My People
by Katye Woodall Whisenhunt (As told to me by my Grandfather, William Samuel Woodall, years ago.)
as printed in Early History of Pike County, Arkansas,
published by The Pike County Heritage Club
in 1978 and reprinted in 1989.
Used with permission.

Slowly, slowly turns the steady oak wheels, pinned to the cumbersome ox wagon. Puffs of blood red dust rise high over the fields, nostrils spread wide on the dumb faces of the huge necked beasts as they strain forward in double yokes -- no shiny traces to help move the load.

Ho! Yo! halts the trample of tired hooves. Crack! splits the red dusty air about. A giant hairy arm slowly moves the mighty bull whip that has snipped a rattler's head from his obnoxious body. "Hey! Uncle Sam, give me the rattles," piped a five-year-old boy's voice from under the home spun canvas.

The long line of canvas roofed half circled sides of the ox wagon train held treasures, old china, cached gold, iron pots, spinning wheel, looms, feather bedding and pain. Pain, deep seated pain, pain that strikes the heart of pioneer women when they have said no good-byes, but a farewell refrain, as they bounce and sway with the eternal moron of an ox wagon train. Not so with the men. Their hearts are lifted up with visions of westward lands, unknown dreams catch at the sun lines of their quick eyes and steady hands,

Leaving the gullied, slave worked red hills and valleys of old Georgia behind, in 1845, these are my people, not strong as oxen in muscle and bone and sinew, but strong and active in man's spirit and God's, that leads them to try and to do the tasks, that built homes and the nation,

The sorrows of the great war for freedom of worship and to manufacture, to govern by the people, still lingered in the hearts from lectures -- from the old ones, now moulding and have long since been gathered to their fathers,

This year, 1845, the spirit of unrest writhes and tortures our young nation from within. It groans and backbites, settles down again for a little season,

As the ox wagon wheels turn westward through nasty bog and filthy swamp, tired people with slow movement, over a log heap fire, making ready, low bent, a meal for a king. They are kings -- and queens -- but no crown do they wear. Their crowning day is yet to come. The hero's song is yet unsung.

High! High! Up! Up! the mountain top is gained. The mighty echo of Uncle Sam's voice swings back again and again. The thankful noise of it wraps the ox wagon train folk in a blanket of peace. As the evening star hurries from the East, the dumb beast that wear the yoke, somehow feels the gladness of the folk that feed him. He kneels as if to bless with them; no, no, he is just lowering himself to the ground for much needed rest.

Ever onward, no time to loiter, make haste. Today was yesterday's tomorrow.

"I wish I had a buckskin suit ... like Daniel Boone did wear," said five-year-old Sam, the nephew of Sam with the giant hairy arm that controlled the trigger finger that never missed the object, be it panther, deer, elk or bear.

Young Sam sank deep into a downy feather bed, in the upper berth, under the homespun coverlet, dreaming dreams of a far off land, coming as if to meet them, as the wheels slowly turned over and over again. Wheels turning forward, on the greased axels, progress making, crude, but everlasting.

Downward, fight on down, the dumb beast's winded nostrils slowly fell into natural lines, the hairy tough muscle under and outside of the smooth worn yoke of wood, relaxed for a time. The women sang hymns, stepping modestly behind, desiring to walk to rest their tired cramped spines from being too long inside low roofed wagons.

The children fought like bear cubs fight. Boxing and slapping inside their cage, laughing and looking with eager eyes. Wise eyes, because one's eyes make one wise. Wise to stay alive, in far behind days. Something at the foot of the decline was reflected in many eyes. In the strong, it meant a dare, something to defy, something yet untied--by them. In the weak, no, not fear, but an end to one thing, and a beginning on the other side. Yes, the flow of the father of waters was a turbulent rush this noon day. Wide, rough, hissing and pushing on its way. No, the mighty Mississippi could not stay my people. The ferry boat clutched them, hungrily, and beat the waves, lowered them, every one, their cargo safe--and now for more dangerous days.

Looking Westward from the muddy banks of the foe they had crossed, not with ease and satisfaction, but praying hearts and quaking knees, they bent low to pray for guidance on the way. Roll, roll, turn and turn again. The forest is dark, heavy and many eyes look and quick ears listen akin to fear, at the strange sounds, the ducking wheels, ever turning, bang my people nearer.

They valley is sighted -- filled, packed down, measured out -- through a gap in the mountain. A valley not large, but deeply and tightly held by the toes of a range of mountains, yet unnamed. The valley ... beauty left its garment here to endow it with gentleness, peace, no renowned fame, but fame all the same ... as I know it.

Long since gone are the red men. Silence reigns again in the valley. As for man's voice or footstep being heard no more in it, for times and times -- but God destined the time for my people to move into it. The end of a journey, now the gate to the frontier,

John Woodall and wife Arminda Cupp Woodall, and five children, John II, William Samuel, and three other children of whom I do not know the names, John's brothers, Samuel, Charlie and Pachard Woodall with their families and three single sisters left Adaresville, Georgia, in 1843.

They were moving to the western wilderness to homestead new land. They spent about two years in Alabama, headed westward again in early 1845. They stopped at Alpine, Arkansas, Clark County, in the Autumn of 1845, scouted the land in Clark and Pike Counties and settled in a valley over the first range of mountains, south of Kirby, east of highway 27 toward Murfreesboro. The country was a wilderness. No roads, no towns--Kirby, Murfreesboro, Glenwood and Amity were yet to be built. They cut the timber and built a road into the valley which had a large creek flowing through it. They named the valley and the creek Woodall. The name still remains the same. They and their families moved in and built log houses and barns on the 160 acres each that the brothers, John, Samuel, Charlie and Pachard homesteaded. {The original Woodall Valley is the one where the road sign reads "John Ashby Road.")

The nearest town was Star of the West on the Little Missouri River. This little town had a large water grist mill, flour mill, carding, spinning and weaving industry, shoe cobbler store and other commodity stores.

John's brother, Samuel loved fine horses and he brought a string of them with him from Georgia, although they made the journey by ox wagon.

A genealogy of my grandfather, William Samuel Woodall, son of John and Arminda Cupp Woodall, is as follows: William Samuel Woodall married Lou F. Heron of Alpine, Arkansas, Clark County, January 13, 1878. Eleven children were born: Zinkie (Nov. 12, 1878), William (June 22, 1880), Walter (Sept. 20, 1882), Minda (August 6, 1884), Edward (Feb. 10, 1887), Arthur (March 5, 1889), Nattie (June 23, 1891) twins Cuthbert and Gadfrey (Oct. 26, 1893), Nora (March 2, 1896), and Dosha (Aug. 9, 1898). Samuel Woodall died November 17, 1927 and Lou died April 24, 1950. At Lou's death surviving were 83 grandchildren, 160 great grandchildren, and 9 great-great grandchildren.

Samuel and family left Woodall Valley in 1887. He bought the Lightsy farm, four miles east of Kirby near the road from Kirby to Amity. The community was known as the Red Lands. Later it was known as Mt. Zion. In my lifetime it is known as Valley Grove.

Woodall Valley has returned to the wilderness. No Woodall lives there anymore but there are some landmarks of the family left. The old cemetery and certain kinds of blooming shrubs, such as japonica, crepe myrtle and honey suckle remain at the old homesites.

The four seasons are just as beautiful in the valley in 1977 as when my people settled it in 1845.

(Preceding was written by Katye (Woodall) Whisenhunt, Kirby, Ark., daughter of Edward Woodall, and verified by her Uncle Arthur Woodall, Kirby, Ark.)

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