Oakland can well be spoken of as "A town that moved up the ridge." When the water rose behind the Bull Shoals Dam, it would have covered much of the town of Oakland. However, as was the custom of the fast-thinking, hard-working people of that area, they began to plan to move up the ridge away from the water. Uncle Sam paid the property owners for the loss of their farms, homes, stores, lots, etc.
Oakland had its beginning under the name of Orcutt Flat. Orcutt Flat became a thriving place for areas for miles around to trade for needed supplies. Thinking back through the years, Mrs. Ethel Campbell Denton, widow of Ed Denton, relayed some of its very interesting and informative history. Some of the following was given to us by Mrs. Eunice Hollingsworth Gilbert:
"Jim Mashburn (grandfather of Ethel Campbell Denton) along with his six children, Jane, Low, Drucilla, Jinny, Matthew and Jeffrey, helped build the first (Methodist) church and school house (same building) at Orcutt Flat. It was built of logs and put together with wooden pegs. For heating it had a fireplace. The benches were made of hewed logs with six wooden pegs for legs. This building was located just west of Norton's store, near the Homer Rea home."
"W. M. Fears was the first postmaster at Orcutt Flat (now Oakland). The name was changed to Oakland somewhere around 1900. This new name was probably chosen because of the many big beautiful oak trees at that place."
"Some of the earliest family names remembered were: Hensley, Mashburn, John Bryant, John Garrison, the Abe Sewell family, Patterson, Bill and Bert Wingate families, J. N. Griffin, Allsup, Alteridge, Pruitt, John Winters, Layton, Snow, Frost, Due, Hail, and the Pete Osterman family.
Doc Smith, who was an Indian and always wore his Indian headdress in public, was a horse doctor and had a little girl named Red Cloud.
Other names were Tom Mallonee (owner of Government still), Andrew Weir, Jim Shew, L. E. Billings (postmaster at one time), Wilkins Taylor, Truman Anglin, Gilbert, Hogan (John Cal, Shorty Cal, George, and Cage).
Some of the people were really old-timers and had originally come from Georgia. They brought some colored slaves with them. When these slaves died, they were buried in the Hogan Cemetery."
Other older family names included in Mrs. Denton's list are: Pasco, Hillhouse, Al Gilbert, Wallace Hightower family, Pace, Poplin, Cal Cornell family and the Hollingsworth family.
"The Hollingsworth families consisted of two brothers, Robert A. and Lemuel," Mrs. Denton related. "Robert was a bachelor. His brother had a wife and fifteen children. They moved to Orcutt Flat and built quite a business there with their flour and gristmill, a sawmill, a cotton gin, and a general store."
"The flour and grist mill was started in 1871. It took seven years to complete the building which was a large three-story structure. However, they were grinding wheat and corn soon after the structure was started. The mill was water-powered."
"The wheat and corn grinding continued until 1933. The sawmill was near the flour mill. In front of these buildings was their general store. In this place everything from calico to corkscrews was sold. The store was leased to Dr. Small."
Oakland also had what might now be called a mall which consisted of five stores. It was constructed somewhere in the 1880-1890 period. It had five stores in one building with a long connecting porch. These stores were separated by partitions. Merchants who operated stores there were Norton, Dick Evans, Sam Orcutt, Layton, and Jenks Griffin. The stores all burned one night. Later, some of the merchants rebuilt. J. N. Griffin, after rebuilding his store, operated it for some time then sold it to Lee Hayes. Lee Hayes afterward sold to Sam Martin.
Blacksmiths in the 1800's and early 1900's were as necessary as are mechanics of today. They were not lacking in this area.
According to Mrs. Denton's relating to Mrs. Gilbert: "Alph Pascoe owned a blacksmith shop just north of the town branch in the 1890's. Ike Tatum also owned one at the same time. It was located just across the branch near the Oakland post office. Later, Will White owned a shop. Then in 1908 Champ Sanders had one. In 1922 Clayton Dilbeck and Willie Reeves each owned a shop. John Rollin Wilbanks had a shop in operation about 1923-24. Jasper Huchinson and Roy Hillhouse were the last to have blacksmith shops in operation in this area."
About one-half mile north of Buzzard Bluff is another steep bluff called Tie Bluff. It was so-called because of the "tie slide" (or chute) that carried the ties right down to the water where they were readied for transportation to Cotter.
About 1915 Mr. Robert (Bob) Rea set up a button factory at Oakland near the town branch. Early settlers still living in the Oakland area remember seeing huge heaps of raw buttons at the plant waiting to be shipped. Pearling and shelling (mussel digging), like hunting and trapping were seasonal and did not interfere greatly with the planting and gathering of farm crops. They provided extra sources of income to farm families living along the river.
An interesting neighborhood enterprise near Oakland was the manufacturing of distilled liquor. This government still was owned and operated by Tom Mallonee. It was located one and one-half miles north of Oakland near North Fork Creek. The successful operation of a still required skilled workmen and the whiskey had to be properly aged and stored. This was another means of acquiring revenue for county, state and federal governments. Apparently, the still was a success since Tom Mallonee is still remembered as a rich man who hired a private tutor for his children's education.
