Artifact of the Week — November 17, 2022

For the month of November and once a month henceforth, Old Independence Regional Museum will focus on one of our many supporters. These individuals have donated their time, talents, and treasures to build OIRM into what it represents today. We are truly blessed and thankful these individuals have chosen to share the richness of their lives to help OIRM and the surrounding communities thrive.

Josephine Raye Jackson Rogers

Josephine Raye Jackson Rogers
Josephine Raye Jackson Rogers

Born in 1922 to local “royalty”, both sides of Ms. Raye’s family were Jackson County founders. Her parents were William Andrew Jackson, a successful attorney who served several terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives, and Minnie Martha Camp Jackson.

She was never alone growing up since she had a twin sister, Faye. Together the two tackled as many sports as possible while growing up and attending school in Newport.

Ms. Raye married Doyle Rogers in 1941 where they set up house in Newport, bringing Barbara Josephine and Doyle “Rog” Jr. into the world. They subsequently moved to Batesville where Doyle was a very successful real estate agent. Together they invested in many lucrative real estate ventures, owning several Kroger, Walmart, and Dollar General stores as well as shopping centers. They purchased a motel in Little Rock for its property, demolished it, and built the Excelsior Hotel, renowned for its opulence as it pulled in world-famous celebrities and presidents. The current owners of the Excelsior have rebranded it as the Little Rock Marriott.

Ms. Raye’s community service and active membership in many organizations cannot be understated. She was a charter member of Junior Auxiliary in Batesville, a member of First United Methodist Church, board member of the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas, served on the Northeast Arkansas Humanities Board of Directors, the University of Arkansas School of Medical Sciences, was a founding member of Arkansas (Lyon) College President’s Advisory Council, and was a member of the White River Medical Center Foundation Board. Her husband Doyle generously contributed $1,000,000 to WRMC’s establishment of the Josephine Raye Rogers Center for Women and Imaging.

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Artifact of the Week — November 10, 2022

For the month of November and once a month henceforth, Old Independence Regional Museum will focus on one of our many supporters. These individuals have donated their time, talents, and treasures to build OIRM into what it represents today. We are truly blessed and thankful these individuals have chosen to share the richness of their lives to help OIRM and the surrounding communities thrive.

Dr. George E. Lankford III

George Edward Lankford III was born in 1938 in Birmingham, Alabama, to Elaine and George E. Lankford. He graduated from El Dorado High School in 1956 and earned his BA at Louisiana State University in 1960. He received his BD from Princeton Theological Seminary and subsequently his PhD from Indiana University in 1975.

George served as an assistant Presbyterian pastor in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mobile, Alabama from 1963 – 1971. He loved being a choral musician for both the Presbyterian and Lyon College community choirs.

He began his teaching career at Spring Hill College in Mobile where he taught theology, then continued with positions at Indiana University teaching folklore, at the University of Alabama as the staff archeologist, then finally fulfilled his career at Lyon College where he retired in 2001. In his 25-year career at Lyon (he began while Lyon was Arkansas College) Dr. Lankford was a professor of folklore, archeology, religion, and Native American mythology.

He was very active in the University of Arkansas Endowment for the Humanities Council, Ozark Folk Cultural Center Commission, Arkansas Arts Council, Batesville Community Theater (he is quoted as saying, “Anyone who is a life teacher is also an actor”), Independence County Historical Society, and the Old Independence Regional Museum where he was the board president on the Board of Trustees.

His love of acting, teaching, and history culminated in a two-hour stage production of A Chronicle of Independence County’s Civil War, with actors in Civil War period costume read letters to loved ones during the initial two years of war in Independence County.

As an archeologist, many scholars deem Dr. Lankford as the man who single-handedly changed the narrative of the Trail of Tears. The folklore Dr. Lankford is most renowned for talking, lecturing, and writing about is Native American tales, noting that “…a myth is a sacred legend”.

