Van Wesley Sorrels: Arkansas Woodsman and Musician

van sorrells family

Van Wesley Sorrels, July 30, 1875-June 3, 1951

Van Wesley Sorrels was born July 30, 1875, in the Ozarks at Mountain Home, Baxter, Arkansas. His parents were Ephraim Deal Sorrels and Sarah Amelia Lane. Ephraim was born in North Carolina, and Sarah in Arkansas.

In the 1880 federal census, Van is 5 years old; his mother Sarah is 30; father, E. D. 33. Ephraim is a farmer. They live in Big Flat, Baxter, Arkansas.

Van married Martha Euphronius Tully on March 27, 1895. He was 19 and she was 21. Martha was from Texas. Van and Martha had six children: John, Tiny, Daisy, Susie, Fay, and Guy. A photograph taken about 1906 shows Van and Martha with a family bluegrass band. Van plays guitar, Martha plays a ukulele, John plays violin, and Tina plays mandolin.

One source says they also had an infant who died soon after birth. The family lived in a log cabin. They made maple syrup in spring. Van made musical instruments, such as the fiddle. The children went to Hall Creek School in Prairie Grove, Arkansas.

In the 1910 census, Van lists himself as laborer who works at “wood chopping”; none of his children attend school. He and Martha can read and write, but have no schooling. His oldest, John, 14, is listed as a laborer doing “odd jobs.” Van registered for the draft in 1918 when he and Martha were living in Prairie Grove, Washington Co., Arkansas; he lists himself as a 43-year-old laborer; he is tall, stout, has blue eyes and light hair. In the 1920 federal census, Van and Martha live in Delaware Township, Oklahoma. He owns his own house, without mortgage. He works as a laborer, listing his work as “tie maker,” that is, hewing wood into four rectangular sides, as for railroad ties. He is self-employed. In the 1930 census, Van and Martha are living in West Fork, Washington Co., Arkansas; they rent a farm. Van is a farm laborer. Guy is the only child living with them.

At some point Van and Martha again moved to Oklahoma, settling in the Tulsa area, perhaps living on a farm in Sperry owned by Van’s daughter and son-in-law Martha Susan and William Leverett Lawson.

Van died June 3, 1951, in Tulsa. Martha died five years later. They are buried at Mineral Springs Cemetery, West Fork, Washington Co., Arkansas. His obituary, which appeared in the Northwest Arkansas Times, reads:

“Van Wesley Sorrels, 75, who died Monday in a Tulsa hospital, will be buried this afternoon, at Mineral Springs. The Rev. Ray Reed of West Fork will conduct the services. Pallbearers are Talbert Malone, Bland Davis, Lee Stockburger, Harrell Carter, Murat Smith, and Fay Karnes. Services will he under the direction of Nelson Funeral Home.”

About theamericanplutarch

Writer, thinker, historian.
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