Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Board of Home Mi.

A rural survey in Arkansas online

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^ 3^ural S>urtjep in


The Department of Church and G)untiy Life


Watfcn H. Wilson, Ph.D., Superintendent
Anna B. Taft, Assistant Superintendent

c c c ' 156 Fifth Avenue, New York

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BR 555

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A rural


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^ ixural ^urtjcp in


The Department of Church and Country Life



Warren H. Wilson, Ph.D., Superintendent
Anna B. Taft, Assistant Superintendent

1 56 Fifth Avenue, New York

The Field Work and Narrative of this investigation was done by Rev. J.O. Ashenhurst



9 a^ural ^ut\)ej) in ^rfeansas

This Rural Survey of Benton County, Arkansas, made under the
direction of the Department of Church and Country Life of the Board
of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church, was undertaken at the
request of the Synod of xA.rkansas. In the conduct of the survey, a
broad study has been made of economic, social, and religious condi-


tions as well as the educational life of the country, including with the
schools an investigation of all ecclesiastical denominations and social


Benton County is situated in the northwest corner of the State, with
Missouri on the north and Oklahoma on the west. It is in the Ozark
Mountain region and has an average elevation of 1,341 feet. The area
of the county is 876 square miles, or 563,000 acres. Of this entire
area, 235,000 acres are under cultivation. In its topography it is
rolling, hilly, and mountainous with about 35% of prairie land. Num-
erous streams supply it with an abundance of water. Mineral springs
abound and the water is unexcelled for purity and healthfulness. The
climate is of a mild type ; the mean temperature in January being 30"

above zero. Cold spells there are. but they are brief, the coldest being
about 5° below zero. Such conditions make this county desirable as a
health resort and hotels and sanitariums have been established in vari-
ous places.


This survey was l)egun November 15, 1912, and with the exception
of thirteen days in January, continued steadily until March 17, 1913.
I traveled by railroad, buggy, on horseback, and on foot about 500
miles. I called at many homes, cabins in the woods or pleasant coun-


try residences on prosperous farms, talked with men I chanced to meet
on the roads, conversed with groups of men at railroad stations, in
country stores and hotels, interviewed bankers, merchants, railroad
ofificials, real estate men, newspaper editors, representatives of com-
mercial clubs , and consulted county officials and examined county
records. I visited personally more than eighty churches and as many
schools, interviewing ])astors and church officers, and going over the
church records with them, and securing information from school
teachers and school directors.

An abounding and simple hospitality was everywhere extended to
me and it was alvva}'s an inspiring experience to sit before the open
wood fire with the family in one of these hospitable homes and hear
the story of the community life. Although we met as strangers, these

brief friendships would be broken with a sense of regret. This uni-
versal kindness and courtesy offset the difficulties which I met in the
work. All were ready to impart information and to render assistance
when once they understood the purpose of the investigation. Even
those who were incredulous at first afterward expressed their pleasure
and assurance of the good results possible in the siu-vey.

In making the survey, the general unit of the community observed
was the township. The townships are not organized as thev are in
many states and there are no official records kept of township aff'airs.
Many of them are very large, making their study as a tmit very diffi-
cult. In many cases I was able to study in detail several school dis-
tricts in a township and these were my most interesting and satisfac-
tory studies.


The problem of the evangelization and C'hristianization of the rural
districts of America, in its human elements, is resolved into three
factors involving conditions, equipment, and co-operation :




It is the purpose of a survey to learn accurately what the conditions
are. to measure the value of the work that has been done, and to lay
the foundations for future advancement and permanency in the results
of the work of the Church.


The Church in the country is the servant of the fanning community
and receives its support from the farming community. The conditions
of the farming community are therefore of vital importance to the
Church. If the Church is to carry its message to the farmers in the
most eff'ective manner it must be interested in the farmers' business,
home, school, and social life. Accordingly, we take up the study of
the economic, educational, and social conditions of Benton County.


