A number of folks who are interested in the history of Madera perked up when they heard recently that Madera Unified School District is opening Eastin-Arcola School next year as a K-8 facility. With that development, attention turned to an important name from Madera’s County’s past — Arcola.
“Arcola” was brought to this area in 1868, and carries with it images of the Old South. At one time it was the ante-bellum name of a plantation near Demopolis, Ala. Its owner, Samuel Strudwick, was a proud man. He was also old — too old to try to start all over again after 1865. He had, however, no choice. Things would never be the same. The South had lost the war.
Arcola had always been moderate in size. The slaves were as small in number as the cotton fields were large, making life something less than idyllic. Sipping mint juleps under the magnolias all day long was hardly a reality for Strudwick. Yet he and his family had made a living, and his social standing was secure as long as there was a stratum below which he could never descend.
That security, however, was placed in jeopardy at Appomattox in April 1865, when Lee surrendered to Grant. In the few years that followed, Strudwick’s world turned upside down. Carpetbaggers, Scalawags and Reconstruction in general drained him of hope. He decided to go west...