Historic Dyess Colony: Boyhood Home of Johnny Cash

JR (Johnny) Cash was three years old when his parents, Ray and Carrie Cash, moved to Dyess as part of the Dyess Colony Resettlement Area in 1935. The young boy grew up, went to church there and even suffered his first loss when his beloved brother Jack died following a sawmill accident in 1944. Now, visitors can see the boyhood world of Johnny Cash.

The Dyess Colony was created in 1934 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal to aid in the nation's economic recovery from the Great Depression. As a federal agricultural resettlement community, it provided a fresh start for nearly 500 impoverished Arkansas farm families, including the family of music legend Johnny Cash.
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The colony has been resurrected through restoration of several historic buildings that opened to visitors in August 2014. The Dyess Colony Administration Building houses exhibits related to establishment of the colony, lifestyles of typical colonists, and the impact that growing up in Dyess had on Johnny Cash and his music. The Johnny Cash Boyhood Home is furnished as it appeared when the Cash family lived there.

Cash, who took the name Johnny when he went into the Air Force in 1950, would later tell audiences how many of his songs were influenced by his time at the home, including "Five Feet High and Rising." He would go on to be considered one of the most influential American musicians of the 20th century and be inducted into the Country Music, Rock and Roll and Gospel Music Halls of Fame.

Arkansas State University purchased Dyess Colony Home #266 in 2011 restored the house as it would have been the day the Cash family moved in. They have diligently restored every room, every surface to bring it back as near as possible, true to the memories of Cash's younger siblings Tommy Cash and Joanne Cash Yates.

The wallpaper put in by a later tenant was removed, the doorways returned to their original locations, wood-burning stoves were re-situated and sinks and a tub from the same time period were added. The linoleum that graced some of the rooms of the house was removed and restored.

Some of the items, such as the piano that belonged to Johnny's sister Carrie, were located and preserved and now sit in the home. Other items including cans for the pantry, furniture and quilts for beds were donated to the project by individuals.

The Dyess Administration Building, which stands on the circle downtown has also been restored as a visitor and interpretive center. Visitors can find documents relating to the creation of the Dyess Colony and items from the people who moved there. One vault contains items that belonged to Johnny Cash, including an Air Force uniform and his Boy Scout identification.

For more information about Arkansas Heritage Sites, Historic Dyess Colony: The Boyhood Home of Johnny Cash or the Johnny Cash Music Festival go to DyessCash.

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April 24th, 2015

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