History of Ravenden
by: Robert Edward Pierce
Imagine if you will primitive wilderness are enclosed in a setting of rolling hills and crossed by a sparkling blue green river, which flows from a great fresh water spring, one of the largest in the entire world. As it flows through the hills from northwest to south east on it's wandering way to a confluence with another river it falls and cascades over many rock outcroppings, pooling to fall again. It is met along it's way by many smaller tributaries and springs, ever gaining in volume and strength until it meets this other river, in the edge of swamp lands, which extend to the east for a hundred miles containing two other rivers before reaching yet another river, the greatest of them all. A river which drains a great portion of a continent. For a hundred miles west to east this vast swampland is interrupted only once by a great ridge running north to south.
This country is wild primitive abounding in fish, game, nuts, wild fruits, and herbs for those wise enough and rugged enough to overcome the harshness of nature and acquire it. This is Indian Country, the home of the "Red Man". And I wish I knew the musical sounding named he used for the Mammoth Spring, River, Black River and the Crowley's Ridge.
It is the area between mammoth Spring and Black River that we are primarily concerned with, it being the center of our story.
This country was once the home and hunting ground of the Quapaw and Osage tribes of the American Indian until the white man arrived on this part of the continent and the Indian had to make way for the progress of his civilization. The Indian lived here along the Spring River and it's tributaries, making their villages and hunting camps along the first ridges of elevations above the river or creek bottom, near good fishing or hunting, but always just above flood level. There are still traces of their villages and burial grounds, but they are fast disappearing with the progress of the time and modern farming.
In an open end of a sweeping horse shoe bend on Spring River about forty miles southeast of the Mammoth Spring, the white man in building his railroad would one day lay out a town for a water stop as steam would be the power of the day. It is the founding of this town that makes up the center of our story.
After the war of 1812 lands were granted to veterans of this war by the United States government which lay in what was then the Territory of Missouri. These lands could also be taken up by way of homestead or U.S. patent. The county of Lawrence at this time was a vast area, large enough to make up a state and is described as follows-
The county of Lawrence was organized in accordance with an act of the legislature of the Territory of Missouri approved Jan 15, 1815 by Gov. William Clark. It was named in honor of Capt. Lawrence who distinguished himself in the United States navy during the War of 1812-1815. At this time the whole of what is now Arkansas was part of the Missouri Territory and this county was carved out of the original subdivision known as New Madrid and was described as follows-
Beginning at the mouth of Little Red River on the line dividing said county (New Madrid) from the county of Arkansas, thence with the said line to the River St. Francis, thence up the River St. Francis to the division line between the counties of Cape Girardeau and New Madrid, thence with said last mentioned line to the western boundary line of the Osage purchase, thence with the last mentioned line to the northern boundary of the county of Arkansas, thence with the last mentioned line to the place of beginning.
By a careful study of this information it will be seen that Lawrence county originally comprised a large portion of southeast Missouri and of Northeast Arkansas, enough territory to make a state. Since then from time to time other counties have been formed out of this, until it has been cut down to it's present limits. By and act of the legislature approved March 26, 1887 two judicial districts were formed, the eastern and the western, with Black River as the dividing line between them, and Walnut Ridge was made the seat of justice for the eastern district.
The act creating the county provided that the first county court and circuit court to be Holden for said county, should be held at the house of Soloman Hewitt on Spring River. Later at the October term of 1815 Louis De Munn, William Robinson, William Hix Sr., Morris Moore, Soloman Hewitt, Andrew Criswell and Isaac Kelly, commissioners appointed to select the permanent seat of justice for the county, or majority of them reported to the county court that they fixed the permanent seat of justice on Big Black River near the mouth of Spring River and purchased the townsite from it's several owners for the sum of $255.00.
Soon after a town was laid out on the site selected and named Davidsonville. At this place the county seat remained until 1829, when it was moved to Jackson in what is now Randolph County. (This place is now called Old Jackson and is located northeast of Imboden).
No vestige of Davidsonville at this time can be found. (This was written in 1891 but today 1978 the site of old Davidsonville has become a state park and is called Davidsonville state Park).
May 22, 1837 David Orr, Alexander Smith and William Thompson, commissioners previously appointed to select a new site for the seat of justice, reported that they had located the county tie seat on fifty acres of land in Section 33, Township 17 north, range 3 west, donated by Janes H. Benson for the purpose.
To this place where a town was laid out and named Smithville, the county seat was immediately removed, and remained there until 1868, when in accordance with the act of legislature creating sharp county, it was removed to Clover Bend, on Black River, six miles south of Powhaten. Afterward the question of removing the seat of justice to the town of Powhatan was submitted to the voters of the county at an election held November 15, 1869, on which occasion 207 votes were cast in favor of the removal and only 6 against it. In accordance with the decision of the people, the records were taken to Powhaten which became the final and permanent seat of justice (This was again changed. The permanent seat of justice was removed to Walnut Ridge August 39, 1963).
At all the former county seats excepting Clover Bend, but ordinary public buildings were used. In 1873 the first court house at Powhatan was built. It was a large two story brick structure with county offices on the first floor and the court room above. The contractor was Thornton and Jones of Little Rock, Arkansas. It was built at a cost of $16,000.00 to $17,000.00. This building burned in March of 1885, supposed to be the work of an incendiary.
The present old courthouse at Powhaten was constructed in 1888. The contracting firm was Boon and McGinnis and the building was erected at a cost of $12,000.00 which included removal of debris from the previous building. This also included the pay of commissioner J.P. Coffin.
This old building has recently been repaired and is now a museum in this year of 1978.
In bringing the history of Lawrence County up to date we can easily see that by the year 1815 there were quite a number of settlers in this general area and that they were already getting organized and bringing law and order to the land, even though the country was quite young and underdeveloped. Although our story is centered in a very small area in what is now called the Western District of Lawrence county let us go back and look for a moment at the national situation of that day.
In the year 1829 Andrew Jackson took office as President of the United States, I his first message to his congress he recommended that all Indians be moved westward beyond the Mississippi. "I suggest, the propriety of setting apart an ample district west of the Mississippi to be guaranteed to the Indian tribes as long as they shall occupy it", he stated to his congress.
On June 30, 1834 congress passed an act to Regulate Trade and intercourse with the Indians Tribes and to preserve peace on the Frontiers. All that part of the United States west of the Mississippi and "not within the states of Missouri and Louisiana or the Territory of Arkansas" would be Indian country.
The Indian had to go, but remnants of once powerful tribes passed through or near here on their trek westward. The Choctaw, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Seminoles gave up their homes in the south, but the most pathetic were the Cherokees who numbered several thousand, who were moved by Army escort during the cold of winter and it is said that one of every four died on the long winter trek. They called this March from the Carolinas to Oklahoma Territory their "Trail Of Tears".
We know who the earlier residents of this area were, but we don't know who the first white visitors were, or even the first white settlers, for early settlers for the most part were quite unassuming men and unless they performed some notable or noteworthy act or deed they went unnoticed and were lost in the obscurity of time.
History does reveal to us however some of the more prominent names of the area. In the Strawberry River County there were the McKnights, Taylors, the Finleys, Hillhouses, Richardson, Jacob Fortenberry, John Spotts, Samuel Raney, and the parents of William J. Hudson.
The Hudson were said to have settled there in the year 1812 and were the first family in that area.
On Flat Creek, Col. Will Stuart, John Richie, James Kuykendall, Hiram Darter, Isaac Morris, and the Waylands.
On Spring River, Fergus Sloan, Booker Bennett, the Imbodens, Wyatts, Wells, John Hardin, James Couch, William B. Marshall, and a Mr. Berry. Mr Berry was shot at this plow by an unknown person soon after coming here and was among the first men murdered in this country.
Further up the Spring River Valley in what is now Sharp County some of the early prominent pioneers were, William Morgan, who settled at the mouth of Rock Creek on Spring River, William J. Gray, William Williford, Solomon Hudspeth, Colby Crawford, Stephen English, Robert J. Moore, Joeseph Kellett, John Walker, Samuel Beasley and an L.D. Dale. Ferguson Booth settled at the head of Martins Creek, John Garner and his four sisters further down Martins's Creek and Joseph Kellett at the mouth where Martins Creek ran into Spring River.
In browsing through Goodspeeds Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas. I chanced upon this little sketch.
Dr.John R.Wells a successful and well known physician and surgeon of Powhatan came from a family of Arkansas pioneers. He was born in Lawrence County Arkansas Sept. 5, 1838 and is a son of G. W. Wells of the same state whose father was one of it's earliest settlers coming here in the year 1807 and locating at what is now Ravenden Junction.
History also tells us that Fergus Sloan who was born in Lincoln county North Carolina in Dec. of 1787, lived in North Carolina until his twenty-fifth year. This would be until the year 1812, when he migrated to Washington County Missouri , Near Caledonia, and that Rosanna Ruggles born at Ostego, North Carolina in the year 1797, moved to Washington County Missouri in 1818, in her twenty-first year. She and Fergus met there and were married, later moving to Arkansas Territory in the year 1820. They settled about a mile northeast of where the present town of Ravenden is now situated, on a creek which is now called Browns Creek, not far from Spring River, about three quarters of a mile. This was near where highway 63 now crosses Brown Creek. They homesteaded here and cleared a farm, which for that time was quite large of one hundred fifty acres.