Dr. Lankford edited and contributed articles to the Independence County Chronicle for many years. He was a prolific author and has written and/or edited a number of books for colleagues, and even a murder mystery: Surprised by Death: A Novel of Arkansas in the 1840s. He was a member of the editorial board of the Arkansas Historical Quarterly and the Arkansas Encyclopedia of History and Culture.

He has been active in a number of state associations, including the American Folklore Society and the Arkansas Historical Association. His awards include Arkansas Professor of the Year and awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Rockefeller Foundation.

George Lankford Works
George Lankford Works

A prolific published author, Dr. Lankford loved finding time to travel, bringing his Lyon classes to life with jaunts to the courthouse with students to study to balance his voracious appetites of teaching and traveling together. He was an avid reader (one of his favorite teachers was a high school English instructor who had her class read “…most of the classic fiction of Western tradition in one year.” Not only did Dr. Lankford read books related to his research, writing, and teaching, he also dove into pulp fiction. Dr. Lankford enjoyed an occasional martini and was a closet artist, painting pictures “…no one will ever see. The purpose of painting is to get the words out of my head.”

For all of us at the Old Independence Regional Museum, we welcome Dr. Lankford’s words in our heads. His history for and with the museum has definitely made it a better place to work and visit.  

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Artifact of the Week — November 3, 2022

For the month of November and once a month henceforth, Old Independence Regional Museum will focus on one of our many supporters. These individuals have donated their time, talents, and treasures to build OIRM into what it represents today. We are truly blessed and thankful these individuals have chosen to share the richness of their lives to help OIRM and the surrounding communities to thrive.

Sylvia Rich Crosby
Sylvia Rich Crosby

Sylvia Rich Crosby was born in Forrest City to Walter Raleigh Rich and Stella Mae Rush Rich. She was a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Her voice was renowned for being lovely, and she sang in the choir to great delight of others.

Sylvia’s husband, Keller, took her hunting whenever possible. Sylvia loved hunting and dreamed of seeing the elks in Boxley Valley, Arkansas.

Kenny Gerhardt: My wife and I conduct estate sales. If we had a sale with a collection of quilts worn around the edges but still in good condition we would ask the family if they were willing to donate them to the museum so Sylvia could work her magic and repurpose them, maybe making a bear, casserole carrier and angels, and people were always happy to do so! One time I gave her a quilt and she crafted a table runner out of it for me and then made angels out of the rest of the quilt to sell in the gift shop.  Last year my wife and I gave a quilt to the angel project and many angels were made to remember our friend Sylvia.  She was a grand person, loved by many!!

Alan Bufford: Sylvia was a true friend and a dedicated supporter of the museum. She served tirelessly in many capacities — from volunteer docent to community advocate to leadership via service on the board of trustees. Using one of her many personal talents, Sylvia contributed to the museum’s gift shop in a most memorable and unique way — by creating decorative angels from well worn hand-pieced quilts she found at yard sales. Her individualized and colorful angels were gifted to the museum and sold in the museum shop. Sylvia’s angels quickly became coveted Christmas tree decor through the area.

To that end, OIRM continues in Sylvia’s honor to create these sweet Christmas ornaments. Once a year, a group of volunteers meet at the museum for a day of camaraderie and memories as we create quilted angels for the museum’s gift store. Feel free to join us on November 17 from 10:00 – 1:00 as we reminisce and piece together these genuine signs of giving. Sylvia, we are so very thankful for ALL your gifts freely given and your talents generously shared over the decades of your service. Your memory lives on in the heart and in the spirit of our museum!

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Artifact of the Week — October 27, 2022

Thomas Todd Tunstall is an important, intriguing figure in our region of Arkansas, especially in Jacksonport, which he founded in 1839 (the Pleasant Hill Chapel honorary stone claims the date as 1820, but historians believe this date is imperfect). Captain Tunstall served in Simaral’s Cavalry of the Kentucky Light Dragoons during the War of 1812. He was present during the Battle of New Orleans, where he came into contact with the Bowie brothers, notorious for the “Arkansas toothpick”, or the Bowie knife, which happens to be Arkansas’ state knife. The tie to the Bowies deepened, according to legend. Bowie knives used in the Alamo standoff were crafted by James Black for Jim Bowie at Tunstall’s blacksmith shop on his plantation.

