Fine's Springs Crawford Co Arkansas
By Rick O'Kelley
     
Fine's Springs is a small community located in Crawford Co Arkansas along US 71 HwyRick O'Kelley about 4 miles north of Alma.  The springs for which it is named are on private property, posted, and not open to the public. 

I am certain no one alive today knows the full and complete story about this place but I may have a unique perspective as I am not only the grandson-in-law of Ethel Plum the celebrated correspondent for the Press Argus and it is her articles that most researchers look to for authority, but I spent the first 19 years of my life in the community, living less than a mile from the springs and I am a retired Chief Criminal Investigator for Washington County and I have investigated successfully about two dozen homicides so I have a experience conducting investigations. None of this makes me right, but I bring a different set of tools to the table, I ask different questions and rarely accept something solely because someone says it is so.  I look for the same proof that I sought when I had to go before a jury and I have an interest because Jonathan and Rachael Fine and Walter and Nancy Fine are my great grandparents several generations removed.  When I look at the census, I see names that I associate with certain locations around the community when I was a child.  Maybe these families were still living in their ancestor's places and maybe they were not but that is part of the mystery to be unraveled.


The Murder of Mormon Prophet Parley Parker Pratt

I don't think it proper to mention the history of Fine's Springs and leave out the murder and burial of Mormon Prophet Parley Parker Pratt.  It is unclear if Pratt's murder occurred just before or just after Jonathan and Rachael Fine moved from West Fork Washington Co Arkansas to the springs that even today continues to bear their name.  Most people love a good mystery and Fine's Springs still holds a 150 year old murder mystery and the Fines and Parley Pratt are forever linked to this tiny place.  To the Mormons Parley Parker Pratt was one of their 12 apostles, to many in Crawford County then and to some even now, he was a wife stealer and deserved his fate.  Being a retired law enforcement officer I feel no one deserves to be murdered, everyone deserves due process and McLean and Pratt had theirs and that should have been the end of it but it didn't turn out that way.

Ethel reports that the Fines had camped at the place that is today known as Fine's Springs on their way back from Texas sometime just before or after Pratt's murder. So who was there before they came?  On the 1840 Crawford County Mountain Township US Census I find a Zearlie McWinn and a Josiah Wynn and his wife Caroline, and the Winns are assumed to have lived at the springs because a family cemetery was established and it is the place where one of Zealie's grandchild's name appears on the sole lonely gravestone but that cemetery is more famous as the place where it is said Mormon Prophet Parley Parker Pratt is buried and it is also claimed that Zealie and two wives are buried there under plain rock markers.  Josiah Wynn was likely a brother of Zealie, Josiah was a Justice of the Peace for Lafayette Township and justices were normally men of property and influence. 

Living at Fine's Springs from the early 1950s until 1972 I knew of the Pratt's gravesite.  In my childhood we were told that Parley encouraged a married woman to leave her husband and become one of his wives and that was at the heart of this deadly conflict.  Then as now many men including I am told Mormon men see their wives as their personal property, like a car, or a dog, or a cow, wives are theirs to command so the reference I sometimes would hear was Parley was a "wife stealer" putting him in the same group as a "horse thief" or a "cattle rustler".  Not once have I read someone on either side saying that Eleanor was a grown woman with a mind of her own and she decided she no longer wanted to be with Hector McLean and she did want to be with Parley Parker Pratt, even today that seems to be lost on both side, those on McLean' side claim Parley received what he deserved while those on the Mormon side defend Parley by demonizing Mclean as a drunk and a wife beater and neither opinions matters, it was what Eleanor choose that mattered so even after 150 years neither side can just accept that it wasn't up to Parley Pratt or Hector McLean, it was up to Eleanor;  all wives, non Mormon and Mormon should decided their future, that isn't a right given to their husbands no matter how many husbands they may have.  

