Bentonville History Museum

Bentonville History Museum The Bentonville Historical Museum aims to preserve and display local history for the community and guests.

Operating as usual

This may be hard to see, but it's an original panorama of the Bentonville Square dating to about 1910. It was a post car...

This may be hard to see, but it's an original panorama of the Bentonville Square dating to about 1910. It was a post card that was meant to be rolled up and mailed. Printed by the Bentonville News Company, the back has a description of the town:
Bentonville Arkansas, the county seat of Benton County, is a prosperous city of three thousand people, located in the northwestern corner of the state. It is the metropolis of Arkansas' famous "Big Red Apple Land." More apples are raised in this county than any other in the United States. In quality as well as quantity, Benton County apples head the list, having taken first prize at every great Exposition held in this country in the last fifty years.
Bentonville has an ideal, healthful climate, with cool summers and mild winters. It has an abundant supply of pure water and owns its own water and light plant. It is the best lighted city of its size in the state. Located on the Ozark Trail and the Jefferson Highway, it is a Mecca for automobile tourists in the summer.
Among the institutions and industries in Bentonville are five hotels, one costing fifty thousand dollars and another forty thousand dollars; a ten thousand dollar Masonic Temple; a fifty thousand dollar cold storage plant; a large flour mill; two lumber yards, a large barrel factory; the largest apple evaporator in the state; the two largest hardware companies in the state; four dry goods stores; two wholesale and fifteen retail grocery stores; three drug stores; two meat markets; one variety store; three millinery stores; two restaurants; two produce houses, two furniture stores; two jewelry stores; two undertaking establishments; three barbershops; two abstract companies; two weekly and one daily paper.
Bentonville has three banks - two National and one State; five brick churches; and two modern school building.
Bentonville has excellent improved roads leading in all directions to nearby cities and towns. Rock road-beds are now being completed for a distance of five miles from the corporation line on six main roads leading out of the city.
Last but not least, Bentonville has a class of progressive and up-to-date citizens who are always ready to extend the glad hand to the visitor or newcomer.

Droke Airport – Another of Bentonville’s History Mysteries People who know me know that when I research I love to turn u...

Droke Airport – Another of Bentonville’s History Mysteries

People who know me know that when I research I love to turn up a good mystery. There’s nothing more fun than finding a piece of knowledge that no one is aware of, exploring all aspects and facts, and then piecing the answers together. After all, that’s what historians do, we hope, save the past for the future.

As I was researching around the internet the other day, I found an intriguing website called “Abandoned and Little-Known Airfields.” Paul and Terry Freeman run the site and they are right up my alley. I love abandoned roads, railroad tracks, homesteads, anything, really, that gives me information on history. Paul has located and had reports given on abandoned airports across the country, Arkansas included. But only one in Northwest Arkansas. And it just HAD to be in Bentonville!

So, first here’s the background:
While the Wright Brothers demonstrated that controlled, heavier than air flight was possible in December 1903, and continued to modify and test their designed until 1907. Scientific American magazine pointed out in April 1907, that heavier than air, controlled flight had yet to be publicly demonstrated, and established the Scientific American Aeronautic trophy to encourage development of more aircraft. By WWI between 1914 and 1918, planes were sophisticated enough to fly into battle against one another. The post-war period was when personal and civil aviation began to “take-off” (no pun intended).

Pilots who had flown what had to have been daring, unbelievable missions over Europe with gun battles and dogfights now found themselves with a passion for flying but very little opportunity. Airfields were scarce and airplanes were still a novelty. Most people in rural areas had never even seen a plane, much less flown in one. These pilots used to fly from town to town and give exhibition flights and rides to members of the crowd who were willing to pay. They were called “Barnstormers” because they stormed the rural areas to get people interested in flight. They operated from spring until fall, usually ending with county and state fair shows.

This ran from about 1919 until 1927, when the government began regulating airplanes, pilot licenses, and flights; also, the stunts that the barnstormers were performing had gotten so dangerous that new safety regulations were put in place.

Most of the people familiar with even a small amount of Bentonville history know that our first internationally known celebrity was Louise McPhetridge Thaden. Mrs. Thaden was the first woman to win the Bendix Cup flight speed record in 1936 and set a world speed record for a flight between New York City and Los Angeles. She was a good friend and sometime rival of Amelia Earhart. If you don’t know about Louise yet do a quick search and read about this fascinating woman. She was born in Bentonville and her dad, Roy McPhetridge, was a salesman for the Mentholatum Company in Chicago, and owned both a home in town and a farm.

Thaden took her first flight around Bentonville with a barnstormer in 1919. Dr. Terry von Thaden, Louise’s granddaughter, says that she thinks the ride took place either at an area around the fairgrounds which were at 8th and A at that time, or toward Bella Vista, as pilots were known to land on the golf course there. Louise herself, in her book “High, Wide and Frightened,” doesn’t mention an airstrip in Bentonville. But the airfield really did exist.

After finding the notation on Rogers Field, I decided to investigate further. I finally found more proof. On January 4, 1931, a local man, Edgar Lee, who operated the Rainbow Inn and Filling Station, died in a plane crash. And the crash was near the Droke Airport.