In gratitude of their friendship, James Bowie gifted a knife to Captain Tunstall. It now reads “Made & Presented to His Friend Capt. Thos Tunstall. By Col. Bowie, White River, Arkansaw Ter. near Batesville, 1833”. On the opposite side of the knife is written “Sheldon I. Kellogg – from his friend Thomas Tunstall, Nov., 1834”. Mr. Kellogg traveled the road adjacent to Tunstall’s property, and Tunstall gave him the knife, not recognizing its value. It was not engraved at the time Tunstall presented it, proven because James Bowie was proclaimed a captain postmortem. If you remember, the Alamo was in 1936. The knife is currently on display at the Saunders Museum in Berryville, Arkansas.

Captain Tunstall piloted the first steamboat, the Waverly, down the White River in 1831. In the early 1830s he hauled lumber aboard his own steamer, The William Parsons to Pleasant Hill on Dota Creek to build a plantation home. It is believed he owned land from Pleasant Hill to Jacksonport. Captain Tunstall was Sulphur Rock’s first postmaster in 1834.

Captain Tunstall’s third wife Elizabeth Magness, was a young 19 years old when she married 48-year-old Thomas Tunstall. Their union produced 11 children before she died 18 years later in 1856. Her dying wish was to be buried overlooking the racetrack where her husband bred and raced his prized thoroughbreds. Tunstall followed through on this promise, preserving her body in alcohol and placing it in a casket with a glass top so she could see the racetrack below.

During the Civil War, Union General Samuel Curtis removed the Tunstall family from the plantation. The Union soldiers confiscated everything of value and burned the house, took two of his steamboats, and smashed the glass lid on Elizabeth’s casket to snatch the diamond necklace from around her neck. Although Tunstall married a fourth time in 1861, he died in 1862 and chose to be interred next to Elizabeth in Pleasant Hill Cemetery.

As an interesting aside, his middle name, Todd, is his mother’s maiden name. Mildred Todd was related to Mary Todd Lincoln; Captain Tunstall and Mary Todd Lincoln were second cousins. Captain Tunstall is rumored to have visited the White House while President Lincoln was in office, although Tunstall considered himself a Confederate.

Read more about the fascinating history Of Thomas Todd Tunstall and his family at the Old Independence Regional Museum to research the files, chronicles, and pictures of the Tunstall family.

Thomas Todd Tunstall at OIRM
Thomas Todd Tunstall at OIRM
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Artifact of the Week — October 20, 2022

Apple head dolls may have originated from Native American people. The practice of making dolls and other toys from utilitarian objects carried over to colonial Americans, who created dolls from clothespins, rags, corn husks, and any other materials that could imaginatively transform into a doll.

You can create an apple head doll! Peel an apple, then carve away facial features. Remember the apple will shrink as the water evaporates, so exaggerate the features. By the way, in the past the apples were often pinched while they dried to create facial features. Pierce the apple with a wire and hang to dry for a month. Leaving the apple as is will create a darker face while submerging the apple in lemon juice after it is peeled will keep the apple a lighter color for a short period of time. Much like tanning any material, though, the apple will eventually darken. The apples eventually shrink to approximately 1/3 their original size and appear as old, wrinkled faces.

Apple head dolls
Apple head dolls

Our two dolls come as a pair: an old woman and her elderly husband. The woman is dressed in pantaloons, underskirt, yellow print dress, and apron. She is holding a bowl of peas in the process of being shelled. Her good-looking husband dons a straw hat, long sleeved collared shirt, and blue denim striped overalls. His legs are crossed at the knee as if he is sitting in contemplation, watching his wife shell her peas.

While the dolls were used as toys, they were more often displayed as folk art. Would your children play with a doll that looked like a wrinkled old lady with a pinched face?

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