SEMO News Service
CLARKTON, Mo. -- In 1955, L.W. Maddox began an experiment with pink-eye purple hull peas. He planted five acres of the peas and picked them by hand. Busch Canning in Blytheville, Ark. found that consumers would actually buy them. Soon many other farmers began to grow these pastel legumes.
In 1977, the city of Clarkton's farmers, Merchant Club and Civic Club decided that the town needed something to celebrate this new industry. They began to sponsor a fall festival each year.
In 1980, nearly 15,000 acres of purple hull peas were grown in the area making Clarkton the self-proclaimed Purple Hull Pea Capital of the United States.
Now days, a Purple Hull Pea Beauty Pageant is held along with an annual parade and entertainment.
During this year's festivities, the 180th birthday of the settlement of the city of Clarkton will also be celebrated.
On Saturday, October 6, an annual parade will mark the beginning of the celebration. Line up for the 11:00 a.m. parade will be at 10:15 at Quality Seed. Floats wishing to be judged must register early and pay a $5 entry fee. Applications can be picked up at Town and Country and Jennifer's Hair in Clarkton.
Following the parade, free birthday cake, as well as purple hull peas and cornbread will be given away at the City Park.
Live entertainment by Elise Masterson, Ronnie White, and Bobby Thornton will be provided at the bandstand. Beginning at 7:00 p.m. and continuing until 10:30, a street dance provided by Debbie Jones and J.E. Grey will be held.
According to information provided by the City of Clarkton, the area was first simply a hunting village. Later, in 1832, a permanent settlement was established after a tobacco famine occurred in Tennessee and Kentucky.
The original name was Bach and was later changed to Beech Grove because of a grove of beech trees located north of town. It was soon shortened to Beech.
In 1860, the community was renamed Clark's Town, after General Henry Clark, the engineer commissioned by the federal government to build the Blanton Plank Road from Boekerton in New Madrid County to Helena, Arkansas.
The name was once again shortened and became known as Clarkton.
In 1908, the city became officially incorporated.
The plank road, which Clark designed, made Clarkton a business hub for the area. It was destroyed during the Civil War but rebuilt with uneven logs causing a bumping ride and encouraging the nickname the "Devil's Wash Board".
When railroads built in the area, Clarkton was bypassed for other routes. This caused economic regression in the once prosperous town.
The first Dunklin County basketball game was held in Clarkton as well as the construction of the first two story, brick school building.
Over 1,000 people currently reside in this community that is the oldest in Dunklin County. The school, churches and civic organizations are still a vital part of the town's social activities.