The following transcription is from a series of recordings my father made in the early 1990s:
Part of the village of Sicily Island used to be named Florence. Around 1909 it changed from Florence to Sicily Island. Two names were up. Up before what body, I don’t know. Policy Jury, state legislature or whoever. They didn’t have a town council back in those days. One name was Bluff City, the other was Sicily Island. They chose Sicily Island. There has always been a Sicily Island. Even the village of Florence was a part of Sicily Island. The story goes that the name Sicily Island came from an old Sicilian who came through this area years and years ago and it reminded him of his homeland.
Mrs. Allena Stafford wrote a book about Sicily Island. Her book started back in the 1890s. I visited with that old lady in her home in Jena for several hours back in about 1980. It was a couple of years or so before she died. I mentioned Sicily Island and the fact that I was disappointed that it hadn’t always been Sicily Island but was once Florence. She said it had always been Sicily Island. The village of Florence was later named Sicily Island.Mrs. Allena was 90 something years old when we visited. Mrs. Allena married Dave Stafford. Dave Stafford and old man William Peck were first cousins. Their mothers’ maiden names were Lovelace. Dave Stafford worked for William Peck around the cotton gin. Allena and Dave Stafford lived on the Peck place in the old Gillis house when they were first married. It was around 1912. Mrs. Allena was a Hopkins.There’s a place or point on the Ouachita River called Stafford’s Point. It was a steamboat landing. Dave Stafford’s father was a steamboat captain.I still have Mrs. Allena’s book. It’s mostly about the 1890s that she’s writing about. She quotes from historical records of what a beautiful place Sicily Island was. They called it the breadbasket of this area. Wonderful farming country. Sicily Island was almost like a paradise back in those days.
Part 1In fact, Sicily Island, to me and others that have lived here, has always been a paradise. I grew up here. Every boy that grew up here can tell you that back in the 1930s and 1940s this was a Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn land. Tom and Huck didn’t do more than we did. They didn’t have the different things to do that we did when we were boys. This was just a wonderful place to grow up back in the 30s and 40s.