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Arkansas Properties on the National Register of Historic Places: Parker-Hickman Farm Historic District, Erbie vic., Newton County

Arkansas Historic Preservation Program - Friday, January 30, 2015

The Parker-Hickman Farm Historic District near Erbie in Newton County was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 11, 1987. You can read this and other Arkansas National Register nominations at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/historic-properties/national-register/search.aspx.

STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE

The Parker-Hickman Farm is significant under National Register Criteria A and C as it embodies pioneer settlement and economic development; and the perpetuation of traditional architecture and cultural landscapes in the southern Ozark Plateau. As a site which merits regional-level significance the farm, located in a remote area of northern Arkansas, was first settled by relocated Cherokee people in the 1820s. By the 1840s pioneers settled on land alongside the Buffalo River, where they established a very productive farm which incorporated elements of a traditional and perpetuated frontier. They implemented longstanding patterns of occupying the best lands for farming and livestock raising coupled with access to important resources of wood and water. Continuously used from the 1850s until 1982 (its period of significance) the intact fields, farmstead and associated garden and orchard plots, peas and lots, add to a sense of contentment and security which has not been altered by the passage of time. Combined with nearly 130 years of continuous occupation the farm possesses a significant amount of integrity. Dominated by a log house in age and quality of workmanship exemplary for the Ozarks, plus various outbuildings the farm represents an adaptive enterprise based on conditions which evolved from a raw frontier to the relatively stable mid and late twentieth century. As ownership and economic conditions changed, land use and the farmstead reflected those changes. However, intrusions such as specialized farming, timbering, and building construction seem not to have fundamentally altered the integrity of landscape or architecture on this upper Buffalo River valley farm.

One of the last regions to be penetrated by settlers after crossing the Mississippi River, the Ozark Plateau is an area dissected by ridges and valleys, open glades and bottomlands. As old, eroded mountains the Ozarks are covered with a mixed hardwood forest which after 1920 had supplanted a mostly pine covered landscape. Interspersed with numerous springs, creeks and rivers, it attracted settlers following the cession of lands by the Cherokee in northwest Arkansas in 1828. Unlike many settlers moving up the Arkansas or Missouri River valleys, those who moved into the Ozarks typically had to travel overland or wend their way up river drainages such as the White and its’ tributary, the Buffalo. Seeking land to support them in ways similar to Tennessee or the Carolinas, these hillfolk settled land along the watercourses during the Old Ozarks phase (pre Civil war) that would be suitable for agriculture. A perpetuated frontier, the Ozarks became an extension in place and time and as such the farms reflected that past. In selecting land, early arrivals chose bottomlands, the best of the arable land. For the Parker family this meant land along Webb Branch just above the confluence with the Buffalo River in Newton County Arkansas. Arriving during the early 1840s this extended family settled on land which would be incorporated into the Parker-Hickman farm that evolved through the years until sold to the National Park Service in 1982. In 1847 William H. Parker filed entry on 40 acres and three years later he purchased 40 acres, both on the river floodplain.

Earliest settlers located the farmstead in a sheltered niche against ridges abutting a small flood plain formed by a spring branch and Webb Branch Creek. Visually the site conveys a sense of security from the elements. As with earlier generations the spot least disrupted the environment while utilizing topographical features to a maximum. In this setting during 1849 the family produced a good amount from a modest-sized farm, including 700 bushels of corn, 100 bushels of oats and 80 bushels of wheat. Productive farms such as this used bottom and bench land fields, in contrast to latecomers who found the best land taken and had to use hard-scrabble soils of the ridge tops.

Civil War skirmishes occurred on or near the farm. Following the battles of Pea Ridge and Wilsons Creek in the western Ozarks, a number of random guerilla acts transpired, especially in 1864. According to oral tradition, the house served as a temporary field hospital after a skirmish on Webb (then Parker) Branch.

