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MUSEUM MUSINGS: Argument leads to murder on Zinc street

Written by David Holsted, published in the Harrison Daily Times on January 7, 2021

It was common knowledge around Zinc that W. H. Buford and R. O. Lawhorn did not like each other. The two men were said to have been enemies for some time following a dispute over some fencing material.

On a day in early December of 1930, that enmity came to a head.

Lawhorn, 50, was driving his wagon past the canning factory in Zinc that was owned by Buford. Lawhorn’s son-in-law, Roy Wilmoth, was with him.

Suddenly, Buford, 65, appeared and grabbed the reins of Lawhorn’s team. The two men then engaged in a heated argument, with Wilmoth and Garland Pumphrey, Buford’s son-in-law, trying to intervene.

According to accounts given to the Harrison Daily Times, Lawhorn urged Buford to settle the quarrel some other time. Buford responded by drawing a .45 pistol and firing three times at Lawhorn. The last bullet struck Lawhorn just above the heart.

Lawhorn got down from his wagon and staggered to the side of the road.

“Don’t let him shoot anymore!” he cried.

Lawhorn died almost instantly.

Buford was said to have helped lift the dead man back into the wagon. He then went home and told his family that he was going to walk to Harrison and surrender to law enforcement officials. However, when he had not shown up in the late afternoon, a search was begun by a posse led by deputy W. F. Ables. Buford later surrendered to Boone County Sheriff L. M. Martin.

On December 16, with a large crowd in attendance, Buford appeared in court. He was charged with second degree murder. His was represented by prominent Harrison attorneys J. Lloyd Shouse, J. M. Shinn and B. C. Henley. In default of the $7,000 bond, he was returned to jail.

Buford’s trial began on January 22, 1931. His attorneys claimed that Buford suffered from Hodgkin’s Disease and was in no condition to stand trial. The court appointed an examining board made up of Dr. Frank Kirby, Dr. J. C. Blackwood and Dr. C. M. Routh. The doctors concluded that Buford was “entirely normal and in physical condition to stand trial.”

The defense team tried to emphasize the deceased man’s temper. While on the stand, Pumphrey was asked if he was acquainted with Lawhorn’s reputation for violent and uncontrollable bursts of temper.

“Yes, he had a right smart of temper,” Pumphrey testified.

Buford was found guilty of murder in the second degree and sentenced to 10 years in the penitentiary. Later that year, the verdict was appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court. One of the main arguments was again Buford’s physical condition. He had Hodgkin’s Disease, they argued, and people with that affliction generally lived only 18 months to 4 years. They also claimed that the disease had an effect on Buford’s nervous system and may have had a bearing on his actions on the day that Lawhorn was killed.

The Supreme Court upheld the conviction.

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MUSEUM MUSINGS: Early Ozarks settlers celebrated ‘Old’ Christmas

Written by David Holsted, published in the Harrison Daily Times on December 24, 2020

Merry New Christmas!

What, you’re probably wondering. What’s with the “New” Christmas? Well, in the Ozarks (and the Appalachians, from where many of the early Ozarks settlers came), there was an “Old” Christmas.

For much of the 19th Century, and in some areas, even into the 20th Century, Ozarks hillfolk celebrated Christmas on January 6. The reason, it was said, was because the original English and Scotch immigrants brought with them the January 6 tradition. As one Ozarks historian said, those early immigrants “sort of missed the memo for the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar that England and Scotland made in 1752.”

Many Ozarkers still abided by the old Julian calendar. Some people even today celebrate “Old Christmas” on January 6.

The eminent Ozarks historian Vance Randolph said, “A great many of the old-timers call December 25 ‘New Christmas’ in order to distinguish it from ‘Old Christmas,’ which falls on January 6.

Old-timer told Randolph that elderberry always sprouts on the eve of Old Christmas even if the ground is frozen hard. One man told him that bees in a hive always buzz very loudly at midnight on the eve of Old Christmas.

“If several bee gums are set close together, the ‘Old Christmas hum’ can be heard some distance away. This shows that January 6, not December 25, is the real Christmas.”

January 6 is sometimes called “Green Christmas” or the “Twelfth Night.”

The old belief was that at exactly midnight on January 5, the eve of Old Christmas, cattle would kneel down and bellow in honor of the birth of Jesus. Some even said that the animals would be given the gift of speech so that they could pray aloud in English.

Other animals also were given the power of speech on Old Christmas. Randolph wrote, “If you go into the woods and listen, you may hear the sound of animals praying to God.”

Skepticism remained in some parts.

One old-timer told Randolph that when he was a boy he watched repeatedly to see his father’s oxen kneel but was always disappointed. His parents told him, however, that the presence of a human observer broke the spell, and that cattle must always salute the Savior in private.

“But I just drawed a idy right thar,’ he said, “that they warn’t nothin’ to it, nohow.”

Another belief was that there were two daybreaks instead of one on Old Christmas. Boys born on Old Christmas were supposed to be very lucky in raising cattle. Some even said that those Old Christmas children could actually “talk the cow brute’s language.”

An old woman claimed that the family’s well had a charm placed on it the night the cows talked.

“I don’t know what the charm is that this old woman referred to,” Randolph wrote, “but there are people in Arkansas today who say that the water in certain wells turns into wine at midnight on January 5.”

Here’s wishing you a very merry Old and New Christmas!