The Hodges & DeWitt Families
By William E Hodges, Jr.
This history is written with information gleaned from queries with family, census records, court records, library records, letters, and review of other’s research.
I wish to give special thanks to those who have contributed most to this history. Those being first, Aunt Pauline Fore Hodges, secondly parents Wm E & Hazle (DeWitt) Hodges. I also drew from conversations with Grandparents Nora Lucy Hodges, and Wm Loren & Celia DeWitt.
Within these pages I have tried to include only information I have documented. If at later time someone should find error(s), please accept my apology.
The Hodges family came from Tennessee, the DeWitt family from New York to Missouri and to Arkansas. They, like other pioneer families in the early to mid 1800’s, left their homes for the promise of a better life in the west. We, unfortunately, do not have a written history of their trek westward, the family and homes they left behind, and personal detail of their lives and family in Fulton and Izard County, Arkansas.
Therefore, in the following paragraphs, I have included information from review of pioneer stories in an attempt to describe the travel to and establishment of new homes.
Goodbyes were said, and these families departed their former homes, loading moveable and necessary possessions into oxen pulled wagons. These wagons contained everything they owned, household furnishings, cookware, carpentry and land clearing tools, a plow, and seeds for crops, essentially everything they would need to begin a new life in the Ozarks. Some settlers traveled the entire trip by wagon, others traveled partway via flatboats and keel boats on the Tennessee, Ohio, Mississippi and White Rivers. During the move most foods was provided by the fields, woods and streams adjoining the rutted trails they followed. Livestock, including hogs, beef and milk cattle, horses, and mules along with poultry accompanied these families.
These settlers faced obstacles we can only imagine, spring and summer storms, winter’s cold, ice and snow, loss of livestock, sickness and death, all coupled with the uncertainty of what lay ahead.
On arrival, the wagon continued to be the primary abode while cabins were constructed. These cabins were usually built near a spring or creek. The first homes were simple and basic shelters, constructed from the available oak and pine timber, and were all hand hewn by broad axe. Cabins, initially one room with a loft above, were made from 16 to 18 ft logs. These logs were hewn on both sides with the spaces between filled by clay, mud or lime mortar mixture. Rock was used for the foundation, fireplaces and chimneys. Shingles were split wood, and while most cabins had wooden flooring, others had only a dirt floor. Windows, usually greased cloth, later glass, required wooden shutters as protection from the weather and animals. The kitchen, dining, living and sleeping quarters were all in this one room, with the small loft used as additional sleeping quarters. The fireplace was used for cooking and for warmth, with tallow candles illuminating the room. Later, adjoining rooms would be built as the family size increased. Construction of barns and outbuildings were completed after the cabins construction.
The treed land also provided material for bowls, barrels, pails and wooden utensils, and needed firewood.
Hogs provided meat, most usually salted and cured, or made into sausage. Deer, squirrel, rabbit and wild fowl were hunted to supplement the meat supply. Corn was the primary crop, with cattle used primarily to provide milk. The milk and butter was cooled either in the spring house or in the well.
Flax and sheep wool were used for cloth, colored by using home prepared tree bark dyes. Every home contained a spinning wheel, as most clothing was made at home.
Some necessities had to be purchased, such as gun powder, lead for bullets, salt, some medicines, cast iron pots sugar and other items. Many “medicines” were made form herbs, berries, trees, and roots found in the fields and woods.
Timber had to be cleared for crop and pasture land, with the smaller trees used for split rail fencing. Rocks, removed from fields, were also used and stacked as fences. Roads were but rutted trails, meandering through fields, timber and across creeks, connecting these pioneers with neighbors and the newly established settlements of Elizabeth, Flora, Viola, Mitchell, Salem, Iuka, Rodney, Dolph, Calico Rock, Pineville and Melbourne, where the general stores, post offices, schools, churches, saw mills and cotton gins were located.