The saga of the Thompson-Moore-Hornor House is not just about a house or family, it is the story of Helena-West Helena, Arkansas. Three names can be associated with this house. Those names are Thompson, Moore, and Hornor. From the time it was constructed, the house witnessed the growth, destruction, expansion, and change that has occurred in Helena and Phillips County. It also stood witness to the changes that took place in those families. the Arthur Thompson House is a very early Victorian style that was a trend setter when built because most other large homes in the area were Greek Revival style. The house itself has changed through the years, but the blue print has remained about the same. It is a red brick, two story, five bay structure. There are two rooms on either side of the center hall both upstairs and down with a separate one story kitchen off the right hand corner of the house. The interior is impressive with a staircase and ceilings about 14 feet in height on both floors. The kitchen was connected to the house sometime in the past. Around 1971, an application was made to be placed not he National Register of Historic Places. (National Register of Historic Places Application) As Helena experienced ups and downs, so has the home and so have these three families.
The first owner of the Thompson-Moore-Hornor House was Arthur Thompson. Because of the events going on in the country, he would only live in the house he built a short time. Arthur Thompson completed construction about 1859, just prior to the Civil War. He was born November 12, 1825 in Kentucky. His parents were Davis and Gabriella Thompson and they had gotten married on October 18, 1824 in Garrad County, Kentucky. By 1840, the family was living in Phillips County, Arkansas. Arthur had four siblings. Their names were Andrew J, Josephine, Helena, and Gabriella. On the 1850 U.S. Census, he listed his occupation as clerk with a personal estate value of $1,000. He married Francis Lavina Hanks on June 3, 1854 in Phillips County. She was the daughter of Fleetwood and Ruth Hanks. The Hanks were among the first families of Helena and their estate was called Estevan Hall. After his marriage, he began to construct a new home for his family. By 1860, he and an extended family were living in their new house. On the 1860 U.S. Census, he listed his occupation as “Gentleman.” In other words, he did not have to work because of his wealth and position. Other people living at the residence included his wife Francis, his brother Andrew (Jack) Thompson who listed his occupation as deputy, his children David and Arthur, and James Millander (Mill) Hanks who had married Arthur’s sister Helena. (1860 U.S. Census) She and their son son Charles were also living in the home. Like many wealthy Southerners of the time, Arthur was a slave owner and there were more than likely servants living on the estate. Through marriage, Arthur Thompson and his family had moved up in Phillips County society. That all changed with the Civil War and a series of personal tragedies that would occur in the family. General Samuel Curtis and the Army of the Southwest marched into Helena in July 1862. While the Civil War was raging around them, a personal nightmare struck the Thompson family. His wife Francis Lee died December 31, 1862 in childbirth and the child she was bearing, Francis Lee, died as well. They were buried at Maple Hill Cemetery in Helena. It was soon after this that Arthur moved his family. Some reports have them going back to Kentucky. There can be no way to be certain what happened, but it is known that his home soon was confiscated by Union troops. Both Generals Alvin P. Honey and Frederick C. Saloman made the building their headquarters. The house is mentioned in the reports of the Battle of Helena when Confederate forces moved down from Battery C. It was also used as a hospital. There are at least two bullet holes in the building. (Historic Helena-West Helena, Arkansas). Federal soldiers departed Helena in 1866 and soon life began to return to normal. We do not know if Arthur returned to his home. It may have been too painful for him to live in it, or the house may have been unlivable because of the events the structure endured.
