Fayetteville settlement probably began with a few people who found the setting to be "grass-grown prairie, timber growing only along the branches flowing from the springs at different points, there being eight springs" within the early corporate limits. Frank Pierce hunted in the area in 1819 but did not settle here until 1828. Other early settlers included George McGarrah, James Leeper, Reuben Reynolds, E A Sweeney, William Wallace, W S Oldham, Moses Campbell, Lodowic Brodie and others. Individuals whose names would become prominent in local history included David Walker,Isaac Murphy, and P V Rhea.

The patent for the original town was issued in 1835 by President Andrew Jackson. When Washington County was established in 1829, Fayetteville was chosen as County seat but was given the name Washington Courthouse. The Postmaster found the name Washington had already been issued to the town in southern Arkansas. So County officers including Lewis Evans, Larkin Newton, Samuel Vaughn and John Woody chose the name Fayetteville most likely because two of them came from Fayetteville in Tennessee.

Early businesses and businessmen included E A Sweeney - first Fayetteville hotel, James Byrnsides - hotel, William McGarrah - grocery store, Alfred Wallace - general store. Many others were tradesmen such as blacksmiths, hatters, cabinet makers and farmers, as well as several physicians. In 1837, Onesimus Evans opened the Fayetteville Branch of the State Bank. However this bank fell into financial difficulty and in 1843, officers were charged with having stolen part of the bank funds.

Fayetteville and Washington County soon became known for quality schools including the Female Seminary established in 1839 in Fayetteville by Sophia Sawyer, the Ozark Institute by Rev C Washbourne and Robert Mecklin at Mount Comfort, Arkansas College by Revs Graham and Baxter in Fayetteville and Cane Hill College in the western part of the County. Many other fine schools existed in various towns elsewhere in the County. In 1871 the Arkansas Industrial University was established in Fayetteville.

Fayetteville was in the center of conflict in the years before, during and following the Civil War. But in 1860 a young girl named Marian Tebbetts lived with her family in what she called a "charming town, set down among the hills and slopes of the Ozarks. Isolated from the outside world, a hundred miles from the railroad, fifty miles across the hills to the Arkansas River..., a little town, sufficient unto itself, depending on no one for religious, scholastic or social environment. Several churches, the Arkansas College, two good schools for girls and an active Masonic Lodge gave it strength and stability..."

The presidential election of 1860 focused the dissension present among locals who were quite strong in their beliefs over slavery and states rights. Prominent people stood on both sides of these issues and talk of secession started during the campaign by those who opposed Abraham Lincoln. In that election there were no Washington County votes cast for Republican Lincoln with a majority voting for Vice President John Breckinridge of Kentucky, a "southern rights" candidate, or Senator John Bell of Tennessee.

An election was held in February 1861 with two issues on the ballot: should a secession convention be held and should Arkansas secede? Though a majority in Washington County and Fayetteville remained against secession, the State voted to secede and join the Confederacy. The torn feelings of many in the area were described by a grandson of Judge Jonas Tebbetts of Fayetteville - "if Judge Tebbetts had any lingering affection for the North, it was the South he loved. He had married a Southern girl .. who had inherited slaves. He himself had adopted the Southern way of life and lived within these traditions. He had a deep sympathy for the people of the South and unlike most Northerners, he understood their economic and social problems and political philosophy. But he could not bear the thought of secession. He loved the Union more than any of its component parts."

Contrary to the hopeful expectations of no war in this area, troops began almost immediately to move through Fayetteville and surrounding area. Soon the excitement and fervor of the locals resulted in companies of volunteers to be formed mostly for the Confederacy. These groups were sent off with stirring messages of support such as by Martha Pollard to the Confederate Pike Guards: "....This will be a war such as the pages of history have never before been called upon to chronicle, one in which brother will meet brother, a father meet son and friend meet friend". How true would her words ring in the coming years. As Southern troops began to move through town, many people with Northern roots or connections left. The first battle in the region took place near Springfield, Missouri August 10, 1861 resulting in a Confederate victory. The Pike Guards unit from Fayetteville lost 4 men and had eight wounded which surely brought the reality of war home. Still no battle had been fought in Fayetteville, yet.

After the battle near Springfield the losing Union Army rebuilt and moved into northern Arkansas and the Confederate troops decided to retreat and fight for the area another day. The retreating troops were told by General McCulloch to take whatever food that had been accumulated in the town. This soon turned into a general pillaging of stores and private homes as well. Despite orders of some officers to stop the looting, it continued until the troops finally left town. Confederate cavalrymen were sent back to town to set fire to the public buildings. One Confederate officer said "heaven help a country where an army must linger, be it friend or foe". There were cases where soldiers allowed private homes to be spared due to pleas of some. The Union Army sent troops to protect the town but after giving temporary relief, they soon withdrew back into Missouri.

Confederate troops heading to Pea Ridge, again sacked and burned much of what remained in the town. General McCulloch ordered Judge Tebbetts of Fayetteville arrested with the expectation of trying him after the battle at Pea Ridge. That battle took place March 6 and 7, 1862 and was a defeat for the Confederates. General McCulloch was killed and his plan to try Judge Tebbetts was cancelled. Tebbetts came back to Fayetteville, gathered his belongings and went into Missouri to find a place to move his family. They never lived in Fayetteville again. The defeated Confederate Army streamed south through Fayetteville, leaving the area in control of neither side. After most of the Confederate Army had been moved east of the Mississippi, a conscription effort was started to build the army with locals under General Hindman. Union sympathizers from northern Arkansas were formed into Union units in Missouri with hopes of reclaiming their home territory. Once again troops from both armies moved in and out of Fayetteville. In December 1862, two Union Armies and one Confederate converged on Prairie Grove. The sounds of battle reached Fayetteville and soon the wounded did also. Every conceivable building was used as a hospital to care as best they could for what was estimated a 650 sick or wounded soldiers. General Hindman withdrew his army to the south and Union forces occupied the area into 1863.

