This story was sent to me, Mary Bish, (great niece of John Cain Head) in 1973 by
Gussye Gardner, born 1894, daughter of Moffett Carolan Gardner.
Questions?????? Send e-mail to Mary .
I have often wondered if preserving annals of the past is due to natural
instinct, or is it from a beautiful sentiment that we desire to preserve the memories of
our old "home town"? Perhaps it is from marks of culture: certainly, it is evidence of
everlasting love. The common man of whom Abraham Lincoln said, "God must
have loved because he made so many of them," too often has been forgotten, although
his simple life and deeds have added greatly to building the firm foundation upon
which our nation is founded. Very few of the children of "Old Richmond" live on
this side of Eternity, so it is now while there is yet time, I should tell you of scenes and
incidents of my "home town, "Old Richmond." A story that is of a town whose origin
is slightly veiled, and more surmised.
Richmond rose to prominence as a social and cultural center over this part of
the state and held this "place in the stars," for many years. Eventually, the railroad
came into the county, and in a short time many of her valued citizens moved to a
nearby town that became the county seat.
No one can answer this question: Why did those pioneers decide to leave their
cities and seats of culture in South Carolina, Virginia, Alabama and Georgia?
Doubtless, it was the lure of the lands of nearby Red River, the black waxy and black
sandy land on Walnut Bayou and the dark sandy land of the hills, all of which
produced from one bale to one a half bales of cotton per acre or fifty to seventy-five
bushels of corn. No better land for farming could be found. The great forests of pine,
gum, oak, cottonwood, hickory, etc., may have been another lure to our pioneer
Picture to yourself, if you will, the great ox wagon caravans as they threaded
their way over the Alleghenies with here and there a horseman, or the flatboats at
Hood's Landing, piled high with household goods, with many busy men unloading
the ox wagons and boats, and reloading the ox wagons to travel the almost unbroken
forests to Richmond. In it's forests, game was plentiful. Buffalo, deer, bear, wolves
and panthers roamed and it was an easy matter for the men to carry home, for dinner,
wild turkey, ducks, geese, squirrels and quail.
The spirit of enterprise, their progressive nature, and their indomitable will led
these pioneers to develop the natural resources of this, their chosen home. There was
much that was exciting and picturesque in the early life of Richmond. Visions of a
future with wealth and easy life floated before the eyes of these early farmers and their
families as they toiled in the sun, rain and snow. Often, in the middle of the coldest
nights, they were awakened by panthers and wolves, and occasionally, a bear, making
a raid in the pig pen or the chicken house. It was not uncommon for a bear to track a
hunter home by the blood of his kill.
The first settlers were hardy men. Andrew Hemphill, the grandfather of the
late A.T. Hemphill of Ashdown, was the first to settle near Richmond. He was soon
followed by Bouldin Phillips, Dr. Bellah and his brother, Tom, and B.F. Hawkins. Dr.
Bellah owned much land in this vicinity, including the town site of Richmond. This
was a place almost devoid of roads, save a few trails. The Fort Townsend Road was cut
through this county in 1832, a mile or so west of Richmond.
These settlers were followed by the Bizzells, Rowlands, Bowmans, Simmons,
Carolans, McCrarys, Davises, Taylors and Cooks. The last five were from Lowdnes
County, Alabama, or nearby. Very few of the old houses are now standing. The
Brothers home, the oldest home, lately occupied by Roy Willsen and family, was built
for a drug store. W. P. Walker and family occupy another of the old homes, torn
down and replaces that of Dr. Dunn. The Bizzell place is owned by Willard Locke.
The Rhodes house, 1 1/2 miles east of Richmond, owned and occupied by Mrs. Ema
Bell McGraw, was begun before the Civil War and completed during that period by
Mr. Rhodes. The Mims place, now owned by Mrs. S.C. Reynolds, was the birth place of
Dr. Edwin Mims, author, lecturer and teacher. The N.C. McCrary home in Richmond
was built in 1879 and 1880 by the great uncle of this writer, James Monroe Head. The
log barn that stands nearby was the house when my uncle purchased this place in 1868,
and was occupied by him, his mother, Sarah Cain Head; and brother, Calhoun Head
until present building was erected.
Mr. McHaney built the chimneys for most of the houses in the community.