They lived and raised a family here. Nine children were born to the union, each living to be married. Fergus and Rosanna were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church and their home in early days was often the meeting place of missionaries of that time. Fergus died while on a visit to his former home in Missouri on November 13, 1849.
Rosanna stayed on the old Arkansas homestead where she died on August 10, 1860. Being referred to in her family history as the woman who died with the bridle on her arm. As the story goes, she was out hunting the horses one day and when she didn't return home on time a search was made and they found her where she had fallen. Rosanna is buried in the Smithville Cemetery. I have visited the grave site. Fergus isn't buried there, evidently having been buried at his old home in Washington County Missouri.
The original town of Ravenden, located in Secton 1 of Township 18 north, Range 3 west in the western district of Lawrence County Arkansas, had it's beginning with the coming of the Kansas City, Springfield and Memphis railroad, on which construction was started in 1881 and completed in the autumn of 1883. The railroad survey crew surveyed, laid out and plotted the towns along their route. Ravenden was plotted and filed for record July 17, 1883.
Ravenden is located on land taken up by John Wells in the year 1822. John Wells received a deed for this land dated Dec. 12, 1823 from the United States government for the consideration of $200.00. On March 24, 1845 John Wells and wife Polly deeded this land to George H. Wells for the sum of $1200.00. George H. Wells and his wife Mary died and John Wells as administrator of the estate sold the land at public auction in the town of Smithville to Alfred Oaks for $2575.00. Alfred Oaks was in the mercantile business in the town of Smithville at this time. The land was deeded to Alfred Oaks on June 14,1854. Alfred Oaks and his wife Celinda Ann moved to the property and established a home here.
Celinda Ann's maiden name was Sloan and she was the daughter of Fergus and Rosanna previously mentioned. They were people of some wealth and built a fine home on a knoll just southeast of where the old Ravenden business section would later stand.
Alfred Oaks and wife lived here on this site before and during the war between the states. He kept slave here and as late as the 1930's there were people here who wore his name. (slave taking the master's last name when released).
This place has been known since as the Thacker place, Sam Ball land, Millard Ball farm, Judge Kelly place, George Lowry, Paul Jones, and Henry Weaver Farms. Johnny Ward owned the site at this time. (1978)
What is now Block 2 in Ravenden, that area north of the railroad and southwest of the post office was a large orchard. Directly across the public road from this, northeast, was a large cemetery, located on what is now Block 1. Some of Lawrence county's prominent families have ancestors buried here. The roadway now known as First street on highway 90 was a public road in those days leading south to the "Oaks Ford" on Spring River which was situated just downstream from where the "Old County Bridge"now stands. This road linked the settlements to the north with smithville which was already a town and Powhatn, a town and steamboat landing on Black River. The late J.S. (Jake) Starling spoke of driving an ox team across this ford in 1875 when he was eleven years old when his family moved into selle near Opposition, Arkansas.
To the west of Ravenden was another Ford, called the "Liza Ann". Named for Liza Ann Wells who drowned there, her family owning the land joining the approach to the ford on the west side of the river. South of the ford about a mile a creek empties into Spring River called Wells creeka and it was named for these same people. About a quarter mile up river from where the old county bridge now stands there is a shoal in Spring River known as the "Jake Sharp Shoal". When I was a small boy, on the right bank or southwest side of the river, there was an old house place, still visible and if I remember rightly a small burial ground. Honeysuckle and some spring flowers still grow there at that time. This home site was said to have belonged to Jake Sharp who ran a ferry service there. To what era he belonged I never knew, or whether it was a large boat for wagon and team or simply small boats for foot travelers.
Whether he was in business before the coming of the railroad or during and afterward, I've often wondered. There are many Sharps with us today, but none I have talked with seem certain of this.
Perhaps I have been wandering a bit so let us go back to the record.
The records say that on March 1, 1871 Alfred Oaks and wife Celinda Ann Oaks deeded land to Franklin W. Thacker in return for $1000.00 and other valuable considerations paid. Franklin W. Thacker was their son-in-law and Annie his wife was Alfred Oaks only living child. He lost one son who died in his youth.
This brings us up to the decade just preceding the coming of the railroad and since the town owes it's beginning to the railroad let us review a little of it's history.
In the development of a new county a transportation system is of prime importance. In the early days heavy transportation was done by water. During the era of the 1870's and 1880's this country was very much in the growing stage, largely wilderness and the United States government and early developers knew that transportation of a heavy type had to reach out into the rich inland areas. This brought about the building of railroads. The decade of the 1880's saw a great boom in railroad building than any comparable period in the nation's history. For many years a railroad line linking Kansas City with the south had been under discussion in Kansas City. This became one of the chief topics of discussion during 1870, but due to litigation, disputes and the panic of 1873, the decade of the 1870's was never to see the project get off the ground. In 1877 the Memphis project reappeared in Kansas City and the company was sold to a group of Kansas City business men for $15,125.00. J.D. Bancroft became manager for the purchasers and made unsuccessful attempts to raise money.
After Bancroft's efforts failed, the ill fated Kansas City to Memphis line was sold to Boston Capitalists who proposed to build about a hundred miles in the next few years and extend it afterward as occasion required. In 1874, James Joy of Detroit, who controlled the Missouri River, Fort Scott and Guld and the Leavenworth Lawrence and Galveston Railroads, known as the Joy Lines, placed George H. Nettleton in charge of his railroad interests in Kansas and Missouri.
It was under Nettleton's guidance that the dream of a Kansas City to Memphis Railroad became a reality. He was president of the Kansas City, Springfield and Memphis when construction of the Springfield to Memphis segment was completed. Note, this project was constructed in two segments. One reaching from the Missouri Arkansas state line to Bridge Junction, Arkansas, a distance of 143.18 miles. The other segment beginning at Springfield, Missouri and reaching to the Missouri Arkansas state line a distance of 138.76 miles. The Springfield and Memphis Railroad was incorporated under the general laws of Arkansas December 3. 1880 and work was begun in November 1881. Before this portion was completed however the company consolidated with the Kansas City, Springfield and Memphis Railroad Company. Both companies being under the leadership of George H. Nettleton.
The Arkansas segment was completed on October 20, 1885. The Kansas City, Springfield and Memphis Railroad Company was incorpated under the general lawe of Missouri Sept 10, 1881 and construction was begun in August 1881. (This seeming inconsistency was perfectly legal. Construction began a few weeks before the incorporation was officially recorded). The Missouri segment Was practically completed by March 24, 1885, but was not put into operation until after the line was merged with the Springfield and Memphis line which was then building the Arkansas portion of the railroad. In March 1885 the Kansas City, Springfield and Memphis Railroad Company consolidated with the Springfield and Memphis Railroad Company to form the Kansas City, Springfield and Memphis Railroad Company, exactly the same name but legally a new and different company, and by the middle of August 1885 scheduled service extended as far as Jonesboro, Arkansas. The most difficult construction on the Kansas Springfield and Memphis was in the swamps regions of Arkansas as the crews neared West Memphis, and this was the last portion to be completed. Finally workmen drove the last spike with little fanfare in the St Francis River bottoms of Arkansas, and the first train to complete the full run from Kansas City to Memphis arrived there on October 29, 1885 loaded with Kansas City meat.
At that time there was no bridge spanning the Mississippi River between West Memphis, Arkansas and Memphis Tennessee and a huge transfer boat called appropriately the "George H. Nettleton" carried coaches, box cars, and locomotives, the entire train across the river. Sometime later, but before the bridge was built, the locomotives were left in Arkansas and the cars only were put aboard the railroad ferry, "Charles Merriam". She was a side wheeler with twin stacks and a pilot house.
Since the original planners of the town of Ravenden gave us a Nettleton Street let us review a biography of George H. Nettleton from whom it got it's name.
George H. Nettleton, son of Alpheus and Deborah Nettleton was born in Chicoppee Falls, Massachusetts on November 15, 1851. He attended public schools until he was 18 and then studied a Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute for one year. He felt his parents were unable to educate him further, so he secured employnent as an ax man on the New Haven and New London Railroad for $1.00 per day. From this humble beginning Nettleton advanced to rodman, draughtsman and leveler. Later he was appointed one of the division engineers for the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad, and by 1857 he was resident engineer on the Wabash. In 1860, Nettleton was detailed to make a survey of the road from Kansas City to Cameron, Missouri.
During the Civil War his entire working force was organized and armed as militia, and Nettleton served as commander of one of the companies, stationed at Hannibal MO. In 1865 he was appointed assistant superintendent of the Hannibal and St Joeseph Railroad and became chief engineer in 1869. He was also the engineer in charge of the railroad bridge over the Mississippi River at Quincy, Illinois. In 1872 he became general superintendent of the Atchison, Topeka, and Sante Fe Railroad and moved to Topeka, Kansas. In 1874 he was placed in charge of the Joy Lines and was general manager of the Kansas City,
St Joeseph and Council Bluff, and the Atchison and Nebraska. In 1875 he moved to Kansas City, Missouri and became general manager of the Kansas City stock yards, president of the Arkansas Valley elevator Company and manager of the Union Depot. By 1878 Nettleton became the western representative of a wealthy group of New England capitalists. This fact made development of a railroad through the hill country possible. In 1858 Nettleton married Sarah J. Taylor of Massachusetts, who died in March of 1860. In 1862 he married Julia Augusta Herne of West Virginia . Of their three children only a son, William lived to adulthood. George Nettleton died in 1896 at the age of 65 years. Long before the fuilding of the railroad there were settlements in the area and freight came in to Powhatan by steamboat and was carried to outlying towns by team and wagon. Opposition was already a thriving town at this time and Smithville had been a town since the early 1800's.
