Traveling to see, and experience, history

More and more people worldwide are traveling to experience history. Perhaps it’s because, in this modern and stressful world, people have some innate longing to return, if briefly, to simpler times.

Pocahontas is one of the oldest cities in Arkansas, and Randolph County boasts many Arkansas “firsts”:

  • First Grist Mill – Demun Mill on Mill Creek, before 1800.
  • First Ferry – Hix Ferry (later Pitman’s Ferry) on Current River, 1802.
  • First planned town – Davidsonville, on Black River, 1815.
  • First Court – held at the home of Solomon Hewitt, west of Davidsonville, 1815.
  • First U. S. Post Office – Davidsonville, 1817.
  • First School – Ravenden Springs-1817.
  • First Methodist Circuit Rider – Eli Lindsey, 1817.
  • First Baptist Church – Columbia–1818.
  • First Courthouse – Davidsonville, 1820.
  • First U. S, Land Office – Davidsonville, 1820.
  • First Masonic Lodge – Brakebill, 1828.
  • First Circus Performance – Pitman, 1838.

Unfortunately, most of these firsts in Arkansas are long gone, including the whole town of Davidsonville. That first school is still there at Ravenden Springs, though, because it was held in a cave and the cave’s still there!

But we’re proud to have, still standing and recently fully restored to mint condition, the oldest store building in Arkansas and the oldest tavern and inn in Arkansas.

The 1828 Rice House at Dalton was originally built as a ‘shop’ and store and a loom house for textile production. A small community of outbuildings grew up around the house and many of these were restored during the Rice House restoration project finished just last year.

Approximately a mile from the Rice structure on the opposite bank of the Eleven Point River stands the 1833 Looney Tavern. The structure Looney built, undoubtedly with the assistance of his two adult male slaves, still stands on a hill near the fording place in the river that provided access to his homestead. Two unequal sized log ‘pens’ separated by a breezeway created a house and tavern (with sleeping rooms upstairs) in a style known as a ‘dogtrot’. This structure, also recently fully restored to mint condition, is a unique, one-of-a-kind, structure in Arkansas.

Both old structures are planned to be open for public tours several times each year. On special occasions visits to the sites will feature visitor participation events in lye soap making, yarn spinning, and other every-day aspects of frontier life.

Fall 2011 photo of completed 1828 Rice House restoration.


Fall 2011 photo of completed 1833 Looney Tavern restoration.

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