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Monticello Memories – Drew County EHC Clubs

August 12th, 2012 by

This week’s column is the eighth in a series about the history of the present Extension Homemakers Clubs operating in Drew County. This week we’ll take a quick look at the Plantogo Club in northwestern Drew County.

In the early 1960s there were two separate EHC clubs in the northwestern part of Drew County. They were known as the Plantersville EHC Club and the Montongo EHC Club. During those years the two groups decided to merge and the new and larger club became the Plantogo Club. Their primary purpose was to educate housewives in new ways to do their jobs as wives and mothers.

Early members and leaders included: Agnes Henry, Katie Raines, Mable Calhoun, Vanita Calhoun, Mary Goodwin, Beatrice Mitchell, Charlena Ross, Merle Pennington, Josephine Handly, Virginia Casteel and Lillian McKeown. One of the clubs early projects was selling rat poison as a fundraiser for the club.

The club has been selected as Drew County Club of the Year many times in the past as well as winning Best of Show at both local and district fairs. The members have always been highly active in the operation of the Fair Kitchen and JoAnn Handly’s “Fair Chili” recipe is a favorite throughout the county.

Some of their other favorite memories tell of the annual Fall “mulligans”, ice cream suppers and Christmas parties. The club still loves getting together and socializing as a group. At Christmas time the club always collects canned goods for the needy and to donate to other local charities.

Many EHC members of the area recall the canning kitchen of the late 1930s when kitchen canneries were set up across the county to help preserve meats and other items from the gardens.

The club at one time met in the evenings at members’ homes. Their meetings are now held in the daytime at the Rock Springs Church. The current membership hopes to recruit some new members soon and get involved in more projects. Colleen Handly is the current club president.

One cannot mention the Plantogo EHC Club without acknowledging the leadership provided by club members in the “cemetery project”. In 1968 the Arkansas History commission sent out a call for a listing of the records of all cemeteries in the individual counties and the Arkansas Extension Homemakers Clubs adopted the project as their own. From 1968-70 records were gathered and returned in to the History Commission, but enthusiasm began to wane and incomplete records were turned in.

After the History Commission had copied all records turned in, they returned the documents to the local clubs in 1980. The Drew County Extension Homemakers Council determined to complete their records and publish them for public genealogical research.

The county committee named to finish the job was chaired by Plantogo’s JoAnn Handly. (There’ll be more about this later.) With the committee’s guidance the EHC clubs managed to locate 118 cemeteries and 12 burial sites with no markers. These records were then accumulated, typed and published in book form in 1982 with the assumption that their work was over.

However, it wasn’t long until information began to surface about other burial sites, so the council felt the project deserved a second look and decided to check all their information, explore the additional sites and publish a second, more complete book of Drew County cemetery records.

This worthy endeavor was completed and published as a second edition in the 1990s with a special tribute to the late Guy Bellott (spouse of EHC member Mary Bellott of the Plantogo Club) who had worked so diligently to help check and recheck entries and new information in the field.

Although these cemetery record books were completed through the joint efforts of all of the Drew County Extension Homemakers Clubs, Plantago supplied great leadership in their development. Drew County now has one of the most complete volumes of cemetery records in the state. (Regrettably, both volumes are completely sold out and no longer available.)

The Plantogo EHC club has been, and continues to be, a vital part of the Drew County EHC programs.

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