If you were not in the Greenwood Performing Arts Center the night of July 15th you don’t know what you missed. The South Sebastian Historical Society never ceases to amaze me. The outstanding programs they come up with. This program was to recognize the many families who had to give up their land in order that the Government could build what at that time was called Camp Chaffee. Many of the people lived on land homesteaded by ancestors. With the relocation of the many families it meant the disappearance of communities such as Cornish, Oak Grove, Center Valley, Auburn, and Biswell Springs. I remember so well when this was taking place but I did not realize the immense impact that this had on the families until I was older. I knew that many who were in school in Greenwood moved to other communities and would no longer be going to Greenwood schools. It was exciting to see a house coming down the road being moved to some other location. I didn’t realize the heartbreak that was involved in that move. Jerry McConnell talked of life in the Cornish Community where his Dad, the late “Bun” McConnell ran the Country Store. I think Bun sold just about anything a house wife had a need for plus he bought eggs and cream from the farmers. That was a happy time for people who grew up in these communities. Nearly everyone was kin in one way or the other. I can remember when I was growing up hearing about the McConnell Ball Team. I laugh to myself when I think about the McConnell brothers playing ball. It makes me think about their playing croquet in the Square where the court was located. I guess being so many brothers they were very competitive. I can tell you that there was some serious croquet games played in that court.
The late Orville and Sybil Bassett lived with his sister the Harris Heartsill Family while their house was being moved and remodeled. I still didn’t realize the heart break they were going through.
As there was usually two churches in the community a Baptist and a Methodist with the churches having a service every other Sunday the families attended all the services. When they moved into town part of the family went to the Baptist while part attended the Methodist. It never seemed to bother them.
Betty Mayo told of growing up in Union Grove. She told of what life was like for the families living there. When she was telling about games played at school she mentioned “London Bridges”. I had not thought about that game in years. In fact that is one game I haven’t played with my Greats. Her talk brought back so many memories.
The thing that brought tears to my eyes was the National Award winning tribute to the families and communities, entitled “YOU CAN NEVER GO HOME AGAIN” presented by Dr. Aaron White, Jeff Turner, Brant Warrick, and Clifton James. If you could listen to that without a lump in your throat or tears in your eyes you would have to have a hard heart. I could almost feel the pain the families went through.
Not only did I learn much about life in these communities but also got to listen to some good music provided by Mansfield’s “JUST US” and the great gospel music by Hartford’s “SHANKLE SISTERS.”
To the people who are still with us who lived through these sad times I can only say, “BE THANKFUL FOR THOSE WONDERFUL THINGS CALLED MEMORIES.” Thank you South Sebastian County Historical Society for all that you do for the people of South Sebastian County.