Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Beirne, Arkansas

April is officially Beirne History Month.

R.D. settled in Texas in 1882 but two years earlier J.L. Beirne was making his mark about 200 miles east in Arkansas.  Per "The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture" (not an oxymoron):

The small community of Beirne is located twenty-one miles southwest of the Clark County seat of Arkadelphia. It was founded by Illinois native and steamboat captain James Lewis Beirne in 1880. Originally named York, the community was later renamed for Beirne. The community, like many surrounding it, grew out of the timber industry, and it was once considered one of the premier shipping locations along the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad. Like many of its neighboring communities, it too fell victim to waning timber production in the early 1900s. Today, Beirne is home to one of the largest producers of hardwood material in the world.

Quickly after the community’s establishment, Captain Beirne built a sawmill and Methodist church, which he pastored. By the end of 1880, a railroad depot was constructed, and Beirne’s sawmills and grist mills were in full operation. On May 7, 1880, Beirne established a post office under the name of York; on May 26, 1880, it was renamed Beirne. In 1881, Beirne’s daughter and son-in-law moved to the area, and the group established a store and planing mill on the 800 acres owned by Beirne. The community quickly gained the reputation as the best shipping point on the railroad for the citizens in the Okolona (Clark County) area. James Beirne died in 1908 and is buried in the town bearing his name.

Did R.D. and J.L. know each other?  Maybe - but probably not, 200 miles was another time zone in 1882.  Interesting that both became entrepreneurs, unwilling to toil under the glare of some tight-fisted robber baron.

What drove Cap'n Beirne to side with the Methodists?  Was there a Methodist to his madness? (I have waited years to use that one).  What happened to the steamboat? Is there a juicy Concordia-style steamboat grounding that no one will talk about?

A road trip to Beirne AR is in the planning phase.  For now we must be content with a photo of its post office, where stamps are still four cents and the mailman knows everyone by their first name, be it BobbieSue, BillyJoe, BessieMay, EddieLee, etc.

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