I guess I need to tell this folk story about them folks getting kilt as I am not aware of anyone else who knows about this story anymore.
I had first heard about Dark Corners when I was about 9 years old…..
I was at my grandfathers farm that lies near Mount Ida in Arkansas, we had been bailing hay since sun up that morning and had decided to take a break to eat lunch when I saw my great uncle Clayton driving up the dirt road that leads to my grand fathers farm,
My uncle Clayton had a small flat bottom boat behind his old Chevy pick up so I figured he had been out at the lake again fishing , he was retired and was around 75 or 76 at the time , he got a support check from the military every month as a little after WWI Clayton had been kicked in the face by a US army mule and had lost his left eye and had his face was somewhat disfigured by the large scar running across the left side of his face.
He pulled up and told my Grandfather Earnest that he had been out on the lake fishing and had caught a large catch of White Bass out by dark corners and had decided to drop by to get some drinkin water as it was a pretty hot Saturday morning.
After he got out and got him some water out of the well his wife Mildred came over to talk my Grandmother Catherine who had just gotten through making some baloney sandwiches and was handing them out ,
as my grandmother handed me the sandwich I asked her where Dark corners was and she told me that it was out on lake Crystal , I asked her why it was called Dark Corners but she told me that her grandma had told her that she wasn’t really supposed to talk about it but she did tell me it had to do with ‘the war of northern aggression’.
This got me very curious as a nine year old boy as I knew Claytons grandfather had fought in the civil war for the confederacy and I was wanting to know if there had been a big battle up by Crystal Lake so I decided that I would mosey on over to where my grandfather and Clayton where talking and sat down beside them on the old stone steps that where all that was left of the old house that had been there so many decades ago.
They were talking about what most older people talk about in Arkansas in those days weather, politics, church socialism and so on, I waited for the right moment when there was a break in the conversation and asked Clayton “you say you got them Bass over by Dark Corners”?,
to which he replied “yea me and Mildred come across a shoal where we had some luck”, I then asked him about his lure trying to ease into the subject of dark corners but it was difficult to steer the conversation to that subject as they started talking about other good spots around the lake to fish at so I opted for the direct approach and simply ask about Dark Corners hoping that I wouldn’t be simply told “oh thats grown up stuff Kid’o” , so I asked Clayton in my most casual voice I could muster “Why do y’all call that spot Dark corners?”
He told me “Ah that was long time back and it had to do with that bitter war that was fought awhile back”,
My curiosity got the best of me and I just had to ask “Was there a big battle up there on the lake or somethin?”, he laughed at that and said "Nah had to do wit dem soldiers commin back home and some things needin to be sorted out ".
I have to say that I was pretty disappointed to find out there wasn’t a battle fought up there but I guess I was still a little curious about the name since it sounded so mysterious so I egged him on a little and got the whole tale.
As best I can remember it, this is the story he told me of Dark Corners.
At the start of the civil war the state of Arkansas under then Govener Henry M. Rector had put out a call to arms to all able men of Arkansas to defend their home and family from the unionist forces and join a county regiment or if they didn’t want to volunteer they were just conscripted into the army under the new “The secession convention conscription law”
So the men folk joined up to fight weither they wanted too or not and mothers kissed their sons goodbye and fathers hugged there wives one last time and joined up into lines and marched for Pulaski county to join up with the battalion that was forming there under General Solon F Bolard .
A regiment from each county was mobilized under Gen. Bolard and marched off to Fort Smith, Arkansas to seize the Union stronghold there
only to discover the military post had been abandoned by Federal Troops the day before.
However there were some who did oppose the war in Arkansas and refused to join the confederate army as they were abolitionists (normally called ‘copperheads’ ) and fought a Guerrilla style war behind enemy lines as they were against slavery,
Only one Militia Regiment, the 45th Arkansas Militia Regiment of Searcy County, was mobilized for service during the war.
In the fall of 1861, Governor Rector called up the 45th Arkansas Militia Regiment to deal with a potential threat to the Confederate government from the anti-war/anti-slavery ‘Copperhead/peace societies’. The militiamen arrested suspects in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas , and many of them were forced to enlist in Marmaduke’s 18th Arkansas Infantry Regiment .
The four brothers that this story is about are not of this antiwar/antislavery militant sort…..
The Brothers lived by a city called Mount Ida about twenty miles from Crystal Springs River and about 100 miles from Little Rock the capitol of Arkansas , as my great uncle Clayton would say ,“they lived so far back in the boonies you had to pump in the sunlight from somewhere else just to find the outhouse in the back yard”.
