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Archive for October, 2006

One Monticello Life: The Allen House

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

What is Halloween without ghosts, goblins and haunted houses? Located in the center of Monticello, on Main Street is one of Arkansas’ most reputed haunted houses: the Allen House. Here is its story:

The Allen House was built in 1900 by Joe Lee Allen. It is still much like it was when it was built. Dottie Simmons, the house’s third and current owner, said, “It’s like you walk into a whole different time.”

The Allen family was in the timber business and built the house with only virgin heart of oak and pine. The wood was preserved with linseed or cotton oil which has kept away termites to this day. The windows in the house were custom made in St. Louis, MO and brought to Monticello on a boat down the Mississippi River. The windows are all different shapes, sizes and colors. The dining room has a hammered tin cherub ceiling.

The house has 9500 square feet. There are 16 rooms in operation. It now has three bathrooms which are not original to the house. There are two washrooms and a complete kitchen upstairs and downstairs. At the top of the four-story house is a full grandmother’s attic.

The house is situated on two acres of land, and the yard is covered with English ivy and several massive magnolia trees. Few know that the house was originally located across Main Street and was moved to its present location. Gloria Wright’s pink bed and breakfast sits on the lot the Allen House first occupied. The house has been featured on television commercials and printed material for southeast Arkansas. But this time of year, its most interesting feature is the house’s claim to be haunted.

Many will attest to the presence of a ghost or ghosts in the Allen House. Ask any long-time Monticellonian, and many will have a story about the Allen House. The stories usually center on Mr. Allen’s daughter committing suicide in the house in the 1940s because of a broken heart. Some say she threw herself over the staircase and plummeted to her death, but the most common story is that she overdosed on cyanide purchased at the Hyatt Drug Store.

Carolyn Wilson was one of the tenants in the house who even wrote a book which is currently out of print. You may find a copy in the Monticello Library. Its title is The Scent of Lilacs and is a romantic fiction involving a large, old haunted house.

Few people realize the history and supposed haunting of the Allen House who have lived in Monticello a short time. However, upon viewing the Allen House for the first time, the response is usually, “I’m not surprised.” Whether it’s haunted or just historical, the Allen House of Monticello surely can be considered part of our town’s life: one Monticello life.

Related Sites that mention the Allen House:

FYI: Current owner Dottie Simmons will be having an auction on November 9 at 11:00 a.m. at the Drew County Fairgrounds. You may preview auction items at the Allen House on November 7-8 at 11:00 a.m. For more information, go to

One Monticello Life: Rob Leonard

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006
UAM will celebrate Homecoming this Saturday, October 28. For many who will attend, Rob Leonard dramatically impacted their college experience. As Director of the Missionary Baptist Student Union and music minister at Pauline Baptist Church for the past 23 years, Rob has invested his life in others for almost six generations of UAM college students. This is his story.

Jacksonville, Arkansas was home for Rob’s family when he was younger. Growing up as a "PK" (pastor’s kid), Rob and his family were integral parts of Landmark Missionary Baptist Church. For Rob and his brother, Phil, life was centered around family and the fast-growing church his dad pastored. What began as a small congregation changed quickly as the church transitioned to a large, thriving center of spiritual growth. New members were added often; church activities consumed the family schedule. Eventually, the church built a new facility to house its growing membership and ministry.

However, during Rob’s freshman year in high school, while the church grew, his family fell apart. His dad left his mom and moved to Little Rock. His mom was forced to find a job and move her boys to a rental house. The single parent family stayed at their church during this time. Rob’s mom attended realtor’s school and received her license as an avenue of provision for the family.

"High school was a tough period for me and my family," Rob said. "Basically everything I ever believed was called into question. I went from the kid whose dad preached at the biggest church in town to the kid who didn’t really have a church anymore. I didn’t know what was going on."

Sports and choir became reliable friends to Rob, who excelled in both. His football team during his senior year was the first Jacksonville team to win the state championship. His experience being selected to the All State Choir gave Rob some credentials during the collegiate application process and helped him earn a full scholarship to the University of Central Arkansas where he was a part of John Erwin’s madrigal choir. Rob and Carla, his wife, were married while in college, though they had met through church activities while in high school. Carla’s dad was a pastor in Cabot. They dated two and a half years before marrying.

"We were ready to put our lives together. Our parents must have been crazy, or they had a lot of faith in us. Carla was 19, and I was 20 when we got married," Rob said.

