Volume 5, Number 1, Fall 1973
In 1853 a family by the name of Pearcy settled in Ozark County on Bryant Fork. One of the children was young George Pearcy, then five years old. A few years later the mother died and the father moved with his children to Arkansas. In Arkansas George received regular schooling and also attended academies in Berryville and Mountain Home. During the Civil War George Pearcy served in the MO. Infantry in the years of 1864 and 1865. After his discharge he finished his education and became a school teacher.
While George was teaching school in Greene
and Webster Counties, a few miles to the south, in the north west corner of Ozark County, a man by the name of William Piland established a store near a bend in Little North Fork Creek.
Abstracts show that Mr. Piland obtained the land from the state in 1867. He established a post office in his store in 1870.
George Pearcy came to the Piland store area in 1877 and began operating a mercantile and freight hauling business. That same year he married Mary Turner. She only lived a few months following their marriage.
In 1878 Mr. Pearcy bought more than 1000 acres of land in this area. In October 1878 George Pearcy became the postmaster and in December of that year, changed the name of the village postoffice from Pilands Store to Thornfield. It is said Mr. Pearcy chose this name because of the many hawthorn trees growing in the valley.
In 1881, George Pearcy married Josephine Lyon of Douglas County. It was the second Mrs.
Pearcy that is fondly remembered as "Grandma Pearcy." Mr. Pearcy built a large general store, cotton gin, grist and saw mill and became involved in numerous business interprises. From time to time he sold bits of land within the village for homes and other businesses and finally platted his town property in 1903.
The accompanying map is tracing of a plat contained in an abstract of property owned by Bill Hartgraves of Thornfield. Knowledge of the location of the buildings came from actual observation of the buildings and the old foundations of buildings and from recall of various people in the community. The location of many of the homes existing in the 1890s is not known so these are not marked on the tracing.
You will note on East Main is the location of the Methodist Church. The present building was constructed in the 1930s by Everett Marsh. It replaced one built much earlier on the same site. The original church was small but quite elaborate with beautifully carved woodwork. When the first church was torn down an old Bible was found in the corner stone. On the fly sheet of the Bible was
written many names of local people, probably members of the first congregation. It was placed in the corner stone of the present church building.
The next building is the Thornfield Normal Institute which was built sometime between 1892 and 1894 and was in use as a public school until the mid-1930s when it was replaced by the present school. The old Normal Institute was torn down and its lumber was used to construct the two frame houses (not on map) located just west of the Methodist Church. Some of the old lumber is stored in an old shed near the church.
Mr. Lewis Edwin was the Institutes first principal. The school drew students from a large area. One of the early students was Mrs. Etcyle Haskins, formally Ollie Delp, who lived a few miles south and east of Thornfield. Mrs. Haskins, who until her death, July 5, 1973, lived in Thornfield, was born in 1888 and started attending the Normal Institute when she was nine years old.
She described the school as being a large two story building. There were no dormitories in connection with the school. Students who lived far away boarded with the towns people.
Mrs. Haskins walked to school each day. She told of a time when Rev. Hales young son Elbert, stubbed his toe so badly he couldnt walk. She carried him back and forth to school on her back so he wouldnt miss classes.
Water for the school was obtained from a near-by well and was drawn up with a large home grown gourd.
Glasses were held for students through high-school. There seems to have been no formal graduation exercises as we know them today but each student was presented with a card upon completing the 10th and 12th grades. There are many of these graduation cards yet in the possession of families of the former students.
On down East Main Street was the drug store. The first owner and operator of this business is not known.
ON MAIN STREET
In George Pearcys time a right turn below the drug store led to a ford across the creek and on to the old salt road.
A left turn on Main Street took you past the blacksmith shop operated in the early 1890s by Samuel Humbird.
The next building was Pearcys general store and post office. Part of the old building is still standing. The front half of the store has been removed and the interior remodeled. The roof line has been changed. It is now being used as a barn.
When the store was first built it was a large two story building with a basement. The front part of the building extended almost to the road. There were large glass windows across the front.
The main floor of the store had very high ceilings and so the "goods" on the top shelves could be reached, a ladder glided along on a track.
The upstairs was used at one time as the Pearcys living quarters. Later it was used as the head quarters and practice room for the famous Thornfield cornet band, directed by W. H. Beals.
The upstairs was also used as a voting place and years later, in the 1930s, after the old school was torn down, was used for class rooms while the new school was being built.
Pearcy got supplies for his store from the railhead at Chadwick. The haulers taking produce to Chadwick and bringing supplies back on the return trip, traveled the old Salt Road.
