From the Museum
Most of you who have traveled Hwy. 35 between Dermott and Monticello may have noticed many changes and much activity at the old S.A. Duke house near Bayou Bartholomew in the community known as Baxter. This week we’ll “illuminate” you.
First let’s look back in history. S.A. Duke came to Arkansas and settled in the area then known as Bartholomew in 1866, buying land up and down the banks of the bayou. During the period of the political Baxter-Brooks War in 1873-74 in Arkansas, he renamed the area “Baxter” because he agreed with Baxter’s political views.
Duke built a beautiful two-story home on his property at Baxter possibly because it was once a fording spot for the bayou and part of an old stagecoach route from Dermott to Collins, Monticello and Warren. (There is a picture of the original home located at the Drew County Museum.)
In 1914-1915 this first Duke house pulled apart when son Charles Duke tried to move it back from the highway to get it out of the dust along the road. (It is believed that it “tore apart” because it was “put together” with wooden pegs.) Charles Duke had to completely rebuild the house and the replacement is the one that stands at Baxter today.
The lovely old home has seen several owners and been remodeled many times. For the past several years the house has been empty and, as old houses seem to do, it had fallen into a state of disrepair.
For the past several months, increased activity during a new owner’s remodeling has resulted in a new and refreshed look about the place. The new owner is Charles Graham, a young man who grew up on the old Duke place. Graham is one of 13 children born to a farm worker on the place and his wife, a cook.
Graham worked on the farm as a lad and recalls he often admired the home as he walked by it on the country roads. He was also baptized at the age of 10 in the nearby bayou.
In 1975, Charles Graham graduated from high school and left the farm for higher education and a higher calling. He felt called to establish a music ministry and has traveled the world extensively. His ministry is now based in Murrieta, Ga.
Graham has occasionally visited the old homeplace over the years and learned it was for sale a few years ago. A couple of years ago, Graham bought the house and 93 acres to fulfill his dream of founding a religious retreat for his ministry on the grounds of his youth.
Since then, the shrubs and trees that were overtaking the house have been removed and the house itself has seen extensive remodeling and repair. The old house has a new and refreshed look as it sits near the old pecan orchard. Graham has more plans for the house and five old barns on the property and eventually will even have a recording studio on the property.
The old Duke home has been renamed "The Fountains – a Place of Refreshing” and, as stated earlier, will serve as a ministry retreat.
If you are interested, log on the website <a href="http://charlesgrahamminstry.com/pdf/thefountains">charlesgrahamminstry.com/pdf/thefountains</a> to learn more about the retreat.
Last Friday night, April 10, at 6:30 on Channel 2 the premiere of ‘Faces like Ours” was shown. It is a new documentary film by producer Jack Hill and contains much information about the former Italian POW camp in Drew County as well as camps in other counties during WWII. It will be shown again today (April 15) at 9:30 p. m. Have a look! You’ll see familiar faces and places. Drew County was spotlighted several times in the film.