Ravenden Springs had become a town and health resort shortly before the building of the railroad
through the hill country, and since Ravenden took it's name from Ravenden Springs let us review a little
of it's history Ravenden Springs got it's mane from the raven's den or nesting area that once existed high
up in the rocks of Hall Creek Canyon a the creek was known as in those days.
The late Dr. A. G. Henderson of Imboden who lived up into his late 90's said, "Tradition says ravens
were building here as early as 1820. George and Sam Henderson visited the place in 1860 and birds
were there as they had been for years, but the next year, 1861 they left and never returned. The Dr.
himself visited there in 1865. He was still living in Imboden when I was a teenager.
The village of Ravenden Springs was known throughout north Arkansas as the "Dream Town". It is
located in the vicinity of one of the oldest settlements in this section of the state John Janes a
Revolutionary War veteran who was wounded at the battle of Yorktown settled near there on the creek
which bears his name about the year 1809. Soon after John Janes located there in 1809, there came the
Wells, Wyatt., Davis, and later Baileys, Gimtharps, Henderson., Deckers, Lands, Picketts, Tanners and
Later there grew up, just south of where Ravenden springs now is, a village, called Walnut Hill and later
Kingsville. It passed out of existence and the "Dream Town" came into existence about the year 1880.
A number of prosperous farmers aroung the area in 1874, were Sol and Mitch Davis, Elrod Poteet,
Kenson Land, J.F. Pickett, John Griffith, John Henderson, Josh Renfro, Rufus Bowen, George
Bloodworth, M.B. and Jimmie Janes, Frank and Abe Decker, George and Dudley Well., William
Lomex, John Guntharp, a Mr. Rhodes, W. W. Bailey, B.S. Woodyard, George Shelton, Josh Holder.
The establishement of the town of Ravenden Springs came about from a dream which William Bailey a
methodist minister had. He had suffered from stomach trouble for many years and all the remedies he
had tried failed. He dreamed one night of a spring deep down in the canyon of Hall Creek on which he
lived. After having this dream twice more, he went looking for the spring, found it, drank of it's waters
and continued to drink of it until he was cured.
The story of Bailey's dream became widely known. It was told to a man by the name of Ralph D. Welch,
called Captain Welch, who at the time was conductor on a passenger train of the old Iron Mountain
Railroad, between St. Louis and Little Rock. This railroad is now the Missouri Pacific and was built in
the 1870's prior to the building of the Kansas City, Spring field, and Memphis, now known as the Frisco.
Captain Welch visited the spring and was impressed. Later going to St. Louis he organized a stock
company, resigned his position with the railroad and returned to the spring, laying out a town there. He
built a forty room hotel there, just south of the spring with steps leading down to it. He succeeded in
getting a stage line established from the springs to Walnut Ridge on the Iron Mountain Railroad, a
distance of about 35 miles. This stage line came through the area later to be Ravenden and crossed
Spring River at the "Oaks Ford".
Later, with the building of the Kansas City, Springfield, and Memphis Railroad down the Spring River
valley, missing Ravenden Springs six miles, Captain Welch succeeded in getting the nearest station on
the line named Ravenden Junction. Mail was carried from Ravenden Junction through the old village of
Walnut Hill to Ravenden Springs.
R. Welch was very active in those early days both at Ravenden and in Ravenden Springs. Ravenden has
a street named for Captain Welch. This street lies two blocks north of the railroad tracks running east to
west. Ravenden's first school building was located on the northwest corner of First and Welch. The lot.
on which this building was built were purchased from Ralph and Hannah Welch. Several of the old
original town lots in Ravenden were owned at one time or another by Ralph and Hannah Welch.
Records show that R.D. Welch negotiated with Rufus Dail concerning a Depot site for the railroad on
lands which Cail owned. However I don't believe this was the land on which the depot was finally built.
Ravenden Junction was laid out on one of the finest and most practical townsites on the Kansas City
Springfield and Memphis Railroad. Laid out in the open end of a sweping horseshoe bend on Spring
River.Lying at the foot of rolling hills on the approach from north to west. Situated at the foot of these
hills and yet well above norman flood stage.
Only one flood ever ran down main street in Ravenden. That was in August of 1915 and I am not certain
it reached into the floors of business ,houses enough to be damaging. Old Ravenden faced the new
railroad and wide river bottom with the river and rolling hills in the distance, one of the most beautiful
towneites in all the Spring River country. The side tracks in Ravenden in some places were along side
cuts or banks permitting easy access for the loading of logs and other raw products being shipped.
Shortly after the laying out of the town of Ravenden Junction by the railroad company survey crew,
John Ball, the one called "Frick" appeared on the scene from opposition and started construction on his
hotel building John incidentally preceded Sam H., his brother here as a businesman. Fricks hotel
building was of brick structure and the brick were native, having been made here at Ravenden. The
brick kiln was located south of the highway 65 railroad crossing at Ravenden, about 250 yards south, in
the field, which at the time of this writing belongs to Johnny Ward. (Year 1978).
This is next to the clay bank where the railraod made the cut through the edge of the hill going northeast
out of Ravenden toward the railroad bridge. Plenty of clay was available here for brick . My Dad
showed me the site of the kiln back about 1950. Of course the kiln was in operation before his time, but
when he was a boy the remains were still there and when he showed the place to me there were still
fragments of brick there. He told me it was said that the old brick hotel building was built from brick
made here. This building was large with business rentals on the ground floor and hotel rooms and
apartments overhead. The postoffice was once contained in this building. The building was located near
the east side of block two facing Main Street and the railroad.
Soon after "Frick" built his hotel building, Sam, his brother came to Ravenden from opposition where he
was in the mercantile business and constructed a huge two story frame store building along side Fricka'
brick building. Sam's building was directly alongside First Street on the southwest side, lying between
First Street and Frick's building facing Main Street and the railroad. Sam's store caught fire and burned
about the year 1908, taking the old brick hotel with it. The late Rube church told me the brick and debris
from this fire went as fill under the local roads. Sam H. built back on the site with brick. This time, I
believe the brick came from Scbmidt of Pocahontas.
Perhaps I'm getting ahead of the story. Backing up to the late 1880's. Franklin W. Thacker had passed on
and left the Oaks plantation to his heirs. W.C. Sloan or Captain Sloan as he was called, who was the
youngest son of Fergus and Rosanna, previously mentioned, and an uncle to Franklin W. Thacker's wife
Annie, appears on the scene from Smithville and begins to buy out the Thacker heirs. Bit by bit, parcel
by parcel, he bought out his niece's children until finally he owned it all, with the exception of a one
sixth part which belonged to Ripley a mentally incompetent boy. On the first day of June 1895, W.C.
Sloan deeded lands to Sam H. Ball for the consideration of $4,400.00.
Finally on the third day of December 1893, Ripley Thacker's guardian James H. Washum, by approval of
the court, auctioned off Ripley's part of land for Ripley's care and upkeep. The auction was held at the
front door of the Ravenden post office between the hours of 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. on December 3,
1895. Sam Ball bid $900.00 the last bid and received the property. So before the new year of 1894. Sam
H. Ball owned all of the Oaks plantation with the exception of the part the town it's self was laid out on
and he owned most of that, and was the leading man of the-area.
Let us pause here and examine a biographical sketch of the Ball family.
William J. Ball retired merchant and farmer was born near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in Rutherford
county on September 15, 1825. He is the son of W.T. Ball an Englishman, and a native of
Worcestershire, whose histories and adventures would fill a volume. The elder Ball was a soldier in the
English army, and fought under the famous Wellington. He took part in seven battles against the great
Napoleon, and fought under Blucher on the memorable field of Waterloo. He was a member of the
British Army at the battle of New Orleans, but the principles of liberty were so strongly instilled in his
mind, that he found it impossible to fight against them, and deserted the ranks to join the younger nation
in it's struggle against the mother country. After the war had ended he came to the state of Tennessee
and settled in Rutherford county where he was married to Miss Jane Jordan, a native of that state, whose
father was one of it's pioneers. He resided in Rutherford county, one mile from Murfreesboro up to the
year 1835, when he moved to Bradleys Creek of the same county and lived there until 1851. Then
selling out and moving to Gibson county, where he lived until 1867. He then moved back to Rutherford
county where he died in 1873.
The latter mentioned was Sam H. Ball's grandfather. William J. Ball was Sam Ball's father.
William J. Ball remained with his father in Rutherford county until his eighteenth year and then
received the contract for carrying the mails by stage coach through that section until the fall of 1858. He
then moved to Lawrence county, Arkansas, and bought a farm in Spring River Township for farming
purposes, but shortly afterward entered into business at powhatan, and was a dealer in general
merchandise up until the time of war. (Now this would be the war between the states). And during that
period had charge of a distillery on Martin's Creek for the government. In January 1866 he moved to
Gibson county, Tennessee more for the purpose giving his children the advantages of a good education
than anything else, but while there engaged in the general merchandise business.
