Arkansas January 15, 2018
This Little Historic Colony In Arkansas Is Home To An Unexpected Celebrity
It’s not a secret that one of the best musicians of all time came from Arkansas. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the live performance of Folsom Prison Blues, we’ll let that lonesome whistle blow our blues away and walk the line to Johnny Cash’s boyhood home in the historic Dyess Colony.
The colony of Dyess was formed in 1934 as a federal agricultural resettlement community.
This was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to aid in economic recovery after the Great Depression.
It was one of the first and largest resettlement communities created.
The Works Progress Administration, W. R. Dyess, oversaw the community. The area was about 16,000 acres of swampy forest divided into 20 to 40-acre potential farmsteads. The deal was for colonists to pay back the government after clearing the land and converting it to agricultural production. It helped nearly 500 rural Arkansas families.
Eleanor Roosevelt visited Dyess in 1936 and spoke to the near 2,500 colonists on the steps of the Administration Building.
Her experience left a memorable impression, she wrote in the journal: "As I looked into their faces... I decided that they had character and courage to make good when an opportunity offered and at last that opportunity seemed to be within their reach."
One of the families assisted by living in the colony was the Cash family.
That's Ray Cash, father of Johnny Cash. The family moved to their house at the colony when Johnny was 3 years old.
Here's the original Johnny Cash Boyhood home before renovations...
The house was remodeled in 2016 after Arkansas State University acquired it.
...and here it is today!
That's none other than Rosanne Cash standing on the porch, Johnny's daughter.
Besides touring the house, visitors can also explore other colony buildings.
The Dyess Colony Visitors Center is the former Dyess Theatre and Pop Shop.
The Theatre also has a pretty expansive gift shop.
You'll have some serious decision making to do as you peruse the aisles.
Here's the inside of the Theatre:
Theatre reception area features filmstrip images and quotes from former Dyess colonists. The four squares at top left are the original holes from the projection booth. The original film projector is also in the building.
The Administration Building is now home to the Dyess Colony Museum.
Walk up the same steps Eleanor Roosevelt took to give her speech. Once inside, visitors can view exhibits about colony life as well as learn how living in the colony influenced Cash and his music.
Come for the Cash experience, but stay to explore the rest of the colony and its fascinating history.
The Dyess Colony Visitor Center is located at 110 Center Drive in Dyess. It's about 50 miles southeast of Jonesboro.
As sure as night is dark and day is light, you’ll enjoy your time at the Dyess Colony site. (Bonus points if you picked up the Walk the Line lyric).
Did you have a family member live at the colony? Share your stories with us in the comments below!
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