Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Thomas James Cotton House
Thomas James Cotton House

THOMAS JAMES COTTON HOUSE, DARDANELLE, YELL COUNTY

SUMMARY

The Thomas James Cotton House located at 405 South Third Street in Dardanelle, Arkansas, is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C with local significance as the best example of a two story Craftsman home in its part of Dardanelle. The Cotton House has served as a residence to one of the town’s oldest families and has remained a longstanding fixture in Dardanelle. It has remained in the same family for four generations, and the family is currently planning to restore the building for the use of the community.

ELABORATION

When James and Myrtle Cotton were married in 1898 they moved to a small three room dwelling in Dardanelle. With there growing family and prosperity came the need for a more spacious dwelling. In 1916, Mr. and Mrs. Cotton and their six children Anna Gayle, Margaret, Sarah Frances, Elizabeth, Thomas, and Rebecca Jane moved into their new home at 405 South Third Street in Dardanelle, Arkansas. The home was built around the original three-room house. Mr. Cotton hired a architect and the home was renovated in a manner that totally concealed the original smaller home. The house was one of only a few in the Dardanelle area at that time to be designed by an architect. James Bliss from Little Rock was hired to design the home. Barney McKenzie of Dardanelle was hired as contractor for the project. Mr. McKenzie built several homes and buildings in the Dardanelle area including the Dardanelle First Presbyterian Church that is now in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Cottons were early pioneers and settlers of Dardanelle and were affluent businessmen and landowners. Thomas James Cotton, Sr. is a descendant of John Cotton, Puritan Minister of Boston's North Church (circa 1632); Thomas Cotton, Captain of North Carolina Militia (1780) during the Revolutionary War; and Jesse Hackney Cotton who came to Dardanelle from Cottontown, Tennessee, in the 1850s just as Dardanelle was being platted. Jesse Cotton was Yell County Surveyor in the 1860s following J.H. Brearly who platted the city of Dardanelle in 1851. The Cotton House still contains the compass by which Dardanelle was platted. Jesse Cotton's father's house (Moore Cotton House) in Cottontown, Tennessee, near Gallitin and Nashville (Surimer County) and the Bridal House were placed in the National Register of Historic Places (circa 1980). In Tennessee the Cotton's had a horseracing track with President Andrew Jackson. The Cotton men boasted that because of all the Cotton votes, Andrew Jackson won the election of the Presidency.

Thomas James Cotton, Sr. and Thomas James Cotton, Jr., Grandson and Great Grandson of Jesse Hackney Cotton, were farmers, landowners, and businessmen who owned cotton gins in Dardanelle, Atkins and Pottsville. They also opened a commissary for their employees and were considered to be honest and caring men quoted as saying, "We are put here on earth to help our fellow man, and if we do not, we are a sorry lot." Thomas Cotton, Sr., and his son Thomas Cotton, Jr., were avid sportsmen who raised fine bird dogs. Many dignitaries from the Little Rock area and as far away as Pennsylvania visited and were entertained in the Cotton home when they came to Yell County to hunt game.

Mrs. Rebecca Cotton Garner was the only child of six children to be born in the Cotton home. She is the only living child of Thomas and Myrtle Cotton and now resides in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, as a retired high school teacher, college professor (Ouachita Baptist University and Henderson State University) and Supervisor of Home Economics (State Department of Education).

Today Margaret Cotton Hillyard and Elizabeth Cotton own the home. Both are teachers in the River Valley area and are the daughters of Thomas and Selma Cotton. They are currently in the process of restoring their eighty- four year old ancestral home. Plans are to continue sharing the home with the community of Dardanelle as a meeting place for non-profit organizations.

SIGNIFICANCE

The Thomas James Cotton House in Dardanelle, Arkansas, is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C with local significance as the best example of a two story Craftsman style home in the town. Although the house has had two small additions added to rear, it remains the best extant example of it style building in its surrounding area of the town. The original portion of the house was a smaller three-room home built before 1898. The extensiveness of the alteration totally concealed any exterior details of the original home, therefore it is being nominated for its 1916 Craftsman architecture.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barger, Carole Cotton. "Descendants of John Cotton and an Account of Cotton Related Families", Fort Smith, AR, June 1999.

Bliss, Jas. H. Architectural Blue Prints, Little Rock, AR, 1916.

Cotton, John Sr. "Genealogy of the Cotton Family", Dallas, TX, 1960s.

Garner, Rebecca Cotton, Personal Interview, Arkadelphia, AR, 1999.

MeKenzie, Barney. Record of Homes Constructed in Yell County Area, Dardanelle, AR, 1964.

Mahan, Larry. Lqn Mahan Appraisals, Russellville, AR, 1999.

Old North Church, Boston, MA, 1997.

Smith, Frances Cotton. Personal Interview, Dardanelle, AR, 1985.

Yell County Heritage, Yell County, AR, 1997.