Arkansas Listings in the National Register of Historic Places

Article excerpt

National Register-Listed Properties of Hampton, Calhoun County

LOCATED IN THE TIMBERLANDS OF SOUTH CENTRAL ARKANSAS, Hampton is the seat of Calhoun County. There are four National Register-listed properties inside the Hampton city limits-the Calhoun County Courthouse, Hampton Masonic Lodge Building, Hampton Waterworks, and Hampton Cemetery. Notably, the Hampton Cemetery contains the graves of a Mountain Meadows Massacre survivor as well as the captain who rescued her as a child. The two married many years after the massacre, when he was an old man.

Calhoun County was formed in December 1850 from parts of Dallas and Ouachita Counties so that area residents could conduct official business closer to home. Lawmakers named the county after John C. Calhoun, the South Carolina statesman and seventh vice president of the United States (under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson). Early resident James Riggs owned a fine farm about three miles north of present-day Hampton, and the first county commissioners selected it as a good location for the county seat. Riggs, however, refused to donate or sell his land for that purpose. Therefore, Nathaniel Hunt, one of the first settlers in the Hampton area, donated a portion of his farm in 1851 for the county seat. The town of Hampton was named after Col. John R. Hampton, a state senator from Union County at that time. Hampton was officially incorporated in January 1853.1

Oliver Hazzard Perry Black, the first person to settle inside the new town limits, established a store and in 1851 became Hampton's first postmaster. Hampton served as an important trading post for the surrounding area until the outbreak of the Civil War. The county's able-bodied men went off to war, leaving the women, children, and older residents to eke out existences on their own. By the war's end, no businesses remained in Hampton. However, the town recovered quickly and reincorporated in 1871. I. B. and G. M. Strong opened a large store, as did the firm of Frost and Porter.2

Since its early days, Hampton has relied on the timber industry, harvesting the area's vast forests of shortleaf yellow pine, cypress, oak, red gum, and hickory. Whereas early trade relied on the Ouachita River, the construction of the St. Louis, Arkansas & Texas Railway (better known as the Cotton Belt) through northwestern Calhoun County in 1883 improved shipment of the county's timber products.3 Hampton remains the nerve center of Calhoun County because of its location along U.S. Highway 167, the major thoroughfare between Little Rock and El Dorado.

The first court proceedings in Calhoun County were held on May 27, 1851, at the home of James Riggs. But, after Riggs refused to provide land for the county seat, county officials used his home only one more time before moving to a "temporary" courthouse in Hampton.4 Calhoun County's first courthouse, constructed out of logs, was completed by October 1851. In 1859, officials appropriated $4000 for the construction of a permanent brick courthouse to be situated on the public square. This second courthouse was a two-story building with minimal exterior detail. The first floor was divided up into four large offices for county officials, and the second floor housed the courtroom. In October 1905, the court ordered that a "new and modern courthouse . . . be built in the town of Hampton . . . on the present Courthouse site."5 The court appointed C. L. Poole commissioner of public buildings. He, in turn, hired Little Rock architect Frank W. Gibb to design the courthouse.6

Frank Wooster Gibb is credited with the design of many buildings in Little Rock, as well as sixty courthouses throughout Arkansas. Were it not for his father's interest in real estate development, though, Gibb would probably never have gotten interested in architecture. The Gibb family moved from Chicago to Little Rock in 1871, when Frank was only fourteen years old. Frank's father, Edward, built houses on speculation and invested in real estate. …