Tlic original settlers of Benton County came from Kenluck\-. Ten-
nessee, North Carolina, Alabama, and South Carolina. Many of them
were from the mountain regions and brought the sentiments and modes
3f life which prevail in the eastern mountains. The population by the
census of 1910 is 33,389. There is an average of 34.8 persons to the
square mile. The population of the distinctly rural parts has increased
3.8% in ten years while the population in cities of over 2,500 (two)
has increased 30.7%. Fifteen townships have decreased in population
anrl sixteen have increased in ten years. The total population has in-


creased 5.6% in ten years. There are 460 illiterate persons, according
to the census report. This is 1.4% of the population. The school
population is 12,328 and 7c>% of persons of school age are in school.
There are 7,605 families and the average size of families is 4.5 per-
sons. There are 110 negroes and one-half of one per cent, of the
people are foreign born. The social and religious problems of Benton
County are, therefore, distinctly American problems and are not com-
plicated Ijy the presence of different races.

Resources and the Farmer's Income.

This is one of the best all-round farming counties in the Ozark
regions. As a rule the farms arc small, the average size of improved
farms being 51 acres. The county has 4,640 farms, 77^^/0 of which are

cultivated by their owners. l"he average value of farm land is $28.00
an acre, an increase in ten years of 128%. The total value of farm
land in the county is $12,136,000. The assessed valuation of real and
personal property for 1912 was $7,734,117.

The soils are cherty loam, sandy clay, and alluvial. The land is
stony in the hilly parts but there is much prairie and bottom land that
is easy to cultivate. The older farms have been depleted in their fer-
tility by continuous cropping but are capable of great improvement by
careful cultivation. The length of the crop season is 200 days and the
annual precipitation is 40 inches.


Benton County is know as "the Home of the Big Red Apple," and
has more than a million and a half apple trees. More apples are raised
here than in any similar area in the world, it is claimed. As high as
1.500,000 bushels have been shipped in one year and a thousand car-
loads in a single season from one shipping point. Many carloads of
peaches and strawberries are exported each year.

While fruit is the chief product, this county is exceeded by one only
in Arkansas in the number and value of domestic animals. This stock
consists of cattle, horses, mules, and hogs, aggregating more than two
million dollars in value. Benton is third in the list of the counties of
the State in the production of wheat and eighth in the production of
corn. The average yield of wheat is 9.6 bushels an acre and of corn is
14.6 bushels an acre.

Other industries carried on in the county are : drying apples in

numerous evaporatiiii; plants, the manufacture of cider and vinegar,
^nd brandy ; there are also charcoal works. prescrvinLi:- plants, canning
factories, lime works, and stone <|narries.

A study of average farms in various ])arts of the county show that
while some farmers are mal<in^ nuMiey, there arc very many who are
barely making- a living-. An average farm in the rough hills in the
eastern part of the county has under cultivation 43 of its (SO acres. It
has 20 acres in ])asture. 15 acres in meadow, and S in corn. \o wheat
is raised, partly on account of the difhculty of hauling a threshing
machine tlu-ou^h the mountains. This is a l)ottom farm and will raise


30 bushels of corn and a ton of hay to the acre. A highland farm in
the same community of the same size has 25 acres of corn. 15 acres of
[)asture and 10 acres of meadow. This farm will produce 15 bushels
of corn to the acre and ^2 ton of hay to the acre. The bottom farm
produces $525 worth of corn and hay and the highland farm produces
$220 worth of corn and hay. Practically nothing is sold oii' the farm
beyond what is necessary for a bare living.

Another illustration is a farm in the same townshi]) ( Roller Ridge),
which was said to be the poorest in the neighborhood. This farmer
cultiv.'ites 15 acres of corn which averages a yield of 10 btishels to the
acre, and 5 acres of wheat which averages 5 bushel to the acre. Tie has
2 head of cattle. 4 hogs, and 2 horses. The products of this farm total
a sum of v$110 a year.


