The Sportsman's Paradise

Transcribed by : Tina Easley

Donated by : Keith Wooldridge

An early guide and a St. Louis photographer team up to show us the St. Francis as it was

In the early 1900's , shortly after the Paragould Southeastern had extended its line to Hornersville , Mo. the rail company published a 38 - page promotional booklet aimed at luring St. Louis sportsmen to the hunting and fishing lodges located along the route.

Although the PSE had dropped its original name - Paragould and Buffalo Island Railway Co. - its booklet was titled . "The Sportsman's Paradise on the Buffalo Island Route , Arkansas and included a drawing of a western bison on the back cover.

But buffalo were not among the game mentioned by the copywriter , who sprinkled the text with superlatives and hyperbole ; "the finest duck shooting waters in the United States " "trout almost jump into your boat when you run out into th river" and "wild turkey are so numerous you can almost kill them with a stick" are just examples.

"When we state , upon the authority of hundreds of sportsmen , who have tried it that the average days catch in these waters is from 40 to 125 bass per day , we are warranted in saying that this is the sportsman's paradise , and that the followers of Sir Isaac Walton can here find everything to gratify their most fastidious dreams," the writer said of the fine fishing to be had near the Bertig club houses.

Perhaps realizing that all this sounded too good to be true , the writer was careful to include references. "Persons wishing further testimony of credible witnesses to corroborate these statements, may write to Dr. D.S.H. Smith , Treasurer of the Missouri Pacific Railway Company ; E.A. Peck , General Superintendent of the St. Louis , Iron Mountain & Southern Railway Company ; William Nichols , President of the Commercial Bank ; W.S. Eames , Architect , and F.U. Hugunin , all of St. Louis , who have been there and know what it is ."

In all , 28 photographs were used in the booklet , including the cover shot of a hunter taking aim as he precariously balanced in a dugout while a friend fished in the background .

Picture inside were the Buffalo Island Hunting and Fishing Club at Bertig , its companion club house 15 miles north , the Knobel Club House (which , oddly , was at Bertig not Knobel ) and fishing camps at Big Lake and Swift Water near Hornersville , the end of the PSE line. Also included were numerous photographs of the "native" hunters and fisherman and their primitive homes along the St. Francis river bank.

(At least some of the photographs were apparently taken more than five years earlier by a photographer from Rosch Studios , 1203 Olive St. St. Louis . That studio's imprint appears on several photographs belong to Glenda Barry , some of which appear in the booklet , including one of the Buffalo Island club house's great room where a July 1895 calender hangs on the wall near a large brick colonial fireplace. The Barry photographs were given to her by the late Medora Kitchens , who was neice of W.C. Hasty 's wife . hasty is listed in the booklet , a copy of which has been saved by the Meriwether family , as president and general manager of the PSE.)

While the booklet sang the praises of the St. Francis , Big Lake and other nearby sporting sites , it also listed the commercial merits and potential of Paragould , Bard , Bertig , Cardwell , Klondike and Hornersville.

Mention of Paragould's "elegant churches , handsome residences , good schools, " and of "the finest timber and agricultural lands of Southeast Missouri and Northeast Arkansas " suggest the booklet was also aimed at "home seekers and investors ." This commercial angle allowed the booklet , as well as the sportsmen to mix business with pleasure.

"After the extension of the Paragould Sotheastern Railroad ," the writer noted , "hundreds of investors have visited Hornersville and very few have gone away without buying a town lot, a fine farm or opening up some kind of business."

Of the Bard - Bertig area , the writer pointed out that the Meiser Lumber ing Company owned "thousands of acres of good tillable land , which they offer to home seekers and investors at low prices ."

"But ," the writer continued , getting back to the main business of the booklet , to prospectors , and especially the devotees of the rod and gun , the leading attractions at Bertig are the splendid club houses .These club houses are built partly extending into the river and you step from their broad verandas into your boat and go in any direction you may choose in quest of game and fish ."

This club house was located about one - half mile from Senca Slough ("which affordsthe best duck shooting from the first of March") and a mile and a half by hand car from Badwell's lake (celebrated for it's fine fly and minnow fishing),

The club charged $1 per day for members and $2 for non - members . memberships cost $2.50 a year and both officers were St. Louis businessmen.

But as the writer noted "The Buffalo Island Hunting and Fishing Club , with S. Virgilio as manager , is a home for the weary traveler from whatever direction he may come.