South of Jasper about twenty-four miles down Number Seven Highway is a small community known as Lurton, in Southeastern Newton County, Arkansas. The area began developing way back in the 1800's and the first postoffice was Spence, Arkansas.
The highway at this time was the Cheatham Turnpike, a wagon road named for Barnett Cheatham of Mt. Judea, ran from Dardanelle through Spence through Tarlton to Mt Judea, to Carrollton. This road was later replaced by the Jefferson Highway Gulf to Lakes Highway that began in Chalmette, Louisiana and followed various roads to the Great Lakes. (Judge Roger Logan of Harrison recently sent me this information) Arkansas State Highway 7 and Hwy 123 were rebuilt and named in the 1920s. In late 1800s major settlements of the area were located at upper Richland Creek and on top of the mountain at Tarlton Flats. Upper Richland Creek is southeast of Lurton and Tarlton is two miles north on State Hwy 123.
Spence had a post office in the 1892 and Solomon M. Overturff was postmaster and we have no data on earlier postmasters. In 1900, the post office moved to nearby Tarlton in the home of Francis M. Jackson. After this it moved from the Jackson home to the Freeman home where it was discontinued at Tarlton on Sept 30, 1916. The mail was sent to the town of Moore, five miles east of the Freeman property.
On Jan 9, 1917 Cornelia Sutton, wife of I. C. Sutton, contracted the post office and it was moved back to Spence community. Mrs Sutton was asked to submit five names to the postal service in order to choose a new name for the post office. One of these names is Lurton, the surname of Mrs. Sutton's sister's husband, Marion Lurton. This name was selected as no other post office in Arkansas had that name.
Cornelia Sutton operated the post office until her retirement in 1945 when Ruby Sutton moved it to their general store. Ruby later sold the store to Lola Dollar who contracted the post office which she sold to Nolan and Gelene Castleberry in 1966. At this time the store ceased operation but the post office was commissioned to Glenna Sain Adams. Glenna operated the post office from 1967 through 1969 when then it was completely phased out, thus ending another era of the history of Lurton.
Born to Newton County parents at Tarlton, I grew up at Lurton in the thirties and forties when I left the mountain to work. We have lived in New Orleans with our busy family of four sons for the past thirty years but I went home to Lurton each year for the Tarlton Decoration and our Woodard Family Reunion. With this era of life passing fast, I always stopped to take pictures of the old buildings in downtown Lurton. Somewhat like a death in the family, I watched as the buildings died down.
After the post office closed its doors for the last time, several years passed. Then one day in the seventies as I drove through Lurton, I passed the old general store and post office. By now the building was broken down and the doors were gone. I could see daylight coming through holes in the roof and most windows had been broken by vandals. I parked my car and walked to the door to take a picture one more time before it was gone.
As I looked into the shadows inside, I saw something in the middle of the room with fallen boards leaning against it. Moving trash and boards, I walked closer and recognized the old post office boxes from the original Sutton post office peeping out underneath the debris.
Standing there in front of these old boxes, faces flashed through my mind as I remembered neighbors of earlier days who visited and traded stories as we waited for the mail to be put up. Family members of the Lurton clans met here to exchange greetings and gossip twice each day as the north and south mail car stopped. The Smiths, Heffleys, Waters, Ricketts, Tatros, Daniels, Gilmores, Freemans, Haynes, Bristows, Lights, Jacklins, Merrimans, Gregorys, Rosamonds and others. I remembered the big box across the bottom was for IC Suttons family and the Haynes box was Number 7.
Not knowing who owned the old store building and with Lurton almost a ghost town, I went outside and looked up and down the road one more time and when I saw no signs of life anywhere, I made a decision to rescue these old boxes bring them home with me to New Orleans. I could envision someone else taking them apart to make penny banks of, or to sell as scrap metal.
With a storm coming up, I drive on down the highway toward New Orleans in an old model Chevrolet with four little boys under twelve years old in the car. They were taking home mountain souvenirs of seven box turtles beside them in a box and I was taking home the Lurton post office boxes. This trip is memorable to me and to them as we drove the five hundred miles home with turtles crawling around our feet and this thing tied with a rope to my car trunk. After we made it home, I called my Aunt Nellie Daniel to ask who owned the store property and was told it belonged to Nolan and Gelene Castleberry and gave me their address. I wrote them a letter about the post office boxes and never heard from anyone so I stored them in my attic in New Orleans.
