Early Settlers

Joe Burleson Township

This beautiful spot attracted more and more of the people as they moved on their western journey. Abundant wildlife, a wide variety of natural foods (plums, grapes, berries, persimmons, pawpaws, nuts, good timber to build log houses from and the rich land along the creek caused them to settle here. They cleared the land and started farming, raising mostly crops of corn, cane, beans, peas, potatoes and any crops that people and their livestock could eat. About all of the family worked at farming. In the early days in this section if you didn't grow it you didn't eat it. Some of the people that settled here remained here and some of the old family names are still around.

When I was a small boy about all of the families would fatten a number of hogs to kill in the winter. When the meat was cured it would have to last all year. Vegetables, fruits and berries of all kinds were canned or dried to be stored and eaten throughout the winter.

It is believed that John B. Hudson and family came to Arkansas in 1822 and settled somewhere near George's Creek and Crooked Creek. They were thought to be the first white family to live in this community. Jess Hudson moved here and settled near where the Cedar Grove Church is now located and built a blacksmith shop. I have been told this was the first public building to be located in the Cedar Grove Community. Jess did work for what few white settlers were in this section and also shod the Indian's ponies and worked on their guns. Joseph Burleson, my grandfather, moved here in 1848 and traded Jess for his land and shop, later building his home near the shop.

One of the oldest, log houses I can remember was the Dave Tabor home on Crooked Creek south of the Snow School. This was probably the first house built by white settlers. Dave's father built this house. It has been torn down for some time.

I can remember going home with Orville Tabor from school and staying all night. Orville, Dave's son, and I were in the same class in school at Snow. His mother had died and his grandmother lived with them and did the housekeeping and cooking. Most people called her Grandmother Tabor.

There was a rock fireplace in each end of the Tabor home, one in the kitchen used to cook on, the other being in the living room. I remember watching her cook on it with the kettles and pots hanging on steel arms so she could swing them over the fire and back out when they were ready. I sure did like to eat there; the open fire gave the food a special flavor. It was just delicious.

The Tabors had another thing I enjoyed very much. They had the coldest water to drink in the summertime you could find anywhere back then. The spring flowed out of a small cave on a hot day and it was so cold one couldn't stay back in it very long. I have heard them talk about it being cold enough that they could kill a deer and put it back in the cave in the hot summertime and it wouldn't spoil.

After supper I always enjoyed hearing Grandma Tabor tell about the things that happened when she first came to these parts as a girl. She could tell some hair raising, true stories of things that happened about the Indians, bears, panthers, hunting, trapping and also about the Civil War.

The Tabor family was among the first white people to come to Marion County. I only wish I had written down some of the things she told me so I could pass the information to you but I didn't so I can't remember the stories well enough to write them down now.

Grandfather Joseph Burleson, who came here and settled in 1848. His picture was taken when he was 75 years old. In 1905 when the township was created he had played a big role in the Cedar Grove Community so they named it in his honor.

When the Joe Burleson Township was established a Justice of the Peace was elected. His job was to act as a local judge to hold court for minor cases in the township. I can remember attending some of the trials. These were held at Turkey, sometimes in the blacksmith shop or mill and if the weather was nice they would hold them out under the big shade trees. Sometimes the judge would decide the case and sometimes they would have a twelve man jury trial. Elza Burleson served as judge a long time in the 1920's. He could also marry people and notarize papers.

A constable was also elected to keep the peace. Serving as a law officer, he could arrest a person when they had violated the law and put them in jail.

The township created a place for men to vote in elections (back then only the men voted). The township made it easier for people to vote in this section. This year in 1987 they have done away with the voting place in this township. For the first time in 72 years the people here will have to go to Pyatt to cast their votes. At first they voted at the Cedar Grove Church then in about 1910 or 1912 they started voting at Turkey. In about 1960 the voting place was moved back to the Cedar Grove Church because the church had added Sunday school rooms and this made it a better place for holding the elections.

The map on the following page is of the Joe Burleson Township and Cedar Grove Community which covered a much larger area than today. The first public building was a black smith shop. It was built just a short distance east of where the Cedar Grove Church now is located. Operated by Jess Hudson (between 1833 and 1850), who it was said shod the Indian ponies and worked on their guns. He also did work for the early white settlers. Mr. Hudson sold out to my grandfather, Joseph Burleson, about 1850 and Grandfather lived there until his death in 1915. When the Joe Burleson Township was established it was named in his honor.

The Cedar Grove Methodist Church was first called Shiloah and was the first public building to be built in this section in 1850. This was a two-story, log building with the top story used by the Masonic Lodge and the bottom floor used by the Methodist Church for worship and public meetings. Also this building provided a place for the first school to be held in this section. The Browns, Burlesons, Fraziers, Austins, Hudsons and others whose names are unknown to me helped build this building. The church burned down during the Civil War (it was thought by bushwhackers). The present church building was built back in 1867 and 1868. The names I remember helping to rebuild the church were the Browns, Burlesons, Crays, Fraziers, Parkers, Hudsons, Davenports, and Ellises. I know there were many others but their names are unknown to me. There have been regular church services here ever since they were started back in 1850. At this present time there is a worship service every Sunday morning. The church has been remodeled but it is the same building that was built back in 1867-68. I think it is the oldest church building still in use every Sunday in the state of Arkansas. Nice Sunday school rooms, a fellowship hall, a kitchen, running water and restrooms have been added. It is as modern as most city churches.

As the early white settlers moved westward they used all kinds of methods of travel. Some walked, some came on horseback, others came in covered wagons pulled by oxen or horses. The picture at the top is of a family after crossing White River on the Cotter Ferry on their journey west. They only took time to pose for this picture. I don't know their names or the date this picture was taken, but I can remember covered wagons going by all through the early 1920's just like this one.

My father said in about 1900 there was a large migration of squirrels from the northeast to the southwest. They were going across the fields and swimming the creeks and rivers whenever they came to them. There was a woman who had gone down to the white River to do her washing as was the custom back then. She killed a large number of squirrels with her battle stick which she used to paddle the clothes to get the dirt out. After swimming the river the squirrels would be exhausted so she would just knock them in the head. Her family had squirrel for supper that night and for breakfast the next morning.

Back in the early days every family in this community cooked on a wood cook stove. This added another chore that had to be done along with many others waiting to be done. The wood had to be cut about twelve to sixteen inches long then split up real small and ricked and dried. This would make it burn good. Red oak made good cook wood. My mother had an old cook stove which they bought in the 1920's. She used it almost up to the time she passed away in 1958. It also had a warming oven and hot water reservoir. I have enjoyed many delicious meals cooked on this old stove. Some of the best biscuits I ever ate came from this oven after covering them with good, homemade molasses and homemade butter. Biscuits today come from a can instead of being freshly, homemade. No one has the time to make them any more. I also enjoyed sitting by it to warm on a cool morning when we didn't build a fire in the fireplace.


Reprinted with permission from Treasured Memories of a Beautiful Place in the North Arkansas Ozark Hills by Floyd Burleson, copyright 1989.