Time Period: Post-Reconstruction through the Gilded Age (1875 - 1900)

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 …