Entries - Time Period: Post-Reconstruction through the Gilded Age (1875 - 1900) - Starting with B

Bachman, Joseph

Joseph Bachman is widely recognized as Arkansas’s leading developer of grape varieties. During his career, he received national and international attention for his development of grape vines, winning several awards and supplying cuttings and plants to numerous nurseries. Joseph Bachman was born in 1853 in Lucerne, Switzerland. Little is known about his childhood, including his family, education, and early career. According to immigration records, Bachman arrived in New York on May 9, 1878, on a ship that had departed Le Havre, France, earlier that year. By 1881, following the advice of his relatives, Bachman had settled in the town of Altus (Franklin County), where many of his other countrymen resided. He held a wide array of occupations, serving as the …

Back-to-Africa Movement

The Back-to-Africa Movement mobilized thousands of African-American Arkansans who wished to leave the state for the Republic of Liberia in the late 1800s. Approximately 650 emigrants left from Arkansas, more than from any other American state, in the 1880s and 1890s, the last phase of organized group migration of black Americans to Liberia. As early as 1820, black Americans had begun to return to their ancestral homeland through the auspices of the American Colonization Society (ACS), an organization headquartered in Washington DC, which arranged transportation and settlement. The ACS founded the Republic of Liberia in 1847, with its flag and constitution emulating American models, and nearly 13,000 redeemed slaves and free blacks had settled there before the Civil War. With …

Bailey, James (Lynching of)

On July 9, 1891, James Bailey was hanged from a railroad crossing sign in Beebe (White County) for allegedly attacking a white woman. There is very little information available on Bailey. The only African American named James Bailey in White County at the time of the 1880 census was five years old. He was living in West Point Township with his mother, Fannie, and five siblings. If this is the correct James Bailey, he would have been only sixteen years old at the time of the lynching. The alleged victim was a Mrs. Folsom. There was still a Folsom family in Beebe at the time of the 1900 census. Henry Folsom, a forty-five-year-old day laborer, was living with his wife …

Baker House

Located at 109 5th Street in North Little Rock (Pulaski County), the Queen Anne–style Baker House was constructed in 1897 by A. E. Colburn. The structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as one of the last surviving Victorian houses in North Little Rock. This Victorian home was constructed in 1897 (completed by 1898), according to Arkansas Gazette articles in late 1896 and early 1897, by A. E. Colburn and Henry Glenn. The home is approximately 4,156 square feet in the twenty-first century, having undergone renovations and had a cottage added. Henry Glenn was a native of Little Rock (Pulaski County) and a contractor. Colburn was a native of Little Rock as well. Some sources incorrectly claim …

Baker, Eugene (Lynching of)

On July 30, 1892, Eugene Baker (sometimes referred to as Dan Baker), who allegedly murdered a white man in Ashley County, was taken from the jail in Monticello (Drew County) by a mob and lynched just outside of town. According to the 1880 census, seven-year-old Eugene Baker was living at that time in White Township, Ashley County, with his parents, Henry and Mary Baker. This would have made him nineteen at the time of the lynching. Baker had five siblings, and both of his parents worked on a farm. Neither could read or write. According to newspaper reports, Baker, an African American, was abused by whitecappers in Ashley County. Whitecappers, also called nightriders, were vigilante bands, usually consisting of poor …

Bandini, Pietro

Father Pietro Bandini is most widely remembered in Arkansas for the 1898 founding of Tontitown (Washington County), located in the northwest corner of the state, which he named after Henry de Tonti, an Italian explorer who established, with René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the first European settlement in Arkansas in 1686. However, the founding of Tontitown is but a regional capstone on a life spent working for the betterment of Italian immigrant communities in the nation. Bandini was born on March 31, 1852, in Forli, which is in the Romagna region of Italy. Little is known about Bandini’s family, described as of the upper class and refined. He is known to have had two older brothers, one of whom …

Bank of Malvern Building

The Bank of Malvern building is a historic structure located at 212 South Main Street in Malvern (Hot Spring County). Constructed in 1889, the building was renovated in 1896 after a fire. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 13, 1987. The Bank of Malvern was founded on June 4, 1889, and received a charter from the state on June 24. The bank prospered in the growing town and survived multiple so-called panics and economic downturns, leaving it the oldest chartered bank in the state by the mid-twentieth century. Founded by O. M. Nilsen and F. M. Smith, the bank was housed in a two-story building on the site of the present structure. The second …

