A WAY BACK IN THE EARLY DAYS OF MADISON COUNTY, ARK.
By S. C. Turnbo

On the 5th day of July 1906 I had a pleasant interview with Mr. E. B. (Ben) Hager who was then living on the north bank of the Arkansas River where the McKinzie Ferry is now and is sometimes called the Rocky Ford Ferry. This crossing is at the mouth of Coweta Creek Indian Territory, Creek Nation, and 7 miles from the town of Haskell. Mr. Hager is an early settler of Madison County, Ark. He is a son of C. A. (Christopher) and Almedia (Rogers) Hager. His mother was a daughter of Joe Rogers. Ben Hager was born in Warren County, Tennessee February 29, 1848. His parents left their old home in Tennessee when Ben was less than three years old and traveled in a two horse wagon to the Mississippi River where they sold their wagon and team and embarked with their household on a steam boat and came up the Arkansas River to Pine Bluff where they stopped a few days and then got aboard of another steam boat and went up the river as far as Van Buren where they disembarked and hired a man to haul them to Madison County in a "slow get along" ox wagon. On arriving there they stopped on Holmans Creek a stream that empties into the War Eagle River where they made their home two miles south of the town of Huntsville. Mr. Hager said that when his parents settled in Madison County, Ark. they had 9 living children and 4 of their children had died in Tennessee before they left there. In a few months after settling in Madison County Elizabeth their youngest child was born which made the 10th living children. The names of the other children who were living when we settled on Holmars Creek were John, Tom, Simon, Jim and Robert were the boys and Bibra Ellen, Jane Mary Ann and Charity were the names of the girls. It was in the year 1851 when we arrived in Madison County and all this world’s goods that my father and mother possessed when we got there was provision enough to last us three days, one coon dog and 5 cts in silver. The town of Huntsville at that time contained a few business houses and several residences. The names of some of the citizens who lived in the town were John, Hugh and Tom Berry. The two first named were brothers, Chelsey Boatright, Even Polk, Doctor Sanders, Pat Sanders, Sam Kenner, John Pitner and Hugh Pitner the last two of which were merchants. Sam Alderson and John Simpson. In the country south of town were John Hays, John Boatright, John Proctor and Ambrose Proctor, Baily and David Gilliland who were brothers and Abe McConnell who owned and operated a big tan yard near where Col. Mitchell and his regiment took winter quarters in December 1861. There were also Dick Witherow who was a very old man. Mrs. Lucinda Killian whose husband Sam Killian died in Warren County, Tennessee, then there was the old man Fielding Parks. Solomen and Bill Kimbell who were sons of the widow Kimbell, Joe Simpson who was a Methodist preacher, Jim Phillips, George Ledbetter and Henderson Bohanon and his son Bill.


My father was a Methodist preacher and held and assisted to conduct a number of revival meetings at his own house and other settlers dwellings or under an harbor made for the purpose where there was plenty of good spring water to drink. I had no oppertunity to attend school before the breaking out of the war but I went to school one month just after the end of the war. This school was taught at the Parker School House by Mrs. Jacobs whose husband was killed in the war. She was a daughter of old Bobby Black. Many of the old settlers of Madison County would go on camp hunts for big game. The chief hunting grounds for the men of our neighborhood was usually on the head of Drakes Creek a tributary of Richland Creek. I remember on one occasion when it was lapping time for bear, my father took me out with him and his friends on a bear hunt. I was a boy and did not count for a man but they made me useful about the camp to cook and take care of camp while the men was hunting. The men took their guns, dogs, pack horses and an ox wagon. The horses were used to carry the fresh meat and hides to camp and the wagon and oxen were used to haul it home. I remember that Ephraim Gourd, David Russell and John Proctor went with us on this trip. The time was in the fall of 1857. This time we went into the mountains up toward the head of the War Eagle River where we killed 11 bear during one day on this trip which gave the hunters plenty of work in removing the hides, caring for the meat, and taking it to camp on the horses. I well remember an incident one day just after they had slain so many bears. One of my fathers dogs was named Sweeper. He was a favorite and faithful animal on the chase. On that day the men had all scattered out on the hunt. Very soon my father returned to camp and reported that he had killed one hear and Mr. Gourd had killed another one and was pressed for help and he took me back with him to help take care of the meat. On our way back the dog, Sweeper, encountered an old bear and two yearling cubs. As the dog darted at the old one she whipped the young bears and made them climb a tree. She followed and made the cubs go further up the tree. This was in plain view of us and when ray father got in close gun shot range of the bears, I sit down behind him while he shot and reloaded his gun and continued to shoot until the trio of bears had fell out of the tree and lay dead under the bows. These three and the other two made 5 bear killed that day and these added to the 11 other bear that had been killed in one day made a total of 16 bear killed on this trip. This was the most exciting and successful bear hunt that I ever was on. It furnished us all an ample supply of bear bacon for summer use. We not only accumulated a fine supply of bear meat but the men killed several deer and added to it all we took home some rich honey comb, Do not understand me to say that we took all this meat hide and honey back home in the one wagon for we had to send back home for another wagon and team of oxen to help take it all."

Mr. Hager says that his father was 88 years old when he died. His death occurred in 1898. He is buried in a grave yard near Crawford Texas. His mother also died in Texas and is buried in a grave yard on the Brazos River 18 miles above the city of Waco.

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