The best larni in this particular nci<;hhorliuo(l has 200 acres. There
is a good frame house, good fences and barns, and signs of prosperity.
The farmer who cuhivates this farm is a native of the township, and is
a skihful and progressive farmer. He cultivates 40 acres' of corn, with
an average yield of 20 l)ushe]s to tlae acre; v^.^ acres of wheat, with an
average yield of 10 liushels to the acre. In addition to this, he has 35
acres of orchard which produces 2,000 l)ushels of apples annually. He
has 40 head of cattle, 6 horses, ami 30 hogs. Products worth $2,000
are sold each year from this farm.

A very large number of the farmers of the county belong to the


class first mentioned and barely make a living. The "best farmer"
jttst referred to is a type of farmer that is not the most common. Con-
ditions are so different that it is impossible to estimate the average
farmer's income for the whole county. There is a great diversity in
methods, soil, products and profits. Yet in spite of the large number
of poor farmers the aggregate of the products of the farms is very
large as shown by the record of shipments from various shipping

From the station of Garfield, situated in a great fruit district where
trees are badly injured by the scale and a very small per cent, of or-
chards are cared for properly, 35 carloads of apples are shipped

From Rogers, the largest city in the county, the annual shipments
are as follows: 500 head of mules, 50 carloads of hogs, 50 carloads of

cattle, 460 carloads of \ineL;ar, \2? carloads of railroad ties and 1.000
carloads of lime.

Decatur, in the Avestern ])art of the county, shipped last year :

33 cars of straw l)erries. e(|ual to 17,356 crates

18 "



6,840 crates

15 "

' apples.


" 7,500 bushels

00 "

' wood.


1,400 cords


' vinegar.


" 1,000 barrels

8 "

' canned gc


35 "

' stock.

From Gravette, in the same part of the county, were shipped last

vear ;

50 cars of cattle, valued at $ 68,400

90 " " hogs " " 108,000

4 " " sheep " " 2,000

Horses and mules " " 8,000

Eggs and poultry " " 136,000

40 cars of ai)ples " " 14,400


Within a radius of six miles around Centerton, in the central part of
the county, there are six evaporators which handle a total of 200,000
bushels of apples, exporting annually $600,000 worth of dried apples.

These shipping figures, cjuoted from points in different parts of the
county, serve to show the varied products and the wonderful possibili-
ties of this country which have not yet been developed. Comparing
them with the average farm products on the poor farms given above,
these figures show, also, that a great diiTerence in the prosperity of
farmers must exist. While there are large orchards and fruit farms
which realize to their owners from $300 to $800 an acre, the great
majority of farmers are poor. They have a saying in Benton County
that "Arkansas is a poor man's country" : it is easy to make a bare
living, but few get rich. They realize that their lot is cast in a country


of great resources and that they are not making- the most of their op-
portunities. A friend living in a cabin out in the hills said that a man
can make enough by working three months to keep his family for a
year. It is safe to say that a majority of Benton County farmers act
on this theory.

Tenancy and Farm Labor.

As in other states, the relation of tenants to the problem of country
life in Arkansas has become important. One-fourth of the farms are
occupied by tenants. The custom of giving one-third of the crop is
general, but 10% of the farms are rented for cash rent. The length of
the lease is generally for one year. Farm laborers receive from 75
cents to $1.50 a day and $18 or $20 by the month.


Fruit raising is the special industry of the county. In the early days
the value of the Ozarks as a fruit country was discovered and for a
long time orchards reouired no special care.

The virgin soil,
Touched by human toil.
Blushed with a harvest of fruit.

Then came the scale and did its deadly work before the farmers
awoke to the knowledge of the ruin wrought. Of the millions of trees
in Benton County, man}' are now dying or dead. Through the efforts
of the Agricultural Department of the State as well as that of the
Federal Government, the Agricultural College of the State, and pro-
gressive farmers, the people are being educated slowly to the value of
cultivating, pruning, and spraying orchards. Great progress has been
made in the past three years and farmers are convinced by such dem-
onstrations as occurred near Garfield recently where an orchard that
was sprayed produced apples that sold for 40 cents more than the fruit
from an orchard on the opposite side of the road which had no care.

