AMONG THE PIONEERS OF RICHLAND CREEK
By S. C. Turnbo
Among the pioneer women of Madison County, Ark. is Mrs. Mary Ann Fritts daughter of Caleb Smith Hankins and Jane (nee Hankins) Hankins and was born on Richland Creek 12 miles west of Huntsville July 3rd 1838. Her father and mother were cousins and were married in the state of Tennesee where her father was born In the year 1813 and died the 6th of February 1906 at the age of 93 years and was buried in the Pinacle Graveyard on the top of the mountain five miles from Richland Creek and two miles from White River. Her mother died in 1839 and lies buried in the Gibson Graveyard one mile from Wesley. In giving a brief history of herself and old time neighbors on Richland Creek she said that her and Charley P. Fritts son of John Fritts were married September 23, 1858. She said that the ceremony was performed at the home of her husbands father who lived on the south side of Richland one mile and a half above Wesley. Thomas Dotson a Baptist preacher officiated. Her husband died January 19, 1894 and lies buried in the family cemetery on the John Fritts Homestead. Mrs. Fritts says that among the names of the pioneer settlers along Richland Creek were George Sanders and Rhoda his wife, Jim Homely and Jennie his wife, Henry Fritts and Charity his wife. Henry was a brother of John Fritts her husbands father and also a brother of George Fritts who lived on White River in Marion County. Henry died long before the war. His wife died on the middle fork of White River and her body was brought to what is known as the Baptist Church House Graveyard where it received interment. Other settlers who lived on Richland were Boles Shoemach, John Austin, Alax Ross, John Homely, and his two grown sons Burrough and Jim. "My father and mother" said Mrs. Fritts "come to Richland Creek with their parents when they were small children. The settlers cabins were far between but they managed to make up a little subscription school which was taught in a small log hut by a man by the name of Isaac Drake. They were nearly grown when this school was taught and they both attended it and as the government in the school room was rather loose they did some sparking and made up their minds to marry and were betrothed in the school room during school hours and to complete their marriage ties they were married in this same building which was afterward known as the Baptist Church House and stood one half mile above Wesley. The old log building has disappeared long ago. The first and only school I ever attended was taught by John Wright in 1846 when I was 8 years old. Seats were made of logs with blocks of wood or stone placed under the ends of the logs to make them high enough to sit on. The house was made of round logs. Emiline Wright was one of my particular associates at this school. Ozan, Newt and Wash Sanders, children of George and Rhoda Sanders were students at this school. William Lawson was the first man who sold goods at Wesley. He lived to be a very old man and went totally blind before he died. The first preaching I ever heard was done by Andy and John Buckhanan and Ben Pearson. The two first named were brothers. These men were Presbyterians. This was in 1844 when I was 6 years old. They held a protracted meeting of two or three weeks on Richland Creek above Wesley. These meetings were known then as camp meetings, following this were several other camp meetings held on the creek. My parents were much interested in the big meetings and would take all of their children with them to hear preaching. In those early days parents would not remain at home if they were able to go and say to their children Oh go along if you want to I guess we wont go. They would lead the way. It did not seem that people went to meeting then to see and be seen, to make a noise and show their fine clothes. We would dress in our common home spun and many of us go barefooted. We would go in ox wagons, ox carts, walk or go on horse back and would often ride bareback. It was not surprising to see people attend meeting then who lived from 9 to 20 miles distant. These were good old times then for the inhabitants seem to possess common sense for there was no foolish fashions and styles to follow then. I remember that in 1845 while one of these camp meetings were being carried on a young couple were united in marriage in the presence of a large congregation. The contracting parties were Elias Harold and Miss Lucinda Austin. This occurred on the creek one mile and a quarter above Wesley." In refering to the cemetery at Wesley, Mrs. Fritts says that an infant child of Mrs. Annie Lawsons who died in the early 50s was the first interment there. She also says that the first time she was at Fayetteville she was 10 years old or in 1848 and she recollects that the two Suttons, Jim and Senaca and Jim Allbright were merchants there.
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