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Whiteside House, 3PP489

Whiteside House, ca 1984...click to enlargeThe Whiteside farmstead (3PP489) is near Russellville, not far from the Arkansas River. Elements present include a frame barn and a cemented well curb above a well shaft lined with dry-laid field stones. The most prominent feature is a decaying but complex log and frame house, very visible on the road to a Corps of Engineers park on the river. The house apparently reached its complete form by 1851 under James and Catherine Whiteside. However, its evolution may have begun much earlier. The Whitesides house is in the neighborhood noted by English botanist Thomas Nuttall. Headed upstream on the Arkansas in 1819, he remarked on the Cherokee community at Galla Creek. Said Nuttall, "At length we arrived at the Galley hills, a series of low and agreeable acclivities well suited for building. Here the Cherokees had a settlement of about a dozen families" (Nuttall 1821:122). Much of the Cherokee-created cultural landscape in Arkansas was happily re-occupied and extended by the Anglo pioneers who followed them into eastern Arkansas and later the Arkansas River Valley.

Fieldwork is being carried out by the Arkansas River Valley Chapter to examine the possibility that the Whiteside house started as a Cherokee farmstead, and to record the site before further decay. So far the work has included a documentation project with digital, 8mm video, b/w, and slides, schematic drawings with measurements of log walls, preparing plans of piers and floor joists, and shovel tests. Samples of bark and clay chinking were recovered for further analysis.

Further documentation is planned, along with recovery of samples of tree rings from the logs for dendrochronology analysis. Various architectural details already provide approximate date ranges. Ceiling joists in the log runs had reciprocating saw marks, whereas all the rest of the dimensional lumber and sheathing had marks from a circular saw mark, not introduced until the 1830s. Everything integral to the structure was fastened with cut nails, used primarily between 1830 and 1910. At some point the north exterior wall of the original log pen was given a second layer of sheathing of clapboards with wire nails, introduced in the 1890s. There were a few other wire nails obviously much later, used for hanging items from walls. Screws in hinges on fragments of doors on the first floor all had points, indicating a post 1850s date. The upper sashes on all the windows on the first floor were fixed, and that might just be an antebellum marker for conversion of entire house to frame.

Washburn House, 3PP474

Washburn House, ca 1930...click to enlargeTest work was conducted in 1998 at the Cephas and Abigail Washburn House site (3PP474), in Russellville, Pope County, Arkansas, by the Arkansas River Valley Chapter of the Arkansas Archeological Society. The Washburns were missionaries to the Arkansas Cherokee at Dwight Mission (3PP58) (now within Russellville), 1820-1828, and moved the Mission to near Sallisaw, OK, in 1829. After two more decades of varied religious service the Washburns retired back to Pope County. In the 1850s they built a two story log house sheathed in claboards in what was then rural countryside near the now-extinct Arkansas River town of Norristown. There, Cephas wrote his Reminicences of the Indians concerning Dwight Mission (published in 1869), and Cephas and Abigail's son Edward Payson began his career as a painter including doing studies for the renowned painting (at least renowned in Arkansas) "Arkansas Traveler". Cephas and Edward died in Little Rock and are buried in Mount Holly Cemetery, but Abigail continued to live in the house. When she died she was buried in the family cemetery nearby.

Washburn cemetery, ca 1930...click to enlargeThe Washburn House stood into the 1940s, serving in later years as company housing for coal miner families working nearby shaft mines. More recently, the house site was impacted by preparations for an industrial area, leaving only the family cemetery as a reminder of the Washburn presence.

In 1997 the property that includes the house site came to be considered for a golf driving range facility as part of the growth of Russellville and attention paid to the recreational potential for lands along the Arkansas River, including increasing use of the Old Post Road Park (US Army Corps of Engineers) and preparations for a massive complex of soccer fields (at site 3PP479) across the road from the Washburn site. Working closely with the developers, Stewart-Abernathy and the Chapter carried out historical research, pulled together all the known late 19th and 20th century photos of the house and outbuildings, and conducted limited test excavations that indicated components still remained from the mid 1800s. Possible remains of the well house were identified. Using the Prince camera technique to sight through an old photo and approximately relocate the house in place, it was possible to draw a boundary around the most sensitive part of the Washburn site. The footprint of the golf driving range was adjusted to avoid the house and yard area. Further research is being conducted with the goal of eventually developing on-site exhibitry for the edification and entertainment of golfers, soccer fans, and passers-by.

Washburn well house, ca 1900...click to enlargeIn 1999 the Arkansas River Valley Chapter also monitored extensive land surface modification at the new Russellville Soccer Fields Complex, property noted in 1829 as being part of an "Indian field", probably Cherokee. Stone tools dating back as far as 8000 years and firecracked rock were recovered but no features were encountered. Additional research is being conducted on an historic farmstead in the wooded northeast corner of the complex as part of development of the woods for a walking trail.

Bibliography

Nuttall, Thomas
1821 A Journal of Travels into the Arkansa Territory during the year 1819. Thomas H. Palmer, Philadelphia, reprinted 1966 by Readex Microprint Corporation, New York.

Washburn, Cephas
1955 Reminiscences of the Indians. Press-Argus, Van Buren, AR.

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