Berryville, AR - Carroll County

History of BerryvilleBack to Top

Historic records suggest that the first settlers in the area now known as Berryville were two men named William and Joel Plumlee, Sr. who had arrived in Carroll County from Tennessee in 1836. Joel had obtained squatter's rights for about 160 acres, which included the area that later became the city's public square. He built a home, and constructed one of the first roller mills in the area. However, the city of Berryville was actually named for Blackburn Henderson Berry, a settler born November 19, 1814 in Tennessee. Blackburn was married to Eliza Polson, a fellow Tennessee native born in 1817. They had arrived in Carroll County in about 1846. By 1850, Blackburn Berry had purchased the homestead of Joel Plumlee and, with the assistance of a man named Arthur A. Baker, had proposed an initial plat for the town of "Berryville" consisting of 24 lots and 3 main streets - to be named Main, Church, and Forsythe Street. (Forsythe Street is now called Madison Street.)

Berry's accomplice, Arthur A. Baker, was a blacksmith who had first settled in Carrollton, but had moved to the Berryville area by about 1840. He later became a doctor and opened his own apothecary in town. The Berryville town survey was conducted by a local school teacher and surveyor from Tennessee named Arnold Champlin. The Berryville Post Office was established on July 13, 1852, with Isaac Plumlee serving as the first postmaster. Blackburn Berry established the first store on the corner of North Main Street, and in 1851 he had procured another 320 acres, part of which was later used for the city park. Berry played a major role in the founding and development of Berryville, later donating land for the public square, and the first school. He and Arthur Baker would also donate land for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, founded in 1853 with 31 initial members. However, when Berry's wife died in 1854, he laid her to rest in what would eventually become the first cemetery of Berryville and he then relocated to California.

Another family that contributed much to the progress and development of the city of Berryville was the family of Judge L.B. Saunders. In 1867, L.B. Saunders moved his family to Berryville to open a store and enroll his children at the popular Clarke's Academy. The Saunders store location would later become the site of the St. George (aka Grandview) Hotel. The historic Saunders home was located on Madison Street, and is now the site of the Berryville City Hall. The Judge's son, C.B. Saunders, is credited for naming the nearby resort town of Eureka Springs, and for building the first cabin at Basin Spring. He learned to shoot a rifle at the young age of four, and was known far and wide for his excellent marksmanship. As a child, he earned the nickname "Buck", reportedly for all of the deer he had shot. He was also a fanatical collector of historic firearms, and a seasoned world traveler. At the time of his death, he gifted his extensive collection to the city of Berryville, along with the funds to construct an appropriate museum building. Today, the Saunders Museum in Berryville offers viewers an exclusive look at historical and rare firearms once owned by notorious outlaws and gunmen from the "Old West", as well as frontier-era antiquities and interesting collectables from around the globe. The nearby hilltop known as Saunders Heights was also named for family, who donated the land to the city to be used for park land. Prior to this, the windy hilltop with the rare commanding view was part of a homestead owned by J.W. Freeman and used as a fenced goat range. Known locally as "Goat Mountain", it was a popular social gathering spot for fraternizing youth. Many of these carefree individuals would carve their name in a boulder located on the North side of the mountain, which came to be called the "May Rock".

Civil War and Reconstruction

Like much of Carroll County, Berryville did not fare well during the Civil War. All of the schools had to close, and there was much violence and destruction. Historians estimate that prior to the war, there were approximately 51 homes in Berryville. After the war, only 3 structures remained standing - one hotel, and the homes of Jacob A. Meek and I.J. Thorn. The town slowly began to pick up the pieces and rebuild. Dr. Arthur A. Baker's home was the first to be rebuilt after the war. By 1868, downtown Berryville consisted of a blacksmith shop, grocery store, Freeman's store, and the renamed Mother Hubbert's Hotel. This two-story, eleven room hotel had been established as a roadhouse in 1858 by Benjamin F. Hailey, and was originally known as the Hailey House. It was the only building left standing on the public square after the war. Benjamin Hailey had also constructed a blacksmith shop, large livery stable, harness shop, and the first brick plant in Berryville. Hailey's wife, Othelia, later married her second husband Norval B. Hubbert and the Hailey House Hotel would then become known as Mother Hubbert's Hotel. It was located on the northeast corner of the public square in Berryville, facing Hubbert Street. It closed in 1892. As the first hotel in Berryville, it played host to a number of distinguished guests, including Powell Clayton, who would later become Governer of Arkansas and a very active developer in the Eureka Springs community.

