The History of Bruno

By Mrs. Ray Blankenship

Bruno is located on Hampton Creek in southern Marion County. The banks of this creek have always been fringed with wide-spreading and beautiful sycamore, elm, and willow trees. The water has always been cold and clear as crystal and abundant with little fish. Numerous springs come out of the banks of the creek, all up and down. This creek flows from south to north and empties into Crooked Creek about eight miles downstream.

Prior to 1803, the year of the Louisiana Purchase, it is quite probable that there was not an English-speaking white man in this entire section of Marion County; however, there is much evidence that the mountain village was the home and hunting grounds of many tribes of redmen. History tells us that the Shawnee tribe was in this area when the first white man came. These Indians were known by their good and cheerful disposition, their high spirits and fine physiques. They lived by fishing and hunting and spent most of their time in the open air, either in forest or streams. They were swift-footed and wore clothes of skins and furs in winter but in summer they wore practically nothing. Some of the men married white girls as they began to arrive and were living here when Arkansas was admitted to the Union in 1836. By 1840, most of them had all gone to Indian territory in Oklahoma. Shawnee means 'southern' and they were an important tribe of Algonquians and roving people but often remained in a certain area for several years.

Thirty or more years ago when the sandy creek bottoms along Hampton Creek were plowed every spring and planted in corn and other feed crops, the Indian arrowheads and other artifacts were abundant in the plowed ground. Tradition tells us that there was a large spring on the east side of Hampton and it flowed down the sandy bottoms to the creek. A huge tribe of redmen, possibly the Cherokees, called this area their home before moving over the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma.

The History Commission tells us that probably the first family to migrate to Bruno was the family of Champion McEntire and his wife, Sarah, who had seven children. They came in the early 1840's or before and homesteaded their farm which was located north of Bruno on Hampton Creek. The farm is known today as the R. W. Elam place. Mr. Elam was a descendant of the McEntires. This family possibly came with other families by covered wagon pulled by oxen. They probably came over the Fallen Ash Military Road which came up White River from Batesville to Izard County Court House and crossed the river at Talbert's Post Office. It wound westward to Yellville and from there it passed through the Jefferson Hall community where Ray Blankenship now lives. There are still signs of this old road on his farm. From there it went toward Eros and on into Boone County.

These pioneers were in search of land and the valleys along the creeks and beautiful springs were inviting them to make their homes. The oxen-drawn wagons contained all the earthly possessions of these people. They probably brought with them salt, flour, clothing, quilts, some skillets and cooking pans, a loom, spinning wheel, plenty of guns and powder, bullet molds, tallow, and tanned cowhide for sole leather. In addition, a coop of chickens on the back of the wagon and a few seeds to plant for next year's crop.

The people were common and plain; they were real friends and neighbors. They practiced true, simple living and everyday, old-time religion. They dressed for comfort. The women wore long sweeping dresses or hoop skirts, bonnets and cotton or woolen stockings. Men wore jeans, flintlock breeches, claw-hammer coats and bee-gum hats. The grown-up boys hunted along on the route and kept the family eating as they traveled. They found the Indians living in crude log houses covered with bark roofs and the cracks between the logs chinked with clay mud. The white pioneers also built their houses from logs, covering them with hand-riven boards. Floors were of hewn puncheon logs or dirt. There were no glass windows but the logs had openings cut out and covered with skins in winter. Fireplaces were used for heat and cooking. Often an open hallway, called the "dog trot", ran through the center of the house. Homes were meagerly furnished with only a few pieces of homemade furniture. Dishes and cookware were scarce. At night the cabin was lighted by a crude lamp that burned grease or bear oil. There were no cookstoves in this area until after the Civil War. A log barn, surrounded by a pole fence, completed the homestead.

Before the Civil War and for several years afterward, everything used by the pioneer family was homemade, including clothes, tools, and equipment. The beds in the home were shucks stuffed into a tick; later when the women raised flocks of ducks and geese, the feather beds and pillows became more numerous. Outside the house the pioneer mother had an "ash hopper" built to hold wood ashes. In the spring when the ashes were thoroughly soaked by the rains, a dark black liquid lye flowed down a valley trough from the hopper. From this lye, soap was made for washing clothes and dishes. The home-imiprovised corn mill was made by putting corn in a hole of a huge stone and with another stone the corn was mauled or cracked. There were plenty of foods, such as wild honey, squirrel, buffalo, deer, wild turkey, fish, wild fruits, nuts, and bear meat. Bear grease was an important item in the pioneer household. It sold for $1.00 per gallon while a cow was worth only $5.00.