At the expiration of a year he returned to Lawrence county, Arkansas and settled upon the place he now
occupies, and began selling goods. He had been an active business man up to the year 1886, when he
turned the business over to his son who continues at it with the same enterprise that characterizes his
father. (Now this son was Joeseph Ball). In 1868 Mr. Ball was appointed postmaster at opposition and
still has charge of the office (1891)
He owns 320 acres of land on his home place with about 180 acres cleared, and 80 acres in clover and
meadow and about 100 acres in cultivation. Mr. Ball was married on Sept 15, 1846 to Miss Mary
Crouse of Rutherford county, Tennessee, a daughter of Harmon G. Crouse. There are five children
living by this marriage, George W., Sameul H., Joeseph who is carrying on the business here. Elizabeth,
wife of Joseph Hollowell, Hattie, wife of F.M. Graves and William T. and John who are deceased. The
former in 1882 and the latter in 1889. (Now this is the John who was nick named "Frick" and Built the
hotel in Ravenden, so he passed on not long after constructing the building. His wife was named
Alabama or "Bama" and she was among the first to run the post office in Ravenden. (Her maiden name
was Darter, of the Flat Creek Darters.)
Mr. Ball and his family are all members of the Christian Church of which he is clerk, and he is also a
Royal Arch Mason.
Sam H. Ball a prominent merchant of Ravenden, Lawrence County Arkansas was born in Rutherford
county Tennessee, in November 1850 and is a son of Willian 3J Ball, whose adnenturous career has
been portrayed in the sketch preceding this. Mr. Ball remained with his father in his store until he
reached his twenty eighth year. He then established a store for himself, in 1879 at Opposition Arkansas,
and carried on a profitable business up to the year 1882. In 1885 he moved to Ravenden, built a
magnificent residence and a large commodious store, and put in a large stock of merchandise, where he
has been holding forth ever since.
His store is two stories in height, the upper story being devoted to furniture, undertakers goods, clothing
etc. The lower to dry goods boot. and shoes, groceries and general plantation supplies. He handles both
cotton and stock to a great extent and altogether does a business of $55,000.00 to $40,000.00 annually.
He is also interested in a large cotton gin and besides owns two large farms situated on Spring River,
one in Lawence and the other in Randolph county, being a farmer as well as a successful merchant. The
third business house opened in Ranvenien after the location of the Kansas City, Springfield and
Memphis Railroad was by Mr. Ball, and he is the leading man of the Place. In November 1878 he was
married to Mrs. Margaret Williford of Randolph county, a charming widow. Since then five children
have been added to the family. Cleo, Luther, Marvin, Earnest and Lillian. Both Mr. and Mrs. Ball are
consistent members of the Christian Church. Mr. Ball is a Democrat politically, a Mason and a member
of Ravenden Lodge #451 of which he is Junior Warden.
I notice in the listing of the children, Millard was left out of this biographical sketch. This information
was taken from the Goodspeed Biographical and Historic Memoirs of Northesst Arkansas, and was
originally published in 1891, having been compiled prior to this. This predated Millards birth. Millard
Ball, Sam Ball's last born son was born July 17, 1891.
It is stated in the biographical sketch on Sam Ball that he opened the third business house in Ravenden.
John Ball's hotel building then would have to be either first or second and being a railroad town
Ravenden would have had an eating house which very likely was the first business opened here. It seems
to me that I've heard that one of the Halstead had a restaurant here very early in Ravenden' a history.
This then would make Sam Ball's mercantile business the third business house in Ravenden. That is if
we omit the Railroad Co's own depot 'which would really be called a business house also.
One of Ravenden's earliest business men would be Bill Wilson who had a business in Williford before
earning here and later moved to Imbed where he was in business. He was the. father of Tom and Toll
Wilson, both prominent business men of Imboden and the grandfather of the late Joe
T. Wilson who was cashier of the Bank of Pocahontas and later affiliated with the bank at Reno. Bill
Wilson was also Ravenden's second postmaster. Bill Wilson had a store here as late as 1891 for that is
the year the late Rube Church arrived here from Murphresboro Illinois as a boy and Rube stated that Bill
Wilson had a stock of goods in the old brick hotel build mg in connection with running the post office.
Rube also said that Judge Milner ran a store here at that time, the year 1891. Some time after this Bill
Wilson traded his stock of merchandise to Bill Blackwell for a farm near the old village site of Walnut
Hill or Kingsville as it was later called. This farm would be located where Thurman Wells lives in this
year of 1978.
This Bill Blackwell was the father of Pearl Moore, N. R. Moore's wife. N.R. Moore was called "Rec"
and the Moores were one of Ravenden's older families having owned a large river farm east of
Ravenden beyond the railroad bridge, the railroad going almost across the center of it. "Rec" was later
cashier of the bank at Ravenden. (The Moore farm is now owned by Bud Due year 1978) I added this
sketch on this family of Blackwells to try and prevent possible confusion, there being more than one
family of Blackwells in this area at different times and I don't believe they were related William J.
Wilson one of the leading merchants of Ravenden was born in California in 1855. He is a son of Captain
Isaac D. Wilson whose birthplace was in Tennessee but was reared in Arkansas, having come to this
state and settled in White county, among the first arrivals. I.D. Wilson grew to manhood in White
county and was married in Lawrence county to Miss Martha F. Estes, after their marriage they ma!
de a trip to California, and remained there several years returning about the year 1855 and locating in
Washington county, Arkansas. Capt. Wilson held a commission in the Confederate Army and died in
that service about 1865 while gallantly defending the cause.
William J. Wilson was reared in Lawrence and Sharp counties and cultivated the soil until the year 1882
when he entered into commercial life at Williford. He remained there two years, and then moved to
Ravenden where he farmed a partnership with Mr. Ball, with whom he con-in business for the same
length of time. He afterward went to Texas and purchased some land, and on his return was inactive
until 1887, when he once more entered into business. He carries a large stock of general merchandise
and has established a fine trade, enjoying an enviable reputation for fair dealing and honest goods. He
also handles cotton to a considerable extent and is interested with Mr. Ball in the erection of a cotton
Mr. Wilson was married in 1875 to Miss Mary Osborn, and they are now the parents of six children,
Isaac M., Martha A., Minnie, Alvin, Thomas and Tollie. Both parents are members of the Christian
Church and Mr. Wilson is a member of the Masonic order and is secretary of his lodge.
Willian J. Wilson was Ravenden's second postmaster and may have been Ravenden's second merchant
as well since he moved here in 1884 and was affiliated with Sam H. Ball after moving here. Rube
Church said, when he came here in 1891, Bill Wilson ran a store, Judge Milner ran a store and there was
a small candy shop besides Sam Ball's big general store.
Ravendens' first school was built in 1888 on lots purchased from Ralph and Hannah Welch, These lots
are located at Welch and First street on the street named for Captain Welch. The main portion of this old
building is still standing on the same location on which it was built. One wing was removed years ago to
become a dwelling house. When I was a boy this portion was located across First Street from where the
main portion now stands. Earn Hollowell lived in this part of the old build-ing located on the lots where
Mrs. May Smith now lives. (1978)
The main portion of the old building was frame structure and two stories in height. It has been in almost
constant use over the years.The upper story was used by the Masonic Lodge for years before they built
their hall on highway 90 north of the 65 Junction. The lower story was used by both the Methodist and
Baptist Churches as a meeting house. The old building was also used as town hall and voting place. I
have been to numerous shows at this old building. The old building has served the community well, over
the years. It now belongs to the L.W. Perry estate and is still being used as rental property. (1978)
There was a school in the Ravenden area prior to the erection of the old school on Welch Street, it being
located way out on what is now North Anderson Street, near where Willie Hepler and Cleo Bailey now
reside. This school was located on the county line and was maintained jointly by Sharp and Lawrence
counties . The late Dr. Cleo C. Ball and Aunt Sadie Gee, who was the wife of Fank Gee another of
Ravenden's prominent citizens and merchants, went to school there.
Aunt Sadie's maiden name was Church and her people lived in a house located near where John R.
Dail's farm home now is, about one mile and a half west of Ravenden. This family of Churches were not
related to Rube Church who passed on a couple of years ago and was Ravendens oldest citizen at the
time of his death, aged ninety seven.
There was a school for colored children, located on the north end of second street on the lots -where
Charles Roark'S home is now located.
Ravenden later built a brick school building on Second Street on the property where the Municipal
building is now located. This school building was erected in the year 1918 and served as Raveuden's
school building until the school was consolidated into the Imbed school system sometime in the late
1940' 8 This was a rather large two story structure and the junior high grades (9th and 10th) were taught
here at one time back in the l920's. By the later l920's this was discontinued and grades one through
eight only were taught there. A student wishing to continue on through high school usually enrolled at
Sloan Hendrix Academy at Imbed. In those early years a student usually boarded at the Sloan Hendrix
dormitory or found a place to stay some where else in Imbed, as other than daily passenger trains there
weren't many transportation facilities available in those days. Roads were very poor and not everyone
owned a car.
Later on, beginning about 1950, but before the consolidation, Sloan Hendrix ran a bus service here to
pick up students wishing to go to Sloan Hendrix. For a tuition fee of course.
While on the subject of schools, this is an opportune time to mention a man, who I suppose was
Ravenden' s most prominent educator and teacher, being a fine bible scholar as well as a grade school
teacher and the finest penman I ever knew.
John Harvey Curry was born on Sunday morning 8:20 A.M. June17, 1860 in .Amity, Washington
County, Pennsylvania. His Parents were Levi L. and Nancy Knight Curry. The family moved to Morgan
County Ohio in September 1869. J.H. Curry respected education from his youth and sought to develop
his talents by acquiring what education he could. He attended the public schools of Morgan county until
he was eighteen years old. He then attended Pennsville High School. Pennsville, Ohio and Bartlett
Academy. Immediately following his graduation he accepted a position in the Deavertown, Ohio public
school. This was in November 1881. His plans were to make teaching his life's work.