Berryville as County Seat

In 1869, Carroll County lost a large portion of its eastern mass to the newly created Boone County. As a result, the original county seat of Carrollton was no longer centrally located within Carroll County. After some political struggles, it was decided to move the county seat to Berryville in 1875. Soon, a tract of land was purchased from Blackburn Berry for the new courthouse at a cost of $100. The town was incorporated as early as March 11, 1876 and a new jail was constructed the same year. (Some records suggest a later incorporation date of May 18, 1878.) W.C. Stephens served as the first mayor. The new courthouse was completed in 1880 by J. Polk Fancher and occupied by 1881. Construction costs were minimized by using bricks of local dirt clay, burned in a kiln less than fifty yards of the construction site. During an extensive remodel, a third floor was added to the court house in 1904. In addition to civic functions, the courthouse was occasionally used for public entertainment and social activities. Prisoners were also detained in the NW corner of the building at times. Shortly after the completion of the courthouse, the city developed an octagon-shaped shade park at the center of the public square, complete with perimeter hitching posts and a public well. The annual Rose Parade at the park was a very popular event. In later years, droughts and general water shortages prompted the city to connect the public well to the town spring, near the old mill. The town spring site was a popular social center for young people, and picnics and late night serenades were common. J.W. Freeman was contracted to install the pipe line and pump. Another spring was located east of town and was known as Freeman's Spring. Berryville City Hall was planned and built by William E. Arrick. Today, the public well in the park has been filled in, and the square has been split in half by HWY 62. The historic 1880 Carroll County Courthouse now functions as the Heritage Center Museum.

Early Education in Berryville

Land for the first school in Berryville was donated by Blackburn Berry. The Berryville Academy was established in 1855 by Professor James H. Rhea. Prior to that time, children in Berryville would have to travel to schools in nearby Cisco or Antioch (now Polo). Unfortunately, the Berryville Academy burned during the Civil War, and was never re-opened. However, an enterprising graduate of Professor Rhea's school would not allow his instructor's educational tradition to die. Clarke's Academy was founded on January 14, 1867 by Professor Isaac Ashbury Clarke, a Tennessee native who had relocated into Carroll County with his mother after the death of his father in 1841. After attending Berryville Academy, college in Missouri, and serving with the Confederate Army, Clarke returned home to Berryville to find the town in ruins and without a school.

Clarke's Academy, while not always financially successful, proved to be immensely popular with county residents who desired to give their children a chance at having a more prosperous life. Although the prestigious school certainly attracted students from wealthy white families, Prof. Clarke also accepted poor students and those of Native American descent. Descendants of Clarke would later recall students of lesser means paying for their education with bushels of corn, or whatever else they could afford. In addition to Clarke's financial challenges, he also struggled with the tragic death of his wife when she was struck by a falling tree during a family visit to Eureka Springs in 1879. His wife was the first recorded death in that town. The school also burned in 1873, and class was held in various local buildings until a suitable replacement building could be constructed in 1875. The school remained in operation for some 38 years, closing in 1905 due to the failing health of Professor Clarke, who died on May 26, 1907. Even today, Professor Isaac A. Clarke is well remembered for his selfless contributions to the community of Berryville.

The first public school in Berryville opened in 1880 on land donated by Dr. Arthur A Baker. Initially, the two-story school building was located on the southwest corner of the Berryville Public Square. Chapters of both the Masons and Odd Fellows often held their meetings on the second floor of this school building. Then in 1906, a larger ten-room brick school building was completed by Emmet Leach at a cost of $10,000. The Berryville Public School system was officially established in 1908. A second school building, built of native stone, was added in 1917 for $15,000. These two buildings were used to educate both elementary and high school students until they were destroyed by a tornado in 1942. Then in 1948, a new public school was built for $150,000, with further additions in 1950 ($50,000) and 1951 (cafeteria added for $30,000).

The Enduring Legacy of the Pyron Masons

Many of the brick structures on the north and east side of the Berryville Public Square were built by Charles Pyron, Sr. (b. 1836 in TN), a brick manufacturer and skilled mason. He also constructed the popular Clarke's Academy School, Berryville Mercantile, and the Carroll County Jail. In 1902, Pyron built the St. George Hotel on the Berryville public square, in the former site of a store owned by L.B. Saunders. The new luxury hotel was named for Dr. William Patrick George, an early Berryville doctor, and the first professionally trained physician to practice medicine in the county. Dr. George was also chairman of the investment group behind the hotel. It would later be called the Grandview Hotel, and would be billed as the "only hotel with pure spring water, free bath room, and pure mountain air". Charles Pyron also built many of the brick structures on the Green Forest Public Square, and his sons continued in their father's trade, constructing many structures across Northern Arkansas and Missouri.