Baring Cross Bridge

The Baring Cross Bridge is located in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) over the Arkansas River at river mile 166.2. It is the western-most bridge of the six bridges spanning the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock. The first Baring Cross Bridge, the first bridge built across the Arkansas River, opened in 1873. In the 1850s and 1860s, the Cairo and Fulton Railroad Company (C&F) developed two divisions north and south of the Arkansas River. Before the bridge was constructed, the railroad company used ferries to transport equipment, people, animals and commercial freight across the river. Ferries, however, were slow and had a limited amount of cargo space, which caused frequent backups in service. Also, cargo was lost in ferry …

Barlow Hotel

The Barlow Hotel at 102 South Elm Street in Hope (Hempstead County) was, for more than seventy-five years, the city’s most popular lodging and dining venue, as well as its most sought-after meeting and banquet facility. The Barlow was built as the Lamar Hotel by local merchant J. C. McKee and opened in 1886, ten years after the town’s founding. It initially sought to attract a clientele dominated by railroad passengers, as Hope was built around what would become two major railroad junctions: the north-south Louisiana and Arkansas line (now Kansas City Southern) and the east-west Cairo and Fulton (now Union Pacific). In 1886, M. H. Barlow, a hardware merchant who hailed from Cory, Pennsylvania, was persuaded that the hotel, …

Battle, Burrill Bunn

Burrill Bunn Battle was a prominent Arkansas attorney and jurist in the latter decades of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century. Although he was born in Mississippi, his family moved to Arkansas when he was a child, and it was there that he embarked on a legal career that culminated in a twenty-five-year tenure on the Arkansas Supreme Court. Burrill B. Battle was born on October 24, 1838, in Hinds County in Mississippi. His parents, Joseph Battle and Nancy Stricklin Battle, were native North Carolinians, but when Battle was six, the family relocated to Arkansas, settling in Lafayette County, where he received his early education. From there, Battle attended Arkansas College in Fayetteville (Washington County), …

Bearden Lynching of 1893

On May 9, 1893, three African Americans were lynched in Bearden (Ouachita County) for what was called a “murderous assault” on Jesse Norman, a prosperous young businessman. At midnight on Saturday, May 6, Jesse Norman was hit over the head with an axe and robbed. The victim was probably the Jessie J. Norman listed in the 1880 census, thirteen years before the event. In 1880, he was nine years old and was living with his parents Eleazer (variously spelled Elezer and Elesa) Norman and Panthaia (variously spelled Panttairer and Panthier) Norman in Union Township of Ouachita County; his parents were still living in the county in 1900. According to the Arkansas Gazette, Norman’s skull was crushed with an axe, and …

Beavers, William and Henry (Lynchings of)

In 1890 and 1892, brothers William and Henry Beavers—both African American—were lynched near Warren (Bradley County) and Wilmar (Drew County), respectively. William was accused of assaulting Inez Abernathy, whose family he had been living with. Henry was murdered for attacking Chloe Wright, the daughter of a prominent Drew County farmer. In 1880, William Beavers (then two years old) and his brother Junior (presumably Henry, age four) were living in Pennington Township of Bradley County with their parents, Henry and Lorenda Beavers, and several other siblings. Henry Beavers Sr. was thirty years old and was a farmer. If these ages are correct, William Beavers would have been only fourteen years old at the time of his murder, and Henry sixteen. Both …

Belle Grove Historic District

The Belle Grove Historic District in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) is located northwest of the city’s downtown commercial district and contains twenty-two square blocks. It is bounded by North H Street on the north, halfway between North B and C streets on the south, the alley between North 8th Street and North 9th Street on the east, and the alley between North 4th Street and North 5th Street on the west. The Belle Grove Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 16, 1973, for its significance in architecture, education, politics, and social/humanitarian influences. On September 3, 1974, the neighborhood was established as a historic district by local ordinance. It is the oldest residential neighborhood …

Bentley, Edwin

Edwin Bentley was one of the eight founders of the Arkansas Industrial University Medical Department, now the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Edwin Bentley was born to George W. and Anne Williams Bentley on July 3, 1824, in New London, Connecticut. Bentley’s early education was in the local schools and under private tutors. He received, for the time, a quite thorough medical training at the New York City Medical College, the Twenty-third Street Medical College, the Bellevue Hospital Medical College, and the medical department of the University of the City of New York, from which he received his doctor of medicine degree in 1849. Bentley then established a thriving general practice in Norwich, …

