The first settlers came to Wilton, AR. in 1880
This information was
found in the Little River News, Jan 31, 1934 - typed as I read it.
Early settlers chiefly from States of Alabama, Georgia,
Tennessee and from Texas.
The history, of Wilton is not unlike that of any other town
or village whose origin began with a few pioneers whose purpose was
chiefly the homesteading of choice and fertile lands which the United States
Government agreed to patent for those settlers who were willing to qualify under
the then existing homestead laws.
Those individuals, most of whom had families, converged upon
this immediate vicinity, during and following the year 1880, coming from the
various southern states. The principal being Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and
The homestead department of the Department of the Interior of
the United States Government indicates that the following named persons, John W.
Thompson, James H. Barkman, James H. Clark, Sam A. Weaver, Newt Cothen, Alec
Scott, Elisha Talley and Jordon Johnson, the last three being Negroes, settled
on their respective homestead, and their rights of title given them by the
Federal Government several years, subsequently, most of them being signed in
testimonial by the then president of the United States, Benjamin Harrison.
The principal site of the town was located on the N.W. corner
of the Alec Scott homestead, with the homestead of John W. Thompson, coinciding
from the North, and the Barkman and Weaver homesteads coinciding on the East of
these nine principal homesteaders, Elisha Talley, alone survives.
J. W. Thompson arrived in this community from Alabama in 1880
being united in marriage to Miss Josephine Patty, originally of Tennessee the
following year. To this union eight children were born, five of whom survive.
The widow of John W. Thompson and mother of these children also survives and
resides in this town.
James H. Barkman, born at Dardanelle, on the White River, in
Arkansas, and grandson of James Barkman, who with his brother John, were
trappers and traders among the Indians of the White River from its source to its
mouth in Arkansas earliest history removed to Texas, from which state he came to
Arkansas in 1880 during which year he was married to Miss Sallie N. Weaver,
daughter of Sam and Elizabeth Weaver then recently from Georgia. To this union
seven children were born, five of whom survive. The widow Mrs. James H. Barkman
also survives and continues to reside on the original homestead, which remains
The History of Wilton would be far from complete, should we
fail to take into account the coming of various other pioneers, chief among whom
was S. S. P. Mills, P. S. Kinsworthy, Rev. C. M. Powell, William D.
Waldrop and others. These four in particular possessed virtues that was by a
community for in them was found that pioneering spirit, with executive ability
and spiritual aspirations paramount.
Sergeant S. Prentess Mills was married to Miss Rebecca McCord
in the county in 1871 and to them three children were born, Amelia (now
Mrs. W. M. Sykes, of Richmond) Ada and Joel, both of this city who survive their
parents. S. S. P. Mills served as sheriff of the county later removing to the
vicinity and acquiring land. Through close application to duty and the practice
of the Golden Rule he accumulated a compatively large personal fortune, and at
his death which occurred in 1912, he left plans and specifications for the
erection of a brick building, which today stands as sturdily as the man and mind
who conceived its erection.
P. S. Kinsworthy, son of an early historical character of
Arkansas, and Regimental Commander of Confederate troops, arrived in this
village, according to his books, in 1888 from Brownstown, Ark. He succeeded his
brother, William E. Kinsworthy, who opened the first general store in what is
now Cleveland Township. The newly acquired mercantile business under the able
direction of P. S. Kinsworthy, grew into undreamed proportions. W. A. Goforth,
then a young man, now a banker in Oklahoma City, was chief clerk for the house.
In 1900 Mr. Kinsworthy was united in marriage to Miss Irene
Hargrove of Brownstown, Ark. and to this union three children were born, Anne,
Burton and William, all of whom are now living. Land was donated by P. S.
Kinsworthy for the building of the Baptist church, and a large part of the
grounds upon which our present high school stands.
Adequate land was donated by John W. Thompson, for the
erection for a Baptist parsonage, which building stands today.
There newspapers have flourished here in as many different
decades. The first owned and published by Rev. C. M. Powell, The Inland Visitor,
The second by S. M. Kelley, The Wilton Democrat and the last by one whose name
has been forgotten and who like his predecessor vanished overnight.
Prof. Cobb taught the third school succeeding Mr. and Mrs.
Willingham, those who preceded Prof Cobb, without doubt, paved the way, yet the
regime of Cobb was a distinct turning point in the School System of the newly
founded town. His teaching was one thing, his technique another, Discipline and
Duty was his watchword His conduct and personal habits were in themselves
exemplary and went for in enforcing his theories.
