Monday, June 18, 2007

VA Excursion: Days 1 & 2

(Internet access at last, albeit painfully slow as far as image uploads are concerned.)

Herein follows the first entry in my account of my trip to Richmond, VA, for the annual meeting of the Pace Society of America (with misc. side trips for further genealogical research.)

Day 1: Sunday, June 17, 2007

I had planned on leaving at 8:00am, but there were so many things to do to finish my preparations that I wasn't able to hit the road until after noon. Starting at Temple, it rained on me off and on for the remainder of the trip. That wasn't so bad until after dark when I found myself traversing a winding road through the Ozark mountains in Quachita National Forest south of Waldron, but I managed to arrive safe and sound at around 9:30pm. A sad thing that this part of the drive was at night. There was just enough light that I could see only hints of gloroius mountain vistas around me.

Crossing the Red River into Arkansas.

Day 2: Monday, June 18, 2007

After a rough night of sleep (the mattresses at the Coachman's Inn in Waldron seem to be made from the finest quality concrete) I got up and had breakfast at the Rock Cafe on main street. This is the sort of rural hole-in-the-wall where the local old folks gather to gossip. I saw a lot of that kind southern rural flavor in this area, at times quite bucolic and charming, and at other times to a degree that conjured up every redneck stereotype touched upon in a Jeff Foxworthy comedy routine: trailer houses with multiple non-functioning vehicles and hunting dogs in the yard, confererate flags, you name it.

Once breakfast was over, I had some time to kill before the Scott County Genealogical Society offices opened, so I decided to go ahead and make the jaunt southeast of town to Parks Cemetery to visit the graves of my great-great-great grandparents, John Miller Martin and Lovinia (Lipe) Martin, my earliest known Martin ancestors. Once out of Waldren, I was able to catch a glimpse of what I had missed the night before. At Parks, I could see the Quachita Ozarks looming to the south. (Picture the Texas Hill Country, but with the hills twice as big, and covered with dense forests.)

Parks Cemetery, looking south with the Ozarks in the background. The graves with the wrought-iron fence belong to my ggg-grandparents, John Miller Martin and Lovinia (Lipe) Martin. Adjoining the fenced-in area are three graves marked only by rocks and bordered-in my a concrete barrier.
A closer look at the Martin graves.
A close-up view of the gate.
John Miller Martin's grave.
Lovinia (Lipe) Martin's grave. The top portion with her name is missing, but a second, smaller stone with her initials is right next to the headstone.

Unfortunately, I was unable to locate any other Martin graves, although I did find a large batch of Wisenhunts (linked by marriage). Many of the graves in this cemetery are marked only but rough stones, and many of the shaped stones are degraded so badly that the markings on them are illegible.

Next, I headed back into Waldren to visit the Scott County Genealogical Society. Unfortunately, they only operate from 11:00am until 1:00pm. I could easly spend a week there researching their collection, so I'll be obliged to come back sometime when I can stay longer. I did manage to procure a copy of "From Memory's Scrapbook: A History of Early Days of Scott County Arkansas" by P.M. Claunts (1938) which contains some first-hand recollections of some of my kin, as well as a collection of Lipe family research. The latter document contained a gold-mine for me: detailed directions to John Miller Martin's property in Black Fork, where he homesteaded prior to moving to Parks. I already had the property description and had located it on 19th century platt maps, but I had been unable to correlate those maps with modern roads and landmarks. With these finds in hand, I proceded to the Scott County Courthouse County Clerk's office to peruse county records. This being my first attempt to search county records myself, rather than relying on the fruits of other people's labors or conducting Internet searches, most of this time was a learning curve, and I didn't really find anything in the short time that I was there. Again, I'll need to return when I can spend more time. But, it was well into the afternoon, and if I wanted to see Black Fork by daylight, I needed to get moving, but not before snapping some shots of the SCGS building and Waldron's Main Street.

I suppose I should explain for a moment my excitement at finding the directions to the Black Fork property. For me, place holds deep meaning. In terms of genealogical research, actually seeing where my ancestors lived tells me far more about how they lived than reams of deeds, wills, and death certificates. Now, I had directions to the very place where my earliest-known Martin ancestors lived. The catch is, the only currently-existing road leading in or out of Black Fork comes in from Oklahoma. Specifically, from a little town called (and I'm not kidding here) Hicks, Oklahoma. (On the way to Hicks, I passed a turn-off leading to Broken Bow, OK. It is pretty clear that the opening scenes of the first episode of "Enterprise" were NOT shot on location in the real Broken Bow. Instead of flat farmland, the real place is mountainous and woody.)

On the Oklahoma side, just east of Hicks, Black Fork Road crosses a TINY iron bridge with a road bed made of wooden planks. To be perfectly honest, I was pretty apprehensive about driving across this rickety relic.

Once Black Fork Road crosses the border into Arkansas, it is unpaved, and I still have the mud spatters encrusting my car to prove it. Black Fork township is the most southwesterly portion of Scott County, although all that remains of the township proper are a church, a few cemeteries, and a handful of scattered houses. The John Miller Martin propery consists of a quarter of a section (a section being one square mile) consisting of four 1/8 of a section chunks arranged in a "T" configuration, with the stem of the "T" pointing off to the west. That portion of the property, marked by where the road crosses the Black Fork of the Poteau River and intersects with a crossroad, lies just over two miles in from the Oklahoma/Arkansas border. The map I found showed a full crossroads, but where Black Fork Rd. should have continued was blocked by a gate leading into pastureland. Judging by the signage on the fence, the property is now a hunting lease.

Everything you see in this photo was once owned by John Miller Martin.

The Black Fork of the Poteau River.

Over the fence looking east....

Over the fence looking southeast. The ridge in the distance is Black Fork Mountain, which forms the southern boundary of the valley.

Just as I was getting into my car to leave, this huge bird swept over the road and landed in the river.

The road back to Hicks just short of the border. The transition back to pavement doesn't show well in this shot.

Back across that acursed bridge!

Having satisfied my curiosity about Black Fork, I set course back to NW Arkansas. I wish I had my camera ready at the time, but just before crossing back into Arkansas just outside of Fort Smith there was a HUGE Choctaw Nation casino. Failing to find a public WiFi access point in Ft. Smith, I continued north along I-540 towards Fayetteville, where I was determined to stop for the night there instead of continuing on to Siloam Springs as planned in order to ensure that I stayed at a place with Internet access. The drive up to Fayetteville was gorgeous, and included a trip through a tunnel through one of the mountains.

Once in Fayetteville, I checked into a Holliday Inn Express and found a fairly decent Thai restaurant. (They definitely moderate the spices. The Pad Prik I ordered had three pepper icons on the menu, but I found it pretty mild.) Tomorrow, after what I hope will be a good night's sleep, I'm heading to Siloam Springs (nothing really to see since I haven't located where my gg-grandfather Lewis Sion Glenn actually lived, but it is along the way), then Gentry to see Lewis' grave, Bentonville for searching the county archives, then a dash across the state to Memphis, TN.

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