The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

The well known milling establishment situated on the Little North Fork in North Fork Township Marion County, Ark. called the Hollinsworth Mill was built by the Hollinsworth Brothers, Robert and Lemuel. On the opposite side of the creek from the mill house is a bluff which follows the course of the stream like a rainbow up near the top of this bluff and just below the mill is a precipice. The mill has been very popular since its completion in 1885. Robert Hollinsworth died March 17, 1899, leaving his brother Lem sole proprietor of the mill and the farm there. Robert was buried in the graveyard at the Price School House which is situated on the Pontiac and Oakland Road in school district No. 11 and some two miles north east of the mill. I am informed that the first interment here was the dead body of John Price who once lived near where the school house stands. Among others who lie in this cemetery is Frank Lance the 13 year old son of Isaac Lance who was murdered one night in July 1902 on Mountain Creek in Baxter County, Ark. One day the writer had a pleasant interview with Lem Hollinsworth at his home and he related to me a few interesting sketches of his and brother "Bob’s" trials before and during the building of the mill. Lem Hollinsworth was born in Howard County Indiana October 30, 1854. His brother "Bob" was 9 years his senior. His parents Absalom and Annie (Pemberton) Hollinsworth was born in Miami County, Ohio, his father being born December 6, 1812. His mother was born October 9, 1815. They were wedded to each other in this same locality where they first saw the light of day May 21st, 1834. Some years after their marriage they left their original 1835. home in Ohio and located in Howard County, Indiana. When the Civil War broke out Mr. Hollinsworth and his older sons served a one hundred days enlistment in the Union Army. The family held to the society of friends or Quakers and were opposed to war (What a blessing to the people of the United States if everybody had been Quakers in the early part of 1861 and prevented so much blood shed.) In the fall of 1864 the family moved to Kansas and was at Ft. Leavensworth while Gen. Price was making his raid into Missouri. The Federal authorities were pressing every able-bodied man into the service they could find to repel the invasion of the Southerners. Lem who was too young to serve in the Army said that the recruiting officers did not happen to get hold of his father or older brothers which he attributes more to good luck than good conduct. Lem’s father died in Cherokee County, Kansas September 23, 1883 his mother died near Alby Jasper County Mo. March 11, 1869. The people of Taney County, Mo. remember Bob and Lem Hollinsworth when they took charge of the Keesee Mills on Beaver Creek in 1873 and rented it for a term of years. They had made two trips to lower White River on a small boat to hunt and trap in the bottoms but finding it not a very lucrative business they began a correspondence with Capt. A. C. Keesee and Willis Keesee Proprietors of the Beaver (Keesee) Mill and rented the mill and leaving the sickly swamp they made haste to get into the hills of Taney County. In speaking of their journey on foot to Beaver Creek, Lem said that they struck Big Creek at Jack Nance’s and going on to Beaver they found only one family living between Nance’s and Beaver Creek and that was Cornelius Johnson who lived on the ridge 3 miles from the mill. The whole country seemed so thinly settled that it was discouraging to take charge of the mill here. Isaac Brown lived on a joining farm to the Keesee land. There was also a small Sunday school organization in Tennison Hollow some 3 miles from the Mill. We believed that our patrons would be scarce but the proprietors of the mill assured us that we would have plenty to do, and we did for we had no lack of custom. Instead of having to sit down and do nothing we were soon crowded with customers from far and near. Occasionally we had no rest time during day or night for a week at a time." soon after the expiration of their time at the Mill, Lem said that he and his brother Robert and Jim Everette of Forsyth selected the situation on Little North Fork for the building of a mill. "We three contemplated erecting the mill in partnership but finally Everette declined to assist and I and Robert went it alone." said Lem. The undertaking to build a good mill with such small means as they possessed at the time presented a dark future to the boys but each was endowed with plenty of pluck and industry and they went to work with a will. They were compelled to cease work on their mill building at times and go and hunt a job of work somewhere else in order to obtain money to pay for the necessary machinery. The first permanent start they made was to purchase an acre of land from Charley Hassell for the mill site for ten dollars. The farm where the mill stands was once known as the young Mike Yocum Place. Yocum was a brother of Asa, Bill, Harve and Jake Yocum and was a son of old Uncle Mike Yocum who once lived at the mouth of Little North Fork. Then they paid $200 for a Leppel wheel or double turbine water wheel of the firm of Jennings