Life On Rich Mountain, Part I ~ Building Up

A June morning on Rich Mountain

The earliest settlers in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas arrived about 1830, traveling primarily from the mountains of Tennessee, Kentucky, and northern Georgia into the area’s fertile, if remote and isolated, river valleys.

In time, some left the valleys for higher elevations. The long, even crest of Rich Mountain, named for its uncommonly rich soil, was especially appealing. Wide enough to accommodate homes, small fields, and garden patches, it combined fertile soil with a multitude of springs bubbling just below the ridge. Aileen McWilliam,  herself a child of the Ouachitas and a historian of Rich Mountain, recalled:

[The soil was] in some places so deep that the rocks gave little trouble, and so loose that it required little tillage. A small pocket of soil among rocks could be planted by using only a hoe to make a depression for a few seeds. The atmosphere was conducive to the growth of lush vegetable crops.
Though the growing season is relatively short, growth is rapid, and the winds and cold temperatures of the moutaintop hold back the fruit tree buds that in the valley come out too early, and are nipped by frosts.

Rich Mountain’s summit attracted settlers as early as 1860, even before United States government land patents became available under the 1862 Homestead Act. By filing a claim and making certain improvements within two years — building a two room structure, clearing a patch of land, planting fruit trees — a family could live on a claim indefinitely. If they desired formal title to the land, they could take possession by demonstrating continuous residency: a process known as ‘proving out.’

Anyone examining the records will find that the date of the land patent (the original deed) often seems to be much later than the first date of occupancy. In some cases, the patent appears to have been granted so late in a family’s tenancy that gardens had become overgrown and buildings uninhabitable. Ode Turner, an early mountain dweller who knew many of the Rich mountain settlers, explained the phenomenon this way:

So long as the proving out had not been done,the settler could live on the land free, but as soon as the patent was granted, the land went on the tax rolls and taxes had to be paid annually. Consequently, the patent may not have been sought until the settler was ready to sell the land, or until new people came into the county and challenged the non-taxpaying status of these people.

Today, visible evidence of these homesteads remains in the form of rock foundations and chimneys, log buildings, stone fences, the ruts of old wagon roads, overgrown paths to springs, isolated fruit trees, and graves.

Rock wall on the land of the William B. Wilkerson family, who received their patent in 1897

Not all settlers were families looking for a secure spot to raise children and crops. During the Civil War, some came up the mountain to escape turmoil in other areas of the state. A few were known as “mountain Feds” — men sympathetic to the Union who fled to the mountains to avoid conscription into the Confederate military. Needless to say, moonshiners also found the isolation of the mountains convenient for their operations. Whatever their reason for being on the mountain, settlers of every sort seemed willing to live and let live, accepting the difficulties of isolation as an acceptable price for independence.

Then, in the late 1800s, change came to Rich Mountain.

Arthur Stilwell, born and raised in Rochester, New York, moved to Kansas City in 1886. While engaged in founding trust companies and developing belt-line railroads, he came to the conclusion that rail access to Gulf of Mexico ports would allow midwestern states to substantially increase shipments of their agricultural products. He proposed a new Kansas City, Pittsburgh & Gulf Railroad to provide the needed rail access to Sabine Pass, Texas, and began planning for the establishment of a new port there: today’s still-thriving town of Port Arthur.

Unfortunately, an 1893 economic depression depleted capital needed for the railway, so Stilwell traveled to Holland, planning to seek new investors for his project among acquaintances there. Jan DeGeoijen, a Dutch coffee broker Stilwell knew from an earlier trip to Europe, was persuaded; in only a few months, the pair had raised $3 million.

After Stilwell’s return to the United States, work on the railroad resumed, progressing southward to Arkansas’s Ouachita mountains. The tallest range in middle America, the Ouachitas differ from most United States mountains by running east and west rather than north and south: a fact interesting to geologists, but disconcerting to engineers designing a north-south rail line.

Eventually, the valley between Rich Mountain (2,681 feet) and Black Fork Mountain (2,651 feet) became the preferred route through the Ouachitas. At the eastern foot of Rich Mountain, where the railroad resumed a straight southerly course, a division town was established. On August 18, 1896, it became Mena, Arkansas: named in honor of DeGeoijen’s wife, Folmina Margaretha Janssen DeGeoijen, known familiarly as Mina.  Janssen Park, still a centerpiece of the town, honored the DeGeoijens by adopting Mina’s maiden name as its own.

Not content with commerce, Stilwell hoped to increase his railroad’s passenger trade by building a resort at the summit of Rich Mountain. The new facility, announced in 1897, would be named after Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands as a gesture to Dutch investors who’d provided financing for his railroad.

When the Queen Wilhelmina Inn opened on June 22, 1898, mountain air and scenic views complemented thirty five rooms and the three hundred person dining room which could be converted into a ballroom. A suite of rooms was set aside for the Queen herself, but the hoped-for royal visit never took place.

Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands (b.1880-d.1962)

Despite the absence of royalty atop Rich Mountain, the building of the railroad and inn brought an increase in population, significantly more activity, and changes in the community. As word about the delights of the mountain retreat spread, people like J.H. and Sarah Wallace arrived in Mena from Indiana, where they had married in 1879. He served as a stonemason and bricklayer during construction of the original inn; after the inn opened to guests, she worked in the laundry.

J.H. and Sarah Amanda Darling Wallace

Construction of the inn was as complicated in its way as work on the railroad. Building materials had to be taken up the mountain on burros; the hauling concession belonged to a Mexican man who owned a string of forty animals.

Even before the inn was completed, guests were eager to visit and they, too, traveled by burro. John McKinney, a young man engaged in road work at the time, told of seeing a finely dressed woman, irritated by her burro’s tendency to balk, beating it over the head with her fancy parasol.

To the mountaintop by mule

A 27-passenger, burro-drawn wagon named “Tally Ho” transported guests from the Mena train depot to the top of the mountain twice daily: a distance of about thirteen miles. Between the mules and the passengers, wagon master J. M. Tomlin surely had his hands full.

Guests in front of the original Queen Wilhelmina Inn

But the journey was considered to be worth the effort. Weddings, family reunions, and social gatherings of every sort took place on the mountain, where guests luxuriated in a life of elegance and ease. Orchestras arrived from Kansas City to provide music for evening dances; mornings were spent playing croquet or admiring the gardens.

Unfortunately, less than three years after the inn’s opening the Kansas City, Pittsburgh & Gulf Railroad faced financial woes. After being placed in receivership, it was sold to what is now the Kansas City Southern Railway Company.

