The Namesake of Harkrider Street: “Looking Back”

Harkrider Street, the part of Highway 64/65 that runs through the city of Conway, was named for James Homer Harkrider. Born in Alabama in 1834, he joined the Confederate Army at the outbreak of the Civil War, soon rising to the rank of captain.

At the Battle of Chickamauga Creek, Captain Harkrider was hit in the right leg by a rifle ball, fell unconscious and was left behind by his comrades. He laid there for three days before being discovered by Union troops. Gangrene had set in but Harkrider pled for his life, not wanting to be taken to the “dead-house” to die.

Harkrider’s pleas fell on deaf ears until he hit upon one final tactic; with his last ounce of energy, he made the Masonic sign and one of the soldiers, also a Mason, had mercy on him. Harkrider was taken to a nearby field hospital where his leg was amputated about six inches above the knee. Later he made his own prosthesis.

After Harkrider had recovered somewhat from the surgery, done without anesthetic, he was transferred to upper Ohio where he remained in a prison hospital for the remainder of the war. He headed to the wilderness of Arkansas after the war, not wanting to return home to Alabama.

Harkrider eventually settled in El Paso, a small community 18 miles east of Conway, becoming a merchant. It was there that he met and married Molly C. Tew in 1867. The newlyweds moved to Conway shortly thereafter, settling in Cadron Gap. There Harkrider built his bride a one-room log cabin on the southeast corner of his homestead and built all the furniture inside.

Their firstborn, Sarah Ann “Sallie,” was born on August 5, 1870, the same year the railroad came, cutting through Cadron Gap on is way to Fort Smith. There was talk about Cadron Gap being a favorable location for a town but eventually Conway Station was established further south, avoiding the steep slopes of Cadron Ridge as a location for the business district.

By the time Sallie was a year old, Harkrider had established Conway’s first saloon at Cadron Gap and was doing a thriving business. In reality, his establishment was a store and saloon combination. He also engaged in large-scale cotton farming.

As Harkrider began to accumulate more wealth, in 1873, he decided to move into town and build his wife a house. Located on the northwest corner of an 80-acre tract that eventually became the Harkrider Addition, the two-story homemade brick structure was about a block south of where the Conway Ministry Center is today.

The first brick residence in Conway, the house had a living room and dining room downstairs with two large bedrooms upstairs. William Firestone made and “burned” the bricks in the pasture behind the house. The kitchen, built of lumber, was separated from the rest of the structure by an open hall to keep cooking odors away. Two long wooden porches extended from the back of the house to the rear of the kitchen.

The front of the house was adorned by four tall columns extending the full height of the house,
supporting a porch projecting from the two upstairs bedrooms. Two large double fireplaces in the middle of the house heated it.

In 1878, Harkrider sold his saloon to focus on his farm and his new business of buying and selling livestock. He had acquired a vast amount of land by this time, finally able to receive full rights to own land as Reconstruction ended.

A very civic-minded individual, Harkrider helped incorporate Conway; he was one of the 30 signers of the incorporation documents. He also financially supported efforts to establish Hendrix College and Central College in Conway and was very instrumental in establishing the Oak Grove Cemetery in 1880. He was a deacon at the First Baptist Church.

Harkrider passed away February 15, 1899. His wife, Mollie Tew Harkrider passed away in 1934. The Harkriders had four sons, James H., Walter C., Frank and Ben, in addition to their daughter Sallie. Sallie married Thomas Powers. The Powers ran a 14-room boarding house at 1104 Front Street.

Information for this article was found in an article that appeared in the Summer 1964 edition of Faulkner Facts & Fiddlings.

Photo as appeared in the Log Cabin Democrat.

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

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