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Mississippi County, Arkansas


Page Contents for Dyess, Arkansas

Statistics & Facts


History & History-related items

City Attractions

Historical Events

Community events.


Statistics & Facts

The Arkansas state capital is Little Rock.
The population of Dyess is approximately 480 (2005), 410 (2010).
The approximate number of families is 204 (2000), 138 (2010).
The amount of land area in Dyess is 2.523 sq. kilometers.
The amount of land area in Dyess is 1.0 sq. miles.
The amount of surface water is 0 sq kilometers.
The distance from Dyess to Washington DC is 782 miles.
The distance to the Arkansas state capital is 138 miles. (as the crow flies)
Dyess is positioned 35.58 degrees north of the equator and 90.21 degrees west of the prime meridian.
Dyess elevation is 223 feet above sea level.
Dyess median income is $ 26,000 (2005).
The Dyess median home price is $ 30,100 (2005).


in northeastern Arkansas between Jonesboro and Memphis, Tennessee. Other nearby communities include Bassett, Joiner, Lepanto, Etowah, Marie, Birdsong, Keiser and Wilson.
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History & History Related Items

This community was named for W.R. Dyess, who was state administrator for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. It was created in 1934, one of 102 towns founded by the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt to help families get a new start after hard times. It is said that Eleanor Roosevelt came to cut the ribbon at the ribbon cutting ceremony. Afterwards she had dinner with the Jacobs family. More information may be found under historical events for Dyesss
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Johnny Cash's boyhood home. See J.R. Cash in Dyess
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Dyess Historical Events

Chronological Index
1986 - 1949 - 1943 - 1939 - 1938 - 1937 - 1936 - 1935 - 1934

1986, August 6
Homer Joe Johnson & Anna Mary (Keen) 6 August 1986
Dear Everett: Will attempt to answer your questioner received with the copy of the persons present at the 1986 reunion. Our names was omitted from the roster but we received a copy just the same. 1. We were a resident from Oct. 1934 to June 1948. 2. We heard about DYESS in June 1934. 3. We were recruited by the WPA office in McGehee Arkansas. 4. I was borne in Ladelle, Arkansas, Drew County, South of Monticello AR. wife Anna Mary born Bradley Arkansas. Born 6/4/17 wife 11/3/18. 5. Had lived in McGehee, Dermott, Ladelle Arkansas. 6. My father was a farmer and carpenter. 7. We were share croppers. 8. Our family consisted of (4) children, mother and father, oldest me, next brother Odes B. Johnson, Gllenos D. Johnson & Anne Mae Johnson. 9. The house was a Bengal 4 room house with a two story barn, medium size chicken house, with approximately 2 acres partly open. House had medium front porch with a small back porch. 10. One son, Donald Joe Johnson born in the DYESS Hospital 20 March 1938. 11. Education, father 6th grade, mother 8th grade, family all finished high school as time went by. 12. Work consisted of clearing up new ground for farming, schooling from October to end of school year in two 5 room houses near Old Center, then to Keiser riding a 2 ½ ton Diamond T truck to Keizer, then to Wilson High in Wilson Ar. Truck was covered with a tarpaulin (cold). 13. After coming to DYESS the oldest of us married DYESS girls, with the family splitting up and moving in various directions. 14. One death, Jimmie Joe Johnson, son, had pneumonia, buried in the Bassett cemetery, was 17 months old. Born 7 Nov. 1940 in Texas. 15. Favorite aspect of daily life, being one of the earliest to move into DYESS Colony it was then, by forming the welcoming comity, meeting and welcoming each family as they came into the Colony. Least favorite was clearing up the land in the messy condition it was in with all the timber cut and getting farming going. 16. Outsiders viewed us as second class partly illiterate and the like citizens and kindly turned up their noses at us. But later with the help of Mrs. Fern Salyers, and Mr. Jake Terry they soon learned how the cow eat the cabbage. Along with our association with them they soon learned differently, and in no uncertain way. 17. Cements on Quality/Quality. We were issued coupon books with the limiting the amount according to the number of members in the family and their ages. We were given a variety of garden seeds and told to go home and start growing us some food to eat, we did just that too. This was of great help to each family. We were issued a team of mules with harness and tools to farm the land with, some feed was issued too start with until we started growing some food for the animals and our selves. Some times it was beans and potatoes to eat but we had plenty of them. No one left the table hungry either. Gravy for breakfast was measured (2 or 3) biscuits depending on how many it took to hem up the gravy in the plate. Health care was provided by a contract doctor and two nurses when help was needed. 18 Social life consisted of wieney roast, cake walks, fishing trips, play parties, dances with the victrola and occasionally a guitar banjo, or fiddler playing for the dance in someone’s home, Ice cream suppers, base bale. Everyone walked everywhere they went at that time too. 4-H club was organized later on, scouts were later organized and very active, church was regularly held in two fife room houses we went to school in until finally the Center was built, Then all denominations used the Community Center for church services. 19. Our house was on road 2 number never assigned at that time. We were located directly West of the Old Center where the road turned South to the new Center. On the left or South side of the road with the ditch cutting off about acres of the forty acre plot. At this time nothing below (South) of road 3 was built. 20. We were the first to occupy the house we lived in, commencing on the month of October 1934. Note: We moved from McGehee with an 8 wheel log wagon with a four mule team taking two days and one night to arrive at the Old Center in DYESS Colony about sundown in the evening of the second day. We spent the night of travel time in DeVauls Bluff, Ark. Walking part of the time. The team driver rode the mule on the left hooked next to the wagon. We had to pay a toll charge to cross the St. Frances River near Forrest City. The driver had permits for this charge. We arrived with the bare minimum of house keeping furniture. A milk cow and a few chickens in a coop tied on the back of the wagon. Happy to start a new home and meet many new friends and go to work for a future. Homer Joe Johnson & Anna Mary (Keen) Malvern, AR.
Submitted by Everett Hensen