They were of the poorest kind as none of the members of the family had any real jobs and mostly supported themselves from selling coon hides and varmint pelts.
They were the type to keep to keep to themselves but they did on the rare occasion make the 30 or so mile trip to the city of Hot Springs to sell their pelts and buy provisions(mostly supplies to make whiskey)
Even though they lived as about as far out of they way as you could get and none of them could read or write it did reach back to them of the upcoming visit of the 45th Regiment which was coming to the Ozarks (now called the Ouchita Mt range) to round up the any miscontents who hadn’t already enlisted or been conscripted.
When they found out about Colonel Samuel Leslie and the 45th Regiment showing up on the outskirt of Hot Springs County they sent the brothers off to hide out up by Crystal Springs River , an area in what is now known as Crystal Springs National Park.
Nobody really at that time took to much notice of this action of the brothers refusing to serve their state in a time of war as most people in that era and time usually just kept to themselves and for the most part people around here just thought of them as yellow and that the south would easily beat the north but as the war drew on and more and more people were told of their kinfolk dying or being sent to hospitals with the most grievous wounds from which very few recovered, people here abouts started turning heavily against them so it came about that folks took to giving them glares and stares of the harshest types when on the odd occasion they were seen.
Now the war was as good as lost by 1863 as Union troops had already captured and were occupying the Capital of Arkansas, Little Rock and when people lose a fight for whatever reason they look for scapegoats and they found an easy mark in the four brothers and their immediate family who they felt hadn’t done their part in the fight and had cowardly hidden away while others fought and died so it came about that the family was shunned by what little remained of the population here in Hot Springs and Mount Ida and most folks wouldn’t even speak to them, much less sell them any of the increasingly sparse provisions when they needed supplies.
Well, as I said before people around here in those days mostly kept to themselves and being the outcasts of the community wasn’t that much of a concern for the brothers but in the winter of ’64 the boys had their mom come down with Scarlet Fever and she passed away a few weeks later so the boys after years of being treated like pariahs and having their mother become sick and no one willing to sell them the medicine they needed blamed the local people for the death of their mom and pretty much any and every piece of bad luck they ever had and started becoming drunkards and getting very belligerent and violent towards anyone they felt had slighted them in any way, shape or form.
Now the four brothers would have never been too much for the local community or law enforcement to handle in normal circumstances but any and all state and government men were already engaged up in North-East Arkansas fighting with local rebel Indian tribes, copperhead militia groups and unionist saboteurs and as all the men had gone off to fight in the war the boys pretty much became the local despots of Hot Springs county.
When the war had first started the boys themselves were of age between 16 and 21 years old but by the spring of ‘65 they were all easily grown men and it came about that local live stock started dis-appearing and the boys had become the regular bullying types,
by now the four brothers had takin’ to horse theft, lootin’ ,ransackin’ and having ‘indiscretions with the wemon folk’(what they called Rape in those days ) and and pretty much burnt down half the buildings up in Hot Springs .
The south finally surrendered several weeks later and the men folk came home by the end of may of ‘65 and when the men found out about the brothers actions and what they were up to while they were away, they weren’t in any kind of forgiven mood toward these yellow bellied boys who had refused to fight and had then taken advantage of the situation while they were gone so they organized a posse to hunt them down.
When word got back to the boys that the returning soldiers had come home and were organizing a posse to come out to Mount Ida they decided to hide out at their previous spot out at Crystal Springs till things died down.
It took the soldiers a week or two to track the boys down but they were eventually found out and cornered in a deep gulch area on the outskirts of a river where it was met by the Ouchita .
When the soldiers returned from their outing they told their wives that, “those boys wouldn’t be botherin’ no one else and not to speak about it to no one” as the south was occupied by Union forces and martial law was in effect so the wives of the men started calling it ‘the dark corner incident’ and the location where those boys met their end became known as ‘Dark Corners’.
I don’t know if those boys where ambushed and shot or were just simply lynched and hung from a tree but it is known that they were buried at that location in a shallow grave.
I have never been able to find out the exact location of the site as in 1931 that whole area was flooded when Carpenter Dam was built , creating the largest lake in Arkansas, Lake Hamilton.
My parents always go camp out at Crystal Springs every year and even though my nieces and nephews spend most of their time swimming and boogie boarding out on the lake I don’t go swimming out there no more as I know them boys are still out there buried under all that muck and water.
A few years back a scuba diver drown out by where Dark Corners is supposed to be .
They say he must have gotten tangled in some underwater brush or fresh water seaweed and got held under till the air in his tanks ran out but I can’t help but wonder if that was what really happened.