In brief, a charge was made against Parley Parker Pratt, he was arrested and hauled before a Federal Judge at Van Buren Crawford Co Arkansas, and Judge John B Ogden acquitted him of the charges and it has been claimed he gave him a horse and offered him a handgun and a knife but Parley refused the weapons claiming God would be his defender overlooking the possibility that it may have been God who was directing Judge Ogden to make the offer of the weapons for Parley's defense.  So with his armor of God to protect him, why didn't Parley if really believed what he was witnessing why didn't he put his faith in God and stand his ground at Van Buren and allowed his faith to protect him?  I am of the opinion this is the flaw in most ministers' sermons, they tell you to put your faith in God yet when given the opportunity they don't; Parley chose what most people would do, he took the horse that was offered and fled for his mortal life and it appears he must have taken the now extinct Van Buren to Belmont road, a road that went almost as the crow would fly from Van Buren to Fine Springs as the US 71 route did not exist as it does to and it is said that at a fork in the road likely somewhere near Fine's Springs his pursuers caught up to him or ambushed him and Hector McLean struck a mortal blow. Like most cowardly criminals, Hector McLean fled the scene and boarded a riverboat at Van Buren and left the area.  If Hector believed he was in the right why didn't he stand his ground and put his fate in a jury of his peers?  I find it ironic that he did exactly as Parley Parker Pratt did, he too fled for his life.  I don't find a martyr in this story as most Mormons claim, this was just another case of two men fighting over a woman and the fight escalated till one killed the other, it happens all the time but this time it was said to have happened on a road near Fine's Springs. 

The Mormons in their telling of the murder of Parley Parker Pratt claim that it was Zealie Winn who operated a blacksmith shop near the fork in the road where Parley was said to have been attacked who heard the commotion and came to investigate and found Parley setting at the base of a tree barely alive.  Zealie is said to have given him water and provided comfort as Parley died.  Parley Pratt's last sip of water may have came from the springs that we know today as Fine Springs, it has been said it was the public source for pure clear water so who knows for certain that Zealie didn't dispatch a son or a grandson to fetch the cool fresh water from the springs that day to provide a dying man a little comfort.  Who can say that did not happen just that way?  Maybe it did, and maybe the murder was too far from the springs for Fine Springs to pay that role. 

In the 1850 Lafayette Township Census we find James Ormes and Zearlie Winn recorded one after the the other so they seem to be living side by side but depending on how much acreages these two men owned would determine how close they may have lived.  They could have lived a mile apart or next door, there might not be a way to know.  In 1857 it is claimed that James Orme was the Justice of the Peace for Lafayette Township and he conducted the inquest into the death of Parley Pratt death and the service for his burial because no minister would. It should be noted that Zearlie nor James Ormes appear in the 1860 US Census for Lafayette and I find that both are missing just three years after the murder of Parley Pratt curious.  I am told the Mormons now own the Winn cemetery, I haven't verified such but in my childhood memory only one grave was ever marked by an engraved stone, all the rest maybe a dozen graves were marked by common field stones something confirmed by Mormon letters and photos taken over the past century but it may surprise many to learn that at the time Parley Pratt was buried there were only two cemeteries or family burying grounds as they were often called, in that area and they were the Winn Family burying grounds and the other is about four miles north on today's modern AR Hwy 282 and is the Stewards' burying grounds, it had three graves with early stone markers and it should be noted that the coffin that it is said Parley Parker Pratt was buried originated from the Steward sawmill and workshop that set next to the Steward's cemetery an interesting detail of importance in any investigation to locate the remains of Parley Parker Pratt today but why so few cemeteries in 1857?  Apparently at that time people were not in the habit of burying their dead in a common place and under a carved marker so at the time Parley Pratt was buried it was reported there were few graves at the Winn burying grounds and none were marked with carved stones.

Today the Mormons have the lawns mowed and everything is in good repair but I have doubts that Parley Parker Pratt body was in the coffin that was buried at the Winn cemetery, I have a theory that Parley Parker Pratt may be buried in an unmarked grave in the Steward Cemetery probably among the unnamed graves of the slaves reported to have been buried there.  I doubt my theory could ever be proven but I base my theory mostly on my experience investigating the things people do.  One of my early assignments as a Washington Co Deputy Sheriff was in the summer of 1977 I set in a darken Sunday School room of a Fayetteville Church armed with my .357 revolver in my shoulder holster under my dress coat as I held my shotgun in my hands and I set with the door cracked just enough that I could see the funeral proceedings and when it was over, still so armed I rode in the hurst with the body 30 miles to the cemetery where other Deputies were waiting and we stood watch as the graveside service was conducted and the casket was lowered in the ground and covered over and this was all done at the request of the family and the blessings of the minister to prevent the man's sons by another woman from taking the body at gun point.  They were in a dispute over where the body of their father would be buried so I know that sometimes lawmen do things to try to make a bad situation come out right and such may have been in motion for Parley Parker Pratt body because of his dying request that his body be returned to Utah. 