With new owners in place, the inn was abandoned and allowed to fall into disrepair. In 1905, it became the prize in a lottery whose tickets were valued  at $30 or $100 (accounts differ), and by 1910 it had closed. From time to time, there still were guests, but they were four-footed, not two-footed; the Queen Wilhelmina Inn had become housing for livestock.

The end of an era

But all was not lost. In the late 1950s a group of investors from Mena purchased the site, and in 1957 the Arkansas legislature established Queen Wilhelmina State Park. Two years later, reconstruction of the Inn began, using ruins of the 1898 building as a base.

The new lodge, opened in 1963, was destroyed by fire ten years later. Again it was rebuilt, and rededicated in 1975. After renovations begun in 2012 added some modern amenities, the Queen Wilhelmina Inn reopened on July 1, 2015: once again the Castle in the Clouds envisioned by Arthur Stilwell.

The ever-present danger of fire in the forests surrounding Rich Mountain settlements, as well as the Queen Wilhelmina Inn, led to the construction of a different sort of structure on the mountain: the fire tower.

The first observation tower on Rich Mountain consisted of a pine tree with a platform. In 1910, after a fire known as the ‘Big Blowup’ burned three million acres and killed eighty-seven people in Washington, Idaho, and Montana, early detection suddenly became a priority, and Rich Mountain’s platform in a pine tree was replaced with a wooden fire tower.

Towerman Amos Egger, his wife Grace, and their three children lived below the tower from 1923 to 1926. Later, they moved into a three room cottage west of a 1924 replacement metal tower with a cab measuring 7’x 7′.

The Amos Egger family
The first metal tower and three room cottage

Living conditions were upgraded further in 1937 with the construction of a third residence. A latrine was added in 1940.

Sunset at the latrine

A third, 65′ tall tower, built in 1954, doubled the size of the metal cab to 14′ x 14′. Despite being taken out of service in 1970, it still stands just down the road from the Wilhelmina Inn.

The current Rich Mountain fire tower

In the Mena and Oden districts, eleven towers were constructed, their names beautifully descriptive of the land on which they stood: Rich Mountain, Cossatot, Abbott Mountain, Tall Peak, Bee Mountain, Eagle, Horseshoe Mountain, Wolf Pinnacle, Buck Knob, Muddy Mountain, and Lone Pine Mountain. Today, only three remain — Rich, Bee, and Lone Pine — and the towermen and women are gone.

Like the towermen, most early settlers came down from the mountain, even as increasing numbers of tourists trekked to its top. Why some settlers continued to stay is a different sort of story, which deserves its own telling.   (To be continued…)

Comments always are welcome.
Historical photos are from various Arkansas Forest Service and state parks sites; current photos are mine.
Details about life on the mountain came from conversations with Mena residents, as well as online sources.
Quotations are taken from a Ouachita National Forest/Arkansas State Parks brochure titled “The Old Pioneer Cemetery Historical Site.”


128 thoughts on “Life On Rich Mountain, Part I ~ Building Up

  1. It’s fun to read about this fascinating area that I know little about. It sure has a rich history. It’s so sad that the Queen Wilhelmina Inn operated for so few years, but it’s good to hear that the area has become a state park. I’m looking forward to part 2.

    1. Even though the Inn was built and rebuilt multiple times, it’s still there: renovated but operating under the same name. I was lucky enough to snag a room for one night on my first trip to Arkansas, and hope to stay there again some day. It’s operated as part of the state park now, which will ensure it remains for future generations to enjoy.

      During both my first and second trips to the Ouachitas, I also stayed at the Janssen Park Bed & Breakfast in Mena, which is just across the street from Janssen Park. It was a delightful choice, run by a couple who not only know their history, but can point hikers and birders to the best spots in the area.

    1. It’s a fascinating place, John. I missed so much on previous visits I’m going to have to go back — for the waterfalls, if nothing else.

      You might be interested in this detail, which didn’t really belong in the post. Barry Seal, the ex-TWA pilot who ran drugs for the Medellin cartel, operated for a time out of the Mena airport. It wasn’t just the moonshiners who appreciated the isolation of that mountain town.

      Initially, the recently released film about him, titled American Made, was to have been called Mena. From what I’ve heard, the town wasn’t entirely happy to have such direct publicity about that chapter in their history.

      1. From what I’ve heard, the town wasn’t entirely happy to have such direct publicity about that chapter in their history.

        Perhaps in time, but then sometimes it takes quite a long while for a town to embrace its past. My wife’s town of Blooming Prairie, MN is famous/infamous for having been occupied by the state’s National Guard to shut down its bar just prior to prohibition. It is located at point where four counties come together, three of them were dry. The bars did quite well.

        During prohibition, the town became known as Booz’n Prairie because of all the industrial scale moon-shining. People still refuse to talk about it.

        1. On the other hand, the park in my town that was developed around a historic tree also had a big oak nearby that was famous as the one where the Ghirardi boys buried their ‘shine. Today, the tree’s got a plaque that announces it’s the “Moonshine Tree,” and gradeschoolers gather there for story time. I don’t think they get samples, though.

  2. Great post Linda! I did not know about the Rich Mountain settlements and other important
    details of their history. Good research work my dear.

    1. Using the internet for research is great, but unless someone puts information on on a website, it can’t be found. There’s nothing quite so much fun as roaming around a place and talking to people who’ve lived there for a while, or sniffing out old, independently published material.The little booklet I found at the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge helped to fill in some of the details of this fascinating story: especially about people for whom I only had a name.

  3. I visited there with a group a few years ago. I was curious about its history and why the name, but as I so often do, I put the matter on hold. So glad you “booted up” my curiosity with this interesting history lesson. Keep them coming. Thanks.

    1. I’m so glad that you’ve had a chance to visit too, Oneta. Both times I’ve been there, the fog and haze have been a little disappointing, but not so much so that the visit wasn’t enjoyable.

      I’d heard the name of the place for some time before I got there, and never thought a thing about it. Then, I saw the portrait of Queen Wilhelmina as an older woman in the lobby, and that started my wheels turning. It was on my second visit this past June that I took the time to search out another interesting spot, and that will be the focus of my next post.

  4. I love historical stories that one would never be informed about in school. Not having ever visited ‘the Middle’ I normally would never have learned about this wonderful area of our country!

    1. We have such a large country, with so many interesting, interwoven strands of history, no one can be aware of even a portion of them. I’d never set foot in Arkansas until I heard about the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and decided to visit. Only then did I discover what a beautiful state it is, and how much of a naturalist’s paradise.

