Bentonville News Oddities

By Larry Horton

While looking through old newspapers for interesting Bentonville historical items, I often come upon articles that either are outlandish or are in need of further explanation. Here are a few for your entertainment:

Arkansas Democrat, Oct. 6, 1905:

“Mysterious Happenings in Connection with Historic Cave in the Vicinity

Mr. Jackson, owner of Crystal Cave near this city (Bentonville), reports that quite often during the night he can hear pounding in the cave…Mr. Jackson has blocked the entrance several times, and within a few days it would be reopened.”

Ok, what the heck? Spooks in the cave? There is some conjecture that someone was breaking in to steal onyx which was found in the cave, but still, pounding in the middle of the night? That would be creepy to say the least.

Daily Arkansas Gazette, Little Rock, June 22, 1915:

“A meteor which seemed to explode was seen last week by a large number of people.”

That’s kinda cool, an exploding meteor. I wonder where it went? Maybe they named the Meteor Theater after they saw it? More information please.

Daily Arkansas Gazette, May 07, 1916:

“Begins War on Flies: Bentonville Children to Get Prizes for Killing Insects

…dead flies collected by Bentonville children will bring 10 cents per hundred…In addition, special prizes are offered by merchants to the first boy or girl killing 500 flies or more…”

I guess that’s one way to do it. I wonder, though, how can they tell if they are Bentonville flies? Maybe they are Rogers flies that have been snuck in to add to the count?

Daily Arkansas Gazette, August 8, 1888:

“Sneak thieves are becoming troublesome about Bentonville.”

That’s short and sweet. But what? Sneak thieves? When’s the last time you heard that? According to Merriam-Webster, a sneak thief is someone who steals whatever is readily available without breaking and entering. But surely there is more to this story – like where or what was stolen. Whatever. Just be on the lookout I guess.

Arkansas Democrat, June 5, 1882:

“Miss Lola Smith fell from the hotel balcony at Bentonville last week and was seriously injured.”

This story begs for more detail. How exactly did a woman fall from the balcony? Was alcohol involved? What happened to her? They leave you wanting more information on this one for sure. Lola Smith was probably someone’s great grandmother. This may be the first they’ve heard of it.

Daily Arkansas Gazette, September 9, 1912:

“Insane in Schoolroom Bentonville Teacher Suddenly Becomes Violently Demented"

Hunter Patterson, a young man who became insane on Monday…will be placed in the State Hospital for Nervous Cases….He has been engaged in teaching for several years and had shown no indication of mental derangement until Monday when, after opening school at the Jefferson School House, two miles east of Bentonville, he became violently insane and had to be taken in charge by Sheriff A. J. Russell. He was only slightly improved yesterday.”

Ah, the deranged teacher. This could have been any time, including today. I know it could have been when I was in school. Poor teachers, cut them some slack. Immediately remanded to the state mental hospital? Wow, that’s harsh.

Arkansas Democrat, April 6, 1899:

“Lillie Wilson, 14 years old, was put in jail in Bentonville for contempt in refusing to answer questions by the grand jury.” 

First the teachers, now the kids! 14 years old and in jail for not answering the jury. Again, sounds a little harsh. I’d like to know more, wouldn’t you? I wonder what they were asking her? There’s no follow up, so it’s lost to history I guess.

Arkansas Democrat January 19, 1886:

“A curiosity at Bentonville is a chicken with teeth, and a head resembling that of a pointer dog.”

This just sounds made up. A chicken with teeth and a head like a dog? Oddly enough there is a genetic mutation that causes a chicken to grow teeth and have an abnormal shape. This was what led scientists to believe birds were descended from dinosaurs, like in Jurassic Park.

Arkansas Democrat January 23, 1900:

“N.J. Robbins of Bentonville sold two cars of mules to South Africa for $2900.”

Mules for Africa. Hmmm. Well, the Boer War was going on in South Africa in 1900 so maybe they needed mules. But from Bentonville? Weren’t there any mules closer than 8800 miles? Weird to say the least.


Finally, the most interesting is also the oldest:

Daily Arkansas Gazette, August 4, 1869:

From the Bentonville Traveler: Some workmen, while cleaning out a well near the square, found a human skull in it. No one can account for it’s being there, as it looks too old to have been deposited there during the war.”

This is the creepiest. Just a skull, they say, no body or anything. I want to know where!... And it’s not like it was front page news, just a little blurb, like – Is anyone missing a HUMAN SKULL? Nobody? I wonder what they did with it?  I’ll be here, begging for the details.