The Ashley County Historical Society and The Crossett High School East Lab joined together last week to unveil a project they’ve been working on for years.
The Whispers of the Swamp exhibit was unveiled on Friday morning at the Felsenthal Wildlife Refuge Welcome Center.
“Whispers of the Swamp is a collection of memories from the basin told by those who knew it well,” Wilkinson said.
Members of the historical society dressed in period clothing as they greeted guests and showed them around the new exhibit as well as the special exhibits set up in the event room displaying the information they collected as they worked.
The new exhibit gives guests a brief look into life on the Ouachita River before the refuge existed and gives guests other interesting facts about the area. The exhibit features residents who lived in areas near what is commonly known as Brown’s Landing and Old Beer Joint Road.
Refuge spokesperson Amanda Wilkinson welcomed guests and praised the Crossett EAST Lab. The EAST lab students filmed and edited interviews with people who lived in the Felsenthal area before the refuge was founded.
Wilkinson also said the Ashley County Historical Society and Historical Society member Nancy Toon played key roles in building the exhibit.
“I soon learned she could tell me everything I needed to know, Mrs. Nancy is a historian in her own right,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson also talked about what inspired the exhbit and a special display window in the exhibit, which was made from the wood from the Ramseur house.
Wilkinson said the Ramseur house was a large house located in West Crossett down a road before the refuge.
“Pearl Ramseur didn’t actually live in the refuge, but she was such a legend out here, I found we couldn’t tell their stories without telling hers,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson said Ramseur ran cattle and was well known in the area to be a “rough looking lady” driving a horse drawn carriage with pistols on her hips.
“The house was really something significant in this area, but I think Pearl was a little rough on it, they say she kept pigs in her house,” Wilkinson said.
The stories of Ramseur and many other tales about life in the swamp can be heard by pressing a button at the exhibit and hearing real interviews of people who grew up and lived in the area.
The idea for the exhibit started when Wilkinson went on a quest to find out more information about the history of the refuge.
“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 began to look into the history of the area, and found lots of history.
The refuge that now spans over three counties and 67,000 acres was a place were people lived and camped. The area didn’t actually become what is now known as Felsenthal Wildlife Refuge until 1975.
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.
Wilkinson partnered with Toon and the Ashley County Historical Society and said the project took off from there.
Crossett Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mandy Vickers said she thought the unveiling event had a good turnout.
“This is a really nice thing for Crossett and a nice addition to the already nice visitor’s center and I hope people will continue to go out and support it,” Vickers said.