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Ghost-town hunting

Searching for abandoned communities growing in popularity

By By Jeremy Peppas STAFF WRITER

This article was published January 13, 2008 at 4:25 a.m.

— ◊ GETTING THERE AND OTHER GHOST TOWNS Mary Cooper Miller, secretary with the Independence County Historical Society, said other ghost towns could be found. "Moko, Rush and Zinc are all in the Three Rivers area," she said. Ghosttowns.com lists 24 communities in Arkansas that it considers ghost towns, with names like Peterpender and Rush. All have some remnant of their existence.

Not all of them are easy to get to.

Mount Tabor is about three miles east of Cave City and down a well-kept dirt road. If you try to find the old church, it will be on the left. If you find Dusty Lane, aptly named, you have gone too far.

The piano still plays - a little.

Tucked away in one corner, the faded black piano is missing a stool and some of its keys, but the remaining ones, if pressed hard enough, will still sound a note.

The piano is hidden away in the Mount Tabor church, an abandoned building in a once bustling farming community along the Independence and Sharp County lines.

Mount Tabor is a ghost town, one of many in Arkansas, and looking for ghost towns, even those buried under lakes, has become something of a sport.

Ghost hunting is so 2007. Looking for entire towns is the new thing, and as a result portions of the Internet are devoted to it. One of the Web sites is www.ghosttowns. com, and on its pages Mount Tabor was found.

The stones on the face of the church indicate the building was built in 1932, and it looks like a Depression-era building; the natural stone used reminds of a Civilian Conservation Corps project. The CCC was President Franklin Roosevelt's get-thecountry-back-to-work program, and many buildings in Arkansas were constructed as a result of it.

Assuming the inscription on the building is accurate, the church could not have been a CCC project, because the Corps wasn't started until a year later, in 1933.

Not all, though, say Mount Tabor is a ghost town.

"It was never really a town," said Gary Perkey, an Independence County resident and local historian. "When I think of a ghost town, I think of it being a town with a store and a post office, a school. Mount Tabor, it was just a community based around that church."

The community is at least old, as another stone on the church reads "Mount Tabor estab. 1854."

"Then, what you had was a community about every five miles," Perkey said. "Curia,a post office was there. A lot of the time, the post office was part of a store and then about every five miles you would have another community. Mount Tabor, it was a church and also had a school catty corner called Promised Land, and then you'd have another community like Cave City and on it would go. Mount Tabor didn't have a post office, and they were in either Curia or Cave City. Mobley also had a post office."

According to Mount Tabor's entry on ghosttowns.com, the only building left standing at the site was the church, but that's not entirely accurate. The outhousefor the church is still standing, but just barely. About 50 yards south of the church the smallish building has a roof partially collapsed, but a toilet seat is still visible.

The church building was still wired for electricity, but the poles leading to the church are long gone. The pews, 18 of them, are still in the church, and the tin metal roof hasn't sprung a leak. In the far corner, opposite the piano, a plastic flower display sits on top of an old furnace. The doors - all unlocked - are still there as well.

Without a lot of effort, the church could be restored back to its old glory.

A church was likely there before the current building was built, though.

"The back issues of the Sharp County Record newspaper mention the Mount Tabor Methodist Episcopal Church many, many times, the first being March 13, 1908," Mary Cooper Miller, who is a secretary with the Independence County Historical Society, wrote in an e-mail. "I would think the church might have started shortly before that date, because the newspaper is extant from 1877. The church was still going in 1959, last date of the abstracts from the newspaper."

A cemetery with the name of Mount Tabor is still going strong.

A funeral for Richard Andrew Kirk, who Miller said served in Iraq, was held Jan. 7, but the cemetery is south and west of the old church.

- jpeppas@arkansasonline.com

Three Rivers, Pages 103, 105 on 01/13/2008

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