Thursday, June 3, 2010

Indian Cave on Calico Rock Bluff

Click images to enlarge.

View Video Here.

A property-owner from Calico Rock, Ed Matthews, recently asked the EIC Crew to visit the site of an interesting and very unusual cave within the city of Calico Rock. Ed and others with properties near the cave have long wondered about the origins of the unique rock walls that have been built inside the natural shelter and asked us to investigate and add our insight.

On Saturday, May 29th, 2010, the EIC Crew, joined by Tony McGuffey and his wife Roberta as well as by Jeff and Laura Snyder, visited the site during a preliminary trip to prepare for a future expedition to more thoroughly investigate what we found. The cave, which lies only a few feet from a main County Road, has a carefully concealed entrance, the mouth having had a stone retaining wall built in front of it and backfilled to create a small slit in the earth with steps leading to the cave below. The natural shelter is approximately 40 feet wide and as many feet deep with walls constructed of stone to create three seperate rooms resembling a warehouse or underground dwelling. In fact, a natural hole in one wall of the cave opens into a small chamber containing clear, fresh water which stands in a natural reservoir. This "cistern" is accessible from above the cave as well as from inside. The largest man-made wall runs the width of the cave and sports a doorway and two wondows perched near the roof of the shelter.

The property-owners near the site have never spoken with any long-time residences of Calico who remember anything at all about the use of this cave. No one in living memory seems to have any idea whatsoever how the site was created or for what it was used. Speculation persists.

Some have offered the suggestion it was used as a speak-easy during the days of prohibition. Others have guessed it might have been used as storage for munitions during the Civil-War, we found on our preliminary's very moist inside the structure. Buddy, a local landowner who has lived near the cave for 20 years, told us that they had tried keeping potatoes in the cave but they soon rotted suggesting that the cave would not have been used for the purpose of storing produce of any kind.

Personally, considering the fact that there were many in Izard County during the Civil-War who opposed slavery and who were also defiant towards the Confederacy, I believe it is possible the site could have been used as a stop on the notorious Underground Railroad, though its just as possible some home-owner during the latter part of the 19th century simply built the walls in the shelter cave as a summer home to stay cool during the suffocating heat of the season.

The EIC Crew has asked those who were along for this preliminary visit to the site to share their own thoughts about what we observed. We also invite readers to join the conversation. We will be revisiting this post in the future after we have had a chance to more thoroughly investigate the site. We hope to even dig a few small "test-holes" to see what kind of artifacts we can find which will help to give a better picture of how the site was used in the past...and who actually used it.

We welcome your comments!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Backtrack, Forward - Ho!

I know. Terrible, ain't it?

We set up a journal, start publishing descriptions of our adventures, then just quit!

We oughta be ashamed of ourselves!

Well...hopefully we can spend a little time retracing our steps in a general way over the past TWO DAD-GUM YEARS we've failed to update the EIC Journal! Then, perhaps we can start all over again.

The last entry to the journal (apart from the publication of a letter from our friend, Cindy Cooper) was way back in June of 2008. It covered the hazards of getting out among nature in the hot, humid months of summertime in the Ozarks. We've found over the past 3 1/2 years that the hardest time of the year to persuade ourselves to get out and explore is when the tiny flesh-eating monsters lie in wait and will suck you dry if you've not already been drained by the oppressive heat and humidity! It's MUCH easier to get out in the snow, ice, and cold driving rain than it is to wade out into a field or grove of biting insects, by golly!

Despite the complaints, however, we did manage to learn something during the summer of '08 that has been beneficial to our goal of helping preserve the history and culture of the county. To avoid the weeds, woods, and the perils the former, we began visiting cemeteries in the county. This new tactic really opened up a whole new window into understanding the history and culture of this unique and wonderful place. As we visited these places of rest and began to learn about the lives of those buried there, the colorful and interesting history endeared the county to us even further than previously.

What we've learned over the past couple of years is this:

Izard County was the Wild West before there even WAS a Wild West!

We visited 17 separate cemeteries during the summer of '08. Since then, we've visited 19 more. You can find each listed on the sidebar of Exploring Izard County

Mind you, though we're often apprehensive about getting into the woods during the months of monsters, that doesn't mean we were complete wimps! We were able to visit many wonderful places during the summer of '08 including some of our favorite places like the Trimble House, the Jehoiada Jeffery Homeplace, The A.C. Jeffery Homeplace, The Hunt-Copp Mill remains, and Hobo's Den.