Other Early Improvements and Organizations

One of the first churches in Berryville was the Union Church built in 1851. A Masonic Lodge charter had already been organized in Berryville by 1853. As of 1950, there were 100 members in what became known as the "Ashley" Lodge. Berryville's first newspaper was The Carroll County Advocate, started in 1875 by Moore and Sons. The Berryville Stage Line was established in 1878 by George Reynolds (b. 1840), an Alabama native. Acting as one of its first drivers, Reynolds would regularly travel from Berryville to Harrison, reportedly collecting money for the local preacher along the way. He also stopped in Carrollton, the former county seat. The first brass band in Berryville was organized in late 1879. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F) Lodge # 82 in Berryville was also instituted in 1879. I.O.O.F. Lodge #83 in Eureka Springs, and I.O.O.F. Lodge #340 in Oak Grove would later be consolidated into the I.O.O.F. Berryville Lodge #82. A Junior Berryville I.O.O.F. Lodge #1 was also instituted on May 3, 1978. The Carroll County Medical Society of Berryville formed in 1884, but lasted only three years.

In the early 1880's, there was one older log building still serving as a church, and only two brick buildings on the public square. The town's first baseball team was organized in the late 1880's, and in 1897 there were three church buildings, two grocery stores, and three physicians. By 1889, the town of Berryville had a population of about 400 people, and the community featured its own drugstore, general stores, grocery stores, hardware stores, jeweler, hotel, canning factory, harness works, and the second largest flour mill in the state. Several livery stables were situated near the square to assist with the town's growing transportation needs. The first bank in Berryville was also established in 1889 by William Patrick George. George served as the President of the Carroll County Bank until his death. Today, this bank is called the First National Bank of Berryville. In the mid-1890's, the town had its first meat market, and the first restaurant opened several years later. A city water tower was constructed in about 1900, and a bandstand was constructed over the old well in the public square.

In 1901, the St. Louis & North Arkansas Railroad extended a line through eastern Carroll County from Eureka Springs. Berryville soon constructed a short side track to connect to the new railroad main line outside of town, and there was a great celebration with its arrival. A flower parade was organized by the women of Berryville, and an elaborate program on June 15, 1901 included band performances and speeches commenced in the city park. With approximately 2,000 spectators in attendance, "Mother" Hubbert and Herman Dodson wee granted the privelege of blowing the first train whistle in town, and a special dinner at the court house followed. The depot was later converted to a feed store and mill.

The first phone line in Berryville was reportedly installed for resident Alvin Bobo, with the telephone exchange in place by 1900. F.J. Pritchard is noted as the first Berryville man to own a car in the year 1911. The first automotive dealership in Berryville opened about four years later. By the 1920s, the citizens of Berryville found a number of new establishments in town, including an automotive service, barber shops, meat market, shoe store, restaurants, mercantile shops, newspapers, livery, feed store, cafe, variety store, machine shop, telephone company, millinery, cleaners, dentist, theater, banks, and a milling and timber company. The first hospital in Berryville was established in 1941 by Dr. A.L.Carter and Dr. Parker. It served the community residents until it was replaced in 1969 by Carroll General Hospital. By 1962, the old Berryville Cemetery that served as the final resting ground for so many of the town's founding citizens was in poor condition. An extensive effort to clean up the area ensued, and the Berry family grave site was enclosed with an iron fence and the marker was restored by a stone cutter in Alpena. By 1979, the original Berryville Cemetery was converted into a Memorial Park.

Natural Disasters

In 1909, a tornado passed near town causing damage to several structures and destroying the Berryville Methodist Church. But this storm would pale in comparison to the devastating tornado that passed through Berryville in 1942, destroying 145 homes and killing 30 residents. It toppled both of the public school buildings, with estimated damages for the entire community totaling about $1 million.

Berryville Today Back to Top

As a large agricultural and poultry industry developed, Berryville would eventually be hailed as the "Turkey Capital of Arkansas". In more recent years, Berryville would also become a local industry center for companies such as Tyson Foods, LaBarge Electronics, Kraft Foods, and William Kaye Manufacturing.

Berryville Photo Gallery

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