In 2019, Fayetteville, Arkansas found itself named among the top three American cities for live music, placing third after Austin, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana. In this history of Fayetteville’s nightspots and musicians, we celebrate the ancient human tradition of music and dance. These were – and still are – the places where live music finds its most enthusiastic audience, where musicians practice a craft as old as time, where the drumbeat and lyrical voice travel straight to the heart.
Among the hundreds of start-up bands pursuing their moment in the spotlight, some of Fayetteville’s bands and musicians have gone on to national, even international fame. Standing behind these musicians are the promoters, nightclubs, and rehearsal spaces that supported and encouraged them.
Perhaps more importantly, a steady stream of new talent, new sounds, new ideas attract passionate new audiences to join in the good times. How can this be? What strange cocktail of talent and public appreciation come together here to produce such a rich legacy of irresistible music and the places and professionals who enable its existence? Only a historical view of this Ozark city, its musical artists, and its creative commons can begin to illustrate the full picture.
Christmas Day horse races 1872, Middle Fork Valley. Bud Gilliland waits, eager for another chance at Newton Jones. Only this time, after two years of sparring, Newton gallops up in a cloud of dust, lifts his Spencer rifle to his shoulder to find Bud in his sights, and pulls the trigger, sending Bud to a well-earned grave.
Determined to wreak vengeance on his little brother’s killer, William Jefferson “Jeff” Gilliland takes control of a posse meant to bring Newton Jones to justice. But Jeff’s plan for the posse to kill “every last son of a bitch” goes horribly wrong and brings indictments for murder against Jeff and the rest of his posse.
Before the curtains closed in 1890 on these descendants of West Fork pioneers J. C. and Rebecca Gilliland, two other sons and a grandson would die violent deaths while yet another grandson serves hard time for murder.
What was it about the Gillilands?
This recounting of the family tracks their ancestry, their pioneer years on untamed land, and the hard work that made them one of the wealthiest families in Washington County, Arkansas. A fascinating tale of brash ego, brave gallantry, and plain old bad luck.
In the late 1990s, I pursued a project that called to me, which was to interview people of the 60s generation who lived in Northwest Arkansas. Many of these were immigrants to the area, the hippies, the drop-outs, the radicals. They came from New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and bought cheap Arkansas land where they could build lives with meaning. Some of the interviewees were locals, also of the Baby Boom generation who saw, rightly, that “the times, they were a changin’.”
What I found in common among those interviewed was a profound understanding that they and the rest of this cohort were responsible for what the future would become. Each acting passionately in his or her own way in arenas of personal interest, these people brought important changes to the region and the world. Whether protecting the environment, furthering the rights of women or racial minorities, or opening their hearts to so many other problems, these were the engines of social changes that are still being fought in our politics.
Often the topic of heated rhetoric and armchair analysis, those who went ‘back to the land’ are rarely heard in their own voice. Now documented in these breathtakingly honest, personal interviews, their stories reveal the guts, glory, and grief of the 1960s social revolution.
Records of John Randolph’s birth name a birth year of 1853, although various other records show conflicting dates. A church record states that he was born December 24, 1853, in Independence County, Arkansas. In 1873 at age 19, he married Sarah “Sally” Elizabeth Prince at Sulphur Rock, Independence County, Arkansas. She was his second cousin once removed.
Miss Prince was born September 1849 in Tennessee, daughter of William Prince and Martha Lamberson. This Lamberson is related to John’s mother’s family: Melinda was her first cousin once removed. William J. Prince was born 1813 in Georgia, and died during the Civil War in Independence County, Arkansas, as did his wife Martha Lamberson Prince, born 1825 in North Carolina. Sarah Sally’s siblings were William H., b 1842 TN (CSA AR 8th Inf. Co. E, enrolled August 6, 1862 at Sulphur Rock, AR, between Newark and Batesville); Mary A., born 1847 TN (married James Scott); Virginia b 1850 MS; James Ferdinand b 1852 AR; Martha Jane b 1857 AR (married George Hill 1872; David Bruton 1879); John T. b 1858 AR; Tennessee “Babe” b 1860 (raised by Mary, married Riley Whaley).
