Roads and Highways

There were many roads, which we might call trails as they didn't compare to our roads today, that ran across Joe Burleson Township. The Old Military Road was the first to cross this section running east to west; east to Batesville and west into Oklahoma. This road was used to go south into Texas and north into Missouri. It came by Yellville around Bald Hill on west where Claude Wade now lives, south of the present highway off the hill just east of the old George's Creek Store crossing George's Creek and Johnnie's Creek, continuing by the Cedar Grove Church and Snow, and crossing Crooked Creek just south of the present highway bridge. It now has become major U.S. Highway 62 across North Arkansas.

When this trail was first traveled it seems no one knows. One of the first to make use of this trail were probably Indians and afterwards it was converted into a route for the U.S. armies to use and this is why it was called the Old Military Road. The Indians used it as they were moved by the white settlers and the Army westward into Oklahoma.

My grandfather, Joe Burleson, arrived here by traveling this road in 1848 with other members of his family and a number of other people with a horse and ox wagon train. My grandmother, Neacy Dearrnan, also used this road when she traveled here by another wagon train in 1849 with her stepfather, James P. Frazier, and family. They all settled near the Cedar Grove Church and this was the start of the community.There is another road that has seen much service. As you leave U.S. Highway 62 at George's Creek, you go north up the creek down by Dodd City, by Lead Hill on north into Missouri. This road now is County Road No. 48. It followed the creek closer than the present road. Both of these roads were used by the armies in the Civil War.

Also much in use in the early days was the road that ran from the Cedar Grove Church south to Turkey, across Crooked Creek by Comal onto Eros and Bruno. It is no longer in use as a county road as no bridge was ever built across Crooked Creek at this point. There were also a number of other roads from place to place in the community.

In connection with the Old Military Road, there were some tragedies connected with it. Three awful deaths happened on this road. A number of times on our way to Yellville my father told me the exact spot they each happened at. In February 1908 a man by the name of Moses Joshua Holaday was killed by Joe Parker. In 1910 Russell Davenport killed his father, Tom Davenport. Another man was killed on this road when his team of horses ran away with him and his wagon (I don't remember his name). All three deaths happened almost at the same place. This part of the road is closed at present, which is just west of Bald Hill and east of the old Fred William's place where Keith Wade lives at present.

My father and family moved into the house with my grandfather after the death of my grandmother. They lived with him from 1891 until 1906. My mother said during that time when the weather was pretty, one covered wagon wouldn't get out of sight until you would see another one coming. My father and family farmed my grandfather's land on Crooked Creek and raised a lot of corn. My grandfather would sell most of the corn he received from the rent of his farm to the people going west at a bushel or less at a time to feed their horses. He charged $1.00 a bushel or 1c [sic] an ear. He gave a hundred big ears of corn for a bushel, although about 75 or 80 ears would make a bushel; he liked to give a good measure. A lot of the movers would camp near his home for the night moving on west the next day. My mother said my grandfather never turned a person away from his door that needed help or something to eat. I think I can also say the same for my parents as they have never failed to feed a bum or anyone else that needed help or something to eat.

I can remember when I was going to school at Snow in the early 1920's and there were still a lot of covered wagons going by traveling west. The most of them would have their belongings in and tied on to the wagon, a cow or two tied behind the wagon and sometimes some people walked behind the wagon. I wouldn't want to forget to mention that about all of them had a dog or two. The roads at this time were rough at best. In the winter and wet spells of weather the roads would get very muddy and the wagons would cut deep ruts and the going was hard.

It is unknown to me when it began, but a road overseer was elected for each township in the county to oversee or boss the road work. He received pay but each man, age 21 to 65, was to work three to four days a year without pay on the road or they had to get someone to work in their place. They called this putting in your "free labor". At first they just had picks, shovels, hoes, and rock hammers, later they voted a 3 mill road tax to use on the roads. The men still worked out their free labor. I remember my brother, Brice, was elected road overseer in about 1922. The work was supervised by the county judge with the county furnishing the tools. At that time this township had a slip, a wheeler to move dirt with to fix rough places, and also a plow or a router they called it to plow up the dirt, with all of them being pulled by horses. Also, they had a small grader to grade the road where they could and it was pulled by horses.

Along about this time I saw my first car travel the road by the Snow School House. It wasn't going much faster than one could walk.

The Old Military Road became State Highway 21 B and the road work began to pick up with state funds. A bridge was built across Crooked Creek just South of Pyatt in 1923. The road was changed to go by Pyatt then going in a northeast direction around the ridge coming off the hill just west of Snow using mostly a Caterpillar tractor, a large grader, and a horse drawn wheeler to haul dirt with, as well as some other equipment. It was graded up and well ditched making it an all weather road through the community. The gravel was hauled by trucks from off Crooked Creek and crushed chat was crushed by a rock crusher that sat just east of Snow. This road was changed to State Highway 12 in 1924.

To my knowledge this was the first Caterpillar in this part of Marion County. The Cat was an army tank used in World War 1. I could see where the bullets hit all over it on the pieces of armor that hadn't been taken off after the war.

They also used another grader pulled by a big steel wheel tractor called a Rumbley. There was no comparison between what it and the Cat could do. Sometimes it had trouble pulling itself. They used the Cat and a cable to pull small trees with. On some of the later ones they used dynamite to shoot them and used the Cat to finish pulling them out. The Cat had a lot of power. I spent a number of days watching them work on the road. I would go with my brother, Joe, when he was working on the road at that time. When they were grading the road I liked to ride with Obbie Pangle on the Cat.

At this time or earlier a bridge was built across George's Creek under the railroad bridge. They poured cement piers and a wood bridge rested on the piers. In 1928 a flood washed out this bridge at the same time that a tornado blew the town of Pyatt away. That same year a lower temporary wood bridge was built with the piers being made of log bins filled with rocks. This was a one way bridge so the traffic could cross over until another bridge was built much higher in 1930. It was built partly over the temporary bridge. For a while one way traffic crossed on the old bridge and one way traffic in the opposite direction crossed on the new bridge. So that made three bridges over one stream at the same place. It was so unusual that it was featured in "Ripley's Believe It Or Not". Of course, the temporary bridge was torn down in a short time.

The road was changed to U.S. Highway 62, a part of the Federal Highway System, about 1929 and with the completion of Cotter Bridge and George's Creek Bridge in 1930 one could see the traffic becoming much heavier. It was then the rebuilding and blacktopping of 62 began more in earnest. However, it was done in a piece meal process. In 1936 the highway was rebuilt from Yellville to George's Creek with a new overpass bridge over the railroad at one place. About 1938 it was blacktopped from the Y on 65 to Pyatt. At this point the progress was held up because Pyatt was trying to keep the highway f rom missing their town. But in 1944 the section from George's Creek to Crooked Creek, below Pyatt following the Old Military Road, was rebuilt, mostly just taking out some of the crooks and hills. It was blacktopped in about 1946. They used chat that was crushed just a little southeast of the church on the old Joe Burleson farm at that time owned by Gaitie Keeter.

While they were waiting for the bridge to be completed over Crooked Creek below Pyatt, the traffic was rerouted just east of Crooked Creek over an old country road through Pyatt on the old highway, crossing the creek and the old bridge. In 1948 the bridge was completed making the highway finished. A wonderful modern highway from east to west across this community and across North Arkansas. Now people from this community saved one third of the time or more it used to take when making a trip to Harrison.

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