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The Town of Riverside, Woodruff Co., AR, and the Dent Family, A Pioneer Family Who Settled Here

by Gary Telford


Part 1

This is the story of a once booming, but forgotten town named Riverside. Riverside was an appropriate name, because the town actually borders the Cache River. The land was first inhabited by the Quapaw and Chickasaw Indians. Today, you can still see the mounds and find arrowheads.

The Cache River at Riverside

The Indians eventually began to die out, and around 1845 the white men began to settle the area which became Riverside. These early settlers worked intently to make Riverside an industrious and prosperous town. It was once one of the county seats of Jackson County.

In 1860 the town burned, and the Jackson County records which were kept there were lost. The spirits of the townspeople were dampened by the fire, and they were dismayed but determined to make the town become prosperous again.

This dream became a reality. The area became part of Woodruff County, and the town was considered for the county seat. In 1883 the population was at least 600, and it was recorded in the Arkansas State Directory. Riverside was on the line of the Batesville and Brinkley Railroad.

One of the most prominent and successful families who lived in Riverside was the Dent family.

James B. Dent
Major James Benona "Ben" Dent was born May 10, 1831 in Monongalia County, West Virginia. He was the son of James Dent who was born August 15, 1798 in Virginia and Dorcas Berkshire Dent of Cumberland, Maryland. They were married in Monongalia Co., VA. The paternal grandfather, Capt. John Dent, was the first sheriff of Monongalia County, West Virginia, and was a captain in the Revolutionary War. He married Margaret Evans and his father-in-law, Col. Evans, by his bravery, also won his title in that struggle.

John Dent died in Virginia. The maternal grandfather, William Berkshire, was a Baptist minister, and his son Ralph was Chief Justice of West Virginia for several years. James Dent was Captain of a company of militia in his young days, and in 1835 moved with his family to Putnam County, Illinois, where he made his home until his death, in 1883, his wife dying in 1878. James Benona "Ben" Dent was from a family of ten children, six living in 1890. He was put to school at an early day, and after acquiring a fair knowledge of the English branches, he entered Judson College, remaining there for two years. Upon starting out in life for himself, he accepted a position as salesman in a wholesale house of Chicago, Illinois, filling this position for two years; later he was in business in Galena, where he remained also two years, and afterward spent some time in Cairo.

In 1861 he enlisted in Company A, First Illinois Cavalry, and was commissioned Second Lieutenant, but at the end of one year he joined the Fourteenth Illinois and was made Captain of Company C. When mustered out of service he was Major of his regiment. He was in the battle of Lexington, Buffington's Island, Knoxville, Cumberland Gap, and was in all the battles from Dalton to Atlanta, and during his war career was captured three times, once at Lexington in 1861, and again in 1864, while with Stoneman on his raid on Macon, and was put under fire of his own batteries at Charleston, S.C., but remained uninjured. When captured the third time he was on a train going from Charleston to Cincinnati, and was taken back and put in Libby prison. After being held in this dungeon for two months he was exchanged.

In the fall of 1865 he came to Arkansas and located in Woodruff County where he met friends and decided to permanently locate. Although his finances were at a very low ebb he bought a farm and began improving his lands. Months later he had a large two story home built on his property two miles north of Riverside and named it Brentwood. The home was built by an English architect from St. Louis.
Brentwood House
The home contained ten large rooms, plus three halls, several pantries, a cellar, and an attic. Later his brother, Capt. Strother E. Dent and his family came to live at Brentwood also. By 1890 James B. "Ben" Dent was one of the largest real estate owners in the county, his lands amounting to about 5,000 acres, 2,500 of which were wild land, and the remainder of very fertile soil. The large farm was worked by fifteen to twenty share-croppers. The owner furnished the land, the seed, the mules and horses, their feed, and the equipment, such as plows, harrows, hoes, and wagons. When the crops were harvested, the owner got half the money and the share-croppers got half. Of course, their houses and land to raise their gardens, chickens, and cows were furnished to them. All in all about seventy five people lived on the farm.

