Lake June

 City: Stamps, County: Lafayette
 Location: South of the intersection of Mill Pond Road and Magnolia Street

1880 lumber company mill pond.
Listed in Arkansas Register of Historic Places on 12/06/2017

 

Summary

Lake June is being nominated to the Arkansas Register of Historic Places under Criterion A, with local significance, for its association with the early history of the region’s timber and lumber industry and the early development of the town of Stamps, Arkansas. Overall, Lake June has made significant contributions to our region’s settlement, development, growth, economy, recreation, religion, and regional identity. Lake June was originally created to service the adjacent Bodcaw Lumber facility. At its heyday, Bodcaw Lumber was the largest southern yellow pine lumber mill in the world.[1] Bodcaw Lumber was a commercial catalyst that attracted people into southwestern Arkansas as well as the economic engine that powered regional development. Also, Lake June played a key role as an important setting for the childhood of Dr. Maya Angelou, the poet and activist who spent many of her childhood years in Stamps, Arkansas, in the care of her grandmother. Maya Angelou mentions Lake June as “The Pond” thirteen times in her debut biographical novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. From its utilitarian beginning and into our modern era, Lake June has served many purposes and played many roles. It has been a swimming hole, a recreational fishing lake, a church baptistery, a park, a fire suppression tool, a place of reflection, a sanctuary, and of course a log processing center for an economic powerhouse.

Elaboration

History of Southwest Arkansas

Southwest Arkansas has been governed under many flags: French, Spanish, American, and Confederate, but it was Native Americans who first called this land their home. Arkansas was home to Native Americans for an estimated 11,000 years prior to Europeans entering the area.[2] Some Native American influences still remain, such as the name Bodcaw, which possibly was derived from a Choctaw word meaning “wide”.[3] Bodcaw Creek runs less than two miles from Lake June. It was in large part the vast untouched timber resources that initially attracted new immigrants into southwest Arkansas. To this day the region is home to one of the nation’s most productive timber clusters. Deltic, Weyerhaeuser, Anthony, Georgia Pacific, Idaho Timber, and Potlatch all have long histories in this area and generate a strong share of the local economic activity.

White settlement of the area around what is now Stamps, Arkansas, was sparse even after the creation of Lafayette County in 1827. Only a few early families settled on land; including the Calhouns, Tatoms, Norwoods, Stamps, Vaughons, Landes and Bakers. The Stamps family established a small sawmill during the 1860s, which would later be acquired by the Bodcaw Lumber Company. The arrival of the St. Louis Southwestern Railway, also known as the Cotton Belt Railway, in the area in the early 1880s led to an explosion in the local economy and population. The city was named for one of the early operators of the Bodcaw lumber mill, Hardy James Stamps.[4] His daughter, Ella Crowell, would serve as the first postmistress of Stamps after the post office was established in 1888 to serve the growing settlement of mill workers.[5] The town was officially incorporated in 1898. The city continued to grow alongside the expanding lumber mill throughout the early years of the 20th century. Eventually the town included a local bank, several churches, a company store, a masonic lodge and supported a local newspaper. Bodcaw Lumber was initially incorporated in Texarkana, Arkansas, in January of 1889 by the Brown and Buchanan families.[6] In 1891 the company moved its headquarters to Stamps, Arkansas. The lumber mill in Stamps would continue to operate under Bodcaw Lumber Company until 1917, when the company was moved to Louisiana, where it would continue to operate under family ownership until the late 1970s.[7]

History of Lake June

Lake June is one of the oldest man-made lakes in the region. We do not know exactly when Lake June was created, due to conflicting dates cited in various sources. Surviving company records held by the University of Arkansas Special Collections department indicate Bodcaw Lumber was actively doing business in Stamps as early as 1891.[8] The biography of Bodcaw Lumber’s longtime owner, William Buchanan, states Bodcaw Lumber Company was operating in Stamps prior to 1887 when it was bought by Mr. C.T. Crowell, who owned the site prior to Buchanan.[9] If the mill pond wasn’t created simultaneously with the Stamps mill it was undoubtedly created soon after, as the location of the mill was set up to take advantage of Crooked Branch’s water. By comparison, the area’s four man-made lakes closest to Lake June were all created relatively recently. These include Lake Columbia, Lake Earling, Lake Bois d’ Arc, and White Oak Lake which were constructed in 1986, 1956, 1961, and 1961 respectively. [10]