The cross tie Industry, was of no mean proportions, after the
arrival of the Rail Road. Newt D. Cooper arriving here, was shortly thereafter
married to Mrs. Ella Hill, of Hicks community and grand-daughter of that
distinguished southern orator and statesman, James J. Hill of Georgia. To this
union five children were born all of whom are still living. Mr. Cooper
engaged in this newly made industry of Cross Ties and as inspector and buyer for
an independent concern, he amassed and considerable personal fortune. He erected
the first brick building in this city, in 1906, operating a Geri mercantile
store. Although a land owner and city property owner in our city he resides in
Texarkana where he removed with his family in 1927. He is retired but continues
to pay intermittent visits to his old stamping ground, where the scenes of his
old activities are indelibly imprinted within his mind. His unquestioned
integrity incident to his personal dealings with his fellow man, prompts an ever
ready welcome to him upon the part of his old contemporaries.
Dr. W. M. Lambert came to this town as its first practicing
physician, opened up the first Drug store and was succeeded in that business by
Tom B. DuLaney, who conducted this business for a number of years later. Other
doctors, who came later but during the early history of this city, were Dr. Lloyd,
Dr. Coats, Dr. Cathey, Dr. Hale and Dr. Cook.
Hezekiah McGough was the first duly elected city marshal of
this city who was killed by Jim Lee, on the main street of the town in 1902.
George Byers, Negro, with twelve sons, organized the first
and only Brass Band in this town. His music was heard on many occasions,
particularly under the auspices of the various saloons, whose doors were
congested night and day with customers and bar flies. M. C. Carroll, opened up
the first blacksmith shop in the early nineties. Joe T. Hill, later opened up
another on a more elaborate scale and continued to operated same for more than a
J. W. and Marshall Pipkin arrived in this now thriving little
town in the latter part of the nineteenth century and engaged in mercantile
enterprises. Both married and reared fine and honorable families. These two fine
gentlemen with their families were ever to be found with initiative and
financial means in all laudable undertakings, religious and otherwise.
Smith and Coats, who operated a General store at White
Cliffs, opened up a General mercantile store in Wilton about the beginning of
the New century. The two story building occupied by them in their new location
was built almost exclusively by a carpenter, blind from birth.
Benjamin Kitley was among the first peace officers of the new
town, in which official position, he learned with alarming technique, the proper
weight of a blow, with his cudgel, to fell or subdue a malefactor.
He was indeed one of the earliest settlers in what is now
Cleveland township having come all the way from Alabama, his native state, on a
From a family of six, including the mother and father, two
alone survive, Mrs. Bam Conger and Mrs. D. L Pipkin, the latter two still
residing in Wilton and are among Wilton's finest people.
P. S. Kinsworthy, who in his prime towered above his
contemporaries in height and tipped the scales at 250 pounds. served Wilton in
many capacities. He was and is an exception of the old school type. When this
village was in its infancy and the corner saloon was in evidence, brains alone
did not always predominate in the matters of state, 'Oft times brawn was the
determining factor in making right, right, in which capacity, P. S. Kinsworthy,
was many times weighed in the balance, but never found wanting. His influence
was not confined alone to words, Authentic information together with public
records show, undisputed evidence of his generosity toward church and
school. Today, he stands unchanged through out the years. His civil pride
has never wavered. Today he can be found in the mercantile house which he
founded more than forty years ago, expounding the doctrine which may seem
to some of a bygone age, if practiced would, we believe, make us a both happy
and prosperous people.
William D. Waldrop arrived here from Alabama in 1894. With
him he brought his entire worldly possessions which included an extra shirt,
wrapped in a bandanna handkerchief, and $11.50 in cash, ten dollars of which was
confederate money. W. D. Waldrop, upon his arrival did not stop to talk. He
secured a job and went to work, and today he is still working, Some say work is
the key to success. Others say making friends to the key to success Bill Waldrop
had, and still has, both of these attributes. Today he knows every citizen and
child in Little River County and the brand of chewing tobacco the male uses if
any. W. D. Waldrop has achieved success in all lines of endeavor, namely
spiritually, traditionally, financially and politically. The latter being
the result alone of aspiring to help his fellow man to a higher plane of
( I'm going to add a little more history to this man,
He also brought his fiddle from Alabama - he was my Great Grandfather - Me? I'm
Rev. C. M. Powell, a Baptist minister came to this village in
the early eighties and today enjoys the distinction of having been the first
regularly ordained minister to preach here. Thru his efforts, a suitable
building was erected for regular services which stands today as a memorial to
his work here. He established the first newspaper in this town of which was The
Inland Visitor, excerpts of which are found elsewhere in this feature. Three
children, Verda, Doyle and Eugene, graced his home. Miss Verda who was at all
functions, The Belle Of The Ball, was married to C. C. Carr, a lumber
manufacturer, Doyle the older son, was typesetter in his fathers printing shop
and the younger son, Eugene, acquittal himself to a very creditable manner as
the Printers Devil. This fine family all survive and are located in Oklahoma.