In Deavertown several things happened which influenced him all the rest of his life. He met and married
Miss Mary Lizzie Reese on November 29, 1884. The following year (1885) both he and his wife obeyed
the gospel and became active in the work of the church Born to the couple were five children, one son.
and four daughters. They were named Wilford, Ethel, (now Morris, widow of Jake Morris), Ethel is still
living in this year 1978 aged 90 years. Bertha who was the wife of Charles I Powell of Ravenden. Bertha
passed away in 1945 and Charlie died December 10, 1978. Bessie who was the wife of Paul Hepler of
Ravenden Springs, passed away some time ago. Wilford Curry passed away . Mary died at eleven
In 1891, thirty one years of age, J.H. Curry was advised by his doctor that he had a weak lung and
should move south to a warmer climate. The cause of Christ flourished in Tennessee and the young
teacher chose Portland of the state for his home. He had begun to preach and it was near Portland that he
held his first protracted meeting the same year that he moved there His education and ability were such
that his services were in constant demand, and for a decade he taught school and preached in and around
The Kansas City, Springfield and Memphis railroad was built in 1881- 83 from Springfield, Mo. to
Memphis, Tenn. This spened up the beautiful virgin Ozark section of Northeast Arkansas to easier
travel. J.H. Curry migrated from Portland, Tenn. to Williford, Arkansas, which was thriving from a new
stone quarry business on the railroad. This was in 1907. He taught school there that winter, and after ten
months during which he preached by appointment through the area he bought a home in Ravenden,
Arkansas and in March 1902 moved his family there, where he was to spend the rest of his life. His
name became synonymous with Ravenden And many preachers traveling by stopped with JH. Curry.
Northeast Arkansas was proud to have such a well educated man and gave J.H. Curry a very high and
most honorable acceptance. To his credit he never betrayed the trust placed in him and his respect was
maintained to and beyond his grave. He taught school for eight years in Ravenden, then in four nearby
districts for several years. He would preach at home in Ravenden or saddle "Old Bob", his horse and
ride to appointments in the area. He did much preaching for a rural congregation in Randolph county, on
the Eleven Point River known as Water Valley.
In spite of the twenty mile ride on horseback he would be back in the classroom on Monday morning.
He taught 1915 - 16 in the Ash Flat school. His last school was at Brown, near Bay, Arkansas, in 1925 -
26. His wife passed away November 23, 1924., and he married a widow Mrs. Caroline Rowley in 1926.
J.H. Curry continued to preach until July 1933 when he held his last meeting at Walnut Grove in Clay
county Arkansas. Notable among his work was the writing of two books, "Tommy and His Mother" and
"Adam and Eve Reconciled". A few years ago the Gospel Light publishing Company continued to print
and sell , Tommy and His Mother".
On July 5, 1938 past 78 years of age J.H. Curry passed on. Riley Henry preached his funeral at
Ravenden. He was buried at Opposition Cemetery.
An Early Merchant and Postmaster of Ravenden William F. Blackwell, among the business men of
Randolph County Arkansas who have won distinction as successful merchants, and who have by
personal industry and genuine business ability, succeeded in establishing a desirable trade , may be
mentioned Mr. Blackwell whose name heads this brief biography.
He was born in Lawrence County Arkansas, December 20, 1851 and is the son of James and Parnesia
Jane (smith) Blackwell, the former being a native of Virginia. He died while our subject was two years
old, while on his way home from New Orleans where he had been on business. 'He having been a
merchant and stock dealer at the time of his death. After moving from his native state of Virginia, he
first came to the state of Tennessee and afterward to Arkansas.
His wife was born in Lawrence county Arkansas in the year 1828 and after his death she married a Mr.
Ellinon who left her again a widow some time after, and she next wedded Bennett Holder who is also
dead (1890) She is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. She became the mother of four
children, two now being dead as of 1890. Those living are Isabella wife of Frank M. Baker and William
F., who was educated in the schools of Lawrence county, and from boyhood up has been familiar with
mercantile life, having acted in the capacity of salesman at Powhatan, Smithville, Walnut Ridge,
Delaplaine, Lauratown and then in his present location. (At Kingeville or Walnut Hill in Randoplh
One year after coming to Randolph County he engaged in business for himself farming a partnership
with W.W. Tanner, the firm being known as Tanner and Blackwell. This partnership lasted until 1883
and since that time Mr. Blackwell has been in business alone. The first money he earned for himself was
at picking cotton and in all the enterprises in which he has been engaged his labors have been attended
with good results. He was so unfortunate as to be burned out in February 1888, but he has since
retrieved his fortune to some extent and in connection with his business is engaged in farming. He
received his last appointment as postmaster in 1888.
February 10, l878 he was married to Miss Mollie F Tanner daughter of W.W. Tanner, and by here he is
the father of four children. Jenny May, Pearl Grace and William Harry. James Marvin the eldest child
died in his third year. Mrs. Blackwell was born in Obion county, Tennessee and is a member of the
Cumberland Presbyterian Church and William F. belongs to the Methodist Episcopal Church South. He
is a Democrat. His career has placed him before the public as a successful financier and his reputation
has been obtained by tireless industry. A keen foresight of events and a judicious use of his means.
Sam H. Ball died in 1918. He came to Ravenden in 1883 after the building of the railroad. He was in
business in Ravenden for thirty-five years having been a merchant at Opposition, Arkansas prior to this.
Ball enjoyed a rather elegant life style, for this area and the time. His residence was three blocks north
of the railroad on the hill overlooking the old business section and river bottom. His home and
surrounding grounds covered the entire block bounded on the west by Second Street, on the east by First
Street, with Tilden to the south and Elm passing to the north. What is now the L.D. Anderson property
was part of the vegetable garden and where Johnny Hamm lives was the orchard. The residence it's self
was a huge two story frame structure. Actually there were three stories. Many large high ceilings rooms.
Just how many I have forgotten, although I have visited there and played as a kid in the upstairs section.
Millard Ball was an officer in the Army during World War One and some of his old gear and equipment
was stored there at that time.
The house was always painted white and had entrances facing both Second Street and Tilden with long
cement walks leading to the house. There were fancy iron posts with hitching rings in them for the tying
of horses at the Tilden Street entrance. There were several other out buildings besides the main
residence. A bath and laundry house, a well house, a smoke house and a servants quarters. When I grew
up there was a colored fellow by the name of Murton Binkley living there. (a couple of years ago this
man was still living in Kansas City).
To the west of the main residence, just across Second Street were the barn lots. These covered the entire
block with woodslots extend to the west from this all the way to the railroad. There were two large
barns, containing hay mow, corn cribs, grain bins, and stables for livestock and horses. When I grew up
and attended school at the old brick school house Old Joe Thomas took care of the feeding and chores
around the barns. Joe was always friendly and pleasant and I think he came from St. Louis and had been
a railroad porter earlier in life. He was getting very old at that time. He was married to Lucy a sister to
Frank Oakes and descendants of Alfred Oakes slaves.
The late Rube Church told me that Sam Ball would buy anything a person had to sell and had about
anything a person wanted to buy. Ball's scales were downtown on First Street between block one and
two. Diagonally across the street, to the east of the present post office.
Tons upon tons of cattle, sheep and hogs have gone to the Nation's market places across Ball's scales
and through the railroad stock pens at Ravenden. Besides thousands of pounds of cotton and millions of
board feet of lumber and timber products which were loaded out here at Ravenden.
The stock pens were across the railroad from the town on the left side of the road (east) and adjacent to
the road. The cotton loading platform or dock was on. Main street just west of Second Street,lying
between Main and the railroad.
Other merchants bought cotton here in those earlier years but Mr. Ball owned the first gin.Later after
Ball's gin burned about the year 1929 Carson Higginbothem built another gin on the same location in the
early 1930's. This gin's engine was an internal combustion type. Ball's gin was steam powered. A Mr.
Morton built a nice gin on the property now known as the Ray Howell property in the year of 1978. This
gin burned about it's second year of operation. (About 1932) and was never rebuilt. Part of the old
cement foundation is sti1l there at this time (1978).
The first Postoffice in Ravenden was dedicated in the year 1885. the same year the town was filed for
record, July 17, 1883. The first postmaster appointed at Ravenden James B. Duvall in that year of 1883.
How long Mr. Duvall was in office I do not know, however there have been eleven persons who have
served in this capacity since the founding of the town. The second postmaster was William J. Wilson
who was also Ravenden's second merchant as well. Number three was Mrs. Bama Ball who was the wife
of John (Trick) Ball who built the first brick structure in Ravenden.
The fourth was John R. Dail who is the grandfather of Bob Dail also named John R. and who is the
present postmaster at Ravenden. Five was William H. Blackwell. Number was George H. Ball who was
also one of Ravenden', merchants. Iverson F. Grant was number seven and he also ran a store at the foot
of Second Street in earlier days and he was also a school teacher. J.J. Jagers was the eight postmaster
and he was also a school teacher. This is the first postmaster I can remember in the town. Robert Dail
who was the present postmaster's father was ninth. Paul Janes was number ten and he was appointed in
the year 1932
John R. Dail or "BOB" the present postmaster in this year 1978, is number eleven and is the only living
one of Ravenden's postmasters.
