History of Marmaduke, Arkansas, Recreated
By: Mona L. Fielder
Recreating a historical event or writing about that event 117 years after its happening, with few facts and written observations, is almost impossible. A writer must depend on historical accounts related to the event, to the printed information available, and interviews with older residents, and then with realistic speculation come to a reasonable explanation of how the event took place. Such is the case in the naming and origin of the city of Marmaduke.
According to Goodspeed's History of Greene County, Arkansas, published in October 1889, "Marmaduke, a town of about 200 inhabitants on the "Cotton Belt" Railroad, twelve miles northeast of Paragould, contains four stores, a blacksmith shop, cotton gin and press, church, school house, a sawmill, and a boarding house. From here a tramway is run a mile out on the St. Francis River, where other mills are located. The village was first laid our in 1882 by the Railroad Company."
Gainesville was established about the year 1840 and in 1846 was a thriving county seat with four general stores, a printing office, a drug store, and as the county court house was located there, the Hon. J.E. Reddick was the judge of the circuit court. The Gainesville Circuit of the Methodist Episcopal Church South included Hurricane and Harvey's Chapel Churches, which were on the Gainesville Road (now Highway 34 E) with the circuit pastor, Rev. N.W. Farrar, in charge. Many of the early residents of the city were members of these congregations.
Timber, railroads, sawmills, and early entrepreneurs brought about the settlement of the area. The land was covered with rich timber and one account states, "The entire county is finely timbered with unequaled quality of white oak, red oak, hickory, sweet gum, ash, poplar, and fine walnut timber." Lumbering was listed as the principal industry and a great source of income.
The main line of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad was completed about 1872 and the Helena Branch about 1882. This branch line ran across the entire county in a southeasterly and southerly course by way of Gainesville and Paragould. The St. Louis, Arkansas & Texas Railroad, completed in 1882, passed through the entire county in a southwesterly direction along the eastern side of Crowley's Ridge. There were over 77 miles of railway in the county and it was due to the railroad stops for travelers and goods that many of the small villages came into existence. The Marmaduke stop would have been a popular one -- for goods and equipment needed for the timber work, travelers on their way to Gainesville or parts west, or just scouting timber lands in the area.
Many pioneers had settled the road to Gainesville and about 1847, according to historical documents, there was already a store where the Delta Cotton Co-op is located and two log cabins. Mrs. Emma Barton Moore was born January 31, 1876, in a log cabin where the Methodist church is now located, and the other cabin was on the corner across from the post office. These cabins were on the way to Gainesville where the early settlers received their mail and purchased supplies. The settlement had begun.
Under the laws of the State of Arkansas, the Texas and St. Louis Railroad Company of Arkansas was incorporated on May 21, 1881, for rhe primary purpose of constructing a narrow gauge railroad from Texarkana, Texas, to the Arkansas-Missouri state line. After the consolidated company received approval of the legislatures of Arkansas and Missouri, John Paramore (president of the company) hired Captain Samuel W. Fordyce, a former cavalry officer in the Civil War who had previous railroad construction experience, to locate the line through Arkansas. Fordyce was residing in Hot Springs, recuperating from an illness caused by wounds he received during the war.
It had been decided to build a narrow gauge line instead of the standard gauge road. One strong argument for the "small" gauge in the south and southwest was that the bulk of traffic was cotton, which would be compressed and large quantities transported without the necessity of large rail cars. Three aims would govern the selection of a route through Arkansas. First, it was essential to build as far away from the Iron Mountain Railroad as possible to develop a new trade territory. Second, as transporting cotton was the primary object, the road should cross the rich alluvial plains near the rivers that were best suited for cotton production. The last governing object was a route where cheapness of construction and economy in future operations would prevail. Paramore estimated that it would cost about $9,000 per mile to build and equip the road, but it was eventually built at a cost of about $12,000 a mile.
Fordyce rode over the route to gain first-hand information about the country and to gain the right-of-way and terminal points from landowners. As no funds had been provided for right-of-way purposes, it was necessary to acquire the land and construct the railroad as economically as possible. Fordyce followed the roads already cut out and cleared by the Civil War soldiers. Also, narrow log roads had been built between the towns or villages and the lumber camps. These "wash-board" roads were built by the landowners to haul lumber and timber out over the muddy, swampy roads to the tramways, and the roads were traded to the railroad in exchange for railroad securities.