      Even though one of my cousins lived in Mena for some years, I’d never visited — silly me! Now, I’m trying to make up for some lost time. Of course, the problem is there are so many interesting places, and so little time.

  5. Lovely historical post. I am trying to get Ben interested in an east cost trip, but so far he’s not interested. “Too much driving.” “But,” I say, “there’s so much to see.” This post is a perfect example.

    1. Depending on how far east you’d like to get, there’s always the option to fly and then rent a car. But that’s a different kind of travel: one that requires more resources than I have. I’m happy to do small-scale puttering, enjoying whatever I find. To put it in terms you’ll understand, I’m neither a cruiser nor a racer, but a gunkholer, and happy to be so.

      One thing is certain. Joan Didion was right when she said, “A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.” But first you have to be there.

  6. You reminded me that in 1956 the Beat author Jack Kerouac spent 63 days as a fire lookout on Mount Desolation, Washington.

    It’s interesting that although the inn got named for Queen Wilhelmina way back in 1897-8, she lived on into our era, dying as recently as 1962. Just think how much the world had changed in that interval.

    1. If someone gave me a choice between being a lighthouse keeper or a tower woman, I think I’d be hard pressed to choose. Of course, technology’s put both out of business, but it’s still fun to ponder.

      Speaking of changing worlds, by the time Arkansas fire towers were being phased out in the 1970s, half of them were being staffed by women. In east Texas, only 20 of 142 fire towers still exist, but according to the Forest Fire Lookout Association (who knew that existed?) the one in Woodville does still carry out an important mission:

      “Woodville Fire Tower was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s at the Woodville District Office of the Texas Forest Service. The 70′ steel tower with 7′ x 7′ metal cab was provided by the Emsco Oil Derrick Co. and is accessed by an external vertical ladder.

      No longer in active service, it houses a radio repeater and is host to a lighted Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer each holiday season, assigned to the post by Santa Claus to report if the children in Woodville have been naughty or nice.”

  7. I’d never heard any of this, Linda — thank you for doing the research and educating me! Many moons ago, I lived in Port Arthur for about a year. It was an interesting place, with lots of contentiousness for a young journalist. Often, I still wonder what became of some of my co-workers (and don’t suggest I look them up on Facebook because that’s one outlet I don’t use!!) Anyway, I find myself enamored of Queen Wilhelmina’s furry cloak!

    1. That wonderful cloak is ermine, a fur that’s been associated with royalty for centuries. It never had occurred to me that there would be a company dedicated to producing royal and ceremonial garb, but of course there are many; here’s the British example. I had a white fur muff and scarf when I was little, but I’m sure it was rabbit, not ermine.

      Port Arthur’s an interesting place. I used to have a customer who kept his boat at Pleasure Island, and I’d drive down there to work. I didn’t know much about the town or its industries, but I can imagine it being “interesting” for someone in your position.

      As for Facebook, you’ll not get that suggestion from me. I make it a practice not to recommend services of products I don’t use myself!

      1. I had a rabbit jacket many years ago and I loved it. Hmm, wonder what happened to that?? I’m glad to learn I’m not the only Facebook rebel. Friends regularly tell me what I’m “missing,” but I have yet to feel the void!

    1. Neither did I, until I stopped one day and thought, “But, wait. Why is a resort in Arkansas named for a Dutch queen?” I probably never would have asked that, had her portrait not been hanging in the lobby, but now we both know.

  8. Proof that you don’t have to go to exotic or iconic locales to find fascinating history. Every county in every state has a story of settlement and development that demonstrates perseverance and ingenuity in its foundation. Thanks for sharing this gem. Waiting for part 2.

    1. You’re right, of course. But there’s another side to that coin. Looked at long enough and lovingly enough, even the most apparently ordinary locale begins to shine, refracting its own history like a jewel. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy returning to places, even multiple times. On every visit, a new fact emerges, or a new acqaintance is made, and the sheer pleasure of understanding increases.

      Of course, that’s part of the pleasure of writing about these travels, too. I don’t fully know what I’ve seen until I spend some time pondering it.

  9. Very interesting and a fine example of ambition over, well what?, practicality? This is not the first and not the last example of huge investments being made into a scheme, which laudable and romantic while it lasts, in the end crumbles and fades. Sad, really. It might be interesting to find out who the investors were and what became of them.

    I also love the evocative place names, mountain names mainly, there’s something new and fresh and pioneering about them. To judge by your first photo this is a beautiful area, well worth developing -rather than over-developing. I would think turning it into a State Park is the right idea; now all can enjoy it without it being spoilt by endless town planning.

    I really think you too have the right idea: travelling to what may be obscure places and exploring them and their history thoroughly.

    1. On the other hand, did Stilwell’s scheme really crumble and fade? Granted, he didn’t live to see what became of his projects, but today the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge is a magnet for people from around the country who want to enjoy glorious mountain color in autumn, and Port Arthur, a town of 55,000 people or so, is home to the largest oil refining complex in the U.S. (It also was the home of Janis Joplin. I’m not sure what Mr. Stilwell would have thought of her, but it’s possible they might have gotten along.)

      As for natural beauty, the Ouachita mountains are splendid. There’s a road called the Talimena Scenic Byway that winds for 54 miles along the crest of Rich and Winding Stair Mountains, passing from Arkansas into Oklahoma. There are hiking trails galore, and plenty of small towns in the foothills to explore.

      I like to think of the “obscure” places of the world as nooks and crannies: places where digging around may turn up an unexpected or forgotten treasure. Of course, I have my favorite digging tools and techniques — and none of them require batteries or passwords. Paper maps are good conversation starters.

  10. I love your “history lessons” and the places you choose to research and visit. Your love of people and places come through in your well-honed writing style.

    1. I’m glad to hear you say that, Jean. When I was a wee thing, I used to bring treasures like especially well formed pieces of driveway gravel to my mother. Sometimes she saw them as treasure and sometimes she didn’t, but I always was happy when I could turn them in just the right way for her to see them as I did. I feel the same about many of the people and places I meet in my travels. “Well, would you look at this” is one of my favorite phrases in the world. Thanks for looking!

    1. I think so, too. My first trip to Arkansas was all looking: at the wildflowers, at the Crystal Bridges Museum offerings, at the forests. On the second trip, there was just as much looking, but a lot more talking. I’m eager to experience a third trip, whatever delights it brings.

    1. With technological change all around us, I suspect we sometimes feel as though the late 1800s and early 1900s were aeons ago. But they weren’t, and the people and events of those decades still are recognizable, if we take the time to look.