Bentonville College

On March 15, 1894, what was described as a “mass meeting” of new subscribers to Bentonville College met in the county judge’s room of the Benton County Courthouse. The total number present was not recorded, but subscribers were private citizens. Lodges and civic clubs contributed to the college fund as well. Fifteen men formed the board of trustees. With a quorum present at the March 15 meeting, presiding officer James A. Rice presented articles of association, which were adopted. A corporation was formed under the name “The Bentonville College,” and the trustees were instructed to establish and maintain for a period of ninety-nine years a non-sectarian school for both sexes. The trustees were also charged with contracting for land, constructing …

Berry, James Henderson

James Henderson Berry served as a Civil War officer, lawyer, Arkansas legislator, speaker of the Arkansas house, and circuit judge for the Fourth Judicial District before being elected Arkansas’s fourteenth governor. A staunch Democrat, he was governor for two years and promoted increased taxation for railroads, repudiation of state debt, equal protection for all citizens, reform of the state penal system, and economy in government. Berry followed his stint as governor with twenty-two years of service as a United States senator, from 1885 to 1907. Berry was born in Jackson County, Alabama, on May 15, 1841. His parents, James M. and Isabelle (Orr) Berry, were farmers, and ten of their children lived to adulthood: Granville, Mary, Fannie, Dick, James, Arkansas, …

Biscoe Family (Lynching of)

In early February 1892, Hamp Biscoe (or Bisco), his pregnant wife, and his thirteen-year-old son were killed in Keo (Lonoke County); their infant escaped with only a minor wound. This murder was apparently the culmination of years of suffering and bitterness on the part of the Biscoe family. It was also one of the numerous incidents occurring in Arkansas at the time that prompted the Reverend Malcolm E. Argyle to write in the March 1892 Christian Recorder (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania): “There is much uneasiness and unrest all over this State among our people, owing to the fact that the people (our race variety) all over the State are being lynched upon the slightest provocation….In the last 30 days there have been …

Black, Pickens W., Sr.

Pickens W. Black Sr. was one of the most remarkable African-American agriculturalists in northeast Arkansas in the post–Civil War years. Although little has been written about his life, he is rightly entitled to appear in the annals of Arkansas history as an entrepreneur, community developer, philanthropist, and advocate for the education of black children in Jackson County. Pickens Black Sr. was born a slave about 1861 (no later than 1863) near Gadsden, Alabama. His mother, Mary Johnston, and her first and second husbands (the second was his father) were the slaves of a white plantation owner named Black, and they took the surname of their master. Black had an older half-brother, John V. Lee, from his mother’s first marriage. Black …

Blass, Gustave (Gus)

Gus Blass was a Jewish immigrant who settled in Arkansas and became one of the state’s most successful merchants, establishing what became the largest department store in Arkansas, the Gus Blass Company. Gustave (Gus) Blass was born on February 15, 1849, in Obornik, Germany, a small town north of Poznan, which is now part of Poland. At the age of sixteen, he boarded a ship bound for New York, identifying himself on the ship’s manifest as a merchant. After a short stint in Memphis, Tennessee, he made his way to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where he founded the Gus Blass Dry Goods Company in 1871. The following year, Blass married Bertha Katzenstein, who was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. They had …

Bond, Scott Winfield

Scott Winfield Bond was a successful landowner, farmer, and businessman at a time when the total number of African-American farm owners and their average acreage declined both in the state and in the nation. He was among wealthy Arkansans in the period before the New Deal. Scott W. Bond was born enslaved in Livingston, Mississippi, near Canton. His mother, Ann Bond, was enslaved as a domestic. His mother married fellow slave William Bond when Scott was eighteen months old. On the eve of the Civil War, the white Maben-Bond family moved their enslaved property from Mississippi to Fayette County, Tennessee, and finally to Cross County, Arkansas. Bond’s mother died during the Civil War, and Bond moved with his stepfather to …

Bond, Ulysses Scott (U. S.)

