located a few miles northeast of the historic White’s Island Fishing and Summer Resort. Admission is free, whether you come to hunt, fish or simply to bask in the wildness.
The Orears Remember
Last October, several members of the Orear family who still live in Saline County sat down to talk about the history that their forebears helped make on White’s Island. Only one, Jean Orear Riley, has first-hand memories of the resort. Her grandfather, Robert Lee Orear, ran the island’s general store.
“Aunt Jean” doesn’t discuss her age, but she remembers fleeing White’s Island with her family during the Great Flood of 1929. “It was pretty primitive,” she recalls. “We didn’t have electricity down here in the bottoms until after World War II.”
She also recalls how the staff and guests passed evenings together. Then, as now, people enjoyed kicking up their heels. After moving aside tables and chairs in the dining hall at the center of the hotel building, they brought out musical instruments.
“Mother played the piano,” she says. “Uncle Herb played violin and Uncle Jake the banjo. They played for dances in the evenings. That was their usual entertainment.
“My grandfather [Stonewall White] liked to hunt foxes, and he kept hounds for that purpose,” says Riley. “Sometimes he would take people out into the hills at night, and they would stand around a big fire listening to his hounds running the foxes.”
She has a photo from the resort’s early years showing her mother, Georgia Weber White Orear, smartly dressed in a white riding dress, astride a paint pony and holding two of their prize-winning foxhounds on leashes.
Outboard motors became widely available in the 1920s, which led to another leisure activity— motorboat racing. The Orears paint a nostalgic picture of brightly painted wooden skiffs with wheezing, belching 3-and 5-horsepower motors plowing across the mocha waters of the slough.
Tim Orear, whose memories are a generation younger than his Aunt Jean’s, remembers his grandfather’s hunting tales.
“He mentioned to me about how during duck season one time a blizzard blew in and killed several hunters,” says Tim.
This recollection likely is related to the Armistice Day blizzard of 1940, which plunged hunters throughout the Midwest into life-threatening straits.
“I imagine the duck hunting was really good right in front of that storm,” says Tim, who carries forward his family’s hunting tradition.
As they retold stories,