Benton County, Arkansas Early Roads

There are two noted highways passing through Benton County, known as the “Line Road” and the “State Road.” The former passes on or near the boundary line of Benton County and the Indian Territory, hence the name “Line Road.” It is also known as the “Old Military Road,” having been cut out and established by the general government from Fort Scott, in Kansas, to Fort Smith, in Arkansas, for the purpose of opening and establishing communications between those important points. In some places this road runs on the boundary line, especially at and for a few miles south of Maysville, but it lies mostly on the Benton County side. It passes through Maysville, Cherokee City and Silvan in Benton County. The State Road leading from Fort Smith, bearing a little to the east of north, passes through the eastern part of Benton County, along the general route of the “Frisco” Railroad, into the State of Missouri. Before transportation was provided by the railroads, this State Road was the great thoroughfare over which Texas cattle were driven in large droves to the north, and mules were driven southward. All along this road, at convenient points accessible to water, were formerly “taverns” or “stands,” as they were called by the drovers. There were two such noted taverns in Benton County, one at Bright Water and one at Cross Hollows. Large yards for confining stock were always connected with these “stands.” The remains of the old tavern at Cross Hollows are still standing.

Benton County, Arkansas Ferries

The particulars concerning the laying out of the early highways cannot be given on account of the loss of the records. In January, 1857, a license was granted to Abner Jenning to establish and keep a ferry “across White River, at the crossing of the Blackburn mill road,” and he was authorized to charge the following rates of ferriage: Each footman, 5 cents; man and horse, 10 cents; one-horse carriage, 20 cents; two-horse carriage, 25 cents; four-horse carriage or wagon, 35 cents; three yoke of oxen, or six-horse wagon, 50 cents; each head of loose stock of all kinds, 2 cents. It was ordered that the ferry should be known and called by the name of Jenning’s Ferry, and that Mr. Jenning should pay for his license or privilege a county tax of $1 per annum.

The same year, in October, William Early was granted permission to establish and keep a ferry across White River, at or near the crossing of the Bentonville and Huntsville road, and the same was declared a public ferry. He was authorized to charge the following rates of ferriage: Footman, 5 cents; man and horse, 25 cents; wagon and two horses or oxen, 50 cents; wagon and four horses or oxen, $1; wagon and six horses or oxen, $1.50; each head of loose stock, 2½ cents. He was charged $1 per annum for his license.

Other Roads

In 1857 a road was established “to commence on the State line near Shell’s mill, at the termination of a road leading from Neosho, thence running to the Elkhorn tavern, to meet a road leading from said tavern on the road to Huntsville, in Madison County.” At the same time Joseph Blackburn was appointed overseer of the Blackburn Mill road from the first crossing of Cleptny to where it intersects the War Eagle road. David Baylston was appointed overseer of the same road from the Poor Mountain to the crossing of White River. C. C. Squires was appointed overseer of the Smith Mill road down Sugar Creek, to commence at the first crossing of the creek, and terminating at the State line. John F. Jenkins was appointed overseer of “class No. 1. of the Springfield road, commencing at Bentonville on the line near James Woolsey’s, thence to A. C. Young’s; thence along a neighborhood road to near the corner of Mrs. Jefferson’s field; thence along said road to where the same intersects the old Springfield road near Warren Wright’s, or Sugar Creek road; thence along said old road to the first crossing of the river channel of Sugar Creek.” John L. Booth was appointed overseer of the State road from Robert Sikes’ place to the Cross Hollows district. The Sikes place is now the site of Rogers.

There are no macadamized roads in Benton County, but many of the ridge roads in the broken and mountainous portions are equally as good, the surface of the lands being so completely filled with small chert and flint rocks of the proper size, that all that is necessary to have a road macadamized by nature is to clear it and travel it. Of course this does not apply to the roads through the prairie and more level lands of the county, which form by far the greater portion. There is an abundance of this small chert and flint rock of proper size along the ridges and in the beds of the streams to thoroughly macadamize every mile of the public roads of the county without breaking a stone. Of course in some places it would have to be hauled a long way.