Pictures of some early residents of Dyess
Counts and Clark Families

1943 - 1945
Diary entry of Vivian Counts
Dyess High School – 1945
Student - Vivian Counts
Principal - Mr. John B. Mason
Graduating Teacher - Mrs. John B. Mason
Date of Graduation - May 18, 1945
Vivian Counts - Daughter of John H. and Margy Bass Counts who, by the way, were chosen to go to Dyess Colony, Arkansas to help clear the land. Vivian had many friends. Some of those listed in her autograph book were: Polly Funk, "Nett" Metcalf, Edith Hargett, Louise Dodd, Melvia Jane Gladdin, Loreine Vest, Evelyn Anderson, Mayme Conatser, Willie Bea House, Marjorie Wells - these were listed under Class Cheer. The autograph book was given to her on December 17, 1943 by a friend, Emogene Sornson. The Class Officers (1943-1944) were: Harry Darby, President; Ruby McHann, Vice President and Vivian Counts, Secretary/Treasurer/Reporter. The teachers of 1945 were: Elsie Tarpley, Library; Juanita Thompson, Study Hall; Mrs. Browning, Guidance/Lunch Room; Miss M. Autrey, American History/Study Hall and Mrs. J.B. Mason, Study Hall.

On December 17, 1943 in Dyess, Arkansas, Emogene Sornson wrote, "Dearest Vivian, When Heaven draws it Curtain and pins them with a Star Remember that you have a friend No matter where you are." Lovingly, A Classmate & friend Emogene.

