Monday, February 11, 2019

Elaine Riot

The Elaine Race Riots Exploring Arkansas' Role in the Deadliest Racial Encounter in America's History


Saturday, February 9, 2019

Helena Photograph Studio During Civil War

T.W., or Thomas, Bankes was a native Englishman who started as a teacher in America and eventually became a photographer with a studio in Helena, Arkansas at the start of the Civil War. This photograph of the exterior of his studio in Helena, features a number of Union troops, some of whom are African American. In response to a speech in Helena by Union Adjutant General Lorenzo Williams in April of 1863, several African Americans came forward to create the First Arkansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Helena Confederate Generals Dobbins and Hindman were part of the Rebels who fled to Brazil wanting continuation of plantation life.

Helena Confederate General Goes "Poof"

Confederate General Archibald Stephenson Dobbins of Helena after the War Of The Rebellion in 1866 went into mercantile partnership in New Orleans.  But the partnership didn't last long due to Dobbin's hatred of Union military still running the city.

Like at least one of the other Helena generals, Dobbins flew off to faraway Brazil in 1867 where other Confederates had hightailed it.  He reportedly started a plantation.  Then after writing his wife for two years and she was preparing to join him, the letters stopped.  Speculation is he either died in 1869 during an indian uprising or was living in Argentina according to an 1881 Chicago Tribune news report.

Read more here about the Disappearing Confederate General.

Arkansas Earthquakes

The link leads to the USGS interactive earthquake map for Arkansas.

The Last Jews Of Phillips County

David Solomon Jr. was born on July 19, 1916, in Helena, Phillips County, Arkansas.  Solomon received his undergraduate degree at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1939, after which he returned to Helena to begin practicing law. Solomon served in the US Army during World War II, eventually reaching the rank of master sergeant.

List Of Some Known Participants In The Elaine Riot of 1919

This site contains a long list of men and one woman involved in the infamous event of 1919 known locally as the Elaine Race Riot and its multitude of lynchings and killings.

Friday, August 31, 2018

 This railroad line is the only reason Helena got rail service and ended  up keeping a small part of it


The Saint Paul [MN] Globe., March 26, 1897


Grand Forks [ND] Herald., September 08, 1921

Car Billionaire
Henry Ford Invited
To Buy Helena Railroad

Memphis [TN] Daily Appeal., March 15, 1873

Helena Newspaper Advertises
In Memphis Newspaper

Memphis [TN] Daily Appeal., March 15, 1873

Senator Recommends
Helena Get
Daily Mail Service

Cedar Falls [IA] Gazette., July 10, 1863

Yankee's Helena Victory
On Independence Day

The Waco [TX] Daily Examiner., March 21, 1882

Helena's Flood Refugees
Surviving On Half Rations

The Soldiers' Journal [VA], May 18, 1864

Helena's Yankee Bluecoats
Make Arkansas Butt Of A Joke

The Ohio [Canal Dover, OH] Democrat., April 24, 1863

Union Army Sits 
While Helena's Freed Blacks
Die By The Thousands

The Daily Evansville [IN] Journal., July 23, 1863

Civil War Peace Meeting
Conducted In Helena; Another
Name For The Battle Of Helena

The Cairo [IL] Bulletin., December 20, 1876

Shoes Theft Charge
At Helena Hotel
Leads To Murder

The Cairo [IL] Bulletin., December 20, 1876

Helena Paper Gives
Comedy Troupe Top Review

Public Ledger [Memphis, TN], September 18, 1877

Wagging Gossip Tongues
In Helena, Memphis

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

New York Times, September 19, 2014

 Former Helena Resident Made It Big
As Forbes Editor, Financial Wizard

Robert S. Gordon passed away peacefully at home in Manhattan on September 17, 2014.

He was born on October 28, 1925, in Michigan City, Indiana, and raised in Helena, Arkansas. He was an accomplished musician and played on a Mississippi riverboat. He attended the University of Michigan, where he was a drum major.

He attended graduate school at New York University and Columbia University. After working as an editor for Forbes, he became a highly successful stock broker and financial wizard. He is survived by his adoring wife of 57 years, Ida, his daughter, Roberta, and step-son, Michael, his son-in-law, Rick, his daughter-in-law, Anne, and his grandchildren, Adrian, Eli, and Zoe. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic at

New York Times, October 1, 2017

CeDell Davis at his home in Pine Bluff, Ark., in 2001, using a butter knife to play the guitar.CreditCreditFred R. Conrad/The New York Times