    1. It is that, and the people of the mountains are as proud of their history as we are of our own. Of course, helping to keep that history alive is as difficult there as anywhere else, given our willingness to denigrate history — but people are trying.

  11. A great and very informative article, Linda. You made history alive. If only history books could be written by those with imagination and skilled in words!

    I vaguely remember the Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands. My mother was very fond of her, and later on, her daughter, Queen Juliana.
    I wonder why the visit to the Queen Wilhelmina Inn by the Dutch Queen did not eventuate. Even though she became Queen at birth she did not start to reign till she turned 18. Before that a Regent ruled Holland.

    She was the richest woman in the world. The first female billionaire.(Wikipedia.) Even today, I don’t think the Dutch royal family is short of a quid.

    1. You’re right about the importance of communicating past events in ways that capture readers’ imagination. Equally important is a concern for facts and an ability to judge sources: at least, to the best of our ability.

      When I was reading about life on Rich Mountain, I found an article that asserted everyone on the mountain was miserable and starving; that they rarely saw one another; and that they lived without schools, churches, or any sense of community. It was dramatic stuff, but hardly the whole story. There was illness, to be sure: as well as at least one murder, some tragic deaths, and all of the other things that make up human life, but it wasn’t Dante’s Umpteenth Circle of Hell. As an editor friend once told me, fact check your fact-checking, and then check your sources’ facts.

      I suspect Queen Wilhelmina didn’t make it to the Inn because of simple timing. The Inn opened the very year she turned eighteen, and took over her queenly duties. Three years later, the Inn closed, so the window of opportunity was very, very narrow. When the rebuilt inn opened in 1963, it was a year after Queen Wilhelmina’s death. If she visited the new inn, it would have been in spirit only.

      She was quite a woman. I didn’t know about her flight from Holland during WWII, her Radio Orange broadcasts, or her return to the country. No wonder she was so admired — and in some quarters strongly opposed.

    1. Thank you, Shimon. And speaking of stories, there’s a story that got interrupted about a young boy who found himself on a farm. Surely we’re going to hear more about that youngster; at least, I hope so.

    1. I do love new experiences and new places, and Arkansas certainly was new for me. The state is beautiful, and the people receptive and interesting. The current Queen Wilhelmina Lodge has a long, valley-facing veranda with rocking chairs that’s just beautiful. I can well imagine you and Anthony having one of your conversations there — although other visitors might wonder what’s going on!

  12. It seems fitting that Rich Mountain should have such a rich history (and rich present, too, it seems). With regard to the towers, I was intrigued by this line in the link “All fires must be extinguished by 10:00 a.m. the following morning.” I am sure there are many firefighters today who wish that were possible.

    1. Even though it was green and lush when I was there, reminders about fire safety were posted at trailheads, as well as online. When fire’s the only source of light and heat, and you’re in the middle of a forest, caution’s advised.

      Of course, there was a practical reason for mandating that fires be extinguished in the fire tower days. From a fire tower, there’s no way to know if that smoke you’re seeing is from a camp fire, or something else. I can imagine how irritating it would be to track down some smoke only to find a late riser having a third cup of coffee.

    1. Thanks, Cecilia. Of course there are hordes of tourists in the area, especially in the fall when the color is so marvelous. Well, and the spring, too — it’s said that the wildflowers are indescribable. But there are a few others there, as well: some named, and some not.

  13. Linda, your mini history is wonderful. It always is! However, I also appreciated your reader’s comments and your replies this time round. Your replies are often as rich in information as your posts.

    Take for instance the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. I knew it was a product of the Walmart fortune, but somehow missed that it had FREE admission. I would never have known that without seeing it mentioned here and then looking it up. I need to go there, if possible, as they are featuring two native American exhibits and some pieces by Georgia O’Keeffe (till September). I may well miss her work, but we’ll see if I can make it there eventually driving my old truck.

    Another conversation led to the Royal Robes which I also found fascinating. So much so, that I will share this link with you:
    It leads to a class at the University of Glasgow on Royal Fashion. ( I have already signed up for it a month back.) I find the history of fashion in general fascinating, but European fashion is not to be believed! Did you know that long curly toes on your shoes was a status symbol of wealth? The longer your shoe toe meant you had more of it. Further, wearing such shoes, if you were not wealthy, could land you in prison for impersonating a wealthy man!

    1. I did make it to the O’Keeffe exhibit — I can’t remember if you saw my post. If not, here it is, loaded with images. And here’s one I wrote after my first visit to Crystal Bridges in 2013. How five years passed so quickly, I’m not sure.

      It’s a wonderful, easy museum to visit. The grounds are pretty, there are plenty of walking paths and outdoor art, and the galleries are spacious. Even the groups of school kids I’ve come across have been well-behaved. The food in the restaurant’s good, too.

      That course outline is interesting. Even someone not so interested in fashion (me) could learn a good bit about the various royal houses. I did wonder about those shoes. How did the court jesters get away with wearing them? I suppose then, as now, parody and humor could excuse a lot. Just for grins, I looked up jesters’ shoes and learned, among other things, that Renaissance Faire lords and ladies swap a lot of notes about where to buy them or how to make them.

    1. Not exactly — but the explanation’s pretty interesting. You can find some more photos and a good explanation here. There are days when I think you can find information about anything on the web.

    1. There usually are one or two simmering on the back burner. It’s odd; I never write about a place while traveling, or right after getting home. I have to have some time to ponder it all. Some are easy. Others take a little longer, or even a return visit. I’m still thinking about the Jolly Green Giant up your way.

  14. Funny that you mention in the comments about the 1900s seeming to be so long ago to many people. I have strong personal feelings and “memories” about the early 1900s even tho I am only 62. The very turn of the 20th was my father’s time and looking at the photos of him then, remembering him telling me the story of when he tracked down Bugs Moran’s man Peter Gusenberg to ask him to pay for the car he just “bought”…The clothing, the faces, the city scapes of that time are part of my life.

    Being a city kid, I respond more to metal, bricks and cars, but I feel deeply sad for the loss of the rural landscape of that era. Thanks for the story. I sent it to my 80 year old friend who is a retired forester and he used to sit in a tower in Colorado in the 40s!

    1. Tracking down Peter Gusenberg to settle up on a debt — that’s a family story worth retelling. The closest my dad ever got to the mob was a bit of play-acting, I think. I have a photo of him in his early 20s, slouched up against a brick wall with his hands in his pockets and a fedora pulled down over one eye. I’ve always wished I could ask him about it, but he was gone before I found it.