Economic Significance of Lake June

Lake June was created as a working mill pond. Even in its infancy, it was such a unique feature on the landscape that it needed no name other than “The Pond”. Its job as “The Pond” was to transport logs from the offloading train to the mill. As described in Archer Mayor’s book, Southern Timberman, the procedure to process logs would include an arriving log train dumping a load of logs down an embankment into the mill pond.[11] The pond would then serve as a holding tank and would allow for easy movement of the whole logs to and from the railroad and the processing mill. Pushing a floating log across water was a much easier job than dragging it over land. The water served other purposes too; it cleaned the logs and protected them from insect invasion. The water soaked logs also kept the sawmill sawblades cool, greatly reducing large pond space provided plenty of storage when inventory was high.[12] Once the mill was ready to process a log, laborers in small boats would guide the logs to the mill using long pikes. The logs would then be guided individually onto a pair of inclined “jackladders” that stretched up into the mill’s second floor. Each “jackladder” operated like an escalator, with hooked chains that would grab the logs and raise them to the second floor.[13]

At its height, Bodcaw Lumber employed around three thousand people.[14] From 1904 to 1913 (1908 figures are missing), it paid dividends on average of 193%.[15] That scale of production and profit would have hardly been possible without a large mill pond supporting it. Throughout its working years, The Pond lay quiet witness to the day-to-day labors of sawmill hands as they lived and worked through the Reconstruction South, the Spanish-American War, the turn of the twentieth century, and the first world war. Bodcaw Lumber utilized the Pond until 1917 when the company was dissolved and its assets moved to Louisiana.[16] The successors of Bodcaw Lumber sold The Pond to the City of Stamps in 1943, making it a municipal lake.[17] Sometime around this time period The Pond became known as Lake June. In 1956 Stamps deed surface rights to Lake June to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission while retaining ownership of the lake.

Social Impacts of Lake June

In 1917 the Arkansas-based Bodcaw Lumber Company was shuttered and its operations in this state ended.[18] For the first time in over a quarter century, the mill pond lay empty of logs. Even when Bodcaw Lumber was operational, The Pond was the major source of recreation for the area. Sundays were rest days for the workers and, by extension, The Pond opened up recreational opportunities. Fishing, swimming, boating, and ice skating during the coldest winters were all popular as well as Bonfires and cookouts. In 1943, the former sawmill lands including the lake were sold by the successors of Bodcaw Lumber of Arkansas to the City of Stamps in exchange for ten dollars.[19] In 1956, Stamps deeded the surface area of Lake June to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. By this time The Pond was now known as Lake June. Fish stockings by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission turned the lake into a popular recreational fishing spot. In 2016, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission began extensive renovations on Lake June’s levee and shoreline repair.[20]

The location of the original log pond, now known as Lake June, also was a large physical marker of the racial segregation of early Stamps, with the white only section to the northeast and the black only section to the southwest, separated by the Lake and the railroad. These two sections were linked only by a single road and a small bridge over the easternmost section of “The Pond.”[21] This division was also evident in the street names of the town during its early years, including the names “African,” “Black,” “Colored,” and “Etheopian” streets in the black section of the town just south of the pond bridge.[22] These streets are now known as Lake Street, Miller Street, Berry Street, etc. The original names of these streets, as seen in the early Sanborn Fire Insurance maps may also not have been their common names, but a product of racist views of the period by city officials or even outside observers. Also, the black section of the town was not shown on the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps of the area until after 1908.