Mr. McHaney hauled limestone rock from Rocky Comfort with ox teams. He built
and burned his own brick.
Richmond was first settled in 1853, and the first schoolhouse was a one-room
log house built in 1854, west of the present building. It was situated in what is now the
Radford field in front of Mr. Roy Stevens(?). The building was south of the Stevens
home. The writer recalls playing around this schoolhouse when it was a tumbled
down rotten building. Mr. Deloney, grandfather of Mrs. T. E. McGruder; Dr. Andrew
Hunter, who later became prominent in the Methodist Church; and Mr. Boyd, were
among the early teachers in this log house. The late W.M. Sykes was a student in
these schools. An Act of the General Assembly, passed before the Civil War, made it
possible for a two-room frame building to be erected near the present building. The
two rooms could be turned into one long room, with fireplaces at each end, and a
double door opening in the center, facing the north. In the early days, there was not a
well to furnish water, so many of the boys and girls would go down to the Branch, lie
flat on their stomachs, and drink deeply of the water where cows, mules, hogs, etc.,
waded and drank. Many of the parents had their children take water from home in
bottles. The seats in the first school were made of logs split in half with no backs, and
legs made of pegs. The Blue Back spelling book was the only book studied, and no
reading was permitted until we got to the pictures. The one syllable words and the A
B C's were recited in sing-song fashion. After learning to read everything in our
speller, we were made happy by being advanced to the first reader. This method was
pursued in my early school days in the mid seventies. An Act to Incorporate the
Trustees of Richmond Male and Female Academy was approved January 21, 1861. The
trustees at that time were: John D. Bellah, L. J. Rhodes, N. Wilder, Wiley Bishop and
William T. Simmons. This Act was amended March 25, 1891, a copy of which is in my
possession. Hindman C. Head, the father of Mrs. Farris Morgan of Ashdown,
sponsored it's passage. Section 2 reads: Be it further enacted S.S.P. Mills, M. A. Locke,
J. T. Butler, J.S. Walker and J.M. Head be and are humbly appointed trustees to said
Academy. A majority of whom shall be a governing committee for transaction of
School terms in that early day were usually of two or three months duration
and taught in the summer. No grade was taught higher than the eighth until T.T.C.
Anderson came here in January, 1882. The schools were usually taught by lawyers,
farmers and preachers and a few others, when their time was not otherwise occupied.
Richmond was the only school in the county owning district property.
Around 1878-79, Tom Sharp came to the county from Alabama. He was a nice
looking, well educated man. The school opened and in a short time, several boys
from old Rocky Comfort were sent to take advantage of our school. Among the
number were John and Henry Hawkins, and Sam Schoolfield. I cannot remember all,
but there were about six. Mr. Sharp and the boys lived in the home of my grandfather,
Captain John Cain Head. A blackboard was placed in one room and our Mr. Sharp saw
to it that the boys' lessons were well prepared for the following day. Some of the rules
he made for punishing the pupils were so strict that the directors disapproved. One
rule was to make any girl seen chewing gum to chew tobacco. Another, he locked the
door and never allowed any pupil to enter if they were late. The Board consisted of
A.J. Mims, S. L. Poindexter and J. W. Carolan. The school was progressing fine but
alas! Richmond awoke one fine morning to find their teacher had departed between
suns for other parts. DeKalb Joyner was one of the early teachers in the building
erected in the sixties. Judge Littleton J. Joyner taught for 6 years between 1861 and 1867.
The school became so crowded that Miss Lou Fields, from Washington, was hired to
In the early years, the schoolhouses were also used by the churches. Now the
tables were turned. Judge Joyner taught the boys in the schoolhouse and Miss Fields,
the girls in the church. Mrs. A.J. Mims, then Cornelia Williamson, was one of a
number of girls who participated in making a confederate flag. Col. W. D. Cook made
a speech of acceptance when the flag was raised. Judge Lewis Davis, father of ex
Governor and Senator Jeff Davis, had charge of the school one year during the Civil
War, as did Mr. Stepleton, an Episcopal minister.
When T.T.C. Anderson was employed in January, 1882, to take charge of the
Richmond school, there were only two teachers in the county holding first grade
licenses. Usually pleasing the parents and students took precedence over school work.
