Cemetery Marks Historic Beeler Ferry


White county Historical Society


ne can travel two and one half miles west of Plainview on the county road and then walk one half mile south and be in an area of rolling wooded terrain. It is difficult to believe that the old roadway visible through the area was once a main thoroughfare across White County and a site of importance in early county history.

Today the area is marked by the basement of the Beeler house that was built about 1840 and the cemetery where members of the Beeler family are probably buried.

The earliest road across White County was the Southwest Trail which crossed the area from Pleasant Plains to Little Red, Mt. Pisgah, Center Hill, Floyd and on to Little Rock.

With White County’s creation in 1835, a county set had to be established. After several attempts, Searcy was established as the county seat in 1837.

With the beginning of the new town, a road was built connecting Searcy with Pleasant Plains to the north and Little Rock to the south. The new road crossed the Little Red River north of Searcy. The road had sufficient use that by May of 1839 the county court granted a license to John Beeler “for a ferry cross Little Red River, it is considered necessary and the same be ordered to be issued for the term of six months. It is ordered that the sum of four dollars be paid as a tax for keeping the above ferry, who shall be allowed the following rates of toll. To wit 25 cents for all four-horse wagon or oxen; 40 cents for pleasure carriage; six and one-fourth cents for each footman or horse; three cents per head for each sheep or cattle running loose.” (White County Record, 1836 – 1857)

John Beeler appears on the White County tax list in 1839. He died by 1843 but his widow Hannah continued to operate the ferry. In 1855 she paid tax on 334 acres, 2 horse, 11 cattle, $850 loaned at interest, $10 in ferry, for a total value of $2,750. Hannah lived until June 1, 1865.

The Beeler house was located on the north side of the river on the SE ¼ of the NW ¼ of Section 23. The house faced east and was no doubt a waystop for travelers. The house must have been substantially built as it had a basement or full cellar under it. The hole of the basement remains today, marking one of the oldest located house sites in the county. About one-fourth mile west behind the house site is the cemetery.

The cemetery has several graves marked with rocks as well as about 20 graves marked with tombstones. The oldest marked grave is 1860 with the last date on a marked grave being 1923. The cemetery is not easily accessible by vehicle, the fence is down and no attempt at upkeep is being made at this time.

The section of the Searcy-Batesville Road and Beeler Ferry was abandoned with the building of the bridge across the Little Red River about 1915. The bridge was located about one and one half miles downstream on the Pershing Highway that connected St. Louis and Little Rock.

With this change in transportation patterns, a major thoroughfare of the county for 80 years was bypassed leaving a quiet area of the county that is only three miles from downtown Searcy as the crow flies but seemingly much more remote in distance and time.