Driving back and forth from UCA to Jacksonville, Rob continued to attend the church which his dad had formerly pastored "mainly because of memories," he said. "I remembered how it used to be and just wanted to put it back together after dad left. If I could just work hard, I was sure we could get the church back on its feet."

He continued this commute for two years. His future was interrupted, however, when Buddy Lemons, then pastor of Monticello’s Pauline Baptist Church contacted him. The church invited Rob to consider coming to Monticello to serve as music minister. However, Rob and Carla were not interested, being content where they were. Three months later, Lemons called again to ask Rob to reconsider the ministry opportunity. Again, Rob decided not to interview, feeling that he would be wasting the church’s time due to his lack of interest. Yet, the second call prompted Rob to begin praying about the matter, and he soon realized that his time at Landmark Church was over.

He called Pastor Buddy back and asked if the position was still available. Lemons related that the job was his to which Rob responded, "You have to interview me. I can’t just take the job!"

Rob arrived in Monticello in March 1983 to visit with church leaders. There was an immediate connection. He loved the church, the people, and the town and was offered the position the same day. Listen to Rob’s account of his first Sunday at Pauline.

His ministry at Pauline included serving as the campus minister at the Missionary Baptist Student Foundation (MBSF) at UAM. He never imagined being a campus minister. "I never knew that this ministry would be the perfect niche. When I took the job, I didn’t have any idea what the job entailed," he said. He asked his pastor and was told to look through the former director’s files and he’d "figure it out." With a grin, Rob said that he’s still figuring it out today.

There are few UAM students who don’t know Rob Leonard. He continues to play intramurals with the students, as well as coaching them. He’s a fixture in the UAM cafeteria, and serves as the chaplain of the football team. He travels with them when he’s able and delivers pre-game devotionals. The baseball, softball and even rodeo teams are also recipients of Rob’s constant attention and care. Whether it’s a campus fish fry, sports activity, or special event, Rob tries to be present.

"You have to go where the students are," he said. In particular, "the athletes are on their own schedule. You have to minister to them on their time because of their busy schedule." The MBSF focuses on reaching and serving the athletic teams as much as possible.

When asked why he and the MBSF spend so much time trying to reach students, Rob responded, "Because Jesus changes lives."

"People are looking for something to believe in. They want more than they have, but the only person who can give you more than what you have is Jesus, no matter what you have. He can change lives, and when he changes a life, that is something the world cannot refute."

When asked about his thoughts on Monticello, Rob said, "Monticello has had some good opportunities for people to grow, educate their kids and have solid jobs. It seems like once people get here, there is something about this place that makes you want to stay. I don’t really understand it.

"I had no intentions of staying here. There was not anything here that would keep me. But once I got here, I knew this is where I wanted to be. Now, I’d rather be in Monticello than anywhere else. Maybe it’s the people or the spirit of the place – I don’t want to say that Monticello is a ‘godlier" place than anywhere else – but God has definitely been evident to me in this place, and there’s something about that that is obvious to a lot of people here."

Whether praying with the UAM football team before a game or leading a contemporary worship chorus at Pauline Church, Rob contributes to the life of Monticello. Having impacted collegians and citizens in our community for more than 23 years, he is truly one Monticello life.