An effort to secure the building of a railroad through Benton was made prior to the breaking out of the Civil War, as will be seen by reading the following order of the county court made at its July term in 1860: “Ordered by the court that the sum of $500 of the industrial improvement funds, so soon as that amount shall be accumulated in the hands of the commissioners of Benton County, be paid over by said commissioners into the hands of C. W. Rice, Sr., to be retained by him and disposed of in the manner following: “It is contemplated to have a survey made in order to determine the nearest and most practicable route for building a railroad from Van Buren, Crawford Co., Ark., through the counties of Crawford, Washington and Benton, to intersect at the most practicable point the southwest branch of the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Now, if the counties of Crawford and Washington, or the citizens of each in their individual capacity, shall appropriate and expend upon said survey an equal amount, then the said Rice shall, and is hereby authorized, to pay to the person or persons bearing the expenses of said survey the said sum of $500, he taking his or their receipts therefor, and filing the same in the clerk’s office of Benton County, provided that the same shall be expended exclusively within the limits of Benton County upon said survey. The said Rice is required to retain said funds until it is certain that the same will be expended as last above directed. It is further ordered that the order heretofore made by this court for a similar purpose is annulled.”

This was the effort made on the part of the county to secure a railroad; but for some reason, perhaps the apprehended danger of the trouble following the result of the political campaign of 1860, the proposed survey was not made, and, consequently, the $500 appropriated for that purpose was not expended.

The St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad, which runs through the eastern part of Benton County, giving an outlet to the great States both north and south, was completed through the county in the summer of 1881. It has stations within the county at Garfield, Bright Water, Avoca, Rogers and Lowell. The railroad leading from Bentonville to Rogers was built by the Bentonville Railway Company, at a cost of about $42,000. It was completed in 1883.

The rectangular system of surveying the public lands now in use by the United States, and by which the lands in Benton County were surveyed, was inaugurated and adopted by Congress at or near the beginning of the present century. The first surveys made under the system, and before it was fully perfected, were made in what is now the State of Ohio. Under this system the lands are surveyed into strips six miles wide, running both east and west, and north and south, those running east and west are called “townships,” while those running north and south are called “ranges.” The squares–six miles each way–formed by the crossing of these strips, are called Congressional townships, each of which (if full) is subdivided into thirty-six sections, containing each 640 acres, more or less. The “townships” are numbered north and south from a given base line, and the “ranges” are numbered east and west from a named meridian, called a principal meridian. The “first principal meridian” is the State line between the States of Ohio and Indiana; the “second principal moridian” runs through the State of Indiana only, a few miles west of the city of Indianapolis; the “third principal meridian” runs through the central part of Illinois, a few miles west of Bloomington; the “fourth principal meridian” runs through the western part of Illinois, from a point near Bardstown, on the Illinois river, to the Mississippi on the north; the “fifth principal meridian,” which in part governs the surveys of this county, passes through Arkansas near the ninety-first degree of west longitude from Greenwich, or the fourteenth degree from Washington. It extends northward through the States of Missouri and Iowa. The “base line,” which, together with the last named principal meridian, governs the surveys of Arkansas and the States north of it, runs east and west through the central part of Arkansas, from a point on the Mississippi River near the mouth of St. Francois river, to the Indian Territory on the west, passing about five miles south of the city of Little Rock.

From this base line and the fifth principal meridian the lands of Benton County are found to embrace parts of Townships 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 north of the base line, and Ranges 27 to 34, inclusive, west of the meridian. The public surveys in Benton County were made late in the thirties and early in the forties. Among the persons making them were Elias Conway, Robert W. Mecklin and Matthew McClellan. As soon as surveyed the public lands became subject to entry at the land office, then at Fayetteville. Scattering entries were made by the early settlers prior to 1858, and from that date to 1861 the entries for the greater bulk of the lands that have been taken up were made. Land entries still continue, and there still remains a large quantity of land subject to entry. The unentered lands are mostly broken and undesirable. They will probably become desirable on account of their timber, and their adaptability to growing fruits.

Back to: Benton County, Arkansas History

Source: History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas. Chicago, IL, USA: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.


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