Birth records for the couple’s sixth child, Benjamin, dated 1888, states that John age 38 was a farmer and preacher, born at Newark Arkansas, and that Sarah age 40 was born in Mississippi.
John Randolph Campbell and his new wife Sally produced the following children:
i. Emma Campbell b. 1874, Newton Co., AR, d. 1888 of rheumatic fever at age fourteen
ii. Mary Molly Campbell b 1876, m. Frank Pratt(s). Children were Mabel m. Fred Albert; Lizzie m. John Hilburn; Beulah; Pierce; Lennox; Urcil “Huck”; Margie; Nettie (died).
iii. John William Campbell, b 1878, m. Mary Jane Ellis. John William is the great-great grandfather of my three Campbell children.
iv. Jack O’Neil, b. Dec 25, 1882 at Newark, Indep. Co, AR, d. Apr 14, 1960, Newport, married July 19, 1903 to Emma Bell Hicks and produced Lennie Mae, Bertha, Commie O’Neal, Rutha Lee, and Opal Christine. Jack then married Donnie Inness and produced another eight children: Edna Irene, Burl Nathaniel, Aubrey Evereett, Almeta Beatrice, Leeaun Utah, J. C., Alvin Newton, and Thelma Joyce.
v. James Campbell b 1880, m. Mary Willis. Children were Dallas, Nanny, and another daughter.
vi. Clu Campbell, died at age 9 – not found in family birth records
vii. Benjamin Harvey Campbell, b June 14, 1888, Pleasant Plains, Indep. Co AR, d. Nov 19, 1966, Newport, Jackson Co, AR. married Willie Hicks, married Ocra Ellen Tibbs, and their children were Eva Jewell and Clemins Alvin. He then married Helen Carmen “Nell” Yancy, and produced Vesta Lola, Virginia Vivian, Mather Carnell, Veda Lee, Milous Harvey, and Benjamin Morris.
The 1880 Newton County Arkansas census for Jackson Township lists John Campbell age 26 with wife Sarah age 25, with children Emma age 6, Mary age 4, John age 2, and James six months. John’s occupation was farming.
The 1900 census for Fairview Township, Newton County (?) lists John R. Campbell age 46 as a mail carrier, land owner with a mortgage, married 27 years to Sarah, age 50, with seven children of which five were living. Jackson, age 17, was a hack driver, and Harvey age 13 was a farm laborer. They housed a lodger named William Hicks. The 1920 census for Jackson County Arkansas, Richwoods Township, finds John R. Campbell age 67 and Sarah A. age 72 living in a rented home, with his occupation described as clergyman and evangelist. The 1930 census for Amagon (Richwoods Twp) lists John R. age 80 and Sarah age 84 living in a rented home without occupation.
John Randolph was about five-nine at 185 pounds, although in older age he became “heavy set.” He worked as an itinerant preacher, following the Church of Christ denomination. “On September 29, 1895, John R. Campbell was authorized to work as an evangelist by the “Disciples of Christ, worshiping at Surrounded Hill Arkansas.” In 1889, he was ordained as a preacher by E. M Kilpatrick, and J. L. Kitridge, Clerk for Tex-Ark & Indian Territory: Credentials, page 32.
According to one descendant, “John Randolph used to preach near Bradford [Arkansas] at least once a month; Aunt Nell [wife of Benjamin Harvey] remembers hearing him preach in 1914 near Swifton … said his name was Campbell and he was a Campbellite preacher. In 1917 he lived in the Pennington community and preached at different places. He received very little money as payment, mostly fresh vegetables, canned food, and some meats. Aunt Nell said she overheard some older women talking about the time he received a large handkerchief and two week’s board for holding a meeting. He preached some at Amagon and went to church barefoot … services were held in the schoolhouse.”
