Fayetteville, Arkansas Early Settlers

Of the original purchasers of lots in Fayetteville, several were not residents of the town, but all, it is believed, were citizens of Washington County. A. B. Anthony was a merchant, associated in business for several years with L. Brodie. He succeeded in accumulating a large fortune, but subsequently removed to Texas, where he lost it all. Brodie died at his residence near Fayetteville. Mathew Leeper, W. McK. Ball, David Walker and Isaac Murphy were lawyers, and are mentioned elsewhere. W. T. Larremore was a prosperous merchant. He was also a minister of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and was in great demand as a campmeeting preacher. He subsequently became a convert to the teachings of Alexander Campbell, and united with the Christian Church. After several years’ residence in Fayetteville, during which time he represented the county in the Legislature one term, he removed to Texas, where he died two or three years later.

In this connection mention of Moses Campbell should not be omitted. He was one of the leading merchants of “the thirties,” and built what at that time was considered the finest dwelling in this portion of the State. It was the house now occupied by Mr. Prentice. Mr. Campbell remained but a few years, and when he left sold the property to W. S. Oldham.

The Wallace family consisted of William Wallace, the father, and four sons: Willis S., Alfred, Leonard and Riley. They came to the county about 1831, and located on a farm some four or five miles east of Fayetteville. Soon after Alfred Wallace opened a general store on the west side of the public square, where for several years he carried on a prosperous business. Willis S. Wallace and one of the other brothers were the proprietors of a grocery.

James Byrnsides kept a hotel in a log building standing on the site of the Star livery stable. He was a man of some influence in the community, and in 1833 was elected a member of the Territorial Assembly. H. W. Mahan was a physician, and was killed by W. T. Blakemore, a son-in-law of Byrnsides.

William Skelton was a farmer and hatter, and lived two or three miles from town. W. D. Hart was a cabinet maker, and P. V. Rhea a blacksmith. John Lewis was also a blacksmith, and kept a hotel on what is known as Stone’s Corner. M. H. Clark was a physician, and resided where Z. M. Pettigrew now does. Onesimus Evans was president of the Fayetteville branch of the State Bank. This institution was established in 1837, and did business in the two-story brick building standing about where the Van Winkle Hotel now is. William McK. Ball was the cashier. After an existence of four or five years it suspended, and the officers were charged with having stolen a part of the funds. Upon investigation it was found that the books had been carried away. One of them was subsequently found in White River, another in a stable loft in Fayetteville, and a third in an old stove. All had been badly mutilated, and the exact condition of the bank at the time of its failure was never ascertained. The most of those connected with it removed to Texas.

About 1839 Fayetteville received several citizens. Among them were James Sutton, Dr. T. J. Pollard, Stephen K. Stone, Dr. Charles W. Deane, Dr. Throckmorton, father of ex-Governor Throckmorton, of Texas; Dr. John I. Stirman, James H. Stirman and Alfred Stirman. Of these only two, Dr. T. J. Pollard and Stephen K. Stone, are now living. James Sutton was a Kentuckian, but had resided in Missouri prior to his coming to Fayetteville. He was engaged in merchandising until his death some time in “the fifties.” His brother, Seneca Sutton, was also a merchant of Fayetteville for a time. Dr. Throckmorton lived in the country near town, and was a partner of Dr. Pollard until he removed to Texas. Dr. Deane came from Tennessee, and for nearly half a century was a leading physician and prominent citizen of Washington County. The Stirmans came from Kentucky. James H. and Alfred Stirman were brothers, and were partners in a general mercantile business. The former was afterward a member of the firm of Stirman & Dickson, and was a member of the constitutional convention of 1861. Dr. John I. Stirman was a brother of James H. Stirman, and from March, 1860, to November, 1862, was Secretary of State.

A correspondent of the Van Buren Intelligencer, writing in 1849 from Fayetteville, describes the town as follows:

“The population of this place has not increased since 1844, rather diminished–it has followed the business and taken abode at Van Buren. The retail business here is important, and the merchants engaged in it are ‘coining money’ faster than they could do it in California. Messrs. Stirman and Dickson and James Sutton are indeed doing a fine business; and I must say that dry goods are retailed here as cheap as at Van Buren. This they are enabled to do on account of the small expense of storekeeping, living, etc. “Fayetteville is the foremost town of Arkansas in the cause of education, and Washington stands second to no county in the State for schools. The Rev. C. Washbourne and Miss Sawyer are sturdy pioneers in the cause, and are entitled to the gratitude of parents and guardians for their perseverance under so many adverse circumstances. It was under Mr. Washbourne’s charge of the matter that the Ozark Institute took its rise, under the style of ‘Far West Seminary,’ which, though it was destroyed by fire, phoenix-like rose from its ashes, and is now spreading its wings of literature and science over a pupilage of sixty scholars. This institution is under the control of Mr. Robert W. Mecklin, who is in every way qualified for the charge. His reputation has reached over the whole of Western Arkansas. He is assisted by Messrs. Lockhart and Van Hoose, both gentlemen of high literary acquirements. I learn that Rev. Robert Graham, a gentleman of high literary attainments and fine reputation as a scholar. has been engaged, and will, some time next month, commence as assistant to Mr. Mecklin. This school, even in its infancy, far excels any other that I know of in the State. The Ozark Institute is about three miles from Fayetteville, in a beautiful and highly cultivated neighborhood, distinguished for its health.

“Miss James has a fine academy for young ladies, about a mile from the institute. It is a new establishment, but is in a progressive and flourishing condition. Miss J. has the reputation of being a fine teacher, and of an indefatigable spirit. At an early day she will, I doubt not, have a fine academy.

