Patsy Galbraith’s Life on Markham Hill in the 1980s
Oral and written account by Patsy Galbraith. Edited by Lisa Orton.
My husband and I lived in the Big House, the Pratt family home built in 1900, during the 1980s for about ten years. We moved in when Craig and Alicia Whitfield, Mrs. Joy Markham’s caregivers, moved out after Mrs. Markham and her sister Evangeline Archer died in 1976 and 1979. The Big House and surrounding 40 acres were co-owned by Evangeline’s son Julian Archer and the University of Arkansas since Mrs. Markham had willed her share to the U of A. They hired us to be the property managers and we lived there rent-free. Once a month we would collect the rent from the cabin dwellers and the owners of the horses pastured there. We took care of the property and I did the books. My husband was good at fixing things. We mowed Mrs. Markham’s yard, but the horses kept the pastures mowed. I even helped deliver a foul in the old barn - not part of my job description!
Pratt family home, the “Big House”
All of us living up there felt like family. There were around 20-25 people in around thirteen cabins ranging from very rustic with no plumbing and electricity to little houses with both. They were: Evangeline’s Cottage, the Ravin House and the Walnut House (north of Evangeline’s Cottage), the Carriage House (opposite the Big House at the end of the drive before entering the large pasture), the Twin Cabins (near where Julian and Jane Archer’s log house now stands), the Pink House (near the water tower, used to be the Dining Hall during the Markham Camp days from 1921-1941), the Ward Pennington House, and then a bunch of rustic cabins (three near the old swimming pool, a couple near the old Ward Pennington House, and a couple on the right after entering the large pasture). All the rustic cabins are gone now except one which I believe is being used as an art studio getaway. The Ravin House, Walnut House, Carriage House, and Pink House are all gone now too. The Ward Pennington House is still standing - a great study of an early 20th century farmhouse for archeologists if they knew about it.
Mrs. Markham’s living room
The Big House had a large foyer and staircase. There was a very large living room, a nice library full of books, and a dining room with a big dining table built by the Pratt men in the early 1900s. The large kitchen had an old wood stove among other things. Beside this was the bathroom. There was a dance room with mirrors where the boy and girl campers from years past must have taken lessons. The rooms were furnished just as Mrs. Markham left them when she died. There were four bedrooms upstairs. And there was an attic where I discovered Mrs. Markham’s paintings, leaning against each other in the sun shining through a window. I hung some of them in the house while I lived there. Julian Archer let me keep one of them when we moved out: Woman in Purple.
The Carriage House had a small living area beside the space where Mrs. Markham parked her Rolls Royce which she owned until it burned in a fire. Then she bought a Bentley. The Big House’s washer and dryer were in the Carriage House basement. Mrs. Markham’s driver in the early 1970s was Mr. Bob Younkin. He lived in that small living area in the Carriage House. Mr. Younkin later became one of the greatest pilots in the Air Show Industry.
We had great fun on Markham Hill during the 1980s. Every Thursday, current and former residents and their friends gathered to play mush ball.
Mush ball team
Even in the snow. Every year in October a Fayetteville group had its Pumpkin Carving Contest in the yard of the Big House. Open Channel videotaped Christmas plays inside the house, with a stage at one end of the large living room and chairs filling up the rest of the room for the audience. There were many weddings, one being that of Crow Johnson Evans. For those not familiar with her, books.google.com writes, “Award winning song writer/performer, Crow Johnson Evans has turned her efforts of the last decade to weaving stories and spinning yarns. Educated in Zoology, she remains intrigued by nature and its interplay with human life and dreams. She lives in NW Arkansas and enjoys Eco touring to see and photograph rare wildlife.”
Pumpkin carved for Crow Johnson Evan’s wedding reception
Of course, there was also the filming of several scenes of 'The Blue and the Gray' in 1981 and three months of filming 'Man Outside' in 1985 on Markham Hill. Very exciting.
When Julian Archer was growing up, he and his mother Evangeline planted hundreds of pine trees all over the mountain and its foothills. There is one trail in the woods on the west of the large meadow lined with these now 70-year-old pine trees, on the right side if you are walking south. Quiet and beautiful. You can’t miss it.
Trail in Markham woods lined with 70-year-old pines
Coach McDonnell was a wonderful human being and ran on Markham Hill with his U of A cross-country team. They took such great care of the trails once a year, spending several weeks removing and replacing new perfect earth to run on. They were always so respectful and caring of the environment around them. The trails were lovely.
University of Arkansas professors and students were often on Markham Hill for various kinds of studies. For example, observing the owls at night, studying the turtles, analyzing the amazing firefly area, and viewing the very old cedars in the front yard of the Big House. Concerning the fireflies, there was a certain area at the entrance of a trail where thousands of fireflies lit up like a Christmas tree every night in June and July. They would stay in that area, never moving to any other area that I ever saw. It was a sight to behold!