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— When I first began being aware I was in the world in the early 1940s, Pea Ridge was a small rural town. As time has passed, our sources of income have changed, and our town has become much more a suburban town related to the larger cities of Benton County.

Much of the change took place while I and my family were living elsewhere.

For the first 21 years of my life I lived on the family farm north of town. Then, after Nancy and I married in 1961 and I became a pastor in 1962, for 40 some years we lived in other parts of Arkansas, Missouri and Iowa. In 2002, we moved back to a very different Pea Ridge.

When we bought the Kinley Miller house on Patton Street and returned to Pea Ridge, we found the town was much larger. The streets are now nearly all paved and improved. In our first memory, none of our streets were paved. The road to Rogers was a gravel road. The road to Bentonville was a gravel road. As I recall, U.S. Highway 62 and Arkansas Highway 71 were our only paved roads. Most roads other than the major highways were gravel, dusty in the dry summertime, muddy in the spring thaw season, and pot-holey in the rainy seasons.

In those days the great majority of people living in the countryside around Pea Ridge made their livingon the farm, and the people living in town provided the services needed by the farm people. Webb’s Feed and Seed was getting going strong in the early 1940s.

Hugh Webb had opened the business in 1936, and Fred McKinney started working there in 1940. That business changed a pattern from that of earlier businesses, and was influential in hugely expanding the poultry industry around Pea Ridge.

In those early days, the grocery business and the feed business often went together. Kelly and Dona Armstrong operated a Grocery and Feed Store where the Pea Ridge Outlet Store is now. Luther Martin also offered both groceries and feed, although his feed storage was a block west of his grocery store.

The Martin Grocery was at the southwest corner of the downtown intersection (now Curtis and Pickens), directly across from the Pea Ridge Day Service Station, which by then was operated by Floyd Hall. In about 1948, C.H. Mount built a new Grocery and Feed Store on the north side of the street. The Mount building later became Pea Ridge Upholstery. Although grocery stores still stock pet food, we wouldn't think to buy chicken feed or cow feed from our grocer today.

The rural character of our town used to be seen by the horse-drawn vehicles in town. A picture of downtown Pea Ridge in 1916 or 1920 would show horse-drawn wagons and buggies parked in front of the stores. But after the close of World War II in 1945, we saw fewer and fewer horses and wagons.

After that, if someone had horses in town it was usually Utah Smith or someone else on a saddle horse.Horses moved away from being everyday work and transport animals and became more a recreational animal, in rodeos, and in riding clubs such as the Pea Ridge Riding Club.

As the years passed, many farms around Pea Ridge changed from being the main livelihood for the families, to being more of an “on the side” pursuit.

The land owner would keep a few cows and horses on the farm, and care for them as recreation and a side income, while earning the major portion of the family income through employment in Rogers, Bentonville, or elsewhere.

This change took place quickly in the late 1950s and the 1960s as industrial plants came to the larger cities of Benton County.

Another sign of our rural roots which has largely disappeared is the blacksmith and welding shop. I know of four blacksmith shops around Pea Ridge, and I feel sure that there were others. The earliest I knew of was the Harve Ricketts Blacksmith Shop which was located on the north side of the main street across from Village Hardware (Easley’s Hardware).

The C.H. Mount store was later built on that site. On the street now known as Davis Street, we had Shorty Hall as one of our in-town blacksmiths and welders. His shop was located across from Black Street which now leads to the Pea Bowl, and his house stood near where Jeff Spivey’s house is today.

In the Twelve Corners community we had Pearley Cloyd, whose shop was on the east side of Twelve Corners Road just north of State Hwy. 72. Probably our best-known blacksmith, welder and machinist was Johnny Clanton.

Early on, Johnny had his shop in a building behind Webb’s Hatchery, back of Fred McKinney’s house.

Later he moved his shop to his home on McCullough Street, near the south street to the Pea Ridge City Cemetery. Johnny had the reputation of being able to build or fix almost anything made of metal. It might not be pretty, but it would work.

Contact Jerry Nichols by email at joe369@centurytel.

net, or call 621-1621.

Community, Pages 5 on 11/25/2009

Print Headline: Now & Then Pea Ridge is not so rural any more

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