What if we told you the legendary boyhood home of Johnny Cash has roots in agriculture? That’s right. The land where the home sits hold historic significance, even before the family of Johnny Cash would make it to this small Arkansas town.
All the way back in 1934, the Dyess Colony, a federal agricultural community, was established after the Works Progress Administration provided unemployed Americans with work opportunities. A Mississippi County native and Arkansas’ first WPA administrator, William Reynolds Dyess, moved to Arkansas in 1926 while working in construction. Fast forward to 1930, Dyess would buy a farm near Osceola. In the years after, the colony would see a visit by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, a change in WPA leadership and financial concerns that all led to the Cash family landing in Dyess.
After Dyess’ death, a man named Floyd Sharp took over as director of WPA. He brought with him the foresight to address financial obligations in the colony that were incurred by occupying homes and working the land. A part of that process included recruiting families from all over Arkansas to the colony. Ray and Carrie Cash were one of those families. They made the move in March 1935 along with their five children, Roy, 13; Louise, 11; Jack, 5; Johnny, 3; and Reba, 1. Not many houses remain from the colony, but the Cash’s home is one.
Johnny Cash would live here until graduating high school in 1950. Taught guitar by his mother and a childhood friend, he began playing music at the age of 12. You can hear the influence that Dyess had on a young Cash throughout his musical career. He also served in the Air Force from 1950-1954. Legend has it that Cash was the first American to be given the news of Joseph Stalin’s death. Upon leaving the Air Force, Cash and his first wife moved to Memphis. From there, he won over a producer at Sun Records, which led to his first recordings in June 1955.
The rest, as they say, is history. In 2011, Arkansas State University acquired the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home and helped make it what it is today. Be sure to make the trip to Northeast Arkansas and visit this historical site! They’re open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. with tours of the house given on the hour. Tours include a visit to the museum, which will tell the story of the Dyess colony and a guided tour of the boyhood home of Johnny Cash.