Maya Angelou even describes the extent of the segregation of races in 1930s Stamps, Arkansas, and her infrequent journeys across the pond and railroad tracks to “whitefolksville”:

…After we left Mr. Willie Williams’ Do Drop Inn, the last stop before whitefolksville, we had to cross the pond and adventure the rail roads. We were explorers walking without weapons into man eating animals’ territory…

In Stamps the segregation was so complete that most Black children didn’t really, absolutely know what whites looked like. Other than that they were different, to be dreaded, and in that dread was included the hostility of the powerless against the powerful, the poor against the rich, the worker against the worked for and the ragged against the well-dressed.[23]

Throughout the Roaring Twenties, Prohibition, The Great Depression, World War II, the Dust Bowl, the Jim Crow era, The Cold War, the dawn of the computer age, the turn of the twenty-first century, and into this current day, Lake June has been a regional nucleus of social activity. A park was built along the lake’s shore and bath houses were constructed. A fishing pier was added from which countless hours have been fished, supplying an untold number of meals and recreational entertainment.

Other important historic structures in the area include the Lafayette County Training School, a Rosenwald School that was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, which stands on property next to Lake June. Lakeside Cemetery, with marked graves dating back to at least 1905, also stands on a hill next to Lake June. Maya Angelou’s grandmother and uncle were laid to rest in unmarked graves in Lakeside Cemetery.

Dr. Maya Angelou and Lake June

Around 1931 a three-year-old little girl was sent to live with her grandmother in Stamps. Marguerite Johnson’s short life had already been filled with turmoil. She soon began visiting “The Pond.” It gave her serenity and solace. Years later she would write about it. She called it “The Pond” thirteen times in her first autobiographical novel.[24] One such mention of the Pond was during a critical moment in her early childhood, when she is reunited with her father after having lived in Stamps with her grandmother for several years:

… Each day I found some time to walk to the pond where people went to catch sun perch and striped bass. The hours I chose to go were too early or late for fishermen, so I had the area to myself. I stood on the bank of the green dark water, and my thoughts skidded like the water spiders. Now this way, now that, now the other. Should I go with my father? Should I throw myself into the pond, and not being able to swim, join the body of L.C., the boy who drowned last summer? Should I beg Momma to let me stay with her? I could tell her that I’d take over Bailey’s chores and do my own as well. Did I have the nerve to try life without Bailey? I couldn’t decide on any move, so I recited a few Bible verses, and went home.[25]

By the time she wrote her first novel Marguerite Johnson had already changed her name to Maya Angelou. Her debut novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, propelled her into a life of writing, acting, and activism.[26] On June 17, 2014, shortly after her death, the City of Stamps renamed the park located on the eastern shore of Lake June, the “Dr. Maya Angelou Memorial Park”.[27]

Statement of Significance

Lake June is being nominated to the Arkansas Register of Historic Places because of its cultural, historical, social, and economic importance to southwest Arkansas. Lake June is being nominated to the Arkansas Register of Historic Places under Criterion A, with local significance, for its association with the early history of the region’s timber and lumber industry and the early development of the town of Stamps, Arkansas. As a living ecosystem, Lake June will continue to influence Stamps, Lafayette County, and southwest Arkansas far into the future.

Bibliography

Angelou, Maya. The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou. New York, NY: The Modern Library, 2004.

 

Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York City NY: Random House. 1969.

 

Bodcaw Lumber Company Records: 1889-1941. Manuscript Collection 1388. University of Arkansas Libraries: Special Collections Department. Fayetteville, Arkansas. August 1998.

 

Bridges, Kenneth. “Oil Industry.” Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Central Arkansas Library System, updated 6 June 2017. Web. www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net. accessed 1 September 2017.

 

Bright, William. Native American Placenames of the United States. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004.

 

City Council Resolution No. 2014-7. Stamps, Arkansas. In reference to Dr. Maya Angelou Memorial Park. June 17, 2014.

 

Cole, Robert J. “Bodcaw: No Longer Just a Family Affair.” The New York Times. 31 July 1979. p. D1.

 

Deed of sale from Stamps Land Company, Inc to the City of Stamps, AR, December 30th, 1943 (filed March 7, 1944), Miller County, Arkansas. Deed Book A-8, page 430. County Recorder’s Office, Miller County, AR.

 

“Lake June will be drained to kill unwanted vegetation, repair spillway and improve fish habitat.” Magnolia Reporter. Newspaper. Magnolia, Arkansas. 7 July 2016. www.magnoliareporter.com.