      I understand how the city could be so appealing to you. I feel the same way about ports, and railroads. It occurred to me at the fire tower how similar it is to the fire escapes of our older urban areas. When I first got the New York, I was amazed by the creative ways that people made use of those fire escapes and rooftops.

      I love that you have a friend who served at a tower. I hope he enjoys this look back, and I hope he has great memories of his time there. There aren’t that many people who had the chance to experience such a thing.

    1. Thanks, Kayti. I had great fun with this — now, all I have to do is get the second part transferred from my head (and my photo files) into something readable. I did enjoy learning more about Queen Wilhelmina, and was surprised to find how many Dutch settlers landed in Texas thanks to Arthur Stilwell and his railroad. There are towns all along that line that were magnets for the Dutch. If I’d ever stopped to wonder about the names of towns like ‘Nederland’, I might have gotten a clue.

  15. Fascinating… I loved the story of the earliest settlers living simple lives untroubled by government or big business… how their lives must have changed when so called civilisation arrived…

    1. Well, this little tale is only part of the story, of course. A famous military road also ran along the ridge, and one of the most famous spots, Horse Thief Springs, was host to plenty of horse thieves, including Belle Starr. I’ve heard it said that the biggest business on the mountain was horse thievery — at least for a time.

      In addition, the early 1830s were the time of the Choctaw Trail of Tears, when the tribe was relocated from Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas to Indian Territory: primarily in Oklahoma. The military road — still visible on the western end of the mountains — was part of that, as well.

      So, yes: just like today, families could live their lives in relative peace, but they surely weren’t untouched by the events swirling around them. It’s wonderful that remnants of their lives still exist.

  16. Interesting history of this area. My sister-in-law has a good friend who she has visited in Mena. The friend just recently moved, but my s-i-l said that area was really lovely.

    1. I have a cousin who was in Mena for some years, but he saw the mountains from quite a different perspective — he was involved with aircraft service and repair, and did a lot of test-flying. I remember him saying that ‘south’ was the only way to take off. Now I understand why.

      It is a lovely area: both the mountains and Mena itself. This is the bed & breakfast where I stayed during both visits (apart from my one night at Queen Wilhelmina) and it was a perfect choice.

        1. The house is a 1907 Georgian Revival that was built by a conductor on the Kansas Southern railway. The owners, Jo and John Vacca, are the nicest people in the world, and their breakfasts are fabulous. John enjoys playing the part, in his chef’s uniform.

  17. I never though (or looked) about those mountains being the only ones that go east-west. So unique -Bet some interesting geology about that. I love the way they named places then: Rich mountain, Black Fork Mountain – practical and links to the history.
    Great the Wilhelmina having gone through wardrobe changes is safe and protected. Several places were built hoping European royalty would notice and come visit? Even businessmen during early times of this country looking at a marketing idea
    (waiting for part 2!)

    1. The geology is fascinating. At one point, the Ouachitas were the tail end of the Appalachians; both were ‘fold mountains,’ caused by the movement of continental plates. When the oceanic crust met the less dense continental crust, the oceanic crust was forced under and the continental crust buckled up. Voila! Mountains. At once point, the Ouachitas were 10,000 feet or so, but time and erosion take a toll.

      I had no idea that Nederland was a magnet for Dutch immigrants, along with all the other towns along Stilwell’s rail line to Port Arthur. It was like the lightbulb turning on when I finally figured out Danevang, not to mention all those Albertis, Pelligrinis, and Cobolinis on Galveston. And of course, there is that Ghirardi Oak. It’s a rich history, for sure.

  18. Interesting about the Dutch involvement in Arkansas. The Scots railroad barons invested in land in my area that became in its time the largest ranch under one fence, the XIT. We forget that not only did Europe provide many of the settlers that built our nation, it also provided some of the bankroll.

    1. I just finished reading the history of the XIT in the Handbook of Texas Online, and it recalled a good many details I’d forgotten, including its relationship to the financing of the Texas state capitol.

      I have to get back to the Panhandle and visit, instead of just passing through. I did stop in the town of Panhandle once, and got some lovely photos, including one of a fence with various ranch brands on it. Of course I kept bumping into the 6666 brand everywhere, including on a small airport in the middle of ‘nowhere.’

      I tried to find a photo of the highway overpass out there that has all of the ranch brands on its supports, but couldn’t. So, I called the Amarillo office of TxDot, and they’re researching it for me. The nice woman I talked to remembered seeing it too, but wasn’t sure exactly where. At least I know I didn’t dream it.

  19. I think you should go back in the fall, and photograph the fall foliage from the inn. How extraordinary that Wilhelmina could have an inn named after her so long ago, and live so long into our era (1962)!
    One detail caught my attention: that the first deeds for the area were “land patents”. No such thing in Massachusetts, I think. The first deed records in the chain of title up here are king’s grants in the cases I’m familiar with…

    1. My first visit was in the fall, and I went specifically to see the fall foliage. Unfortunately, I had days of serious fog — very common there, but frustrating nonetheless. Down in the valley, it was at least clear, if not sunny, but halfway up the mountain, the visibility would drop like a rock. The night I stayed at the Lodge, I got up in the morning to near-zero visibility. Thank goodness for macro lenses — photographing water droplets on the landscaping kept me from pouting (at least, too much).

      Since then, I’ve found even better vistas than at the Lodge. Maybe next time!

      Here in Texas, Spanish land grants were the thing. Lorenzo de Zavala received a grant in the Galveston Bay Area, and later transferred ownership to the Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company. I can’t quite remember the details, but after Hurricane Ike a developer was trying to gain possession of some land along the Bay, but things got complicated because the family had records proving their title back to the original Spanish grant. Living history, indeed.

      1. Your fall visit sounds like my one-and-only visit to Acadia NP in Maine. The early morning I set aside for photography was completely socked in. I was happy I had my macro lenses, as well – but then I *always* have my macro lenses!

  20. This whole story had me fixed in place, interesting as heck. I cannot claim that I’d ever planned on being an Arkansas Traveler, but now I’d love to visit this place. It was sad to see that picture of the Inn as a ruin, and delighted to read the park rebuilt it.

    1. What’s so great about Queen Wilhelmina Lodge is that it’s part of a much larger state park that won’t be developed, and the entire scenic byway there is likewise protected. I’ve not done much hiking in the area,, but I’ve got a good handle now on some trails on Rich and Winding Stair mountains that I could handle: three-to-five mile sections that would make good day hikes. If you want to through hike, you can cover the 233 miles from near Little Rock to the Oklahoma terminus in about two weeks.

