Thursday, July 14, 2011

A History of Izard County: Mount Pleasant

In the July, 1970 edition of the Izard County Historian, Craig Ogilvie wrote: "Which early settlement in Izard County was the social and culture center? Most old timers will tell you that it was Barren Fork, which is now called Mount Pleasant, and is situated on the southern edge of Izard County."

Today, Mount Pleasant is far from being considered the "social and culture center" of Izard County but it's history has much to teach us about the attitudes and ambitions of the early citizens of Izard County. In light of last Sunday's excellent presentation by Mr. Ogilvie at the Izard County Historical & Genalogical Society's 2011 Summer Meeting, we will be including Karr Shannon's notes about the little town in this mid-week post. After we look at Karr Shannon's work, we'll share a little more from Craig Ogilvies article in the July 1970 Historian.

Mr. Shannon writes in his 1947 book, A History of Izard County:

The Place

"This place was first called Barren Fork and a post office was established by that same name May 25, 1876, Milton L. Shaver was the first postmaster. According to R. M. Thompson, that part of the county was actually pretty barren at that time. A fork of Polk Bayou was a mile to the east, and a fork of Lafferty Creek was about two and one-half miles to the west.

"The town was also nicknamed "Dry Town," an appellation with no Eighteenth Amendment significance, said Mr. Thompson, but it was so called because only a few wells were dug by the early settlers, who depended entirely upon cisterns for their water.

"Young ladies sometimes change the destinies of towns as well as of men - and that's what happened to Barren fork. When Miss M.E. Moore went to Jackson, Mississippi, to attend school, the students asked her if the place where she lived was really barren. When she came home, she had her father, O.P. Moore, a prominent man there, to circulate a petition for a change of name. The post office was changed to its present name October 29, 1914, and Helen R. Bone was the first to serve as postmaster under the new name. A.L. McSpadden is the present postmaster.

"This place has a wide reputation as a school town, and was one of the old Academy towns of the state. Near the close of the last century people came here from many parts of the state for school purposes. Many of them boarded. It now has one of the most beautiful high school buildings in North Arkansas.

"Mt. Pleasant also has the distinction of being the only town in the county ever to maintain a hospital. The town is strongly Presbyterian. In 1928 the Woman's Board of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., with some donations from the community, built and equipped a modern hospital here. It had a wide patronage and operated until 1941 when it was discontinued. The school district bought the building and furnishings were removed to a Presbyterian health center at Cotton Plant.

"A gymnasium and community hall were erected near the school plant in 1931 with community donations and a grant from the Board of National Missions of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., and is operated by the church for the benefit of the community and school."
*       *       *       *       *       *

"Soon after the close of the Civil War the citizens of Izard County came to see the need of higher education ans as a result two academies were very successfully conducted for a number of years at Old Philadelphia and LaCrosse. Also some academic work was carried on at Mt. Pleasant, then Barren Fork, for about twelve years, supervised chiefly by I.K. Hooper."

The People

"Dr. L. T.  Evans of Batesville is present president of the Arkansas Medical Association and one of the leading physicians of north Arkansas. He was born at Mt. Pleasant."

"Dr. Tasso Edwards, born at Mt. Pleasant, has been practicing dentistry at Bald Knob for many years."

*      *      *      *      *      *

Karr Shannon focused mainly on prominent citizens from around the county in the Biography section of his book. The main spotlight was on politicians and merchants from the two largest cities, Calico Rock and Melbourne. Only two references were made to native Mount Pleasant men.

Craig Ogilvie continues in the July issue of the Izard County Historical & Genealogical Society's Izard County Historian (Volume 1 Number 3):

In that period of time just before the outbreak of the War between the States, several new settlements began appearing across the infant county of Izard.
According to my information, the Bone family was one of the earliest to locate in the Poke Bayou area of the county. They settled near the head of the Bayou. about three miles from the present Mt. Pleasant. Others settling in the area very early included the Rudolphs, Albrights, Shavers, Youngers, McSpaddens, Morrows, Edwards, Evans, Conyers , Johnsons, Winkles, Ivys, and Suttles.
Bill Shaver is thought to have established the first trading post on the present site of the town. The Shaver log cabin, once used as a post office, still stands and is considered one of the oldest homes in the area.
Barren Fork was so named because a fork of Poke Bayou, called Barren Fork Creek is nearby. An at-tempt was made to start a trading post on the creek, hut it proved unsuccessful and the little village of Barren Fork began to grow.
in its Confederate ranks. Some men, whose sympathy did not lie with the Southern Cause, traveled to Rolla, Missouri, and formed a Union Company, under Captain L. D. Toney.
The only large battle fought around Barren Fork was the one for survival. Many soldiers did not return home after the war and everyone was destitute.
The post war period lasted many years for Barren Fork, but finally it began to grow again. The post office was established in May 25, 1876, with Milton L. Shaver serving as the first postmaster.

"The town experienced its boom years in the early 1900s. The Main Street consisted of over a dozen businesses, including a bank and hotel. The once famous Barren Fork Academy overlooked the town from a nearby hill to the east.

"The Main Street was very bad to wash away during big rains and this resulted finally in all the stores being left “high and dry”. In the twenties the store porches were as much as five feet above street level."

Next Week - Sage, Zion, Antioch, and Battles


Al-Ozarka said...

I find it amusing here that even two of the most well-respected historians of Izard County disagree on the name of the stream that begins near Stella and empties into the White River just above the bridge at Batesville. I've seen it referred to on maps as both "Poke" and "Polk" Bayou and I've also read historical accounts using both names. I am convinced that it is "Poke Bayou" and it is sometimes confused with Polk Mountain in Izard County.

Barneymax said...

What a great!! website!! I went to school in Mt. Pleasant and I remember some of the names in the article. Billy Mc Spadden was a classmate of mine and is probably related to the now Postmaster. R.E and J.T. Evans were also classmates and are probably related to Dr. Evans. I remember when I was a boy, my Aunt Estel Finley would catch a couple of chickens, give them to My cousin Billy Dale Finley and I and we would take them to Boone's Store ( a mile or so from their house) and trade the chickens for two pairs of shoes!!! Must have been just prior to school because we never wore shoes in the summer, just winter. MY GOD!!! THE MEMORIES!!!!
Kindest Regards,
Charles Max (Barney) Reeves

Al-Ozarka said...

Mr. Reeves, thanks for that. We love hearing the memories! Feel free to share them anytime!