During the summer of '09, we continued our tactic of trying to stay out of the weeds by resuming our visits to cemeteries. We were rewarded by finding such historical jewels as Wayland Arbor Cemetery. But, of course, we also visited other very interesting places like the Rector Log Barn, Moser Schoolhouse, Shady Grove Schoolhouse, and the Pleasant Grove Schoolhouse (converted into a store-building along Arkansas 56.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Note from Cindy Cooper

Following is a moving e-mail I recently received from Cindy Cooper after she viewed our latest post about Knob Creek:

Bring's tears to my eyes... It won't be long until it will start falling in. It seems like yesterday that I was a little girl and would walk over there. Uncle Gralen was blind, but he would always know when I was walking up in the yard...even from where he always sat at that window in a rocking chair. I always said he could see... because he was always at that window...but he couldn't. My Aunt Grace would be cooking in the back-kitchen and Great Grandma Turis would be settin' on the front porch swinging. She would have her little can of snuff and she'd roll her little stick in it then put it in her mouth. Her hair was long and she would unroll it and show me how she'd roll it back up.

They had an old grandfather clock that sat on the mantel and Aunt Grace would always wind it up just for was stolen some time ago. I remember a white crochet bed spread that was on the bed . It was so beautiful to me. Out in the smokehouse, they had a grater that grandma would go get out and let me play with.

I remember those flowers being planted . She had some that were all different wild flowers. To this day, Easter flowers and wildflowers are my favorite!

I remember the old barn in back and the cows Aunt Grace milked. Out to the side of the barn was her clothesline, then a fence, and over from the fence was her garden. The road at that time passed in front of the house and up the side. They had a big collie dog like Lassie...can't remember his name. Great Grandma had a pair of tiny glasses. When she passed away someone gave them to me. I've since passed them on to Janet.

Me and Brother Pod would not miss a week to go over there to see them. Of course, Pod stayed at the creek most of the time and I would walk up from the spring from RJ's. Many times, Aunt Grace would give me a bucket and I would walk to the spring and get water for her. She never made me that I remember. I wasn't very strong, but I would always get them water. The cistern was at the side of the house but I just liked going to get them water...guess I thought I was being big.

I remember the newspaper being put up in the walls and closet. Aunt Grace would make up some flour and water and make a paste and put it on the walls.

Well...I have went down a lane Tonight that has me crying! Everyone calls the place “The Robert Cooper Place”, but to me and Brother Pod, it was our Grandma Turis or Aunt Grace's. Brother Ed wasn't born yet, so he doesn't have these memories of growing up on Knob Creek like me and Pod...or the ones we had of grandma Turis. I remember that Doyle was a baby when we saw the bear in the field that scared me and Pod to death! We had Doyle in a wagon.

I don't know how Grandma spelled her name so I guessed at it. She was over 100 years-old when she died in the Calico Rock nursing home. I loved her with all my heart and still miss them all! - Cindy Cooper

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Rollercoaster Recon!


The last couple of months has been completely unpredictable! One should wonder why, though.

One would think that...considering it happens the same way every danged year...that a person would realize that the period of late-Spring to early-Summer is the very BUSIEST time of year. At least if you have kids involved in baseball/softball and church activities!

Heck - One should likewise have come to the conclusion LONG AGO that this time of the year is the most brutal time to be trekking through the bush to see the wonders hidden there. After decades of experience, one should also recollect that hiding among the hidden wonders of Izard...are the hidden MONSTERS of Izard.

Monsters that cling to every blade of grass...leap from every tree - eight legged critters that suck the juices out of you and leave you clawing in agony for over a week! Flying leviathans that likewise leave you scarred...some so stealthy you never know they were even there!

And...though I've personally only had a couple of years to develop my own "dos and dont's" of nature photogtaphy and historical should also quickly retain the knowledge that the Ozark Jungle does not give good visibility of photographic subjects. There are photos (especially of buildings and structures) that are just unachievable this time of year.

And then there's the HEAT!

And the blasted HUMIDITY! should know not to make predictions or plans during the two to three month period of late-Spring and early-Summer! Getting one's self...or gracious landowners out of the A/C to take photos is just too UNPREDICTABLE andsets up a rollercoaster-ride for the enthusiastic explorer.