      I recently joined the Arkansas native plant society. They do quite a bit of hiking in various areas, and publicize upcoming events on their website — it would be a great way to see some out of the way places by joining one of their events. We’ll see. In the meantime, there are some historic sites I’m eager to explore, including the old military road between Fort Smith and Fort Towson.

    1. The research always is fun. It’s a way to relive the experience, but also to understand it more deeply myself. That’s one reason I enjoy going back to the same place multiple times. I always see things differently.

  21. Interesting story. I recall hearing about the beautiful Ouachita Mountains in northern Ark. during the years we lived outside Hot Springs — a fascinating place where there are some interesting features, plus intriguing tales Kansas City gangster related, including about a shootout at a house where years later I went to babysit — for who I uneasily wondered even then.

    When I learned those northern mtns elevation I tended to discount them even being mountains when I thought of them in relation to Colorado’s Rockies. I recall locals would relate tales of going to mountains north for wild boar hunting. In recent years I visited friends in Fayetteville and could appreciate the countryside’s beauty, as had also traveled the U.S. more and I was more mature.

    My first sight of cotton growing in the fields was driving through Ark. as we headed to the southwest when I was young. Our return trip a few months later resulted in a stop in Texarkana where I readily climbed an active manned fire tower for an awesome view and instruction. Leaving, I had to scoot down on my bum when the open steps gave me a bit of anxiety once I began returning to the ground.

    Curiosity took us to Hot Springs where we did end up living a few years near one of the lakes across from the Ouachita National Forrest. I’m not sure I fully appreciated the state’s assets in the late 1940’s-early 1950’s as it had been a culture shock for this then teen — overt segregation prevailed, as did religious extremism dictating public school policy (clear violation of church/state separation) though no one questioned.

    1. Those mountains hid a lot of interesting people, and still hold a good number of secrets. When I was looking up information about Belle Starr, I kept running into quite current stories about mysterious bodies out in the forests. It’s not your typical suburbs, that’s for sure. We think of the west being wild, but it’s clear that middle American forests can be just as impenetrable.

      Of course, from the perspective of a Gulf Coast dweller, the Oauchitas are pretty good mountains. I was surprised to learn that they were formed by the collision of continental plates, and after all of the folding and buckling was over, they were 10,000 feet high — good competition for the Rockies. Now erosion has taken its toll, but all of that mountaintop that got washed away has formed deltas, all the way down to Louisiana.

      Lucky you, to be able to climb one of the towers! The one at Rich Mountain used to be open, but it seems that it was closed two or three years ago over safety concerns. As for scooting down, that seems perfectly reasonable. Those open steps actually look like they might be harder to negotiate than a ladder.

      I well remember the days of the struggles in Little Rock. There still are problems, as racially segregated neighborshoods (a result of policies going back to the 1950s) have maintained de facto segregation in the schools. But, out in the small towns, I consistently met as many blacks as whites, and was well received by them all. I can’t draw any great conclusions, of course, but it was a pleasant experience.

    1. I lived for many years without any clear picture of Arkansas in my mind. If I thought of the state at all, it was in terms of the Ozarks, and I didn’t have a very clear picture of them, either. Like Iowa (“there’s nothing there but corn”) or Kansas (“just get through it”), it was one of those places better left ignored.
      I’m glad to have learned better!

    1. It is a shame, but sometimes things just don’t work out. The Inn opened the year she turned 18 and became queen. I’m sure she was busy with queenly things for a while, and in three years, the Queen Wilhelmina Inn had closed. By the time it got rebuilt in 1963, she had just died the year before. But at least her portrait hangs in the lobby, and people like me can be moved to learn about her.

  22. Interesting to read about the fire towers. My first parish was in the middle of a forest, and fire towers dotted the landscape. These were sometimes manned by summer students, but people also made a living of this. I’m not sure if they still exist, but I would suspect that there might well be a new technology replacing this old way of life.

    1. You’re right that technology has brought changes to the detection of fires. Today, GPS, cellphones, smoke-detecting pattern recognition, cameras, and internet access have led to much faster pinpointing of fires. In a sense, increased development and far more roads mean that there are fewer isolated areas in the country where a fire can gain a foothold before being noticed.

      According to the Forest Fire Lookout Association, only 826 of 2,552 towers still are staffed, and over 6,200 have been knocked down. I don’t know, but I suspect the ones that still are staffed are the ones that are the least accessible. What I do know is that some can be rented. Want some real alone time? Head to Montana or Alaska, and have a week in a fire tower!

  23. The Little Rock struggles occurred a few years after we left the state. Of course, I learned their issues were overt compared to my discovering them present in the midwest to which we had returned, but just covert. Some years ago Bill Moyers had a program with adult Maya Angelou with a segment of her youthful experience living a few years in the small town, Stamps, Ark. (happened to coincide with when I lived in the state). Her reaction those many years later as Ms Angelou and Mr. Moyers walked through the area was most striking — her feelings about that time remained deeply embedded in her psyche.

    1. In that sense, I suspect Ms. Angelou’s no different than any of us. Those early experiences that shape us can be called up in a moment, for good or for ill. Finding ways to incorporate them, and then to use them as sources of energy for moving on is the hard part.

  24. What a history Rich Mountain has experienced. Not to think about the Queen Wilhelmina Inn. Amazing how its existence has been more like a roller coaster than what one would expect of an inn. Quite a story you have researched here, Linda.

    1. ‘Roller coaster’ is a perfect description. The ups and downs were both metaphorical and quite literal, but today? It’s a lovely place to stay, and the setting is gorgeous. Even if you don’t stay at the lodge, the dining room is open to you, as well as the rocking chairs on the porches. The best part is that, now that it’s part of a state park, developers won’t be able to encroach on that whole wonderful mountaintop.

  25. fascinating! My Husband’s parents + my Mom are all immigrants from the Netherlands, … clearly I need to learn a bit more of Holland’s history!

    Appreciated this comment also:
    “With technological change all around us, I suspect we sometimes feel as though the late 1800s and early 1900s were aeons ago. But they weren’t, and the people and events of those decades still are recognizable, if we take the time to look. ”

    I was just speaking on this to a cab driver; how technology changes a lot but people, they have not really changed that much (I was thinking in part how everyone is still looking for the same things – love, or understanding their place in the world, or for some, power or prestige, but none of this has changed really, only how it is done or what it looks like.