One Monticello Life: The Brown Twins

Sunday, October 8th, 2006

Twins. One definition of twins is counterpart – a person or thing that closely resembles another. This is how you would describe Ruth & Ruby Brown. You might have seen these identical twins around town on Fridays. This is their day to eat lunch at a local restaurant. And most days, they wear the same color. This is by coincidence usually. Not only are Ruby and Ruth twins, they also married brothers! Here is their story: Ruby and Ruth Barrett Brown were born in 1930. They were raised in Warren. Their father was a farmer, and they have two brothers and two sisters. Their father died when they were young. Their mother raised the six children with the help of their grandparents who also farmed. The Brown brothers moved from Cleveland County to Bradley County in 1945. The Browns also farmed. There were five children in their family, four boys and 1 girl. It was at Macedonia Baptist Church that T.H. and Larkin Brown met the twins. "We were at church, and there they were, sitting on the pew," Larkin recalls about the first time he met Ruby and Ruth. "Back in those days, we didn’t date until you were 16. Me and Ruth were 15 at the time." Ruby also said they were all friends until they could start dating. "We rode to school in a taxi. So we went to school together before we dated," she said. Both T.H. and Larkin served in the U.S. Military. T.H. served in China during World War II. Larkin served during the Korean War. But war did not keep these brothers and twins apart for long. After T.H. returned from the war, he finished high school. In 1948, Ruth and T.H. married. One week after Larkin came home from Korea in 1952, Ruby and Larkin were married. Each couple moved frequently, for the mens’ jobs. T.H. attended Chicago Electrical School and worked for Entergy for 42 years. Larkin attended UAM and the UofA and received a B.S. in agriculture. He worked as a county agent in Drew and Chicot counties for 37 years. While the frequent moves kept the twins apart off and on for part of their lives, they wrote letters often. "At least once a week, I know, because I checked the mailbox," Larkin remembered. However, the majority of their lives, the twins have been together. Their days were always together. They each had three children. Not only did the twins marry brothers, but Ruth and Ruby’s younger sister married T.H. and Larkin’s brother. The twins’ youngest sister married the Brown’s brother’s first cousin. They were always together at different occasions. "Our children were more like brothers and sisters than cousins." "It was like we were all one big family." T.H. and Larkin were asked what it was like being married to twins. Larkin said it was "great," because "If I want to go somewhere, all I have to say is, ‘Ruth called,’ and she’d go over there. Then I can go and do what I want to," he said with a grin. T.H. said, "I haven’t been married to anybody else, so I don’t know. All I can say is I got the best looking of the bunch!" Larkin is quick to respond, "That’s the only one that would have you!" Ruby and Ruth drink coffee together every morning. The twins do not do much without the other. They all attend First Baptist Church where the men are deacons and the ladies are on the benevolent committee. They each enjoy their grand children. When asked about being twins, Ruth said, "We have had a good life, good health, and good husbands. We have such a close bond. It is indescribable." Ruby said, "You always have someone to talk to and not be judgemental." So next time you see these counterparts eating out on Fridays, let them know you read their story. Like Ruth said about being twins, "It is such a special life." Indeed! Their twin lives make up our One Monticello Life.

Monthly MEDC meeting touts MonticelloLive, Monticello Speedway

Friday, October 6th, 2006

As the monthly meeting of the Monticello Economic Development Commission began Wednesday, (it meets the first Wednesday of each month in the UAM University Center Capitol Room) president Benny Ryburn informed those present about MonticelloLive and its contribution to community news and communication. In addition, Ryburn spotlighted Monticello Speedway as a business that is bringing Monticello quite a bit of attention.

“Each weekend, there are between 800-1200 spectators,” Ryburn said. With more than 100 race cars and their crew, the new race track consistently draws folks from other communities and out of state. Races take place every Saturday night from mid-March to mid-November. One night recently featured winners from five different states.

In items of business, it was reported the Monticello’s airport, Ellis Field, was recently classified as a Level 4 airport. This has significant implications for the community and region. Improvements at the field will help attract industries who require air transportation and support. According to the Arkansas State Airport System Plan, a Level 4 airport should strive to provide the following:

  • A primary runway at least 5500 feet long by 100 feet wide
  • Runway should be supported by a full parallel taxiway
  • On-site weather reporting capabilities
  • An LPV approach supported by medium intensity runway lighting and an approach lighting system
  • Pavement strength of 30,000 pounds dual wheel
  • Hangars for 80% of all based aircraft; apron area for all remaining based aircraft and 25% of daily transient aircraft
  • 5000 square feet of public-use space with phones, restrooms, pilot and conference space
  • Jet A and 100LL fuel; self service facilities
  • Full service FBO and aircraft maintenance facilities
  • Access to rental cars
  • An Emergency Response Plan

According to the report, the first round economic impact to Monticello is approximately $824,000. The second round impact is $1,700,400. Total airport impact is estimated to be: 17 jobs, a total payroll of $443,100 and a total economic activity of $2,525,200.

In the director’s report, Director Derrill Pierce related that money has been raised for the needed feasibility study of renovating the old Ridgeway Hotel located on East Gaines. The hotel has been completely cleaned up inside, and the study will help determine “if the Ridgeway can be redeveloped to its highest and best future use from both a construction and economic perspective.” Pierce’s report stated, “The Ridgeway Hotel project is a portion of MEDC’s commitment to revitalization of the inner city, particularly the east side of the community. That revitalization is entirely consistent with the vision of Monticello being created by the Community Design Center in terms of higher density residential development and more pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.”

In addition, the upcoming one-cent sales tax vote in 2007 was discussed as being key to continuing the development of Monticello’s infrastructure, sports complex, and industrial sites.