He also rented farms to grow cotton and he traded horses and any other item of value. When his third child John William and family settled in Fayetteville after 1918, John Randolph and Sarah joined them, living first at John William’s store at the corner of Rock and Mill, then on Frisco Street and finally on the south side of Spring Street in the four hundred block before moving back to east Arkansas. His grandson John Carl later recollected that he drove an old Overland Blue Bird.
One descendant stated that “John R. Campbell was a preacher. He was really a corker. Pulled some pretty good stunts. Think he drank a lot.” It was said by his grandson Zack that there were only two places that John Randolph would drink home brew, and that was “on this side of the Bible and on the other side.” His wife Sally dipped snuff, and sometimes smoked a cob pipe. Sally’s daughter-in-law (Mary Jane Ellis) stated that the Prince women were known to have “woods colts,” a euphemism for illegitimate children. In old age, Sally suffered a “dowager’s hump,” now known as osteoporosis. Sally and John Randolph both died in the Newport Arkansas area.
Mary Molly Campbell
Little is known about William and Melinda Campbell’s second child, Mary Molly. She is not listed in the 1860 census of Howell County Missouri. Later records show her spouse as John Willis Payne. Willis was born in 1854 in Kentucky, with both parents also born in Kentucky.
Willis and Mary Payne are found in the 1880 Newton County, Arkansas census, Jackson Township, at ages 25 and 26, respectively, evidence she was born in 1855 two years after John Randolph. Also in the household is her younger brother James, listed a ‘boarder.’
In a letter dated 1971 from Elizabeth Campbell Farmer, daughter of James “Jim” William Campbell, Elizabeth states: “Mary Payne is my papa’s (Jim Campbell) only sister. We called her Aunt Molly and she was married to Willis Payne.”
After 1880, Willis and Mary vanish from public records.
James William Campbell
At age 24, James married Nancy Jane Bell (age 19), daughter of William Levi and Nancy Busby Bell, September 18, 1882, in Newton County, Arkansas. This was two years after he was named as ‘boarder’ in the household of his sister Mary and brother-in-law Willis Payne. James and Nancy moved to Harrison (Boone County) Arkansas but in 1886 they moved back to Newton County where they settled in the Mt. Judea area (pronounced “Judy” by locals). There James dug wells and cisterns and built chimneys, as well as farming his land with cotton, corn, and small grains. He was a “great hand with a scythe and cradle and would get $1.00 per day for cutting wheat, a good wage for that time and more than most men were paid.” His son, Wesley A. Monroe, said they had “biscuits one to three times each day during the wheat harvest then cornbread three times a day for the rest of the year.”
He was elected Justice of the Peace in 1892 and remained in office for years. About the same time the family moved into a “box” house on land they homesteaded, a cause for celebration since most families lived in rough log cabins. In his capacity as JP, he married many couples and was said to shed tears during the ceremonies. He only went to school two days in his life, according to his descendants, but was a self-educated man. He taught school two summers – “Script” or conscript school. Each family paid one dollar for each child attending.
In the fall of the year, James would go away to pick cotton (probably in the river bottoms) and would take his wife’s handicapped half-sister Eliza Lawson as well as his older children. His wife Nancy Jane stayed home to care for the younger children and the homestead. It is said that James and Eliza lived as husband and wife during the cotton-picking trips. Nancy spun thread and wove most the cloth used for their clothes, including coats. The pants and coats were made of half wool and half cotton, called “linsey-woolsey.”
James also served in some capacity with the Spear Mining Company for their lead and zinc mine near Pendle. He was a school trustee for the board of education and helped to hire teachers. He was a “jack of all trades,” doctoring animals and people by setting broken limbs on splits that he whittled. He farmed and grew everything his family ate, including the livestock.
The eleven children of James and Nancy, as well as his child by Eliza Lawson and children by Nancy Walls, his third wife, are not listed for sake of privacy.
Sarah E. Campbell
The 1860 census, taken July 19, gives Sarah’s age as one month. Thereafter, no record of her is found. Assumed she died in infancy.