It seemed to be an unknown factor in the earliest schools of the county that only
competent, conscientious teachers, intelligent men on the school board, and
cooperative, interested patrons and citizens can build schools. Indeed, the situation
was so bad that in the late seventies, one family employed a governess. Her work
proved so superior that several families removed their children from the public
school and arranged for the governess to teach them also.
There were no county institutes when Mr. Anderson came here in 1882. He
fostered an organization of this kind and its first meeting was held in Richmond in
the middle of the eighties. Five state Superintendents visited in different years: Mr.
Jordan, Mr. Henderson, Mr. Doyne, Mr. Cook and Mr. Bond. Their visits added much
to the efficiency of these institutes which were not then social meetings of teachers for
a good time at the expense of various districts. The younger teachers received much
benefit by discussing schedules of work, assigning lessons, methods of teaching
different subjects, disciplining, etc. These institutes were held at various places over
the county after being well organized at Richmond. Directors and parents were urged
to attend and learn what it was all about. No doubt, many children had their minds
thoroughly confused and injured by untrained teachers learning to teach in our
schools. W. F. Joyner, who taught in 1875 was the first county examiner in Little River
County. The earlier law gave the examiner very little power over the management of
the schools. This was held by the directors, but the examiner assisted the Directors
greatly in solving the school problems. In 1919, the County Examiner was changed to
Co-superintendent. The first student to leave the county for more advancement was
Hindman C. Head, who entered the University of Arkansas in 1878. The total number
of school pupils in the county as shown by the records of 1882, when Mr. Anderson
came here, was about 2300. About 45% white and 55% colored. It has been said that
T.T.C. Anderson put the schools of Little River County on their feet and that
Richmond became the mother of Little River County schools. He had a wonderful
attitude for work with children and youth. His students never completed a study
until the book had been thoroughly reviewed and comprehended. He did not give
examinations in those earlier years, much to our delight. He believed that daily grades
determined the future for a pupil's progress better than examinations. When the
closing day of school came, the last lesson in the book was signed and right there was
where we began next term. But - it did matter a great deal, if we failed to bring up our
lesson - United States History. A pupil would make some inquiry about the Civil
War; it would be but a short time when Mr. Anderson would begin telling of his
experiences and disputing the Historian, who of course was a northern writer. Never
was a pupil allowed to cover ground at the expense of thoroughness. He taught in
Richmond four different times. Seventeen years in all. He played a great part in
upbuilding of education in Southwest Arkansas, and his memory is still revered in
the hearts of his many pupils.
A few years after Richmond was no longer the county seat, the old schoolhouse was
declared unsafe and the school was moved into the Old Court House, where it
remained until 1929 or 30. The new brick schoolhouse was then ready for use and
pupils and teachers were happy to occupy it.
Ulys Methvin came as Superintendent of the school in 1927(?) and the next
spring Richmond and Arden consolidated their schools, maintaining a 12-grade
school at Richmond for two years. Later, the school was dropped to 10 grades - the
11th and 12th grades going to Ashdown, giving Richmond an eight grade school.
Thus has passed away one of Richmond's best loved institutions, which in days past
brought many boys and girls into our village.
Richmond was settled in 1853 and in 1854, Dr. Bellah deeded the present
Methodist Church a lot for a church to be used by all Evangelical denominations.
Before the log schoolhouse was erected, the Methodists worshipped in one of the
homes. Later, Methodists and Presbyterians held services in the log schoolhouse. The
Methodists organized a church in 1854 in the old log schoolhouse and J. Turrentine
was the first pastor assigned to Richmond Mission. The Presbyterians Church was
organized in 1859 or 1860 with Judge Matt P. McCrary and Thomas S. Davis, elders. In
1859 the Baptists organized and erected a small church building two miles east of
Richmond near the old cemetery. Judge Scott and Bouldin Phillips were the deacons
of their church. The latter was the maternal grandfather of Jeff Davis, ex Governor
and Senator of Arkansas. Judge Lewis and W. Davis were the fathers of the above
preachers in this church. Thus, the churches functioned until 1869 or 70 when many
of the members moved away and several died. Then it was discontinued. The
building was given to the Negro Baptists who used it for church purposes for many
A list of the subscriptions to the church building on the lot donated by Dr.