One should think, anyway.

Now...though we haven't plodded off the beaten track...much...this Summer (the times we have DID spark our memories), we have visited some sights either on...or not far off the highways and backroads. We've seized the season and used this time to get some of the old buildings and historic structures in the county documented for Exploring Izard County. As a matter of fact (I'm making no prediction here), I'm calling the owner of the old Trimble Homeplace today to see if we can set up a visit. The Trimble family made the journey west from Kentucky with members of the Lafferty family and were among the very first white-settlers in the county! The house still stands...and because it has been officially carbon-dated...we know it is the oldest known house standing in Izard.

Though we'll make no predictions for a month or two, one thing's for certain!

We'll continue to take every opportunity to seek out and visit the amazing wonders that Izard County offers!

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Note from Mrs. Mary Lafferty Wilson

"I started to write this two weeks ago and got side tracked. I just want to say that I really enjoyed the road trip to see the schools and other sights. I enjoyed meeting everyone there. Listening to the stories about your lives and those of your parents and grandparents. Seeing the photos of your parents, grandparents and great grandparents. It was such a delight.

I had been in Izard County twice before but both times we went down toward the town of Lafferty and the first time the Mill was still standing but I do not remember if it was still there the second time. The house of Sarah Lafferty Lindsey we were told was down a road that we needed a 4 wheel drive to get through. I am not sure that it is even standing now. We never did get down that road as it had rained we were afraid of getting stuck.

I really enjoyed this trip to Melbourne and the areas that I did get to see. The old history book says that people in Izard county are nice and polite and I you are all evidence of that.

I was wondering if there was a genealogy group in Melbourne for Izard county. There is so much history left there and someone should take time to interview all the older generation that remember their parents and grandparents and put a book together for the County, for future generations and for those whose roots are in Izard County.

When I talk about Izard County I feel like I am in a genealogy time warp. My ties to the county are to the first settlers there.

My father James A. Lafferty was born in 1875 in Young County, Texas, my grandfather John Annis Lafferty in 1838 in Carrolton, Arkansas (my grandfather was born 104 years before I was born), my great Grandfather Jacob Binks Lafferty in 1796 in Franklin Co., Georgia he arrive from Sumner county Tennessee in 1810 in Izard County as a young man along with his father John Lafferty born 1759 in Ireland Also with them was the mother of the Lafferty children, Sarah Lindsey.

Sarah was related to Caleb Lindsey, who started one of the first schools in the area, and Eli Lindsey who brought the word of God to the area.

It was interesting that you all knew your grandparents and some of you your great grandparents. I enjoyed the stories you told about your parents and grandparents and the part they took in building a community that you have all been part of."


"I was the last child of James Lafferty (number 15) that he had with 3 wives.

My lack of knowledge of my fathers family spiked my interest and I tracked down my half siblings and we put together a book of descendants of Jim Lafferty. His first child born in 1904.

From there I wrote "Lafferty, genealogy, legend, history, myth". a 400 page book copy written 1995 and I traced the descendants of the old Izard County pioneer and at that time I had found 1200 plus descendants and their stories and history. Since then I have continued to add to my database and if God gives me time, I will do another book next year.

The Lafferty's of Izard County married into many of the early families there and the Lafferty genealogy links with the Criswell (5 Lafferty/ Creswell marriages), Hankins, Bundy, Dillard, Hams, Billingsley, Shell, Denton, Sheid, Herman, Clem, Guffey, Clay, Campbell, Hickman, Curtis, Caulder, Brazaele, Nailor, Fletcher, Reinhart, Hooper, Sipes, Slover, Maples, Woody, Hodges, Harris, Tinkle and many more.

It has been interesting to follow the families and find descendants in many parts of the country. To know that their ancestors and kin played a part of the history of the early settlement of Izard County.

I am excited that some people have spiked interest in working toward the preservation of the Schools. The School played such an important part in the settlement of the area. Those one room schools were a long way from the first school in the area where Caleb Lindsey gathered the children of the neighborhood in a cave in what is now Randolph County and taught Elementary school there.

I hope to see you all again when we have another road trip in April of Next year. Maybe even sooner."

Mary Lafferty Wilson

You can find the website Mrs. Mary hosts for on the sidebar. Mrs. Mary wants everyone to "please feel free to contribute information".

Monday, April 28, 2008

EIC...Two Years On's the second anniversary of the first post at Exploring Izard County!

