Vivid History Retold; Recall Early Events Exciting Days as Bentonville Selected As Site For Courthouse The Benton County Democrat, May 28, 1936, (Now the NWA Democrat Gazette)
(Editor's Note: To the late W. A. Dickson, Benton County is deeply obligated. Without his untiring efforts much of the early history of the county would have been lost. He was an accurate and brilliant historian. The Democrat owes many thanks to Mrs. Dickson for the privilege of searching through Judge Dickson's notes to obtain material for much of the early history.)
In the late 1820s restless and adventurous persons in the mountain sections of Tennessee began to lay plans to seek and settle new territory. As their fathers had done, and as they had done themselves, they wanted to push further on into unsettled country.
Neighbors in Bedford County, Tenn. made plans. They talked of their journey. Than (sic) the more daring and anxious ones started their cavalcade-- to overcome hardships, battling seemingly impossible obstacles.
Fighting to secure new homes. To become the valiant first settlers of Benton County, Arkansas.
While several parties set out, it is believed that Adam Batie, who settled on the prairie that bears his name near Maysville, was the first to reach the county, probably in 1828. In 1830 John McPhail and his father settled nearby. Soon afterwards Martin Mays settled on the present town site of Maysville, followed by Judge English, Robert Cooper, Lemuel Tynnon.
Then A Territory
Arkansas was then a territory. The present area of Benton County was embraced in Washington County, with the nearest village post office at Fayetteville, where it remained until after statehood in 1836.
It was on September 30, 1836, that Benton County was formed by an act of the first state legislature. Named for Thomas H. Benton, senator from Missouri.
The temporary seat of the court was established at the home of George Wallace, one and one-half miles east of Bentonville, where the home is now occupied by John Howard.
Pursuant to the act creating Benton County an election was held to select a county site for the county seat. Robert Cowan, Robert Weaver, and Thomas Swaggerty were elected.
After viewing many possible sites, the commisioners reported to the circuit court on November 7, 1837, that they had located the county seat on the present site of Bentonville, and had selected the name Bentonville.
At high noon the commissioners met with the court, under a huge tree. From miles about earlier countians gathered. It was a serious ceremony-- it was the decision on a momentous problem. Shortly afterward the first grand jury met.
It was composed of Joseph McKissick, foreman, Phillip Dumas, William Reddick, William Ford, Christopher S. Pace, George Greham, Joseph Dickson, Robert Cooper, John B. Robinson, Jonathan Duff, Samuel P. Woods, Diolesian Jackson, Ezekiel M. Dickson, Ambrose G. Williams, William Henry Ford. The petit jury was composed of James Anderson, Hobert Hubbard, John Maxwell, George W. Ford, Samuel B. McClain, Ezekil J. A. Dickson, Henry Hastings, James Hammack, Nathan Conghman, Samuel Black, David Woods and Samuel Woods.
The Early Town
The commissioners obtained from the government a patent for the townsite. They laid off the present town square. The rest of the city was divided into lots. There were 166 lots. Residence lot were 165 feet square, and business lots 82 1/2 feet square.
The original town was bounded on the south by 13th street; on the west by the street running north and south on the west side of the public school building; on the north by 10th street, and on the east by a line drawn north and south near the foot of the hill on east 12th street [which is Central today].
In 1837 Dr. Nicholas Spring established the first general store.
The early days were boisterous ones. Bentonville, with a smile, can recall many exciting events of the period from 1837 to the Civil War, marauding Indians; Oklahoma badmen. It was not a community of peace and quiet.
But slowly the community grew. In 1860, it contained five general stores, a furniture store, a saddle and harness shop, two inns, three mechanic shops. The Civil War left Bentonville in ruins.
It was not until January 1873, as Bentonville once again rose out of the ruins, that it was incorporated into a town.
Then came a period of prosperity. A boom. The dawning era of the railroad. The event of the steel monster opening this vast territory.
Photo looking north on Main Street towards the Bentonville Square. This image is from about 1884.
But once again proud Bentonville fell back into despair. In 1880 the first railroad was built into the county. Bentonville citizens had a contract for the Moffatt road--never to be built. The Frisco asked for a land grant. Bentonville's leaders questioned: "Why? You must come through Bentonville." The railroad's reply, was building the road six miles away.
In 1882 the Bentonille railroad was built to connect with the Frisco at Rogers. In 1898 it was extended to Grove, Okla.
M. F. Hendrick, Engineer, A&O Railroad (Also known as the Bentonville Railroad and Frisco) - July 1902 - Photo was taken in Rogers, Arkansas in the middle of Walnut St. - Notice the old Rogers water tower in the background on the right.
In 1872 on the site of the old grammar school, the first public school was built. It was built of brick and stone, but was destroyed by fire in 1877. From then until 1882 school was taught in the churches and private residences. In 1882 another school building was erected. In 1896 the Ouachita Baptist Academy was erected, later acquired by the Bentonville school district. [This had once been the site of Bentonville Academy, then under the Bentonville schools became Bentonville High School.]
But a flashback to the early settlers.
One of the first settlers was William Reddick, who settled late in the 20's at Elkhorn. Reddick was a politician and prominent citizen. For many years he controlled the politics of the Sugar Creek community, the dominant settlement.
Jacob Roller, who came from Hawkins County, Tenn., established the first whiskey distillery in the county. He was survived by 24 childern.
Among other early settlers were: James Jackson, from Overton County, Tenn., who settled near the site of Garfield in 1829.
Daniel Ash, a near neighbor of Jacksons. Before the organization of the county Henning Pace, from Tennessee, father of the county's first sheriff, settled on Sugar Creek, as did Henry Ford.
Three miles east of Bentonville was the Woods settlement, where Samuel and William, both of Tennessee, settled. They reared large families and lived there until the time of their death.
George P. Wallace, at whose house the county was organized, settled 1 1/2 miles east of Bentonville.
He was a large and powerful man, nearly seven feet tall.
John B. Dickson, the first clerk of the county, settled on what is now known as Deming's Addition. James Jackson and his sons and Samuel Williams, his father-in-law, settled one mile and a half west of Bentonville.
Robert Dickson and his son settled west of the city.
The Rev. James Harris, a Cumberland Presbyterian minister and the first preacher in the county, settled about three-fourths of a mile west of Bentonville.
In 1833 Felix G. Lindsey came from Kentucky and settled about three miles west of Sulphur Springs. In 1835 Christopher Pace of Tennessee made his home near Maysville.
From an early history of the county, a vivid description is given of the life of the first settlers:
"Log cabins were the domiciles of the pioneer settlers and the building of one was a notable event.
"The first two or three settlers had to erect their own, with the assistance of their families. Later the pioneer, upon the arrival to the county intended for his future operations, would stop and camp at the home of some former settler, and leaving his family there, would, under the guidance of his friend, set out and hunt a place to his liking, usually at a spring or creek. The next thing was a cabin in which to dwell.
"A day for its erection would be appointed and the former settler would mount a steed and ride far and near to the habitations of the few scattered settlers and notify them when the "raising" would take place. In such humble houses the pioneers dwelt, wore plain apparel and fed on humble fare, lived comfortably and well. They did not sport fine clothes, but had plenty of comfortable and durable linsey and jeans and homespun cotton, much better suited to rough-and-tumble life."