- Randolph County Master Plan
has been taking place on the banks of the Eleven Point River in northwest Randolph County, Arkansas. Two early-nineteenth century log structures constructed in Arkansas’s territorial period have inspired a multidisciplinary historic preservation project undertaken by Black River Technical College. Standing about a mile distant on opposite sides of the Eleven Point River on their original sites, the structures have been restored to a 1840s interpretive period by master craftsmen skilled in traditional trades. The physical restoration was guided throughout by extensive historical, architectural, and archeological research. These silent educators have revealed much about the pioneering families arriving in the valley two centuries ago and inspired the project’s title – Researching Early Arkansas Cultural Heritage
The Rice-Upshaw House was initially constructed in 1828 and used possibly as a one-story store / loom house by the builder Reuben Rice. Reuben established a rural trading center soon after the Rice family arrived in the Eleven Point river Valley in 1812. The structure features an original log partition wall, a rarity in vernacular architecture. A restored 1820s log granary survives from the well documented trading center days adding to the site’s significance. The house is restored to the 1840s era when Reuben’s son expanded the main structure to serve as a family dwelling house. It was donated to BRTC by Rice descendants, Dorothy Jean Upshaw and her children.
One of Arkansas’s and the regions’ most finely crafted log structures, the 1833 white oak log dogtrot constructed by William Looney is considered to have functioned as a rural tavern as well serving Looney’s distilling industry. He produced apple brandy in a day when distilling was a common practice for preserving fruits or grain. In the post-Civil War period the structure was converted to a dwelling by the Downey family. For more than a century it was known as the Downey Place. It was donated to BRTC by Jack and Christina French, descendants of the valley’s pioneering families.
Ozella's painting of log house
Two centuries ago yeoman farmers transferred traditions rooted in the 18th century to their new homeland in the Eleven Point River Valley. A great-grand-daughter of pioneer William Looney, Ozella Miller, married Andrew Jackson Upshaw, a great-grandson of another pioneer Reuben Rice. In her 80s Ozella picked up a paint brush for the first time and painted scenes that surrounded her or that had been shared in cherished stories of early ancestors. She left a visual record of a log structure that reflects the building traditions learned from fathers and grandfathers. Today architectural, archeological, and historical findings have verified this early Arkansas cultural heritage. Image donated to BRTC by the David Fender family, descendants of Reuben Rice and his wife, Lydia.
The value of the Rice-Upshaw House and William Looney Tavern as sites of heritage tourism is a given. Their value as “silent educators” is equally important. The log structures serve as an education lab for students of all ages, elementary to graduate, and a wide range of academic disciplines, allowing them to connect their classroom theory to an authentic setting. The sites are popular field trip destinations for educators and students from throughout the region, as well as those at BRTC.
Follow the links to learn ABOUT REACH, the RESTORATION story, and the HISTORY of Anglo American and African American settlement in the Eleven Point River Valley two centuries ago. Explore EDUCATION to see how BRTC students are connecting to the past through Project REACH. Throughout the website VIDEOS help to tell the story. Links are listed in a right-hand sidebar.
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