Along with the still, Mallonee had a large heavy, hand-hewn rock peach crusher. This crusher was 4 1/2 feet in diameter and approximately 2 feet thick. It was drawn by a mule team. It worked somewhat like a horse-drawn cane mill. The workers poured bushels of peaches in a circle on the hard ground and the mule team pulled the crusher around and around in a counter-clockwise manner over the peaches, crushing the seeds. He used the seeds to flavor the drinks. He nailed a plug of sweet tobacco in the bottom of each barrel of drinks.
After Mr. Mallonee discontinued the still, he sold the peach crusher to Lemuel Hollingsworth who used it as a cover for a thirty-foot deep concreted cistern. A well bucket fit perfectly through the hole in the center of the stone. This remained at the home until Bull Shoals Lake filled up. The home was accidentally destroyed by fire and soon afterward the stone was stolen.
Still according to Mrs. Gilbert's notes, some of the native teachers who taught in the Oakland area in the late 1800's and early 1900's were: N. B. (Barker) Day, (Dick) Richard Due, Sarah Evans, Bessie Covington, John Covington, Ida Record, Ora Dowd, Eunice Hollingsworth, John Hollingsworth, Eugene Gilbert, Ida Gilbert, Fred Gilbert, John Elbie Gilbert, Myrtle Burgess, Walsie Martin, Jesse Akins, Inez Bayless, John Shaw, Gertrude Copelin, Millie Bayless Hightower, Price Bayless, Yerba Bayless, Connis McCracken Gilbert and Wanda Hollingsworth Gilbert.
Every community has its share of happy times as well as its tragedies. Oakland has had its share of both. One of the saddest events that happened was that of four people out of a group of seven drowning.
According to Mrs. Bela Shew Hightower (daughter of Rush Shew): "On January 17, 1925, a group of seven people (all adults) in the Yocham Bend area attempted to cross the White River in a small boat. They had a few bushels of shelled corn along that they were taking to Oakland to have ground into cornmeal. These people were: James (Jim) Shew, his two sons Tom and Rush, his granddaughter Tessie Billings, Alva Johnson, George Hawkins, and a schoolteacher Miss Georgia Bearden.
The boat was overloaded and when it began to sink all of the occupants abandoned it. Rush Shew tried to rescue his niece Tessie Billings but both were drowned. Alva Johnson rescued Miss Bearden. He then swam back out and rescued James Shew who was an older man and was almost unconcious. He was hanging to a willow tree by his chin over a limb.
George Hawkens and Tom Shew floated downstream, clinging to the boat which had turned bottom-side up. A thirty-foot chain (used to secure the boat when not in use and/or as an anchor) was dragging on the bottom of the river. The chain got hung in some rocks, the boat sank, and Hawkins and Shew drowned.
In a few months Tom Shew's body was found five miles downstream at Pace's Ferry. Then a few months later George Hawkins' body was recovered about twenty miles downstream near the Cotter railroad bridge."
Among the happy events, according to Mrs. Gilbert, was the organization of debating teams in the Price Place community of the Oakland area in the 1895-1903 era. Some of the debaters were: Lemuel Hollingsworth, Nettie Breedlove, John Shaw, Maggie Burgess, Robert Hollingsworth, Abe Sewell and Joe Mefford."
"During the years 1900-1926," Mrs. Gilbert continues, "baseball was the main sport in the Oakland Community. Some of the players were: Holt Orr, the Shaw brothers -- Harve, Ace, Joe, Dave, James and Bill -- Akins Mohney, Hogan, Poplin, Floyd, Deatherage, Hollingsworth -- James, Bob, Jesse, Ira, John and Elmer.
One of the outstanding teams was the Baseball Nine of 1921-23. Those players were: Earnest and Will Deatherage, A. D. (Alva) McDonald (umpire), Art and Troy Yocham, James Hollingsworth, Lee Floyd, James McDonald, Arthur Deatherage and Claud Hogan. (Art Yocham of Coweta, Oklahoma, and Claud Hogan are still living today, 1976.)"
"Mrs. Gilbert adds: "A Kangaroo Court was organized by a number of youngsters about 1915. They selected John Hollingsworth as their Judge and many were the little urchins who were hauled before his court. Many of these boys are deceased now. None of those involved were ever in any serious trouble."
Church activities also went on in the Oakland area. Brush Arbors were built and used in some districts for revival meetings in the summer time. People would congregate from miles around. Transportation was by wagon, buggy, horseback and walking.
During the 1930's the Hawkins Ferry was built and put to use for crossing White River near Oakland. This gave the people of that area a nearer route to Yellville, Peel, Harrison and other places west. The Yocham Bend people had easier access to interests in the Oakland area.
Oakland in its early days a busy easy-going town is now a resort area. Houses that were moved "up the ridge" nearly 30 years ago still stand and are occupied. A number of others have been built. Some houses are actually second homes for owners living elsewhere and come to the lake for weekends and holidays. There are new stores, restaurants, lodges, etc. They have a nice community building and a modern school building for children in Grades 1-6.
Ozark Isle, a beautiful, modern recreational area, has been built on Wilson Bluff where the Wilson Farm was located. This was built by the Government at a cost of no less than a few million dollars.
Yes, Oakland is surrounded on three sides by water. You now enter on a hard-surfaced road and there's no way getting out except the way you entered, or by boat. Anyway, once you go there, you will be happy that you did and will probably wish to go again.
Reprinted with permission from History of Marion County edited by Earl Berry, copyright 1977.