The execution site perched on a low hill lying just east of the National Cemetery in south Fayetteville, about one mile from the county jail at the town square. Its position served well in accommodating large crowds of observers anxious to watch the hanging. The place later became known as Gallows Hill and remained in use for executions until the Civil War. After the war, in 1867, the site was taken over by the federal government and became part of the National Cemetery.
On a cold clear November day, the couple was brought by wagon to the wooden platform, a hood placed over their heads and then the noose, and last prayers uttered. It seemed the entire county’s population had turned out to witness the macabre event as the drop doors opened and Crawford and Lavinia fell into the arms of death.
Soon after the execution of his parents, John Burnett was arrested in southeast Missouri and brought back to Fayetteville. The testimony of Sharp quoted previously in this story was given by Sharp at John Burnett’s trial. On December 4, 1845, John Burnett was indicted and quickly sentenced to his fate. The same gallows awaited him. Despite his attorneys’ protestations of his innocence, of which they were fully convinced, thirty-four-year-old John Burnett was hung on the day after Christmas, December 26, 1845.
What unspeakable crime could have sent the Burnett family to their deaths?
Murder, it was alleged, planned by the aging parents and facilitated by their son John. Murder of an old man named Jonathan Selby, a recluse rumored to hoard wealth in his remote cabin, not an uncommon thread of gossip about someone who didn’t make himself known within social circles. His cash payment for his eighty acres contributed to this idea. He may have exhibited a degree of wealth by purchasing livestock or building materials for his home, outbuildings, or fences. Later court testimony revealed that he had made the mistake of allowing someone to see him place a quantity of money into his wallet.
Did the murderers find a money hoard? Did the Burnett’s daughter Minerva regret her role in her family’s execution? These are a few of the questions that linger after a crime like this, a crime that led to the first execution of a woman in the State of Arkansas.
Contrary to popular notion, Arkansas was part of the Old West along with Texas and the rest of those more familiar dusty southwestern places. Its western border joined up with the Indian Nations where many a weary marshal rode out with his bedroll and pistol carrying writs from the U. S. District Court at Fort Smith in a search for a steady stream of men rustling livestock, stealing horses, selling whiskey, or running from the law.
From its earliest days, Washington County, Arkansas, experienced some of the worst the Old West had to offer. At unexpected moments, county settlers faced their fellow man in acts of fatal violence. These murderous events not only ended hopeful lives but also forever changed those who survived them. Not to say that the murders in the county all stemmed from conflict along its western border—plenty of blood spilled within its communities and homesteads.
The fifty chapters of Murder in the County each focus on one violent incident. Through family histories, legal records, and newspaper accounts, the long-dead actors tell their shocking stories of rage, grief, retaliation, and despair. Now, for the first time, readers can discover the horrors and mysteries of those long lost days.
Following the success of his first book, South County: Bunyard Road and the Personal Adventures of Denny Luke, Denny Luke found himself remembering even more moments in his life that seemed worthy of recording. Brief moments, some of them. Others spurred by a photograph here and there.
Always accommodating to his friends and family, Denny divulges various secrets and outrages that occurred at various points in his eighty years – so far.
Take what you will from his stories, he gives it all in good humor and humility.
Here’s a taste:
Age 12 or 13, I knew everything! Parents disagreed of course, so I plotted to run away. Living in Beloit, Wisconsin, where should I go? Having the entire world to choose from, decided on California, endless beaches, hot rods and beautiful weather and I could get there on my thumb.
Headed west, must change my name, I thought, to disguise myself, picked ‘Conrad Davis.’ Sounded right in case I hit Hollywood.
Somewhere in Iowa a fella picked me up in Chevy station wagon. Stated he’d just installed an anti-sway bar and watch this! He flew around curves, in the days before seat belts, had me white knuckling for my life.
Next, picked up by a guy attending an all-night meeting. He liked me, said I could sleep in the back of his car. Lit out at first light, back on the road.
