Dr. James Wyatt Walton House
The house of Dr. James Wyatt Walton at 301 West Sevier Street in Benton (Saline County) is one of the oldest homes in Saline County. However, the Walton House’s historical importance, unlike the more elaborate and much older Gann House, is tied to both its architect and the family it housed for many years.
The Walton House was designed by famous Arkansas architect Charles Thompson of Little Rock (Pulaski County) in early 1902. Construction of the house was finished by Thompson’s contractor John S. Odum in April 1903. Thompson’s firm also designed the Saline County Courthouse just up the street from the Walton House. Dr. James Wyatt Walton is often called the county’s first doctor. In truth, he was the first to be recognized as Saline County’s first official “health officer” but was not its first medical doctor. He was also a founding member of the Saline County Medical Society.
James Wyatt Walton was born on January 23, 1863, in Traskwood (Saline County). His father, James Walton, who had settled in the area in 1860, reportedly died in a skirmish near Atlanta, Georgia, during the Civil War, leaving his wife, Angelina Poe Walton (a distant relative of famed writer Edgar Allan Poe), and their two children alone. After his mother’s death in 1866, James Wyatt Walton then went to live with his maternal grandparents until the death of his grandfather, Simon B. Poe of North Carolina, in 1874. After living for a time with his paternal grandmother on her farm in Grant County, he returned to Benton in 1883 to finish high school.
Walton graduated with a degree in medicine from the Medical Department of Arkansas Industrial University (which later became the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences—UAMS—in Little Rock) and became a partner of Dr. D. N. Fisher in Benton. In 1896, Walton did his postgraduate work at what eventually became the University of Chicago. Walton was instrumental in the creation of Saline County’s first medical society, and, as its first health officer, he specialized in the treatment of typhoid and malaria, among other diseases of the time. He was known to commute long distances to make house calls for his most seriously ill patients and was a much loved and respected physician in Arkansas until his death in April 1928.
The Walton House is two stories tall and covered with yellow clapboard siding. The high-hipped roof has five two-story gabled projections with stained-glass windows. The first story has a wraparound porch with elaborate wooden columns that support the second story. There are three types of windows on the Walton House: single, double-hung one-over-one-light windows; paired, double-hung one-over-one-light windows; and triple, double-hung one-over-one-light windows with arched transoms of stained glass. Some of the windows feature three panes of stained glass with an arched transom above three separate panes of glass. One major alteration was done to the Walton House sometime before the 1940s, when a two-story cone-roofed cupola was removed from the original structure after being damaged by a storm. The kitchen was expanded as well, which involved the removal of an interior wall. Other than that, the house remains much as it was at its completion in 1903.
In 1976, the home of Dr. Walton was still in the possession of his descendants. In 1998, the house was purchased by the Channel family, who continue to reside there in the twenty-first century. The Dr. James Wyatt Walton House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 22, 1977.
For additional information:
“Dr. James W. Walton, Benton Physician, Is Dead.” Arkansas Gazette, April 19, 1928, p. 12.
Smith, Judy. “Walton House is a Benton Landmark.” Benton Courier, October 28, 1976, p. 5.
Taylor, Sandra. “Dr. James Wyatt Walton House.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/SA0030.nr.pdf (accessed September 1, 2020).
Cody Lynn Berry
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Last Updated: 09/01/2020