Drew County, Arkansas Newsbriefs - 1896

Contributed by Jann Woodard.

Drew Advance

Aug. 11, 1896

A Tribute

(Thoughts suggested while at the grave of Master Charles Edward Duke for little Ned, as we loved to call him), whose life went out at one o'clock July 23rd, 1896, at Baxter, Ark., aged eight years, seven months and nineteen days.)

It was the hush of twilight, when Nature awaits the stars to fix their sentinel watch in the skies. The little casket containing all that was mortal of Ned, borne by his little school mates from the stricken home, with eyes blinded by tears and limbs trembling with emotion, moved to the last resting place, where, beside little Frances and Martha, all covered with evergreens and creeping vines (some, perchance, planted by the little hands now pulseless in death). There the family-tomb unbared its bosom to received the sacred trust, about it grouped the bereft ones surrounded by sorrowing community. The man of God, who had risen from a bed of sickness miles away to administer the last sad rites (for he loved Ned), performed that duty and assisted by the assembled mourners, sang the song Ned loved so well - "Jesus Lover of My Soul". It was during these touching services, performed by the light of a reflector, that the writer was reminded of the burial at night of Latane by devout women on the desolate track of contending armies, assisted by their faithful servants bearing torches. While the benediction was being pronounced the writer involuntarily asked himself - why, could not the agonizing prayers of the pleading mother save her loved one from the grave? Why, O Death, strike down this sinless life; this precious idol of his parents whose young life was all unequal for the struggle in thy remorseless grasp? Why dash the brimming cup from his lips and snap the chord that bound him to his father and mother and scatter it in sparkling ruins at their feet? But the terrible admonition of God to the trembling leader of Israel - "I am a jealous God. Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven images of the things in Heaven nor on earth" - comes to the rescue. Maybe we loved little Ned too well, for he was a manly boy, generous and gentle, with intellect far beyond his years. But still the writer cannot comprehend all this, and probably ought not to. In the crowd stood grizzled veterans who had menaced death on many a battlefield, challenged him to combat for four long years in the fiercest struggle of modern times where the lead and bolts of war hurtled about them. Why, O cruel and remorseless death, did you decline the gage of battle with them (then and now) whose step is unsteady and whose glass is empty and strike down the unresisting little one. But it is ever thus. In the ages gone afflictions of the one wrung from his anguished soul the pertinent query: "If a man die, shall he live again?" which came ringing down the centuries unanswered, until God, clothed in human flesh, stood at the grave of his friend, Lazarus, in sorrowing Bethany, and answered back: "Whoso believeth on Me, tho' he were dead, shall live again." 'T is here we find the Christian's Ben Ledi. So be it. Why should we murmur? Albeit our pathway is strewn with cradles and coffins and life and death rudely jostle in the doorway open to man. The same knell announces the birth and the death, the welcome and the farewell. By bye, Little Ned; the grave never gave asylum to a nobler or a manlier boy. Little Frances and Martha await thee at the gate. Maybe uncle Ned, little auntie, Ema and Olive will come also to greet you, for they have been gone a long time. Bereft parents, you could not forget him if you would, for there is the little trellis he raised for creeping vine at the door which will be a constant reminder as you go in and out. There will be the little garments also which he used to wear, but laid aside for his flight to the skies. The fragments of song he loved to sing will remind you that he now takes lessons under the master of song.

Dear lost one, good bye.

"In the desert a fountain is springing,
In the world waste there still is a tree
And a bird in solitude singing
Which speaks to our spirit of thee."

Ark. Gazette, Oct. 14, 1896

Monticello, Oct. 13 - Every business house and many of the residences here are decorated today in honor of the old soldiers' reunion, which will take place tomorrow. Many of the old vets arrived today from interior points, and it is now certain that a large number of them will be in attendance to participate in the festivities and witness the fair.

Your correspondent has made it a point to visit and converse with the leading merchants and business men of the city today, and finds them full of enthusiasm and jubilant over the prospects of a big fair that has never before been equaled in the state.

Harry Hankins, a leading hardware merchant, will make a display of his wares at the fair that has never before been equaled in the state. He offers as a premium a fine nickel-plated cooking stove to the lady making the finest display of canned fruits, preserves and jellies, and contestants are entering by the score.

Monticello is one of the best towns in the state. Among its staunch merchants are McCloy & Trotter, Harper & Wilson, W.M. Robertson & Co., E.R. Cotham & Co., W.E. Harvill, Spence, Hardy & Co., W.T. Tool, W.M. Minter, J.D. Rankin & Sons, Curry Bros., H.S. Hart, J.J. Ford, dry goods dealers; S. Walter Lambert, Hale, Robinson & Co., Knox & Thompson, E.B. Wells, family and fancy grocers; Harry Hankins and R.B. Leslie, hardware; Brown & McQuiston, F.M. Loper, Vance Bordeaux, D.T. Hyatt, druggists; Leo Bickart, confectioner.

The merchants have all agreed to close their stores at 10 a.m. each morning during fair week, and the whole store force will attend the fair.

The officers of the fair, who are pushing things for all they are worth are; Frank Tillar, president; J.J. Whitaker, secretary; J.A. Cason, superintendent of the grounds. All these gentlemen are indefatigable workers and are receiving the plaudits of the people.

The fair begins tomorrow and continues until Saturday night. The town is already full of people to witness the opening. Several horses from Pine Bluff and Stuttgart arrived today, and there will be lively races every day during the fair. Hon. N.Y. Wadsworth, one of the fair directors, arrived today and will remain during the week. He is Drew County's representative in the next legislature.

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Karen Groce / wgroce@wildblue.net
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Last updated 12 Apr 2010