(Note May 2017: This article was originally published in the Cleburne County Historical Society Journal in the Winter 2009 edition. The Barrett House is in the process of being dismantled to make way for a commercial structure).

(Note May 2017: This article was originally published in the Cleburne County Historical Society Journal in the Winter 2009 edition. The Barrett House is in the process of being dismantled to make way for a commercial structure).

 

Standing as a mute witness for more than one hundred-ten years as the Barrett Lane (now Highway 25b North) was transformed from a dirt path transited by horse drawn conveyances to a modern, busy thoroughfare, is the elegant two-story frame house old-timers call the Barrett House although it has been in the Hall family for many years.

 

It is likely that J. N. Barrett built the house about 1897, although we have been unable to positively verify that. The property where the house stands was acquired from the federal government in a cash sale in 1860 by Calvin C. Bliss. This area was in Van Buren County until 1883, when Cleburne County was formed. Thomas B. Lewis was listed as the owner of 160 acres including this parcel in the first tax records of the county in 1883 and for several years after that. Ella Case was listed as the owner of the land by 1892 and continued to be shown as the owner through 1901. These records are from tax record books and not the actual deeds. The tax books are updated once per year and in some instances property changes owners in less time and is not reflected in the books. Ella Case was the wife of R. R. Case who was in the real estate business with J. R. B. Moore, an early mayor of Sugar Loaf (original name of Heber Springs). They developed the Moore and Case Subdivision of Heber Springs and Case Ford was named for R. R. Case.

 

Anne Barrett Chamlee, a great-granddaughter of J. N. Barrett provided this information about him: “James Nathaniel “Jim” Barrett was born July11, 1858; he died June 26, 1936.  His father was Howard Welcome Barrett who lived in White County; his mother was Carrie Elizabeth Nelson (those families came to Arkansas from Georgia and Alabama).  Carrie Barrett died about 1870 and not too long after that (1871) Howard Welcome Barrett remarried Carrie's sister, Sarah Victoria Nelson.  Apparently upset by this change in his life at age 13, Jim "left home" and ended up in Cleburne County. He was shown in Cadron township in the 1880 census with wife Laura and two children. J. N. “Jim” Barrett didn't share much with his family and his children about his father and mother or his siblings in White County (who moved to Delta Co., TX, about 1894).

 

The March 29, 1894 issue of the Jacksonian newspaper announced that J. N. Barrett of Cadron Township would run for sheriff. The book, Time and The River by Evalena Berry states that J. N. Barrett served two terms as sheriff, from 1894-1898. A deed was issued August 21, 1897 to J. N. Barrett from T. B. Padgett, an estate trustee, for ten acres at the location of the Barrett House. Padgett had been trustee for the estate since 1890 and had attempted to auction the property in 1895 but there were no bidders. J. N. Barrett was awarded the property for $150. Improvements were not mentioned but since there were no bidders in 1895 and the price of $150 would seem to indicate there was no house on the property. So it is likely that J. N. Barrett built the house in 1897 or 1898.

 

The Barretts lived in the house until sometime in the early 1920’s. Anne Barrett Chamlee said that Laura Barrett, J. N.’s first wife, was in ill health and in a wheel chair several years before dying in 1926. They may have moved to a smaller house because of her condition. The hanging of Lee Mills occurred in September, 1898, just months before the end of J. N. Barrett’s second term as sheriff. Family members said that having to perform that hanging always bothered Mr. Barrett. After his two terms as sheriff, Barrett operated a General Merchandise store in the middle of the 200 block of Main Street on the south side of the street. Tax records showed he owned that building from before 1905 until about 1929 when the Arkansas National Bank bought it and operated there for many years. Allen Speed in a letter about businesses on Main Street some years ago said that Jim Barrett retired after closing his store on Main Street.

 

C. J. “Sis” Caviness has said that his family was living in the Barrett House when the Thanksgiving tornado of 1926 struck Heber Springs. “Sis” and another boy were rabbit hunting near the river west of the house. They did not see the tornado but when they started home they began to see household debris lodged in trees. His mother was very worried about them because she did not know exactly where they were. After they got home they went downtown to see the damage and saw the casualties and bodies laid out in the court house. The Barrett House was not damaged by that tornado. “Sis” also said that the gallows that was used in the Mills hanging when J. N. Barrett was sheriff had been moved from the jail where the hanging took place and was behind the Barrett House and “Sis” and his friends played on it.

 

Tax records indicate that Sam Bridwell owned the Barrett House in 1934 and J. R. and Lola Wallace owned it by 1936. It is unknown whether Bridwell lived in the house or not. The Wallaces lived there until the mid 1940’s (Lola Wallace died in 1943). Wanda (Moore) McAnear said that she lived with the Wallaces in that house while going to high school in 1941-42. The Wallaces had dairy cattle and Wanda helped with the chores, milking and cleaning the cream separator, etc. She really liked living there and said it was a nice house. She had a room upstairs and knew of only one other house on Barrett Lane at that time. She could see the yellow house to the north from her upstairs room. Wanda walked to the high school, which was on West Main, across from today’s Harp’s Market. She walked across the back of the Barrett House property then along dirt roads and through woods, sometimes walking with Justin Kever and Jean Barnett, both of whom lived along the way.

 

Louise Hall, who lives in the house now (Ms. Hall passed away in 2011), said that N. A. Coats owned the Barrett House when the tornado of 1944 struck. The tornado center passed just north of the Barrett House. The tornado destroyed all the outbuildings at the Barrett house but did not damage the house itself. The Coats family had a number of chickens that were scattered everywhere and some had all their feathers stripped off. The tornado also destroyed several houses to the east along what is now Broadway Street. Louise Hall lived with her parents on the road that is now Broadway and their house was damaged but not destroyed by the tornado.

 

J. G. Flood was listed as the owner in 1946. J. A. “Sam” Hall was shown as the owner of the Barrett House in tax records of 1948. Sam Hall is the father of Louise and the house has been in the family since that time. Some people may remember a native stone wall along the highway in front of the Barrett House. Louise Hall said it was removed when the highway was widened some years ago.

 

Picture captions for attached pictures:

Barrett House 2009-:(right) Picture courtesy of Anne Barrett Chamlee Phyllis Barrett Brown, John Barrett “Jack” Little, and Anne Barrett Chamlee, great-grandchildren of J. N. Barrett were guests of Louise Hall in 2009 for a tour of the Barrett House.

 

Barrett House 1900- J. N. and Laura Barrett, about 1900 Picture from Time & The River