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The community of Macks lies in western Jackson County near the Independence County line, approximately halfway between Oil Trough (Independence County) and Newport (Jackson County) in the Oil Trough Bottoms on Highway 14.
Young Gering Milton Mack Sr. was born in Wayne County, Tennessee, in 1838. In 1854, at age sixteen, he moved to Arkansas with his family. His father, Aquilla Wilson Mack, settled the family on 280 acres located in Section 12, Township 13, between Batesville (Independence County) and Moorefield (Independence County), along Blue Creek. This property is still known as Mack Farm and is owned by Mack family descendants. In July 1861, Young Mack enlisted in the Confederate army in Jacksonport (Jackson County), becoming a captain in Company H, Eighth Regiment, Arkansas Infantry. Mack was wounded in the Battle of Murfeesboro in Tennessee, and his brother, James B. (Jim) Mack, was killed.
Captain Mack married Laura Louisa Ann Gilbreath of Independence County in 1874. They became the parents of four sons and three daughters. Three of the sons—Leonidas Lee, Jefferson (Jeff) Davis, and Sidney Cameron—bought land in the Oil Trough Bottoms in 1909 and built and operated a cotton gin and store at the community that would become known as Macks, named after them.
It is believed that the three Mack brothers were the first farmers in Independence County to use tractors in harvesting and cultivating. The fourth brother, Young Gering Milton Mack Jr., the youngest child of the family, owned and operated his own cotton gin/mill and store at Moorefield (Independence County) for many years. He was also tax assessor of Independence County from 1937 to 1940. From January 1940 to January 1944, he served as county clerk; he was on the Quorum Court from 1944 to 1950; and, in 1951, he was elected state senator and served until 1957, after which he was a revenue inspector.
One of the captain’s daughters, Lou De Anna Mack, married Luther Edgar Massey of Moorefield and started the highly successful Mack Farm Dairy in Batesville in 1928. The oldest child of the family, Maud Marvin Mack, married Malcolm Eberle Moore. The Mack family built the palatial estate called “The Oaks” near Moorefield, where Maud and Malcolm were married.
In the heyday of cotton, other gins competed with the Macks’ operation for business, including the Oil Trough Gin Company four miles to the west (owned and operated by J. M. Stephens and L. L. Ellison) and a gin at Elmo (Independence County), two miles west-northwest (owned and operated by Civil War veteran Colonel V. Y. Cook, a landowner and merchant).
The U.S. Postal Service established a post office at Macks, with Jeff Mack appointed the first postmaster on March 19, 1939. The post office, which operated alongside the store owned and operated by the Mack brothers, had its name changed in 1959 to Macks Rural Station; the post office closed in 1973. The nearest church was at Surrounded Hill, about two miles away toward Newport.
The children of Macks attended the Elmo school. Macks became part of the Oil Trough School District in 1948–49 during the state school consolidation movement designed to eliminate one-room country schools for grades 1–8. In 1990, Oil Trough High School consolidated with Newark (Independence County). In July 2004, a major consolidation was undertaken when a new school with three campuses—Cord-Charlotte, Newark, and Oil Trough—was created, called the Cedar Ridge School District. Only a few children live in Macks in the twenty-first century.
Mack’s Gin remained active until about 1973, when the demand for cotton ginning was rapidly declining as a result of soybeans, rice, and corn replacing cotton as the cash crops in the Oil Trough Bottoms.
The community of Macks is near two deadly hairpin curves where several lives have been lost over the years; a sharecroppers’ house located on one of the curves experienced so many vehicles hitting it that the owners moved the house, which was later razed. Independence County has been “dry” since World War II, whereas alcohol sales are legal in Jackson County. Many Independence County residents use Highway 14 through Macks to travel to Newport to buy liquor. Those who live and farm in Macks do most of their shopping and business in Newport and Oil Trough, and many work in Newport and Batesville.
For additional information:McGinnis, A. C. “Farming in Oil Trough, 1904–1960.” Independence County Chronicle 13 (July 1972): 27–39.
———. “A History of Independence County, Ark.” Special issue. Independence County Chronicle 17 (April 1976).
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.
Kenneth Rorie Van Buren, Arkansas
Last Updated 5/25/2016
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