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OPINION: School reunions and family reunions are fun

by Jerry Nichols | July 14, 2021 at 5:25 a.m.

Our family spent most of the day Saturday, July 10, engaged in reunioning, as I like to call it.

First, we were involved in the annual Alumni Day Reunion for the Pea Ridge School. This All-Years Reunion has been sponsored each year since 2007 by the Pea Ridge High School Alumni Association, with the one exception of 2020, when no reunion was held because of covid-19 concerns. The school reunion occupied us through the morning and until 2 in the afternoon, concluding with a tour of the new Pea Ridge High School building conducted by superintendent Keith Martin.

After a couple hours of relaxation, we went for the Patterson Family Reunion, which has been held for several years on the same day as the school reunion, but at the Camp Auction House on East Pickens Road (Ark. Hwy. 72 East) in Pea Ridge.

The Patterson family is my wife Nancy's family of origin, always a rather large Pea Ridge family, which seems to continue to grow year by year. The early patriarchs of the Patterson family that I remember were Lewis Patterson, Clark Patterson, Luther Patterson and Harrison Patterson, all of whom lived in the Pea Ridge/Twelve Corners area. Marriages of course have drawn in numerous other families from the area, including the Greenes, the Schooleys, the Hargraves, the Camps, the Nichols, the Masons, the Hardys and several others. Several recent marriages have added even more new family names to the connection.

For a number of years, we held the Patterson family reunion at the Twelve Corners community building, which was often locally known as the old Grange Hall. That building had been constructed by Twelve Corners people after a late-1940s tornado destroyed the old Twelve Corners schoolhouse. The community building had originally been planned as a two-story building, but the upper story was never constructed, so it always appeared to be incomplete. Nevertheless it served for many years as a place for community events, church classes, fellowship facilities, club meetings and family reunions like ours.

We later moved the reunions to the Pea Ridge Emergency Services Community room, and then to the Camp Auction House when Derry and Sharon Camp constructed the new auction facility a few years ago. Derry's mother, Thema Camp, was the daughter of Lewis and Ella Patterson who lived on Patterson Road north of Pea Ridge.

My own family, the Nichols and Holcombes, is not now holding the reunions that were once common annual events for us. So long as my grandparents and their siblings were living, they were the organizers for our family reunions. Our gatherings almost always took place in summertime, since that was a chance for us to get to know our city cousins and have a lot of summer fun seeing them.

Before the 1940s, our families, like most, had been living generation after generation in northwest Arkansas. The Holcombe family had been in the Springdale-Elm Springs area for long years, beginning In the 1840s. In fact the Holcombes were among the founders of the town of Shiloh, which later came to be Springdale. The Nichols had migrated to Arkansas from Ohio in the 1870s, first settling in the Russellville-Dover area, then moving to Brightwater, then Elm Springs, and back to the Brightwater-Garfield area in 1910.

In the Elm Springs area, the Holcombe and Nichols families were neighbors on farms between Elm Springs and Springdale. So my grandparents, Scott Nichols and Ellen Holcombe met and eventually married midway in the first decade of the 1900s. They first farmed near Garfield, the for a few years in northeast Oklahoma, back to Garfield, where my father, Russell Nichols, graduated from high school. The family moved to a farm north of Pea Ridge in 1929. So the Nichols have been Pea Ridgers since then, almost a hundred years now.

Obviously, I enjoy reunions, both school reunions and family reunions, and am glad to be involved in the School Alumni Association and the Pea Ridge Historical Society, helping put together reunions from time to time. It always seems to me a positive thing to re-connect with people we grew up with, to enjoy their ongoing friendships, to catch up on their career involvements and family events, and to marvel a bit about the variety of involvements that Pea Ridge people get into as the years pass.

We are often surprised at the significant accomplishments of people who grew up with us here at Pea Ridge. Our town is much bigger than it was in the 1940s, but people who have grown up in Pea Ridge play on a large stage, touching many fields of industry, education and other forms of human enterprise. I am proud to be from Pea Ridge, and reunions always give me more reason to be so.

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Editor's note: Jerry Nichols, a native of Pea Ridge and an award-winning columnist, is vice president of Pea Ridge Historical Society. He can be contacted by e-mail at [email protected], or call 621-1621.

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