On November 1, 1959 Ravenden's present Postoffice building was completed and dedicated. Before this
time the Postoffice was housed in various rental buildings on First Street and on Main Street. At one
time it was located in a frame building just across the alley from it's present location on First Street. I
suppose it's first location was the John Ball hotel building on Main Street. During the 1930's, '4O's and
'5O's it was housed at different times in each of the west sections, which would be two different
locations in the old brick business building now belonging to the L. W. Perry estate. On November 1959
when the present building was dedicated, Wilbur D. Mills was here for the ceremony and made the
Incorporation of the Town
On September 14, 1901, D. C. Wells and twenty seven other citizens and qualified voters of the town of
Ravenden petitioned the court asking that the following described territory become the incorporated
town of Ravenden.
Beginning at the S.E. corner of the N.E. 1/4 of the N.E. 1/4 of Section 1, Township 18 North, Range 3
west thence due west one mile, to the west line of said section, thence south on west line of said section
to the North bank of Spring River, thence following the meandering of said river to it's intersection of
the east line of Section 12, Township 18 North, Range 3 west, thence North to the place of beginning.
Townsend and Guthrie represented the town in this petition and incorporation was granted October 17,
The First Church Building
Shortly after the turn of this century Jim Bowman moved to Ravenden with his family to become Sam
Ball's bookkeeper. The family were native of Evening Shade and Mrs. Bowman's maiden name was
Corchran, she being an aunt of "Patch" Corchran, an old times salesman through this area for the
Reed-Harlin Grocery Co.
They were a devout Christian family, and upon arriving here found there was no meeting house of their
faith in the town although there was one at the town of Opposition, across the river to the south-west of
Ravenden. This family, for a time, lived in a house located at the northeast corner of First and Elm
Streets on the property now belonging to Carson Brown. They later made a permanent home on Second
Street across from where the Municipal building now is. Their home was what is now Manila
When they first arrived here, members of their faith met at the Bowman home at First and Elm for
worship services. Mrs. Bowman avowed she would not remain in a town without a church, so Sam H.
Ball built the first church building in the town, it being the old Church of Christ building located on
First Street near Welch in Block 6. This old white frame building with it 'a belfry and bell remained
there until it was razed to make way for the modern brick structure which now stands there, being built
about the year 1955 or 1956. Jim Bowman was later in partnership with Frank Gee in a store here at
Ravenden. One of their locations, (and Ican remember this one) was two doors east of First Street facing
Main in Block 1.
Mr. and Mrs. Bowman were the parents of five children: Ellen, Carrie (now Pickett), Lois (Baker),
Lorene (Perrin), and one son who passed away in Memphis in 1977, J. Henley Bowman. The daughters
are all living at this time, except Ellen. J. Henley interred in Tennessee.
The parents were buried in the Moore Cemetery, one mile east of Ravenden. Ellen was the wife of John
Moore and they lived on what was once the Moore farm which now belongs to Bud Due. John Moore
and Ellen are buried in the Moore Cemetery.
Ravenden once had a newspaper. The newspaper office was located on lot 18 of block 2. This would be
approximately 100 feet west of the present post office building. (1979) This building which housed the
newspaper office was a small gable roofed frame building, very sturdily built for it's day and some of the
piers on which it was built are still in place. Clarence Frisbee "Frisco" used this building for a home
until it burned in the 1950's. Charles Manahan later built a small living quarters for "Frisco" on the same
property and this one still stands. (1979). Before "Frisco" acquired the old newspaper office for his
home, a man by the name of "Corn" Williford used the building for a real estate office. "Corn" Williford
was a native of Williford, Arkansas, later acquiring considerable real property in Ravenden. .'Com"
Williford was probably Ravenden's first real estate man.
In speaking of Ravenden's newspaper, there was a paper called
"The Ravenden Hustler". However, I believe this was a newspaper published at Ravenden Springs.
According to one account the paper published at Ravenden Junction contained the word "Item" in it's
Ravenden------Item (?) The party who furnished this information couldn't remember the full name.
Hotel and Livery Barn Block 3, Ravenden
Shortly before the turn of this century, Julius Sullens and family moved to Ravenden from the
community south of Hardy, Arkansas known as "Turkey Pen ". He built Ravenden's second hotel
building and ran a hotel here for several years at Second Street and Main down next to the railroad .
Located on the west corner at Second and Main on the lots that are now vacant and belong to Otis Smith
at this time. (1979).
This old frame hotel building was remodeled and added to over the years until it became a large old
rambling structure with porches encircling the building on both the first and second stories. It changed
hands several times over the years. I believe Mr. Powell purchased the property from Julius Sullens
probably about the year 1910. Mr. Powell was the father of C. I. Powell who lived here off and on for
several years, finally passing away at Ravenden in December of 1978. The Powells moved here from the
state of Kansas.
At one time, my grandmother, Pearl Pierce, ran a hotel in the old Sullens hotel building, and I (Robert E.
Pierce) was born there.
"Com" Williford later acquired the building and it remained in his hands and the hands of his heirs until
about the beginning of the 1940's when L.W. Perry purchased the property. The old building burned
some-time in the 1950's, and Otis Smith later bought the lots from L.W. Perry.
These lots which now belong to Smith once contained a livery stable, it being located at the north end of
lots 1, 2, 3, and 4 of block three in the original town of Ravenden. Next to this livery barn was a small
shotgun type dwelling of about four rooms, it lying next to the livery barn on the south side. A man by
the name of Rhodes from Texas ran the livery stable here in those earlier days.
By the time I came along, the old livery barn had become a garage for the repairing of Model-T Ford
cars, and later was used as a blacksmith shop. This building and also the dwelling mentioned sat facing
Dr. Cleo C. Ball
Dr. Cleo C. Ball, the eldest of Sam H. Ball's children was born------.
Dr. Ball was Ravenden's only practicing physician for many years, up until the time of his death in 1947.
He studied medicine at Washington University, St. Louis; Missouri. He may not have had the technology
and expertise of our modern crop of doctors of today, but he would come to the bedside of the sick and
ailing, traveling miles on horseback on the coldest and darkest of nights. There was something about his
presence in the sickroom that instilled comfort and confidence in an ailing person. I attended his funeral
which was held on the lawn of his home at Ravenden, and I remember that it was stated that he had
delivered over 27OO babies during his career. Now these were all people who have lived in Ravenden
and surrounding countryside and communities and were brought into the world without clinical aid or
confinement to a hospital.
Dr. Ball opposed the giving up of Ravenden's school. I have heard him say "We won;t give up our
school. A town just ain't a town without a school." He guarded this like an old dog over a bone and there
was a Ravenden Public school until after his death in 194?.
North and east of Ravenden there is a small spring fed creek winding sometimes south sometimes east
On it's meandering way to Spring River, as it flows through land that is now Perry's cow pasture across
land belonging to Johnny ward, back across land belonging to Perry before finally emptying into the
river just above the railroad bridge.
In the old days it was flowing across Ball property all the way This creek used to head from drainage
and springs starting near where North Anderson Street now passes in the vicinity of the Willie Hepler
home. At a house site near where the Highway 63 and 90 junction now is, it gained considerably in
strength, being fed thereby a very strong spring at a homesite known as the Jim Wyatt house From this
point on to the river the creek would flow and pool in many potholes or deep areas under overhanging
Willows. Driftwood and corn stalks would often cover the surface of the water over these deep pockets
in early spring. Stands of cottonwood and sycamore grew along it's banks. It was here that I and many
other small boys and girls learned to fish. There were even patches of switch Cain growing here, made
to order for fishing poles for the young fisherman. With hook, line and a can of worms, one could catch
dozens of great red sunfish or perch as we called them, and in those deepest pools one could catch
channel catfish or bullhead up to a pound or pound and a half.
Also there were great crawfish almost as large as small lobsters. One could take a piece of fat meet and
a length of line, without a hook and catch them one after the other. They would grab the meat and hold
on for dear life.
In the late summer of 1930, that terrible drought year that was the beginning of what was referred to in
America's Midwest as the "Dust Bowl Days", two young boys walked and crawled up the drying channel
of their beloved creek, and saw there the dying bodies and decaying carcasses of hundreds of fishes and
other marine life.
They paused under the shade of sycamore in the dry summer heat and for a moment silently wept The
rains came again and the grass turned green and lush the following spring, but the little creek never
recovered and hasn't to this day. Many springs failed during those drought years of the thirty' s and some
dried up never to return.
Just some more of the passing things that take place before our eyes slowly dying planet and go
unnoticed by many as we race on toward urgent and important things in life..
In the late afternoon of an autumn day in the late 1920's the old Ravenden cotton gin caught fire. The
late Homer Dail and a local colored man by the name of Homer Mc Carrol were in the engine room at
the time. The twin steam boilers were fired to full capacity at the time the fire was discovered in the
press room and Homer Dail in an effort to prevent an explosion opened all valves and tied the whistle
cord down to jettison steam as quickly as possible and the old Ravenden cotton gin died singing it's own
That day when I was a young boy I saw Bud Ball sit down on a stack of railroad ties, put his head in his
hands and for a moment weep openly.