Consider William Steward made the coffin that Parley Parker Pratt was said to be placed in and the pine box that the coffin was to be lowered into so William Steward was already willingly involved in an unpopular burial and the Steward cemetery was his family's burial grounds so what better place to hide a body that some believed might be dug up by locals and mutilated.  The best place to keep the body safe until it could be returned to Utah would be to hide it in a grave among the graves of slaves in another cemetery and this could be the reason Steward may have worked all night and into the next day on the coffin and pine box.  He may have had an order to make two coffins, one for a decoy to be buried in the Winn Cemetery and the other for a temporary burial of Parley Parker Pratt's body to be concealed in the Steward cemetery.  William Steward sent his son with an ox and a cart to deliver the coffin and his son was allowed to stay for the funeral and then return, who is to say that William's father Harvey didn't go with his grandson to make delivery or that Harvey didn't just show up at the funeral to see if the decoy burial of a coffin likely filled with some bags of dirty was successful.  After the placing of the coffin at the graveside Harvey Steward could have allowed his grandson to remain to see the funeral while Harvey moved the cart "out of sight" by returning to the black smith shop where he and another trusted person loaded Parley in the cart and hid his body, likely under some hay or a tarp and after the service the cart with the concealed body was returned to William Steward where he placed Parley in the second coffin and awaited George Higginson who buried Pratt among the slaves buried in Steward cemetery late at night as Higginson claimed in a letter written about the event.  The grandson who was interviewed by the Mormons decades later may have not known any of this, Harvey and William, his grandfather and father had no reason to include him, they would have wanted to keep the number of people who knew to a very limited and trusted number because if the knowledge became public it could have deadly results for the Stewards.  The night burial that George Higginson wrote about could have occurred and he may have written the story leaving out the key detail about the burial at Steward's cemetery so if the journal fell into the wrong hands the true place of burial would not be discovered and he may have left that detail out because Judge Ogden knew of the location of the real burial. 

Judge Ogden would have had experiences in these matters, he would have known that burying the body in the woods was too risky, getting the body into the woods without discovery would be difficult then one runs the risk that a hunter might find the burial.  It has been my experience when a grave in the woods was discovered we would open the grave to see what it concealed something that was likely true then as well but no one would question a fresh grave in the slave area of the Steward Cemetery, such a grave would go unnoticed.  If the mob did return to the dig up the decoy at the Winn cemetery, everyone would think the Mormons just beat them to it and Parley's body was on the way back to Utah and that would likely have been the end of it.  The conspirators surely planned that later when things cool down Parley could be dug up from his secret grave at Stewards and transported back to Utah and no one would be the wiser and certainly everyone involved would likely be well rewarded for their efforts by the Mormons. 

So why would William Steward do this?  I think for the same reason he made the box and the coffin but why would the Judge John B Ogden ask William Steward or his father to do it?  Harvey Steward's gravestone bears a Masonic symbol and Henry Steward who died Oct 8 1855 was buried in Steward's and his stone also bears a Masonic symbol.  The judge was reported to have been a Mason, he, Harvey Steward, as well as Henry Steward could have been of the same lodge, the judge could have attended Henry Steward's burial just two years before and knew of the slave graves in the Steward family cemetery and masons are good at keeping their lodge secrets as they are in taking care of one of their mason brothers so Judge John B Ogden and Harvey Steward had a reason to do it for their mason brother Parley Parker Pratt as his dying request was for his body to be taken back to Utah and before assigning blame, ask, "who would it hurt to give a dying man his final wish"?  So if what I suggest did occur, I am certain it was done for the right reasons, I know if I had been asked to do it, I would have so I believe it is very possible that was the plan and they were just waiting for some time to pass, may have been waiting for George Higginson to return to Arkansas, but during the cooling off period September 11 1857 occurred at Mountain Meadows in Utah and I suspect Judge John B Ogden and Harvey Steward may have decided it would be too great of a risk to themselves and their families as feelings in Arkansas were high and one might find themselves swinging from a mobs rope if such a plot to smuggle Pratt back to Utah was discovered.  If Parley was wearing a breast plate or his coffin did have a brass marker, you can bet none of the slaves had such so it might not be too much of a chore to know but I would not recommend anyone go digging into any grave, slave or otherwise without proper legal authority.  It is a shame the identity of the slaves buried in the Steward Cemetery can't be known, it is likely they have descendants wanting to know where they are and I think they are owed that kindness.  If it hasn't been done those managing the Cemetery should at least go the few hundred bucks it would costs to put up a brass marker acknowledging their burial. 

