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History Of Franklin County Towns


This is taken from the Charleston, Arkansas Centennial Yearbook 1970: Anne Muffley SC

Charleston, The largest town in South Franklin and one of the county seats, was settled in 1843-44 by J. B.Thaxton, R.C. Thaxton ad C.R. Kellum. 

On April 8, 1874, Charleston was incorporated with D.Y. Sweeney as mayor. 

The town embraces a square mile (Township 7, Range 29). 

By the time of the Civil War there were three merchandise stores, a combination gin and mill and several residences in the town. 

In 1863, Federal scouts burned all of the buildings except two residences.  The town was rebuilt as soon as possible after the Civil War. 

With the completion of the railroad in 1898 Charleston boomed and had 650 people.  In 1921 Charleston had a second period of building due to the coal mines in the neighborhood, and by 1920 had a population of 734. 

The current census taken in 1970 shows a population  of 1497. Charleston is primarily an agricultural community with numerous cattle and dairy farms although in the 1800's cotton was the chief crop and continued so until the early 1900's.

Some of the early settlers from 1834 to 1857 were J.B. and R.C. Thaxton, C.R. Kellum, E.M. Richardson, J.H. and J. E. Cotton, and J. Dunn and H. O. and M. W. Spencer.     

After the war the first store was erected by Col. J.P. Falconer.  Later Berry and Newton and W.A.Black and Co In the seventies F. Younger, Baer and Joe, W.L Lelleam (gin and mill) Redden and Largely, millers; More and Hedges, blacksmiths.

In the late eighties and early nineties leading merchants were Falconer and Armistead, D.Y. Berry, L. Newton, V.V. Beavers and W. A. Milton; W. P. Richardson and F.D. Proctor were grocers, and drugs were handled by A.P. Richardson and D. L. Winters; R.D. Bridgman, hardware; furniture sold by J.D. Bolling.  The Charleston House by D.R. Whitlock only inn.  In wagon, carriage and blacksmith lines were J.L. Lanley, Moore and Daney, J.E. Smith and Moore and Hodgens. 

Goodwin and Sons had a livery and stage stand; Richardson and Hedges were contractors; J.L. Landgley, lumber yard; Jack Price Barber, J.C. Berry and L. H. Gunter, painters; nursery owned by J.S. Burt.     

The medical profession was represented by Dr. E. B. Knotts, Dr. Wright, Dr. W.L. Kelleam, Dr. R.M. Southard, Dr. R.M. Barnes, Sr. Dr. George Kidwell and Dr. J.S. Burt. 

The eye and ear Dr. J. M. Crandall's specialty; Dr. R.M. Barnes, Jr. a dentist.  

The attorneys in 1888 were J.D. Parks and T. A. Pettigrew.  Later D.W. Bryan, A.N. Hill and F.J. Mott.      

On June 18, 1881, the first Charleston newspaper came out.  The Vindicator was founded by the owners of the Ozark Democrat.  Charles Knoble was the manager of the Vindicator and he purchased it a short time later. 

In 1883 , Dr. M. Stroup bought the Vindicator.  He was followed by Bridgeman Brothers who became the owners in 1885.  the Vindicator continued to serve the Charleston Community until 1898.

In 1900 the second and present newspaper was established, the Charleston Express owned and operated by P. Carter and Bert McCausey.  Harry East was both the publisher and owner until the express was sold to John Guion in 1940.


Written in 1970 for the Charleston Centennial: Photos highlighted blue have been added to this town.

The three main founders of the town of Branch were William Bradbury, Richard Turner, and J.D. Branch.  When the Post Office was established it was named for John Branch.  (there was another Turner so they couldn't use that name)

NOTES: Photos thanks to Joyce Friddle Feb 2006.

Road through Branch with a southern view.

Main Street Celebration. No power poles seen, or lights on the fronts of the stores so this photo must have been taken before electricity came to town.

He built one of the first cotton gins and grist mills.  At one time there were as many as 900 people living in Branch.  When coal stripping was going strong at Grand Prairie, about five miles northwest of Branch, workers walked or rode horseback from Branch to their jobs. 

A branch railroad off the main line was built to Grand Prairie in 1919.  Headquarters for that branch line was established near the present old high school building, abandoned since consolidation. Branch Railroad Station NOTE: The railroad came through in about 1898.

