Chalybeate Springs (Stone County)
Chalybeate Springs (a.k.a. Chalybeate) is located in the township of Arbana about three and a half miles southwest of Pleasant Grove (Stone County) and about eleven miles southeast of Mountain View (Stone County), the county seat. The community is south of Misenheimer Road, near the confluence of Chalybeate Spring Creek and Little Raccoon Creek, off Tuttle Ridge Road. The locals pronounce the name of the community “Clee’-bit.”
Chalybeate Spring is located at the foot of the Boston Mountains about two miles to the east of the Chalybeate community. It forms the waters of one of the small tributaries of Coon Creek, which flows into the Devil’s Fork of the Little Red River. Water from the spring was believed to have healing power and to cure all types of ailments. According to local historian Martin M. Martin, Chalybeate is an archaic term for “salts of iron,” and this spring has a high iron content, specifically carbonate of iron (FeCO3). There are three springs at Chalybeate Springs, and the Chalybeate Spring was once known as Bon Air Spring. (“Bon air” is an archaic expression meaning gentle or yielding.) This spring is the only one of the three used for medicinal purposes. The water from the spring was first collected by T. C. Hopkins on December 18, 1891, and analyzed by A. E. Menke.
The Osage were in the hills when French and Spanish explorers first entered the wilderness. The Cherokee began arriving in the Ozarks around 1817. At the invitation of the Cherokee, Shawnee from the Ohio River Valley entered the Ozarks and settled west of the White River on Crooked Creek, with their main settlement at Shawneetown, modern-day Yellville (Marion County). The Cherokee may have expected the Shawnee to aid them against the Osage. Shawnee villages could also be found in the Livingston and Sylamore Creek valleys along the White River and along Bear Creek in Searcy County. Chalybeate Spring may have been utilized by the Osage and later the Cherokee and Shawnee.
When Stone County was formed in 1873, few settlers lived in the Chalybeate Springs region, which was still virtually a wilderness. Wild game was plentiful, but the soil was too poor and rocky for extensive farming. The few who lived in the area had mainly settled near the Chalybeate Spring. A post office was established by the U.S. Postal Service at Bon Air in 1890, but it closed in 1891. George Monroe Mullens was the only postmaster. Following the closing of the post office, Mullens and his family left Stone County and moved to the Choctaw Nation in Indian Territory. By 1899, the township of Chalybeate Springs had been created, and the name Bon Air fell into disuse. The historic community of Bothersome (Stone County), about one and one half miles southeast of Chalybeate, had a post office from 1916 to 1920. The nearby Kahoka Post Office served the area from 1898 until 1955. Twenty-first century Chalybeate has a Mountain View address.
One of the first natural resources to attract settlers was timber. As the community was located in a virtually untouched wilderness region of the Ozarks, timber was abundant. One of the first timbermen to build a home for his family in Chalybeate Springs was Nicholas (Nick) Marion Fortune. Fortune, a widower, married Mary Thomas “Molly” Heath in Tennessee in 1879, packed up their belongings, and headed for Arkansas. By the 1900 census, the family lived in Chalybeate Springs on a farm, and Nick Fortune was working in the timber. Nearby Fortune Point is named for him and his family. Fortune and his brother Robert Lafayette Fortune had served under Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest during the Civil War as privates in Company C, Eighteenth Regiment, Tennessee Cavalry. Fortune and his wife are buried in the Chalybeate Cemetery.
By the 1920s, the Russ Grocery Store on the mountain at Chalybeate Springs was open, with Charles Wilshire Russ as proprietor. Russ was a widower, and his son Edward helped him run the store; Russ died in 1931, and he and his wife, Mary Adeline “Ida” Stout Russ, are buried in Chalybeate Cemetery. Their daughter Mary Frances Russ married William Walter “Will” Fortune, son of Nick Fortune, the timberman. Charles Russ’s father, Hezekiah Russ, had been disabled in the Civil War from a hand wound and a fall from a mule while serving as a private in the Fifty-third Indiana Regiment in the Union army.
A noted citizen of the area was Harold Morrow Sherman from Michigan, a popular author and lecturer in the fields of self-help and extrasensory perception (ESP). In 1947, he and his wife settled in an old house located in the woods on 140 acres near Chalybeate Spring. He wrote about his love for Stone County and believed the isolation and seclusion would promote his writing and psychic powers. Sherman teamed with Timbo (Stone County) folk musician Jimmy Driftwood in the 1950s and 1960s to write a never-produced musical and a never-aired television pilot shot in the Mountain View area called “The Amazing Adventures of My Dog Sheppy.” Sherman helped bring paved roads and electricity to Stone County, as well as helping Driftwood receive federal funding for the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View and the nearby Blanchard Springs Caverns.
Only a few people live in Chalybeate today. Micro Tech Instruments Incorporated on Wilmonden Road is the only business of note. As Chalybeate is located close to Mountain View, most residents work and shop in that town. Arbana Baptist Church and the Shady Lawn Mennonite Church are the only churches for the community. Chalybeate, with an elevation of 1,287 feet, proved a suitable location for a KWOZ-FM radio tower. Owl Holler and Hub Chute Hollow are popular with local wildlife enthusiasts.
For additional information:
“Chalybeate Springs Township, 1910 Census.” Heritage of Stone 8, no. 2 (1981).
George C. Branner, State Geologist, State of Arkansas, Arkansas Geological Survey. “Data on Springs in Arkansas,” Compiled Under the Direction of George C. Branner, Little Rock, 1937. https://www.geology.arkansas.gov/docs/pdf/water/springs-in-arkansas.pdf (accessed September 11, 2020).
Harold Morrow Sherman Collection. University of Central Arkansas Archives and Special Collections, Conway, Arkansas.
Van Buren, Arkansas
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Robert Lafayette Fortune was my great-great-grandfather. Records that I have indicate that he was part of the Hardeman County (TN) Avengers during the Civil War.