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Swinging into the past

DEWAYNE HOLLOWAY|dewayne@mcnews.online

Heritage House Museum Director Barry Mickey stands next to one of the swings now residing behind the museum in Mount Ida. The museum will be restoring the Owley Courting Swing and will be accepting donations from those who would like to help in the restoration process. – Photo by Dewayne Holloway

MOUNT IDA – Soon Montgomery County couples can “court” the old fashioned way by riding the Owley Courting Swing now located at The Heritage House Museum in Mount Ida.
The Owley Courting Swing hearkens back to a slower time when community gatherings were attended by practically everyone in the county. The swing provided a whimsical distraction to the harsher days on the farm, or at the lumber mill.
A similar Courting Swing is located at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View. Museum Director Barry Mickey pointed out that while the Mountain View swing is a commercial swing, the Heritage House Museum’s Courting Swing was hand-crafted by the Wheelers right here in Montgomery County.
The Owley Courting Swing is a mule-driven merry-go-round that was built by Tom and Flem Wheeler in 1918. They ran the swings on July 4 picnics until they sold the swings to Charlie and Frank Bates in 1936.
The years of use had left the Courting Swing in need of repair. Frank Bates replaced the seats and installed new 2×6 cross arms that hold the seats in place. Lloyd Scott cut a pine tree to be used as a new center pole.

An undated old photo of the swing in use. The Owley Courting Swing served the Owley community until the mid-1930s when it was moved to the Bates Ranch south of Mount Ida. It was last used on the Courthouse Square in 2003. – Photo courtesy of the Heritage House Museum

1937 and 1938 saw the swing in use again, this time at the Bates Ranch July 4th Picnic. The Bates Ranch was located on the Norman side of Mount Ida Mountain. The Wheelers stayed involved with the swing by providing concessions during the picnic.
Hoe Whittington repainted the swing in the early 1960s and set the Courting Swing up on Charles Bates’ farm. Kids from town would come by and ride the swings. No mule or horse was available so the kids would push the swing themselves.
The Courting Swing once again saw use in the early 2000’s thanks to a restoration effort by Dub Clenney. After restoring the swing, Dub offered rides on the courthouse square during area events.
Dub Clenney had donated the Courting Swing to the Heritage House Museum before his death. However, the swings had sat idle in a chicken house until recently. The Courting Swing has been erected behind the museum and with a little TLC will be ready for service once again.
Museum Director Barry Mickey shared that the swing is surprisingly in good shape considering it has sat in a chicken house for the past several years. However, there are repairs that they need to make. Many of the seats need to be repaired or replaced and painted and a new cover for the swings is needed.
Once the repairs are completed, the Courting Swing will add a major attraction to the museum. The Heritage House Museum offers a revolving set of exhibits that feature historical items from all aspects of life in Montgomery County. The museum also provides information on the unique geological aspects of the county, as well as the lumber industry that was once a vital part of local communities. The Courting Swing will add yet another “hands-on” exhibit at the museum. Many of the exhibits are interactive and the swing will give visitors an opportunity to swing into the past while visiting the museum.
If you would like to help restore this unique piece of Montgomery County history so that it can be used again, you can send a donation to Heritage House Museum of Montgomery County, P.O. Box 1362, Mt. Ida, AR 71957.
Heritage House Museum is located at 819 Luzerne Street in Mount Ida.

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