I also have a theory about where Parley was attacked and murdered.  The roads were much different in 1850s than they are today and I think because it was claimed that Parley was killed a few miles north of Alma most believed that he took the modern US 64 Hwy route to Alma then turned north on the modern US 71 route but this 1855 map to the right clearlyClick to see a larger map shows that the main road from Van Buren to Fayetteville via Fine's Springs bypassed Alma and went directly to Belmont, the seat of Lafayette Township. It is doubtful that in that time there was another way to get from Van Buren to Alma because of the sizeable creek crossing that modern US 64 spans today.  Maybe a ferry was available but maybe not and a man fleeing on a fast horse would not want to be held up at a ferry crossing. It is for certain that the road from Van Buren to Belmont did not go in a straight line, it would have twist and turned sometimes following the path of some of our modern roads and sometimes not.  It may have just followed the modern 282 highway through Rudy but if it did the maker of the 1855 map is not very good at his craft.   If Parley Pratt was found dying a few miles north of Alma it makes sense that he was found murdered along this Van Buren to Belmont road and if he was murdered near a fork in that road where Zealie Winn may have had his blacksmith shop there were likely two prime locations along the Van Buren to Belmont Road for such a shop and they would be where that road joined with the Rudy Road or with the road that went to Alma.  James Newberry is given credit for the donation of the land for the church and cemetery  at Newberry Chapel and I am certain neither existed at that time because James Newberry would have been only 21 years old, the oldest marked grave in Newberry is Robert Newberry who died Oct 29 1860 but using that cemetery as reference I suspect the Alma road was on the east side of Newberry Chapel as it is today and the Rudy road was on the west of Newberry Chapel but the roads could also have been rerouted and the modern roads are no where near those intersection but I feel certain if one were going setup a blacksmith's shop in the middle of no where you would want it on the corner where two high traffic roads joined and I suspect that is what Zealie did.  It might not be difficult to locate those forks as an infrared image taken from a Satellite would likely show all the ancient road beds and a metal detector should find evidence of an old blacksmith shop.

I have placed a red X in the approximate location that Fine Springs will be on this map, it set at the right foot of the T in Belmont but Belmont and Fine Springs is actually a bit further east than this map indicates.  It seems likely the 282 link road that goes past the modern cemetery and the section of US 71 that continues on at the bottom end of the 282 link road were part of the the original Van Buren to Belmont road but I suspect that road ran on the east side of the Lodge Hall and not the west as it is currently located and I think that because that would have been the boundaries between the sections and that appears to be supported by some of the early statements given to the Mormons investigating the burial site, that he was buried 50 yards west of the Fayetteville road.  The black line on this map is the Wire Road which was how the telegraph connected Fayetteville to Van Buren and in 1858 the Butterfield stage was side to have followed that route from Fayetteville to Van Buren but I have growing doubts that was true.  I now believe that the reason that Jonathan and Rachael Fine moved their family Crawford County and purchased the the place surrounding the springs was to establish a stage stop which included night lodging for the short lived Butterfield Stage line and after the line was discontinued after only a few years operations, that other stage lines came into being and they used the path that ran out of Fayetteville and traveled southeast towards Van Buren bypassing the ordinal route of the Butterfield Stage.  Many of the early sources give the rugged Boston Mountain route that runs south out of Winslow as the way the stage traveled.  There is claimed to be a desk still in existence that Peter Fine used when he worked for the Overland Mail Stage Company and I believe that it is likely the entire Fine family worked to provide this Stage Station for John Butterfield.



Who owned Fine's Springs before the Fines moved to Crawford County?
 