A very significant portion of the farm is the intact farmstead that has structures built from the 1850s to 1955. This exemplary cluster of barns, sheds, smokehouse, privy and house represents a cross-section and range of rural vernacular architecture in the original, location. It depicts the evolution of a farmstead over a period of 100 years and is a representative and highly usual grouping of traditional structures almost perfectly preserved. The principal structure, a log house, represents the most common house type of the southern uplands. In quality of construction the hewn log crib portion exemplifies superior fitting together of Carolina-designed, half-dovetail notched logs. In the Ozarks a higher social status accrued to those who lived in a hewed log house rather than one made of round logs. The side and rear additions make the structure a usual and traditional dwelling. According to one close observer of rural vernacular architecture in the region, the Parker-Hickman house has a steeper pitched roof than those of German influence in the northern Ozarks and is constructed of cedar logs, not traditional oak or walnut. The vertically laid sandstone chimney, proportionately much larger than the dwelling, presents another dissimilarity within the region.

Other buildings of contributory significance to the farm illustrate the variety of activities from the 1850s to 1982. These include two barns, a corn crib, smokehouse and privy. Constructed of logs or rough sawn lumber, they reflect the usual complement of buildings on an Ozarks farm, and demonstrate adaptation to the topography and changing conditions of an agricultural economy over time. Very typical, and in a fair to good state of repair, they lend themselves to the farm’s overall integrity. Non-contributory structures include a machine shed and a chicken house constructed in the 1950s however, they complete an ensemble of structures which lend context to the farmstead, and to the farm as a whole.

Of considerable importance is the entire landscape with farmstead, extant fields (bench and bottomland), fencerows, roads, cattle gates, garden and orchard plots, wooded slopes, and springs. Unlike most historical sites in the Ozarks the landscape is remarkably intact, and provides insights and evidence spanning portions of two centuries of Ozark history; it also conveys a feeling or sense of contentment and security.

As agricultural production changed over time the Parker-Hickman farm reflects those trends. Initially the effort was simply subsistence but as more land was put into production surpluses developed relatively soon (within ten years or less) which fueled a local market system. As a transportation network of roads and later railroads developed, distant markets to the north and west materialized, although cattle droving into Missouri from the Arkansas Ozarks occurred soon after settlers arrived.

In keeping with the overall Ozarks pattern, general farming continued at the Parker-Hickman farm, however after World War II specialization began, particularly in livestock raising. Unfinished feeder cattle dominated the specialization and the last owners of the farm, the Hickmans, turned the fields into pasture land for cattle production.

The Parker-Hickman farm reflects the entire range from subsistence to specialized agriculture; from settlement to the present day; from structures of log to rough sawn frame ones which make up a range of rural vernacular architecture; and from Parkers to Hickmans, inhabited continuously from first settler to the last occupant during the late twentieth century.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Billington, Ray A. and Martin Ridge, Westward Expansion, 5th edition. (New York: Macmillan, 1982).

Britton, Wiley. Pioneer Life in Southwest Missouri, Volume IX, revised and enlarged edition. (Kansas City: Smith-Grieves Co., Publishers, 1929).

Conversation with Dr. Robert Flanders, May 20, 1985, February 1986, Director, Center for Ozark Studies, Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri.

Conversation with Mr. & Mrs. Robert Hickman, November 20, 1981, Rte. 1, Harrison, Arkansas 72601.

Conversation with Mrs. Bonnie Landureth, December 7, 1981, Rte. 6, Box 465, Rogers, Arkansas 72756.

Conversation with Mr. Elgie Parker, November 27, 1981, Rte. 1, Harrison, Arkansas 72601.

Conversations with Suzanne Rogers, April and May, 1985, February 1986, Research Historian, Buffalo National River, Harrison, Arkansas.

Conversation with Mrs. Ruby Hickman Webb, November 21, 1981, Jasper, Arkansas 72641.

County Clerk’s Deed Record Books, Jasper County Courthouse, Jasper, Arkansas 72641.

Lackey, Walter F., History of Newton County, Arkansas. (Point Lookout, Missouri: S of O Press, 1950).

Logan, Roger V., History of the North Arkansas Baptist Association. (Harrison, Arkansas: Pine Tree Press, 1978).

Pitcaithley, Dwight T., “Buffalo River: An Ozark Region from Settlement to National River.” Unpublished Doctoral dissertation, Texas Tech University, 1976.

Rafferty, Milton D., The Ozarks, Land and Life. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980).

Swaim, Doug. Carolina Dwelling. (Raleigh: The Student Publication of the School of Design, North Carolina State University, 1978).

U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Parker-Hickman Farmstead Buffalo National River Arkansas, by Suzanne Rogers, Historic Structure Report Historical Data, May 1984, pp. 46-47.



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