The brick high school building was constructed in 1914. Need photo of this school if you have one to share.

Some of the early settlers: J. Bradley Turner, Sr. was Postmaster at Branch for 30 years.  Marvin Clevenger is the present Postmaster. The barber at Branch for over fifty years was Boyd Scherer. Samuel Thomson owned a cotton gin.   Please submit copies of photos you may have in your attic.

NOTES: Mayme Vest wrote a lot about this town. See some of her articles here.



The present town of Cecil, Arkansas located on highway 96 was once known as Pleasant Ridge and was changed to the name of Cecil by Tom McClain who became Postmaster August 28, 1886 and named it after his oldest son-Cecil.

Just a few miles west of Cecil and down Carnahan Hill along Creek road was a community of about 35 families formed in the early 1870's named Mill Creek which later became known as Pauline, Arkansas when Dr.Wilson R. Bachelor became Postmaster March 31, 1881 and named it after his youngest daughter- Pauline.

This community faded away in the early 1900's with Cecil becoming the most prominent Town in the area. There were several River Ferries to Mulberry from the Cecil area including the Long and the Hoover ferry and at some time Jim Oxford even built a Cable Boat that ran across the river.

The first Gas Well drilled in the area was the R.S. Barton Field in 1949. Cecil also produced the most Decorated Soldier of the 83rd Infantry Division in World War II...Captain William Leon Russell.

He was known as the "King of the Purple Hearts" for his 7 wounds as well as the Silver Star earned in Combat in the European Theater. He returned to Franklin County following the war and was twice elected as Sheriff of Franklin county 1946-50.

Thanks To Lynn and Bill Russel l


Altus Incorporated August 21, 1888. The population at that time was about 500; Dr. S. D. Price was the Mayor. Its name was derived from a Latin word meaning high, Its location was the highest point on the Little Rock & Fort Smith railroad which later became the Missouri Pacific railroad. The first passenger train went through Altus in 1875.

Old Altus was located about a quarter mile east of where it is today and was the terminus for the railroad for about a year. Mr. Nichols laid out Altus and offered the Railroad an alternate lot and a depot site 300' x 300' to move the old town to where it is today. The place is laid out in four streets about the depot as a square. The last train went through Altus May 15, 1936. The depot still stands today. It is used for a community center.

Mr. Nichols first store was followed by R. C. Hill, J. N. Williamson, Brooks & Gregory, J. L. Jackson Bridges, Capt. Bailey, Wadkins, Logan, I. L. Burrows, Howard, Dr. Layton, O. B. Donaldson, Boyett, Crawford Bros. and T. J. Brown.

Among those early settlers of the area were Jimmy Crusen: he had the Crusin Horse Mill, the only mill in east Franklin county.

William Hellens and Marcus Hogan for whom Hogan Township was named. He served as Justice of the Peace performing the first marriage recorded in this area. He married Robert Skidmore and Elizabeth Gold (Gould) September 7, 1849. U. J. Nichols built the first house in 1875; Mr. Nichols built the first Mill and Gin in 1887. This house was later occupied by D. Fains' Drug store.

Other businesses followed as the town grew. General Merchandise: W. D. Rodman, J. H. McGee, Donald & Jackson, W.W. Bailey, and Miller & Nichols. Groceries: Boyett & Schriver, Crawford Bros. and W. D. Logan. Mills: Altus Steam and Gin by Balentine & Cumpton. Drugs: T. J. Fain & T. J. Brown.

Commission Merchandise: W. J. Brooks. Confections & Shoe Trade: W. M. Barens. Millinery: Mrs. M. A. Adkins, Stationary: W. J. Crockett, Livery Stable: F. M. Hammond, Hardware: Mike Metz, Blacksmithing: T. J. Schriver, Meat Market: Nichols & Hawkins, Real Estate: G. W. Austin, Hotels: the Commercial Hotel by Mrs. Dodson and the Hamond House by L.P. Lawton, Lumbering: J. M. Wells & D. Morrison, Nurseries: W. J. Wilson, Fruit Shipping: Col. W. S. O'Kane & W. J. Wilson, Carpentry: W. H. Cooper, Tonsorial Art: H. Thomas, Express Agent: L. B. Crenshaw, Law: Capt. Bailey, Medicine: Dr. T. J. Fain and B. H. Cochran. Hotels: The Commercial Hotel by Mrs. Dodson and the Hammond House by L. P. Lawton.