Reuben Russell owned and operated the first and only livery
stable in this town. Reuben was a Beau Brummel of his day, and his mustache,
which was of the handle bar variety was indeed the pride and joy of our city
during the time.
The Kansas City Southern, then known as the Texarkana and Ft.
Smith R.R. Co., entered our city from the South in 1893, with Buck Campbell at
the throttle, Pete Cook of 3 years in Arkansas fame serving as brakeman.
Authur Miller came as the first agent who had suffered the loss of all fingers
on his right hand before coming here, was thought by some natives to have worn
them off sending messages on the telegraph instrument.
W. E. Kinsworthy, later county Judge, was made the first
postmaster of the newly named town, Wilton which was changed from Milkin, in
deference to its founders and executives Mills and Kinsworthy, The newly
incorporated village was laid out by an engineer with P. S. Kinsworthy, Ira
Nunneley, Elisha Talley and others helping. From whence the origin of the name.
We are not sure since there are today twelve post offices in the United States
of a like name.
Rev C. M. Powell as has already been stated was the first
white minister here. Rev. Elisha Talley was the first Negro minister here. A
prof. Hamilton was the first white teacher, Rev. Enoch Nelson was the first
S. S. P. Weaver opened up a general store in connection with
the post office which was in their care and keeping, during the late nineties,
the elder, Sam Weaver knows as, Square, Justice of Peace, In which official
position he was loved and admired by the law abiding citizen and feared by the
Through founded more than 40 years ago, in a rough and
uncouth country, Wilton has kept apace with advancing civilization. Today, an
accredited High School stands in place of the first small school building three
major churches, with regular pastors are our midst. Unsightly buildings are no
more in evidence. Gravel and concrete streets and sidewalks are to be seen
everywhere in town. A national highway traverses out city. An up-to-date
telephone exchange and an electric high line are at our disposal. A Gravel Pit,
at an estimated value of $100,000 is at our doors on Little River, 3 minutes
from the city limits, which runs at full capacity 6 days each week. And last but
not least, law and order has supplanted evil and strife, and the young men and
young women, are legion, who have gone forth from our municipal portals and made
their mark in the commercial and professional world.
Railroads gave birth to
several new towns in Little River County in the late 1800's. Wilton was one of these.
Originally, the community was called "Millken" in honor of S.S.P. Mills and P.S.
Kinsworthy, merchants who owned the land on which the town was settled in 1890. Mills
played an important role in obtaining the railroad right of way from Red River to Wilton.
A prominent citizen and former sheriff of Little River County, the Richmond
merchant - farmer and his son, Joel Mills, moved their stock of merchandise to a store in
Wilton in 1902. Kinsworthy, who came to Wilton from Brownstown in 1888, bought his
brother's business, the first general mercantile store in the area. Several pioneer
families, most of them from Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas, had settled in the
Wilton area before the railroad was built. Eight of these families settled on their
homesteads before 1890, when the community officially became Wilton, and the Wilton
Wilton's first depot agent
was J. Author Miller, and the first postmaster was Nail Steeples. Paul Thompson, the
area's first mail carrier, brought mail to and from Texarkana in a horse drawn hack prior
to the time of train carried mail.
The First Baptist Church of
Wilton, organized in 1891, was originally named Calgary Baptist Church, and served the
community for several years before declining membership forced it to close down. Services
were resumed June 25, 1964.
The completion of the
railroad from Keller (Now Ashdown) to Millkin in 1891 cemented the town's business
community. D.H. McCoy, Ernest Fair and C.E. Jones opened law offices and began their
practices, while Newton D. Cooper established a cross tie business as well as a general
mercantile. W.M. Lambert and J.R. Miller began practicing medicine in Millkin, and Lambert
later opened a drug store. Many of the original homes and businesses in the new town were
built by David B. Smith, an early contractor.
Many Millkin residents
believed that the upstart town should be the county seat, chiefly because it was closest
to the county's geographical center. The early months of 1892 saw Millkin make a strong
bid for the county seat, a bid which the community eventually lost along with its name.
Millkin became Wilton July
1, 1892, in honor of a stockholder of the Texarkana and Fort Smith railroad whose home was
Newspapers published in the
town's early years included the Millkin Gazette, the Wilton Advocate, the Wilton Democrat
and the Wilton Record.
The Wilton School, a two
story frame building structure built in 1902, had four rooms on the first level and an
auditorium upstairs. It was heated with woodburning stoves in each room and was the first
rural school in the county to install a telephone. The building was used for many
community affairs, including several plays each year. A new school was completed in 1935
and used until 1941, when the Ashdown and Wilton School Districts became consolidated. The
old school building is now the community center.