After four years of hard work, a new exhibit will be unveiled at the end of this month that explores the history of the area now known as Felsenthal Wildlife Refuge.
Amanda Wilkinson at the refuge, which is located west of Crossett, said that she teamed up with the Ashley County Historical Society, The Crossett High School EAST Lab students and other community members to build the “Whispers of the Swamp” history exhibit at visitor’s center.
The idea for the exhibit started when Wilkinson went on a quest to find out more information about the area.
“When I came eight years ago, there were not signs on the refuge,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson said there was an area called by locals as “OId Beer Joint” and she put up a sign to identify the area.
“I slapped up a sign that said Old Beer Joint Road and was asked why it wasn’t named Brown and Neely,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson said she found out that though many people knew the area as “Old Beer Joint,” it had other history as well.
The refuge that now spans over three counties and 67,000 acres wasn’t always a refuge. The area didn’t actually become the area we know as Felsenthal Wildlife Refuge until 1975, and before that it was home to several of Ashley County’s residents.
Wilkinson said she realized that there were only a few members left of the generation who could provide the history of the area, and she believed preserving the history was important. Wilkinson said she also wanted to do something for the families who lived or camped there before.
“It’s an extremely emotional thing because this was home, and when they were forced to leave I believe it created hard feelings,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson partnered with Nancy Toon of the Ashley County Historical Society and said the project took off from there.
The project is now complete, and is a video exhibit that allows visitors to hear and see real interviews with the people who lived on the land before 1975.
The interviews were filmed at the Crossett High School, and the videos were edited and formatted by the CHS East Lab students.
Wilkinson said she believes the exhibit provides a significant part of the history of Felsenthal.
Mandy Vickers with the Crossett Area Chamber of Commerce said that there will be a ribbon cutting and grand opening for the exhibit Nov. 30.
“This is huge to this area, and I hope that people will come out and see how hard everyone has worked to put this together for us,” Vickers said.
Vickers said she has seen the exhibit and finds the interviews really interesting.
Vickers said the exhibit features interviews with Crossett residents Bill Mayo, Larry Senn, Nancy Toon, Nancy Cheatham, Jack Allen, Palestine Mills and Doogie Darling.
“I found it interesting that Mr. Mayo boated in to the bus stop everyday,” Vickers said.
Vicker’s said the visitor’s center was already an extremely nice location with exhibits and other things that residents should be proud of, and that this new exhibit adds even more to what the center offers.
“This is a really nice addition to the already nice visitor’s center, and we really need to get out and support it because we really need to support the things we do have,” Vickers said.