Prominent businessman and entrepreneur Ulysses Scott (U. S.) Bond, like his father and brothers, was a member of a small group of well-educated, wealthy African-American businessmen who encouraged the advancement of minorities. He grew up in a progressive family that provided him with the opportunity to achieve a level of success not typically found in the town of Madison (St. Francis County), and with this success, he encouraged the growth of the black community and economy in St. Francis County. U. S. Bond was born on August 1, 1897, in Madison. His parents were Scott Winfield Bond—a landowner, businessman, and notable resident of St. Francis County—and Magnolia (Nash) Bond. He was the tenth of the eleven sons born to Scott …

Bowles (Lynching of)

Sometime around August 22, 1892, an African-American man identified only by his surname, which was Bowles, was hanged near Gurdon (Clark County) for allegedly raping sixteen-year-old Nellie Wilkes. Public records reveal no additional information about either Bowles or Wilkes. Although the incident was apparently not covered in Arkansas, several publications across the country reported on it, including a German-language newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland. According to the Hamilton, Ohio, Daily Republican, Bowles, a “burly negro,” “outraged” Wilkes and then fled the scene. This aroused the neighborhood, and a mob was soon in pursuit. He was discovered at a farmhouse, where he had compelled the occupants to give him food. He was brought back to the scene of the crime, where he …

Branch, Charley (Lynching of)

On December 26, 1882, Charley Branch (sometimes referred to as Charles, Charlie, or Charles B. Branch) was lynched by a mob of African Americans near Varner (Lincoln County) for allegedly raping and murdering Cora Wallace, the daughter of Dock Wallace. Both Branch and his alleged victim were African American. At the time of the incident, Charley Branch was reported by the Arkansas Gazette to be thirty-five years old. There is no likely listing for a Charley or Charles Branch in either the 1860 or 1870 Arkansas census. One possible Charles Branch listed in Arkansas in 1880 was living in Monroe Township in Mississippi County. However, there was also listed in the 1880 census one “Chas. Branch.” Born around 1857, he …

Breckinridge, Clifton Rodes

Clifton Rodes Breckinridge was a late-nineteenth-century Arkansas politician who attained national prominence. After serving as a leading congressman for more than a decade, he became the first Arkansan appointed to a major European diplomatic post, serving as minister to Russia for three years. Late in life, Breckinridge was a delegate to the 1917–1918 Arkansas Constitutional Convention. Clifton Breckinridge was born in Lexington, Kentucky, on November 22, 1846, to Mary Cyrene Burch and John Cabell Breckinridge. The Breckinridges were a political dynasty that began with his grandfather, John Breckinridge, who was President Thomas Jefferson’s attorney general. The dynasty continued with John Cabell Breckinridge, who served as a senator and vice president of the United States and as a general and secretary …

Breysacher, Augustus Louis

Augustus Louis Breysacher was one of the eight founders of the Arkansas Industrial University Medical Department, now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Augustus Breysacher was born in Canton, Ohio, on February 2, 1831, to German immigrants George Breysacher and Elizabeth Keller Breysacher. Breysacher had three sisters. The family moved from Ohio to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1832. Breysacher received his general education in St. Louis, with additional courses in literature and the classics at St. Xavier College in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated from Missouri Medical College in St. Louis in 1859 and was certified as a chemist and pharmacist. Immediately after graduation, Breysacher received an appointment as acting assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army. He was assigned …

Brooks, Ida Josephine

Ida Josephine Brooks was a teacher and early school administrator in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She was among Arkansas’s earliest women physicians and the first female faculty member at the University of Arkansas Medical School (now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences). She also took an active role in advocating for women’s rights. Ida Joe Brooks, the fourth of six children, was born at Muscatine, Iowa, on April 28, 1853, to Methodist minister Joseph Brooks and Elizabeth Goodenough Brooks. Brooks’s father was a candidate for governor in Arkansas in 1872 against Elisha Baxter. Both candidates claimed victory, precipitating the Brooks-Baxter War, with Brooks the loser. Little is known of Ida Joe Brooks’s childhood education. She graduated from Central High …

Brothers of Freedom

One of several farmers’ organizations formed in Arkansas during the early 1880s, the Brothers of Freedom originated in Johnson County in 1882. Founded by Isaac McCracken and Marion Farris, the organization spread rapidly across northwestern Arkansas, recruiting between 30,000 and 40,000 members within three years. The Brothers of Freedom ceased to exist in 1885 when it merged with another Arkansas-based farmers’ organization, the Agricultural Wheel, and assumed the name of the latter organization. The impact of the Brothers of Freedom lived on, however, not only through the Agricultural Wheel but also through the Union Labor and Populist parties. McCracken and Farris organized the Brothers of Freedom, originally (but only briefly) as a secret organization, in order to enable farmers to …

