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MUSEUM MUSINGS: Sherman’s hermit was into something solitude

Written by David Holsted, published in the Harrison Daily Times on August 20, 2020

Almost everything about George Earle was a mystery, including his name. Most people supposed it to have been an assumed name.

About 1887, Earle came to the Arkansas Ozarks. He built what is described as a “little hermitage” on Sherman Mountain in Newton County and began a 42-year solitary existence.

Fred W. Allsopp, in his 1931 book “Folklore of Romantic Arkansas,” tells the story of Earle.

It was thought that Earle had come from Virginia, but the reason for his immigration to Arkansas was never clearly established. Some said that he had suffered a disappointment in love. Others were sure that he was an escaped convict or embezzler. Still others thought that he had retired from society to carry out religious principles, believing that he could not mingle with the world and maintain his purity, although the few that knew him considered him anything but pious.

Earle seemed to be well educated, and was a man of good personal appearance, although he was extremely eccentric in his habits.

During the decades that Earle lived in Newton County, he gave no information about where he was born, his relatives or his past life. He had no friends, received no mail and wrote no letters. Few people ever entered his little shack.

Earle appeared to support himself by cultivating a small garden and raising a few chickens and pigs.

There was much curiosity in the surrounding community about Earle, and many weird and astonishing stories sprung up about him.

One story had it that he hoarded an immense treasure under his shack, which caused it to be ransacked by thieves on several occasions.

On Aug. 28, 1929, Earle’s half-burned body was found near his shack by neighbors after it was discovered to be in flames. Although by that time infirm, the 83-year-old did his own cooking. It was believed that he had attempted to build a fire to cook, and he accidentally ignited his clothing.

All of the mysteries and secrets surrounding the life of George Earle went with him to the grave.