March 18, 1918 a tornado struck the town demolishing two stores and three residences. The buildings were replaced during the summer of 1918. July 10, 1922 a disastrous fire swept the business district completely burning four stores and damaging five others. The work of rebuilding was slow, completed about 1929.

1927-28 a building boom hit Altus. J. H. Jacobson, a Chicago millionaire bought up seven farms on Pond Creek Mountain north of Altus for the purpose of building summer cabins for his wealthy Chicago friends. A group was formed of Altus citizens with Jacobson as leader for the purpose of building a swimming pool, bridle path and landscaping the mountainside. Before the proposed work was completed the depression of 1929 hit financially ruining Jacobson and his friends. The population was 709 at that time.

Businesses in the 1900's -1980's: Theater: Mr. Weishaup, Livery Stable: L.P. Jacobs, later sold to Thomas F. Canady who also worked in the train depot, Harness and Shoe shop: Mr. Stanfield, Barbers: Molard Jacobs, Roy English, George Flegel, Gilbreath, Charlie Rachel. General Merchandise: Jim Cherry, Harve Nichols, L. M. Hembry, J. P. Baker, Seaman's, Lewis & Virginia Canady. Confectionery: Doc Schriver. Hardware, Furniture & Undertaker: Mrs. Johnson. Lumber, Furniture & Undertaker: Mr. Newman. Hardware: Mike Metz, J. B. Randolph. Grocery: Mr. Edwards, Will Woods, Gerald Hampton, Charlie Melton, Harmons, Mr. Cline, Ethel & Bill Musgrove, Judge Burrow, Mr. Jacobs, Jack Pitts, Earl Nixon, Gallon Gossett Grocery and Feed Store. College Hill Bottling Co.: Jim Mansfield. Drug Stores: Doc Schriver, Mooney's, Model Drugs, McCuberys, and Higgens. Cotton Gin: Jim Mansfield. Café: Ben Resse, Peach Burns Café, The Owls Roost, Hallie Dobbins. Gift Shop: Mr. Nelson, Garner Carter, Radio Shop, John Harbottle Liquor Store, Mae Arbough, Lorene Gazaway Liquor Store, Dow Williams, Service Station, Ralph Harris Gas Station.

About 1910 Altus had an Icehouse. You could buy ice by the pound but you had to go after it, delivery of ice did not begin until about 1930. It also had a central telephone office. Fred Burrow was the banker, Bud Rowe was the Gazette correspondent.

Altus was the birth place of a talented author and writer: Mrs. Janice Holt Giles. She was born at the home of her grandfather Dave McGraw. Her parent moved to eastern Oklahoma when she was four however, she spent many summers with her grandparents. She wrote many books some of which are "The Plum Thicket," "40 Acres and No Mule," "Run Me a River" and many more.

Central Collegiate Institute was among the first colleges in Northwestern, Arkansas. It was founded by Reverend Isham L. Burrow (a Methodist Minister) October 31, 1876.

It was successful two boarding houses were built for the accommodation of the increasing student body, a larger school was built. The plans called for a three-story building with a tower, which was to rise seven stories in height. The college was purchased from Rev. Burrow and renamed Hendrix College, in honor of Bishop Hendrix of Kansas City. 1890 moved it to Conway, AR at that time the property reverted to Rev. Burrow.

He was determined that the college in Altus should continue, he opened a college in the fall of 1890 naming it Hiram & Lydia College in honor of his father and mother. After 16 years of success Rev. Burrow decided to retire because of his age. He sold the school buildings to the Altus School District and the boarding houses were sold to private citizens. On the night of Feb. 5, 1909 a bolt of lightening hit the third floor of the school building setting fire to the structure and it was completely destroyed.

Most of the coal mines were not in Altus but they were very important to the economy as many families made their living from them. Mining in the area was from 1873-1940. Many of the miners would work the mines by night and farm by day, many walking for miles to go to work.

The Altus part of the field is known as the low coal field: veins vary from 16 to 24 inches in this part of the field. Low coal mines in this area were the Black Diamond in 1923, Lewis in 1924, The Flying Dutchman in 1930 and the Smith mine in 1931. Altus local 2121 was organized in 1934.