Major James B. "Ben" Dent officiated as County Assessor in 1874, and for three terms held the position of County and Probate Judge. In 1888 he was elected on the Democrat ticket to State legislature, and filled the duties of that position in a manner highly satisfactory to his townsmen who honored him with their votes. He was a delegate to the National Convention that nominated Cleveland for the presidency, which met in St. Louis. He was one of the men who defended Gov. Baxter and replaced him in office, acting as lieutenant from Augusta during the Brooks Baxter trouble. During the Ku Klux and militia time he fearlessly expressed his opinion, defended himself against both parties and assisted in protecting his neighbors from the depredations of these lawless men. The Major was a whole-souled and honorable man, and was ever ready to defend his country, friend or neighbor. He took the degree of Knight Templar in the order of Masons, and took great pride in his lodge. He was very intelligent and highly respected all over the county. Major James B. "Ben" Dent died August 16, 1906 in Woodruff County and was buried in Augusta Memorial Park Cemetery. He never married. The girl he was engaged to died from tuberculosis and he never considered another. After his death his brother, Capt. Strother Evans Dent and his family inherited the property and the Brentwood Estate at Riverside.

The Town Of Riverside, Woodruff Co., AR
And The Dent Family, A Pioneer Family Who Settled Here

Part 2

From our story last week, Major James B. "Ben" Dent who owned 5,000 acres of land in the area of Riverside and Woodruff Co., AR had died a bachelor on August 16, 1906. He left all his property to his brother Capt. Strother Evans Dent and family, who were already living in the Brentwood Estate home and was in business in the Riverside area.

Capt. Strother Evans Dent Capt. Strother Evans Dent was a prominent and highly esteemed business man in Riverside, Woodruff County, AR. He was born September 8, 1843 in Putman County, Illinois, and was the son of James and Dorcas (Berkshire) Dent, she a sister of Judge Berkshire, of the Old Dominion. Both parents were natives of Virginia, and were married in Monongalia County, W. VA., where they remained until 1833. Then they immigrated to Illinois, and located in Putman County, where they passed their declining years, both dying since the war. They had a family of ten children, six was living in 1890; Mrs. Nancy McCoy (in Illinois), Mrs. Emily Parrett (widow of Judge Parrett), Margaret (deceased), Mrs. Lucinda Douglas (in Johnson County, Iowa), Mrs. Gilla Taylor (in Red Cloud, Nebraska), Judge James B. and Strother Evans Dent (who is the youngest of the family). The last named was principally read and educated in Illinois, and his principal occupation in boyhood was in attending the common schools and in assisting on the farm. He remained under the parental roof until the breaking out of the war, and, although quite young at that time, he determined to enlist. Through the influence of his brother, Judge James B. Dent, he was successful, and enlisted first in the First Illinois Cavalry. He was captured at Lexington, MO., and about a year later the regiment was mustered out. He went to Nashville in the Sixth United States Infantry, and served until the surrender. He was captain of Company F, Sixth Regiment, at the time of the battle of Nashville. He was an intrepid and fearless young man, and fought his way with vigor.

