Dr. D. C. Joyner,
Dr. W. D. Jones, and Dr. J. L. Nelson, a dentist, were
practicing in Osceola. Another dentist W. B. Cassil located
in Osceola in 1886. Dr. C. J. Brawner practiced dentistry in
Osceola in the 1880's.
Ibid., July 1, 1899.

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