Our event this past Saturday, the Ozarks Skoolin' Road Trip, was a wonderful success in every area and the perfect Birthday Party for EIC. We had some wonderful stories shared by interesting people swapped our own stories with those of our readers ...other lovers of Izard. While having a fun day enjoying the Izard County spring at some very special places, we also were able to raise money for the restoration/preservation of the Old Schoolhouse at Lunenburg. We were also successful, I believe, in getting across to those who participated in the event the importance of doing what we can to help restore/preserve other historic sites in the county including Lunenburg's sister, Te Old Scoolhouse at Mount Olive.

We visited the Clay Cave, Athens Courthouse Site, Piney Creek, and the delightful arroyo above Piney Creek on the Gorby Road before driving on to our final destination, Knob Creek Church.

We were graced by the presence of Mrs. Mary Lafferty Wilson (the great-great grandaughter of John Lafferty himself and avid family historian) and her husband Art. I met Mrs. Mary online by accident sorta...and have enjoyed our e-mail exchanges since. Her passion for the history of her family and its role in the development of this area is inspirational to me.

The deeper I get into the land and the people who dwelt in the land...the more determined I am to learn, document, and share all that I can share. This county deserves to be noticed. Its history deserves to be re-discovered!

Thanks everyone, for encouraging us to do more of what we've been doing. I know that your interest is what drives me personally.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Lunenburg, Hunter Mountain, Pumpkin Central, and Mount Olive

We were busy this weekend! Finally...the flu-bugs and the weather took a breather and allowed us a constructive couple of days.

Saturday morning, Newburgian and I drove out to Lunenburg and got some shots of the old stone Schoolhouse there. The people of the community have recently been working hard to clean up the grounds of the school...which is also the site of the old wooden structure that finally fell down in the late 1980s. The steps and parts of the foundation of that building can still be seen. The community has very recently received a grant to go towards restoring the old stone building and the check was presented to them last week at the Capitol in Little Rock by Governor Mike Beebe.

While in Lunenburg, we took the opportunity to document some of the old abandoned homes along the main street through the old town. There truly is a ghosttown atmosphere in this ancient little of the oldest in the county.

Later in the day, HillbillyRecon and I drove out Jumbo Road and onto an old, old track that led to an old one-room wooden schoolhouse that we were unawre of until very recently. We still are not quite sure what ti was called in its day. It sits atop a little rise above a "branch" and sports quite a long rock retaining wall complete with steps. It was a surprise to find such a well-preserved example of one of the old wooden one-room schools so far off the beaten track.

From there, we drove the track down to where the old Richardson house stands. The Richardson house is a period log cabin that is slowly wasting away but is still restorable. It sits a few yards above the bank of Mill Creek downstream a little ways from Pumpkin Central.

After leaving the Richardson place, we headed back around through town and out Knob Creek Road to climb the steep slope of Hunter Mountain to visit the Hunter Mountain Cave. The cave's entrance is similar to that of Stone Box Cave...a deep crater in the side of the hill. There are two entrances once one descends the conical slope to the bottom of the crater. A quick look inside afforded a view of a seemingly unstable structure but also the promise of an intersting cave-crawl in the future. This cave is rumored to go through the mountain to another opening along a bluff...another excursion, perhaps.

Sunday afternoon, HillbillyRecon and I drove to Mount Olive where we documented the old stone schoolhouse there...the sister to the school at Lunenburg. The building is an almost exact copy of the one at Lunenburg and still has the original tile roof! Though the floor is a bit rotten, and the widows are all but gone, this building is awe-inspiring. Great craftsmanship is apparent in the structure of this amazing old fieldstone schoolhouse. Even the large cistern in the rear that serviced the school and its patrons is an example of great workmanship.

After visiting the school at Mount Olive, we explored the grown-up area between the old Presbyterian Church and the railroad track to find the old depot building which is rumored to still partially stand. Although we didn't find that particular building, we came across a giant double chimney towering above the low brush among the thick stand of trees. The chimney must have been a central one in a large home at one time. The perimeter of the old structure can still be made out on the leaf-covered ground. Nearby, we found another foundation of a sizeable building along with its collapsed cistern.

It's not often we have posts stacked up for Exploring Izard County. But this week, we were blessed with good weather and were able to get some amazing photos of some even more amazing places around the county.