After being mustered out he went home, and in March 1867, came to Woodruff County, Arkansas, to join his brother Major James Benona "Ben" Dent who had arrived about two years earlier. He located on a farm, and began tilling the soil. In September 1885, he embarked in mercantile pursuits at Riverside, carring a large and select stock of goods, and he also bought and sold cotton and cotton seed. He handle about 1,000 bales of cotton the seasons of 1889-1890. His marriage occurred in 1873 to Miss Ella Katherine Darling, by whom he had three children; (1) Ramona Houch who died at 3 years, 3 months and 2 days and is buried in the Augusta Memorial Park Cemetery; (2) Emma Nira, born September 27, 1875 and married William B. Parrish. Emma died January 10, 1970 and is buried in the Augusta Memorial Park Cemetery. (3) Robert "Bob" Evans Dent was born November 14, 1878 and married Divian Cozort. Robert died September 3, 1960. Both attended school in Illinois. Ella Katherine Dent died August 6, 1883 and is buried in Augusta Memorial Park Cemetery. Capt Strother E. Dent was married the second time, June 1, 1885, to Miss Blanche Edith Bancroft who was born November 20, 1866, a daughter of Judge Bancroft, and the result of this union was seven children; (1) Strother Major Dent born April 13, 1886 who married Virginia Crowe. He died May 28, 1968 in Little Rock, AR; (2) Cora Olga Dent born January 5, 1889 and married Walter Raymond Otey Sr.. She died January 3, 1981 in Tulsa, OK. They had one known son, Walter Raymond Jr., born January 30, 1919 who married Marian Marlin; (3) Bancroft Dent born January 8, 1891 and died 1896; (4) Margaret Evans Dent born February 11, 1893 and married Ovid Carter Eiland who was born October 1, 1896. Margaret died January 6, 1998 and Ovid Carter Eiland died January 1986, both in El Paso, TX; (5) Suzalee Dent born January 1, 1895 and married Oliver Manford Plummer who was born March 2, 1893 and died April 8, 1970 and is buried in Augusta Memorial Park Cemetery. Suzalee died October 10, 1987. They had two known daughters; (I) Dorothy Ann Plummer who was born October 12, 1919 and married Robert Leggett; (II) Julia Dent born February 2, 1921 and died June 28, 1933 and is buried in Augusta Memorial Park Cemetery; (6) Dorothy Drew Dent born February 23, 1897 and married Paul Hunter Sr. She died March 19, 1978 in Utah; (7) James B. Dent born January 1901 and died January 27, 1904 and is buried in Augusta Memorial Park Cemetery.

Capt. Strother Evans Dent was a member of the Masonic order, K.T., K of H and K. & L. of H. The Dent family were relatives of the Grant family (see note below). Capt. Dent was a Democrat in politics, and although not an aspirant to any political office, he took a deep interest in the political welfare of the country. He organized the first Democratic club of Woodruff County, AR in the campaign of 1888. He was a prosperous and influential citizen of the county. He died May 26, 1922 and his wife, Blanche, died September 13, 1905. Both are buried at Augusta Memorial Park Cemetery.

There is a lake located south of Riverside on Cache River that is called Dent's Lake. This lake was named after the Dent family.

Note: In my research of the Dent family of Riverside I discovered another tie of this family through Julia Boggs Dent who married Ulysses S. Grant, our 18th President of the USA. Read this amazing story, complete with pictures, in an up-coming story by Family Roots.

The Town Of Riverside, Woodruff Co., AR
The Merchants And Their Families

Part 3

Riverside, like any town, had many merchants. Among them was Stith Malone Jones who was born near Athens, Alabama November 19, 1859. He owned and operated the S. M. Jones Mercantile. He also owned a tract of land of 430 acres. He married Mary Blanche Ward, born March 5, 1860. His children were Stith Moss, born May 11, 1888 and died May 30, 1889; Stith Malone Jr. born April 26, 1890 and died April 24, 1973; Reece Ward, born March 2, 1895 who Married Ruby Lee Fawlks, born March 5, 1905. Reece Ward Jones died October 1, 1974 and Ruby Lee Jones died May 2, 1995; Egbert B., Mary Pauline, and Blanche Joy; Willis Booth Jones, born December 23, 1893 and died April 5, 1894; Stith Malone Jones Sr. was a member of the Masonic Lodge. This family left Riverside and settled in Searcy, White Co., AR. Stith M. and Blanche Jones are buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Searcy, White Co., AR with other members of the family.

