Part of my love of Arkansas comes from my fabulous family. I was raised to have pride in my past, and family history and stories are very important to me. On a recent trip to Northeast Arkansas, my parents and I got off I-40 at the Parkin exit and drove through the countryside. One of the first places we came across was Gieseck in Cross County. I had no idea before Saturday, May 30, that I had a connection to an old house and gin that still stand there today.
My paternal grandmother's father was a “ginner” – a cotton gin operator. That’s what he did for a living, and his missing fingers proved it. William Thomas Jacks and his wife, Maggie Lou, were Mississippians, and their families had been born-and-bred Mississippi folks since before 1840. Sometime in 1922, they moved to the Arkansas delta in search of the jobs that Arkansas promised. They loaded their belongings on a flat railroad car and came to Arkansas with six of their ten children. My grandmother, Christine Jacks, was a young girl.
William Thomas found work, and they moved to several different places in Mississippi County (northeast Arkansas) before he got a job as a ginner at the cotton gin in Gieseck, Arkansas. Gieseck is a very small community in Cross County, Arkansas, about 5 miles south of the city of Parkin.
I can’t imagine that Gieseck looked much different then than it does now. Gieseck was a farm headquarters, and the people who lived around there were farming people. There was not a town, just the farm headquarters, houses, and country churches. Some of my favorite family pictures are from a family dinner at the house in Gieseck. My great-uncle W.T. Jacks is there in his Navy flier uniform, home on leave from World War II, surrounded by family members who were celebrating his presence with them. They are standing on the walk in front of the house, even my great-grandfather is smiling! The Jacks family wouldn’t have too many more family dinners with W.T. in attendance – he would die in the kamikaze attack on the U.S.S. Bunker Hill – but for this dinner, all was well with their world. My father was about two years old - there is another picture of W.T. holding my father in front of the house.
The old Gieseck Cotton Gin is still standing, though just barely. The house is still standing and has been painted recently. Someone is living there and is taking really good care of it! Driving through places like Gieseck makes me feel good...like all the pieces of my puzzle can fit together.