As we often do, my wife Nancy and I were out for a Sunday afternoon drive recently, and I noticed a sign at the intersection of Missouri's Highway 90 and KK Highway saying that Pea Ridge was 6 miles ahead. I first thought that can't be right, because I was pretty sure that we would have to go 10 or 11 miles to get home to Pea Ridge. So, we drove on the way, and I soon realized that 6 miles brought us to the Arkansas line.
Then I realized that Pea Ridge actually has a narrow extension of the city limits that reaches all the way to Missouri. So, even though we were just crossing the line into Arkansas, we were entering the city of Pea Ridge. Even part of our farm is in the city. As I think back, that strip of Pea Ridge reached out to Missouri back in 1945, so Pea Ridge has been stretching out little by little for a long time. That 200-foot wide stretch of the city was put in place to make Pea Ridge a border city, mainly for the purpose of being able to sell gasoline at Missouri prices. Back in the day, Missouri had lower taxes on gasoline than Arkansas, and we could save several cents per gallon by buying our gasoline in Pea Ridge. I don't think that applies these days, although there may be some border city savings on things like cigarettes.
Speaking of Pea Ridge stretching out, the past several months have been astonishing to me, as we see housing development after housing development take shape all over. Just to the south of our farm out on Hayden Road north, we have a housing development that had been in limbo back in 2009-2010, but now is pretty completely filled in with new houses. I think it is called Creekside, as it sits up from Otter Creek about two miles north of town.
Also on Hayden Road, we have a small development across from the City Park. Farther south, a short distance from the new Pea Ridge Junior High School (formerly the senior high) is a new development of about two dozen houses. That pretty well fills in the remainder of the Luther Martin farm. Luther Martin was a grocer in town from the 1920s into the 1950s, operating at the southwest corner; of the intersection in old downtown Pea Ridge, but he also kept a herd of Hereford cattle on his farm just out of town. Now the farm is very much in town, and fully filled with houses.
Then, surprisingly, just across Hayden Road from that development, a new street is being created, apparently to provide a side entrance to the new sub-division that is going in off Pickens Road (Ark. Hwy. 94) across from Blackhawk Stadium.
A few days ago I was noting the new Elkhorn Sub-division off Ark. Hwy. 72, across Ross Salvage Road from the Maple Glen area. I drove on south on Ross Salvage Road and was astonished that that whole acreage all the way to Blue Jay Road is filling in with new houses.
Methinks, we may be a city of 10,000 people before we know it. I have already been describing the growth of Pea Ridge by saying that we are now "twice the size that Bentonville was when Sam and Helen Walton moved there from Newport in 1950." Bentonville at that time had a population of about 2,500, and Rogers about 4,000. Those two cities are now 12 to 15 times the size they were back then, and Pea Ridge may be more than 50 times the size it was in those days. We'll see what the new census says.
My latest astonishment was to be driving by my Dad's 13-acre place on Slack Street, across from the former NAPA Store (now Battlefield Laundry), and discovering that everything was gone except the lonely house, standing forlorn out by itself. Then, a few days later, the house itself was gone, stacked up as a pile of rubble, and the only thing still standing was the fireplace and chimney. I'm going to have to update myself on the names of our new sub-divisions, but it appears that the Russell Nichols place will be soon converted from cattle farm to housing development.
Progress is often a bit rough on our sentimental and nostalgic feelings I am a preservationist at heart, and I am often sad to see buildings that are only 50 years old or so go down in order to have something new take their place. Of course those changes are not really new. They have been happening for many, many years.
For example, some of us miss seeing our old red-brick schoolhouse on the downtown school campus. But even that building, the main part of it built in 1930, replaced the earlier grand Pea Ridge College Building, which was only 50 years old when it was dismantled.
One big difference in the times is in the way we take down older structures. Back in the day it was common to dismantle buildings, piece by piece, plank by plank, salvaging lumber, windows, doors and other items for other uses.
Today, we usually crunch buildings to smithereens with heavy equipment and dump the smithereens into a landfill. That's a bit tough for old preservationists like me to watch. I like to think of myself as favoring progress, so I don't want to be too negative about the losses that go with it. I just have to cringe at some things and celebrate others.
Editor's note: Jerry Nichols, a native of Pea Ridge and an award-winning columnist, is vice president of Pea Ridge Historical Society. He can be contacted by e-mail at [email protected], or call 621-1621.