CeDell Davis, Bluesman Who Played Guitar With a Knife, Dies at 91

By Jon Pareles

CeDell Davis, a Delta bluesman from Arkansas who used a knife for a guitar slide, died on Wednesday. He was 91.
His Facebook page confirmed the death. He had been hospitalized since Sept. 24 after a heart attack.
Mr. Davis spent decades performing around the South at juke joints and house parties before a broader audience got a chance to hear his electrified rural blues in the 1980s.
His voice was a grainy moan as he sang about woman troubles and hard luck; his guitar could drive dancers with boogie and shuffle beats or play leads that were lean and gnarled, gliding smoothly and then coiling into a dissonant sting.
After childhood polio constricted his hands, he developed his own technique of using a knife along the fretboard of his guitar. The New York Times critic Robert Palmer called it “a guitar style that is utterly unique, in or out of the blues.”
Mr. Davis was born Ellis CeDell Davis in Helena, Ark., on June 9, 1926, though some sources say it was 1927. His mother was known as a faith healer, and his father ran a juke joint. Although his mother thought the blues was devil’s music, he took to the style early, starting on diddley-bow, a one-stringed instrument made by nailing a wire to a wall. He moved on to harmonica and guitar, often sneaking into juke joints to listen to music.
He contracted polio when he was 10, leaving him with partly paralyzed arms and legs and requiring crutches to walk. But he was determined to stay with music. He told Mr. Palmer: “I was right-handed, but I couldn’t use my right hand, so I had to turn my guitar around. I play left-handed now. But I still needed something to slide with, and my mother had these knives, a set of silverware, and I kind of swiped one of them.”
He reinvented his playing using the handle of a table knife. “Almost everything that you could do with your hands, I could do it with the knife,” he told David Ramsey this year in the magazine The Oxford American. “It’s all in the way you handle it. Drag, slide, push it up and down.”
As a teenager, Mr. Davis played street corners and juke joints around Helena, which at the time was a bustling Mississippi River port, “wide open” with gamblers, bootleggers and honky-tonks, Mr. Davis recalled in the 1984 documentary “Blues Back Home.”
There he met some of the era’s leading blues musicians and started appearing on two live blues radio shows on KFFA in Helena: “King Biscuit Time” with Sonny Boy Williamson and “Bright Star Flour” with Robert Nighthawk, a fellow slide guitarist. From 1953 to 1963, he and Mr. Nighthawk performed together, and they moved for a time to St. Louis.
Mr. Davis was further disabled in 1957 when he was trampled after a brandished gun led to a stampede at an East St. Louis bar where he and Mr. Nighthawk were performing. Multiple leg fractures left him using a wheelchair.
In “Blues Back Home,” Mr. Davis said, “Whether I could walk or not, I had to make my place in this world, and find my own way, and I found it.”
He continued to work the juke-joint circuit. In the early 1960s he moved to Pine Bluff, Ark., where he would live for decades until moving to a nursing home in Hot Springs, Ark. He made his first recordings in 1976 for the journalist and folklorist Louis Guida; they appeared on the 1983 collection “Keep It to Yourself: Arkansas Blues Volume 1, Solo Performances.”
Those recordings reached Mr. Palmer, who went to hear Mr. Davis at Delta juke joints in the early 1980s. In The Times in 1981, Mr. Palmer wrote about a juke-joint gig in Little Rock, calling Mr. Davis “a virtuoso with the table knife.”
He continued, “The scraping of the knife along the strings of his bright yellow electric guitar makes a kind of metallic gnashing sound that conspires with his patched-together guitar amplifier and his utterly original playing technique to produce some of the grittiest music imaginable.”
Mr. Palmer befriended and championed Mr. Davis, drawing attention to him. Soon Mr. Davis was working the national and international blues circuit. Some listeners complained that he was out of tune, but Mr. Palmer observed that Mr. Davis played in a consistent, precise “alternate tuning system.”
Mr. Palmer eventually brought Mr. Davis to the Mississippi label Fat Possum and produced his 1994 debut album, “Feel Like Doin’ Something Wrong.”
 Mick Jagger and Yoko Ono attended Mr. Davis’s first gigs in New York City, in 1982. Other musicians became admirers and collaborators. The guitarist Peter Buck, from R.E.M., and the drummer Barrett Martin of Screaming Trees were in Mr. Davis’s studio band for his 2002 album, “When Lightnin’ Struck the Pine.”
Mr. Davis had a stroke in 2005, after which he could no longer play guitar. But he continued to sing, and though he was already living in a nursing home, he returned to performing in 2009. He released two more albums, “Last Man Standing” in 2015 and “Even the Devil Gets the Blues” in 2016, recorded in Seattle with Mr. Martin producing and a band that included Mike McCready from Pearl Jam.
Mr. Davis told The Oxford American that he had been married twice, had two children and had helped raise stepchildren. He said he had lost touch with the children. He was scheduled to perform on Oct. 6 at the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena.
“I play the blues the way it is,” Mr. Davis said in “Blues Back Home.” “It tells it all.”



The Florida Agriculturist [Deland, FL], April 20, 1881

Helena Man Buys 
Florida Property


Daily Independent [Elko, NV]., April 06, 1887

Criminal Identified
30+ Years Late

The Denver Jewish News., August 30, 1922

Helena Family
Visits Denver

The Detroit Tribune., July 13, 1940

Detroit Man Visits
Helena Relative

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Worthless Currency?

This is a $20.00 bank note dated July 1862, the same month Union forces occupied Helena without a fight.  Not quite the rage back then when real gold and silver coins were the current staple of the day.

It is drawn on the Exchange Bank of Helena and was probably worthless the very day it was issued by the bank.

The man in picture is U.S. President James Buchanan. You have to wonder why palm trees and a freight locomotive were chosen for a graphic since none existed in Helena.