“At this place Miss Sawyer’s Female Seminary stands No. 1 in the whole country, and the success of this institution is a gratifying testimonial to laudable perseverance. Miss S. commenced with a small beginning against many odds, which she controlled with an energy that would do honor to any leading spirit. Hers, in deed, is a leading spirit. She first sounded the tocsin of education, and sounded the death-knell of ignorance and vice. By her exertions a degree of intelligence and refinement is spread over this county, unseen and unfelt in other new countries. But I was going to speak of the school. The building is new, copious, convenient and neat, combining all the necessary requirements. About fifty pupils attend, the largest number of whom reside in the neighborhood, yet a considerable number are from abroad, who either board with Miss S. or in the neighborhood among the many clever families that reside here. The school has the benefits of the erudition of a splendid teacher and enlarged scholar in the person of Rev. C. Washbourne.

“Among the many beautiful cottages in sight from this place is the ‘Waxhaus,’ the homestead of the gallant and lamented Yell. Upon a high hill, about a mile off in the northwest, stands the residence of Judge Oldham, by far the most beautiful seat of all around. The judge has moved off to Texas, as I understand, about a week ago. Col. Leeper has built upon a neighboring hill. His fine improvements present a beautiful prospect, and as fine as is the view of this residence from town, yet much more so is the magnificent scenery around from thence. At one glance a beautiful panorama of nature and art is beheld–hill, valley, forest, prairie and stream.

“The ‘yaller’ fever rages here to a considerable extent, and for so healthy a country many will be carried off with it. About 100 will go from this county. They intended to go up the Arkansas and cross the mountains on Col. Fremont’s last trace. The only reason I can learn for taking an unexplored route is that they believe Fremont has gone to some rich diggings that are not known to the public, and they wish to share the fruits of his discoveries. Among those going are Judge Murphy, Judge Davis, Dr. Cunningham, Dr. McCulloh and Lewis Evans, of this county, Judge Hoge, J. W. Washbourne and Pierce Miller. of Benton.”

The following description of Fayetteville as it was in 1852 is condensed from an interesting sketch written by Hon. J. H. Van Hoose in 1882. Thirty years ago Fayetteville was a pretty little village of about 600 inhabitants, all of whom were industrious and happy. Arkansas College, presided over by Rev. Robert Graham, was fast coming into notice, and a large number of boys and young men, sons of wealthy planters of the South, were sent here each year to be educated. There was also a female seminary, founded by Miss Sawyer, who, with such assistants as those accomplished young ladies, Miss Foster and Miss Daniels and Prof. Zilliner, an accomplished musician, added much to make Fayetteville then famous for its educational facilities. Many beautiful young ladies from Missouri, the Indian country and South Arkansas attended this school. These school girls and the young men of Arkansas College, together with the young men of the town and our own beautiful girls, made Fayetteville society second to none in the State; in fact, from 1851 to 1861 there were very few towns in the South or West the size of ours where there could be found more prosperous business men, more gallant beaux, more charming and beautiful young ladies, better schools or more intelligent, industrious, happy and contented people than our own loved Fayetteville could produce.

In 1852 we elected a town council, with Col. James P. Neal as chief alderman or mayor, and Jim Ballard as town constable. There were then six dry goods stores in Fayetteville, all doing a profitable business. People from King’s River and War Eagle country, from Benton and Crawford Counties and the Indian Nation, bought all their goods here. James Sutton sold goods on the corner now occupied by Achard & Co. His store-room and warehouse was 30×150 feet, and he sold immense quantities of goods, and bought everything the farmers brought to him. Stirman & Dickson sold goods in a brick store-house located on the lot now occupied by the drug store of Whitlow & Lake. They, too, did a large business. S. K. Stone was selling goods in a small, one-story brick on the same spot where his splendid fireproof brick now stands. L. B. Cunningham did business in a two-story frame house on the corner where Hansard’s gallery is now located. W. L. Wilson was selling goods in a frame house where Mulholland’s grocery store is. Baker & Bishop, of Van Buren, had a store here in charge of William A. Watson. Merchants then bought goods only once a year, and it required about eight weeks to make the trip to New York and buy the year’s goods.

There was no regular drug store in the town until 1854, when a young doctor named James Stevenson came here from Kentucky, and opened a drug store in a building about where the Democrat office is located.

There were two groceries or saloons in the town then, one kept by Capt. William McGarroh, on the McGarroh corner, and the other by Bill Throckmorton, on the west side of the square.

There were two hotels. One was on the corner where Kell’s livery stable is, and was known as the “Byrnside House.” The other stood on the south side of the street on a lot now occupied by the lumber yard, near the Methodist Church. This hotel was kept by John Onstott, and a man could get as good a dinner there for ten cents as any hungry man could wish for.

There were three blacksmith shops, run by John Lewis, John Krim and Jim and Dan Stone, and two wagon shops, one run by W. B. Taylor, now of Prairie Grove, and the other by Asmos Outzen. Joseph Dunlap carried on a saddlery shop, and Nathan Wilcox, a shoe shop. There was one cabinet shop, in which William M. Bowers made tables, bedsteads, coffins, etc., and two tailor shops, run by W. G. Bassore and James B. Simpson, respectively.

On July 4, 1860, Fayetteville was first placed in telegraphic communication with the remainder of the world. On that day Stebbins Telegraph Company completed a line from Jefferson City to Fort Smith, via Fayetteville. The first message was sent by Col. J. R. Pettigrew to the mayor of St. Louis, who returned an appropriate answer.

Back to: Washington 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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