Until 1885 the village of Bruno had been called Ebbing Springs because of the huge spring that flows into Hampton Creek from the west side. This is not only one of the biggest springs in Marion County but it had a feature that is different from any spring in this area. It ebbs and flows at certain hours of the day. There is a high hill above it and a cave very near the water. Early in the morning the water is low; then,all of a sudden, the gurgling sound of water rushing along can be heard from the mouth of the cave. A huge stream pours out and covers the big stones all around and rushes down the stream bed, foaming and dashing. In the old days when no one had refrigerators, the spring was used by many families to keep milk, butter, and other foods nice and cold. The residents had learned long ago to put a heavy stone on top of their milk pail or it would be washed away when the flow came. Many families carried water from this and other springs near. On hot summer days children were seen contantly carrying a fresh pail of cold water to thirsty men in hay fields. Many housewives took their weekly laundry to the spring where they built a fire under an iron wash pot and heated water. They rubbed the clothes clean on a rub board and boiled them in homemade soap in the wash pot. After a thorough rinsing, they were hung on nearby bushes and fences to dry.

Many farm homes did not have an adequate water supply as they do now. Many months in the summer, barrels of water were hauled for home use. If the livestock water grew scarce, herds of cattle were driven daily to Bruno for water. In the horse and buggy days, this spring was a favorite spot for travelers to stop and, not only drink cold water that flowed down the stream, but to let their horses rest and drink also.

The first water-powered mill was located about 21/2; miles north of Bruno on Hampton Creek at what is now known as the Aub Massey spring. Here another huge spring comes from under a high rocky mountain. An old log in the creek which was originally a part of the old mill race can still be seen when the water is low. It was here that residents brought their shelled corn and got it ground into corn meal for bread. It was not until after the Civil War, probably 1870 or 1880, did the citizens have steam-driven engines. There was also a cotton gin at this place and many people took cotton there. The Hull Spring could not be used for this purpose because of its ebbing and flowing nature.

Among the people living in the Bruno area when the war was over was John J. Pennington, the area blacksmith, and ]ames Estice, the community school teacher. In 1871 a Baptist Church was organized and named Pleasant Hill. The church is still active today.

A post office was established where Bruno now stands on March 19, 1878. William C. McEntire was the postmaster. It was called Hampton Valley then. On December 13,1878, W. D. DePriest was appointed postmaster and served until the office was discontinued February 16, 1880. By this time the population of the area had climbed to 629. A town began to grow up near McEntire's Mill. In February 1885 Ezekiel Adkins, who had opened a general store in the valley, petitioned for a new post office, to be called Bruno. It was approved and he was commissioned postmaster on November 10, 1885. Within a few years Bruno boasted a gristmill, two general stores, a blacksmith shop, drug store, a steam saw and cotton mill, and a church. Other postmasters of Bruno were: F. G. Huddleston, 1888; Kenner Cantrell, 1893; Thomas J. Evans, 1889; Felix G. Huddleston, 1890; George W. Wickersham, 1898; Henry S. Loffer, 1909; Henry A. Fulbright, 1911; Robert E. Keeter, 1912; Arthur V. Adams, 1914; Dolphus Angel, 1917; Robert W. Elam, 1922; it has remained in the Elam and Angel families since and Mrs. Willie Faye Angel Burleson is the present postmistress.

By 1890 buisness had begun to grow rapidly in Bruno. Cotton was grown extensively and shipped by barge or, in some cases , hauled by wagon to Batesville. Cotton remained the Number One cash crop until after the depression in the early thirties. It gradually gave way to permanent pastures and livestock production. Soil conservation practices have greatly enriched the pasture programs here.

In 1900 a bale of cotton for $20 but cotton seed could scarcely be sold and was used for feed and fertilizer. The roads were poor, schools were poor, no rural telephones, no automobiles, and the mail was delivered very slowly.