Next evening was pondering what to do for the night…
Read all of it and much more in this slim but rich treasure trove of ‘Dennyspeak’! Available at Amazon
Let the rains come. Let it seal me inside my house, all gray and dark. I will turn on lamps, pools of yellow light that warm me, bring me to my favored place at the end of the couch. Books and magazines and yesterday’s newspaper beckon me with tidbits from the obituaries and the editorial columns. I will clean my nails and stare at the wall that needs painting.
The rain overcomes my senses, filling my nostrils with its unmistakable scent.
Let the rain pour. Sheets of rain, pounding on the roof, obscuring the profile of houses down the hill. Taking away my worries of the bills that are due, the tires that need replacing. Thankful I am home. The noise of the rain on the roof takes away the noise of the world.
Soup for dinner. Quiet, hot food, soft in my mouth, accompaniment to the cacophony of thoughts that clamor for my time, my attention. When the repairs to the bathroom tile? When the vet for the cat’s injured ear? When the time to wander in the yard, staring at moths and yellow-flowering weeds and the lighted distance through low tree limbs? To contemplate the sky, radiant blue, outlined in the mid-summer green of oak leaves?
Pour, rain. Let me sit in my robe on the side of my bed, cooled, moistened, lulled by the steady drone on the roof. Let me ignore the phone that rings shrilly in the far room, its third ring aborted by my pre-recorded voice, apologizing, placating. Go away, all of you. Can’t you see it’s raining?
I need to be alone. Time to consider the meaning of it all. Why the frantic awakenings and driving and worrying, this and that, meetings, advising, bank deposits, expectant friends. I need to step aside, look at the curve of the neck of my child, where the hair meets the skin of her neck and small new hair curls in the heat of the July afternoon, in the heat of her temper.
I need to contemplate the reasons I exist.
Thank you, rain. Thanks for the time you drowned out the world. Poured water across the ground in streams, in newfound passages of water across red clay dirt, across rocky, pebbly ground. Across pavement, steaming in the sun.
Let it rain.
This series of lyrical essays express the author’s love of nature and the wonders of life on an Ozark hilltop. Throw in a few neighbors who shoot copperheads or remodel the dirt road. Ask what is the role of human privilege over the fate of raccoon, opossum, reckless chickens, and random cats? Ponder the passage of time through a philosophical lens of wonder and delight. The seasons bring summer heat, winter snow, pouring rain, the power of fire. Lessons learned, questions posed–who has lived and died on this land? What is our responsibility to this place, its creatures, each other?
Come meet the goat on the road. Available at Amazon.com
Between Winslow and Mt. Gayler, across from Grandma’s Cafe
With the opening of Interstate 49, old Highway 71 through northwest Arkansas has lost most of its traffic. Formerly thriving businesses like the Smokehouse Restaurant near Mt. Gayler have folded up and slipped away in the night. Towns along this formerly packed thoroughfare have suffered losses as well, especially enterprises that depended on highway traffic as much as local customers to keep the black ink on their bottom lines.
Soon after the new four-lane highway opened with its easier grades, straighter curves, and swooping (terrifying) bridges high above the mere mortals below, state and regional officials began marketing the old highway as the “scenic” route. And it is, without doubt, scenic. Crossing the Boston Mountains with their sheer drop-offs and stunning vistas never fails to inspire.
Main Street, Winslow
Yet now more than ever, the underbelly of the Ozarks blossoms into view. Not so scenic are places where the property owners have lost the fight with their ‘stuff.’ Mounds of trash, some of it looking as though it was simply tossed out the door, litter their places of habitation. Old vehicles and various implements once used in the pursuit of livelihood sit haphazardly around the place. Cobbled-together homes make creative use of plastic sheeting and various and sundry bits of construction material.
Winslow across from new Dollar Store
These places have become a regular irritant to some locals, one of whom took these photos and sent them to me after I said I’d write a blog post about it. Locals like us have long since accepted the fact that some folks either can’t or won’t make the effort to present a respectable front to the world. There’s no shortage of such scenarios along just about any dirt road you might care to drive. But along the highway, a highway advertised as “scenic,” these places paint the entire region with a dismal color of decay and poverty.