Newspapers: C. H. Gregorys Agriculture paper, The Altus Albion by R. C. Hill founded 1883 then Prof. I. L. Burrow 1850, then Mr. Burnett, E. M. Dewey and W. L. Jameson. B. M. Burrow then owned it, later rented it to D.M. McGraw. On May 17, 1888 G. W. Austin leased it calling the Altus Advance, it continued until 1894. H. T. Hampton it was published until 1899 founded the Altus Sun in 1896. The Altus Banner was organized in 1917 by Miss Sultana Higgins and was published until 1920.

The first grapes grown in the county were in Altus. They have been an important part of the Altus areas. German and Swiss settlers on Pond Creek Mountain north of town started the vineyards in 1881. Jacob Post SR set out the first vineyard in 1881. Many of the immigrants in Altus came from winemaking regions and transferred their talents to their new homes. Altus soon became famous for its good wine. There are still four wineries in the area: Wiederkehr, Post, Mount Bethel and Sax Winery. Some of the wines from this area are known worldwide.

Churches: Altus Missionary Baptist Church was organized July 1887 by elders: J. M. Lawrence, A. S. Pettie and R. M. Small. Altus Methodist Episcopal Church South was organized in 1875 by Rev. C. H. Gregory; it burned in 1951 was built back in 1952. The Christian Church organized July 1888 by F. B. Sirgley. Was disbanded in 1920. Altus Pentecostal church has been active in Altus for 50+ years. Father Beatus Maria Ziswyler organized Altus Catholic Church November 21, 1879. This church is built of native stone that came from the hill it sets on. It is on the historical register, is visited by thousands of tourists yearly.

Dr. E.W. Pillstrom opened Altus first and only hospital in 1944. Was open until his death in 1956. At that time Mrs. Pillstrom opened the Pillstrom nursing home which remained in operation until 1978.

Today the building still stands. Some of his staff were: Katie Joerger, Mrs. Mary Pillstrom, Irene Pillstrom, Luke Park, Agnes Joerger, Margaret Meiger and Ena Harrington, R.N.

The German American Bank of Altus was established in the early 1900's. The officers were as follows: H. L. Hembery President, J.J. Sax Vice President, Rev. Palcidus Vice President, J.N. Adams Cashier, Directors: A. Buergler, M. Musgrove, Jacob Post, J.J. Sax and N.J. Adams. It became the bank of Altus around the time war broke out. In May 1918 its doors closed. This building has been many things including a Post Office. Now it is the Altus Heritage Museum open operated by volunteers. Always open during special city events.

Postmasters: Kerney L. Harman 7-6-1875, Jacob W. Williamson 1-18-1877, Robert C. Hill 7-8-1878, Otto B. Donaldson 3-2-1880, Lewis B. Phillips 12-13-1881, John W. Crockett 10-27-1885, Lewis B. Phillips 7-26-1889, Thomas B. Crawford 2-9-1891, Otto B. Donaldson 8-21-1893, George W. Crawford 7-13-1897, Lewis B. Phillips 1-3-1901, Nancy J. Phillips 5-23-1903, Oliver H. Swift 2-28-1906, Milburn A. Henry 8-8-1914, Mildred Luck 11-16-1918, Walter McSwain 10-17-1919, Fredrick H. Burrow 6-13-1921, Hattie L. Burrow 12-15-1925, Mrs. Hattie l. Moore 3-18-1929, Mrs. Mattie Thompson Higgins 2-7-1934, Pauline M. Olesak 7-30-1934, Pauline M. Weatherton 11-25-1937, Benjamin P. Davis 3-31-1938, Gurley C. Pitts 1-5-1951.

Rural Route carriers: first one unknown, Walter E. McSwain Jan9-1913-Oct. 13, 1919, Justin J. Duerr Nov 24, 1919-Nov 1919, Carl M. Compton Nov. 25, 1919-July 2, 1920, Sam F. Davis July 3, 1920-August 19, 1950, Robert Brown Aug 21, 1950-Jan. 15, 1951, Benjamin P. Davis Jan. 1951-July 31, 1959, James Baker Aug. 1, 1959-April 28, 1961, R.C. Sosebee April 29, 1961-1988.


History of Altus, Arkansas provided by Fran Frame at:

Thanks Fran