    I love how you write on places you have been and how you see that there is so much to see near by that you can drive to them! A wonderful way to live. God keep you!

    1. I was surprised to learn how many Dutch settlers arrived in Texas. I grew up around traditional Dutch communities in Iowa, but always thought of Texas as a German stronghold. Of course the Germans are an important part of our history, but so are the Danish, the Swedish, the Italians, and — the Dutch!
      Like most Americans, I think of British royalty when I hear the word ‘queen’ (or, now, a rock band), but Queen Wilhelmina certainly opened my eyes to a lot of Dutch history.

      It’s true. People are people, and no matter what kind of technological change comes along, the sort of people we are will help to determine how we put that technology to use, for good or for ill. The social media platforms are a good example. The only one I have any contact with is Twitter, and I’ve reduced my presence there to almost nothing: no tweeting on my part, and following mostly informational sites like those concerned with weather. The level of nastiness and snark is one thing; the ability of the site to eat up large chunks of time is another.

      I’ve lived and traveled abroad, had wonderful adventures, and a few not-so-wonderful that still make for great stories. But this country has a lot to offer, too, and I’m happy to roam around here as I’m able.

  26. As a youngster in the Rocky Mountains, I remember fire towers well. The one memory that still easily comes to mind is seeing the big instrument in the middle of floor of the tower, and the sight that swiveled to help the ranger give coordinates of a fire that might pop up. My dad would volunteer sometimes to help fight forest fires that encroached on towns. Thanks for helping bring those memories back.

    1. When it comes to unsung heros, firefighters are right up there at the top, especially since such a large percentage are volunteers. Our town — all of the towns around here — depend on volunteers, and they are marvelous.

      I couldn’t quite visualize what that instrument in the middle of the tower would have been, so I went looking and found it: the Osborne Fire Finder. They’re manufacturing them again, so they can replace old ones in still-functional towers. Often, they would use sightings from two towers to pinpoint the fire, triangulating just as coastal navigators do when finding a location with a hand bearing compass. I’m glad your comment took me to another bit of information about the towers.

    2. Thanks for that comment. I got a look at a fire finder decades ago in a fire tower on Mt. Kearsarge in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The ranger in the tower had been at that post for many years, and was fascinating to talk to.

      1. That’s a beautiful tower, and it’s wonderful that it’s still in good repair and accessible. I wondered at first why it was so short. Then, I got a look at the peak and the surrounding landscape, and realized they didn’t need to build it any higher. It seems to be a favored hiking destination, particularly since you can camp inside overnight. I couldn’t find any images of the fire finder, but I suppose it was taken out when the tower was taken out of active service.

  27. You sent me on a huge Google-fest just now! I wanted to see exactly where this was, and I looked up the current park and lodge just in case we ever wind our way through that part of the state. I have convinced a Chicago friend to let me drive her around part of Arkansas this fall (the big draw will be Crystal Bridges), so I am looking into all kinds of ideas. This area may not make our route this time based on location, but it sure was a fascinating read – thank you!

    1. My urge for a little more Arkansas traveling is getting whomped up just by working on these posts. One note about the Queen Wilhelmina lodge. If you ever wanted to stay there, early reservations are a must. I’m sure they’re already booked for the fall color season. Because it isn’t a large place, it can be hard to get in — but it’s also not an overly-crowded place. The nice thing is that the dining room is open to the public, as are the hiking trails, verandas with rocking chairs, and so on. The have quite an array of hummingbird feeders outside the dining room, so they provide entertainment for diners.

      I’m glad I stayed one night, but that was enough for me. There are plenty of other cabins, bed & breakfasts, and so on, that are just as welcoming. One thing you might want to tuck into your files is this link to the Forest Service information on hiking trails in the Ouachitas. You can select day hiking or backpacking when the page opens. The through hike from Little Rock to the end of the trail in Oklahoma is 233 miles, and most people say it takes 11-14 days. Easy-peasy, huh? It’s reportedly well marked and maintained, with some three-sided shelters, fire rings, and such along the way.
      When I go back, I want to do a couple of trail sections that are about five miles, give or take. I’d best be getting in shape!

      Do not, under any circumstances, miss having some Yarnell’s ice cream. It’s an old Arkansas company, and it’s sold only in Arkansas. It’s the best I’ve ever had. One place to find it is at the soda fountain on the square in Bentonville.

      1. Why do I need Google, really? You are such a fount of knowledge on both Arkansas and Texas and probably lots of other places and things nearby also! Thanks for all this; it will be added to my Arkansas intel file for future use!

    1. It started out just to be a trip, and then it became an interesting trip, and then I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. If I lived in the area, I’d buy this book in a flash. There’s a wealth of information, including some from just the summary that’s already been helpful.

      I did learn one trick on my most recent trip. When you’re looking for a cemetery you can’t find, stop by the nearest funeral home and inquire. Those folks have records, — and the two fellows that I visited with were as congenial as could be.

  28. We have never stopped at the Queen Wilhelmina Inn while taking the Talimena National Scenic Drive. Usually, we drive through in the autumn or winter on our way to Oden, Arkansas where we rent a cabin in the Ouachita Mountains. Starting from SW Oklahoma, it is quite a drive so most of our stops are for brief hikes, to stretch our legs while doing a little photography, or dine at some small-town cafe on the way. You’ve piqued my attention to stop for a more lengthy visit at the inn itself. We truly enjoy escaping to other areas of Arkansas too… most of the time you’ll find us in the backwoods, and not in the touristy spots!

    1. I have my limits when it comes to touristy places, and I discovered that Eureka Springs was over my limit for kitsch and crowds. I cut short my visit there. But for whatever reason, both of my stops at the Queen Wilhelmina Inn were lovely: nice people, no crowds, and lots to explore. I stayed one night the first time, and am glad that I did, but it’s not a place I’d go back to for lodging. On the other hand, the dining room’s open to the public, and the food’s good, so it’s a nice place to stop for a meal and a little hiking.

      I’ve been in Oden! On my first trip to Arkansas, I left Bentonville and wound my way to Mena east through the mountains to Y City, then to Pencil Bluff, then west toward Mena. I took Southside Road out of Oden, and eventually ended up out of the mountains at Opal — but not before finding the Little Hope Baptist Church, which struck me funny.

      It’s fun to share memories of such great places. If you ever end up heading east on Highway 5, the Old Crow General Store is your kind of place.

  29. Another fine and thorough history, part one, Linda. Seeing the Egger Family there reminds me of the folks who lived in lighthouses. I never thought that people lived in (under) fire towers until now.

