About a decade ago a friend with the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau told me about Marlsgate Plantation, located in the small cotton farming community of Scott, Arkansas about 20 minutes to the east of the capitol city. “The gentleman of the manor, David, is quite a character,” she said, going on to explain this venue would only be appropriate for the right kind of group. “You most certainly wouldn’t want to take the senior Sunday school class from the First Baptist Church there, if you know what I mean.” As a Southerner, I knew exactly what she meant. Besides that, our Arkansas visits at that time focused primarily on the Clintons, leaving little room for any other local characters. I filed the information away for another time and tour.
I attended a convention in Little Rock a couple weeks ago, my first time there in many years. I remembered Marlsgate and looked with interest at the meeting schedule to see if one of our social events might take us there. Nothing. I called a friend with the state tourism office just to make sure. “Oh boy, that David is a real character. No, we’re not doing anything at his house this time, but your fall group might be just right for him.” Renee helped me set up a driver on my free afternoon so I could go out and see for myself.
Marlsgate was built in 1833, though renovated, modernized and improved upon over the years. The gentleman of the house, David Garner, is a character, indeed—a fact evidenced before I even walked through the front door. He’s small in stature, but has a personality that’s larger than life, immediately making me feel completely welcome to be there. This gentleman is the very epitome of the Old South, with the house, art, antiques and definitely the personality to back it up.
I’ve been in countless Antebellum houses in my lifetime from private homes to museums, but I’ve never witnessed anything quite like Marlsgate. To say the collection is museum-quality is an understatement. Mr. Garner an only child and his people hailed from a number of prominent Mississippi plantations. As his ancestors passed and their collections were split up or liquidated, David had the rare opportunity of picking and choosing only the very best for Marlsgate. His exquisite taste and exhaustive attention to details are evident at every turn both inside and out.
Whenever I’m out with a group of Sports Leisure travelers, I’m honored to be with some of the hippest people on the planet. Your world view is so very different from that of your same-aged counterparts in other regions of the nation. I’ll not speculate on all the reasons why—certainly I don’t understand them all myself. I just know you’re different, and I mean that in the very best way. You’re open-minded . . . always eager to try, see and taste new things. You travel in search of experiences you’ll long remember, things that are unlike anything you know back home. This is why my Southern tours usually include the opportunity for you to meet one or more of my kinsmen—“cousins” who can help you understand their life and times through the eyes of a local.
I’m eager to introduce you all to my newest cousin on my October tour to Arkansas as we spend an evening on the plantation complete with dinner and libations. Are you the right traveler for this character? Come along and see!