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WPA Writer's Project, Mississippi County, AR

Growing Up in the Delta, (2)Letters from De Lois

"The Cotton Boll",  1939 Dell School Annual

"Killing Bares Jungle Casino at Pettyville"

WPA Writer's Project, Mississippi County, AR

Commercial Appeal Newspaper, Memphis, TN, Clara B. Eno Scrapbook No. 2,    Nov 28, 1926

    In the early days of the white man in this section, the bayou called Pemiscot, which has now all but disappeared, extended from a point just south of Cairo and became the upper stretches of what we call the Left Hand Chute of Little River. C. L. Moore, an 89 year old citizen of Blytheville, told me that Hardeman Walker, a pioneer of Pemiscot County, Missouri, and the man responsible for Pemiscot County being a part of Missouri instead of Arkansas, states that in the early days flatboats passed from the Mississippi River below Cairo to this Pemiscot Bayou and descended to the junction of Little River with the St. Francis near Marked Tree, thence down the stream to the Mississippi River again at Helena.

    In the earliest days white men discovered that the Indians had constructed canals near the south end of Big Lake, connecting the Left Hand Chute with the Right Hand Chute of Little River. When this was told to me my mind reverted instantly to an account I read last year in Spanish, in a library in Havana. The followers of DeSoto found canals, so this report stated, in the vicinity of Capaha, the northern most point reached by that cavalcade. . .through America. If all this is true . . .Capaha, the much disputed city of the distant past, might have been located somewhere in the vicinity of Chickasaw Mound or westward toward Big Lake from that mysterious landmark.

Growing up in the Delta

While my father, Curtis Duncan, was fighting his battle with cancer, De Lois Tittle wrote him several letters, telling him how the crops were doing and did some reminiscing along with it.  De Lois works at Dilldine Farms in Half Moon. She grew up in this area and went to Dell school. With her permission I have added some of her letters to this site, hoping her words might bring back some memories to those who spent their childhood growing up on the farm.

                                                                   June 8, 2005

Dear Mr. Duncan,

Well farming is in full swing and things are busy. We could surely use a rain, but that will come when the good Lord deems it to be time. The crops are looking good and hopefully this will be a good year for all of us. We tried to cut wheat yesterday but the moisture is still too high so we have put it on the back burner for a few days. Tons of fertilizer are being put out and we are using the pivots where we have them. Of course there are the usual problems of flats and the men running out of chemicals faster than Randy can service them all. . .I once had a dream of owning maybe 40 acres of ground for him to farm. . .I suppose because I came from a farming background and have never lost my amazement at the constant replenishing of the earth which made me want some land so badly. So I still stay close to my roots in my profession and rejoice as do the men when spring finally arrives and we smell the soil and know when it's time to plant. You know exactly what I mean. When I was a child we learned which soils would make the best mud cakes by the feel and the smell. Of course my mom did not always share our enthusiasm when she would find out we were taking her eggs for the batter. Once I slipped into a hen house to steal some eggs from underneath a chicken. I had seen my mother do it many times, but she would put the egg back. That was very confusing to me until I took the egg and did not put it back into the nest. I learned what a setting hen was in a way I never forgot. She clawed and pecked me and my mother came running when she heard my screams. I was still holding the egg when she arrived. She took it from my hand and returned it to the nest and the hen was happy. I was too young to realize she was preparing for the baby chicks with those eggs. That was one time I did not get a spanking as my mother felt I had already had one which would leave an indelible impression on me. She was certainly correct. Did I quit stealing the eggs? Certainly not, I just made sure I got them from a nest which did not have a hen sitting atop. As I said I came from the farm in the most practical sense. I can still see the ladies around the quilting frames and remember when I first learned to piece a quilt. All was done by hand and sewed with love making many memories from the fabrics used and the time shared with neighbors. How different from today in this fast paced world. The generations which have followed us have lost a great heritage which could only result from the experience and never realized by our sharing in word the lessons of life we learned. How lucky we are to have those memories and foundation upon which to call when we need them....