The county was sparsely settled between Jonesboro and the St. Francis river, so it was logical to place the terminals (stations) at points already cleared and settled. The terminals were established at Marmaduke and Paragould by the "Cotton Belt" railroad.
NAMING THE TOWN
According to one account, the town of Marmaduke was named for Major-General John Sappington Marmaduke of the Confederate Army, who later became the governor of the state of Missouri. His name was bestowed upon the town to commemorate a camp that was established by General Marmaduke for his troops.
After crossing the St. Francis River at Chalk Bluff in Clay county, the troops had traveled south into Greene County to find a suitable campsite on level ground in the area. The camp was occupied for several weeks and used by Marmaduke as his headquarters while the troops pursued Quantrill's men, a tough band of lawless guerillas that preyed on residents along the borders of Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas. They murdered and pillaged both northern and southern families. It is an irony that Marmaduke and Quantrill had at one time served together in the army.
The success of Marmaduke's scouts is attested by a small cemetery of about 30 graves five miles east of Rector where the marauders lie buried, presumably killed in skirmishes with General Marmaduke's troops. There is also evidence that Marmaduke, with his troops, had cleared much of the land on their way to Pine Bluff and other areas in advancing the attack on Federal troops.
Another factor in naming the towns along this new branch line seemed to be related to the names of the men connected with the railroad or to men with interests in the railroad construction, as in the case of Paragould. John S. Marmaduke had served on the Missouri Railway Commission from 1875 until 1880 and no doubt would have served as a resource of information in developing the new line and probably gave information regarding the terrain and accessibility. Too, it seems reasonable that many railway employees and personnel would have heard of the exploits of Marmaduke during the Civil War.
On August 2, 1909, Marmaduke became an incorporated town with Ordinance Number One naming the governing officers, the manner of their elections, qualifications, powers and duties, meeting times, salaries, jurors and witness fees. This Ordinance was signed by E. P. Holt, mayor of the town, attested by J. H. Boone, Recorder.
One resident recalled "that in 1914, Marmaduke had two drugstores, three banks, three good restaurants, two churches, the Methodist and Baptist, as the Church of Christ was located about two miles out of town, two "dime stores," two barber shops, a hotel and a boarding house. Marmaduke was a good sized town in 1914. There were wooden walks downtown and everyone owned a cow in those days because you couldn't buy milk in stores." The timber kept the people here and the business was booming. A lumber mill, a stave mill, a sawmill and the large lumber and cut timber distributors provided employment for the residents. The number of available employees included many young women in the stave mills. The work was hard and the hours long.
In an interview in 1982, the former postmaster, Elmer McHaney, stated that Marmaduke was a busy place when he first came. "There were four blacksmiths, all the mail was rural delivery, either by buggy or horseback. There was the Vale Donaldson Company, the band mill and the stave mill which worked many people. There were 25 bootleggers, three cotton gins, and three banks, The Marmaduke Bank, The Farmers Bank and the Farmer's Union Bank. There were four or five doctors but none could make much of a living: Dr. James J. Hudgins, Dr. O. H. Clopton, Dr. James Hawkins, and Dr. Latone Kennedy. There was a general store, the Racket Store (general merchandise), the Bertig Company, a drugstore, and a cafe. Old "Dad" Wilson was mayor of the town."
Changes came about when the timber ran out, a resource virtually controlling the population. The depression of 1929 and the 1930's with banks closing caused the town of Marmaduke to lose businesses and later the loss of population to the north for work.
Currently the population of Marmaduke is 1100 plus with a good school system and two factories, Anchor (Plastics) and American Railcar Company. The town continues with the same type of government and elected officers for mayor and city council.
P.S. Mona L. (Freeman) Fielder was my 5th & 6th grade teacher.
Mrs. Versey Butler's Primer Class (kindergarten) in
November of 1945
L. to R. first row: Irvin Graves, Freddie Stephens, Charles Barnhart, George Haygood, Rudy Sanford, and Donald Cudd
L. to R. third row: three unknown, Peggy Barnhart, Hershel Horner, and Tommy Nipper.
L. to R. back row: Jerry Johnson, two unknown, Lenore Johnson, one unknown, Jimmy M, two unknown.
I know some other names, but I
need help, Gary McClure.
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