Author: Rhynes, J.D.

My Grandfather, Lee Rhynes. The Strongest Man in Newton County Arkansas

Today's column from J.D. Rhynes
Thursday, June 25, 2009

My father's father, was named Lee Rhynes. He was born in the state of Tennessee, in 1871, and was known far and wide as the strongest man in Newton County, Arkansas. My grand father was at least 6' 6" tall, weighed right at 300 lbs. and according to my father's older sister, my Aunt Jerre, there wasn't a stitch of fat on his frame. He was a farmer who had a large family, and a farmer in the early years of the 20th century had to work hard every day to support such a large family. As a young boy, I remember my favorite aunt Jerre telling me stories of how her family was raised by loving parents on a farm in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. There were 6 kids in the family and providing for a family of eight was a full time job with little time for fun and games. The few days that weren't filled with hard work, were the Holidays of July the Fourth, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. My father was the youngest boy in the family, and his recollections were very limited, as he was only 4 years old when his parents died, but both he and my aunt told me this same story several times over the years of my youth.

Every year when the Fourth of July came, my grand father would load the whole family in a big wagon and they would leave early at first light, to make the 8 mile trip to town. Dad told of how they would always go by the general store to see a big 500 pound barrel of salt sitting on the elevated board walk in front of the store. My grandfather would say to the storekeeper; Well Sam, I'll be by to get my salt after everybody's had a chance to win it . Then they'd go to the place where they'd always have a baseball game, eat a picnic lunch, and "shoot Anvil's". they would take a large Anvil, place a pile of black powder on it, lay a fuse on it, the place another Anvil face side down on the black powder, light the fuse, and the ensuing explosion was to be heard all over the mountains! Dad said they'd "shoot Anvils' for an hour or so, then it was time to load the family in the wagon and head up the mountain for home. But before leaving town my grandfather would go to the general store, back the wagon up to within about 4 feet of the elevated board walk. The deal was this; Anybody that could pick up the 500 pound barrel of salt, turn around and load it in his wagon, could have it for FREE! Back in those day's, Salt was a necessity for a family's ability to preserve meat and vegetables to make it through the winter month's. My aunt Jerre said she couldn't remember a Fourth of July that her father didn't load the barrel of salt, thank the storekeeper, and tell him, I'll see you next 4th of July Sam. Sadly, both my grandfather Lee, and my grandmother Jerlene died of a Typhoid epidemic that swept through the mountains of Arkansas in the spring of 1912. My father was only 4 years old at the time. My grandfather was a Mason, as was all of his brother's, so the Masonic Lodge came and took my fathers family to an orphanage that they had in Batesville, Arkansas, and that's where they were raised until they were 18 years of age. The boys were taught to be carpenters, and all of my aunts were taught to be nurses.

Just a little history of my family, and how my grandfather Lee Rhynes was known as the strongest man in Newton County, Arkansas. I cant wait to greet them on that Great Day! Amen.

Posted:  6/25/2009

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