Entries - Entry Category: Folklore and Folklife - Starting with M

Malnutrition

Social, environmental, and political forces have influenced—and often hindered—Arkansans’ access to nutritious food. From outright hunger to nutrient-specific deficiencies like pellagra, malnutrition contributed to stereotypes about “lazy southerners” Through much of the state’s history. The American Mercury’s 1954 description of Arkansas as a land of “malnutrition, mental disability, hookworm, [and] hogs” did little to refute this stereotype. Although nutrition interventions focused heavily on the Delta area by the conclusion of the twentieth century, Arkansas as a whole received the dubious distinction as having the fifth-highest rate of food hardship in the nation of all states in 2012, according to the Food Research and Action Center. Historical BackgroundSome of the earliest evidence of malnutrition in what is now Arkansas can be traced …

McClard’s Bar-B-Q

McClard’s Bar-B-Q is a family-owned and -operated restaurant located at 505 Albert Pike in Hot Springs (Garland County). It has achieved national recognition not only for its food but also for the prominent political figures who visit the restaurant and extol its virtues, including former president Bill Clinton. Alex and Gladys McClard owned the Westside Tourist Court in Hot Springs in the 1920s, which was located west of the current restaurant’s location on Albert Pike. According to the official history of the restaurant, a destitute traveler could not pay the $10 he owed for his two-month stay at the tourist court. The traveler asked the McClards to accept a recipe for what he called “the world’s greatest bar-b-que sauce” in …

McNeil, W. K.

aka: William Kinneth McNeil
William Kinneth (W. K.) McNeil was a prominent folklorist and historian of Arkansas and Ozark regional folk traditions, especially their folk music and songs, speech, tales, and legends. He published books and articles in both popular and scholarly outlets and produced widely disseminated recordings. Most of his research was conducted while he held the post of folklorist from 1976 to 2005 at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View (Stone County), from which he drew materials for his public programming as well as writing. W. K. (or Bill) McNeil was born near the town of Canton, North Carolina, on August 13, 1940, to William McKinley McNeil, a sales manager, and Margaret Winifred (Rigdon) McNeil, an office worker; he had one …

Meyer, Rhena Salome Miller

aka: Goat Woman of Smackover
Rhena Salome Miller Meyer—better known as “the Goat Woman”—lived in Smackover (Union County) for over fifty years. Her sometimes reclusive nature, numerous pet goats, and considerable musical talents as a “one-woman band” all contributed to her folk-figure status in the region. Rhena (sometimes spelled Rhene) Miller was born in Orwin, Pennsylvania, on July 26, 1905. Her father, John R. Miller, was a Quaker who worked on a dairy farm and had a traveling medicine show that promoted the Seven Sisters Hair Tonic. He is said to have used young Rhena as a model in advertising the hair-growth tonic; however, as with much of her life story, no evidence has been found for this. Her mother, Katie Kessler, was an opera …

Miller, Nick

The artistry of stone carver Nick Miller is found in cemeteries throughout northwest Arkansas. The tombstones he made—crisp and legible well over a century later—employ the mourning symbols of his time: clasping hands, weeping willows, lambs, doves. Yet Miller’s bas-relief motifs and deeply incised lettering exhibit a level of skill and detail not generally found among contemporary carvers. All that is known about Nick Miller’s origins is that he was born in Germany. He never married, had no relatives in America, and is listed on the 1880 census as an “old batch” at age thirty-six. In addition to his distinctive carvings, Miller’s tablet-style tombstones are recognizable by his “Nick Miller,” “N. Miller,” or “N. M.” signature at the base. He …

Minute Man

Minute Man of America was a pioneering fast-food chain founded by Little Rock (Pulaski County) native Wesley T. (Wes) Hall (1915–2002). At the height of its operation during the 1960s and 1970s, Minute Man had fifty-seven locations—some franchised, some company-owned—in Arkansas and seven surrounding states. By 2018, the only Minute Man location in operation was in El Dorado (Union County). The first Minute Man restaurant opened at 407 Broadway in Little Rock on May 26, 1948, as a coffee shop with twenty-four-hour service. Hall had three partners at the time: Oliver Harper, Walter Oathout, and Alton Barnett. In 1956, Hall bought out the other partners and converted the flagship store on Broadway into a fast-food establishment. A historical marker was …

Mount Bethel Winery

Mount Bethel Winery in Altus (Franklin County) is the third oldest winery in the state and is a part of the tradition of Arkansas winemaking established by Swiss Catholic immigrants who settled in the western part of the state in the late eighteenth century. Like other wineries in Arkansas, it remains a family-owned and -operated enterprise and has won many awards for its product. Mount Bethel Winery, named after the old church and school district located there, was founded on August 8, 1956, by Eugene Post, who had earned a degree in chemistry from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and so entered the wine business with a good knowledge of fermentation and the aging of wine. Eugene …

Murrell, John Andrews

Among legendary characters associated with nineteenth-century Arkansas, John Andrews Murrell occupies a prominent place. Counterfeiting and thieving along the Mississippi River, Murrell was only a petty outlaw in a time and place with little law enforcement. However, he became a greater figure in legend following his death. John A. Murrell was born in Lunenburg County, Virginia, in 1806. His father, Jeffrey Gilliam Murrell, was a respected farmer who, with his wife, Zilpha Murrell, raised eight children. Shortly after John was born, the Murrells and other relations moved to Williamson County, Tennessee. However, Murrell’s father fell on hard times, and his sons, who were wild and errant, began to have trouble with the law. At the age of sixteen, Murrell, along …