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The Benton County Historical Society (BCHS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting, publishing, and otherwise preserving and disseminating the history of Benton County. The BCHS arose from a June 22, 1954, meeting of twenty-six people at the Masonic Youth Center in Rogers (Benton County). The records preserved over the years show that the attendees came from all townships of the county. At this meeting, temporary officers of the yet unnamed group were elected as follows: J. Wesley Sampier (chairman), Ray Henry and Louise Plank (vice chairs), and Huey Huhn (secretary/treasurer). These temporary officers had to nominate a slate of officers and draw up a constitution and by-laws. Word of mouth and notices in the newspapers promoted the first public meeting, which took place on October 5, 1954, at the Benton County Courthouse. The first permanent elected officers included Alvin Seamster (president), Vera Key (vice president), Sabra Davis (second vice president), and Huey Huhn (secretary/treasurer).
In September 1955, the first issue of the Benton County Pioneer was published. The lives of the earliest settlers were preserved in family stories, but the focus was soon broadened to include events occurring up to the present. Another concern of the early BCHS was to place markers at the locations of important historical events. In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill establishing what is now Pea Ridge National Military Park, and the BCHS sponsored the Pea Ridge Memorial Association in January 1961 as a means of raising money for memorial services each year at the anniversary of the Battle of Pea Ridge. Other historical sites marked in Benton County include Old Telegraph Road, Dunagin’s Farm, Eagle Hotel, Potts’ Hill, Camp Walker, McKissick’s Springs, Camp Stephens, Elm Springs, War Eagle Mills, Cross Hollows, the site of the Skirmish at Maysville, and Osage Mills.
Revenues from the sales of publications other than the Pioneer, along with membership fees, have funded the other activities of BCHS, including the society’s publishing program. The Obituaries of Benton County, Arkansas by Barbara P. Easley and Verla P. McAnelly are BCHS bestsellers. Other popular publications are reprints such as the 1962 Pioneer issue dedicated to the Battle of Pea Ridge and Goodspeed’s History of Benton County, Arkansas, as well as new publications such as the Skirmishes around Bentonville and Sugar Creek.
Following the first public meeting in October 1954, BCHS began a decades-long era of meetings at different locations. On December 2, 1991, the BCHS board accepted an offer to have a permanent home at the Peel Mansion Museum. The actual move to the new location occurred in May 1994. Two groups ultimately ended up using the facility: the Northwest Arkansas Genealogical Society and BCHS. Some years later, the Benton County Cemetery Preservation Group moved into the same building. BCHS moved from the Peel Mansion Museum in 2005 to take residence on the lower level of the conference center at Compton Gardens. In late 2008, a structure believed to be the 1866 Bentonville (Benton County) school was discovered encased within a house scheduled for demolition. The Peel/Compton Foundation purchased the property and donated it to the BCHS for a permanent home.
For additional information:Benton County Historical Society. http://www.co.benton.ar.us/bchs/index.html (accessed March 21, 2011).
Benton County History. Rogers: Benton County Heritage Committee, 1991.
Warden, Don. “Celebrating a Half Century of Preserving Benton County History.” Benton County Pioneer 49 (Third Quarter 2004): 17, 19.
Leah WhiteheadBenton County Historical Society
Last Updated 2/25/2017
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