In many of the early written accounts, the springs are given as "Fine's Springs" and I believe that name is more correct than the shortened and more modern "Fine Springs".  It is unclear if the Winns may had owned or had possession of the Springs at the time of the 1840 US Census, or if it was the Freemans or the family of Romulus James or Robert as he appears in most Genealogy pedigrees who was the husband of Elizabeth Freeman and a brother to John M James.  Ethel Plum gives his name as "Rome" and since his first born son was named Romulus and his second born William the name of his father, it seems certain that his name must have been Romulus and not Robert however the James do not appear in the 1840 census but do appear in the 1850 census and the below newspaper account give them arriving in 1842.   It seems certain Romulus didn't sell the springs to Jonathan Fine as Romulus is said to have died in 1853 returning from the gold fields in California so it may be Elizabeth Freeman the widow of Romulus sold the property to Hugh Frazier and Jonathan Fine purchased it from Hugh Frazier but if Jonathan Fine purchased it when he came from Washington Co about 1857 to 1859 how and why did the springs end up in William James name making it possible for him and his wife Millie Fine to sell it to Walter Fine in the spring of 1875?  Maybe Romulus did own it and when he disappeared returning from California the springs were to pass to his older son Romulus C when he came of age but Romulus C died in the Civil War only his younger brother William to inherit the Springs when he came of age.  It is said Millie Fine was to have married Romulus C but when he died she married William and the 1870 US Census seems to place them living at or very near the Springs so this could be one explanation as to how William James came to own the springs and was able to sell them to Millie's older brother Walter April 8 1875 or six months before the death of Millie's father, Jonathan.   While it is well accepted that Jonathan and Rachael owned Fine Springs I am not as certain they owned the actually springs.  From the legal descriptions in the Deed that Jonathan and Rachael passed to their children August 16 1869 of 260 acres that spread over both Section 18 and section 19 of township 10 and range 30 they did not pass ownership in that document but it does prove that Jonathan and Rachael owned property on both the north and the south of modern day Arkansas Hwy 282 which borders the actually springs.  A greater study of the many land transactions may provide the answer but there are some who maded the claim in a 1999 post on Rootsweb that William James and Thomas Jefferson Fine were cousins.  This was before any marriage occurred between the James family and the Fines so how could such a connection occur?  That answer could come from the claim by some that before Jonathan Alfred Fine married Rachael Mankins that he was married to an Elisabeth Freeman who died and her death made it possible for Jonathan to marry again but this time to Rachael Mankins.  I can find nothing to support that Jonathan ever had a wife other than Rachael but if this claim is true then Jonathan Fine could be related by marriage to William James making all of Jonathan's children cousins to the James family.  It may also be possible that if the springs were in the ownership of the Freeman's that he may have inherited them via his marriage to his deceased wife.  If this were true, it may be difficult to prove because a great many records were destroyed in the Crawford Co Courthouse fire in the 1870s but there is claimed that a 1934 newspaper article was written in 1934 Press Argus that claims John and Robert (Romulus) James were the original owners and that they sold the springs to Hugh Frazier and Hugh sold them to Jonathan and that could certainly be the truth and those records were destroyed in the Courthouse fire.  If there was a log home large enough for two families no evidence exists today, only the small log home survives.

Copied from The Press-Argus
Diamond Jubilee Edition
Friday, July 6, 1934
FINE SPRINGS SETTLED
FIRST by JAMES IN 1845

Fine Springs was first settled in 1845 by John and Robert James, who came
from middle Tennessee by steamboat to Van Buren in 1842. Their grandfather
had come from England in 1627 with Lord Baltimore.

These two brothers built the first gin to be erected in western Arkansas,
on what is now the Tobe Steward place in Alma. In 1845 they moved four miles
north of Alma and staked their claim, on which was a very large spring. Here
they built a gin for themselves and this one and the one at Alma were run by
using oxen on a tread mill. Close by the spring they built a large log house
in which both families lived, the dwelling now still standing and being used
as a barn by the present owner, Calvin Little.

The James brothers sold their claim to Hugh Frazier from Mississippi
and the Bob James family then established a home on the Shull Place between
Fine Springs and Dean Springs.

In 1949 both men went to California, Lured by the gold rush. John James
found much gold and sent for his family in 1851. Bob James wrote his family
he was leaving for home by boat and he was seen by friends entering the ship
with his bags of gold, but nothing was ever heard of his again and the
supposition is that he was killed. His wife, who was Elizabeth Freeman,
lived a widow seven years then married Moses Ford, father of Uncle Joe Ford
of Alma.

Frazier prepared to leave for Texas so he sold the spring to Jonathan
Fine, who had moved from Washington County, Arkansas in 1857 and it was from
this Jonathan Fine that the spring received the name it holds today.

