Historic Dyess Colony: Johnny Cash Boyhood Home

Ray and Carrie Cash left Kingsland, Ark., in 1935 with their seven children and headed north to Dyess Colony Resettlement Area in Mississippi County in search of a better life.

In May 1934, “Colonization Project No. 1” was established in southwestern Mississippi County and named for W. R. Dyess, Arkansas’s first Works Progress Administration head, who suggested the idea of giving tenant farmers the opportunity to own their own land to one of FDR’s advisors. The colony was laid out in a wagon-wheel design, with a community center at the hub and farms stretching out from the middle. There were 500 small farmhouses, each with five rooms and an adjacent barn, privy, and chicken coop. The houses were white-washed clapboard, each having two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, and a dining room, plus a front and back porch.

J.R. Cash was three years old when he went to Dyess. He grew up there. He went to church there. He suffered his first major loss there, when his beloved brother Jack died following a sawmill accident in 1944. He would later say that many of his early songs, like “Five Feet High and Rising,” were inspired by his time in Dyess. He left the community in 1950 to join the Air Force. He would eventually become one of the most influential musicians in the world.

Historic Dyess Colony: Johnny Cash Boyhood Home includes the Cash home as well as the Dyess Colony Administration Building, centerpiece for one of the nation’s agricultural resettlement colonies under the New Deal. The Cash home is furnished as it appeared when the Cash family lived there, while the Administration Building includes exhibits about the colony and the impact of Dyess on Cash and his music. The Visitors Center opened in the

re-created Dyess Theatre and Pop Shop that once stood adjacent to the restored Dyess Colony Administration Building. The front façade was restored and the remainder of the structure rebuilt. The Visitors Center includes a gift shop, additional exhibits, and a multi-purpose space for orientation films, classes, meetings and special events.

The project is a joint effort between the City of Dyess and Arkansas State University  Visit http://dyesscash.astate.edu or phone 870-764-CASH for details.