Thursday, February 27, 2014

Crittenden County Once Grew Hemp For The Government

Not many people now known that during World War II Crittenden County was needed to help with the production of hemp seed to help with the military. 

At the time it was being grown, we had just lost Manila in the war, farmers in the area considered it their patriotic duty to grow the plants for the "strong cordage" needed by the Navy and for packing between a ship's hulls. Hemp had a tendency for plugging holes. Its the only crop that was known to be grown for the government on contract, so it must have been a pretty crucial thing.

 Crittenden County grew hemp for the government in 1942-43 to produce a seed supply.  The seeds were
then grown elsewhere to produce their fiber needed for rope and other uses.  The plants seems to do especially well on rich, river bottom soil but there was a draw back on the river bottom land.  In the spring many acres of the hemp fell victim to river flooding. 

In the picture above is Jick Thomas and two of his children standing in one of the river bottom Hemp fields on the Williams farm near Cave-In-Rock Landing in 1942.

 Growing hemp was a primitive process, even by 1940 standards.  The stalk was too long to go through a combine, so all the work had to be done by had.  The growing season was similar to that of corn.  At harvest time the plants could have grown to be 12 feet tall with stalks as thick as a man's arm.

They were sown in 42-inch rows, three to six feet apart.  After the male plants pollinated the females, they died and had to be cut out by hand.

When the plants were read for harvest they were placed on a canvas sheet and beaten with sticks a little longer than broom sticks until the seeds fell from beneath the leaves where they clustered.  The farmers then took the seed to a Sturgis milling company for cleaning and selling back to the government.

By 1944, the farmers who were finally getting the hang of growing hemp were out of luck.  There wasn't any market for it then, Nylon, which was cheaper and easier to produce, took its place.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fluor Spar History

Thanks to the old articles found in The Crittenden Press we are able to know and learn some of the history of our fluorspar mills of long ago.  This article appeared in 1902 and  reports that the Kentucky Fluor Spar Company of Marion are the miners, the grinders and distributors of fluor spar through out the United States.  

At this time they own nearly every producing fluor spar mines in the district and it is the only district in the United Staes where it is found in quantity.  

Three great reserve dumps at Marion, at Mexico, and at Crayneville, on the Illinois Central Railroad, enables them to do this.  Good weather, bad weatehr, muddy roads or freshets make no difference.

The Crayneville supply lot where a mule drawn wagon waits it's turn to unload it's fluorspar onto the lot.

Thousands and thousands of tons of this wonderful mineral are shipped to manufactures from Alabama to Montana, from New York to California.

A dozen mines fully equipped with modern mining machinery create the output.  

Scores of teams do the hauling to the railroad and hundred of men are at work in the mines.

What a wonderful rich history our county has of the time when Ore, Zinc, and Fluorspar where at their most needed in the county and Crittenden County was the supplier of these minerals.  Now fading in time, it's only a memory to a few of the older generation.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Old Fort Motel - Lost in Time

About 10 miles from Marion on Hwy. 60 East used to set a little family run motel called the Fort Motel. 
It was was painted brown with white stripes to look like a log cabin or an old fort.  It always fascinated me as it really looked like a fort out of the western movies and it was located in such an odd place just on the side of the road.

It was also known for it's good food and I have been told that some of the well to do families in Marion would go there for a special dinner and take their out of town guests to dine at "The Fort."

This picture  above came from a 1962 Crittenden Press ad when the place as up for sale by Dave & Nina Luttrell.  It said The Fort is a log and stone constructed building unusually attractive, unique in design and is modern as you will fine.  Total rooms are 6 including 3 bedrooms, 2 complete baths, living room large kitchen and family room.

This picture was from an ad in 1967 and Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Porter had it up for sale.  

Another source of information told me a few years later the building burnt.  But no more information has been found.

Just one of those things I always found interesting but could find no history on when it was built or really how it's life ended.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Historic Pickens Home

Another one of Marion's historic homes sits empty and losing it's grandeur.  Al Pickens bought this land in 1904 in the North end of Marion.  He laid out the land and made several town lots for new homes to be built.  
His new home would be the first built on the new building addition to the town.

The Crittenden Press in July 1904 tells about the 
new home.  A. J. Pickens is building a handsome brick residence in North Marion.

Mr. Pickens, the hardware merchant, new handsome brick residence on his lot in the Haynes Grove section, just north of town, is almost complete.  The location is exceptionally good, being high and dry with a spendid view of the city of Marion.  

His house will have a splendid cellar, which is a luxury, a large reception hall, double parlors, with folding doors between, with family and dining room and kitchen on first floor.  

Several sleeping apartments will be on the second floor.  The house is a credit to the town and we are proud to see it going up. If this house was built in a large city they would say it has four stories.

The Slyche Frazer family lived in this beautiful old home for many years.  Now it sits empty wishing to be restored to it's former beauty.  Two different families that I know of at one time over the past several years purchased this home and actually started restoring it, something seems to happen and it is never finished and the people leave. This picture was made in January 2007. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Crittenden's Old Depots

Soon after the train tracks were laid through Crittenden County and the train started being a daily occurrence, depots were built at different points along the tracks.  They were strategically placed along the line to benefit the different areas of the county.

The depots were a wonderful thing for these small communities.  Besides being used as a means of hauling fluorspar, timber, livestock and other large items, passenger cars were available and people could travel to Marion to purchase supplies, do business, and then return home later in the day on another train. They traveled also to Evansville for medical purposes.  The depots were also a community delivery spot for farmers to take their cream to be picked up taken to Evansville and then the empty metal contains would be delivered back to the depot that they were picked up from.

As you entered into Crittenden County from the North through Webster County, the first little depot would be that of Nunn Switch.   Cream cans would be delivered here and also there were livestock pens where stock was driven here and kept until they could be loaded on the trains to go to Evansville stockyards.

The next stop would be several miles on down the track as the community of Repton, here a small depot was also located.
This picture of the Marion Depot was made in the 1970's.

Marion Depot was the largest ot the depots.  It was located near the railroad crossing on East Depot Street.  This historic old building was torn down in 1985.  Another one of our old landmarks gone.  Lack of Interest and lack of money seem to be the downfalls for our old buldings.

This picture of the first Crayneville Depot and loading yards was made in the early 1900's.
The next Depot would be that of the community of Crayneville (later Crayne).   Timber was always stacked in the loading yard ready to be shipped somewhere, and piles of spar from the many nearby spar mines would be loaded here and taken north.

The last Depot of the train tracks was that of Mexico.  It was noted for it's loading yards always being full of spar to be loaded.

The Depot signs and any pictures of these county Depots must be lost in time.  Just another part of our Forgotten Passages of time.