Barn: A Piece of Bella Vista his­tory

The Weekly Vista - - Front Page - LYNN ATKINS latkins@nwadg.com

Driv­ing north on High­way 71B, it sits on the east side of the road, a memorial to a time when dairy cows strolled across Bella Vista Way, maybe fol­lowed by a boy with a fish­ing pole over his shoul­der and a dog trot­ting along­side. Now the big red barn is part of golf main­te­nance, but there are still peo­ple around who re­mem­ber what it once was a long time ago.

Bob An­der­son now lives in Cen­ter­ton. He lived in Bella Vista sev­eral times through­out his life and con­sid­ers it home.

He came to Bella Vista the first time when he was about 12 years old. Last week, he was in town to talk to Xyta Lu­cas at the Bella Vista His­tor­i­cal Mu­seum. He’s also work­ing on an au­to­bi­og­ra­phy.

In 1957, An­der­son’s fa­ther, also named Robert An­der­son, re­ceived a med­i­cal dis­charge from the Army. They had moved around quite a bit dur­ing the Army years, An­der­son said, so when his fa­ther bought a farm in Ar­kan­sas, it was the first time the fam­ily could re­ally set­tle down.

There were a few suprises for the three young An­der­son broth­ers. First, tele­vi­sion was very lim­ited, with only two sta­tions com­ing in from Jo­plin and Pitts­burg, Kan. Their phone was a party line, with 16 par­ties, and their new home had only two bed­rooms.

Work started im­me­di­ately to turn a de­tached wash­room into a third bed­room for two of the boys.

They met their new neigh­bors, Sadie and Ray Cun­ning­ham, who were brother and sis­ter. They lived across the creek, in a large white house with a white barn. Through the Cun­ning­hams, the An­der­sons met other neigh­bors, in­clud­ing E.L. Keith who owned the Bella Vista re­sort.

The Dug Hill Church was the site of reg­u­lar gospel sings, and Sadie Cun­ning­ham told the story of how it got its name. She told him that the road which later be­came 71B passed very close to the church and it was steep, mak­ing get­ting to the church dif­fi­cult. Some mem­bers helped re­lo­cate the road by dig­ging out a new road bed at the base of the hill.

As soon as the ren­o­va­tion of the wash­house was com­plete, the boys went to work in the old barn. It had been built, prob­aby around 1903, by a dairy farmer named Neuswan­der. There were milk­ing stan­chions along both sides, but it hadn’t been used as a dairy barn. Neuswan­der’s daugh­ter kept an­i­mals in the barn but never both­ered clean­ing out the ma­nure so, when the An­der­son fam­ily moved in, ma­nure was two feet high on both sides of the barn. It took a year to clean it out us­ing rakes and a wheel­bar­row, An­der­son re­mem­bered. Even­tu­ally, they added work benches and elec­tric­ity and turned half of the barn into a work­shop.

They were not full-time farm­ers, but they al­ways had a gar­den and some kind of “cash crop,” An­der­son said. It wasn’t al­ways the same crop. One year they grew okra, and it was so tall they had to use a 10foot step lad­der to har­vest it. Another year they grew green pep­pers. When a to­mato can­nery opened in Pea Ridge, they grew to­ma­toes. School started when the to­ma­toes were all picked, An­der­son re­mem­bered.

When they moved in, the Cun­ning­hams in­tro­duced the young fam­ily to a dairy farmer who de­liv­ered milk to restau­rants along the high­way. He agreed to de­liver to the farm two or three times a week. When the farmer de­cided to give up his route and sell to a pro­cess­ing plant, he of­fered to sell the An­der­sons a milk cow that was about to give birth, and young Bob An­der­son learned how to milk.

While the boys went to Ben­tonville schools, their fa­ther earned a de­gree at the Univer­sity of Ar­kan­sas, and their mother re­turned to her own ca­reer as a teacher. When he com­pleted his de­gree, Bob An­der­son Sr. was hired by the Ben­tonville Cham­ber of Com­merce as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor when the cham­ber started to pur­sue eco­nomic devel­op­ment.

The elder An­der­son worked for the cham­ber for about five years and, dur­ing that time, he heard about John Cooper Sr. and his Chero­kee Vil­lage com­mu­nity. Ac­cord­ing to his son, the elder An­der­son knew right away that Cooper and Bella Vista would be a match. He drove di­rectly to Chero­kee Vil­lage.

Cooper liked what he saw in Bella Vista, but he knew that he needed the re­sort, owned by E.L. Keith as a ba­sis for his new re­tire­ment com­mu­nity. He would only make a deal if the re­sort could be in­cluded and the re­sort wasn’t ac­tu­ally for sale.

In his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Keith wrote, “What Mr. Cooper wanted to do was the great­est thing that was ever done for Ben­tonville in all the past. Mr. Cooper made the state­ment that he was not com­ing here un­less he could get Bella Vista, and I knew, if I was the one kept him from com­ing here, my name would be “Mud” the rest of my life in Ben­tonville.”

All An­der­son would say about Cooper buy­ing the Keith prop­erty was, “He was treated fairly.”

Most of the farm­ers were happy to sell to Cooper, An­der­son re­mem­bered. He re­mem­bers one hold­out whose prop­erty was lo­cated in what would be­come Lake Wind­sor. The Cooper peo­ple al­ready owned the land around him, so they drew up a map show­ing where they would lo­cate an ac­cess road to one re­main­ing prop­erty. The road would run on Cooper prop­erty, so they had the fi­nal say on where it would run. They made sure it ran towards Gravette in­stead of Ben­tonville and the lone hold­out agreed to sell.

Farm­ing in the early ’60s was a chal­lenge, An­der­son said. No one was sur­prised when the land changed hands so quickly.

After grad­u­at­ing from Ben­tonville High School, An­der­son went to U of A as part of the ROTC pro­gram. He left for the Army im­me­di­ately after grad­u­at­ing and served for 20 years. When he left the army in 1986, he came home to North­west Ar­kan­sas.

Lynn Atkins/The Weekly Vista

The barn is all that re­mains of the farm where Bob An­der­son grew up. It’s now part of golf main­te­nance.

Lynn Atkins/The Weekly Vista

Bob An­der­son re­mem­bers milk­ing cows in the barn that is now part of golf main­te­nance. His fa­ther, Bob An­der­son Sr., in­tro­duced the tiny re­sort town of Bella Vista to John Cooper Sr.

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