Over twenty years passed. Each spring cleaning day I see this tall set of brass postoffice boxes resting in my attic and one more time and felt guilty about taking them. I did not want to keep them and when the Newton County Museum became a reality, I thought, "Now we can leave the old boxes there to have their place in history, if Gelene wants this, and if the museum will accept them."
In 1995, I finally visited with Gelene Castleberry and her girls at our Woodard Family Reunion and mentioned it to them. She said, "Yes, I knew you had them all along." I said, "Why didn't you write me?" I asked if she would care to donate the post office boxes to the Newton County Historical Museum and she said they would like this very much.
On June 1, 1996, the boxes were placed in the Newton County Museum by Gelene Smith Castleberry in memory of the Lurton families who used them from 1917 to 1969.
The Museum would like to place Lurton family names and dates on their individual post office box doors. If you know any box numbers (or location) for your family box and approximate dates used, please write and I will have them printed.
I received this letter I from the Historian of US Postoffices last fall and thanks to the postmaster lady at Pelsor who ordered it for me after the article in the NC Tmes about the Lurton Postoffice Boxes.
This is information is from the US Postal Service Archives about the
Lurton Postoffice. 10-4-96 USPS Historian Ms.Cindy Kralicek, Postmaster, US Postal Service PO Box 9998, Pelsor, AR 72856-9998 Letter from Jennifer Lynch, Research Assistant Postal History, Corp Info Services Lurton Postmasters and dates: Cornelia A. Sutton Postmaster 12/20/1916 Mrs Ruby Sutton Acting PM 04/30/45, Postmaster 01/29/47 Miss Lola I Dollar, Actg PM 02/29/52, PM 04/23/52 Miss Lola I Dollar's name was changed to Mrs. Lola D. Johnson by marriage on Dec 9, 1961. Mrs Glenna Jean Adams, actg PM 04/14/67 Discontinued on 8/25, 1967
(It occurred to me that we can write to these addresses listed here for information on the earlier postoffices for the Tarlton/ Spence area) I have heard of Spence (and someone by that name wrote me to see if it was named for her family...which I did not know the anwer to that one) another was Tarlton (some believe Tarlton was named for Tarlton Freeman, a young son of Isaac and Spicey Freeman of North Carolina, the first to homestead the area known as Tarlton Cemetery.) He died in 1855 in Arkansas and it is believed he is one of the first buried on his land now known as Tarlton Cemetery...One of his descendants, Erma Freeman and her father Press Freeman, were early Tarlton Postmasters when they lived at the Freeman Field. Erma lives in Russellville and I talk to her on the phone at times...She is quite a historian herself.
Francis Jackson (Nellie Daniel told me he was a drum major in the Civil War, as a boy) He was also the school teacher at Tarlton School for a time and his photograph is on the Tarlton School site on Colleens Place web site. Also, Mr. Solomon Overturff, postmaster at Spence and later at Tarlton, was the grandfather of Verl Rosamond, father of Verl's mother Flora Overturff Rosamond. Mr. Overturff's wife was killed at the same time Mr. Nonimus Rosamond was murdered at Lurton. Mr. Rosamond's wife, Rosalie had her arm shot off at the same time. Also, Erma Freeman was a postmaster at the Freeman Field at one time?)
The postoffices I list here, with dates and names of first postmasters, are places where I lived before I was six years old. My dad worked in sawmills all over Newton County and we got our mail at all of these places at times:
Tarlton May 1, 1900 Francis M. Jackson Bass March 20, 1902 Alfred R. Dickey Lurton January 9, 1917 Cornelia A. Sutton Deer February 23, 1898 James D. Faught Spence May 3, 1892 Solomon M. Overtuff Mossville September 19, 1889 Fred W. Strode Jasper June 7, 1843 John R. Ross Cave Creek August 23, 1855 Isaiah Dodson Mount Judea May 22, 1856 Jesse Brewer Fallsville June 27, 1883 Alexander Dixon Moore April 5, 1910 Jeff A. Fountain
Please write information and comments to:
Colleen H. Rongey 529 Stewart Avenue New Orleans, LA 70123 504-737-8459
"Voices of Newton County", Articles by Colleen Haynes Rongey
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