On Saturday July 25, 2015, Jason Irby arranged to meet his father, J.D. Irby, at the Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie to reintroduce him to granddaddy’s (Will Irby) farm implement that J. D. grew up using in his youth.
“Dad was like a kid in a candy store as he touched and rekindled memories of Granddaddy’s farm equipment. He seemed so comfortable and energized even as he boarded his dad’s old disk,” Jason Irby said.
J.D. expressed fond memories as he and family members, Narvell, Jason, and Lavern, toured the museum to examine the variety of agriculture and farm related exhibits.
“After I read my short story, Granddaddy Had a Farm, from the Love Within Life series to my dad, he informed me that granddaddy, Will Irby, had implement from our family’s farming history in the Museum of the Grand Prairie in Stuttgart, Arkansas. At that time (around 2007), I didn’t really pay that much attention to my dad’s story, but I decided to follow-up on the information after he mentioned it for a second time in 2014,” shared Jason.
“My dad stated that Will Irby had a horse or mule drawn riding disk. Dad, born in 1938, stated that he first used the disk at the age of seven years old when the Will Irby family lived near the community of Pastoria, Arkansas, a community adjacent to the Arkansas River north of Pine Bluff, Arkansas,” said Jason.
In the early 1950s when J.D. was about 14 years old, Will Irby moved his family to family owned land near Wabbaseka, Arkansas, a community and township between Pine bluff, Arkansas and Stuttgart, Arkansas.
“I vividly remember my Granddaddy’s farm. By the time I came along, Granddaddy had John Deere tractors, but the old-time horse-drawn implement sat on the property. I remember our parents telling me and the other kids to stay off of the equipment so we won’t hurt ourselves. In the early 1970’s a neighboring farm family the Wessels asked my Granddaddy if they could donate the implement to the Agriculture museum in Stuttgart on his behalf. My Granddaddy agreed and now we have a lasting memory to share with others about Granddaddy’s farm. My granddad and dad periodically reflected on the larger story of how the Will Irby family became a part of Arkansas history,” said Jason.
Will’s father, Jasper Irby, came to Arkansas in his youth sometime after escaping Georgia and slavery prior to the Civil War. As a young teenager Jasper left Georgia in the pursuit of freedom and ended up in Swan Lake, Arkansas as a young man.
Jasper married Ida and raised a family which included Will Irby. After a great flooding of the Arkansas River when Jasper’s children were adults, the family abandoned the Swan Lake homestead and settled into surrounding communities (Cornerstone, Sweden, Pastoria, and Wabbaseka).
“Will Irby first resettled in Pastoria before moving his wife (Elnora) and four children (Richard, J. D., Willie B, Ella B) to family owned land near Wabbaseka when my dad was around the age of 14 during the early 1950s,” said Jason.
In 2013, Jason made his permanent mark in Arkansas History when he established and founded a flag and veterans memorial known as the Arkansas Flag-Wabbaseka Memorial in his hometown of Wabbaseka, Arkansas.
Jason recently started an initiative with a farming program on land formerly owned by a grand-uncle. The property is a conservation project growing native grasses, hardwood trees, and developing a shallow water area.
“I am proud of my family’s history and how they were homesteaders who basically lived a middle-class lifestyle from farming. I still enjoy the great memories of my Granddaddy ‘ s farm. I intend to continue the tradition through my current farming conservation projects. The black (African-American) farmer is an eroding occupation. It was a privilege for me to have the opportunity to reintroduce my dad (J. D. Irby) to farm equipment that he used during his youth,” Jason stated.