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MUSEUM MUSINGS: Poet’s work extolled the joys of Ozarks living

Written by David Holsted, published in the Harrison Daily Times on September 3, 2020

Audra Connerley Milum asked only one thing of life.

“This one thing give to me

That no one else can see,

That no one need the wiser be

Please let me keep my memory.”

Milum was granted 70 years of memories, many of which she shared through her verse.

Milum was born in 1885 in Champaign, Illinois, but at an early age, moved with her family to Kansas, Missouri, and the Oklahoma Territory. In 1897, the Connerleys came to Harrison, where they owned and operated the Connerley Hotel. Milum would live in Harrison for the remainder of her life.

Milum would develop of love of writing poetry, and her work reflected her thoughts on life in general and life in the Ozarks in particular. In 1947, her poems were published in a book titled “Echoes From the Ozark Hills.”

Otto Ernest Rayburn, who edited many books about Ozarks cultures said of Milum’s work, “The poetry of Audra C. Milum is homespun from the heart and much of it carries a distinct Ozarkian flavor.”

Milum herself left no doubt as to the great influence on her work.

“My inspiration for these poems comes from having spent the greater part of my life in the Ozark Hills.”

In “Arkansas,” Milum said that the state was the topic of a lot of jokes, but that was okay. Providing some fun for outsiders was not a bad thing.

“If we struck them as not funny

They might look our way … with hate.

We much prefer to see them smiling

As they enter our great state.”

Milum continued the theme of smiles in her poem “The Land of a Million Smiles.”

“We haven’t a lot of money;

We haven’t a lot of fame;

We don’t play the stock market

‘Cause we don’t know the game,

But when it comes to livin’!

We’re free from strife and care

Down in the ‘Land of a Million Smiles,’

Can you guess where?”

Milum even wrote about her home town. In “Our Town,” she said that strangers would often wonder how Harrison kept going, to which she replied that it was going at a steady gait.

“They marvel at our luck

And say we must have pluck

To always hold our own,

When others rise and fall

We puzzle … all.”

In “Headin’ Back For the Ozarks,” Milum’s subject was selling the farm and moving to the big city. However, the city turned out to be a disappointment.

“Well, we got to the city alright,

But we’re crowded as can be

So we’re headin’ back for the Ozarks

It takes forty acres for me.”

Milum often wrote about aging and memories. In “Against the Chill of Age,” the springtime of childhood is followed by the summer heat of adulthood and finally into winter.

“And now the time for memory,

Though winter storms may rage,

I’ll hold the thought of childhood

Against the chill of age.”

In “For I Possessed Youth,” Milum wrote, “Odd how lovely everything is when one possesses youth. Odd how changed everything is when he finds he is bidding it goodbye.”

Milum didn’t leave out autumn, though. In “Autumn in the Ozarks,” she wrote,

“All the leaves are red and gold

And I dream of wealth untold

For ’tis autumn in the Ozarks

Splashing paint in tiny sparks.”

In “Roads,” Milum wrote of the “wonderful roads threading the hills of oak and pine.” Those weren’t the best roads, she went on to write.

“The road though that I think so fine

Is the road that leads from your house to mine

The one without any detours

It also leads from my house to yours.”

There was often a whimsical side to Milum’s poetry.

In “The Jay Walker,” she wrote:

“A fender can always be repaired

When it gets in a jam,

But the party who’s endangered

Is the jay-walking man.”

In “Gals,” she warns,

“There are gals and gals

All kind of gals

Some find it hard

To land men

But how quick those gals

Can spot the guys

Whose wives do not

Understand them.”

Simple joys were often the theme of Milum’s poetry. “Checkers” was a good example.

“The games were hot;

The stoves were cold;

Someone would spin a yarn

At those old games of checkers

We played down on the farm.”

Or “The Rag Doll,” which told of a little girl playing with a doll made from an old sock.

“One would think the old sock had served its day

And in life’s duties played its part

But this little mother was of the thrifty kind

And knew how to warm her child’s heart.”

In her poem, “Cracklin’ Cornbread,” Milum recalled her mother’s love demonstrated through her cooking.

“Sometimes I think that Heaven

Will not be quite complete

Without that cracklin’ cornbread,

And my mother’s kitchen, neat.”

Milum died in 1956 and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery.

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MUSEUM MUSINGS: Harrison lawyer was quite the Story

Written by David Holsted, published in the Harrison Daily Times on August 27, 2020

It was always said that Capt. J.W. and Mollie Story would dispense from their home on Vine Street a “refined yet generous hospitality.”

In 1885, Capt. Story moved his law practice from Sherman, Texas, to Harrison. In time, he would come to be recognized as one of the community’s most successful attorneys.

One person’s account said that “Since locating here he has been connected with the most important cases that have come up in the courts of his section and has conducted them with dignity, discretion and ability.”

John Wesley Story was born in 1841 in Fentress County, Tennessee. His father, N.W. Story, was a “successful farmer, a man of pure and exalted character, who enjoyed in a high degree the confidence and esteem of his neighbors.”

In 1861, with the outbreak of the Civil War, Story enlisted in the Confederate Army and served in Company 1, Fourth Tennessee Cavalry. He took part in such battles as Fishing Creek, Stone River, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Resaca, New Hope Church and Bentonville (North Carolina). He served as a private until the closing months of the war when, for distinguished gallantry upon the field of battle, he was promoted to the command of his company.

Major George B. Guild, Adjutant of the 4th Tennessee Cavalry, after the war, wrote a book titled entitled “A Brief Narrative of the Fourth Tennessee Cavalry Regiment.” In it, he mentions Story.

“John W. Story, now a prominent member of the bar at Harrison, Ark., furnishes the casualty list of Company I. He was the sergeant of his company for some time during the war and was one of the best we had. As adjutant of the regiment, I never had trouble with his reports or the many orders made on his company for information; they were always clear, concise, and exactly what was called for. He was made a lieutenant on the field of Bentonville for his bravery and efficiency in every duty as a soldier. He was in every engagement and was wounded twice in battle, on both occasions seriously.”

In 1868, Story graduated from the Law Department of Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. He then began his law career in Lebanon before moving to Sherman, Texas, in 1873.

Story, in 1876, married Mollie Goree, the “highly refined and accomplished daughter” of Dr. J.L. Goree, a prominent physician and planter from Arkansas County, Arkansas. J.W. and Mollie had two sons and a daughter.

After moving to Harrison, it didn’t take long for Story to gain a good reputation.

“This able attorney at law has his office at Harrison, Arkansas,” wrote a colleague, “and in every branch of his profession he is meeting with marked success. He has a decided veneration for the law, and this, combined with the accuracy of his legal knowledge, lucidity of statement and felicity of illustration has given him the confidence of all his patrons.”

Story’s two brothers became prominent lawyers in Sparta, Tennessee.

It was said of Story that “in politics he has always been a staunch Democrat. In religion he is a Cumberland Presbyterian. He is an active and interested worker in the cause of education. In the honorable order of Masonry he is a Knight Templar.”

Story died of pneumonia on March 10, 1916, in Birmingham, Alabama. His obituary in the Harrison Daily Times said that news of his death “was received with general sadness by his host of old friends in Harrison.” His remains were returned to Harrison, where they were buried next to his wife, who had died in 1898.

The Rev. W. T. Nicholson, in his funeral sermon, spoke at length of Story’s high character and the multitude of friends he had made during his residence in Harrison.