Others who wrote in this book were: Clara B. Brown; Pauline Williams - Dyess, Arkansas, Road 9; Nelda - February 24, 1944; Mayme; "Mike" Mattie Nell Eubanks; March 9, 1944 - Miss Camilla Statt - teacher; James E. Thorne - March 15, 1944; Elevanda Staley; Alma Lee Dallas - May 15, 1944; Mayn Evans - September 5, 1945; Ginnie Smith - March 16, 1944; Ollie (Gene Eudy) - March 16, 1944; Lurly Phillips - May 5, 1945; Marjorie Wells - May 4, 1945; Willie Bea - February 24, 1944; Alex Hazelwood; Laverne wrote, "When the golden sun is setting and the Path no more you trod may your name be written in the autograph of God." - Laverne, Vivian Counts Clark went to be with the Lord, March 1978. March 16, 1943 - H. Eudy; Louise Layton - teacher; Mary Edith - classmate; Katherine Williams; Polly Funk; George Hudson, J.L. Sornson; Walter Harry Darby; Robbie Ruth; Louise Dodd - classmate and friend; Helen Fields wrote, "We're All Americans", class song; Sarah Brown wrote: "I thank you very much for letting me write in your book and when you leave here an gone a way, all ways remember me back home praying for you. Be sure and get Saved, So we can meet in Heaven some sweet day. May God Bless you from a loving friend, Sarah Brown" written on May 9, 1945. Miss Brown - she did get saved and went to be with Jesus 25 years ago. Loraine Vest, Junior - 1944; Rosie J. Brown; Grace Thorne; Clara Jenkins; Kirk Walker Junior; Nina Lou Harris; Eunice; Velton Kimbrough; Decema Minor; D.E. Blackmon; Mrs. Gene RobertsLeora Woodral; Elsie Tarpley; part of what Mary Faye Hiblong wrote, Down in the meadow carved on a rock three little works "Forget me not." Nina Scott; Marilyn Autrey; Mozelle Williams; Johnnie H.; Maude Alice; Maxine Robertson; Lena Phillips. Note from submitter: If anyone reads this and you know any of these folks you may e-mail Vivian Counts Clark's daughter, Dorothy Lynn Clark Lamkins at:

1939, May 10
Obstetrics in the Small Hospital
John H. Wilson, M.D.
Dyess, Arkansas

1939, April
Dyess Eagle - School Newspaper

1938 - approximate date
BY FLOYD SHARP, Colony Director and State WPA Administrator

Since the inception of Dyess Colony, we have felt that a newspaper, a colonists’ newspaper, would be a great help in unifying the interest of the origination.
Now, the day has come when we are able to say: “Here it is. Here is your paper. It’s free and its columns are open to communication for everybody.
Soon the Colony will celebrate the second anniversary of its founding. A few short months ago, this was a forest, potentially rich and healthy but undeveloped. Today it is a thriving community of agriculturist and as time rolls on it will grow in importance.
Perhaps our most valuable asset is our spirit of co-operation which enables us to work together toward a single goal-a comfortable home and a good farm for every family.
The Colony Herald is ready to help in any way it can and it is our purpose to make it an accurate and interesting journal of news and opinions and a history of our effort
Source: Colony Herald, Dyess Eagle, School Paper, Micro film National Archives

1937, August 8 to 1938, August 8
Dyess Hospital
A small rural hospital with 24 beds and four bassinets

1937, January
Dyess Flood

In 1937, the Cash family moved to Dyess, and took residence there as sharecrop cotton farmers. The young Johnny Cash, ( then in elementary school ), worked to clean and clear the banks of irrigation ditch number 40. Johnny Cash left Dyess in 1950, to join the U.S. Air Force.
submitted by Marv Sauer

1936, April 27
Family Selection
By Clark C. Tucker
There are at present 457 families living on colony; 27 families have been approved for residence in the colony, but have not moved. These families will move within the next week.
The last inspection visit was made in April 27, 1936, and no more visits are scheduled. All work has been completed in the field. The families that are on the Colony have been selected after very careful consideration. It is believed that every one of them will be successful. It has been the purpose of the selection division to picture the Colony just as it is, and tell of the tremendous amount of clearing and farm work to be done.
A special effort was made to point out to them that the wonderful opportunities and possibilities offered those chosen, as residents are available only through their own efforts to obtain them. The government has made possible a chance for them to own a comfortable home, and to earn an honest living through cultivation of the fertile soil, but an explicit explanation of the methods used and "drawbacks" of cultivation has been presented each applicant.
It has been the hope of the selective unit that each new family has come with an understanding of the adjustments to be made, and that each will be happy in its new home.
Submitted by Everett Hensen