and Goslin who had built a grist and saw mill on Bryants Fork, but the entire establishment had been swept away by a great freshet in the stream. The wheel including the coupling knuckle is supposed to have weighed 7000 pounds or more. But the unprecedented rise of water and the current was so swift and strong that the wheel was pushed about ½ of a mile down the creek and was found in the creek bottom where it was partly imbedded in the sand and gravel. "We paid $200 for it as it lay in the dirt. The original owners claimed that they paid $1200 for the wheel including the cost of transportation. It took I and my brother Robert one week of busy work to dig the wheel out of its bed, unbolt and prepare it for transportation to Little North Fork on wagons, and it took more time and hard work to haul the outfit. We bought the curn burrs from Barney Parrish of Forsyth who had bought them for his own use many years before, and had come to pieces before we contracted for them. Parrish had never used them. When we purchased them we cemented and rebanded them and put them to use. The Burrs we use to grind wheat was used by Anderson Chapman at that beautiful East Sugar Loaf Creek. There he run a saw and grist mill from the latter 60’s to the early 70’s. One day at the Chapman Mill while the miller was running the burrs at a high speed they come apart at the cemented seams and the blocks "flew off the handle" and wounded the miller. These burrs are 38 inches across, the corn burrs are 4 feet across. It is unnecessary to go into every detail in the building of the mill but I will state that we had a hard struggle in getting it ready for business. There is an amusing incident connected with it that I will tell you which will probably make a little past time reading for some fun-loving person. In the fall of 1880 we hewed out part of the timber intended for the mill in the vicinity of Forsyth and after hauling the pieces to town we put them together and launched them into the river and floated them down to the mouth of Little North Fork and tied them as we thought secure until we could take them out of the water. Unfortunately before we did so the hard winter of 1880-1 set in and froze the river over with thick ice. This lasted until the 20th of January when it come a thaw and rain which swelled the river four feet high, which broke up the ice and tore our timbers apart and carried the most of the pieces down the icy current of water. After the waters had went down we searched both shores and all the iselands for 12 miles below the mouth of Little North Fork without finding a stick of it. We continued to hunt for the pieces some time after but without success. Why we lost so much time in looking for the lost timbers I am not able to state unless we were following the example of the old darky who had lost a copper cent and continually hunted for it but was never able to discover its whereabouts. One day several years after the old colored fellow had lost his piece of money a man came along and seeing the darky still hunting for the copper he said to him "Why do you hunt for the copper cent so much for you waste more time than you receive profit". "That is all true" replied the old colored friend "But Massa, I am so anxious to know where my copper went to." And that was the way with I and Bob we wanted to know where those pieces of hewed timber had went to. As our long search was fruitless we had to prepare new pieces, but we did not go back to Forsyth to procure them. Though I and Bob have met with plenty of ill luck but we deemed it useless to be always complaining for growling at misfortunes in financial matters is almost sure to make things worse than better. Among our mishaps is one that I remember distinctly. We had bought 500 bushels of apples from Captain A. C. Keesee and hauled them to the bank of the river on the John E. Williams land where we put them on a boat prepared for the purpose of carrying the fruit down the river to sell. This was in the fall of the year and we expected a rise in the river in the latter part of November, but there was not sufficient rain fell to raise the river until the last night of March. By this time a big lot of our apples had rotted and we assorted the entire lot and threw the defective ones away. Then Bob and Charley Yandell started down the river with the remainder. The water was still low, but the boat men had splendid luck until they arrived at the Bull Shoals in Marion County where in passing over the rough shoal water the boat was forced against a rock by the swift current and a hole was knocked in the bottom of the boat. The craft struck the rock in such a shape that it hung on the rock and partly filled with water and ruined part of the apples Yandell and my brother went to work and took about 100 bushels of apples to shore. On hearing of the mishap I went down to assist the boys and we were two weeks in patching the hole in the boat and baling out the water and assorting the apples again then we made another started and succeeded in arriving at Batesville where we sold part of the apples we had left, then went on to Jacksonport and Newport and sold the remainder we averaged them off at ten cents per dozen and $1.00 per bushel.