The Store at Riverside

Another prominent citizen was Mr. Booth Malone Jones who was born 1829. Major Jones fought in the Civil War, and after the surrender he returned to Arkansas. He moved to Riverside where he engaged in merchandising and purchased cotton. Major Jones married Miss Elizabeth Ann Dismukes, daughter of Thomas Heath and Mary Jane Hager Dismukes. Elizabeth Ann was born April 24, 1841, and they had three known children, Henry, Lizzie, and Fannie. Lizzie married Fletcher Lewis, who was a young merchant operating the Dent & Lewis General Store. Major B. M. Jones died 1889 and his wife, Elizabeth Ann Jones died in 1928. Both are buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Searcy, White Co., AR.

James Dallas Carter was born November 4, 1844 and came to Riverside from Burkesville, Kentucky in 1870 and built the Carter Saw Mill which contributed tremendously to the town's then booming economy. The mill employed at least fifty men and his fives sons, William W., Elmo, R. J., Richard C., and Joe D. Carter. He and his wife, Armead, born June 16, 1847, also had a duaghter, Mamie born January 6, 1897 and died July 24, 1942. James Dallas Carter died August 17, 1910. His wife Armead died April 19, 1881. Both are buried in Augusta Memorial Park Cemetery with other members of the family.

Riverside had three doctors. Among those was Dr. J. J. Battle. He moved here from Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. Battle graduated from Memphis Medical College in 1849 and in 1851 from the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. Before coming to Riverside, he was appointed surgeon of a company of men on their way to California to hunt for gold.

Another prominent physician was Dr. W. M. McWillie. He was born in 1843, and practiced medicine for 20 years. Dr. McWillie's brother, John, born 1845, was postmaster at one time and owned the drug store in Riverside. Dr. John McWillie died in 1884 at age 43 and is buried in the Riverside Cemetery.

Dr. Moore was also a practicing doctor in Riverside. He was born in 1850 and died in 1901.

George W. Gordon, another prominent resident of Riverside, owned land at Taylor's Bay. Mr. Gordon was actively engaged in politics in Woodruff County. In 1880 he served as constable and filled the position of deputy sheriff. He was a member of the Masonic fraternity. He married Kate Shell in 1873, and the couple were the parents of three children, Clarance, Lelia, and Fannie. Mr. Gordon taught at two private and three public schools in Riverside.

The following businesses that are listed in the Arkansas State Directory as having operated in Riverside during the years from 1860 to 1900:

Buchanan & Hopper, Grocery Store Dent & Jones Cotton Gin
Hails Pool Hall Dr. J. M. Battle, Physician
J.W. Buster & Bro., General Store Wade Copeland, Railway Express
Comer Gipson, Saloon & Telegraph
Dent & Lewis Co., General Store Walter W. Strickland, Railroad Express
S. M. Jones Col, General Store` & Telegraph Agent
J. P. Gipson, General Store S. M. Dent, Cotton Gin
Boone Jones, General Store E. E. Dent, Mercantile
W. H. Lacy, General Store J. H. Smith, Picture Gallery
Krum Arvine & Co., Saw Mill O. J. Stevens, Blacksmith
J. D. Carter Co., Saw Mill Livery Stable, Owner Unknown
McWillie & Co., Druggist Joe N. Hocutt, Attorney at Law
Riverside Furniture Co. Henry McElwee, General Store
Robert Tarpley, Saloon W. M. Riley, Marshall
Buchanan Bro., Saloon D. M. Jones, Hotel

Some of the postmasters of Riverside were John W. Buster, Stitch M. Jones, Mrs. Lottie L. Smith and John McWillie. Joe N. Jones was the last depot agent and telegraph operator in Riverside.

The last merchant of Riverside was William H. Lacy. He operated a General Store from the turn of the century until his death. He was born February 6, 1860 and died January 19, 1930. He is buried in Union Cemetery with two other members of his family.

Space will not allow us to elaborate on the details of all of these people and their lives, but it is hoped that we have enlightened you to the fact that Riverside, the forgotten town, did indeed exist and thrived.