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A Forgotten Writer

pict08_The-Alice-French-Bell-Pavilion

Clover Bend, Ark.

Alice French bell pavilion
4679 Highway 63

This 500-pound bell (see photo) was given to the town of Clover Bend by writer Alice French (1850-1934), who spent winters here with her life partner, Jane Crawford. French was a novelist and essayist who wrote under the name Octave Thanet, which she used to avoid anti-female bias in the publishing world. Though one of the highest paid writers of her day (money she invested wisely in banks and railroads), French’s work has now fallen into obscurity.

French and Crawford first lived in a lavish plantation house, but it burned to the ground in 1895 and was rebuilt not far away, on a curve in the Black River, as “Thanford.” French spared no expense for the 15-room house, bringing building materials up the river and importing shrubs for the garden from England. The couple lived there during the winters until 1909, making it the site of literary and social activities. French also pursued her interests in woodworking and photography at Thanford.

The U.S. government purchased the Clover Bend land in 1937 and moved the house back from the river for safety. It is no longer standing; a marker on State 228 (6 miles west of Mentura) notes its location.

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