Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Dr. James Wyatt Walton House
Dr. James Wyatt Walton House

DR. JAMES WYATT WALTON HOUSE, BENTON, SALINE COUNTY

ELABORATION

The Dr. James Wyatt Walton House located in Benton, Arkansas, is significant not only for the fineness of its architecture, but in its representation of the city's first doctor.  The structure was designed by architect Charles L. Thompson of Little Rock and built by John S. Odum.  These two men were also responsible for the design and construction of the Saline County Courthouse in 1902 (entered in the National Register 11-22-76).  The Walton House is a two-story gabled roof structure sheathed in narrow clapboard siding.  Decorative detailing of design found on the structure includes denticulated cornices, stained glass transoms, ornamental bargeboard in gable ends and a large one-story Classical portico which turns the corner of the facade to extend onto the east elevation.

James Wyatt Walton was born in Saline County, Arkansas, on January 23, 1863, the son of James and Angelena Poe Walton.  James Walton had settled in Arkansas in 1860, working as a carpenter for one year, then farming.  Early in the Civil War, James Walton joined the Confederate Army and was believed to have been killed near Atlanta, Georgia.  Angelena Poe Walton, a distant relative of poet Edgar Allen Poe died in 1866, leaving her two small children to be raised by her parents.  J. W. Walton lived with his grandparents until the death of his grandfather.  In 1876 he moved with his grandmother to a farm in Grant County where he lived for seven years.  At the age of 20 Walton moved to Benton and took a three-year high school course.

J. W. Walton graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in medicine.  In April, 1889, he became the partner of Dr. D. N. Fisher of Benton and in that connection he rapidly built an excellent reputation in the practice of medicine.  In 1896, Dr. Walton did postgraduate work in surgery at the Chicago Polyclinic, which later became the University of Chicago.  He received an honorary degree from St. Luke's Hospital in Niles, Michigan, and continued the study of medicine for the rest of his life.

Dr. Walton was instrumental in organizing the Saline County Medical Society and was the first County Health Officer.  As Saline County Health Officer, Dr. Walton stressed sanitation with an emphasis on typhoid and malaria control.

Dr. Walton was a well-respected physician who was said to have been years ahead of his time in the field of medicine.  The Walton House was always a welcome place for those who were ill and needy.  Often Dr. Walton brought sick people from the country home so that he could more adequately care for them.  Dr. Walton also allowed many youths to live in his home to provide them with the opportunity to finish high school.  In addition to being successful in medicine, Dr. Walton was a good businessman and owned several farms and extensive real estate.  Dr. J. W. Walton died in 1928.

Dr. Walton was married to Ada Fisher and they had six children.  Several years after her death he married Sarah Alma Poe of Little Rock.  They were the parents of four children.

The Walton House was originally intended to have been constructed at another site which is now the center of downtown Benton, but Walton was advised to build his home where the family was then living a few blocks away.  The house already on the site was moved and the present structure constructed.  Ironically, though Dr. Walton built his home at a location to avert living in the business district, the city has grown to the extent that the structure is constantly threatened as it is now in the midst of an area of prime commercial property.

The Walton House is still owned by the descendants of Dr. Walton, who hope to prevent the destruction of the structure.  The Walton House represents hospitality, shelter and always available medical attention to many of the older residents of Benton.  As a representative structure of Charles L. Thompson's designs and as representative of one of Saline County's finest doctors, the Walton House is a significant historical structure.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Benton Courier, October 28, 1976.

Chambers, Mrs. J. K.  Personal interview at the Walton House, Benton, Arkansas, December 17, 1976.

Chambers, Tom.  Personal interview at the Walton House, Benton, Arkansas, July 23, 1976.

Goodspeed Publishing Company.  Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Pulaski, Jefferson, Lonoke, Faulkner, Grant, Saline, Perry, Garland and Hot Spring Counties, Arkansas.  Chicago:  Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1890.

Walton, W. P.  Personal interview at the Walton House, Benton, Arkansas, October 19, 1976.