B.C. Information & History
Longtime known as the "Cornerstone of the State", Benton County is located in the extreme
northwest corner of Arkansas and borders Missouri and Oklahoma. This
region is geographically part of the Ozark Plateau.
In the past this area was a Native American hunting
ground for the Osage Indians;
timberland; and a major
fruit producer. More recently the county
has become one of the fastest growing
population and economic growth centers in the country.
Longtime known as the "Cornerstone of the State", Benton County is located in the extreme northwest corner of Arkansas and borders Missouri and Oklahoma. This region is geographically part of the Ozark Plateau. In the past this area was a Native American hunting ground for the Osage Indians; timberland; and a major fruit producer. More recently the county has become one of the fastest growing population and economic growth centers in the country.
In beginning of the 1800s early settlers of the region moved to Benton County and surrounding Northwest Arkansas for the clean waters of natural springs spread throughout the area. One of the first industries to help establish the local economy was apple production. The first nursery in Benton County was established in 1835 in the town of Bentonville and freighters soon began hauling apples in open wagons to surrounding areas. The 1850s were prosperous economic years but the Civil War, town burning, the freeing of slave labor, and the lack of good roads to transport crops resulted in a difficult couple of decades.
In 1866, a man that many refer to as Benton County's first great entrepreneur, Peter Van Winkle , returned to the area after the war only to discover that the home and mill he had left in 1862 was destroyed. He had to start over and soon built the largest steam powered saw mill in the midwest. This 150-horsepowered engine was state-of-the-art and could simultaneously power a circular saw, gang lathe, two planers, two rip saws, one shingle machine and two molding saws. The lumber from Peter's mill helped rebuild Northwest Arknasas and surrounding neighboring states as well. Two buildings that still stand today built with lumber from this mill are the Peel Mansion & Historic Gardens in Bentonville and Old Main on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
The apple industry gained "steam" too when, in 1881, the railroad entered town. This new way to reach market outlets resulted in a substantial increase in orchard land which grew from a few hundred acres to an estimated 40,000 acres by 1900 in Benton County based on tree counts. Apple production along with supporting industries such as barrel making, distilling, packing sheds and ice making once again established the local economy. Other farm crops of the time included barley, buckwheat, Indian corn, Irish potatoes, oats, rye, sweet potatoes, and tobacco. The census of 1880 reported that Benton County was preeminently first to produced tobacco and for a while grew 10 times more than any other county in the state. Live stock included horses, mules and asses, working oxen, milch cows, cattle, sheep, and swine. The apple industry saw its peak year of production in 1919 when a record year of 5 million barrels was reported. In the 1920s apple production began to steadily decline due to numerous reasons such as bad seed mixing, insects like the coding moth, tree diseases such as blight, and extreme weather conditions.
In 1915, Jay Fulbright and Richard Clark began working with local farmers to ship poultry (whole chickens referred to as broilers) out of Arkansas. The completion of Highway 71 in 1926 connected Northwest Arkansas to larger markets like Kansas City. Severe weather in 1927 swayed many area farmers who had been previously growing apples and other produce to turn to raising chickens. In 1930, Charles George started a hatchery to supply eggs to growing number of chicken farmers. Within the same time frame, Johnnie B. Hunt began a business of delivering chickens to various Midwest markets, his company would soon become a leader in the commercial trucking industry. Benton County found sustained growth from chicken production in the 1930s, a time when the Depression continued and most of the State's economy additionally suffered through the Dust Bowl era. In the late 1930s a man named John Tyson started hauling broilers to Kansas City and Chicago. Tyson then began raising his own flock, making the chicken feed and continued delivering them too. During the 1940s, major food producers like Armour, Cambell's Soup & Swift established plants in Northwest Arkansas. By the mid 1950s poultry had become the State's second-largest agricultural income - just behind cotton.
At the same time that Hunt and Tyson were building trucking and poultry empires another business-savvy man brought his brilliant ideas to Benton County. Sam Walton moved to Bentonville in 1950 and on May 9th of that same year he opened Walton's 5 & 10 on the square. Walton would grow his chain of small variety stores to 15 outlets in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma but his biggest idea was still yet to come.
In 1960, the Army Corps of Engineers began work on
impounding a major part of the White River and
Beaver Lake. Beaver Lake is approximately 50 miles in length and covers approximately 31,700
acres, with about 449 miles of shoreline and an elevation of 1,120 feet. There
are several U.S. Corps of Engineers parks and campgrounds
surrounding Beaver Lake.
Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area (formerly
known as the Beaver Lake State Park) is the only state park in the County.
Avoca | Bella Vista | Bentonville | Bethel Heights | Cave Springs | Centerton | Elm Springs | Garfield
Gentry | Gravette | Highfill | Lowell | Pea Ridge | Rogers | Siloam Springs | Springdale
The Northwest Arkansas Community College (two-year college) is located in Bentonville and John Brown University (four-year college) is located in Siloam Springs. Bryan College and the University of Phoenix both have a branch campus located in Benton County.
Please contact Rosemary Goines, Executive Secretary to Benton County Judge Robert Clinard, at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.