Arley History

Arley was incorporated on December 18, 1965

Dismal, where the Piney Ridge Church now stands off highway 41, was established May 27, 1891, discontinued July 31, 1902. Thomas Wadsworth was the postmaster until his death in 1897. The post office was in his home; he led the movement to establish the post office.

Nathan Post Office, established May 9, 1908, was named for the first postmaster, Nathan Langley. Discontinued June 30, 1915, housed in the general store of Warren Hamner.

Melville, established at Melville, was in H.J. Wilson’s store. This office was moved to Arley in 1897 to Mart Aaron’s store and named Arley, located north of where the Arley Baptist Church now stands.

Eagle Post Office, in the early 1900’s, was located about 4 miles north of Arley where the post office now stands on the east side of the road just north of the road to Hadder Cemetery. A one-legged man, Mr. Estes, possibly, was the postmaster. There was no rural delivery in those days, as people called for their mail at the post office.

Mr. Ab Fincher lived close to where the first pick-up was at the time, Melville. From about 1911 to 1915 he loaded the mail in a two-wheel cart at Melville and carried it to Nathan and then to Arley. Next he hauled the sacked mail to Milford, now known as Curry.

Rural delivery came before World War I and the mail was delivered to Nathan, Bethel, Arley, Helican, and Eagle. The communities were divided into 2 routes. Garret Barron served Rt. 2 for a long time then Lee Hamner. They delivered the mail in a horse and buggy. Then Vivian Evans Rt. 2, David Hamner, then Wilson Fincher, and Mitchell Cook.

Here are the first four original land entries made in the greater Arley area: August 24, 1832; Byrd McDonald – 80 acres, October 5, 1832, James Blevins – 40 acres; November 1, 1832, Thomas Calvert – 40 acres; and December 8, 1832, John C. Hawkins – 40 acres. These four land entries were in the area of Bethel Community.

The early pioneers are to be held in high esteem for their native skill, ability, ingenuity, and raw courage. The longevity of these early settlers was short. The exposure and hard work made old men out of young people. Families were large, the mother of the house was cook, nurse, gardener, seamstress, counselor, doctor, and you name her other responsibilities. It is easy to see why the were short lived. George W. Gibson, a minister in the area, had a son named Robert Arley Gibson, who the town was named after.

Established May 7, 1891, Dismal Post Office served this area. Thomas M. Wadsworth built the log house that served as his home and post office. This post office was discontinued July 31, 1902. Thomas Wadsworth died from injures from a fall in 1897. George M. Evans continued to serve as postmaster at Dismal until it was discontinued. Then the post office was moved near the Arley scholl which was built in 1903. It was housed in Mart Aaron’s store where he served as postmaster. A short distance from Arley School and Mart Aaron’s store, George M. Evans opened a post office. Walks to the post office were long and difficult. In 1916 rural route one was established covering twenty five miles with the late Lee Hamner as the first rural mail carrier.

The depression of 1930 brought hard times. Food was produced at home. Clothing was made from flour sacks, fertilizer sacks, yarn was spun from cotton, sheep, etc. Cotton sold for 4 and a half cents per pound. Arley people worked together, shared together, kept the faith, and lived through these years.

Light came from pine-knots burning in the fireplace or kerosene lamps with glass chimneys. The kerosene lamp was the best – even without the chimney – you had to turn up the flame and it smoked a lot, but it was still less smoke than a pine-knot fire.

The coming of TVA occurred in 1937. Probably no other occasion created so much excitement. A light from a bulb could be turned on by pulling a cord. Running water brought the washing machine. Quite often it was on the front porch. A great item to show off. The radio and electric fan were great new products. The refrigerator replaced the block of ice that was bought weekly. The ice was wrapped in newspaper, then quilts were used as insulation and put in the fire place – a good place for storage in the summer – easy to clean up the mess. With electricity, everyone’s life was getting easier. After the coming of TVA, it was twenty four years before South Central Bell put its lines in Arley. Many people subscribed to the telephone service.

Arley’s first telephone system – "The Party Line" - came in 1909 and continued until 1920. When one call was made – all phones rang. You can imagine the community knowing everyone’s business!

A barn and house raising was a common form of social life. What man would want to miss this even when the women folk would go along to "fix dinner?" Women socialized at quilting bees. Other common activities were pitching horse shoes, board jumping, racing, and wrestling. For the younger ones, ring around the roses, hopscotch, dodge ball, stealing sticks, and other games were fun.

The second Sunday in June was the annual singing. It would bring people from a number of counties. D.H. Hamner, Warren Hamner, and Lee Maner were always there as were the Gibson’s, Charlie, Marion, etc. Square dancing to the fiddle and guitar would bring the local preacher to "Fire and Brimstone" sermons "THAT IS A SIN!" It seemed that such "Sinning" went on in spite of his preaching.

Arley has had a number of doctors: Dr. Miller, Dr. Dennis, Dr. Davis, and Dr. Freeman – all of these were from several years past. All worked out of his satchel, often traveled to patient’s homes by buggy, and later by car. Ada Hill was a midwife that delivered most of the Arley area’s old timers.

Arley during the war years had a bus line that ran from Decatur to Jasper. As roads improved and cars were bought – the bus line stopped. The first paved road from Jasper to Arley was in 1953.

The town of Arley was incorporated December 18, 1965. Wayne Tidwell was the first mayor. The board of aldermen were: Brent Harbison, John Smith, Carl Fincher, Willard Wadsworth, and Sam Hendon. Bill Cleghorn was the first policeman. The first business license was issued to Wadsworth Supply.

The Arley Community Historical Association was organized in December 27, 1967. There are twelve markers scattered throughout the area: Old Arley School, Bethel School and Church, First Arley School, Free State of Winston County, Dismal Post Office, Piney Ridge, Brushy Creek, Rock Creek, Country Store, Party Line, and the first brick house in Arley.

The Masonic Lodge was first located in the old Arley school. Then it moved upstairs in the Heading Mill Store. Later a new lodge was built in front of Meek High School.

The first school building that housed grades 1 – 12 was built in 1923 on land, 10 acres, donated by J.E. and Dessa Lindley Wadsworth. An Ag. Department, Home Ec. Department, and lunchroom were added later; all were wooden structures. Community people made a "labor of love" to better their children’s education. The original building was torn down after the rock high school and brick elementary building were completed. The rock building was partly done with W.P.A. labor. A nice gym and lunchroom were added later. Also in 1972, a new Home Economics department. In the 70’s an ag building and a music department were constructed. The latest additions at the school were new playground equipment, football field lights, a high school gymnasium, kindergarten and primary buildings, two softball fields, a head start building, and a science lab is under construction. No doubt, the band always brings home top "honors."

Arley Womans Club has contributed to many worthwhile school and community projects. They have sponsored the Regional Library and community projects, as well as adding to the education of young people in the school area.

The chitterling supper was organized after WWII and has been a fundraiser for various groups. It brings a thousand plus people to the Arley area for a foot stomping, hand clapping, finger licking good time. It is held annually on the third Friday night in March.

The town has added on to the Town Hall Building. It is a very attractive, comfortable, and functional place for the water department; police officers, Aaron Brown and Eddie Sivils; court room and storage space.

An addition to the social life was Brushy Creek Blue Grass Festival. People came from "far and wide" to enjoy picking and singing, good food, and visits with old friends and made new acquaintances. It has been discontinued.

The Arley area, with many miles of Smith Lake, has grown and will continue to grow. Some have weekend homes, many others are permanent people. Many lovely homes are on the banks of the lake.

Arley has been blessed with local industry. After all, this is what you would expect from a great place to live.