HISTORY OF LURTON
The community now known as Lurton, began developing long before the turn of the century and was originally named Spence. The only road through the area at this early stage was the old Chisum Turnpike, a wagon road which ran from Dardanelle through Spence, to Carrollton. This road was later replaced by the Jefferson Highway and finally became Arkansas State Highway 7. In the later part of the 19th century, major settlements of the area were located at upper Richland Creek and Tarlton Flats. Upper Richland Creek is southeast of Spence (Lurton) and Tarlton Flats is two miles to the north.
Spence had a post office as early as the mid 1800’s but no data has been found concerning the earlier postmasters or the origin of the name of Spence. The present knowledge of the earliest post office in the area was at Tarlton during the year of 1900, with Francis M. Jackson as postmaster. However, no information has been found as to the origination of the name of Tarlton, either.
Many one room log school houses were scattered around the area near the numerous small settlements. Pleasant View, also called ‘Hardscrabble’ was a one room log school house erected two miles south of Spence. Another log school was located at upper Richland Creek about three miles southeast of Spence. The Tarlton School called the ‘Board Shanty’ due to boards being nailed over the cracks of the log structure, was two miles northeast of Spence. A school was located in the Brimmage district two miles east of the Tarlton School. Liberty School, also a one room log building was three miles north of Spence.
During the later era of Spence, George Hamm owned a large portion of the town and surrounding area, and operated a general store in Spence. The year of 1907, Nonimus Rosamond and sons began operating a saw mill and grist mill in Spence, situated a few yards north of the present old hotel building. Nonimus and Rosa Rosamond had five sons; Sam, Frank, Jim, Ed and Fred. Ed and Fred were twins and the youngest of the boys. Sam, the oldest son, tired the boiler for the mill while the twins worked the off board. Although Ed and Fred were quite young at the time, they helped to saw the lumber for one of the few remaining land- marks of Spence. It was a large two story home, erected for George Hamm in 1907. Nonimus Rosamond was killed January 1, 1908, and Sam became operator of his father’s mills.
In January 1914, I.C. Sutton, Sr., bought some property two miles south of Spence. He moved his family to this home May 10, 1915. Then he purchased George Hamm’s large home in Spence and all of his property, including 270 acres in and surrounding the town, December 1916. At this time Spence had almost become a dead town. Meanwhile the area post office had moved several times before coming back to Spence. April 17, 1914, it was moved from the Francis M. Jackson place at Tarlton, to the Freeman home near by and was operated by Eula Freeman. It was discontinued in Tarlton September 30, 1916, and the mail was sent to the town of Moore, five miles east of the Freeman property. January 9, 1917, Cornelia Sutton, wife of I.C. Sr. contracted the post office and it was moved back to Spence. Mrs. Sutton was asked to submit five names to the postal service, in order to choose a new name for the post office. The name of Lurton was selected as no other post office had that particular name. Lurton was the surname of Mrs. Sutton’s half sister’s husband, Marion Lurton. Thus, the old name of Spence ceased, and the new town of Lurton began. Mrs. Sutton operated the post office until her retirement in 1945.
In 1921, I. C. Sutton, Sr. established a general store in Lurton, and in 1925 he began to manufacture split bottom chairs in the mill shed the Rosamond family formerly operated, he also ran the grist mill. In 1925, E. J. Sutton, brother to I. C. Sutton, started a business of a garage and cafe. So Lurton was well on its way to becoming a boom town. E. J. Sutton sold his garage to Andrew Smith, and sold the cafe to Joe and Lizzie Hefley in 1928. The next year Mitchell Smith bought the garage from his brother Andrew, and later bought the cafe from Joe Hefley. Around this time, South Lurton came into existence when Mitchell Hefley began operating a gas station, store, garage and grist mill. This business section was approximately ¼ mile from downtown Lurton. A small community grew up around this south side of Lurton.
Mr. I. C. Sutton decided it was time that Lurton had its own school, so he donated two acres of land for the building site and supplied most of the lumber and materials to erect the school. The labor was supplied by local men, and this was the first school house in the area to be built with sawed lumber. With the opening of the Lurton School. the other small surrounding log schools closed, and the children then came to Lurton School. Although this school had only one room, it also had a stage, and was a fairly large building. Grades one through eight were taught, with only one school teacher in the beginning, but later an extension was added and another teacher had the lower grades for some time. Lurton became the first school to consoidate with Deer School and the four upper grades were bused to Deer, around the late 1930’s. It continued on as a wing school however, until the doors were finally closed to students in 1961.