There were many good haulers through the years. Among them was George Graves, who also operated the mill for a time and who was the grandfather of Sherwood Graves of Theodosia, and J. C. Howerton, the grandfather of Marvin Murray who operates the filling station at Thornfield. Mr. Murray recalled his grandfather telling that the trips to Chadwick and back sometimes took several days according to the size of the load and the condition of the road. The road was always rough, not much more than a trail. Mr. Howertons load into Chadwick was often eggs, which he packed in bran to keep them from breaking.
The Pearcy store was the gathering place for the community. It not only housed the post office but also had the largest stock of merchandise of any store for miles around.
Next to the store can be seen the foundation of the old ice house. This too was owned by George Pearcy. During the winter ice was chopped from ponds and creeks and stored, packed in hay or sawdust, for summer use.
Across the street from the store stood the Pearcy home. The house has been torn down but the foundations can still be seen.
It was an elaborate large, square, two story house with porches full across the front and back. When Mr. Pearcy built the house he had the pine lumber hauled in from Rockbridge.
Behind the house was a good root cellar that was in use continuously until about ten years ago.
The Pearcys got their water from a dug well, just south of the house. This well is still in use today and those who have used it say it is only 22 feet deep and can be pumped all day without lowering the water level more than an inch.
The barn just south of the house is still standing and is in good repair. It is a big drive through barn and has a basement. It is still as it was when Mr. Pearcy built it except the shingle roof was replaced by one of tin about 40 years ago. Today the barn is owned and used by Marvin Murray.
Around the curve in Main Street and along the old Hammond road was the picnic ground. This was a popular place for many years for the people to gather to camp, picnic, and swim and fish in a nearby creek.
Probably the most popular event of the year was the 4th of July picnic. Even as late as the 1920s the 4th of July picnic was the highlight of the year for families not only in the Thornfield area but also the neighboring communities.
Mrs. Palmer Wilhoit of Theodosia, who lived about 14 miles south and east of Thornfield attended these picnics when she was a girl.
She said there were usually 100 to 200 people at the picnic. Various people in the community paid about $25.00 for the right to have a food stand on the grounds.
Children and adults alike saved their money for months so they could buy from these stands.
It was the one time of the year that they could buy orange-ade, lemon-ade and ready made ice cream. The ice cream was put up in large tin cans, packed in ice and hualed down from Ava.
Another popular food item was bolonga sandwiches. Vast amounts of these sandwiches were consumed by the crowd.
For entertainment there were base ball-throw racks, horse shoe pitching contests, target gun
shooting, political speeches, and singing programs. At dusk there was a display of roman candles and sky rockets. Later there were dancing on a specially built dance platform.
As was true at most such gatherings, there were those who brought their "moonshine" to drink and to sell. Thornfield 4th of July picnic had a usual number of fights, knifings and shootings brought on by the drinking of "hard refreshments."
Even so, it was a success year after year. Everyone looked forward to and enjoyed the day. Mrs. Wilhoit recalled then even the horses who drew the hacks and wagons seemed to enjoy the gathering.
On the south side of the low water bridge crossing the creek is a deep hole that was used for many years for baptism purposes. Not only did the churches in Thornfield make use of it, but also churches in the surrounding area.
Mrs. Wilhoit recalled that each year Longrun, a village 6 miles to the south, would have a two week revival held in a brush arbor. At the end of the revival the congregation would travel in masses to Thornfield to baptize those who had joined the church.
MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH
Back at the highway (95) you will find a street marked "Church House Road". The Missionary Baptist Church is located just out of town, at the top of the hill on this road.
The land for the church and adjoining cemetery was obtained from Mr. Pearcy.
Mr. Ed Blair and Mr. Tate built the church. It is still standing and in use. For many years Grandma Pearcy was the Sunday school teacher. Mrs. Haskins was one of the children in her class. She recalls that for good attendance, Grandma Pearcy would give the children a beautiful china egg, decorated with flowers. These eggs were the prized possessions of the children.
Down at the general store, there was a parrot in a cage. The children thought it great fun to tease the bird. One time Mrs. Haskins held her precious china egg up to the cage to see what the parrot would do. He grabbed the egg from her and with his bill broke it in many pieces. Mrs. Haskins has never forgotten how heart broken she was over her loss.
One of the customs of the church was an Easter Sunday dinner. Members of the
congregation would bring eggs, crackers and sometimes cakes to church with them on Easter Sunday. Prior to the church services they would build a fire near the church and put a case or two of eggs in a big soap kettle. After church they would gather and dine on hard boiled eggs, crackers, cake and coffee.
The cemetery by the church came in to existance in 1912. Mr. Dave Dean, who died the same year was the first person buried there. Mr. Dean had been one of those who helped dress up the land for the grave yard.
It is in this cemetery that Mr. and Mrs. Pearcy are buried. George Pearcy died in 1914 and Josephine Pearcy in 1934. Their graves are under a huge maple tree and are marked by a large monument.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
Next Article | Table of Contents | Other Issues
Local History Home