On the Wright Track

Wednesday, November 02, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Digging for Roots, Day 2

MONTICELLO, Arkansas— As we wound our way toward Blytheville, AR, the object of our mission, a visit with relatives in southeast Arkansas was more than we could resist.  Driving through the Mississippi River's alluvial plain on the Arkansas side of the river, we were again met with large fields of fertile soil, enriched by regular flooding over a period of thousands of years.

Rich delta soil
Agriculture still dominates the economy of the Arkansas Delta, as it has for more than 200 years, with rice, soybeans, and cotton being the main cash crops.  Because of these large agricultural tracts, the Arkansas Delta has some of the lowest population density in the South, in some areas less than one person per square mile.

The town of Monticello (pop. 9,146) is just a few miles from the area where our grandmother was born and her father and his family called home.  Her first cousin's son and his family still live in Monticello and graciously welcomed our visit.

Bobbie, Kenny, Belle, and Sylvia
Cousins Kenny and Bobbie—and their darling miniature Yorkie, Belle—welcomed us with open arms, fed us lunch, and took us on a tour of the area.  (Belle was not thrilled about posing for photos.)  In addition, Kenny, a self-taught musician, treated us to a concert on his remarkable Lowrey Celebration organ.

Kenny and his friend Lowrey
Based on the performance we heard, he could easily be a one-man substitute for an orchestra on most any occasion.  Kenny has the amazing talent of pitch recognition and apparently can play any tune he has heard.  He has also mastered the use of the organ's abilities to insert rhythm, strings, and other accompaniment.  We were mesmerized by his recital.

After lunch, our charming hosts took us on a guided tour of family-significant sites in the area.  Of particular interest were a couple of cemeteries with family plots.  Rather than spending several hours tracking these cemeteries down and examining every grave to ensure we hadn't missed a family burial, our informative hosts were able to single out the significant areas for us.

At Andrews Chapel Cemetery
Of course, our Jeanne-e-ologist was taking notes the entire time, ensuring that we didn't miss any speck of vital family information.

We ended up spending the night in Monticello and asked at our hotel for a local restaurant recommendation.  Assured that "The River" was the place to go, we set out with only our Garmin GPS for guidance.  When it turned out to be a bit off, we consulted Google which gave us another address.  Groping in the dark and seeing only a billboard at the specified location, we took a chance and turned onto a dirt lane adjacent to the sign.  Following it across a railroad track, we eventually stumbled across The River restaurant and sports bar.  They served a decent meal which completed our excellent day in Monticello.

Tomorrow we will make our way to Blytheville, the object of our search.  Jeanne has been told by our grandmother and others interested in family history that we may find some answers in Blytheville.  Are Clara's parents buried there?  We have heard that Clara's brother Willie, who apparently died as a teenager, might be in a Blytheville cemetery.  Our heads were full of possibilities as we tried to fall asleep.

More Photos from Today

What's the manifestation of your ego??
Greenville Bridge over the Miss. River (3rd longest cable-stayed bridge in U.S.)
Benjamin G. Humphreys Bridge (c. 1930) being removed for recycling
McGehee, AR
Mother examines family markers at Andrews Chapel Cemetery
Grave marker of Clara's husband, Andrews Chapel Cemetery
Mother and cousin Kenny
Sister J in Mondo-inspired shirt