During the Reconstruction Days following the Civil War, salesmen or peddlers began to drive through Bruno and surrounding areas in a wagon or buggy loaded with merchandise for sale. They traveled more in summer when the weather was warm. They were anxious to make a deal with the local people and many times traded their wares for chickens or anything else of value. Many young ladies of the familes wore beautiful homemade dresses as a result of the peddler's stop at their homes. He not only carried bolts of wool, cotton, lace, and silk materials but sewing supplies such as ribbon, lace, and buttons. Other peddlers sold beautiful woven bedspreads and pillow shams, as they were known in that day. Others sold sewing machines or medicines such as salves, oils, herbs, and pills.

Bruno was a long drive from Yellville or surrounding towns and, for that reason, night found many peddlers in Bruno. Harrison Stanley who owned the creek farm on the west side of the village kept peddlers in his home. They lived in a large two-story house, part of which was log. The stairway to the second floor was on the outside of the house. There was a large kitchen and dining area and several bedrooms downstairs. Every member of the family got busy when a peddler's wagon drove up about sundown. Mrs. Stanley built a fire in the big, wood-burning kitchen range; the daughters, Della, Lou and Virgie, went to the garden for fresh vegetables or caught and picked frying chickens. While Mrs. Stanley baked pies and cakes, Mr. Stanley, with his two wooden buckets, began to carry water from the nearby spring. Isom, the youngest son at home, took the traveler's team to water and feed in the barn. All members of the family had a part in making their guest's visit as pleasant as possible. After the Stanley children married and moved away and Mr. Stanley had sold the farm, the Bill Lay family kept travelers. Later M. D. Setzler's home was the last place to keep them. By then automobiles became more plentiful and travelers went back to town to sleep.

The first doctor to practice medicine in Bruno was Dr. George F. Elam. He was born in 1846 and began his practice in 1875 by delivering babies, with the help of mid-wives. Dr. Elam had a drug store in Bruno; made his calls by day or night through all kinds of weather and over all kinds of road by horseback. He later moved to Eros, where he continued to practice medicine until his death in 1922. He is buried in the Bruno cemetery. Dr. Lay was an associate of Dr. Elam and both men were always ready and willing to go when needed.

About the turn of the century a local young man, Albert Elton, began to practice medicine. He was the son of George and Lottie Elton. (Mrs. Elton was one of the Pyle family). Albert had gone to Little Rock to medical school and came home to perform some surgery in addition to other neccessities in his practice. He would go into the home, improvise an operating room, and saved many of the people. After several years in Bruno, he moved to Newport, Arkansas, where he was active until his death in 1950. Old friends in Bruno made trips to Newport for medical advice or surgery.

Bruno's first blacksmith of record was Marion Copeland. Then Sam Green served the area for many years before others took up the trade. In the early 1900's Mr. and Mrs. Lee Fielden (Uncle Dick and Aunt Rene) settled in the Bruno area from Bradleyville, Missouri. They were young and only had a part of their family when they moved to Bruno, but they raised seven or eight children. Mr. Fielden was a talented and colorful character and people remember this family fondly. He was an excellent country music entertainer and loved to play the fiddle. Other members of his family inherited his musical ability as they kept several stringed instruments (fiddle, guitar, banjo, etc.) and an old pump organ in his home. He also kept a pack of fox hounds as long as he lived for his favorite pastime of fox hunting.

When Bruno was young, there were few people and very little money. Therefore, there was little need for a merchant until the population increased. The needs of the people were met at home by growing their food, spinning and weaving their clothes, and by making their soap as well as other household items. Salt, with very few other things, was about the only thing that people had to buy. Some of the merchants have been Ezekiel Adkins, Felix Huddleston, George Wickersham and George Cantrell. John Angel went into business, with his partner Ken Cantrell, in 1886. Angel stayed there until his son, W. E., took over in 1900. The family has retained the business all these years. The son of W. E., Dolph, spent all his life in the store, cotton gin, corn mill, cream station, and various other phases of the country store. This store was stocked with anything that country people would need. When the first railroad came through Marion County in 1904, some of the other towns nearby began to grow, so a Bruno resident could go to Pyatt or Everton to buy. It was, needless to say, an all day trip so one trip a year was often enough for most of the people.

