William H., Felix W., Milton D., Frances T., Johnson C., Margaret J., and Pleasant Marcus
MAZARN POST OFFICE MONTGOMERY COUNTY
Much has been written on the westward migration of America but the individuals stories become lost in the crowd. Given to a general population shift or an enmasse point of view, the small private lives seem insignificant. So what ever the reason, free or cheap land, a gold rush, the adventure, or simply for a better life, it is more gratifying and interesting to know the individual pioneers story personally, even though they have long departed. Questions are answered, such as, why the move west, how they traveled, what route they took, the difficulties encountered, and why they settled where they did. The quiet unassuming lives of ordinary folks that opened up our nation have gotten very little notoriety, however they have always served as the muscle and backbone of every developing nation.
Such was Pleasant Marcus Mullings and his family. As my contact with the period just after the Civil War to the present, he has influenced each day of retirement life here in Arkansas. "Uncle Ples" is not a relative, but he is part of my family.
Ples Mullings was born July 14, 1828 at Blount Springs, Blount Co., Alabama. Growing up in the limestone and clay country of northern Alabama, farming was his way of life, and it required learning all the skills and crafts needed to be self-sufficient. Squeezing out a living and caring for a family in the 1840’s, 1850’s, and 1860’s, Ples developed a self-reliant character, broad shoulders for work, and a deep sense of responsibility.
His reputation qualified this thirty-three year old to become the First Sergeant of Co. F, 29th Regiment, Alabama Infantry upon enlisting Sept. 19, 1861. Battlefield promotions came through as the Civil War progressed until, as a First Lieutenant, he was wounded in both legs on July 21, 1864 at Lovejoy Station, Georgia.
Ples returned home to Blount Springs on tree branch crutches to find complete devastation from the scavengers of General William Tecumseh Sherman. After the surrender at Appomattox, the conditions became even more unbearable with the appearance of the Carpetbaggers, Scallywags, Bushwackers, and the Freedman’s Bureau. The only relief was to move out of the misery, poverty, and chaos to the wide-open spaces of Texas. So with no money and meager possessions, Ples loaded his small family in a two-wheel cart which he had built and headed west.
Without looking back, Ples headed the oxen toward the western sun, rifle gun and bull whip in hand, he began walking towards Hunt Co. Texas with the "Yankee rifle ball" still in his leg. The roads were few and unimproved, towns and settlements were small and far between, supplies limited. But the 1870s virgin forests had little underbrush and could be crossed with little effort. Yet today, one cannot imagine the difficulties Ples and family encountered. Crossing the wide Mississippi River had to be a life time experience.
Although the trail ahead was lined with unknown dangers and hardships, it was with a sense of relief and some enjoyment to camp in the forest wilderness under the stars. Game was plentiful, water was cool and clean, and the air was brisk and fresh. Arriving in Texas in early 1870, Ples remained there about a year before realizing conditions were no better there than they were in Alabama. With the added hazard of hostile Kiowas, Comanches, and other renegades creating havoc, Ples decided he had all he wanted in the way of fighting. So once again he loaded up the cart and headed northeast to the backwoods country of Arkansas.
This move took the family to a land claim twenty-five miles west of Hot Springs on the Mazarn Creek. Here Ples made his home on 124 acres of rich black loam on the gentle slopes of the Quachita Mountains with "just enough rocks to hold the soil together". Claiming 84 acres in Section 2 and 40 acres in Section 25, this experienced farmer and craftsman built his log home with a broad axe. It still stands today after 121 years. The perennial Mazarn Creek crossed the land northwest to southeast giving a bountiful supply of fresh clean water with an added benefit of a cool natural "swimming hole" at the base of a small bluff for summer refreshment and enjoyment. Water for the house was from a cold spring 150 yards south, but it was replaced in later years by a hand dug well in the front yard.
Ples and his log home entered our lives when we purchased the land in 1971. With an abstract dating back to 1870, bits of folklore, family stories, and legends our interest was whetted into research. A chance meeting of Ples’ great-granddaughter, Mrs. Velma (Mullings) Matthews, provided a genealogical background which had been done by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Mullings of West Fork, Arkansas.
One of the legends has a ring of truth to it. About the time Ples came to the area, a band of roving Bushwackers were caught and killed by Vigilantes at the old Caddo Trail ford on Mazarn Creek. This crossing is 1/4 mile northwest of the Mullings cabin home, as a shallow gully enters the Mazarn. These Bushwhackers were such murderers, thieves, rapists, and pillagers that the Vigilantes decapitated them. Then they proceeded to bury the heads separately from the torsos. On a small cleared knoll just south of the gully, there are two large graves and six very small graves; each marked with set native stones with no names. Evidence of the passing of six bad men, their names unknown to this day.
Though Mazarn was a loose community in 1858, Pleasant Marcus Mullings became its first Postmaster on July 26, 1880. The scattered farms and homes were united in the common bonds of defense, occupations, and finances of the country folk. Each gave of oneself to another. The ‘dog trot’ of Ples’ home and Post Office became a community gathering place on the mail and election days. Dances, Quilting Bees, Auctions, and local gatherings were common at the Mullings place. Uncle Ples died in 1898 and is buried at Nelson Cemetery, a few miles west of his farm and log home.
Through his hard work a small part of Arkansas forest was cleared and farmed, a home was built, a family raised, fed, and loved, and the mail delivered. Pleasant Mullings was a simple man, living, working, and taking each day as it came. Not being famous, the world hardly noticed him, and only a few witnessed his accomplishments and passing. But Arkansas inherited a legacy from him through his descendants. Through his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, we know of his sense of duty, devotion to right, spiritual commitment, dedication to family, and obligation to justice.
More detailed accounts of the Mazarn Mullings (with a ‘g’) can be found in "Tales from Gooberland" by Fred Mullings. (This book is out of print, but if you locate one..grab it!)
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