Sometimes you get an education in the place you least expect. Last Friday's trip over to the beautiful Boxley Valley was more than I anticipated, behind this door at Grandpa's Flea Market on the square at Kingston was a piece of history that has almost faded away. Without the diligence of John D. Little and his daughter Janet Musteen, we might have missed this interesting piece of Arkansas history altogether.
Some people are storytellers, they may have done many things in their life, but they were destined to be the Keepers of Memories. Janet Musteen is one of these. She shared so much with us while we in her Dad's store on Friday. We missed Mr. Little by just a few minutes, he still comes by the store every few days even though he's 88. That's because part of his heart resides in the walls of that old store.
John D. Little and his wife traveled far in their married life since he was in the military, but retirement brought them back home to Arkansas. When daughter Janet could see he was bored with the sameness of everyday... she suggested he come down and run a little "garage sale" out of the old building. Reluctant at first, he finally showed up one day and enjoyed the visiting, bargaining and selling so much that he was hooked! Kingston may be a speck on the map but it holds a lifetime of memories and a chunk of Arkansas history that has almost disappeared.
Mr. Little co-authored "When the Presbyterians Came to Kingston" with Abby Burnett and Ellen Compton. The book documents a time when Mountain Mission Schools were being erected in the South by Northern religious denominations. They focused on the secondary education of white children, combining a common school education with vocational training. When the Kingston College was built in 1917, it was operated by the Reverend Elmer J. Bouher of the New York Presbyterian Church and subjects such as agriculture, blacksmithing, carpentry, printing and domestic science were taught along with an outreach program for local farm families. They also established the community's first medical clinic and worked diligently to battle moonshiners and bootleggers!
If you look closely at the pictures, you'll see the sheer size and grandness of this building. It was built as a church, used as a college, town hall and gathering place for the community of Kingston and rural Madison County from 1917 to 1951.
The Kingston College is long gone now, the victim of time and termites. All that remains are pictures, a book and this replica of the school built by a graduating Kingston class in 1935.
Those with vision are wise enough to save the bits of our past.