Brown, Benjamin Chambers

Benjamin Chambers Brown was among the first Arkansas artists to attain national and international recognition as a painter, lithographer, and etcher. He is best known for his plein-air impressionist landscapes of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains and expanses of brilliantly colored poppy fields. His works are in major museums in the United States and Europe, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC and the British Museum in London, England. Benjamin Brown was born in Marion (Crittenden County) on July 14, 1865, one of five children born to Judge Benjamin Chambers Brown and Mary Booker Brown. He spent much of his boyhood in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Brown’s parents wanted him to become an attorney, but he wanted to be …

Brown, J. L.

aka: James Lafayette Brown
James Lafayette (J. L.) Brown, one of the most influential early leaders of the Landmark Baptist movement in Arkansas, was a minister, editor, poet, legislator, and published writer. J. L. Brown was born at Elm Store, a rural community on the Eleven Point River in northwestern Randolph County, on December 7, 1853. He was the youngest of the eight children of farmer Elijah Brown and his wife, Mozilla. The father died in 1859, and James and his family relocated to eastern Independence County after the Civil War. He later recalled that he “was raised in poverty and received the most rudimentary of educations.” Most of his class room education was obtained after he was an adult. He was ordained as …

Brundidge, Stephen, Jr.

Stephen Brundidge Jr. was a prosecuting attorney, a member of the Democratic State Central Committee, and a six-term U.S. Representative for the Sixth and Second Congressional districts. Born on January 1, 1857, in Searcy (White County), Brundidge was the fourth child of Stephen and Minerva Brundidge, who moved to Searcy from Mississippi in 1853. His father was a contractor who built the first brick buildings in Searcy, including the main section of the present White County Courthouse, built in 1869. Brundidge graduated with honors from the Searcy Male and Female Academy. He then read law in the offices of William R. Coody and Dandridge McRae and was admitted to the bar in 1879. He first practiced law in Jacksonport (Jackson …

Buckner College

Buckner College in Witcherville (Sebastian County), chartered in 1879, began operations in the fall of 1882 as one of Arkansas’s earliest Baptist educational institutions. It was named for Henry Frieland Buckner (1818–1882), Baptist missionary to the Creek Nation, in hopes of attracting students from Indian Territory. The college’s founder, the Reverend Ebenezer L. Compere, was a longtime western Arkansas Baptist minister and missionary who, in 1876, together with a group of Witcherville citizens, began working to establish an educational institution in the area. In 1879, he obtained the reluctant support of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, which allowed him to “open a correspondence with such parties as he may think proper with a view of employing a President and Teachers …

Bullfrog Valley Gang

The Bullfrog Valley Gang was a notorious counterfeiting ring that operated in the wilderness of Pope County during the depression of the 1890s. The gang’s origin and methods were mysterious, but the New York Times reported its demise on June 28, 1897. The article said deputy U.S. marshals attached to the federal district court at Fort Smith (Sebastian County) had captured three men, effectively breaking up “the once-famous band of counterfeiters known to secret service operators all over the United States as the Bullfrog Valley Gang.” Previous arrests were reported in Arkansas earlier in the year. In all, some fifteen men were arrested and convicted in federal courts at Fort Smith and Little Rock (Pulaski County). Others, in Arkansas and …

Bunn, Henry Gaston

Henry G. Bunn was a prominent lawyer and judge in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Highly respected in the legal community, he served for eleven years as chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Henry Gaston Bunn was born on June 12, 1838, near Rocky Mount in Nash County, North Carolina, to David and Elizabeth Bunn. The family moved to Fayette County, Tennessee, in 1844 and, two years later moved again, settling in Calhoun County, Arkansas. Bunn received his early education in the county schools before returning to North Carolina to Davidson College, which he attended until 1861. Returning to Arkansas, he joined the Confederate army, helping raise a company that became part of the Fourth Arkansas Infantry …

Bush, John

John Edward Bush, a chairman of the Republican Party in Arkansas, rose from poverty to national prominence when he co-founded the Mosaic Templars of America (MTA), an African-American fraternal organization of international scope, spanning twenty-six states and six foreign countries from the 1880s until the 1930s. Headquartered in Little Rock (Pulaski County), MTA became one of the largest and most successful black-owned business enterprises in the nation and the world; it included an insurance company, a building and loan association, a hospital, a business college, a publishing house, and a nursing school. Living most of his early life in the downtown 9th Street district of Little Rock, Bush was widely acknowledged as one of the wealthiest black men in Arkansas …