Oral History Program

This program was created in partnership between the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith (UAFS) and the Hardwood Tree Museum. Billy Higgins, a professor at UAFS and one of the founders of the museum, has been sitting down with local people who played a part in the town’s booming furniture business or shared cherished memories about our locally-grown trees as a way to archive their experiences.

The following links go to pdf transcripts of interviews conducted by Higgins:

  • Kenneth Ruark shared his memories of old chinquapin trees, including the medicinal value of its leaves
  • Preston Swofford discussed his time working at the old Ward Furniture Manufacturing and De Soto Furniture companies, both of which were located in Fort Smith
  • Hugh Hammersly talked about his experiences in furniture businesses, including starting Southland Furniture in the 1950s
  • Don Flanders talked about his early introduction to woodworking in Part 1 of his interview and about the approximately 25 furniture plants and industries in Fort Smith back in the 1950’s and 1960’s when he first came to the area in Part 2

Keep checking back, as more interviews are conducted and transcripts posted. Also, if you would like to contribute your own information about involvement with Fort Smith’s furniture business, please go to our contact us page. We’d love to hear your story!