The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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April 6, 2014

Arkansas family caught in path of power line proposed for region

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Standing in the middle of a log cabin built before the Civil War, Sheila Lynch Calix lets the memories flood back.

“This was my grandma and grandpa’s bedroom, over there,” she said, gesturing to one area. “And there was a huge potbellied stove right here.

“We used to heat our shoes by it.”

Calix, 63, and her five siblings spent many nights in the cabin on 110 acres near Brightwater, on the Old Wire Road near Pea Ridge National Military Park.

While the cabin was later moved to Bentonville and is now preserved as a historic site, Calix, along with her siblings and her mother, worries that the homeplace — land that has been in the family since the 1840s — is threatened by a utility’s latest plans to build a large and controversial transmission line.

Preservation

South of the family’s property is a wooded ridge overlooking Little Sugar Creek. To the west, a valley meanders along the creek. To the north and east are bluffs where Union troops gathered to await the advancing Confederates on a cold morning in March 1862.

The cabin, once occupied by Calix’s great-great-grandfather, Andrew Jackson Lynch, remained in the family for five generations. Both of her grandparents drew their last breaths in it.

The family decided to seek its preservation with help from an area historical society and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which in cooperation with the Lynch family disassembled it and reassembled it at the historic Peel Mansion and Heritage Gardens in Bentonville. It serves as a gift shop and gatehouse to the tourist destination and will be, according to museum personnel, cared for in perpetuity.

The 110 acres, meanwhile, remain in a family trust, providing a pastoral grazing spot for a small herd of cattle.

Last month, the family received a notice from Southwestern Electric Power Co. that the land is now on a modified route for a proposed high-voltage transmission line for which SWEPCO has requested a rehearing with the Arkansas Public Service Commission.

SWEPCO says the line will require towers 130 to 160 feet tall every 800 feet, and a 150-foot right of way.

Calix said the project would take the equivalent of four football fields and almost half the timber from the family’s land.

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