We call her 'Mom'
by Ruth Schran
as printed in The Glenwood Herald,
on May 31, 1973
Used with permission.
She was born Lillian Alford; she now is addressed variously as Lillian, Mrs. Sorrells, Mrs. Gregory - but most often as Mom, because she has been "Mom" to most of us for many years of happy association. This month marks 61 years for her in the cafe business, so it is an anniversary month - a time to remember.
To write the full story of Lillian Gregory's life is to write a history of Glenwood, because she has been in and a part of the growth and development of the town almost from the beginning.
One of my earliest memories of Glenwood is of coming here with the baseball "fan club" in 1921 and stopping in for refreshments at Sorrells Hotel. She wasn't "Mom" then except to her five children. Her husband was known to his friends as "Sorrie".
When I asked her what she was called at that time, she smiled primly but with a twinkle in her eye as she said with great dignity.
"Why, Mrs. Sorrells, of course. It was just "Sorrie" and Mrs. Sorrells then."
Those were the days when first names and nicknames were not lightly used, especially when speaking of or to women of character and status. We had "respect for womanhood" then - a term which illustrated the old world courtesy and restricted attitudes of the time.
But I am getting ahead of my story. It really begins during the Civil War period of the 1860's when Lillian's maternal grandfather, William Rogers, came from Illinois to fight with the Southern army. Following Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender to General Grant, Rogers went with his regiment to Mississippi.
There he married Miss Mary Ann Wilson. They came south to settle at Black Springs community where their only child, a daughter named Dooley, was born. Dooley Rogers went to school to Aunt Fannie Highsmith, a sister of the Rev. Claude L. Jones, now deceased. Lillian tells me that she also was taught by Mrs. Highsmith later.
When Dooley was 10 or 12 years old the Rogers family moved by ox wagon from Black Springs, through Caddo Gap, Rock Creek, Amity, Gurdon, El Dorado and onto Louisiana.
At Weldon, La., Dooley Rogers was married to Dr. J. C. Alford. Lillian was born at Ruston, La., in August of 1894. A brother, Clarice Marion, was born in 1896 and died in1 946.
Dr. Alford moved his family from Louisiana to Burnett, Okla., in 1900, then back to Arkansas about 1905 or 1906. From Westbrook in Hempstead County, to Delight in Pike, Amity in Clark, and later settled in Pike County at Rock Creek, a few miles south of Glenwood where he took over the practice of Dr. W. B. Gould, who had moved to Amity.
The new town of Glenwood which owed its growth largely to the locating of A. L. Clark Lumber Company here in about 1905 or 1906 - had been incorporated in 1908. Although there were stumps in the streets; no sidewalks; the water system was a series of public wells on Main Street; sanitary facilities were most primitive; yet being located on the Iron Mountain and the MD&G railroads and the Caddo River, the town was in an excellent for growth and progress.
The Iron Mountain Railroad came through Rock Creek, Glenwood, Caddo Gap and as far north as Womble (now Norman). While the Alfords lived at Rock Creek the first run of the train was an excursion Gurdon to Womble. The Alford and Roberts families from Rock Creek, the Charlie Coker family, the Arnolds, Brumsons, Fagans and others joined the excursion this side of the railroad trestle at Rock Creek.
The Glenwood depot sat on high wooden pillars right in the middle of Main Street or Broadway where the railroad crossed the street. The railway company had made a cut for the road bed. Lillian said it was at least six steps down to the track. I am told that the depot was thus elevated to facilitate the unloading freight; also that there were "dugouts" along the railroad cut which were used by some of the railroad workmen as living and/or cooking facilities. An oven dug out of the clay bank made a fine place for roasting wild game.
Back to the excursion: Lillian says that everyone was excited and happy about the train trip, talking and laughing. Glenwood residents had turned en masse to see the train come through town. Someone shouted, "lookout! It's coming through crossways." The crowd panicked and scattered before they realized the absurdity of the joke.
In 1910 Dr. Alford moved his family to Glenwood where they ran the Purcell Hotel on southwest Broadway, changing the name to Commercial Hotel.
