Fallsville (Newton County)
Fallsville is an unincorporated community in Boston Township in the southwestern corner of Newton County. The community was also historically called Loafer’s Glory, a nickname applied to several sites in the broader Appalachian region that were known for being places of meeting and informal discussion; in Arkansas, the community of Morning Star (Searcy County) has also sometimes been known as Loafer’s Glory.
Population estimates from various gazetteers, business directories, and newspapers have ranged from ten to 100 at various points in the community’s history. The 1898–1899 R. L. Polk’s Arkansas State Gazetteer and Business Directory listed Fallsville’s population at fifty, with commercial enterprises and services including distillers, a druggist, general stores, two lawyers, a blacksmith, masons, a flour mill, a wagonmaker, a physician, and a photographer. The community’s photographer was Mary E. Roberts, who later married John W. Patton, also of Fallsville, and subsequently practiced in nearby Catalpa (Johnson County) under her married name.
The Fallsville post office was established on June 27, 1883, with Alexander Dixon as the inaugural postmaster. Dixon gave the community its name based on the area’s topography; as explained by resident Mrs. Virgil Martin when interviewed by Eric Allen of the Arkansas Gazette in 1972, the name is derived from “[t]he fact that water ran in one direction off falls leading toward the Buffalo and off falls leading in another direction toward Mulberry River.”
In August 1900, the Arkansas Democrat ran an anonymous poem titled “Loafers’ Glory,” which included lines such as “’Tis called ‘a town’ and it may be, / Though but by backwoods courtesy.” This poem boasted that the town “has three stores that long have been / A Mecca for the traveling men; / A blacksmith shop, a restaurant, / Where cans are plenty, meat is scant, / A tiny church, a small hotel / Marked by a cracked and aged bell.” The poet’s fears of progress and industry destroying the bucolic nature of Fallsville never materialized; in fact, it may have been written at the pinnacle of the community’s population and commerce.
Fallsville has been home to small-scale farming and lumber operations. A community sawmill was operated by Thomas T. Moore, also a preacher and justice of the peace, in the 1920s. In the early 1900s, the community was home to at least two fraternal organizations: the Mountain Hall Lodge of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons and the Fallsville Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Corporal John Henry Pruitt of Fallsville was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1918.
On January 4, 1922, the community was struck by a deadly tornado. The U.S. Weather Bureau reported three deaths and at least $2,000 in damages.
For much of the community’s history, the post office was at its center, and often the postmaster ran an adjacent business of some kind; in the 1890s, postmaster John F. Lewis also ran a general store, as did W. C. Ryker in the 1910s, the Sutherlands in the 1940s, and the Ashlocks in the 1950s. Other postmasters, including Fallsville’s first, sought extra income. In 1887, postmaster Alexander Dixon and his son, mail rider Ira Dixon, were arrested and jailed for tampering with registered mail. In 1926, postmaster James S. “Fiddlin’ Jim” Davidson fled his post following allegations of theft of blank money orders and government funds; he was eventually captured, tried, and convicted in California.
Between 1927 and 1928, Fallsville’s commercial district was relocated about two miles north of its original site in order be closer to the newly constructed Highway 21. Subsequently, the original town site (where Case Cemetery still stands) has sometimes been referred to as Old Fallsville, and the new site (around what became the intersection of Highway 16 and Highway 21) as New Fallsville. In the late 1940s, the Fallsville Canning Company was in operation in the community.
On May 31, 1955, in a year in which at least ten rural Newton County post offices were shuttered, the Fallsville post office closed.
Though never home to a large population, Fallsville has occasionally been host to large events; in the late nineteenth and early to mid-twentieth centuries, several large picnics were held in Fallsville, drawing speakers and attendees from around the state; the St. Paul Republican reported an attendance of around 2,000 at a summer 1889 picnic. More recently, in July 2007, around 6,000 members of the counter-culture group Rainbow Family of Living Light attended the group’s annual Gathering of the Tribes on U.S. Forest Service land in Fallsville.
For additional information:
Allen, Eric. “Fallsville Was Site of ‘Loafer’s Glory.’” Arkansas Gazette, September 3, 1972, p. 70.
Lackey, Walter F. History of Newton County, Arkansas. Independence, MO: Zion’s Print and Pub. Co., 1950.
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
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