by Ann Harrell and Bertha Willet
Mayflower’s earliest settlers came in 1778. They had been Tories during the Revolutionary War and were moving westward to get a new start. Later, they moved on as new settlers came and crowded them out. New settlers found good rich soil, ample supply of water, excellent hunting territory, and rich source of timber which were all vital to pioneer living.
Soon the land along the Palarm and Arkansas River was homesteaded and gradually moved northward to the present area. Flannagin and Massengill were two of the earliest settlers. In 1871, at Twenty-Mile Camp, the railroad construction superintendent used a Pullman car for his headquarters. His telegraph call was Mayflower – thus the name remained.
This area furnished the trees for wood to be fed into the hungry maws of the steam driven engine up to 1893. Cross ties were cut from the timber also. Mr. Lorentz erected a small general store as early as 1870 that furnished necessary items for the community.
Other family names of this period were Gibson, McCoulbrough, J.R. Dickens, Taylor, Irby, Ledrick, Adams, A. Dukes, Little, and Miller. Williams saloon opened at the same time. E.C Dunlap had a saloon also and it was said that his stock would not fill a wheel barrow. Cotton plantations using sharecroppers thrived. Within a short while Mann Nichols constructed a steam cotton gin near the Little plantation. At one time cotton gins were in or near Mayflower.
The first post office opened November 9, 1880, with Worley E. Vanlandingham as first postmaster. Nichols Inn was stagecoach stop for travelers going from Little Rock to Clinton. Mail was carried by stage at this time. The Ledrick hotel was built later.
In 1870, the Odd Fellows had a log building for their use but later gave it as the school building. It was located west of the railroad near the present elementary school. Later, Woodmen of the World built a larger two-story building and it was used as a school. This log house was enlarged several times and was used as a school, church, community center, as well as for the Woodmen of the World Order. A brick veneer building replaced this log and frame building in 1929 at the site of the present elementary school. Richard Nichols (Knickols) had been an officer in the Union Army and was the first teacher. His philosophy was to “spare the rod – you spoil the child.”
By 1916 there were three churches and a two-story hotel owned by John F. Ledrick who also owned one of the stores. Wiley Mosley came in February 1894 and bought a plot of land from Dr. V.G. Dickens and built a store which operated until 1940. During this period such businesses such as a wagon yard, grist mill, blacksmith shop, shingle mill, stave mill, and sawmills served the growing needs of the community. Hays Realty Co. came November 10, 1917 from Tennessee and bought up land and began a residential development.
Several things happened to give a spurt of growth. The railroad made regular stops at the Mayflower station until July 21, 1931. When it was closed, passengers were permitted to use it, but tickets had to be purchased on the train. Schools were consolidated in the early 1930s – Dew Drop, Providence, Lollie, Riverside, Palarm, Jones Hill, Washam and Chadwick. These small one-room schools were abandoned and children were transported by school buses into Mayflower. Bertha Willett was one of the last teachers at Washam School which was located near Narrows Bridge across Palarm Creek. In 1934 the brick building was destroyed by fire. A bucket brigade of townspeople saved the agricultural building.
The first old 65 Highway was completed in 1920 and replaced by a much wider and better hard surface in 1931. The I-40 was completed in 1965 and caused development of business to relocate. The access exchange road relieved some problems caused by rerouting of the highway. The development of Lake Conway as a recreation area proved to be a valuable ingredient for growth. The citizenry changed as the above factors developed.
The first municipal election was help April 3, 1928, with 36 votes cast – even though the town was 50 years old. The following were elected: Mayor – Dr. J.R. Kettly – served until 1953. Town Recorder – O.L. Hackler; Aldermen – A.L. Matthews, Marion Barry, J.T. Starr, M.D. Needhaus, A.Smith. Town Marshal – Clint Taylor. Signing the petition for the town to be incorporated were: A.J. Starr, D.M. Proctor, G.M Jones, J.R. Kitley, L.P. Stovall, J.F. LaRose, J.H. Henson, A.J. Matthews, J.M. Berry, J.H. Jones, B.H. Durham, J.F. Snyder, J.J. Dalton, M.D. Needham, O.L. Hackler, J.C. Berry, B.B. Berry, Marion Berry, Wiley Mosley, Mrs. A. Smith, R.S. Webb, Q.V. Stovall, D.F. Gibson, and Mrs. Beulah Berry.
Early doctors: Dr. Mathias came with the railroad construction. Dr. J.R. Dickens, Dr. R. Greenlee, Dr. Hollway, 1912-1914; Dr. Martin, Dr. W.W. Skelton, and Dr. Guidon were here only a short time. Dr. J.A. Summers reared his family in Mayflower, later moving to North Little Rock. Dr. J.R. Kitley came in 1926 and was a civic leader. He led the people into incorporation of the town.
Ada Brong Irby is remembered as an angel of mercy during the flu epidemic in 1918 as she went with Dr. W.W. Skelton and Dr. J.A. Summers into homes to aid the ill. She was a regular mid-wife assisting Dr. Kitley until her death in 1944. Her pay came from the gardens and poultry yards.
During the depression of 1933 a canning kitchen was set up to help the farmers preserve food grown on the farms. Gena Hathaway was the operator. A beautiful magnolia tree, which is approximately 100-years-old, stands at the corner of Center and Miller streets and serves as one of the historical markers.
Mayflower cemetery is a community project – all markers are carefully documented and maintained with volunteer support. Only 12 graves, with markers, can be identified prior to 1900. Earliest birthrate recorded is Dr. Greenlee – December 18, 1829 – January, 4 1917.
Postmasters who have served are: Will Ledrick, Minnie Dalton, J.T. Shilling, Luther Gentry, Alph Herron, and Mrs. Oleda Herron. Rural carriers: Hugh Martin, J.A. Boyd, Owen Farmer, Perry Shock, Royce Harrell.
Churches: The original Baptist church of 1895 had 5 members who met at first in a one-room building. They now have a rock building. Wiley Mosley donated the land. First deacons were J.A. Summers and Carl Atawer, and E.F. Simmons was pastor.
The Methodist Church was organized in 1880 with Thomas A. Alexander as circuit rider preacher. The Church of Christ was reorganized in 1980 after 20 years of irregular services. J.C. Mosley, J.C. Dawson, W.W. Still and Van Winker were early preachers. There are four branches of the Pentecostal faiths located in four areas of the community. Cleve Steed donated the land for the first building.