 

Mayor, Archer H. Southern Timberman: The Legacy of William Buchanan. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press, 2009.

 

McGraw, Patricia Washington. “Maya Angelou (1928-2014).” Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Central Arkansas Library System, updated 22 November 2016. Web. www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net. accessed 1 September 2017.

 

Roberts, Jeannie. “Celebrating Angelou: At town’s tribute, tears, memories.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Little Rock, Arkansas. 19 October 2014. p. 1A.

 

Taylor, Jim (Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism). “Arkansas Natives Thrived, Declined Before Louisiana Purchase – Part I.” SouthShore.com. January 2004. http://www.southshore.com/louisianapurchase.htm.

 

Teske, Steven. “Stamps (Lafayette County).”Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Central Arkansas Library System, updated 9 August 2017. Web. www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net. accessed 1 September 2017.



[1] Steven Teske, “Stamps (Lafayette County),”Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, Central Arkansas Library System, updated 9 August 2017, www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net, accessed 1 September 2017.

[2] Jim Taylor (Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism), “Arkansas Natives Thrived, Declined Before Louisiana Purchase – Part I, SouthShore.com, January 2004. http://www.southshore.com/louisianapurchase.htm.

[3] William Bright, Native American Placenames of the United States, (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004). p. 68.

 

[4] Teske, “Stamps (Lafayette County),”Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Robert J. Cole, “Bodcaw: No Longer Just a Family Affair,” The New York Times, 31 July 1979, p. D1. Teske, “Stamps (Lafayette County),” Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.

[7] Cole, “Bodcaw: No Longer Just a Family Affair,” The New York Times.

[8] Bodcaw Lumber Company Records: 1889-1941, Manuscript Collection 1388, University of Arkansas Libraries: Special Collections Department, Fayetteville, Arkansas, August 1998.

[9] Archer H. Mayor, Southern Timberman: The Legacy of William Buchanan (Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press, 2009). p. 15.

[10] Arkansas: The Natural State. Arkansas.com, “White Oak Lake” and “Lake Columbia,” Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, agfc.com, “Lake Erling” and “Lake Bois d’Arc.”

[11] Mayor, Southern Timberman the Legacy of William Buchanan. pp. 45 – 47.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., p. 86.

[15] Ibid., p. 32.

[16] Bodcaw Lumber Company Records: 1889-1941, Manuscript Collection 1388, University of Arkansas Libraries: Special Collections Department, Fayetteville, Arkansas, August 1998.

[17] Deed of sale from Stamps Land Company, Inc to the City of Stamps, AR, December 30th, 1943 (filed March 7, 1944), Miller County, Arkansas, Deed Book A-8, page 430, County Recorder’s Office, Miller County, AR.

[18] Bodcaw Lumber Company Records: 1889-1941, Manuscript Collection 1388, University of Arkansas Libraries: Special Collections Department, Fayetteville, Arkansas, August 1998.

[19] Deed of sale from Stamps Land Company, Inc to the City of Stamps, AR, December 30th, 1943 (filed March 7, 1944), Miller County, Arkansas, Deed Book A-8, page 430, County Recorder’s Office, Miller County, AR.

[20] “Lake June will be drained to kill unwanted vegetation, repair spillway and improve fish habitat,” Magnolia Reporter, Newspaper, Magnolia, Arkansas, 7 July 2016, www.magnoliareporter.com.

[21] Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, New York City, Random House, 1969. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Stamps, Arkansas: 1914-1949.

[22] Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Stamps, Arkansas: 1914-1949.

[23] Angelou, Maya. The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou (New York, NY: The Modern Library, 2004). p. 24.

[24] Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (New York City, Random House. 1969). pp. 24, 36, 55, 105, 112, 115, 128, 133, 134, 139, 182, and 192.

[25] Angelou, Maya. The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou (New York, NY: The Modern Library, 2004). p. 47.

[26] Patricia Washington McGraw, “Maya Angelou (1928-2014),” Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, Central Arkansas Library System, updated 22 November 2016, Web, www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net, accessed 1 September 2017.

[27] City Council Resolution No. 2014-7, Stamps, Arkansas, In reference to Dr. Maya Angelou Memorial Park, June 17, 2014.


Go Back