In speaking of the amusements of the early days in Sevier county, I neglected to mention horse racing and shooting matches. At any gathering of men the horse race was always the first to come up. A dollar was generally the amount bet on a quarter mile race, but the amount would sometimes reach as high as ten dollars, or even more.
There is something fascinating about a horse race that has a tendency to pull a man into it. I never witnessed a horse race that I did not have a preference and I hardly think anyone else ever did.
The shooting matches were most always for a beef. The distance was usually about forty yards offhand or sixty with a rest, lying down and shooting off a log or chunk, the old flintlock rifle always being the most popular gun in use. What has ever become of the old flintlock? Has it passed away like its former owner? There was always five quarters to a beef. The hide and tallow was considered a quarter, and the sixth best shot got the lead that had been used by the marksmen. Sometimes a match would be shot for money, each one putting in an equal amount and the best shot getting the total purse.
We had a post office in Ultima Thule at that time and one on the Lower Bear Creek at the home of R.D. Wright called Netta Boc (an Indian name meaning Bear Creek). Our mail usually came in once a week from Paraclifta provided there was no high water and it suited the pleasure of the carrier. Part of the time it was carried by an Indian on a pony and like most of the Government help, he did just about as he pleased about it.
After many years a petition was circulated at Ultima Thule to have the route made a semi-weekly delivery. One old citizen refused to sign stating as his reason for not signing it that once a week was often enough for people to get their mail and that it would not be right to put the Government to such a useless expense.
Our part of the country was short on doctors immediately after the war. Dr. Norwood of Norwoodville was drowned in Old River and our next nearest doctor was doctor Bizzell of Paraclifta. He was kept so busy waiting on patients that it was almost useless for anyone in our part of the country to send for him. In bad cases of pneumonia, fever or broken bones Mrs. Lucy McKean (or Grandma McKean as she was called) was most always called in, and as she had considerable experience in nursing slaves, of which the family had owned a goodly number, she was very successful and no one was more ready or willing to care for the distressed than was Grandma McKean.
The worst source of annoyance in these early days was the professional horse thief. Just after the war horse stealing became so common in this area that the citizens commenced to take the matter in their own hands with the implacable Judge Lynch at their head, and dealt out quick justice to several, which had quite a salutary effect for a while at least, no less than six of them having seen daylight for the last time near where DeQueen, Arkansas now stands.
I will give one instance of quick justice which occurred near where DeQueen is now located.
A man with his family had moved into the neighborhood, and he seemed to be the head of a very fine, intelligent family, and everyone accorded him and his family a warm welcome, and he could soon have become one of the leading men of this section had not fate interfered and warped his future.
He had followed farming and merchandising before coming to this area and had enjoyed the confidence of all his neighbors and came to Sevier county bringing with him good recommendations from all his old neighbors. With him came a son in law and two sons.
After they had been here a while horse stealing took a decided spurt, and several of the best horses of the area were missed.
For a time all efforts to follow the trail of these stolen horses failed. Some horses had been stolen from near the present site of DeQueen. After several days search a camp was found in Red River bottom where these horses had been kept for several days, waiting for Red River to go down so they could cross over. After crossing Red River it was an easier matter to follow them, and they were found where they had been sold in Texas by our new neighbors. Other horses which had been missing for a longer period of time, were also found and identified. They had been bought from this same man by unsuspecting Texans. Horses had also been stolen in Texas and brought to Sevier county and sold, as apparently this newcomer was averse to dead-heading in his operation. Some of the Texas parties who had lost horses returned with our Sevier county men and identified their own horses which had been brought here and sold. The long and the short of it being that our newcomer, his two sons and son-in-law were arrested. Just about all the Texas horses were found. Nearly all the people living between Norwoodville and Ultima Thule were notified, and met about two miles below where DeQueen now is. These suspected parties were put on trial, Judge Lynch presiding. They were allowed to introduce any and all evidence that they wished in their own behalf.
After all the evidence from both sides was given, a vote was taken on each defendant separately. The old man and his two sons received the death sentence; his son-in-law having proved an alibi, was acquitted. The boys had but little to say, but admitted their guilt. An old Confederate soldier who was present asked leave to have a private talk with the old man before he was executed. This request was granted, a guard being posted to preclude any possibility of escape. This talk lasted about twenty or thirty minutes.
After the proceedings were terminated the three men who had been declared guilty were left hanging by their necks to a low limb of a large Whiteoak tree in the Bear Creek bottom. Parties buried the three dead men the next day and the remaining members of this family moved to parts unknown.
About thirty years after this event had taken place I met this same old Confederate soldier at McAlister, Indian Territory (Now Oklahoma) and he stated that he told this old man in his private talk that he could do nothing to save him, and that he was going to hang. After the old man saw that there was no hope he made a statement to this old Confederate and told him that he had been following this business for more than forty years and that this was the first time his character had ever been questioned, and that his only regret was that he had been the cause of his two sons coming to their untimely death.
Now let me tell you something, and if you have lived in this part of Arkansas where a sizable number of people have been hung to the limbs of trees, you will not laugh, but will substantiate what I am about to tell you: The limb to which these three men were hanged never leafed out again.
I have, in my lifetime seen several limbs and trees from which men have been hanged, and I never saw one that lived afterward. The limb would die, if not the whole tree. You may ask what the cause of this is. I cannot tell. I have only given you the facts; You can do your own guessing.
In 1881 a simple-minded man named Hall was passing through the country. The Rolling Fork River was full to swimming and there was no way to cross it. Three negroes met this imbecile on the banks of the river, and after torturing him to their satisfaction they threw him in the river where he was drowned. All three of these murderers hung; one from a limb of a large tree; the second from a smaller tree, and the third hung from a Dogwood tree, and all by sentence of Judge Lynch. Within a year all three of the trees from which the negroes were hung, had died.
Later another negro was hung near Chapel Hill for the murder of an old harmless colored man by the name of Charlie Hankins. This murderer was hung one night to a Dogwood tree and within a year of that time the tree was completely dead.
The reader may ask: How many more died by violence in this area? Just wait a minute until I can count them. Well I have finished the count. From Ultima Thule to Bear Creek twenty seven men died either by assault or from mob violence, enough to fill quite a large lot in a cemetery.
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