Log Cabin Democrat

Centennial Edition

History of Faulkner County Towns and Townships

From the LCD Centennial Edition, 1873-1973:


The pre-Civil War Clinton road, of 1836, of the same value, came north from Little Rock, turned westward past Cato towards Saltillo to then follow a more direct route north to Clinton by touching the little towns of Holland, Guy and to cross the Cadron Creek just above Hartwick Mill. This area is illustrated on Plate Twenty-One.

Some of the many people coming along this route settled about fourteen miles north of Little Rock barely inside the present Faulkner County border. This new hamlet attracted settlers for it is nestled in a hook of Frenchman Mountain and is within sight of Hubbard Hill.

There is no known source of the name given to this little village. There had been a Cato family, in this area, since before the Territory days. James Cato had presented evidence concerning a sorrel mare that had been taken up by a pioneer. Mr. Cato testified in court at Cadron in 1819, as to the true owner of this horse.

Later this family settled along Greenbrier Creek and one of the family sons became an itinerant trader and traveled this Clinton road. So, as this new hamlet grew it could have been named for him, as he had often camped at the village.

As a matter of fact, J.G. Wilson married Miss Edna Caroline Cato. Wilson Hill in this township is named from him. This couple had at least one daughter, Miss Georgia A. Wilson, who was born July 23, 1872, in Cypress Valley. Miss Wilson lived in the same house for 74 years. It is not now known who the parents of Miss Cato were, but perhaps they lived in the area to give the town their name.

Henry Harrell came to Arkansas in 1865 from South Carolina by wagon. He erected a grist mill at Cato. There also was at Cato a steam cotton gin which has had many owners. A Mr.. Spann was one of its earliest owners and it was later purchased by the Proctor family.

William M. Gatewood, born in 1836, at Saulsburg, Hardeman County, Tenn., and his wife, Emily (Sims) Gatewood came to the Harmony community of Faulkner County, in this township, soon after the Civil War with three small children. He was the great-grandfather of the author of this history.

This family lost a young daughter, Ada, near Beebe and she was buried there. They had six other children, Ella, Jennie (both buried in Frenchman's Mountain Cemetery), Will, Minnie, Albert and Oscar. Oscar was to live until 1964, when he was buried with the rest of his family in Harmony Cemetery, save Minnie, who was the first person interred in the new Crestlawn Memorial Park, near Conway.

Manu of these early settlers plowed their fields with their milk cows, using them also for the rich milk which they provided until the family fortunes could provide a horse or mule for the field work.

The Frenchman's Mountain Methodist Episcopal Church, South was organized at this community in 1872. The first building was erected during the winter of 1872-73. The log building was begun by C.R. McPherson, but a man named Burton was the contractor of the edifice. The church and cemetery site was donated May 2, 1874, by the Little Rock-Fort Smith Railroad Co.

The cemetery was first used for the burial of Mrs. Watt Capels in February, 1873. The Rev, R,S. Kirkman was pastor of the church upon its completion in the spring of 1873.

This building burned. A new two-story building was planned for the use of the Methodist Church and the Frenchman's Mountain Masonic Lodge. Clark Wilkerson was the builder of this second edifice under a contract obtained by his father, Bud Easter assisted young Wilkerson in this work.

In 1945 the top floor was removed from the building and the entire church was then remodeled. In 1962 the church was placed on the inactive list of the Methodist Church, although it is still used for funerals.

Nov. 4, 1904, Dr. J.W. Webb died at nearby Olmstead, after practicing medicine at Cato since 1869.

Merchants at Cato in 1905 were J.E. Hogan, W.R. Flack and J.R Farror, W.A. and Fulton Farris were blacksmiths. In the W.A. Farris shop was also located a woodworking plant. Proctor and Harrell ran a gin and saw and grist mill. There were 1600 citizens in Wilson township in 1905, many of whom wanted to be transferred back into Pulaski County. This movement was never granted by the legislature.

May 21, 1906, the Conway to Cato Telephone Co., completed its lines into the Conway exchange. This telephone company served the Cato, Chadwick, Faulkner Gap and Saltillo communities. D.G. Harrison was the president of the telephone firm.

Jan. 16, 1913, an orchard firm was formed and planted a hillside farm near Wilson Hill at Cato. This farm consisted of 73 acres planted with 2,800 vines of the best grapes of several varieties to ripen from June into September. Also planted were 2,200 apple trees, 200 crab apple trees and 150 cherry trees. The farm announced 150 more acres were to be cleared and planted, but the farm was not a commercial success,

The post office at Cato was established Dec. 2, 1884, with Silas A. Stewart as postmaster. The office closed on Dec. 31, 1919, but was reopened Sept. 16, 1920, with Fred A. Hogan as postmaster. It again closed in a short time due to insufficient revenue.

No commercial establishments exist in the small village today.

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