Rob & Janie (Phillips) Usrey
County History Menu
By Coy Logan
February 16, 1959
Mr. Usrey was born in 1871 on Osage Creek near Gardner. His father's old home place was the Chaney farm below Gardner. Mrs. Usrey was Janie Phillips. She was born on a farm east of Gobbler's Point. Mr. And Mrs. Usrey have lived near Rudd and Osage all the time except for two brief trips to Texas.
Uncle Bob attended subscription schools some at Gardner and at a school house at the Burkett place near Connor for short periods of time. He said his school attendance was very short. They didn't have much school that he could attend and from the time he was a small child until he was grown, he had the chills. When the chills left him, he always had a high fever. With this condition, he did not feel well enough to attend school very much. He remembers that Miss Jackie Meek taught at Gardner. Mr. Lee Ramsey taught at the school house at the Burkett place. Later Lee Ramsey committed suicide by hanging. Mr. Ramsey was a tall man. He said he never heard any reason why Mr. Ramsey took his life.
Mrs. Usrey (Janie Phillips) attended subscription schools at the Piney Church and school house. This was a frame house that was never ceiled. It stood at about the same location of the present Church house. Mrs. Usrey recalls that Mr. John Roberts taught several subscription schools there.
These are the names and ages at death of Mr. Usrey's brothers and sisters that lived to be grown: Frank 93, Sam 91, Jim 84, Tom 62, Mrs. Mary Conner 83, Mrs. Alice Miller 90, Mrs. Julia Rudd 87, and Mrs. Zillah Walker 83.
Mr. Usrey recalls that they started housekeeping with only the bare necessities. They had a small cook stove that they purchased for four or six dollars. They had two feather beds and some quilts that they made down on the floor. They did not have any bedsteads. Later his brother-in-law, Johnnie Conner, made some bedsteads for him. He said they were nailed together with big nails. When they wanted to move them, they had to pull the nails. Mr. Usrey said he went to Osage and bought some things to do their cooking. What he bought at that time, he carried home in a water bucket. Their home then was on the mountain west of Osage Creek and east of the Johnnie Conner place. They didn't have a horse or cow and he owed about $100. He said it took six or eight years to pay this debt, but he paid every penny of it. At that time he was working for fifty cents a day. A day was from sun rise to sunset.
Mrs. Usrey said she made her sausage and kept it in long cloth bags. After the bags were stuffed, she greased the outside good and this plan would keep the sausage good for sometime. At that time they also use corn shucks to keep the sausage. The sausage was stuffed into the shucks.
When Uncle Rob was six years old, his family and seventeen other families made a trip to Arizona with ox teams and some teams of horses. He recalls that they started at the end of winter. When they reached the Arkansas River, they used a ferry for crossing. They made the horses and the cattle swim the river. His father had given him a filly colt hat he said he thought a heap of . As the colt reached the far side of the river, it had difficulty getting up the bank through some tree limbs and roots. It broke a leg in the struggle to get up the bank. For the next two or three days his mother walked along with the colt and drove it. His father thought it was impossible to take it on to Arizona and he gave it to a man to keep.
The people became dissatisfied with Arizona and they returned to Arkansas the same season. They stayed long enough to pick some cotton and it was cold weather when they arrived back home in Arkansas. They didn't like the country because it was so dry and their cattle died with bloody murrain. He recalls that his father bought a team of big red oxen for the return trip.
Mr. Usrey remembers the buffalo that were on the plains. He recalls that one day, all day long as they traveled, they passed great herds of buffalo. He said they were as thick and as close together as he ever saw cattle in a feed lot. One evening he rode one of their horses out from the camp to a place where the men were butchering a buffalo that one of the men had killed. The horse smelled the blood from the animal and turned with him and took him back to the camp.
Mail Allred was a young man that made the trip. Back home his father always kept hound dogs. He said one evening Mail appeared to be homesick and lonesome. He looked out across the plains where there was not a tree to be seen and said, he would give anything to be back home where he could hear the voice of one of Pa's old hound dogs.