Source:  http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/FINE/2003-02/1046055006



I have 30 years experience giving interviews to newspapers and TV and I caution descendents about accepting something as fact solely because it appeared in the press.  The press is a for profit business and my experience is they tend to tell people what they want to hear so they will make more profit.  In 1999 as a personal computer expert I was asked to give my opinion about Y2K and I told the truth, I said 99% of Americans who didn't buy new computers or new software would experience no difficulties when they woke up on Jan 1 2000 and that is exactly how it occurred around the world but that isn't what the TV reporter wanted to hear so they cut and spliced my interview making it appear that I was agreeing with a University Professor who gave a gloom and doom prediction about how banks, power companies and others would have problems.  People spent a great deal of money trying to needlessly avoid Y2K but the rest of the world didn't and they had no real problems reported anywhere in the world so just because this story ran in the paper in 1934 that isn't proof that it happened that way one needs to find real documents of land transactions to prove such a story.  If you need more proof, ask Virginia if there is a Santa Claus, that story also ran in a newspaper.

The large log house is said to have existed on the south side of Hwy 282 where it intersects with the Hwy 282 Link Road.  In modern times it was covered with siding but it is likely this was the home that Jonathan and Rachael occupied when the moved to Fine's Springs in the late 1850s.  None of these old log houses exists anymore and I don't recall this house standing in the 50's during my youth.

Fine's Springs during our Civil War

The springs would not have been a place one would desire to remain as it became a favorite stopping place for both side during the Civil War.  Both Armies burned the split rail fences for fuel, raided the near by farms for food and livestock and took any male that was of age to fight so it isn't likely anyone would desire to live near such unlawfulness.  With the ending of the Civil War came the marriage of Millie Fine the daughter of Johnathan and Rachael Fine to William James one of the sons of Romulus James and I suspect he was the man who in or about 1844 built the next to the springs the small log house that appears in my photography. 

In the time the Fines lived at the springs it was know as "Fine's Springs" and it was such a center of activity in Crawford County that when the Crawford County Courthouse in Van Buren burned March 23 1877 in what was believed to have been a fire that was purposely set the citizens pondered about restoring the courthouse but rebuilding it in Van Buren was only one option that was considered as the following appears in the newspaper:

May 16 1877

We learn an effort is being made to get a petition to the country court calling an election to change the country seat to Fine's Springs, Lafayette Township.  Let us first decide whether it should be changed to Alma.  If not, then give our Lafayette friends a chance.

The coming of the Plums to Fine's Springs

James A and Susan Plum my wife's great, great grandparents moved from Iowa to Crawford Co  and they are recorded in the 1900 and 1910 Rudy township census living between Fine Springs and the Stanfields and the Moons so if the Stanfields were living then where they were when I was a child it seems the Plums likely were living along modern day Ar 282 Hwy very near my childhood home and the place where I first met their great great granddaughter who was to become my wife and the mother of my two sons.  

Walter Fine died in 1902 and his wife died in 1903 it isn't clear who became the owners of the springs at that time but it would seem John and Mary Fine had legal ownership as in 1912 they signed a deed to James and Susan Plum and they became the legal owners of Fine Springs and while their heirs no longer owned the springs, they do continued to live on a smaller portion of the property that the Fines sold to James and Susan Plum more than 100 years ago. 

Between 1912 and 1920 James and Susan Plum divided up the property and sold some of it off so in later years the springs portion of the original property came into the possession of a family named Underwood.  The Underwoods improved the property, put in a place to dance and dine and began to advertise it as the Fine Springs Park in the late 1920s and early 1930s to encourage the well to do to travel from Van Buren, Ft Smith, and Fayetteville to swim, dance, and eat.  Eventually the park closed people died off and the property came into the possession of C C Davis and over the years most of the buildings that were once part of the park fell into decay and were torn down.  The original log house still survive but only because it was protected by the home that had been built around it.  If built in 1844 as some think that building would be 169 years old in 2013. The log house is behind a tall fence and a locked gate and public tours are not permitted and those caught inside that fence will be prosecuted so be warned but I was allowed the privilege to photograph the cabin as to preserve it's image for history as time and the elements will eventually take it away as it does for all things.  I share my photos with all the descendants of Johnathan and Rachael Fine and of James and Susan Plum.

Fine Springs was a thriving community as in the book "History of Crawford County" I have found many examples of two story buildings built in towns and communities and they housed a Masonic Lodge on the top floor and a school that sometimes doubled as a church on the lower floor and Fine Springs had just such a building in operation.  I have not been able to determine when it was build but it was in operation in 1930.  It was near that time when the Fine Springs Public School consolidated with Alma so I suspect the lower floor may have set vacant but not for long as the Fine Springs Baptist Church burned so they moved into the lower floor where the school once operated.  Ethel Plum taught Sunday School in that building and her family attended church there until about 1938 when that building was destroyed by fire.  The Masons I suppose were determined because they build a single story building back but this time out of masonry blocks.  In 1961 they expanded it doubling the size of the building and it is still in operation today.