"I do not know whether you admire kuklux tales or not" said Mr. Hollinsworth. "I never was mobbed nor threatened by them as far as I know, but the stories I had heard about them sounded frightful to me and of all things that I wanted to shun it was a kuklux. I tried to fix it up in mind what they looked like. I knew they were not insects, birds or animals, but I imagined they were something that resembled a human. I had heard that Arkansas was full of these monsters and I was constantly in dread of them. I had done no wrong to deserve their anger, yet I believed they would destroy a fellow whether they liked him or not. In the fall of 1872 when we crossed the line over in Arkansas I and Bob bought lumber at Van Winkles Saw Mill which I think was in the northwest part of Carroll County and was 5 miles south of White River. After hauling our lumber to the river we built a small boat to go down the river on a hunting expedition, not taking time to build a strong boat but rather a rickety affair we put aboard our guns, ammunition, bed clothes, wearing apparel, traps, and provision, and between Christmas and New Year’s Day we started down the river. The channel that far up was narrow. The weather was cold with snow on the ground. After a day’s run down the river one side corner of our boat struck an old stump in a shoal or glanced it rather and the boat shot around and lay cross ways in the shoal lodged midway against the stump each end of the boat rested against and object. The upper side of the boat was forced under the water and ourselves as well as all our freight got soaked in the cold water. We managed to get to shore by wading and walking on a drift and went a mile below to Wash Rollers at the crossing of the river known as Roller’s Ferry where we dried our clothes and procured more provision and borrowed a cable rope and went back and prepared a Spanish windless and pulled the boat to eddy water and saved part of our things and remodeled the boat and went on downstream. As I have said before, I was afraid of the kuklux for it was my first trip in Arkansas and as we floated on down the river I kept a close watch out for their forms to suddenly appear on either shore. Bob was not afraid of them and laughed at my fears. In a day or two the weather warmed up and Bob grew gaily and sang lively political songs that made my hair almost push the hat off of my head to listen at. One of these songs were about John Brown and Jeff Davis. I did my best to persuade him to hush but he went on with his singing the same as if he had been in the extreme north part of the United States. I can remember only a few words of the song but a line or two was similar to these words ‘John Brown with his knap sack strapped on his back, and we’ll free the niggers without the least doubt. And we will hang Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree". I pretested strongly against Bob singing such stuff for we were in the wrong country to sing in favor of John Brown and against Jeff Davis. The kuklux might hear him and catch us and make us look up something worse than a sour apple tree, but my arguments had no influence with Bob. He said this was a free country and he wanted to sing what he pleased. My fears proved to be groundless for if we met any kuklux I did not know it for instead of being mistreated by the people who lived along the river we received the kindest of treatment and there was nothing said about Arkansas being full of kuklux and I quit giving heed to any more kuklux stories and was troubled no more with frightful dreams of these much talked of imaginary demons," said Mr. Hollinsworth. "You say you wish to know If I killed plenty of game in these Arkansas hills while the deer lasted. Well, no, not much and so I have nothing of interest to give you in this line except one item which I proceed to tell you. Bill Gatling learned me how to call turkeys without using a leaf or instrument of any kind. I can "put" and yelp just like a turkey (Len showed me how he did this and he certainly can excel a wild turkey in "putting" and yelping). Before I learned this art I had tried to creep near enough to a flock of wild turkeys to shoot them but it was not a howling success. After Gatling learned me how to call them I practiced the art until I made a success of killing all the wild turkeys I wanted. A good many years ago when I knew but little about killing turkeys I went out late one evening on head of the Kuzley Hollow without a gun and saw a flock of turkeys flying up into the timber to roost. This locality is about 2 miles from our mill. I went back home where we lived in a log cabin on the west side of the creek and waited a day or two before I went out to make an attempt to kill one for I thought they would return to the same roost every evening and sure enough I saw a lot in the same trees one evening near dusk. It was winter time and snow lay on the ground in spots but the air was not very cool. In order to creep up in gun shot range of the turkey I stopped some distance back and pulled off my boots and leaving them I went on in my sock feet a short distance and stopped until it grew dusky. Then I went to a convenient spot near a tree that some turkeys were sitting in and shot at a turkey and missed and away flew the entire flock and the turkey hunt was broke up for that night at least. I turned around and started back to get my shoes and put them on, but after floundering around some time in the dark I failed to locate them. After a while I concluded to strike a light, so feeling around where there was no snow I collected some dry leaves and felt about for a pine knot until I found one and whittled some shavings off it with my pocket knife and placed them on the leaves and poured some powder on top of the fuel then took my flint and piece of steel and struck them together. As I did so I held my face down close to the powder when all at once the sparks of fire ignited the powder and flashed up and burned my face and scorched my eye lashers off and failed to set the fuel afire. I abandoned my efforts to make a light and struck out toward home in my sock feet and I had a dismal time before I reached home. Next morning I borrowed my brother Bob’s boots and went back and recovered my shoes. You can write it down that this was the last time I ever took off my shoes to creep on a turkey or deer either". said Mr. Hollinsworth. Robert Hollinsworth was never married, but his brother Lem has been married twice. His first wife was a daughter of James Pasco. One day between 11 A. M. and 12 N. she was bitten on the knuckle of the right hand by a copperhead snake two feet in length. Mr. Hollinsworth was at the mill when she was bitten and did not reach the house till some time afterward. The family had given her a little over two pints of whiskey to drink and Lem found her in a comatose condition which she never roused from. A physician was sent for but she was beyond all medical aid and died at 1 A. M. that night. She was buried in the graveyard at the Promised Land Church House. Her name was Martha Jane.

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