1936, May 1
From the Colony Herald
Hewn from the wilderness by the hands of men who believe the Arkansas farmer can build himself a more equitable agriculture economy, Dyess Colony in Mississippi County, grows to adolescence.
In June, when crops are green and growing, Harry Hopkins. National WPA administrator, will come down to attend the dedication exercise and see for himself what the government has done for the farmers of this state. It all began in 1934.
The late W. R. Dyess, state relief administrator and a plantation owner, gave much thought to the problems of farmers, their lack of fertile land, like of equipment, difficulties in marketing their products. So much poverty in a state as potentially rich as Arkansas seemed unreasonable to him. He conceived an idea. Since the fault was admittedly not the farmer, then it must have been his facilities. Much of Mississippi County forest land was controlled by drainage districts though tax defaults and was to be bought at very low prices. Mr. Dyess went to work.
Purchases was made with funds obtained though a special grant from the FERA and within a short time 16,000 acres lay waiting for the axe and the plow. It was jungle grown up with underbrush and much of it was subject to overflow. But those 16,000 acres were a part of one of the world’s garden spots. Muscle, vision and expert planning were required to make this area productive, to fulfill the hopes of the hundreds of families who were to leave there homes and come to this land for a new start.
Col. Lawrence Westbrook, now assistant national administrator and at that time relief administrator of Texas, had planed a model agriculture community similar to the French rural center with its village and surrounding farms.
Mr. Dyess’ plan envisioned a larger and more expanded community, sought to distribute the population over a larger area and to provide educational and recreational facilities. In May 1934, constriction started on the project, then known as Colonization Project No. 1. A survey was made, material ordered and by the 18, 115 heavy logging mules were put into gear and clearing work began. In order to utilize the standing timber and lower the cost of building six ground-hog sawmills were installed. With these small units and one steam mill the land was cleared, and unskilled labor working at capacity stacking the piles seasoning lumber higher and higher.
Three draglines were put to ditching and roadwork. Right-of-ways, one day an avenue of muck and the next a passable thoroughfare, caring labors to all parts of the area. The Tyronza river which bisects the area was ditched and deepened, laterals carried of water from low lands. >From 500 to 1,500 men were working. They lived in barracks at the tempera headquarters. But now that the first dent was made in the wilderness, attention was turned to the construction of a community center where stores and administrative offices were to go up. Sawed oak ties were utilized in the laying of five miles of track from Evadale Junction on the Fresco to the Colony.
By early summer everything was ready for the construction of the first three houses and a corps of 25 carpenters went to work on planes drawn by architect Howard Eichenbaum. The first three homes, of three, four and five rooms each, served as models. Land allotment was on the basis of 10 acres to room or, in other words, small families were to live in small houses on small farms. Original planes called for outdoor sanitary toilets. This was changed and indoor lavatories were built with perfected septic tanks to prevent water contamination.
With the wiring of the colony on July 30 construction moved into another stage and by early August four homes were complete and an additional crew of expert carpenters hired to expedite the program. It is interesting to note that each crew of seven men were required to lay three foundations in a day; each 10 man crew to construct the frame of a five room house in 16 hours; four men to shingle a house in six hours; each eight man crew to place the siding in six hours and six painters to paint the house in six hours.
With 1,400 men employed between the middle of and August and September 15 the entire tract took on anew shape as evidenced by airplane photographs. The almost uncharted woodland was intersected by roads, its creeks and ditches spanned by wide bridges built of native lumber. Spotted by cottages in little plots of cleared land the forest gave way to man’s industry.
The community center took the spotlight that fall. The large buildings were designed and staked out and pouring of concrete began. Grouped together in convenient proximity are administrative building, commissary, cafe and adjacent stores and post office, hospital, garage, shops, community building which now serves as a school and other facilities necessary to the life of a community.
The railroad was finished in November. Over 52 miles of right-of-way had been cleared, 22 miles graded and five miles of ditching finished. Over 100 farm cottages and 16 residences were wired for electricity although available power was not sufficient to light more than the units in the center.

