Early Days at Eureka Springs

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It must have been that families moved so often from one house to another searching for a better house, or one in better repair. The location would have been important; too many steps to climb or too much water coming through the yard in heavy rains. Of course some shanties were deserted and fell into ruin and decay because better houses were erected nearby. The houses higher up along the hillside at the north end of Marbletop are an example of a poor location. Some houses up there were much nicer than houses down near the valley floor; these good houses soon fell into decay. But long before that our father took us children up this mountain to a point that must be above Mill Hollow, to see a place that was called The Castle. Why or when that house was built I have never heard. In a deep ravine with cliffs on each side was a structure high but not so very large that was even then but the skeleton of a house.

Many houses went to ruin down on the valley floor. Opposite the McCandless house, where there is a wide stretch of level land, there was the Magnetic House, a small boarding house kept by a woman named Fenwick; she had a small son named Walter. At a later date, the Gadds kept the boarding house. That house was so near the level of the creek that it must have been in the way of some of our frequent freshets; it was gone long before we left Eureka Springs.

Speaking of small boys, there were a number our little brother played with; there was Walter Fenwick, Bob Cuthbertson, Jasper McCandless (grandson of Mr. and Mrs. McCandless with whom he lived), and Frank Wilson who lived with his mother and grandmother in a house between the Magnetic House and the old Times office. This house where the Wilsons lived had been the home of George Groves, in the days of the mule drawn freight; there was a long stable where he had kept his mules. The house and the stable were both above high water from the branch, the house set on a stone retaining wall.

Just this side of the Magnetic Spring was a flat ledge of rock where a two-story house had been built; it was still there when we came away. I remember it mostly because a woman who lived there had an organ, and often, when I went to the Magnetic Spring to get water, I would hear her playing and singing, “In Those Agonizing, Cruel, Slavery Days.”

When Webb and Brown built their mill there at the mouth of Magnetic Hollow, each of them also built a nice house in which to live. Mr. Brown’s house was across on the south side of the Hollow opposite the mill and facing Main Street. Mr. Webb built up the Hollow, about half way to the Magnetic Spring. The Brown children were small. The oldest of the Webb children was Anna, who died in 1889. There were two boys, perhaps more, but Harvey and Basil played with our young brother.

When the old St. Charles was used as a hotel, I was never inside it. But after it was abandoned as a commercial enterprise, for a short time the Putnam family lived there. At that time all the hotel dishes were stored in the attic. I saw them there.

After the Claytons went to live at the Crescent Hotel, the Seidels lived in the St. Charles. They made their home there for several years. The children of Herman Seidel and his wife were born there. Mrs. Seidel was a very pretty woman; we children thought she was beautiful. I liked to hear her talk about life in Germany; their customs in some respects were different from ours in America; there were communal bakeries. She loved the flowers of her native land.

I remember the Seidel Brothers’ block quite well, but for particulars I must draw on the Eureka Springs Souvenir, 1890.

H.I. Seidel & Co.

Dealers in live stock, farm wagons, buggies, salt, country produce, etc., are natives of Germany, but have been residents of the U.S. for twenty years. They came to Eureka Springs from Belleville, Illinois, where they now have a branch house. They have one of the largest establishments in this section, setting as it does in the “Forks of the road” it commands the attention of all passers. They have a splendid feed yard and stables. They have frontage on Mill Hollow of twenty-five feet and one hundred feet on Main Street. In the seven years of business they have built up a trade any firm in Northwest Arkansas might be proud of.

The business establishment of Seidel Brothers reached from the mouth of Mill Hollow to the south side of the St. Charles Park. M. J. Gresham had a wagon yard and feed stable adjoining Seidels inside Mill Hollow. Opposite these stores, facing on Main Street, was. A. J. Ray’s grocery store. It was a long building, set high on the rocky wall at the foot of East Mountain, and with the platform attached to the front spanned Leatherwood Creek. An outside stairway led to the upper floor where Mr. Ray and his wife made their home.