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Wingmead, a farming operation south of DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) on State Highway 33, has long been recognized as one of the nation’s foremost duck-hunting clubs. Wingmead was established in 1937 by Edgar Monsanto Queeny, son of John Francis Queeny, who founded Monsanto Chemical Co. Wingmead is a word of Scottish origin that means “meadow of wings.”
Edgar Queeny served in the U.S. Navy during World War I and then earned a chemistry degree from Cornell University in 1919. He married Ethel Schneider after graduation and began working for Monsanto in St. Louis, Missouri. He became a vice president of the company in 1924 and Monsanto’s president in 1928. By the time Queeny retired from Monsanto in 1960, it had become the third-largest chemical company in the United States and the fifth-largest chemical company in the world. At the time, it had forty-four plants in the United States that manufactured chemicals, plastics, petroleum products, and man-made fibers.
Queeny’s passion away from work was duck hunting. He began hunting in the 1930s on Mill Bayou near DeWitt (Arkansas County) with a man named Elmer “Tippy” LaCotts. It was LaCotts who introduced Queeny to Jess Wilson, reputed to be the state’s best duck caller and hunting guide.
For several years, Queeny stayed in a trailer when he visited Arkansas to hunt ducks. His wife finally gave him an ultimatum: if she were going to accompany him in the future, he would need to get rid of the trailer. Queeny consulted with Stuttgart (Arkansas County) businessman Roger Crowe to find land for an estate. Crowe found property on LaGrue Bayou, northwest of Roe (Monroe County) and south of DeValls Bluff. Queeny formed an irrigation district and used the eminent domain powers granted irrigation districts to acquire the 11,000 acres.
Plans for the Queeny home at Wingmead were drawn in 1937 by a St. Louis architect, Frederick Wallace Dunn. A Yale University graduate, Dunn was a well-known figure in St. Louis who had his own firm and taught architectural design at Washington University. The main home at Wingmead was built in 1939. Queeny and his wife would come to Wingmead in October each year and often stay until March. Guests—including the likes of Walt Disney and famed outdoors writer Nash Buckingham—would arrive on Friday in time for a formal dinner, hunt ducks on Saturday and Sunday mornings, hunt quail on Saturday afternoon, and depart on Sunday afternoon.
The nomination narrative for placing Wingmead on the National Register of Historic Places stated: “Construction on Wingmead took place shortly after the land was acquired, and the complex that Queeny built was unlike any other duck hunting camp in the state. Designed in the colonial revival style, the main house encompassed approximately 10,000 square feet. In addition to the main house, the estate included several farm buildings, a kennel and a small cabin located one mile south of the main house that Queeny used as his personal retreat to do much of his writing.”
Queeny hired aeronautical engineers and biologists to help him study duck flyways. Their findings helped him employ conservation methods that later were used along the entire Mississippi Flyway. In 1942, Queeny added a levee to his property to form a 4,000-acre reservoir known as Peckerwood Lake. The lake’s name came from the many woodpeckers that were attracted to the standing dead timber in the water. Peckerwood Lake formed a rest area for ducks and other waterfowl. In addition to Peckerwood Lake, Queeny built three green-tree reservoirs, which are forested areas that are shallowly flooded in the fall and winter. He named these reservoirs Wingmead, Greenwood, and Paddlefoot. He did not allow outboard motors on the reservoirs—only wooden boats and canoes that were paddled.
A key player in the advancement of Wingmead as a hunting paradise was Carl Hunter, who left the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to work for Queeny in 1957. In addition to managing the farm for ducks, Hunter also worked to increase the population of geese and quail. Hunter eventually built a population of almost thirty coveys of quail at Wingmead.
Queeny died on July 7, 1968. His wife maintained the property until her death in 1975, when it was donated to Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. Barnes announced that the estate would be sold by sealed bids in January 1976. Rumors about possible buyers abounded. Names mentioned included Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, but the Frank Lyon Sr. family of Little Rock (Pulaski County) was the purchaser. Wingmead is now owned by Frank Lyon Jr. and used as a hunting retreat and farming operation.
In his 1990 book, Private Tour: At Home in Arkansas, Hunter Gray wrote: “Not many things have changed over the years at Wingmead. Hunters are still helped out of their muddy boots by the staff. A model 12 shotgun might be handed to you as if by a golf caddy. This is hunting with all the finery—the spirit of the hunt is alive and well at Wingmead. At the end of the day, the table is set with fine china embellished with the recognizable Wingmead logo.” An article published in November 2004 in AY magazine noted that the word “lodge” is a “misnomer for the main house at Wingmead, which is reminiscent of a large, luxurious country inn.” The article also noted that “rumors inevitably developed about Queeny’s very private hunting grounds, and some of them were actually true. Guests at Wingmead, whether politicians, business tycoons or artists, were expected to arrive for dinner in formal dress: black tie and dinner jackets for men, long dresses for women. The sense of decorum continued even during hunts. A painting over the fireplace in the main house shows Queeny and his wife, Ethel, hunting in flooded timber, wearing old-style sports jackets; their guide is wearing a jacket and bow tie.”
For additional information:
“Duck Hunting.” Special Section AY, November 2004.
Gray, Hunter. Private Tour: At Home in Arkansas. Little Rock: Junior League of Little Rock, 1990.
Queeny, Edgar M. Prairie Wings: Pen and Camera Flight Studies. Alhambra, CA: C. F. Braun & Co., 1962.
“Wingmead.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/PR0120.nr.pdf (accessed June 10, 2015).
Wright, Steve, and Bowman, Steve. Arkansas Duck Hunter’s Almanac. Little Rock: Bowman Outdoor Enterprises, 1999.
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Last Updated 6/10/2015
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