Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Pioneer House
Pioneer House

PIONEER HOUSE, CLARKSVILLE, JOHNSON COUNTY

SUMMARY

The Pioneer House is a good example of an early nineteenth-century single- room log residence that was expanded over time with frame additions. As one of the oldest remaining structures from the antebellum period in Johnson County, the Pioneer House is locally significant under Criterion C for its quality of log construction.

ELABORATION

The original builder of the Pioneer House is not known for certain. Early records indicate that the land was purchased from the United States government in 1839 by Leonard Sooter from Tennessee. Local tradition holds that the home was built by individuals from a group of Cherokee Indians who had settled in the vicinity under a land grant issued in 1812. The land was retaken by the federal government in 1828 when the Cherokees were granted a parcel of land in Oklahoma. Some of the Cherokee residents remained in the Johnson County area as late as 1832. Because this story could not be substantiated through historical and architectural information, a tree ring dating of the log portion was requested in 1982 by the owners at that time, the Johnson County Historical Society, in conjunction with the Department of Parks and Tourism. The dendrochronological study, conducted by David Stahle of the University of Arkansas, concluded that the logs used in the construction were cut at various times in 1849 and 1850 and that the structure was likely erected in the spring of 1850 by craftsmen of European descent.

The ownership history of the property is extensive. The Pioneer House changed hands over twenty-five times according to abstract records. Some of the principle figures in the history of the property include Leonard Sooter's widow, who deeded the property to her granddaughter Lucinda Rogers in 1841 for $50. In 1847, Lucinda Rogers sold the farm for $100 to Littleberry and Martha Robinson, who in turn sold the property to Edward McConnell in 1849. Arthur Davis purchased the property a year later for $128. In 1874, after a flurry of legal activities, C. A. Davis acquired full title to the property. He sold it less than a month later to R. B. and Sarah Lankford. It is assumed that most of the additions and remodeling of the house took place under the Lankfords because they took out two separate mortgages on the property, one for $275.00 and a second for $400.00.

The Lankfords sold their improved home in December 1876 to Liston G. and Mary Townsend, who then sold it in the summer of 1877 to Archibald and Emma McKennon. The McKennons deeded the property to Calvin and Sallie White in 1879, and it remained in the White family until 1904 when it was purchased by John and Rebecca Reed. In 1908, the Reeds sold the house to James and Virginia May McCoy, who then sold it in 1911 to Enos and Julia Foulke. Four more families owned the house between that time and 1945 when it was purchased by descendants of the original White family, J. T. and Ruth (Blackburn) White, grandparents of the present owner, Barbara Fry. Because the builder and first owner of the house in not definitely known and because the list of owners of the house is quite lengthy, the property is being listed under its common name, the Pioneer House.

The Pioneer House could be described as a portrayal of the evolution of an early single-room log structure into a much larger, late nineteenth century weatherboard-clad farmhouse. Unfortunately, the property cannot be recognized for its ability to interpret this evolution due to the ill-advised removal of the c. 1870's ell addition. Nevertheless, the Pioneer House is one of the oldest documented log structures in Clarksville and Johnson County and reflects a skillful use of the half- hewn, half-dovetail notch construction technique. As such, it is being nominated under Criteria C with local significance.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Phillips, Charles A. "Pioneer House" Report prepared for the Johnson County Historical Society, 4/29/80.

Stahle, David W. "Tree-Ring Dating of the Pioneer House, Clarksville, Arkansas" , 2/26/82.

Interview with and correspondence from Barbara Fry, June 1994.