Pierce also reported that a strong industrial candidate that had been considering locating in Monticello has decided to locate in Rison instead. Treated Materials Company, which produces telephone and power poles, was offered a package of incentives as well as 30 acres of land for their site by Rison. While the MEDC had offered to match Rison’s offer of 30 acres of land within the industrial park, the “company declined the offer because C&L Electric Co-op is a valued client regularly purchasing electric power poles from the company.”

Treated Materials had expressed a desire to locate on 50 acres north of the Intermodal site on Highway 278. However, the MEDC did not have the financial capability to buy the site from Plum Creek since the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department had paid an appraised price of around $3000 per acre for the I-530 Right-of-Way. The Intermodal Authority paid the same for its 400 acres on the south side of 278. While MEDC offered other types of assistance, it was not able to persuade Treated Materials to locate within Drew County.

MEDC continues to pursue an interested company in the Pacific Northwest as a viable prospect for purchase of and location of their business in the SPEC Building in the industrial park. The wood products company would create approximately 30 new jobs should they decide to locate in Monticello.

One Monticello Life: Mr. Carpenter

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

Mr. James Carpenter was born in 1938 and raised in Hamburg by a farmer and housewife. He is the 8th child of nine children. He has four brothers and four sisters. He went to school in Hamburg and managed to march in his high school’s graduation ceremonies, but he lacked a little to get an actual diploma.

After high school, he worked on his father’s farm in Hamburg. He then went to work at P.E. Barnes pallet mill for nine years. He worked for Georgia Pacific for one year and for a while at the Lake Village industries.

“I met my wife in the first part of April 1973,” Mr. Carpenter said. “We married October 1973. We will be married 33 years this October 13. I was 35. I was old enough.”

His wife was 30 years old and had six children from her first husband. On the day of their wedding, her oldest child was 10, and her youngest was four. Today they have 12 grand children and 3 great grand children. When talking about his grandchildren, Mr. Carpenter said, “Actually ten are ‘step,’ but I don’t call them that. I’m the only Pappaw they know. I treat them just like my own.”

Most might remember Mr. Carpenter from his six years at Wal-Mart. It was in 1995 that things changed for him. On his way home from work, he was attacked and beaten by some men. “They thought they was going to get a lot of money,” he said. “They thought they killed me. But I’m still here.”

He spent nine weeks in intensive care at Drew Memorial Hospital and at the University Hospital in Little Rock. He said his brain was damaged, and he had two seizures during that time. After being prescribed seizure medication that he still takes, he related that he has not had a seizure since that time.

After his recovery, he returned to Wal-Mart, but three years later, he was run over in the Wal-Mart parking lot. “He just didn’t see me,” said Mr. Carpenter about the incident. He never returned to work after that.

When asked several questions about his life, this is what he said:

  • What is one thing you like about living in Monticello? The people here. Good people.
  • How long have you been without a car? Pretty good while. 4-5 years, but I got my driver’s license.
  • Does your wife drive? She can drive. She don’t got no car. She doesn’t even have a driver’s license. All she and I got is a marriage license.
  • What you find up and down the streets of Monticello? Little bit of money. I have a shopping cart and bag to pick up cans.
  • How many bags of cans a week? 5-6 bags.
  • Where do you go to take a break? Exxon on Highway 278, Wal-Mart, Huddle House, and the lawn mower shop.
  • If you could tell today’s young people one piece of advice, what would it be? Be careful and stay out of trouble.

Mr. Carpenter was on his way to the car wash so he could look for change. He said, “If I had not got beat up or ran over, I would worked at Wal-Mart 14 years today and could have retired 3 years ago.”

Mr. Carpenter wanders his way through the streets of Monticello just about every day. He accepts rides when he’s without his shopping cart, and many people have bought quilts from him that his wife makes. If you’ve not seen him or stopped to chat, then you are missing one Monticello life.

BCMC Family Care Clinic 1

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H&P Solutions Septic System Service.

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KK Logistics

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Mr. Bug

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City Drug

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UAM Trotter House

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Burgess Process Service

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H&P Solutions Septic System Service.

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Sammy Mullis Insurance


Be A Weevil

Small Bites Pediatric Dentist

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Citizen's Bank

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Monticello Realty

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Bone’s Auto Parts

Bone's Auto Parts

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UAM Trotter House

South Arkansas Business Solutions

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Citizen's Bank

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Searcy & Associates