Note to readers: This will be the last weekly edition of this column. Starting next week, I will be collaborating with the Faulkner County Museum to share an “Artifact of the Week” from the museum collection in this space. A Look Back will continue in the monthly Winc. magazine.
We will also be introducing a “History Mystery” picture on page 2A each week. Readers will be invited to guess what is in the picture and submit those guesses. The winners and the answers will be revealed the following week with a new picture.
Fifty years ago, on January 7, 1969, Rufus “Bub” Haydon, Jr., 75, former Faulkner County surveyor and a retired surveyor for the U.S. Corps of Engineers, passed away at Conway Memorial Hospital after a brief illness. He was the author of “Pine Mountain Americans, (1947), a book relating old folklore stories and describing events that took place near Round Mountain, south of Conway.
Haydon, the second son of Anna Etta and Rufus Haydon, Sr., was born February 13, 1893 in the Rocky Gap community southwest of Conway. He served in World War I as a sergeant of engineers and was on his way to France when the armistice was signed. The former owner of a sawmill and grocery, Haydon became the surveyor for Faulkner County in 1955, succeeding B.F. Stermer, who had been the surveyor since 1937. Haydon served four terms, leaving the office in 1963.
The Pine Mountain region is located in the southern part of Faulkner County, bounded by the Missouri Pacific Railroad and U.S. Highway 65 on the east and the Arkansas River to the west. River-bottom farms are found to the south while the rolling prairie and Round Mountain border the area to the north. A few other mountains surrounding the area. Reynolds Mountain lies to the south while Easterwood Mountain lies to the west. Cohen Hill is north of the region.
The Sevier Tavern, with Michael Sevier as the tavernkeeper, was at the center of this early Faulkner County settlement. The land originally belonged to Richard Clayton, Sr., who purchased it in 1849. He sold it to Joseph Reed who kept it only a couple of years before selling it to William H. James.
In 1860, James hired carpenter Michael R. Sevier, newly arrived from Tennessee, to build him a log home with rooms for overnight guests. The two-story house, with its hand-hewn logs, home-made boards and shingles, had two large rooms with a hallway between and an upper story divided into three rooms. There was an ell with two rooms at the back and rock fireplaces at each end to heat the rooms on both floors.
A 16-foot-wide Military Road was built through Faulkner County in the 1820s under the supervision of Lt. James Low Dawson. The road extended from Little Rock to Ft. Gibson in Oklahoma. The Fort Smith-Little Rock stage made its first overnight stop at the James Tavern after it left Little Rock.
Two blacksmith shops, a wagon-making business and a mercantile were established near the tavern by 1860. A post office was established, with James as postmaster, in 1861 and a subscription school with 20 students was opened. The town was called Olivia, supposedly after one of James’ daughters.
The Confederate Congress completed a telegraph line along the road in the early months of the Civil War and the Old Military Road got a new name—the Wire Road—which it would keep into modern times. The line provided a vital link of communication for the Confederacy until the Federal Army took control of the area and dismantled it.
In the mid-1860s, as the Civil War was ending, James sold his land and tavern for $350 to Michael Sevier, the carpenter who built it. Sevier, the grandson of the first Tennessee governor, John Sevier, had served in the Third Arkansas Cavalry during the Civil War along with his nephews, Henry and William.
Sevier and his wife, Sarah E., and their six or seven children, reopened the stage stop after the war. He would become postmaster of the re-established Olivia post office in 1866 but that would be short-lived. The post office was removed from Sevier’s Tavern to a point on the Perry County side of the river in 1870 after the Little Rock-Fort Smith Railroad was established to the west. The era of the stagecoach was over.
After the railroad opened, most of the new arrivals in the area settled between Sevier Tavern and the new railroad and so the center of the Pine Mountain Township shifted to Round Mountain.by the time Haydon was born. The tavern, however, continued to be a landmark for the people in the area until it was torn down in 1943. It would provide the setting for Haydon’s tales about the Pine Mountain Americans.
Some of the stories were personal experiences while others were relayed to him by older citizens of the area. Curious readers can find a reprint of the book for sale at the Faulkner County Museum along with other artifacts and pictures from Faulkner County’s history.