The farmers are convinced that stock raising is the most profitable
industry in which they could engage and that their country is admir-
ably fitted for this business. Yet very few are engaged to an extent
worthy to be classed as specialization. The improvement of the land
depends upon the extension of the stock industry as rapidly as possible.

Progressive ideas in regard to the rotation of crops, the value of
clover, the methods of soil building, and the importance of stock are
advancing rapidly among farmers. In spite of the natural con ser va-

tism of the jicople and tlic dirticulties of c-ultivation, tlic increase of the
vahie of lands and of farm products in ton years, as shown by the cen-
sus report, is very encouraging.

The Social Mind.

Means of coiiiiniiiiication. — The St. T.ouis and San Francisco
(Frisco) Railroad traverses the eastern ])art of the county. A branch


of the same road runs from Rogers to Cirove, Oklahoma, and another
branch from Lowell to Monte Ne, a summer resort. A new road con-
nects Rogers and Siloam Springs, the two largest towns in the county,
and is projected westward into Oklahoma and eastward into the unde-
veloped portions of the central Ozarks. The Kansas City Southern
Railroad traverses the western part of the county. The principal towns


on these railroads are, Rog^ers, with a ])oi)ulali()n of 2,820; Siloam
Springs, Avith a pojnilation of 2,405 ; Bentonville, the county seat, with
a population of 1,956, and (larfield, Monte Ne, Cave Springs. Spring-
town, (lentry, Decatur, Gravette, Sul])hur S])rings, lliwassee, Center-
ton, having each from 100 to 700 population.

There are 200 miles of graded roads and a few miles of graveled
roads. Approximately $95,000 has been expended in road building
within the last five years. Mr. King, the inventor of the split log drag,
visited the county in February and addressed the farmers at Rogers
and Bentonville. Under the spell of his eloquence in telling the ro-
mance of the split log drag, 300 farmers were held for two hours, and
at the close of his addresses scores of men agreed to go home and make
drags and drag their roads. As a result of this campaign many roads
in different parts of the county were dragged within a few weeks and
the effects were so apparent that the movement gained rapidly and the
split log drag has become, in this brief time, a fixed institution.

The rural free delivery reaches the great majority of the farmers.
Bad roads and bridgeless streams in the White River hills prevent the
operation of the system in parts of that county. The telephone, how-
ever, leaps these obstacles and is found in all parts of the county. In
many cabins in the hills, the telephone box and the banjo are the only
evidences of luxury. The system of local farmers' lines prevails and is
conducted with efficiency and economy. In an inaccessible part of the
county such a volunteer system was installed three years ago under
the leadership of a public spirited farmer-preacher. The system is
connected by call bells in certain homes, thus dispensing with the ex-
pense of a central. I spent the night in the home of the minister re-
ferred to and he spoke warmly of the advantage of the telephone and
the success of their organization. He gave me a practical illustration
of its use by calling up the doctor who lives twelve miles away and
asking him to give me some music on the phonograph. The good doc-
tor got out of bed in the sweet spirit of sacrifice which characterizes
his profession and set up the phonograph near the telephone, and as I
stood listening with the receiver to my ear, there came over the wire
the sweet strains of 'Nearer My God to Thee." It was a delightful
sensation to realize that this music floated through the dark forest
across mountains and streams into the firelight of this quiet home.

Leadership. — In some communities there are ministers, merchants,
physicians, teachers, or farmers at the head of movements for the gen-
eral welfare. In other communities there are men and women who
have thoughtful and serious ideals for the improvement of their neigh-


l)(jrhoods and country life in general but, who, by the inertia of their
own habit and the drag of existing customs, are unable to initiate any
effective enterprise for the good of the community.