Maybe the world expects to see evidence of destitution and apathy in the Ozarks. After all, ever since the publication of the “Arkansas Traveler” song in 1840, this region has suffered the disdain of many for its slovenly ways. Even now the more ‘civilized’ regions on either coast consider all of the hill states to suffer similar inability to come up to snuff–not that they don’t have their own ghettos.
Across from Silver Leaf campgrounds, Winslow
Unfortunately, time and again those stereotypes are borne out in real life. Homeowners barely scrape by, making do with what they’ve got, saving every scrap in case it might be needed. Or they’re renters unwilling and/or unable to improve on a place they’ll never own and whose owner can’t be bothered to make needed repairs. Or people whose lives have run over them with injuries or job loss or a litany of emotional defeats that leave them incapable of trying to make things better.
There are no zoning laws in Washington County that require people to clean up junk piles or dead vehicles or really much of anything. It wasn’t until the last couple of decades that an ordinance was passed requiring that electrical wiring standards be met in rural housing and that came about only after children died in a fire caused by poor wiring. Laws forbidding the surface disposal of sewage passed only a short time before that, and even now a properly-built outhouse remains legal despite the karst geology that allows pollutants to rush right through fractured layers of rock and loose soil to percolate into groundwater that surfaces as springs and streams. All of it, including discharge from septic tanks, ends up in Beaver Lake which supplies drinking water for the entire region.
It wasn’t until the late 1980s that landfills were required to monitor discharge and place liners under the trash. Some efforts have resulted in the cleanup of junkyards where vehicles in various stages of decay leak oil, gasoline, and various other noxious fluids into the waterways. Other efforts attempt to stop residents from openly burning trash, a practice that releases toxic chemicals like dioxin, furans, and dangerous particulate into the air we all breathe.
But there’s a mindset lurking in the minds of our people, that this is their place and they can damn well do what they please.
All around us, every day, the people and events of the past still echo. What is better than to meet those memories and share them with your loved ones?
From 1835 to the present day, the City of Fayetteville in Washington County, Arkansas, has enjoyed a vibrant and colorful history. Its reputation as a regional center for arts, culture, and education began early in its history. Frequently named one of the nation’s Top 10 cities, Fayetteville hosts the University of Arkansas and its famous Razorback athletic teams.
In Glimpses of Fayetteville’s Past, history comes alive in stories of the town’s origins and development. The five articles contained in Glimpses of Fayetteville’s Past focus on under-reported aspects of that history. Published initially by the county’s historical society, these intensively-researched works have been revised and expanded with illustrations, photographs, and maps.
“The History of Fayette Junction and Washington County’s Timber Boom” now include not only an in-depth review of Fayetteville’s first major industry but also three appendices which examine wagon production in Fayetteville, the name and tradition of Sligo, and the Fulbright mill.
“Quicktown” delves into the story behind this quirky short-lived suburb in south Fayetteville.
“546 West Center” tracks the development of a landmark Fayetteville property from its earliest use as a site for an ice factory in the 1880s.
“The Rise and Fall of Alcohol Prohibition” documents the use, production, and regulation of alcoholic drink in Washington County from before statehood through the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, and features indictment and other crime data.
“175 Years of Groceries” follows the transition from country store to supermarkets to big box stores and includes newspaper advertisements showing price changes over those decades.
Whether a reader is interested in learning more about the history of Fayetteville or simply enjoys the peculiar details of how time changes all things, Glimpses of Fayetteville’s Past will inform and entertain.
A visiting guinea? A ‘possum in the dining room? What strange and wondrous occurrences can one expect while living on an Ozark mountaintop for over forty years?
These lyrical adventure stories feature chickens, raccoons, bugs, dogs, cats, and natural critters of this woodland home. Throw in a few neighbors who shoot copperheads or remodel the dirt road. Ponder the passage of time through a philosophical lens of wonder and delight. The seasons bring summer heat, winter snow, pouring rain, the power of fire. Lessons learned, questions posed–who has lived and died on this land? What is our responsibility to this place, its creatures, each other?