Jonathan and Rachael Fine and Walter and Nancy Fine were my great, great, great and great, great grandparents.  My wife is the great great granddaughter of James and Susan Plum, she and her father and her little dog, Annie, can be seen in the above photograph so our two sons had three and maybe four sets of grandparents, two on each side who occupied that log home but our sons have yet another tie to the area as in 1870 James Stamps O'Kelley, my great, great grandfather bought his family from Gordon Georgia by wagon arriving February 3, 1871 and he must have settled in Fine Springs as my grandmother is buried in the near by Love Cemetery and the 1880 US Census places him on the next line below my grandfather Walter Fine.   Fine Springs had a public school and a church and Charles William O'Kelley the son of James Stamps O'Kelley was the pastor a number of years and my childhood home is but a mile or a bit more down the road from this area.  The church never returned to that area, the Fine Springs Park is just a memory and all the old timers who knew the true history of this place have all past on.  Ethel Plum a granddaughter-in-law of James and Susan Plum and a celebrated writer for the Press Argus Newspaper wrote a history about Fine Springs that was published about 1960.  She didn't have access to all the modern search tools that are available to me but her history is pretty accurate after all she was reporting on what she was told about the family of her husband so one can expect it not to be perfect.  The photo is of Roy Plum "Jr" and his daughter Renee', and in the background is the old home of Roy and Ethel Plum.  For decades she wrote about others and what she wrote appeared in the Press Argus, I think it is fitting that someone writes about her.

Fine's Springs Primitive Baptist Church

It seems well accepted that this church existed but I have found no documents or source as to who established this church or when it was established.  The log church house is mentioned in the Mormon documents relating to the funeral of Parley Parker Pratt so that  indicates that it was in operation before 1857 which was the year Pratt was murdered.  Some claim that James Stamps O'Kelley, the father of Rev Charles William O'Kelley was a Primitive Baptist Minister and that was his reason for moving from Georgia to Fine's Springs, he became the pastor of the church and that may be true but I have found nothing to prove it.  If one looks that the photo of James Stamps O'Kelley they will find his manner of dress is that of a minister and not as a farmer so this may be true as many of the Primitive Baptist beliefs are still represented in my family today even though my family thinks of themselves as "Freewill" Baptist.  Primitive Baptist Ministers are "called" to preach and didn't seek out formal education which is how the ministers of my childhood came to preach, their training came from observing other ministers.  From the memory of those living in the early part of the 1900s, it seems agreed that before the Fine Springs Baptist Church moved into the lower floor of the two story Mason Building, that the log church was located on the west side of the Arkansas Hwy 282 Loop road and a bit further south than where the current lodge hall is now located.  Since the Wynn Burying Ground as they were called in those days is located very near to where the log church would have stood, I suspect that the Wynn's may have established and may have built the original log church.

Ethel Mae Philbrick Plum


Ethel appears in the photo with her three sisters.  From left to right they areEthel is the second from the right Theda, Loretta, Ethel, and Opal.   I don't think any real discussion of Fine Springs can begin without the mention of it's longest resident, for 75 years each time Ethel walked out her back door to get her mail the Vista of Fine Springs laid before her.  She lived at Fine's Spring almost twice as long as any Fine. 

She was born in 1907 in Coffeeville Kansas as Ethel Mae Philbrick to Richard Allen Philbrick and Estella May Andrews.  Her father was a skilled glass blower and Ethel use to tell her grandchildren that as a child she never wanted anything, her father made a great deal of money and showered his family with all he could give them but that ended when hand glass blowers were put out of their jobs by automation.  Richard had an opportunity to retrain and work with the machinery that replaced him but he was too stubborn, he believed that people would reject the cheaply made glass and his job would be restored, of course that never happened so her family pretty much fell into poverty.  Sometime between 1920 and 1924 her family moved to Crawford County.  She loved school but to her great disappointment she wasn't allowed to finish high school, her parents could not afford to pay for her 12th year.  She married Roy Plum the son of Ulysses Grant Plum when she was but 16 days past her 17th birthday.  I never heard her say if she married because of love or duty and I doubt she would have ever said if anyone had asked her but she didn't allow her marriage or her disappointment about not being allowed to finish school to hold her back.  She educated herself as she took pen in hand and wrote countless pages about life in general.  She was also a published Poet that won her awards. 