Bellah is still kept. Among the names on the list are M.P. McCrary, $100.00; Andrew
Hemphill, $100.00; T. E. Patterson, $50.00; S. S. Hollowell, $50.00; W. Britt, $100.00;
A. S. Davis, $100.00, etc. It was decided that the church must be two stories, the second
floor for the Masonic Hall. Another provision was made that the church could be
used by the schools, if necessary. It was built in 1860 before the church was ready for
use and then it was only a shell of a building, unceiled and without any heating
facilities. The War coming on called away all able bodied men. The people left had to
struggle very hard to live. The Old Church was completed after the War. The
Methodists and Presbyterians, with an occasional Baptist or Episcopal minister filling
the pulpit, functioned until 1882, when the Presbyterians erected a church of their
own. Never inharmonious, these two denominations were true friends and co-
workers. Their Presbyterian building was removed to Arden some years ago when the
congregation at Richmond disbanded. This church continues in use by the
Presbyterians at Arden and contains the original pulpit, pews and chandeliers. The
deed, originally given to the Methodists by Dr. Bellah, was later changed to the
Methodist Episcopal Church South.
During the War, one bitter cold Sunday morning (still no heating facilities in
the church) the last appointment of Rev. Sam G. Colburn(?) before conference, he
stood in the pulpit clad in a light summer suit, while his congregation were wrapped
in blankets, coats and shawls endeavoring to keep warm. The next morning, Mrs.
Lovett, a Presbyterian, and several other ladies got together, collected funds and
purchased sufficient red flannel to make two suits of underwear and jeans for a suit of
clothes for Brother Colburn. These were made in one day. Another lady gave him
two pairs of knitted socks, so this preacher was warmly fitted out for his trip to
The Methodists continued to use the old church building until in the late
1890's or early in 1900, when it was declared dangerous and under the pastorage of J.
W. White, a new one-story church was erected on the exact spot where the old one
stood. In 1927 or 28, Richmond decided she needed a more modern place of worship.
Under the pastorage of Rev. L. C. Gatlin, the old building was torn away and a new,
modern church was erected on the identical same church spot as the first church in
Rev. L. B. Hawly(?), who was pastor in 1876, put Methodist Church squarely on
its feet in Richmond. His circuit included the entire county the first year here. The
second year, it became Richmond and Rocky Comfort with Jake Whiteside in charge of
the remainder of the county. Bro. Hawly aroused an interest in congregational singing
and interrested the young people in work for the youth and singing classes. It was
during his pastorage that Richmond first entertained the District Conference.
Another red letter event occurred in 1875. The Woman's Missionary Society
was organized. Rev. C. O. Steel assisted in this. Mrs. A. J. Mims was elected president,
Mrs. J. M. Dunn, secretary and Mrs. J. W. Carolan, treasurer. Mrs. J. R. Harvey(?), the
wife of the preacher assisted in this organization, the second in Arkansas. Dr. Edwin
Mims, then four years old, was made a life member by the payment of one dollar by
his mother. The Juvenile(?) Miss Society was organized in 1878. Rev. J. C. Rhodes did
a monumental work in Richmond while pastor here in 1881 and 1882. He drove that
demon whiskey, which was doing so much to undermine our government ruling
town, out under the three-mile law. He bought a column in the Little River Pilot,
published here by M. L. Yateman, who was also strong against whiskey. Brother
Rhodes set the type, arranged the form for printing the column, furnished all the copy
and it was red-hot against alcohol, and he assumed full responsibility, financially,
legally, personally and otherwise. The whiskey men threatened to run him out of
town, mob him and other bad things. He won his fight andonly one time since has a
saloon been opened in Richmond. A man was killed and the saloon closed.
Fortunately, this county saw none of the actual fighting during the Civil War.
The majority of our young men of military age enlisted and suffered much privation
and endured many hardships. My father, with a number of others from Richmond,
served the entire war. However, part of the time was spent in prison where they were
given only corn, field peas and molasses for food.