So much for construction:
The building of Dyess Colony was the first consideration, but the matter of supervision, selection of families and education came next and occupied just as important a place in the scheme of development. With the moving in of W. H. Smith and his family, the first of the original 13 families, the colony entered still another phase. Families of good record who had been victims of the economic emergency, were considered eligible. They were given adequate land, comfort--- tide them over until paying crops could raised and sold.
Health, industry and community welfare-these were vital to the band of colonist if their experiment was to survive. If they hadn’t co-operated wholeheartedly with the government that was giving them this chance perhaps they would not have survived.
Today, we have a community that is not simple for the purpose of growing salable crops for the market but also a unit for the advancement of its component individuals, giving them a chance for a fuller and more rounded life.
Educational facilities will be complete with the projected new high school. About 4,000 agriculturists will be united in one common objective-the making of a new and better day for the farmer and his children.
Over 446 families are now installed in comfortable homes and the maximum will soon be reached, according to Colony Administrator Dudley.
A few weeks ago a colonist, working near a brush pile on his plot, started a deer, just an indication of the frontier’s reluctant retreat before the advance of Dyess Colony, the government’s major experiment in agricultural education.

First Schools in Dyess
Interviews of teachers and administration in 1936.

Letter send to Everett Henson by Marry
Life at Dyess Colony, A town and farming community built during the depression, A COMPLETE COMMUNITY WITH PEOPLE FROM MOST OF THE COUNTIES OF ARKANSAS. All with a good moral background, both man and wife in good health and able to clear their own land. All had to have a farming background. "AND YES ONE MORE THANG THEY HAD TO BE :POOR:

1934 - on
More history for Dyess.

Dyess, Arkansas - a brand new town

1934, May 22
The Arkansas Rehabilitation Corporation was formed in May 1934, for the purpose of conduction of the Rural Rehabilitation Program of the Emergency Relief Administration in Arkansas. Construction of Dyess Colony began May 22, 1934 as Colonization Project No. 1. On February 17, 1936, Dyess Colony, Incorporated was formed by officials of the Emergency Relief Administration.
The Colony received cash grants from the Emergency Relief Administration amounting to $ 2,306,250.00. With this amount the Colony purchased approximately 16,000 Acres of land at a cost of $ 136,994.00, constructed 500 farm houses including out buildings.
38 houses at the community Center
Administration Building
Administration Building Heating Plant
Community Building
Fire Station
Warehouse No. 1,2 and 3
Hay Barn
Coal Bin
Mule Barn and Corral
Store Building
Shop and Cafe Building with 20 Tables 80 chairs 14 Counter Stools
Cafe Storage and Rest Room Building
Service Station
Hospital 25 Bed and 4 Bassinets
Garage and Blacksmith Shop
Shoe Shop
Feed Mill
Cotton Plant
Cotton Gin 4 Stand
Seed House
Gin Office and Scale House
Cotton House
Dryer House
At a Coast of $ 192, 273.00

Dyess Community Events

The people of Dyess have a reunion in July at Dyess every-other year and people from all over the USA come and have a pot luck dinner. Dyess


"Center" to the old timers of Dyess includes the 16,000 acres project built during the depresion that included 500 farm homes, three grade schools and one High School and the "town" with 38 homes. The towh was built in the CENTER of the project.
The population of Dyess was:
1990 - 466
2000 - 515
2005 - 480
Median household income:
2000 - $ 25,000
2005 - $ 26,000

Median house value:
2000 - $ 27,400
2005 - $ 30,100

Median age:
2000 - 29.2 years

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