Later I would hear it said that when a man's luck had left him and he started down he must hit bottom
before getting up again This was near the time of the 1929 stock market crash and panic, followed by
the "Great Depression" of the 1930's which ultimately ended in World War II, and before America really
prospered again, most everyone would find themselves in a strange role. In the stepped up effort of war
production, in the air, on the water, on the beaches, in the steaming jungle of a south pacific hell, in the
sub zero cold of Alaskan winter, or working their way out of a murderous cross fire in the streets of
some strange European city.
Shortly after this the Earnest Ball family left Ravenden and moved to Michigan where he found
employment in a factory.
Earnest had a good education however and had gone to medical school. He had practiced medicine in
the town of Biggers, Arkansas after completing his schooling. At the death of his father he had taken
over the store and other town business in Ravenden. He became head of the first and department in the
Michigan factory and later moved back to Arkansas where he settled in the town of Vilonia. He again
resumed his medical practice there, where he died in 1960.
Come walk with me to downtown Ravenden about the year 1924 or 1925
Beginning at the corner of Nettleton and Second Streets we start at the old public well, where thousands
upon thousands of gallons of water were carried to homes in town having no private wells of their own.
There was never a pump in this well and all the water was drawn by hand with rope and pulley which
was always furnished and maintained by the merchants of the town as a public service. It seems the rope
was always new and serviceable. The old well was hand dug approximately forty feet deep, cased or
curbed with stone and at the top was curbed with cement to about thirty inches above ground level. The
top was curbed over with cement except for an opening about twenty inches square at the center. Over
this opening was a wagon tire formed into a tall narrow arch. At the crown of the arch an eye bolt was
placed on which to hang the pulley. This well served the town for many years as an unfailing source of
water, through some of the worst droughts in the nation's history. Most notable being the dry years of the
1930's and the great drought of 1901. This is the one they say broke in the late autumn with a sleet storm
on dry dust and before spring an accumulation of sleet and snow almost three feet deep was reached.
Most small game starved to death that year, but that is another story. The old public well was hand dug
by a professional well digger named Uncle Jimony Williams sometime in the 1880's.
From where we are standing at the old public well, diagonally across the street from us on the opposite
corner is the L.W. Perry residence. Directly across the street from us is a comparatively new two story
house being only four years old at this time and belongs to Brady Stuart. On the same side of the street
as the well and next to it is another two story frame structure which is only about two years old at this
time and was built by my grandmother, Pearl Pierce, for a hotel.
There is a sidewalk on this side of the street made up of railroad ties placed end to end and the space
between filled with gravel which leads down to Main Street at the foot of Second. As we proceed down
Second Street toward Main we come to a sixteen foot alleyway and we can hear the ringing sound of a
blacksmith at work, for to our left, or looking east, is a blacksmith shop with doors opening on this
alley. This shop is owned by Felix East, one of Ravenden's blacksmiths who is also quite a hunter and
fisherman. I have seen as many as three large catfish hanging in those double doors at one time, and
though my young eyes may have magnified the picture, I would guess today that they averaged
thirty-five pounds each.
As we pause at this alleyway directly across Second Street is a large one-story barn-like structure with
large double doors in front facing Second Street. Faintly, but still legible, are letters painted on the doors
which I later learned spelled "Livery Stable". There are no horses or buggies at this time, as "Rec"
Moore runs a garage and taxi service from this building. Roads in the country aren't too good at this time
and automobiles aren't very plentiful. The salesmen and drummers use the local trains to towns along
the railroad and hire transportation to take them to the inland towns and outlying country stores. At this
time Rec" would pick up passengers at the local hotels in his Model-T" Ford taxi, complete with side
curtain and carry them to Ravenden Springs, Opposition, etc.
On our left as we continue on is a. vacant lot at this time, but a couple of years later, would be a
long warehouse belonging to R.L . Higginbotham and Sons of Ravenden Springs, who in the year of
1924 runs the general store on the corner of Second and Main. I have seen new Spring field farm
wagons parked end to end on each side of the street here between Main Street and Nettleton, and
Higginbotham sold them all. He also had a store in Ravenden Springs and had a good business. JQ Pond
came here from Maynard and either had a partnership with Higginbotham or worked for salary. I
remember some of the brand names of products sold in those days. Higginbotham sold "Fitsu" overalls
and Friedman Shelby shoes, while Ball and later Perry sold the Big Smith brand of men's wear and
Peters Dismond Brand shoes. Big Smith is still common but I haven't seen the '.Fitsu" brand name in
years. Every general store in those days had their own chicken coop out back, as they would take
chickens and eggs in trade for merchandise. Most families in small towns had their own chickens and a
milk cow in those days, but if they didn't, the local mer-chant would buy butter, chickens, and eggs from
the farmer and sell back to townspeople. This was before all the red tape of government regulations and
before the Food and Drug people became so concerned with our health.
Ravenden School Teachers I Have Known.
My first teacher was Lorene Perrin who taught grades from chart class through third grade. Pansy Engel
(formerly Pickett) taught grades four through seven. Bill Tipton, the upper grades and I believe this
inc1uded grades eight through ten.
4. Mrs. Vance Davnport
5. Mr. Vance Davenport
6. Mrs. Prichard of Maynard
7. Lela Pierce
8. Mrs. Pomeroy
9. Cleda Oldham
10. Flora Kosser
11. O.E. Matheny
12. Octavius Ball
13. Helen Ball
14. Don Penn
15. Joyce Hill
S. H. Kosser
Sam Ball died in 1918. He came to Ravenden from Opposition in the year 1883, where he had been in
business. He was in business at Ravenden for thirty-five years. Besides his farming, ginning, and
livestock interests, he carried in his store one of the most complete stocks of merchandise to be found
anywhere in those days. The late Rube Church told me that Sam Ball would buy anything a person had
to sell and had about anything in his store a person wanted to buy. Tons upon tons of cattle, sheep, and
hogs have gone to the nation's market places across Ball's scales and through the railroad stock pens at
Ravenden, besides thousands of pounds of cotton and also millions of board feat of timber products
which were loaded out here. However, I don't believe Ball dealt in timber products to speak of.
There was no stock law in those days. Farmers fenced their row crop and hay fields and the open range
was their pasture. There were thousands of acres of government and state lands. Cotton was "King back
then and these rolling hills were cleared and plowed up to be planted to cotton until they were washed
away and the once deep streams became silted in and reduced to a shallow trickle in some instances.
During those earlier days of open range, farmers would, many times, carry their cattle over for four or
five years and even longer. Ball would send his buyers out to scout the hill country and buy up cattle and
he had droves to bring them into his pens and feedlots. He had grain and hay from his bottom land
fields, so some were fattened before shipping. Others were sold directly off the range. Looking in any
direction in Ravenden was Ball land, and where Finander Clements's home is and the highway 63
right-of-way, was called the "Beef Lot Hill". Perhaps some of his beef wasn't fancy by today's standards,
but I have an idea they were cleaner, and he wasn't manipulated by commercial feed companies.
The Sam H. Ball residence was located on top of the hill, three blocks from the railroad. Located at
Tilden and Second Street. In fact, the home and surrounding grounds covered the entire block east of
Second Street between Tilden and Elm.
From the top story dormer windows you could look over all the Ball holdings on the left bank of Spring
River, however, he owned two farms on the west side. The L. D. Anderson property was part of the
vegetable garden and the Johnny Hamm home is on what was once the orchard. Across Second Street
from the residence, (to the west) was the barnlot. This covered the entire block between Third and
Second. Adjacent to this to the west was woods pasture which extended to the railroad. The barnlot
contained two large barns which sheltered the horses and milk cows as well as feed for them all. He
fattened and butchered his own beef and pork. There were smoke houses and storage places.
The old steel bridge over Spring River south of Ravenden was once the first
railroad bridge over Spring River three quarters of a mile east of Ravenden
on the Kansas City, Springfield and Memphis railroad. It was moved to it's
present location about 1903 or 1904 and known as the "Old County Bridge".
This bridge washed out (the flooring) during the August overflow of 1915.
When it was repaired, a five foot cap was poured on each of it's main piers
and the steel structure was raised above flood level. However the approach
on the north side or left bank has been damaged since that time by flood
Highway 63 was once routed over this bridge.
While it was in use as a railroad bridge, it is said that a railroad
brakeman standing up on top of a boxcar at night was struck on the head and
killed by the overhead superstructure as the train passed across it.
This story created quite a lot of superstition among our colored citizens of
those earlier days. Jim Nations lived in the Opposition community and he
wouldn't cross this bridge after dark.
During the era from about 1905 to 1915 there was a family living here by the
name of Albright. Mr. Albright ran a large mill manufacturing chair or
furniture stock and lumber for the manufacturing of wagons. Clear white oak
lumber was sawed out for the Springfield Wagon Co. of Springfield, Missouri.
The AIbright home was the house now known as the Aunt Lura Dail house now
owned by Helen Ball. Located at Second and Tilden.
The mill was located in block 7--that area approximately in back of where
the Ray Howell house now is and covering the area where Max Ellis trailer
home is now parked (1979).
The late Rube Church worked at this mill as did his brother-in-law, William
Griffing. They were the husband and brother of Gertie Griffing Church who
still resides at Ravenden. she lost a brother, Sam, who sustained injuries
and later died from a logging accident while logging for this mill.
Later on, in the era of the 1920's, a Mr. Crieghts ran a mill in this same
location, sawing barrel staves. I can remember this man. A portly gentleman
who constantly smoked cigars. I suppose the bite of hard times was
beginning to bother him in the days when I can remember him for he smoked
each one down to a stub, and then taking a little fine-bladed pen knife, he
continued to smoke the stub.