General Price used Richmond as his headquarters one winter. General Gane(?)
camped one winter in Red River Bend. Because of this, for many years this was
known as Ganee's Camp. General Shelby, on his retreat from the Missouri raid, had
his winter quarters in the Baptist church near Richmond Cemetery. General Shelby's
body servant, a Negro named Henry Walls, came here with General Shelby and
remained after the war. He died 18 or 20 years ago near Wilton. He enjoyed relating
his foraging expeditions and seemed to feel it his duty to feed General Shelby well. He
would always make a note of any prosperous place as they passed while riding with
General Shelby. Many nights Henry spent in foraging. His favorite story was of
finding a family taking their evening meal, he peered through the window and spied
a large boiled ham on the table. He dashed into the room yelling, grabbed the ham
and was well on his way to camp when the surprised family realized what had
happened. General Shelby and his staff dined sumptuously on the ham, never asking
any questions. Dr. John Moffett Dunn, was the surgeon in Shelby's Army. After the
war, on April 16, 1866, Dr. Dunn settled in Richmond and became one of Little River
County's best loved doctors. He was the son of a prominent Virginia family. His
mother, Mrs. Catherine Smythe (Smith), was of the family who contributed liberally
to the founding of Henry and Emory College of Virginia.
Dr. Dunn Came home from the war with only his horse and surgical
instruments. He borrowed money to purchase medicines. Upon becoming able, he
purchased new instruments and presented the old ones, used in the Civil War, to
Henry Walls, who prized them as long as he lived. For about fifty years, Dr. Dunn
lived and practiced medicine in Richmond.
Dr. Edward Lynah Hamilton came to Richmond in 1857 and began the practice
of medicine. He enlisted as a surgeon in General Tappans Brigade under General
Churchill, early in the Civil War. After the close of the war, he came back to
Richmond. In the eastern end of the county, he and Dr. Dunn were for many years
the only doctors. Both were highly skilled for the day, as they had their training in
medical college of which both were graduates. They were gentlemen of the old school
and preferred remaining where the need was greatest. Their practice covered much
territory. The weather was never too cold nor stormy, nor the distance too great, for
these two men to hasten to suffering humanity. They never refused their services
even though they knew they would never be recompensed. When there was much
sickness and the need great, Dr. Hamilton would look after Dr. Dunn's patients in the
direction he was going and vice versa. Dr. Hamilton passed away in 1899 and Dr.
Dunn in 1914. Both are buried in the old Richmond Cemetery, where lie many other
Confederate soldiers. Richmond loves the memory of both these grand old gentlemen
- friends to all, as well as physicians Dr. Bowman and Dr. Montue were physicians
here in the early years. Dr. Hamilton was followed by Dr. Vaughn and he passed away
a few years ago after long years of practice here. Dr. George M. Eckel followed Dr.
Dunn, but remained only a few years. Dr. Butler came here soon after the war but due
to the loss of his right arm in the war, ceased the practice of medicine.
In 1876, J. W. Carolan installed the steam machinery for grinding corn, ginning
cotton and sawing lumber. The first day the group gathered around to see their
machine work, Mr. Carolan installed the first molasses mill here also. Andrew
Hemphill had a water mill which ground wheat and corn. These inventions were a
great help to Richmond in the earlier days when there was so much sorrow and
A. J. Mimms, the father of Dr. Edwin Mimms, was a valuable citizen in
Richmond. He and his good wife were cultured and refined, the very salt of the earth.
He was in merchandising business here many years and was a friend to everyone. He
served as Sunday School Superintendent a great many years and his wife taught in the
Sunday School. Other early teachers were: M.P McCrary, Judge L. J. Joyner, Mrs. J. M.
Dunn, Mrs. J. W. Carolan, etc. Judge Joyner, T. B. Cook, W. W. Gardner, and M. W.
Lock served many years each as Sunday School Superintendent and Chairmen of the
Official Board of the Methodist Church.
The one newspaper, published in Richmond, was the Little River Pilot by M. L.
Yateman in 1880. Later it was sold to W. F. Joyner and J. C. Dellinger(?). In 1886 it was
sold to Mr. J. F. James who was helped by Dr. J. T. Butler. The Little River News was
started in 1886. The editor was N. J. Cook and the assistant editor was J. A. Miller.
This paper had a subscription of several thousand people and was a great help in
furthering the Democrats in Little River County. Later, the Pilot was sold to James
Cook, who moved it to Wilton where it soon ceased publication. Mr. Joyner
continued publishing the News until his health failed. Eventually, the paper was sold
to R. P. West of Ashdown.
