. To appreciate the Bentonville of To-day it is necessary to drop back to the close of the Civil War between the states.At the end of that bloody struggle a few lone chimneys where once stood happy homes told the sad story of border warfare. But a few homes escaped the torch; only a few families clung to their impoverished homes. Amongst them were James W. Clark, Dr. C. D. Taliaferro, Wm. Spring, John Black and the Dickson family. Most of these characters are now dead. Mr. Clark kept the only hotel in the town which survived the war, and the oldest building still standing as a reminder of those sad days. This old building was made historical during that memorable struggle from the fact that distinguished German general, Seigel, was forced by the Confederates to abandon a half-eaten warm break-fast. He barely escaped with his life.
At the close of the struggle of death and destruction the population was reduce to a small number, perhaps not over fifty persons, and many of them without food or shelter. Notwithstanding all this, the county seat of one of the largest and richest counties in the state of Arkansas, surrounded by most excellent springs of pure water, notably the Park Springs just north of public square, and the celebrated Crystal Springs, northeast of the town, which soon became famous for its health-giving qualities, and many other of less note but equally good; and being located almost on top of the Ozarks, some sixteen hundred feet above sea level, in a delightful climate - not very cold in the winter nor oppressively hot in the summer; with all these natural advantages Bentonville soon started on the upward march. The war having divided the inhabitants, some going south and some north they returned to their homes, and as time went on additions were gradually made of the best of people; ministers came, lawyers came, doctors came and many businessmen of some means came.
The first dry goods store after the war was kept by A. W. Dinsmore, a former merchant, in an old frame tobacco house that had accidently escaped flames. While it was rough to look at the genial, courteous Dinsmore made it pleasant for his customers.
The first circuit court that was held in Bentonville after the war was presided over by the Hon. Elias Harren, of Madison County. It truly was a pioneer court. The attorneys were mostly new men or from adjoining counties. The local bar consisted of R. W. Ellis, W. B. Cillan, John Black, John Arington and Wm. Howard. A few attorneys from Fayetteville, in the adjoining county of Washington, were present, consisting of A. M. Wilson, J. D. Walker, Lafayette Gregg and T. M. Gunter. Jurors were picked up promiscuously by the sheriff.
Schools were unknown in this section for quite a while after the war. Finally small subscription schools were taught in a primitive way in such cabin as could be procured. The town having increased in population and wealth the good citizens from their own pockets, scant as they were, undertook and did build a two-story brick school house for a high school, but some contention arose as to its location. That good, generous man, James W. Clark, offered to donate several acres of land in a beatiful grove on the west part of town. Mr. Josiah Claypool, then offered a few acres in a nice grove east of the main part of town. The people living in the west of town desired it to be located on the Clark site, while the people in the east part of town desired it located on the Claypool site, and in order to decide the location, it was mutually agreed that each subscriber should be entitled to one vote for each dollar subscribed for the location. When the time came to decide the location, subscribers met in a room when Dr. C. D. Taliaferro was called to chair and F. T. Reynolds and S. W. Peel selected as clerks to add up the votes cast. The contest became quite spirited; many raise their subscriptions but when all the voting was over it was decided that the Clark location had won. So, harmoniously, the money subscription was all paid and a very handsome and substantial two story brick was erected on the Clark site. From that time on the spirit of education prevailed. After a few years of rather successful school, by some by some unknown means the house was destroyed by fire. By this time the public school had taken root and the school district rebuilt the house which is now being used as a public school with regular attendance of over four hundred. Not being sufficient for the demand the energetic and generous people from their own private means built another magnificent two story brick and a large commodious dormitory for education purposes. The first year it was conducted by Prof. Jon. R. Roberts, a noted educator of the state, followed by Profs. Croxdale and Blocher, and later Miss Gray Taylor of Memphis, Tennessee. They finally turned the institution over to the Baptist church under which it has been very satisfactorily and successfully conducted with a regular enrollment of over one hundred or more and is known as a branch of the Ouachita system of colleges.
Bentonville now has six well organized church buildings, all of them brick except one, and all of which are presided over by thoroughly educated and intelligent Christian ministers.
Bentonville now has a population of about three thousand as moral and intelligent people who can be found anywhere. Has been incorporated under the state lawas a city of second class with a well organized municipal government. Has a first class system of water works and electric light plant. Has three banks - two National and one private and trust company, all doing pretty healthy business; three newspapers with good circulation, large three story brick courthouse and county jail. Has a large brick cold storage and ice plant, large and new flouring mill and the largest apple brandy distillery in the United States (sold only at wholesale) not a saloon in town and has not been for twenty years. The people go to church and not to saloons. Bentonville also has a large casket factory and brick plant, two large hardware store, several large dry good stores, nine grocery stores, two well furnished and well conducted restaurants, three drug stores, three livery stables, one harness shop,two hotels , two lumber yards, blacksmith and wood shops and various other houses of business such as laundry, meat market, ect.
Judging the future by the past, Bentonville is destined ere long to be a thriving city of ten thousand people (today population is about fifty thousand). The fine climate, productiveness of the surrounding country, bountiful water supply and many other natural advantages insure rapid increase of population. Bentonville will most certainly become a great summer resort. Her invigorating climate, cold pure water, all kinds of fruit and vegetables, fresh and pure air in great abundance, with proper hotel accommodations will induce thousands to desert the large overcrowded cities in hot weather and flock to Bentonville for rest and health. There is now under construction a new $10,000 hotel with all modern improvements.
The educational facilities of Bentonville will undoubtedly grow and the moral tones of her people will induce many scores more of good families not only to locate, but to trust their children to the care and keeping of the good people of Bentonville. Being located on the Frisco railroad, with other roads through the county, will make access convenient, and with the great fruit interest yet in infancy, so rapidly increasing with other products of the country, will bring other railroads, local traffic brings railroads. Bentonville being the county seat of Benton County. located in the heart of the great apple belt of Northwest Arkansas, promises rapid growth. The apple shipments now run thousands of barrels, besides many car loads of evaporated fruit. When it is known that not one half the apples and peach trees now growing are of the bearing age- such a country is bound to reach large proportions and will soon become the "Athens of Arkansas."