To evidence the fact that Lurton was growing into an industrious town through the ingenuity of the Sutton family, the following ad was placed in the ’L.oumar Souvenir Guide, Touring Information’, published in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, in 1927. The ad reads as follows:
TOURISTS ARE WELCOME AT LURTON, ARK. In the Ozark National Forest LURTON GENERAL STORE I. C. Sutton, Prop. A tourist supply store, lunch goods, candies, cold drinks, are our specialties. LURTON GARAGE E. J. Sutton, Prop. A complete and general auto service. High grade gasoline and oils.
A map showing Highway 7 through Newton County, in this Tourist Guide, says the population of the town of Lurton was 25, and has the Tourist Camp rates "O.K.". The camp consisted of a spring of water, being piped to a large horse trough near the road. The road was widened at this point to permit parking of wagons and cars. The spring and camp was located across the road from the I. C. Sutton home, near the present Gilmore Tackle Shop.
In 1929, I. C. Sutton, Sr. purchased a rough-turned handle factory equipment at Bass, Arkansas from W. E. Bruner and Sons. He erected the proper buildings for a handle factory, Just northwest of the Sutton home, and moved the equipment to burton. I.C. Sutton, Sr. and his two older sons, I.C., Jr. and Charles began the operation of a growing business. They first started making striking tool handles, but later added a line of shaped tool handles and base ball bats. The factory began with 25 workers, but had as many as 75 employeed during World War 11. In 1930, Elmer Hamm purchased the general store from I. C. Sutton and employed W. A. Thompson as clerk. A few years later W.A. Thompson bought the store from his employer, and moved it to a new building south of the garage. Also, Ed Erickson operated a small notion store in a little building, between the garage and the old Hamm store building. I. C. Sutton, Jr. bought the inventory of this notion store in 1941, and in 1943 he purchased the general store from W. A. Thompson. Ruby Hefley Sutton, wife of I. C., Jr. took over the post office in 1945 when Mrs. Cornelia Sutton retired. The post office was moved into the general store building, where Ruby maintained it until 1952.
Around 1930, Harry and Jossie Tatro built a large two story hotel, a few yards south of the Smith Garage. This added another business to the town. The hotel was very plush for its day and time; it also served delicious home cooked meals. It was a popular stop over for tourists, as well, as providing a home for some of the Sutton Factory employees. A deep well of good water had been hand dug in the earlier days of Spence, which is still in existence and use, near the old hotel building. This well of clear cold water, served several homes, businesses, and provided a refreshing cold drink to travelers passing through. The hotel ceased it’s business years ago, and is now used as a private home. it is presently owned by Nolan and Gelene Smith Castleberry, daughter aad son-in-law of Mitcheel Smith.
The busy little town of Lurton began to decrease in population in 1952, when the Sutton Handle Factory moved it’s location from Lurton, to Harrison, Arkansas. This business provided the major employment of the area men. Some families moved with the Sutton Factory to continue working, while others went elsewhere to seek employment. Lola Dollar was an employee at the factory in Lurton, but she purchased the general store and contracted the post office, from I. C. Jr. and Ruby Sutton, at the time the factory moved. Lola operated both the store and post office until she sold her porperty to Nolan and Gelene Castleberry in 1966. At this time the store ceased operation, but the post office was commissioned to Glenna Sam Adams. Glenna operated the post office from 1967 through 1969. Finally, the post office was completely phased out, thus ending another era of the history of Lurton.
During the years of the Lurton School, the building was used for all of the community functions. It served as a church house for all denominations and revival meetings, pie suppers to collect aid for family disasters, 4th of July picnics, a voting place for all elections, traveling medicine shows, and at times during the summer it provided housing for musical lessons given by a traveling music teacher. One of the well remembered events held annually, was the Christmas program. The skits and plays were acted out by the local children and was directed by the school teacher. There would always be a large community Christmas tree the night of the program, with sacks of candy, nuts and fruit, for every child in the entire surrounding area. The tree, decorations, and treats were furnished by the local business men. Most every child in the area participated in the programs, as this was the highlight of the entire school year.