June 21, 2005



Well it's definitely summertime in the delta and I am glad you are inside and cool. It seems as it gets hotter my errands increase or perhaps I just notice it more. As I am cold natured the heat is a welcome experience for me but as I recall the days when I was chopping cotton it was not always so welcome especially when the wind was so hot and dry. How we longed for some rain and on those nights when it would rain the sound of the spatters heard through an open window were so relaxing and gave the night breeze a cool breath. We did not have an air conditioner and a fan for each bedroom was a luxury not easily afforded. In preparation of the coming summers, we always had to make sure the screens were in good order. That's how I learned to cross stitch though that was not the terminology we used. The term then was just patching the screens. It was certainly effective. When growing up on the farm and arising at 4:30AM to help with breakfast and be in the field by 6:00AM, I had all the fantasies of most farm kids to get a job when I grew up that would not require getting up before daylight. I would sit on the back porch fighting the mosquitoes and make all the plans for my future. The warm nights were filled with the perfume of honeysuckle and gently wisped me away into dreams and aspirations. The next day however was filled with the reality of my present plight but my nights were always there to keep my dreams alive. At this time of year we were looking forward to July as the crops would be layed by. Though getting relief from the chopping there was more work to do as this time was for canning and quilting. Children always worked from an early age so gardening, canning sewing skills were as much a part of our education as going to school. Some would view my childhood as difficult but it really was not. Life was slower and a much gentler time than the busy schedules of present days and filled with love and security. We had no reason to lock our doors at night and could never have imagined the crime of today. I am so glad I have that heritage and the strength it gave me to cope with all the things that happen in life. How lucky I was to have a good foundation  which was provided by good Christian parents. Farming has changed so much since then and how I wish my dad could have lived to see the wonders of it all. The cotton here was more than head high and picked by hand rather than machines so it could be grown even on poor black dirt and nothing will ever be as good as watermelons picked directly from the vine when ripe. Filled with sweet goodness we always ate too much of them and of course the rinds were the choice weapon against siblings and friends. Thanks for going down memory lane with me and perhaps it has stirred some sweet memories for you of days long since gone, but never forgotten. All the promises made I find myself getting up at 4:30AM every morning so I can be at work by 6:00. I suppose old habits are hard to die, but you know I probably wouldn't have it any other way...

 (More letters to come later)

    Several years ago, this copy of the 1939 Cotton Boll was given to me by Mrs. Tom Craig. It is 11 1/2" X 8", handmade and bound by the Journalism Staff:
Editor Jean Overton
Assistant Editor Edith Jackson
Business Manager Bonnie Brinn
Assistant Business Managers Hazle Davis
Maxie Riggs
Production Manager James Baughman
Assistant Production Managers Merle Bullard
Curtis Perry
Sports Editors Clementine Sheppard
Blanche Ross
Social Editor Adell Ketchum
Literary Editor Allene Rylee
Art Editor Catherine Johnson
Sponsor Doreen Swaffar