By spring 1863 the Union forces were reduced to a single regiment under Colonel Larue Harrison, his First Arkansas Cavalry. Harrison formed infantry and artillery units containing some men who switched sides after Prairie Grove. This light army attracted the attention of the Confederates and on April 17, 1863, General Cabell led about 900 troops from near Ozark in the Arkansas River valley on a 75 mile march to Fayetteville to attack the some 1,100 men Harrison had there. Despite shelling by Confederate cannon from East Mountain (Mt.Sequoyah) and some cavalry charges, the Union forces held position and the Confederates retreated. Various reports list Union casualties of 64 with somewhere between 4 and 10 killed. Confederates lost about 70 killed or wounded and over 50 captured. The Union troops soon withdrew into Missouri and neither side occupied Fayetteville until September 1863 when Harrison's First Arkansas Cavalry unit was ordered back. Union occupation continued until the end of the war.

The population of Fayetteville was severely depleted by 1863 with supporters of both sides having left town for safer places. There was no government of any kind save Harrison's military rule. The Union army's primary duty was chasing guerillas all over the area as most of the troops came from and knew the area well. Robert Mecklin wrote in February 1864 that "the business of killing still goes bravely on. Scarcely a day passes during which we do not hear of one or more bushwhackers being killed, or that some Federals have been killed by them." Mahan writes " the war was hard on everyone. The people at home worried about soldiers who had gone off to war, and the soldiers worried about their families back home."

The election of 1864 brought no immediate relief to the decimated town and its few remaining citizens. Confederates continued to attack and retreat making life miserable for those still in town. The countryside remained basically under Confederate control. Into 1865, the war in northwest Arkansas continued at a low but deadly level. Even after Lee's surrender at Appomattox, many Confederates carried on the war west of the Mississippi until their troops finally lost morale. The final surrender came in New Orleans in May 1865 and the Civil War ended for Fayetteville.

The town that had been built up so well in thirty three years was demolished mainly in the years of 1861 and 1862. The economy was shattered and the people were scattered, or dead. But slowly soldiers and others returned and life began to return to the town. Colonel Larue Harrison was first post war mayor of Fayetteville. As Adeline Blakely, slave before the war and free afterward said "it was hard after the war. The Federals stayed on for a long time. Fences were down, houses were burned, stock was gone, but we got along somehow." Mahan wrote "the destroyed town of Fayetteville had to start over. Almost everything that had been built up ...... was lost.". But people who had fought equally hard for both the Union and Confederacy worked together in the rebuilding, including some who had come to Fayetteville with their armies and returned or stayed to make it their home. Around the Square, stores were opened in the burned out ruins and the first brick buildings began to go up. A new brick courthouse was built in 1869 on the Square to replace one burned during the War.

Fayetteville was at the center of early transportation and communications links to the outside world. An old military road from St. Louis to Fort Smith became a much used road and later the route of a telegraph line causing the route to be known as Old Wire Road even to this day. Stagecoaches used this road including the Butterfield Stage line, from Tipton MO to San Francisco, which operated from 1857 until the early 1860s when operation was suspended due to the Civil War. A railroad was started after the Civil War from Missouri to Van Buren through Bentonville and Fayetteville. This line later became the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway, commonly known as the Frisco. In 1882 the first train on the "Frisco" line came into town from Missouri. A second rail line was built from Fayetteville east to St. Paul, and another west to Muskogee in Oklahoma by 1900. By the early 1900's a network of improved roads were being built through Fayetteville. By the 1920's, an active trucking business was operating in the area, mainly for hauling produce grown in the area.

In 1904 County Judge Millard Berry started the process to build a substantial courthouse, resulting in the building that now stands at 4 South College Avenue as the historic County Courthouse.

The War having destroyed all the educational institutions that were in the area, schools began to be re-established in 1866. Under the provisions of the Morrill act of 1862, Arkansas Industrial University was established in Fayetteville. The City had to out bid such other contenders including Cane Hill, Little Rock and Batesville. The centerpiece building was begun in 1873 and finished in 1875, now called Old Main. In the early 1900's, buildings such as Carnall Hall, now an Inn, were built at the University. By 1928, the centennial of the founding of Fayetteville was celebrated and the town had become a center for commerce and education once again.

Through the 1900's and into the 21st century, Fayetteville has continued to prosper and retain it's position of prominence in Washington County. The town has produced a number of famous people. President Bill Clinton began his political career while a law professor at the University. A former University president, J. William Fulbright, became a leading U S senator. Much growth has taken place elsewhere in the area, but Fayetteville has continued to grow though more slowly which has allowed it to retain some of the character of it's past. A number of pre-Civil War buildings remain including Headquarters House on east Dickson, Ridge House on west Center with the original log walls now enclosed within the lower floor walls of a later 1800's two story house, and the Walker-Stone House also on west Center. The University has grown far beyond the old McIlroy farm but still utilizes some of it's original buildings like Old Main and Carnall Hall.

One Hundred Years of Fayetteville 1828-1928 William S Campbell
Goodspeeds History of Washington County 1889
Journal of Marian Tebbetts Banes
Fayetteville in the Civil War by Russell Mahan
1978 Northwest Arkansas Times Sesquicentennial edition

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