It was Ethel's misfortune to have been born into a man's world, she did like most of her generation was expected, she married, bore a daughter and a son, maintain her home and in later years to help her family get by she worked at the Alma Cannery while continuing her other duties.  I am not sure she every learned to drive, that just wasn't something women of her generation were allowed to do.  She was a kind hearted woman, made some of the best home made bread and fried chicken, she made her own yeast and raised, killed and cleaned her own chickens.  I looked forward to her Sunday dinners, she would sometimes stayed home while the rest of her family went to church so when they returned they would have one of her meals ready to set on the table. Looking back on it, she didn't need to go to church, she lived her faith, she was a humble person giving her all for others, a rare quality even today.

I never heard her complain, she always seemed happy and with a smile on her face and she always seemed to look for the good in people, even when they were not good to her yet I never heard a word come from her that was negative about anyone.  To her son and daughter she was "mother" to my wife she was "grandma" and to our sons she was their "grandma Ethel".  I suppose that from the time she had just turned 17 until the year that she died Ethel never lived very many days without looking out her back door at the Springs of Fine Springs.  She lived there longer than Zealie Wynn, James Ormes, any of the Fines, longer than any of the James family who appear to have first owned it, longer than anyone else that I have discovered.  She must have seen a great deal as she lived when the church was there, she lived when the school set below the lodge hall and she lived when the Springs was a park.  She was one year old when Henry Ford rolled out his first model A and five when the Titanic sank, seven when WWI broke out, she was eleven when it ended, and twelve when her mother was finally given the right to vote.  She lived during the boom time of the roaring Twenties and through its following depression and she was thirty four when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor she was thirty eight when WWII ended.  She saw Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and countless other wars. She was 62 when Neil Armstrong stepped upon the moon. Theodore Roosevelt was our 26th President when she was born and William Jefferson Clinton was our 42nd President when she died and there were fifteen other Presidents during her lifetime.  Ethel was an eye witness to history but her greatest interest was our American Civil War. She lived to see the invention of movies, Radio, TV, computers, and the Internet. 99.9% of all of man's knowledge and inventions happened in her lifetime, she really did see it all.  She was probably born at home in her mother's bed without the aid of a physician, she died in a fully modern hospital and in the attendance of well educated and trailed doctors and nurses. 

Ethel Mae Philbrick Plum died March 10 1999 at the age of 92 and the day she was buried I remember well.  It was a dreary and dismal day, just the kind of day for a funeral with huge downpours of rain almost as if nature was mourning her loss.  The next day the sky filled with large wet heavy snow flakes and it didn't stop until at least eight inches had fallen and many trees had broken under its weight. 

The old house still stands mostly silent and empty, there are none of the mouth watering smells of her fresh baked bread and fried chicken but several times each week her son and his old buddies will gather in the backyard or on her old back porch, drink their coffee while swapping stories as old men do about the glory days when they were young, strong, and handsome and their women were pretty as they look out at Fine Springs.

Related things that might be of Interest

I have been informed  his elders that Newberry Chapel was the 22 school and I have been provided by Glenn Fine a descendant of Peter Fine something written by his aunt Mabel Fine Anderson about her school days when she attended 22 school and when it was closed the kids had to walk to Rudy which was some distance away from Newberry Chapel community.


You can see more photos of the log home here and see some poor copies of the Underwoods Fine Springs Park advertisements that were distributed. 

So what do I call this a log house and not a log cabin?  Cabins were built in haste, the logs were not finished out, they were left round but log houses had the corners well fitted to be tight, the logs were hewed to make them square and windows were added.  The Albert Pike School on the Crawford Co Court House lawn and the log buildings located at the Prairie Grove Battle Field State Park are all examples of how log buildings appeared.  Many log homes till stand today but they don't look like log homes because the logs have been covered over by siding or brink and the insides remodeled to look like a modern home.

A special thanks goes to Glenn Fine for sharing a great many documents and Fine family history.  I hope to translate all these handwritten documents into type to make them easier to read and understand and I hope to provide maps showing the places indicated by each deed.

Deeds August 16 1869  260 Acres south of the springs