Long after he moved away, there was an old "Diamond T" truck with solid
rubber tires belonging to him parked on the lots approximately where Bessie
Ellis's garden now is. This was a relic of his milling days and kids have
spent hours shifting gears and pretending to drive this old truck.
Mr. Crieghts also ran an ice house at the foot of Second Street for a couple
of years during the early twenties. It was a small gable roofed.double
walled structure, walls insulated with sawdust and the ice was kept covered
in sawdust. It surely wasn't very profitable for it was discontinued after
a couple of years after which ice was shipped in by railway express again.
Later on Lindsey of Imboden delivered ice here and later yet, Charley
Mr. Crieghts's home was the old house across First Street from
L. D. Aderson's home.
Sam H. Ball
William J. Wilson
W. F. Blackwell
Robert Lee Higginbotham
J. Q. Pond
George H. Ball
Bro.-in-law of Robert Dail
Mitchell, husband of Mamie Dail
Sam H. B passed away in 1918, a year before I was born. His widow, Grandma Ball or Aunt "Mag" as
she was known during my childhood and youth was born Margarett Wells on April 12, 1854, the
daughter of Hugh or (Huey) Wells and though I'm not certain of this I believe her was a Bridges. The
Huey Wells farm was located in Randolph county on the east side or left bank of Spring River about 3/4
of a mile below the mouth of Janes creek and is known today as the SloanRainwater farm. Margaret
Wells received this farm as an inheritance from her father. Margarett Wells was married to a man by the
name of Williford before marrying Sam Ball and by this union there was a daughter named "Willie" and
she married a man by the name of Janes and became the mother of Comora, Frank, Rena and Paul
Janes, all former residents of Ravenden. Joann Simington and Louise Szabo of this community are
great-great granddaughters of Grandma Ball. It has been said that Sam Ball up until the time he married
Margaret Williford had been a country school teacher and owned a store in Opposition, but upon acquiring
her inheritance had the drive and "know how" to run it into a considerable fortune.
Turner Wells bought the Randolph county farm from Sam Ball and Margarett
Grandma Ball and her son Luther lived in the first story of the old Ball mansion during my childhood
and youth in Ravenden, while her youngest son Millard and his family occupied the second story. There
was a long winding outside stairway leading to their home and this stairway was located on the north
side of the house.
Grandma Ball was a tall gaunt woman, very stately and showed the pioneer stock of which she was.
My dad, Robert Francis Pierce grew up in Ravenden and though he was a few years younger than
Millard Ball they grew up together so to speak. My dad once said to me that Millard Ball was one man
who was absolute fearless, and I know he must have inherited a great lot of this from his mother.
To picture her character I will pass to you this little anecdote as told to me by my Grandmother Pierce
and she received it from the lips of Mrs. Ball.
Mrs. Ball had discovered that someone was entering their home through the kitchen and were raiding
the pantry. The kitchen was located on the east side toward where your house now stands. Mrs. Ball
relayed this information to Sam H. Ball and he didn't immediately become interested. It happened a
second time and she decided to catch the culprit. she had a beautiful pearl-handled .32 caliber revolver,
so she put a cot in the hallway just off the kitchen and started sleeping there. After several days had
passed she was awakened one night by the burglar. Of course there were no light switches to flick on in
those days, but she could see him well in the moonlight and recognized him. She waited until he had
filled his sack and then stepped out and apprehended him. She told him if he was hungry to take the bag
and go, but never to enter my house like this again. "If you're hungry, there is work to be done. Go, and
I'll never mention your name if you leave me alone."
At the time Mrs. Ball told my grandmother the story, she said the man was living here, but she never
revealed his name.
Margarett Ball died March 6, 1946.
It would be interesting to know what became of all the old heirlooms of the Ball family, such as her gun
just mentioned, old clocks, etc. I suppose almost everything went up for auction after her death but
Luther and Lillian probably held onto many items.
John R. Dail or Bob", the present postmaster in this year of 1979, is
number eleven and is the only living one of Ravenden's postmasters. He and his predecessor have held
the office forty seven of the ninety-six years the office has been in existence.
The present postoffice building was dedicated on November 1, 1959. Wilbur D. Mills made the dedication speech. Before this, the postoffice
was operated from various rental buildings along first street and main St.
Ravenden's old public well was located on the northeast corner of Nettleton and Second Street. This
well was hand dug in the early 1880's by a professional well digger by the name of James Williams,
called "Uncle Jimmie". This well was approximately forty-five feet deep and was an exceptionally
strong stream of water. Very steady and unfailing, even in those terrible drought years of 1901, 1930,
etc. Many homes in the town didn't have private wells in those days, and I have seen folks line up here
for water on wash days.
The railroad section crews also used the well. It was curled to a height of about 5 feet with cement, and
opening about twenty inches square at the top. An arch made from an iron wagon tire with a pulley hung
at the crown for drawing water and a rope usually furnished by one of the local merchants. There was
never a pump in this well.
The well was condemned by the state board of health about 1955, and the town had it filled.
Occasionally some one who hasn't been here in several years drives by looking for the old well. It
became an old landmark over the years.
On September 14, 1901, D.C. Wells and twenty seven other citizens and qualified voters of the Town of Ravenden in Thacker Township came forward with a petition asking the court for the incorporation of the town of Ravenden.
On October l7, 1901 the courts ordered the territory which was described, to be known as the incorporated Town of Ravenden. The Town had a population of about 250 people at this time Sept 14, 1901.
I wonder if SloanHendrix still has the records of Ravenden public School?
It would be interesting to know the names of all the old teachers. If you find out before I do let me
know. May have to go to the court house in Walnut Ridge.
After the Ball cotton gin was destroyed by fire in 1929, the old Ball store building was gutted by fire. L.
W. Perry bought this property and rebuilt the building about the year 1930. An old brick and stone
mason by the name of Otto Crouch did the brick work. I remember this because he is the man that
damaged my new straw hat of that summer. We kids were playing inside the construction site during
working hours after he had told us to go away. I walked under his scaffold after the wall had become
quite high and he dumped a trowel full of mortar on my head ruining my new hat.
L. W. Perry, who had been a barber in Ravenden and later ran a grocery store, after buying the Ball
property reopened a large general store on the same location and operated a very profitable business all
during the depression years of the thirties. L. W. Perry knew how to run a store during those days. The
store carried a large and complete stock of merchandise and it was quality merchandise. The store
wasn't orderly so he kept his overhead down. The merchandise was quality and the service was
courteous. The banks had most all gone broke just prior to this and Perry did a sort of banking business.
That is, cashing of checks, etc. There were some veteran's checks in those days as checks for timber
products being sold here and farmers checks for live-stock sales. Perry's banking, or much of it, was
done with a bank roll in one pocket and a 38 in another. I sometimes hear it said that someone could
have robbed him had they wanted to. Yes, that is true, and Nazi Germany could have overrun Switzerland, but they didn't. Hitler's military advisers told him they could conquer Switzerland
but the prize wasn't worth the price. In Perry's day there weren't a bunch of half-crazed dope addicts
roaming the country with a habit to feed. Anyone who pulled off a robbery in those days coldly analyzed
the situation and pulled it off as smoothly as possible. It would have been poor consolation to the third
party of 3 three man crew to knock over a small town store for a few thousand dollars and only have two
men left to spend it.
Perry accommodated the public and he expected the public to accommodate him in return. The veteran
could cash his check there if he would take a part of it in trade. Likewise, the tie hauler, the bolt cutter,
and the logger. The farmer could make his crop out of Perry's store if he was reliable, but he must pay
up in the Fall. When a debtor paid up in those days, if the account was a sizable one, they received a
token of appreciation: a pocket knife, a pair of shoes, overalls, etc., plus a cigar to sit down with and
smoke behind the big cast iron stove.
A person could buy about anything he wanted at Perry's store. Anything from a plow point to a coil for a
Model-T Ford. If the product you wanted wasn't in the store, he would order it for you. He could
measure you for a tailored suit of clothes, fit guaranteed. As I've mentioned previously, everything was
name brands and quality. Even the fresh produce was better quality than the produce sold in our super
markets of today. I remember those giant, red delicious apples, grapes, oranges and nuts sold there
during the holiday seasons. I know the growers must still produce grade A fancy produce, but I often
wonder who gets it. You just don't find it on the shelves of our markets. But the price is fancy at the
Perry's stock of merchandise was fully as complete as Ball's, and he carried many things Ball had never
heard of because he was in business during the age of the automobile and carried a fairly good supply of
parts and accessories. Perry was in business at Ravenden longer than any of it's other merchants. He was
in business in the same location for well over forty years, having had a grocery store on Main Street before this and also was the town barber at one time. Altogether he must have been in
business at Ravenden for nearly sixty years.
Perry made money while in business at Ravenden. Although he didn't own the cotton gin, nor deal
extensively in livestock, as his predecessor, he acquired much property in and around Ravenden,
farmland and timberland, and was the leading man of this area in his day.
L.W.Perry passed on in ________
His mortal remains were interred in Randolph Memorial Gardens, East Pocahontas, Arkansas.
L.W. Perry was born in ______________, Kentucky, moved to Arkansas Lived in and around Ravenden
Springs, before moving to Ravenden.
The "Thank yous" for this page go to Sherry for all of her typing and submitting this to the Randolph County Mailing List.
to Nancy's Lawrence County Corner