This week's conglomeration 'cuff begins with the quarterly meeting of the Benton County Historical Society. The meeting was held at the Decatur Museum building, which served as the Kansas City Southern Railroad depot for many years.
Wasn't it in the 1890s when the trains began rolling up the hills from Sulphur Springs to Gravette and then to Decatur and on south to Gentry and Siloam Springs? And although those red, white and yellow engines are still going through the towns, the KCS now belongs to a Canadian railway company. Those whistles still sound warnings at crossings, but it has been many, many years since those old black engines spewed coal-black smoke that settled on nearby clotheslines filled with clothes on some days.
I'd bet that quarter you're probably thinking, "I wish he'd get on with the meeting." So here goes. The meeting was about "Oral Histories of Benton County," presented by a man, Scott Davis, who has been involved with taking memories from county residents who recalled how the county has grown from a population of about fifty thousand people to today's population of some quarter million who call it home. I think that's right, isn't it?
Mr. Davis showed how some of the memories were caught on film, which helped show how positive thinking and working together produced good results, positive results that have aided the progress that has occurred in rather recent years ... but some important ones were in not so recent years because those are real memories. Seeing the film and having the explanation by Mr. Davis laid the foundation that recommends working today to make positive memories. Such filming may have been taken from people who were attending the meeting, and hopefully, building positive memories today will equal those remembered as far back as when Benton County began shortly after Arkansas became a state in 1836, up through trying times, depressions, wars and even in today's uncertainties. We're all in this together, aren't we?
It's time to move on a bit. The progress surprised me because the old 'cuffer thought the program would be about years and years ago, like why and how the trains were able to come through an area such as what we call Westside Eagle Observer country and how the township of Decatur was almost located six miles east of where it is located today. What's that? This is a tidbit of history I've been going to write about for some time merely to show how an error was discovered.
This is what happened ... It was in 1873 that sixteen county political townships and voter precincts needed to be recognized and re-established, and it was ten years later that this list would be made so a new county map could be printed in 1883. The list was printed in "Goodspeed's 1889 History of Benton County" as follows: Batie, Sulphur Springs, Dickson, Osage, Mt. Vernon, Sugar Creek, Roller's Ridge, Walnut, War Eagle, Esculapia, Brightwater, Colville, Big Spring, Anderson, Wager, Ball, Flint, Hico, Round Prairie, Eldorado Springs, and Wallace.
Following the printing of the list, a petition was filed for a new township called Decatur, beginning at the northwest section of Section 34 in Township 20 North, Ragne 32 West, running south, and then it happened: A clerical error was discovered somewhere in the sixteen lines of description. Township 31 West should be changed to read 32 West, and Township 32 West should read 33 West. "If the error had not been caught, the new township, Decatur, would have been six miles east of where it is located," according to history books which covered Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian counties, as well as Benton's more than 230 pages. It's quite a book that describes Benton County completely in 1889.
Isn't that enough for this time? Could it be roads again, or weather predictions, or maybe even lowering taxes next time?
Dodie Evans is the former owner and editor of the Gravette News Herald. Opinions expressed are those of the author.