Many factors over the years helped in the decline of the once thriving town of Lurton. When the Ozark National Forest Service was founded in 1908, many homestead farms were purchased, as well as land from large property owners. During the years of World War 1, local men went into the service, and some families moved east to work in war related industries. Some of these families never returned to the area, and the Forest Service obtained more land for back taxes on the deserted farms. Other families lost their property during the depression years, for lacking of tax or mort- gate money. Then along came World War II and the next generation of young men answered the call to serve their country, and families went west this time, to seek work in war connected factories. Some of these families returned to their beloved mountains, while others did not. In the 1950’s, Highway 7 was black topped but it by-passed Lurton, causing a decline in traffic related business. The Sutton Factory moving from Lurton in 1952, certainly added to the decrease in population of the area. Finally, in 1961, the Lurton School’s full consolidation with Deer School, had an impact on the community. The final blow came when the general store closed and the phasing out of the post office.
The old Lurton School building continued to be used for community gatherings until it was torn down in 1974. At this time, a new Community Center was erected on the old school grounds, just south of the old building. This new Community Center serves the public in the same capacity as the old school house did.
When the old school house became too dilapidated for holding church services, the local citizens banned together and built a new church house. Their inspiration derived from the Bible Scripture of Haggi 1: 8-"Go up to the mountains, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord."
Walter and Mima Light donated land for the church site, which is just west of the present Community Center, while local people donated labor and material. The result of the community effort was a beautiful white Church House which opened it’s doors to welcome one and all to worship services. This friendly neighborhood Church House was dedicated April 17, 1954. Church services were held in the building for the next few years, but with families moving, different ministers coming and going, a state of apathy developed in the community. The Church House finally closed it’s doors for a few years. It has recently been renovated and reopened by Vernon and Velma Awbrey Rosamond, after returning to their native area. The church is Pastored by Vernon Rosamond, grandson of Nonimus and Rosa Rosamond, son of Ed and Dullie Woodard Rosamond. Velma plays the piano for the services and teaches Sunday School classes; she is the daughter of Johnny and Mary G. (Gertie) Ray Awbrey.
Even though Lurton has become a small community, many families still live in and around the area. The beautiful mountainous region attracts retired persons, looking for a quiet serene place to live. Some employment is provided by the Forest Service and timber related businesses. Some family providers drive to Harrison or Russellville to their jobs, while some local citizens work in the Art and Crafts vocation. Several area farms produce livestock for sale, and almost every family have their own vegetable gardens.
There is still one thriving business in Lurton to date. The Gilmore Tackle Shop owned and operated by Luney Gilmore and his son, Dennis, is widly known for their famous lines of fishing lures. The shop began manufacturing fishing lures in 1950 with three workers and presently employees between 19 to 25 people.
The Tarlton Cemetery, located two miles north of Lurton on State Highway 123, holds many of the early and prominent settlers from Lurton and surrounding areas. Isaac Freeman homesteaded a large area of land about 1 1/2 miles north of Lurton. He brought a woman slave and her daughter, when he moved his family to the area. The story goes that the woman died after becoming over heated while helping fight a forest fire, near the home, and drank too much cold water from the spring. It’s assumed she was one of the first burials in the Tarlton Cemetery. No data can be found on her child. Although no headstone in the cemetery bears the name of Isaac Freeman, he could well be any one of the many fieldstone marked graves. The SW and SE sections of the cemetery hold the earlier settlers, with fieldstone markers and no other data. A headstone has the name of William Brimage, born 1802 in Tennessee (no other data), and one has James Polk Brimage, age 16, Civil War Veteran. These two burials are located in the SW corner of the cemetery along with many fieldstone marked graves. This gives validity to the assumption the cemetery must have started in the early 1800’s.
Other prominent names found in the Tarlton Cemetery are: Ass C. Hamm, Brimmage, Claytons, Claxtons, Waters, Ketcbersides, Daniels, Woodards, Rosamonds, Hefleys (Dan Hefley preached in the area about 60 years), Jacksons, I. C. Sutton, Sr., and wife Cornelia, both mothers of Mr. and Mrs. Sutton and a son and grandchildren of the Suttons. Dr. Frailey and wife (he practiced medicine in the area during the early years of Lurton). There are many other well known family names, Civil War Veterans, World War I and II Veterans, and Korean War Veterans.
All of this information was obtained by gathering data from many different people and sources. Facts were handed down from generation to generation and is as accurate as can be ascertained at this time. I wish to extend my gratitude to all for their generous cooperation, which made this writing possible.
Thelma Awbrey Gregoire wrote the above history a few years ago, she mailed it to me and asked that I include it in the section on Lurton...Thank You for sharing Thelma!
Many things have changed since Thelma's writing...the well known landmarks for the most part, are now gone...
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