by Deb Sanders
The area around what is now Mt. Vernon seems to have been fairly well-settled by the 1850s, though the settlement was not called Mt. Vernon until the 1870s. In the 1860s it was called Stonewall Jackson for a time, and briefly the name Houseville was used.
The area is located in the northeast part of Faulkner County about 25 miles from Conway and 50 miles from Little Rock. In 1851 a grist mill was erected just above the site of the settlement near Beckett Mountain. Not far away the Plant, Martin, Hamilton, Ussery, Hendrickson, and Hawkins families had moved into the region. The land is hilly and rolling, and in the mid-19th century was well timbered with stately oaks and hickories.
Not long before the Civil War, Dick Fears settled the piece of land later known as the Jack Crow place. Fears built a two-room log house with two glass windows in each room. The house was neatly covered with three-foot boards. He also cleared a twenty-acre farm. He built a store made of logs, eighteen-by-twenty feet in size, and put in a small stock of goods. This was the first mercantile business in the area, except for a store at Quitman. Fears handled all kinds of produce and did a profitable business, but he would not sell on time. The store was a bit west of where the town later grew and was not far from where a later schoolhouse stood.
When the Civil War broke out, Fears closed his business and made up a company of volunteers for the Confederate Army. In 1865 he returned from the war and was helping erect an old-fashioned cotton press when it fell, killing him. His land went into the hands of Jack Crow.
Tom House, a bachelor, also returned to the area in 1865 at the war’s end. He made a cotton crop that year that enabled him to rent the Fears’s store building from Crow. He put in a stock of goods and prospered as Fears had done. House also did well speculating in cotton. House’s business activities in 1865 and later might justly be considered the origin of modern Mt. Vernon.
In the middle and later 1860s there were also built a new Baptist church, a blacksmith’s shop belonging to Art Matthews, and a store belonging to Dan Hendrickson and Tom Ussery. Not long after this, a general store, Greer and Baucum’s, was erected. This business later went into the hands of John and Buck Crite.
In the 1870s another store was put in by the Johnson brothers from Shiloh. In the late 1870s, a Baptist preacher named Newell put up a saddler’s shop which was a great addition to the town, as was the shop put up by “Shoemaker” Jones about the same time.
The first school in town was taught in the Baptist church by a man named Mosley. Later a small schoolhouse of one room was built in the southwest part of town. When it became inadequate about 1903 a larger schoolhouse was built in the eastern part of town. In 1918 another schoolhouse was built in the western part of town.
In the 1870s a medical doctor named Powers set up practice in the town. He had a regular office and also took medical students for training. These include Tavner Powers, his son, and Sam Roberts, Joe Price, Jeff Daniels, and others. He taught them until they were ready to take an examination before the state board and obtain a license to practice. The son, Tavner Powers, took over after his father died.
In 1873, through interest having grown in the movement, the Grange movement or Patrons of Husbandry came to town. Twenty-five local citizens submitted a petition to the national Grange for a local chapter to be known as “Enola Grange No.142.” The petition was granted and on January 20, 1874, the Grange was organized in Mt. Vernon. About 1879 or 1880 it moved to Enola and carried its name to that little town.
The town’s early postal service was rather crude. The mail was brought in twice a week, kept in House’s store, and handed out by any clerk as it was called for.
By the early twentieth-century, Mt. Vernon had become a thriving prosperous community with vigorous educational and religious institutions and a healthy business climate.