On the way back home they made inquiry about the filly colt that had broken its leg. His father was told it got well and made a fine animal. Mr. Usrey was glsd to learn it got well but he hated to come back home and leave it.
The summer before they were married, he worked for Tuck Seitz on the farm near Osage. Mr. Sietz had a big farm. That summer he kept four hired hands and a hired girl to help in the home. Mr. Usrey was paid 50 cents a day for his work. Mr. Seitz raised big fields of corn. HE fed several head of cattle and hogs for the market each year.
On rainy days when the hands could not work in the fields, they shucked and shelled corn for use in Mr. Seitz's government whiskey still. They used a hand operated corn sheller to shell the corn. During this summer Mr. Usrey also worked some in a well. Some man had dug the well and had struck a little water. Mr. Seitz wanted Mr. Usrey to dig deeper and get more water.
The whiskey still was some distance form the house, but the barrels of whiskey were kept in a shop house not far from the residence. Before the whiskey was sold, Mr. Seitz would fix the government seal on each bottle or jug of his product. One day as Mr. Usrey was watering and feeding his team at noon, he saw Mr. Seitz out looking around the shop building. He was looking for tracks. The night before someone had bored holes through a plank and removed enough of the board to go inside the building. Somebody had stolen quite a lot of his whiskey and about $18 in money. He kept some money there for making change. Mr. Seitz said later, he thought he knew who got the whiskey and the money. He never had any arrests made. He thought they were men that had been good customers of the business.
Mr. Usrey said most of the work hands would drink beer and whiskey while they were on the job. He said he did not do this. He said he had to guard against drinking. He was afraid he might get attached to it. Whiskey was plentiful and easy to get. Each morning Mr. Switz served the morning dram to the work hands. Mr. Usrey used his will power and did not establish a harmful habit of drinking.
Mr. Usrey made two trips to Texas. Each time Mrs. Usrey became dissatisfied and wanted to come back to Arkansas. She always waned to go but each time she became homesick.
Mr. Usrey made his second trip to the pan handle to Texas about 1905. At that time he was living on the Tom Chaney farm. Mr. Chaney had been gone but came back to his place. Mr. Usrey was uncertain about where he would move. He had heard about cheap land in the pan handle of Texas. Rule Kenner owned some land out there. HE and Rule decided to charter a railroad car to take some of their possessions to this part of Texas. He was afraid Rule would change his mind about going. They agreed that if either broke the agreement, the one breaking it would give the other $50. They chartered the car and each one paid more than $100. They paid this at Green Forest before they started. When they got to Texas, they were told they owed $120 more. This came as a surprise. They thought they had paid everything at Green Forest.
Mr. Usrey said he took two teams, a wagon, and his chickens. HE took enough flour, meat, meal and molasses to last the family a year.
Rule took a team and some other things. Seth Conner went with the car to care for the teams and the chickens and the two families went on a passenger train. Florence, Rule's wife, had her hands full on the train. She had to take care of her children. Mr. Usrey said he spent a lot of his time looking after Rule. Rule liked his bottle and a great part of the time someone had to take care of him. Mr. Usrey said he didn't know why Rule took a team. He didn't work any after he got there. He thought Rule went with the idea of speculating on the cheap land.
Mr. Usrey said he made a good crop of oats and corn. He had sixty-five acres of oats. They had difficulty with the oats. Quite often at harvest time a hail storm would come and ruin the crop. They only stayed one year. Mrs. Usrey became homesick and they returned to Arkansas.
For many years they have lived at Rudd. Mr. Usrey helped hew the log sills that are in the present school building at Rudd. He has served on the school board. Several years ago when Edd Greson taught there, he recalls that Mr. Gregson seemed to be pleased with the cooperation he had form the board members. On the last day of school he gave each of the board members a good three-blade pocket knife.
Carroll County Historical Quarterly