Senior Class of 1939
Junior Class
President Ruth Henderson President Marguerite Simmons
Vice President Jean Stacy Vice President Blanche Ross
Secretary & Treasurer Bonnie Brinn Secretary Harriet Payne
Reporter Clementine Sheppard Treasurer Mildred Whistle
CLASS ROLL: Reporter James Baughman
Bonnie Brinn Jean Overton CLASS ROLL:
Louise Brownlee Curtis Perry James Baughman Adell Ketchum
Hazle Davis Maxie Riggs Muriel Bullard Harriet Payne
Hoover Delbridge R. C. Riggs Nell Dean Davis Blanche Ross
Ruth Henderson Allene Rylee Dorothy Farley Marguerite Simmons 
Clementine Sheppard Jean Stacy James Farley Ralph Trammell
Edith Jackson Ray Trammell
Mildred Whistle
Sophomore Class
Freshman Class
President Joyce Gill President Allen Stacy
Vice President Paraham Johnson Vice Presidnet David Boren
Secretary & Treasurer Betty Armstrong Secretary Laura Gill
Reporter Mary Lee Mooney Treasurer Emma Crawford
CLASS ROLL: Reporter Elsie Bowers
Betty Armstrong Ouida Martin CLASS ROLL:
Mary Arnold Nancy McClain Leon Avotin Louise Hardin
Clyde Batten Cecil Metcalf Emma Barger Farmer Jackson
Ruth Bell Mary Lee Mooney David Boren Louise Meador
Cecil Benefield Joyce Morgan Elsie Bowers J. B. Manley
Muriel Davis Edna Sigman Lero Burrus Virginia Payne
Russell Delbridge Mara Lou Sigman Ethel Canamore Kenneth Poff
Joyce Gill Max Smotherman Roy Canamore Arthur Pruitt 
James Grice J. T. Tate Emma Crawford Nellie Privett
Dixie Jackson Raymond Wilson Vester Densmore Laura Raines
Paraham Johnson Fred Whistle Curtis Downs Leon Riggs
Mable Jeanne Whistle Carl Duncan Allen Stacy
Laura Gill Ruby Trammell
Betty Yelverton
Seventh Grade
Eighth Grade
Glen Ashbranner Thomas Pruiett Grady Barrentine Mary A. McDermott
Mildred Bell Harley Reams Cleatis Batten Catherine Mooney
James Boren Eddie Ray Riggs Joy Baughman Gail Overton
Adrian Burns Mavis Ross Evelyn Bradley Mary Ellen Reams
Susie Crafton Raymond Ross Geneva Brake Mary K. Rose
Richard Davis Francis Tylee Christine Cohea Jeanette Simmons
John Farley Nora Simpson Virginia Crawford Catherine Simpson
Dorothy Gill Dickie Stacy Vernell Grimes Norene Stamey
Ophelia hardin Marion Ruth Wells Billy Hardin Nathan Teague
Doyle Houston Clem Jr. Whistle Louise Hardin Martha Williams
Wayne Payne Claude Wilson Grace Helen Kesler
Doris Peterson Delmus Wyatt Louise King
Vivian Privett

   Eva Melton, born in Manila, Arkansas, sent this article via email.  She received her copy from the Dorsey Edmundson Family. She is currently researching her Edmundson roots.
    Thank you, Eva, for sharing. . .
(ca. 1922 or 1923)

Arkansas Sheriff Flushes Young Monte Carlo When Gamblers End Love Feud in Fight.

    MANILA, Ark., May 8--Clustered in the jungle wilds near Pettyville, amid fragrant blossoms of rustic foliage, sheriff's deputies today stumbled upon a secluded Monte Carlo, a veritable hidden casino that rivaled Arkansas City, in its calmest days, for poker action and dice fading fame.
    This nook of the card sharp and lair of the "crap shooter" was revealed during a man hunt by the sheriff in the aftermath of a desperate love feud, fought to the death, last Saturday, when Dorsey Edmundson, of Big Lake, Ark., was found beneath a card table, a bullet wound in his breast.
    George Duncan, of Dell, Ark., was sought by the deputies, charged with the murder. He was captured and conveyed to the Blytheville jail because indignation against the prisoner was running rampant in this community.

Money plentiful in Game

    As the story was learned by the sheriff, a "craps game" was the star attraction of the woodland casino Friday night and early Saturday. Coin and bills in prosperous amounts had changed hands during the night's performance and business was picking up in the "tiger's retreat."
    "Moonshine" was bubbling and beading and old Bacchus was in his prime until Duncan and Edmundson met at the table of the "galloping dominoes."
    Duncan and his wife had been separated for two or three years. Edmundson was alleged to have been paying her court. The feud of jealous rivalry had long been pending, and friends had forecast "hip pocket" action between the two more than once.
    A dispute, ______ over the game, spectators thought, arose between the two. Duncan is alleged to have reached for his "gat." There was a click, an explosion and a burst of smoke. Edmundson crumpled on the ground.
    The deputies found all the tables, chairs and paraphernalia of a metropolitan gambling resort in the dense growth of brush and wildwood.