50th Reunion at The Lord's VineyardPicture courtesy of Edmond and Barbara Lattea (1987)
From the Prairie Grove (AR) Enterprise June 18, 1998
An estimated 300 people attended the 50th anniversary of the Latta family reunion held Sunday afternoon at the Latta Barn in Prairie Grove’s Battlefield Park. The reunion was held for the descendants of Tom and Dolly Latta, who lived in the Honey Hollow community, south of Morrow.
While a family reunion is a big event in any family, organizers of the Latta 50th Reunion pulled out all the stops. History books, a videotape and commemorative tee shirts, glass mugs, coffee cups and calendar were available for sale. The historical information was also available on floppy disks. The family publishes a genealogy newsletter three times each year and maintain a website with the address of http://www.latta.org.
The video, “The Journey Home”, was produced by Charla Reed. It contains an account of Tom’s great uncle, John Latta, when he settled in the community later to be known as Vineyard, which is between Evansville and Morrow. John Latta did not know at the time the land he was moving his family to on the edge of the Arkansas and Oklahoma border was one that would be dominated for many years by outlaws. Another family member, Robert Boyd, was a cobbler in Cane Hill and sold shoes to many people, including Frank and Jesse James.
The video also includes history of John’s brother, Samuel, who also settled in the area.
John Latta built the original home site in the community. The home was taken down and relocated in Battlefield Park, where it stands on display today. The Latta Barn, where the reunion was held, was also built by John Latta. He also built a corn mill, a blacksmith shop, a church and other buildings in the Vineyard Community. He wanted to build a self-contained community, family members explained.
Latta had the first post office in Washington County and they also had a stagecoach stop.
The original Cane Hill College, a Presbyterian College, was formed in the Latta House, then moved to Cane Hill when the college was constructed and later became College of the Ozarks.
The reunion featured singing, prayers, plenty of food and, most importantly, fellowship and an opportunity to visit with family members traveling from several states.
Lillian Latta Loftin, the youngest daughter of Tom and Dolly Latta, remembered her early family life and explained how the family has been able to continue the reunions for 50 years.
“We were a very close knit family,” Loftin said. “After my parents died, we decided to keep (the reunion) going.”
Another family member said the reunion had continued due to the efforts of Loftin, Neal Reed, David Latta and many others through the years.
Loftin said her mom and dad were devout Christians and they taught their children to live right, to be honest and passed on “the great heritage of working people.”
She said her father did not tolerate dishonesty and when asked what happened if a family member lied, she said she knew better than to try it.
Loftin said she remembered churning butter once and her mother heard her say “gee,” which promptly resulted in her receiving a spanking. The parents of children today likely wish their children only used the word “gee.”
Loftin remembered working in her family’s apple orchard and drying a hundred bushels of apples each day during harvest. But she said her job was mainly helping her mother with chores. There were nine children in her family, but one died at only six weeks old, she said.
Loftin lives in Lincoln with her husband of 57 years, Clyde.
Grace Baugh, the oldest granddaughter of Tom and Dolly Latta said her grandparents were the “greatest people in the world.”
When family and friends would visit her grandmother’s house, no matter how many people there were, grandmother would always feed them, Baugh remembered. They gathered in wagons and stayed for the night, with many often sleeping on the floor.
Baugh remembered attending school in a little one-room schoolhouse in Vineyard and she said there was only one teacher and the students did not have individual seats, but rather sat on split log seats.
Times were tough in those days and no one had any money, but they never thought about it. She said they had their family and their devotion to God, which is what really matters most.
She remembered going to church and to school in a horse-drawn wagon, riding about an hour each way.
Wilma Copely, Leland Latta’s daughter, remembered those in the family who were unable to attend this year’s reunion because they passed away over the past year, including her daughter, who died of cancer. She read a tribute to them and said they were now in a better place.
“Heaven and earth are closer than we thought,” she said.
Neal Reed, whose mother, Marie, was Tom Latta’s daughter, said the first reunions were held in Tom and Dolly Latta’s home. The reunions were then moved to the Legion Hut in Lincoln. After the Latta House was moved to the Battle field Park, they eventually moved them there. Reed said the family plans to continue the reunion tradition. “It’s not a time to quit now.”
Pictures courtesy of Edmond and Barbara Lattea (1987)
These color pictures were not in the Newsletter, but were added to this page later for your viewing.