Lillian Alford attended school at the old Union Church building located about where the American Legion building and Dr. W. J. Jones' clinic are now. She later attended classes in the new brick schoolhouse on top of the hill at the end of Fourth Street. This building, completed in 1909, stood until after the new and modern school plant was built on Highway 70 during the superintendency of the late J. Glenn Coker.
Dr. Alford continued his practice for seven years until his death in 1917. Mrs. Alford, in addition to managing the hotel, assisted her husband as nurse, often accompanying him on horseback and later in the buggy and helping with "baby cases".
I remember Aunt Dooley well. A large, kindly woman, she made an imposing figure in her starched white dresses and aprons. She was a fine practical nurse in the days when a nurse would go into a home where the master was ill and, in addition to nursing the patient, keep house, wash, iron and cook for the entire family. She assisted at countless births and was for many years official birth registrar for the area.
Lillian, of course, was a fine horsewoman and remembers the fun of horseback races with friends, up and down the streets, in the days when pleasures were few and simple.
In 1911 young Warren Sorrells came to Glenwood from Huttig where he had operated a restaurant and recreation parlor. He boarded at the Commercial Hotel for a while and, being a cook by trade, often helped in the kitchen. He and Lillian soon developed a congenial friendship which ripened into love. They were married April 14, 1912, and moved into a house which stood where J. T. Jones Gulf Station now is located.
The Clark Lumber Co. of Glenwood had a logging camp at "Old Lucky", the other side of Bonnerdale, having run a railroad to move logs from this location to the regular railroad at Glenwood. Mr. Sorrells had let "Bo" Culberton, the woods foreman, use his restaurant and recreation equipment for the loggers. Lillian remembers with delight a trip she made on the old log train to help supervise the moving of the equipment back to town for later use. Warren, who had gone ahead to pack the equipment made the return trip on the log train with them.
In 1912 Dr. Alford sold the old Commercial Hotel to Mr. E. Y. Fuller and his daughter, Mrs. Chloe Honea. Warren and Lillian went into the cafe business in the first story corner of the building, using Warren's equipment brought from Huttig. A 1916 edition of "The Glenwood Press" names this the Q. T. Cafe and speaks in glowing terms of the cuisine and recreation provided by the genial hosts. In 1917 the Sorrells bought the hotel and moved in, operating both cafe and hotel until 1919. Marjorie, Delma, Tommie and Warren were born during this period.
Mrs. Sorrells, in addition to caring for her growing family and assisting her husband in the hotel business, was active in church, school and civic affairs. She was a member of the choir and to this day sings in choirs, not only of her own First Baptist Church, but of any congregation or group. In former days a choir was always needed for funeral services. Mrs. Sorrells with her distinctive alto voice always could be depended on to help.
In 1914 Mmes. J. A. Ellis, J. N. Pate, W. B. Gould, M. F. Givvs, Warren Sorrells and others organized the Glenwood School Improvement Association. In 1918 they were affiliated with the National PTA.
In 1914 the town of Glenwood granted first franchise for furnishing electric lights and street lights to John H. Peden and W. P. Demby of Hot Springs who built the first plant, a 20 KW generator, belt driven by a Fairbanks-Morse oil burning engine, and also built a very small distribution system. In 1918 they began to purchase power from the A. L. Clark Lumber Co. which closed in 1921. Now there were no electric lights!
But only for a short time. In October 1922 my father, T. H. Whitted, and R. H. Stanton purchased the defunct electric system and soon had it going again with power supplied by a steam turbine of the Caddo River Lumber Co. which had bought the interests of the A. L. Clark Co.
No question about it, Glenwood was growing! Stumps had been gotten out of the main streets and some gravel spread on Broadway. The lumber companies provided work for many families. Wooden structures were going up rapidly - both residential and business. My maternal grandfather, John W. Frye built some frame houses on Third Street which still were standing not too many years back.
Some brick or stone buildings began to appear. Doctors' offices, drug stores, dry goods and general merchandise stores, churches, a school, hotels, cafes, a bank and a newspaper all attested to the fact that Glenwood was a thriving town. True there were hitching post and water wells yet on Broadway, and the depot still stood at the dead end in the middle of the street and railroad crossing until about 1915 or 1916, still improvement and growth were obvious everywhere.
But I digress. This is Mom's story.
And there will be more later.
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