The country music icon's boyhood home, along with the colony's former headquarters, has just opened to the public, reflecting everyday life in a northeast
"But the project would not have gotten anywhere near the public support that it has, and it would not be a major tourism draw," she said.
Before he was the Man in Black, he was
"This was a practice in socialism," said
Under selection criteria — the application ran on for eight pages — families were rewarded for their rugged independence but on arrival had to share their excess with the community. Their contributions qualified them for "doodlum," a paper currency not unlike scrip offered in company towns.
Members of the Cash family were "representative colonists," Hawkins said, so it was appropriate to incorporate their former home into the preservation effort. It also helps that countless Cash fans will plunk down
"I doubt that even our grant funders primarily interested in the New Deal aspects would have invested at the level they have without being able to focus on the Cash family," Hawkins said.
A restored five-room house northwest of town holds items that belonged to the singer's parents — a shaving mug in the bathroom and an upright piano atop red linoleum in the living room. J.R. shared a bedroom at the front of the house with three siblings. Although there was a toilet and bathtub, the home never had running water. Electrical service arrived in 1945.
At the museum back in town, Cash's 1950
"It's been one of my most prized possessions. It's yours. Merry Christmas," Cash wrote to Rosanne on personal stationery with "Johnny Cash" scratched out and "Dad" written in.
Without Cash's fame, it'd be a lot tougher to save places like the Dyess Colony, one of nearly 100 proposed resettlement sites nationwide. Arkansas State used the same principle in 1999 when it restored
"We would lose a place like
"My family was saved by the WPA," she wrote.
The Dyess Colony, named for a state government administrator, covered 16,000 acres reclaimed from a swamp and carved into 20- or 40-acre homesteads.
The government cleared 2 acres to put up a house, a barn, a chicken coop and outhouse, then it was up to residents to clear the rest of the land, grow a crop and begin paying on a mortgage. Cash's father Ray signed his contract in
Stories about hard times here landed in some of Cash's songs and also
"I particularly had my grandmother
At its peak, the town had more than 2,500 residents. Now, its population is less than 500, said
"My dad's mother saved everything. I had the original paperwork from when they were accepted to come to
Phillips, now in
"Without J.R., no one would have ever known that there was such a thing as a relocation town," he said.
If You Go...
DIRECTIONS: The Dyess Colony is located off
CONSIDER BRINGING: Bug spray. This is eastern
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