J. M. Lewis (Uncle Jim) had a store in Bruno in 1909. For several years he kept food, dry goods, hardware, and some medical supplies. The following was ordered by him from Dr. Shoop Family Medicine Company, Racine, Wisconsin, on May 14,1909:

1 dozen Restoration Liquid$8.00
1 dozen Rhumatic Liquid 8.00
1/4 dozen Catarrh Remedy 1.00
1/4 dozen Magic Ointment 1.00
1/4 dozen Fever Remedy 1.00
1/2 dozen Croup Remedy 2.00
1/2 dozen Headache Tablets 1.00
1/2 dozen Cascara Syrup 1.00
1/2 dozen Pain Panacea 1.00
1 dozen Preventics (large) 2.00
1/4 case Preventics 5 ct. .87
1/2 dozen Laxets (large) 1.00
1/4 case Laxets 5 ct. .88
Total $28.75

The Sears Roebuck Catalogue out of Chicago in 1908 issued the following:

Solid Comfort Top Buggies -- $52.95; Minnesota Sewing Machine for $13.85; Improved Farm Wagon -- $41.45; Saddle -- $14.67; Oxford Cylinder Talking Machine -- $14.95; Ladies' Gold Filled Watch -- $6.65; Columbia Cylinder Records -- .18 each; Gentleman's Watch Chains -- .19 each; Solid Oak Dining Chairs -- $1.95 each; Folding Ironing Board -- .77; Steel Frame Grindstone -- $3.04; Alaska Salmon -- 6 cans for .79; 20 Pound Box Crackers -- $1.14; Baking Powder (1 lb.) -- .21; Cigars (Box of 50) -- $1.98; Ladies Wool Underwear -- .79 each; Men's Percale Shirts -- .48 each; Men's Single Breasted Suit -- $7.68; Ladies' House Dress -- $1.48.

All of this, plus many other bargains, were listed.

The first automobile driven into Bruno belonged to Dolph Angel in 1912. The roads were so bad that an automobile could hardly travel them. Many times a high center or deep mud-hole would cause a car to stop and the neighbors with a good team of horses would be asked to pull it out. Many old timers have remarked, "The car will never take the place of a team." Nevertheless, more and more automobiles were bought by local people. Only since the days of the depression have the horses and wagons completely disappeared.

J. W. (Jim) Hudson established a mercantile business and was joined in the enterprise by A. E. (Arvil) Pyle. They had a well-stocked country store but they bought cream, eggs, chickens, hides; they had a corn mill for making cornmeal; and they operated a tomato canning factory. The local women and girls worked in the factory -- peeling tomatoes for 5¢ per bucket. The cotton dress material in the store was only 10 or 15 cents per yard so a girl could make enough in one afternoon to buy enough material to make herself a new dress. Many items of groceries were not packaged but sold by the pound from huge bags and barrels. Some of these items were sugar, rice, crackers, lard and dry beans. Coffee was whole bean and had to be ground in a mill in the home before it could be used. Chewing tobacco was either in the twist or large flat cakes which had to be cut with a tobacco cutter to give the customer 10¢ or 15¢ worth of it. The customer took his own pail to get lard. Saturday was a busy day for the merchants. Whole families came to the store early in their wagons and brought produce to exchange for their needed items. They always had time to visit with friends and the young people had their own little section of the store counter where they sat and visited or planned a house party for Saturday night. Also they brought shelled corn to be ground for meal.

The Masonic Lodge was very active in those days and on their regular meeting day, a certain Saturday of each month, men from every direction came to Bruno Lodge. The meeting place was the upper story of one of the old school houses. Some of the earliest men in Arkansas were noted Masons and they helped keep this area free of warfare, hatred and prejudice because they are founded on truthfulness, good will, charity and morality.

Mr. and Mrs. Hudson have seen changes in Bruno in the past 50 years but their church work comes first in their hearts and lives. They enjoy life and their work, even though both are past 80 years.

The Justice of the Peace record books now in the possession of Mr. Hudson who has been a Justice of the Peace for 35 years in Hampton Township gives a complete record of all the cases in J. P. Court since 1884. Law and order was kept strictly by these courts. Before 1900 a young man of the area paid a fine for "lopping" his horse through Bruno. Things have changed today. The creek that ran through Bruno for so many years and was a natural barrier to the traffic is now spanned by a new bridge and a new black-topped highway goes through the village.

Southeast Quadrant

Bruno School


Reprinted with permission from History of Marion County edited by Earl Berry, copyright 1977.