The Masonic Lodge that was in the first church built in Richmond and was
given the name Red River Lodge No. 174, A.F. and A.M. Richmond Lodge. Some of
the early active members were M.P. McCrary, M. A. Locke, Dr. E. L. Hamilton, W.S.C.
Gardner, Jacob Willard, John Hawkins, N.C. McCrary and D.B. Bush.
The Court House was moved to Richmond from Rocky Comfort in 1880 and
the first term of court was held in the new Court House January, 1881. Judge H.B.
Stuart, and Rufus D. Hearn, prosecuting attorney, etc. Richmond members of the bar
residing here were: John Cain Head and Hindman C. Head, W. S. Curran, Littleton J.
Joyner and W. F. Joyner, and F. H. Taylor. Richmond, without any aid from the
county, built a nice court house before the election for removal of the court house.
Another Court House was built when the other burned - it was at the expense of
Richmond, but not an election was held before Foreman came in the night and stole
the records. This was Richmond's last county seat days. During the years, two
Negroes were hanged in a grove near Jeff Davis' store, one for raping a white woman,
the other for murder. A desperado, Cleasly(?) Britt and his gang committed many
crimes, burglaries, murders, etc. He was a native of this county. Finally, he and his
gang were arrested for robbing and murdering a Negro man. The jail that stood near
the gin was considered not sufficient to safeguard the keeping of these prisoners. Ed
Mullens of Foreman, a member of the mob, was killed. Some were caught and
sentenced. A Mr. Britt was one. He left and was never seen again until in the late
hours of the night he entered the room of a very sick man and was standing at the foot
of the bed, before those watching knew Britt was there. Not many weeks later, his
body was found in the weeds in a high state of decay. He had been shot to death.
S.S.P. Mills built a hotel and stable east of the Court House in the late seventies.
The hotel was called the "Grand Central" and had a large ballroom. After two or
three years he sold it to A. J. Mimms. One week before the Court House was burned, it
burned too. It was later rebuilt and became the center for drummers and traveling
men all over their territory. It was well kept and there were excellent meals served.
Richmond had a bank, two drugstores, eight stores, a hotel, two gins, two gristmills, a
saw mill, pastors and best schools in the county, Churches, five law officials, two
blacksmith shops, Court House and jail.
But let us go back to carpetbagger days. These were far from happy days in
Richmond. Dan Griffith, an illiterate Negro was Justice of the Peace, and for the least
provocation, would fine lawyers one dollar for contempt of court--dismiss the Court
and go across the street and buy all the liquor that the dollar would buy.
John Johnson, a Negro Tax Assessor, employed a white man as his deputy to
assess tax. And the Militia: The only family here who was not robbed by this outfit,
left home, turned everything over to a Negro who had been a slave in the family and
told her to claim everything as her own. She did and nothing was bothered. Ends of
corn cribs were knocked out and all old corn taken, chickens and turkeys shot down in
the yards, livestock stolen and everything that was not hidden. My father was told to
pen his hogs in the woods at night and they would not be molested. He had no faith
in this, but tried it, only to have the man who made the suggestion, lead the party who
shot the hogs, dragged them through the yard about daybreak. They hid the silver in
the woods in tight boxes, marking the places. One lady hid hers, and could hardly find
it later. As to slavery, I cannot tell much, because I made my appearance later. I do
know of Negroes who were slaves that absolutely refused to leave their families who
owned them. This was true in my childhood home. Mammy, Peggy and her husband
were given to my grandmother the day she was married, by her father. Uncle Ben
died, but Mammy and Peggy assisted my grandmother with her eleven children and
was so devoted to the family she would never leave. Upon the death of my
grandmother, Mammy and Peggy came over to our house and stayed until Mammy
died at the age of 103 years.
The first postmaster in Richmond was C. Calhoun Head. The carrier was an old
Union soldier with one peg leg. Mr. McHugh wore an old blue army overcoat and at
first made two trips a week. He went all over the county, to Washington, Texarkana
and several other places. The place was named for a Mr. Richmond, who became ill
and died here while enroute elsewhere. He is buried just inside Campbell's field near
Much more could be written of the glory of Old Richmond's citizens, who were
a people full of vision, patriotism, and courage. Some day I hope to do justice to my
old home town and its' history. Much more can be written-much has been omitted.