    1. I certainly didn’t know that entire families lived at the towers in their early years, but it makes sense. I read that Mrs. Egger took over fire tower duties when Mr. Egger had to leave to fight a fire. I’m sure the kids had some responsibilities, too. There was a combination school/church not far from the tower, so they may even have attended classes there.

      It surely is similar to lighthouse keeping. If I were fifty years younger, I might even consider it as a career — although of course now technology is making it less viable as a career for anyone. It was intriguing to read that by the 1970s about half of the tower keepers in Arkansas were women.

      1. There are a lot of jobs that technology has made obsolete, unfortunately. It’s a mixed blessing, I guess.
        Interesting that ladies “womanned” many of the Arkansas firetowers.

    1. It’s a state that you would thoroughly enjoy, Maria. I’ve joined the Arkansas native plant society, and already have gained information about a number of natural areas, botanical gardens, and wildlife management areas that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about. When I go north again to visit my aunt, I’ll be able to contact members in the areas I’ll be traveling through for suggestions about places to visit.

  30. I’ve never heard about the Queen Wilhelmina Inn. It’s funny how a person can get a notion about something, and then make a reality by sheer determination. And what about how the railroad tracks were laid across mountains without modern technology? Lot of muscle there. What herculean efforts.

    That photo at the top with the slight haze resting in the air is beautiful.

    1. My grandmother used to say, “I’ve half a notion to…[fill in the blank].” Mr. Stilwell had a whole notion, for sure. On the other hand, I’m not sure where some of his notions came from. I did a little more reading about the man, and discovered that he was guided by spirits he called “Brownies” — strange stuff in a way, but ideas have to come from somewhere.

      Not only railroads but roads in general were complicated to build in those days. A friend has clippings from old newspapers about the building of some of the roads in the Texas hill country. There were mules involved there, too, and guys would camp out alongside the road they were building. It’s amazing stuff.

  31. Though this story is beautifully rich in particulars, it is universal as well, recounting the rise and fall and—sometimes—rise of so many places. I was immediately put in mind of the Catskills and Adirondacks resort areas here. And I particularly enjoyed seeing the evolution of the fire tower. Some time back, we climbed to the top of one, now repurposed as a hiker’s observatory. And of course, when it comes to abandoned railways, we have here, as in many places now, rail trails that are an ongoing treasure for walkers and bicyclists.

    1. I know so little of the Catskills and Adirondacks that they didn’t even come to mind, but it makes sense that they would have their own history. Another place I thought of is the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, and of course there’s Hot Springs, Arkansas, which has had its own ups and downs.

      How lucky you are to have been able to climb a fire tower. I wish more had been preserved, but there is a fire tower association, and they may have done more restoration than I realize. I’m certainly going to check states’ lists when I travel from now on. We even have some towers here in Texas, which I knew nothing about.

      There are some rail trails in Texas that get great reviews, but none are in our part of the state. They are in the process of building new bike paths in my area, but they’re not so interesting for anything but walking, running, or biking. They’re wide and smooth, but they’re essentially concrete ribbons running alongside roads. Still — it’s a start.

    1. Hi, Brig! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Part 2 is almost ready — I got caught up in a little genealogy and land title research, and you know what kind of rabbit holes those are. Sometimes I get too interested in my own stories!

    1. It is beautiful. It’s a different kind of mountain range, but it’s geologically interesting, and filled with interesting plants. I’m still waiting to see the landscape without fog or haze, but perhaps my third time will be the charm.

  32. An excellent piece of writing backed by a significant amount of work. I assume *someone* has already written at least one book accounting for the many resort hotels built by railroads, sometimes as attractions for more passengers, sometimes as company perks for employees. I’ve encountered a number of them, including “Montezuma’s Castle” outside Las Vegas, New Mexico, now a private university. Like so many of your commenters, I was unaware of the Wilhelmina.
    I have a lifelong friend who spent summers in a series of fire towers in the Cascades from infancy. His father, a teacher, took the job as summertime income. The family’s tales of that remote life are terrifically entertaining, but they were roughing it, indeed.

    1. I suppose those early resorts were a variation on “if you build it, they will come” — particularly if you provide transportation for them to get there. You didn’t know about the Wilhelmina, and I’d never heard of Montezuma’s Castle. Its story is just as fascinating. I vaguely remember hearing about “Harvey Houses,” but I have no idea in what context. Without question, the whole town of Las Vegas would be a great place to visit.

      It’s occurred to me that life on a cruising sailboat’s at least somewhat akin the life in a fire tower, or a lighthouse. Practical skills, self-sufficiency, acute awareness of the natural world, and a high level of problem-solving ability are critical in all three contexts. I wonder what would happen if we made a three year stint in any one of those settings a prerequisite for holding public office?

  33. Very interesting historical account. Rich Mountain caught my eye as I was thinking of Rich Mountain in the Tennessee part of the Great Smokey Mountains. The Arkansas mountain certainly has a rich history.

    Arlee Bird

    1. Believe it or not, I didn’t know there was a Rich Mountain in Tennessee until I began writing this post, and searches for ‘this’ Rich Mountain turned up ‘that’ Rich Mountain. Reading a little about the trail there made clear what an attractive place it is.

      The history of Arkansas’s Rich Mountain is fascinating. The second part, just published, has more detail about the lives and deaths of some of its residents.

      Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  34. What an amazing place. I know so little about Arkansas, but I’d certainly like to see this sometime. So sad to see the beautiful Inn in ruins, but wonderful it was rebuilt numerous times. And you stayed there!!! How fun!!
    Now off to Part 2!

    1. I really have grown fond of Arkansas. It’s a much different state that I imagined before I visited. The natural beauty is remarkable, and all of the people I’ve met have been congenial and friendly. The only place I didn’t enjoy was Eureka Springs, but it’s meant for tourists, and it was full of them. Since I wasn’t interested in crowds or spending money, I just moved on. But I did see a white squirrel while I was in Eureka Springs — what’s not to like about that?

      1. I agree with you about Eureka Springs or any place that is touristy. We need space!
        You will have to explore the Buffalo River. It is one of the few undammed river left. My son and I explored on a small portion of it, and it’s definitely calling me back!

        1. I have a book called the Arkansas Nature Lover’s Guidebook, by Tim Ernst. It has a whole chapter about the Buffalo River. That area’s a little out of the way for me if I’m making a quick run up to Kansas City — I go a more westerly route — but by the time I got done looking through that section, I was ready to go. Maybe I can’t make it this fall, but next spring? Perhaps! Thanks for the tip.

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