There are features of life in Benton County which indicate that con-
ditions are calling for an efificient leadership. The population is homo-
geneous ; there are no striking social distinctions or classes. But there
are difihculties that arise from this dead level of social conditions.
There is a general satisfaction with things as they are — a lack of am-
bition which has given the world some ground for its jokes and jibes
about the "Arkansawyer." A group of people were discussing the im-


provement of schools and social conditions when one of the company
— a native of Arkansas who boasted that he had never been out of the
State — said, "We don't need improvements ; we are living at the top of
the pile." Too many are satisfied with tliis narrow view of life and
oppose all progress.

Social Organizations. — There are some successful examples of co-
operation among the farmers and fruit growers in Benton County.
One of the most successful of these is the Ozark Fruit Growers' Asso-
ciation. Through these associations the farmers are learning the neces-
sity of co-operation and are developing an aptitude for it. An at:>ple
association has organized recently at Rogers which will buy spraying
material and other supplies and will grade the fruit produced and put
it on the market. It will inspect orchards with respect to spraying,
cultivation, and fertilizing. The most of the organizations for co-


operating among the farmers and fruit growers have a precarious
existence owing to the chfticulty of keeping farmers in hnc.

The most prevalent form of social organization is the lodge. The
Masons and Odd Fellows are the most common in rural districts. They
do not profess to be organizations for general community service and


seldom engage in such forms of work. But the orders have a consid-
erable effect upon the life of the community. At Monte Ne the Odd
Fellows Lodge has had some definite results in the social life of the
neighborhood. It has a membership of 40. There is no church in this
community. At Cherokee City where there are three dead churches
there is a live Odd Fellows Lodge. The average attendance, however,
is 20. The livest thing in the Cherokee City community is the Anti-
Horse Thief Association. A horse was stolen in that community a year
ago and the detectives of this association followed the thief and cap-


lured him and recovered the horse in tlie W'liite River hills. This
societv has 70 meml)ers, all dues paid u]i, and $130 in the treasury. It
has a claim on the community because il has done something. It is
])ossi])le that these dead churches mii^dit he liviuL:; and enjoying- the con-
tidence of the communitv if the\' had done somethintr.




I'here is no feeling of hostility between the church and the lodge.
(Jn the contrary, they are bed-fellows and generally both are freezing.
In most of the jjlaces canvassed, it was found that the attendance of
the lodge was far below the enrollment. In various ])laces the report
was that the lodge was a "drag."

There are few organizations of a social nature outside the towns.


Here and there Farmers' Unions have a feeble existence but they do
not often have deiinite efl"ect on the social life of the people.

Social Centers. — There is not much loafing- at Ihe small country
stores which are quite common in the rural districts. Few of them are
kept open at night. But the people meet casually at these stores and
they constitute the chief social centers that exist in the country. Men
meet at blacksmith sho])s, ijarber shops, and in the streets and stores
of the towns and villages. A few school houses are used for the meet-
ings of the Farmers' Union. In many communities there is an utter
lack of social life. In some lonely hill districts there is not even a
dance. In places destitute of social life the question in regard to the
dance was often met with a decided negative. The merchant at Monte
Ne has acted as agent for the graphophone and has sold a hundred in-
struments in the community, lie believes that these instruments have
had a great moral effect ui)on the homes of the people. The big sellers
are the records of sacred stuff. The heaviest selling records are
"Nearer My God to Thee" and "Shall We Gather at the River?"
Dancing and carousing have fallen off'. They used to have a dance
once or twice a week. When they have their social gatherings now, it
is to listen to the nmsic of the graphophone.

Recreations and Morals. — A few schools in the open country have
out-door basket ball and baseball. A few of the teachers take an active
interest in the games of the pupils but for the most part the pupils are
left to play the old games in their own way. Some communities have
dances Avhile others regard them as a relic of barbarism. A few have
debating and literary societies at the school houses. In some churches
the people meet on Sabbath afternoon for singing. Schools have an
occasional pie supper or box social to get money for a library or other
school supplies. Perhaps S% of the communities have some event in
wdiich all the people take part. Some of the towns have Old Settlers'
Day or Founder's Day which are observed with enthusiasm by the

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Online LibraryPresbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Board of Home MiA rural survey in Arkansas → online text (page 1 of 3)