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…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 seamed 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 worlds 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. Lawrance Westbrooks, 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. The 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 indivgles, 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 agriculturist 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 dear, just an indication of the frontier’s reluctant retreat before the advance of Dyess Colony, the government’s major experiment in agricultural education.
Colony Paper Supplies Need
By E. S. Dudley, Colony Administrator
(corrections to spelling and grammar were not made)
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This page was last updated on 17 July 2012 at 11:36 pm
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