Hester Buck Robinson (1896–1963)
Hester Buck Robinson was one of the largest landowners in Prairie County when she died. Her husband once remarked to a friend that she had a “financial brain” and had made more money since they married than he ever made.
Hester Buck was born in January of 1896, probably in Wattensas Township, near DeValls Bluff (Prairie County), to William Buck, a farmer, and his wife, Celia. Her father’s older brother, Thomas, had a grocery store at DeValls Bluff. She taught school for a time before her marriage to Elias Brooks (E. B.) Robinson on June 22, 1921.
Her grandfather, Silas Buck, owned land a few miles above DeValls Bluff at a point on the west bank of White River that became known as Buck’s Landing. Many families who came and settled that area of Prairie County in the mid-1800s arrived by steamboat at the landing before proceeding to their property. Silas, a slave owner, was also a merchant there.
E. B. Robinson established a mercantile business at DeValls Bluff in 1924. In 1929, because of ill health, he turned over all of his business affairs to Hester. From that date, she commenced to accumulate vast amounts of farmland, in her own name, in Prairie, Monroe, St. Francis and Woodruff counties, in addition to property in DeValls Bluff and West Memphis (Crittenden County). She managed the DeValls Bluff store and the farms herself until the time of her death. She supposedly said she did not want all the land in the world, just that which adjoined hers.
Most of her farmland was let out to sharecroppers in small units where primarily cotton and some corn were raised. In later years, soybeans were also cultivated. At one point in the 1940s, there were 149 families living and working on her farms. At her death, she owned 15,075 acres of land. She was a director of the Prairie County Bank at Hazen and the Planters Bank & Trust Company banks at Forrest City (St. Francis County) and DeValls Bluff. She was a stockholder of the Farmers and Merchants Bank at Clarendon (Monroe County), vice-president of the DeValls Bluff consolidated school board, and vice-president of Biscoe Gin Company.
Though many times she helped those in need, sometimes anonymously, she was at heart a determined businesswoman whose primary interest was the accumulation and maintenance of her holdings. She was not interested in attracting industry to the area. That might have brought higher wages and pulled workers off her cotton fields. Such an attitude was common in many small Southern towns of the era.
Hester Robinson died on February 28, 1963, at the Arkansas Baptist Hospital in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She had no children and left the bulk of her estate, valued at $1,200,000, to nephews and nieces; the rest went to other relatives.
For additional information:
“Prominent County Citizen Succumbs To Heart Ailment.” DeValls Bluff Times. March 7, 1963, p. 1.
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