Maguiretown (Washington County)
In 1836, Owen Maguire purchased land in Richland Township at the site of a ford crossing the White River. Prior to 1840, he built a one and a half–story single-pen log house fronting on the Huntsville Road. The general store, a log school that doubled as a church, and the blacksmith shop he established at this site were referred to as Maguire’s Store. Thomas Towler manufactured plug tobacco here in the 1840s and 1850s. After Maguire’s death in 1846, his sons, Green and Hosea, were proprietors of the store. On October 8, 1853, a post office was established under the name of Maguire’s Store, with Hosea Maguire serving as the postmaster. In spite of the fact the town never had a population over 100 people, it became the leading commercial and cultural center between Fayetteville (Washington County) and Huntsville (Madison County).
The correspondence of officers and enlisted men show that there was military activity in the area during the Civil War. Major General Thomas C. Hindman, a Confederate officer, noted in his official reports that, in October 1862, his infantry was “at McGuire’s (sic) about 10 miles south of Fayetteville, on the road to Ozark.” A few days later, he wrote that he intended “to take position at McGuire’s (sic) Store… there being considerable wheat and forage and two mills in that vicinity.” He later notes that the mills were lost when Union troops reached Maguire’s.
Benjamin Franklin Williams, a country doctor, purchased Maguire’s log house after the Civil War and expanded it with a frame addition that served as his doctor’s office. In 1867, Williams was listed as the postmaster for what was, by then, called Maguiretown. The post office was housed in the hallway of the Williams’s home. The school and church building was replaced with a frame structure. In the 1870s, Hosea Maguire built a two-story brick store across Huntsville Road. The store served as a stagecoach stop, and a Masonic lodge was established on the upper level of the store. Agriculture continued as the primary industry.
Maguiretown was home to two nineteenth-century state legislators. Hosea Maguire, a Democrat who became one of Washington County’s most affluent merchants and landowners, was elected to the state legislature in the mid-1880s and served until his death on July 23,1888. Tax records reveal that his greatest wealth was achieved in the post–Civil War years. Benjamin Franklin Williams served two terms in the legislature in the 1890s.
In the early days of the twentieth century, the St. Paul Branch of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad was constructed on the opposite side of the White River from Maguiretown, bypassing it. This led to the gradual decline of the town. Presently, it remains as a small unincorporated residential community.
The house built by Owen Maguire and expanded by Williams still stands beside the Huntsville Road (now State Highway 74) and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. Tree-ring analysis of the log section revealed that the logs were cut in 1838. The 1870s two-story frame house built by Hosea Maguire can be seen across the road. Archaeologists have located the sites of the school and church building, the blacksmith shop, and the brick store.
For additional information:
Santeford, Larry. “Maguire’s Store, Part I.” Flashback 43, no. 2 (1993): 5–16.
———. “Maguire’s Store, Part Two.” Flashback 43, no. 3 (1993): 1–11.
———. “ Maguire’s Store, Part III.” Flashback 43, no. 4 (1993): 2–12.
Meldrum, Marceline Cambell. “Benjamin Franklin Williams.” Flashback 36 no.4 (1986): 26–30.
Giles, Juel Benbrook Hamblen. “Maguire Town.” Flashback 36, no. 4 (1986): 31–40.
The History of Washington County, Arkansas. Springdale, AR: Shiloh Museum, 1989.
Joan L. Gould
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