Among the successful writers of Arkansas is numbered Zillah Z. (Cross) Peel, who edited the Bentonville Weekly Sun, one of the best weeklies in the state in the 1920's. She was born in 1874 in Mirabile, Caldwell County, Missouri, and was the daughter of Harvey L. and Ella Z. (Rinaman) Cross, the former a native of Missouri. Mr. Cross resided in that state until 1891, when he removed to Bentonville, Arkansas, where he founded the Weekly Sun. He had previously been connected with newspaper interests in Missouri and devoted much of his life to journalism and became well known in that connection.
Zilliah Z. (Cross) Peel attended grammar schools in Cameron, Missouri, her native city, and following graduation from high school entered the State University of Arkansas, where she was a student for one term.
On the 27th of April 1894 occurred the marriage of Zillah Z. Cross and Frank Peel, a son of Col. S. W. Peel of Bentonville. He was born in Bentonville. She was interested in Red Cross work and was publicity chairman for the Benton County chapter. She was also a prominent club woman and for two years was president of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs, which sent her as a delegate to the national convention held in New York City. She was a woman of superior intellectual attainment and in her editorial capacity has been an important factor in the development of the county, while she also exerted a strong influence circle of this part of the state.
In 1914, her father went to Little Rock, Arkansas, as grand recorder for the state of Ancient Order of United Workmen, and since 1915 she had entire charge of the publication of the Bentonville Weekly Sun, which she ably conducted, also issuing a daily during four years of this period. She was a trenchant, forceful writer, and her editorial capacity proved her a worthy successor of her father, issuing an attractive publication filled with good reading matter and devoted to the welfare of the district. Its circulation steadily increased, and a large job printing business was also conducted.
Mrs. Peel was the possessor of notable literary ability, and for several years she wrote stories and sketches for eastern publications. For the past two years [prior to this biography] she was a contributor to the Country Gentleman, and she also furnished articles for the Ladies' Home Journal and other well known magazines and periodicals. Her first notable work was a prize story, entitled A Summer Camp, which was published in the Woman’s Home Companion. A legendary tale of Fort Smith also won for her a prize, and she probably received more recognition from New York publishers than any other Arkansas writer. Among her best known contributions may be mentioned the following: First Thought Man; Going of the Sunbonnet Lady; A Baby Layette; Sunbonnet Lady at Camp Hades; Boys Before and After Reform School; Homes for Teachers; Eat at Nancy Hall with Me; Beaten Path to Sheepfold; and Wanted – An Empty. She was also editor of the bulletin published by the women’s committee of the Council of Defense.
She passed away on January 22, 1941, in Ft. Smith and is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in Fayetteville.
Adapted From: Centennial History of Arkansas - 1922