The Moore family step into the history of 323 Beech street net and it started when Gabriella Thompson, Arthur’s sister, married Charles Lawson Moore on November 27, 1867. Once again, a marriage was to impact the house. Charles Moore ran a grocery store along with his two brothers. They were a wealthy family who had an estate valued about $50,000 in 1860. Charles, Gabriella, and his two brothers, Robert and Clark, were living together on the 1870 census in Helena. All three list their occupation as grocers. Arthur Thompson did not list his residence as Helena, but St. Francis. His occupation was druggist. It appears from records that shortly after this census, Robert Moore moved into the Thompson house. Robert C. Moore was born April 1, 1840. His parents were W.F. and Margaret Moore. W.F. Moore had moved to Arkansas form Virginia and soon had a large family living in Phillips County. By 1860, William F. Moore listed an occupation as merchant. His sons Charles and Robert were listed as clerks. ((1860 U.S. Census). William Moore died on August 21, 1864. The sons then took over his business. Robert Moore married Mattie Hopkins on February 20, 1873 and moved into the Thompson House with his new family. By 1880, the entire Moore family were living near Robert. R.C. Moore listed his occupation as merchant on the 1880 census. His household included Mattie, his wife, and three children. Their names were Frank, Fannie, and Margaret. Two nephews were living with him and a boarder named Mary Rice, a widowed. Charles Moore lived in the next house on Perry Street with his family and Arthur Thompson, his brother in law. (1880 U.S. Census). Fannie married John Sidney Hornor on January 1, 1900. The young Hornor was a neighbor who also listed his occupation asa merchant. Sometime before 1917, the couple moved into 323 Beech Street with Robert. At that time, Robert and his brother are operating several businesses. They owned a cotton factors and grocery at. 315 Cherry Street along with a dry goods store at 415 Cherry. (Helena City Directory 1917).. Robert passed away on May 13, 1918 and is buried at Maple Hill Cemetery. The home then passed into the Hornor family.
John Sidney Hornor was born December 14, 1873 in Arkansas and would be next in line to add his touch to the Thompson-Moore-Hornor house. John was the son of Sidney Henry Hornor and his second wife Carrie. It was a large and wealthy family. On the city directory in 1907, John S. Hornor had three listings in addition to his home. He was Vice President of Trade at 307 York, President of Wooten Cotton Company at 514 1/2 Cherry, and cashier at the Bank of Helena 509 Cherry Street. His residence was listed as 720 Porter. (Helena City Directory 1907). As the population of Helena expanded, a new opportunity opened up for the Hornor family. In 1908, John’s cousin Edward C. Hornor purchased over 2,300 acres form James R. Bush on the west side of Crowley’s Ridge. On March 31, 1910, E.C. Hornor conveyed the land over to the West Helena Consolidated Company which was made up of himself, John S. Hornor, and James Tappan Hornor. They planned to build a new town. A survey and a new town site was completed and the Hornor family built a street car line connecting the two communities through the hills. The town was to have been named Phillips, but because of the railroad, it became West Helena. West Helena was incorporated as a city on June 15, 1917. (Historic Helena and West Helena). In 1917, he identified himself as Secretary and Treasurer of West Helena Consolidated Company. His cousin Edward was President of that company. They were also partners in a real estate company located at 511 1/2 Cherry Street. (Helena City Directory 1917). From 1920 to 1940, John Hornor and his wife remained at 323 Beech Street where the couple raised two children. Carolyn Ferguson was born on August 5, 1905 and Robert Moore was born on November 27, 1900. On the 1930 U.S. Census, his house was valued at $10,000 and he had been joined by a daughter in law. Carolyn listed her occupation as newspaper society editor. Robert identified himself as a farmer and his new wife was named Marguerite. John S. Hornor passed away on April 14, 1934 and is buried at Maple Hill Cemetery. In 1940, Fannie was head of household with Robert, his wife, and two children living at home. Fannie Hornor would live a long life and passed away on May 19, 1962. By that time, the home was beginning to show it’s age probably. Young Marguerite, the daughter of Robert and his wife, was the last of the immediate family to pass away on July 28, 2012. (U.S. Census Records 1920, 1930, 1940)
The Moore-Hornor House, as it is known today, was rescued from destruction by the Department of Arkansas Heritage. After a fire in 1994 damaged much of the home, concerned groups stepped in to help save the structure. The family donated it to the Delta Cultural Center in 1995 and house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The large red brick house stands out looking on modern Helena, a restored version of Fort Curtis, and eastward to the Mississippi just as it has for over a hundred and twenty years. Hopefully, it will continue to stand for another one hundred and twenty years.
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, National Register of Historic Places Application, 323 Beech Street Helena, Arkansas: Thompson-Moore-Hornor Home: September 1972.
The Phillips County Historical Society, Historic Helena-West Helena, Arkansas, 2nd edition: 1978.
U.S. Census Bureau, Census of 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, Ancestry.com, Washington D.C.
Ancestry.com, U.S. City Directories 1822 – 1995, Provo, UT: 2011
Branch, Bill & Oliver, Paula, Images of America: Helena and Phillips County, Aracadia Publishing, South Carolina, 2013.