Philanthropist. Author. Retired Arkansas Tech University professor. Meet Dr. Diane Gleason.
Her latest accomplish is writing a 430-page book entitled “Dardanelle and the Bottoms: Environment, Agriculture, and Economy in an Arkansas River Community, 1819-1970.”
In her book Dr. Gleason talks about what it was like to live in the rural areas of Dardanelle, and what it was like to live in town. However, the moments where the two clash are the most poignant. This interdependence began to unravel in the late 1940s with changes in farming.
“It gets into the great rue of southern history: race, class and gender,” Gleason said. “The book is a social and intellectual history of Dardanelle and the Dardanelle bottoms.”
She shares with her readers the history of how Dardanelle became to be in 1813 and how the Native Americans lost their land.
“Primarily it was a steamboat stop between Fort Gibson and Little Rock and as such developed a reputation as a brawling, wild town where river roustabouts spent their time off the river at local saloons and certain other unsavory establishments,” Dr. Gleason said as she read a passage from her book.
She shares the good, the bad and the ugly.
She got interested in this topic when she was a child. She remembered Dardanelle from when she was a child and saw how looked today. This got her wondering how it changed and became what it was today. So she began researching.
Her research included primary sources, combing through 90 years of newspapers and conducting interviews— extensive notes were taken. There were some secondary sources but most sources were people who grew up in the area who could give first-hand history.
Gleason loved the first hand stories from people who were there, those snippets of time “really speak to a person’s heart as well as their mind.” One such first hand story was “tragic and sad” as it talked of a child that drank lye and burned her esophagus. The family was unable to get medical care because of their level of poverty, and the child died.
Not all her stories were tragic. Gleason also recalls a moment where a family was able to rejoice because they saved their house from the flood. Other heroic events happened in the great flood of 1927, which saved people’s lives; all of which she details within her book.
“It is important that we learn about and cherish our local heritage,” Gleason said. “After three generations if people don’t know anything about their local history, they lose that history.”
The book took her 9 years to complete and she was thankful she had some assistance from her friends and colleagues. Micheal Tarver, a professor of history at Tech, helped with editing and photo suggestions; Jane Jenkins, a professor of history at Tech, also helped to edit; and Joseph Swain, an associate professor of geography at Tech, helped prepare the maps.
“As a descendant of six and seven generations of Yell County citizens, I’m loving reading about our heritage. Thank you for this historical reference,” Deborah Meek, local Arkansas resident, said.
The book is available at B Street Books, Dog Ear Books, Millyn’s (in Dardanelle) or on Amazon. Gleason will have her next book signing at 4 p.m. on Sept. 23 at B Street Books and at 5 p.m. at Dog Ear Books on Sept. 29.