Julia Heller of St. Louis married in 1869 Moses Baum and by 1870, Moses Baum, at the age of 24, was listed as one of the wealthiest property owners in Fayetteville. The couple went on to raise eight children in Fayetteville, a city that never saw the same numbers of Jewish merchants as the areas of Eastern Arkansas closer to the Mississippi River. The earliest recorded Jewish settlers in the area were the three Baum brothers, Joseph L., Leopold E. “Lee” and Moses. They had immigrated to St. Louis from Prussia near the close of the Civil War but while peddling along the military road to Fort Smith they passed through Fayetteville and found it an ideal location to settle and establish their business. In 1865, they had opened a clothing and general merchandise shop in the town square that had been destroyed during the Civil War and saw rapid success as the town quickly rebuilt. Within three years they had upgraded to a larger building.
Their store, Baum & Brothers, grew even larger with time and remained a fixture in Fayetteville for decades despite a series of devastating natural disasters. In 1880, a tornado tore through the town and destroyed the Baum’s large two-story building. They quickly rebuilt, only to face a freakish hailstorm the following year when “hailstones as big as cannon balls bombarded the city.” Undaunted, the Baums restored and remodeled the building which prospered until an 1894 fire gutted the property. Only a voluntary bucket brigade was on hand to douse the flames, and the tragic blaze inspired local citizens to establish Fayetteville’s first waterworks. The Baums rebuilt once more, erecting an even larger building and this time added the slogan, “Time Tried, Storm Proven, Fire Tested.”
In their early years, Moses and Julia educated their children at home in Jewish values and traditions and the Baum store closed every year for the High Holy Days. As Jewish enrollment at the university began to rise, the Baums embraced the students and in the 1920s, the Baums began holding services in their home with the assistance of Samuel Teitelbaum, rabbi of the neighboring congregation in Fort Smith.
Moses Baum was a charter member of the local Masonic Lodge, and both he and his wife contributed significantly to the first local hospital. Julia was one of the founding ladies of the Fayetteville Order of the Eastern Star Chapter 313 and a very dedicated and respected member. In 1928 Moses Baum was Fayetteville's oldest living merchant and conducted his business for over 50 years.