Images of America: Newton County, by Ray and Diane Hanley

January 5, 2013

By Karen Martin for blood, dirt & angels

I first visited Newton County in the 1980s when backpacking in the craggy wilderness of Richland Creek — a definite departure from the orderly trails and paths I’d encountered growing up in northern Ohio. I made the long drive from Little Rock to Newton County again and again — to hike, to paddle the Buffalo River, to hang out with some seriously outdoorsy friends while camping. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, but Images of America: Newton County, by Ray and Diane Hanley with the Newton County Historical Society, brings back those memories.

It’s fascinating to spend time in a place where the first non-log courthouse was constructed in 1872 using rocks hauled from the Little Buffalo River. A drawing of the courthouse is included in the book, a collection of illustrations, postcards and black and white photographs that begins by recalling the Jasper Courthouse Square in the early part of the 20th century.

More photos of hardscrabble farmers, barefoot kids on donkeys, post offices, cemeteries, fishermen and their catches, homes (including a cave shelter southeast of Jasper), schools and churches, long-gone tourist attractions such as Diamond Cave, and Highway 7, with its service stations, motels and scenic overlooks, follow. Perhaps the most evocative pictures are those of the faces and biographies of Newton County, including author Ray Hanley’s favorite: Fannie Duck, an illiterate lay midwife.

“I bought a log cabin and 57 acres east of Jasper a couple years ago,” says Ray Hanley. “There is not a traffic light, a McDonalds or a Walmart in the entire county — just a fascinating area and a county seat with only 460 people that feels like Mayberry.”

The 127-page book, available from Arcadia Publishing, (, is $21.99. All proceeds benefit the Newton County Historical Society.

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