The saga of the Moore-Hornor House on Beech Street is not just about a house or family, it is the story of Helena-West Helena, Arkansas. From its construction this house has witnessed the growth, destruction, expansion and change that has occurred in Helena and Phillips County. It has also stood witness to changes that took place in the families that called it home. Part One is the story of Arthur Thompson and his immediate family.
The Moore-Hornor house is a very early Victorian style building that was a trend setter when built because most other large homes in the area were Greek Revival. 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 downstairs with a separate 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 later. (National Register of Historic Places Application).
Picture below is of the house today playing host to a group of visitors:
The first owner of the house was Arthur Thompson who had it built in 1859. He was born November 12, 1826 in Garrard County, Kentucky to Davis and Gabriella Thompson. In 1836 the family moved to Phillips County, Arkansas after Davis was appointed land agent by President Andrew Jackson. In 1846 Davis served in the Mexican War and was elected sheriff of Phillips County upon returning home. He served four years and retired. Gabriella and Davis had four children. Their names were Andrew, Josephine, Helena and Gabriella. By 1850 Arthur was working as a clerk with a personal estate value of $1,000. In 1852 he became sheriff of Phillips County and married Francis Lavina Hanks on June 3, 1854. She was the daughter of Fleetwood and Ruth Hanks. The Hanks were among the first families of Helena and were extremely wealthy. Sheriffs ran for reelection every two years so Arthur ran again in 1854 and won.( Southern Shield, 1854) In 1856 Arthur Thompson ran for reelection on the Democratic ticket supporting James Buchanan for President, Elias Conway for governor and A.B. Greenwood and E.A. Warren for Congress. (States Rights Democrat, June 12, 1856)
By 1860 Arthur and his extended family were living in their new house. He was also not sheriff anymore and listed his occupation as “gentleman.” Other people in the house were his brother Andrew who listed his occupation as deputy. Arthur’s wife and two sons David and Arthur Jr. were there along with Francis’s brother James Millander (Mill) Hanks. To finish up the home was Mill’s wife, Helena and their child Charles. Helena was the sister of Arthur Thompson.(1860 U.S. Census: Phillips County) 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 and his family had moved up in Phillips County society.
Life changed for the entire family and all of Helena with the coming of the Civil War and a series of personal tragedies. General Samuel Curtis and the Army of the Southwest marched into Helena in July 1862. Andrew decided to leave and join Colonel Dobbins Regiment where he became a Second Lieutenant. In December 1862 he was captured by a party of the Fourteenth Illinois Cavalry and sent north to prison. Unlike his brother, Arthur chose to stay in his new home. By remaining he hoped to ride the conflict out with his property intact. He knew that families who left were more than likely going to lose everything. While the Civl 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, died as well. They were buried at Maple Hill Cemetery in Helena. It was soon after this incident that Arthur moved his remaining family. Some reports have them gong back to Kentucky, but there can be no real way of knowing. His nice red brick home was soon confiscated by the Federal army. Both Generals Alvin P. Hovey and Frederick C. Saloman made the house their headquarters.
The now military controlled home is mentioned in reports of the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863 when Confederate forces moved down from Battery C. Two bullet holes in an inside door stand witness to its role in the battle that played out. Later it was used as a hospital treating the wounded and dying soldiers from both armies. (Historic Helena-West Helena, Arkansas).
Federal soldiers departed Helena in 1866 and soon life began to return to normal. Arthur returned home to Helena and identified his occupation in 1870 as druggist. He had also remarried to a younger woman named Anna M. Bohanon. His son John H. from his previous marriage was living with him along with a new daughter named Imogene. In 1870 Arthur served as a commissioner in the Arkansas Midland Railroad Company. (Helena Weekly Clarion 1870) He also put up his 800 acre plantation in Phillips County up for rent. Known as the “Craig Place” the ad referred to it as one of the finest in Phillips County.( Helena Weekly Clarion 1869) In 1880, he was elected county clerk. (Daily Arkansas Gazette, 1880) His life had changed again though because Anna was no longer there. Arthur identified himself as a widower which means he had lost his second wife. It was probably during this time that he moved away from the large house on Beech street. On the 1880 U.S. Census Arthur was living at 168 Perry Street in Helena with C.L. Moore who he identified as his brother in law. Charles Moore had marred Arthur’s sister Gabriella in 1867. It was Charles’ brother Robert who moved into the home at Beech street and would start the next chapter of the two story brick home.
Arthur Thompson passed away on August 6, 1887. He is buried at Maple Hill Cemetery along with his family.
Obituary from the Arkansas Gazette:
Mr. Arthur Thompson, one of the prominent and early citizens of Helena, and for many years one of the most prominent political leaders of the county and state, died Friday night of congestion of the bowels at that place. He filled for many years the office of sheriff of Phillips County and many other offices of trust, and was well known throughout the state.
To be continued with Part II and the Moore Family
Weekly Arkansas Gazette, Little Rock, Arkansas, Friday August 20, 1852 – Page 3
Southern Shield, Helena, Arkansas Saturday March 18, 1854 – Page 2
States Rights Democrat, Helena, Arkansas, Thursday June 12, 1856 – Page 2
Andrew Thompson of Lee County, Arkansas – http://www.mygenealogyhound.com
Helena Weekly Clarion, Helena, Arkansas, Wednesday December 8, 1869 – Page 2
Helena Weekly Clarion, Helena, Arkansas, Wednesday February 2, 1870 – Page 2
Daily Arkansas Gazette, Little Rock, Arkansas, Saturday September 18, 1880 – Page 8
Arkansas Democrat, Little Rock, Arkansas, Monday August 8, 1887 – Page 4
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