Lee had been flying with friend and co-owner Charles Kuhn. They had sold the plane and were taking one last ride when they crashed. They got to about 300 feet and banked to make a turn, and the plane went into a spin. Two Arkansas newspaper articles report on the accident, one saying it was near the Droke School and one said near the Droke Airport.
Some of you may know of the Droke School; it was located just east of the intersection of SE Walton and SE Dodson Road. Dr. George Droke was a well-known professor of mathematics at the University of Arkansas and later was the Dean of the University. He was an admirer of both math and the sciences and his family had donated land for a school many years before. The Droke Airport had to have been the same as the Rogers Field.

I later obtained an article written for the newspaper by C. Jimmie Carter, an early 20th century Rogers businessman and pilot, of whom the Rogers Municipal Airport is named. He says that one of the earliest airports in the area was, “…on the south side of Highway 71, just east of the Droke School. It dated back to the early 1920’s when aviators went out on barn-storming tours…”

Interestingly, the farm that Roy McPhetridge owned, the one that Louise loved to visit and ride horses, was just south of that airfield. Stranger still, the report of Louise winning the Bendix Cup and the report of the funeral of George Droke were in the same issue of the newspaper in 1936.

The airport, then, opened sometime in the 1920’s and closed likely in the early 40’s when the Bentonville Airport was built. For some reason, the name was changed in 1934 to Rogers Field, I guess because it wasn’t far from Rogers. It wasn’t in Bentonville at that time either.

My gut tells me that young Louise could see the planes flying in and out of the little airstrip and after taking the ride in 1919, her curiosity got the best of her. She became famous for her skill and courage as an early pilot. Amelia Earhart came to Rogers in 1934 to visit Louise’s sister Alice and may well have landed at the little field, as it was the only one noted. And in January 1935, Earhart and a friend from Tulsa took a 10-day trip into the Arkansas Ozarks, likely around our area.

By 1937, Earhart was missing, and by 1938 Louise was out of the racing business. After Earhart’s death, she worked for a short time for the Bureau of Air Commerce, promoting the construction of more airfields across the country, then quit to work on her memoirs. Finally, she could spend more time raising her children.

The Bentonville Airport was completed in 1944 or 45 and there would have been no use for another field so close. It would have been abandoned and returned to farm land by then.

The last mystery was the elevation figure on the website, 1370’. That’s way too high. I had a little trouble with this one, but finally I think I have a solution: If one drives down Dodson Road and then turn east onto Meyer’s Ranch Road, you’ll find a nice, flat field that’s at an altitude of exactly 1270’. I believe that the 1934 atlas had a typo; this is where the airport was, almost positively. Any farther east and you run into the creek. And any farther south and you run into a valley.

If anyone out there knows anything more about this mystery, or wants to provide me with another local mystery, please let me know. There’s always more history to uncover and if we don’t, it’ll be gone for good.


"Thanksgiving came in like a lamb and went out like a lion, or in other words it was wafted in on the gentle Zephyrs of May and went roaring out like the middle of January.

Late Thursday afternoon the wind changed to the north and the mercury fell on its back. Sometime in the night, sleet began to fall and the biting north wind swept through the trees with a roar that reminded Kansas and Nebraska people of a blizzard.

The hilarious individual who had been shouting about the fine Italian climate of Arkansas crawled into his hole, and the man who has been boasting about his November crop of June vegetables jarred the icicles off his peppers as he slid down the slippery hill on the back of his neck.

On Saturday morning the mercury stood 6 degrees above zero, and Sunday the weather was pretty cold. Of course the “Oldest Inhabitant” bobbed up serenely and declared that he had never seen such weather in November since he came to Arkansas."

11 December 1896 The Gentry Journal

Last year's article about the fair... worth a read if you missed it.
Benton County Fairgrounds

Last year's article about the fair... worth a read if you missed it.

The Benton County Fair has been a long standing tradition of Northwest Arkansas loved by locals and visitors.

#becausebentonville #northwestarkansashistory #bentonvillehistory #Louisethaden #Thadenschool #BentonvilleproudThe Star ...

#becausebentonville #northwestarkansashistory #bentonvillehistory #Louisethaden #Thadenschool #Bentonvilleproud

The Star of Bentonville - Before Sam Walton

As a follow-up to Randy's wonderful artwork the other day, I'm going to fill you in on one of Bentonville's early heroes and a pioneer in aviation. She would eventually become the world's most famous female aviator after Amelia Earhart.

This article is from the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. I encourage you to explore their site more if you aren't already.

Louise McPhetridge was born in Bentonville in November, 1912. She attended Bentonville Schools and the University of Arkansas.

"….She got a passion for flying after taking a ride with a "barnstormer" who was travelling the country.
She got a job after attending college with a lumber salesman in Wichita, KS in 1925. Also located in Wichita was the factory of Walter Beech of Beechcraft. This led to a job as a salesperson for Beech in Oakland, California. Part of her salary were free flying lessons;. She obtained her license in 1928, number 850, signed by Orville Wright....

….Upon gaining her pilot’s license, she became the first and only pilot to hold the women’s altitude, solo endurance, and speed records simultaneously. She set the women’s altitude record (20,260 feet) on December 7, 1928, the solo endurance record on March 16–17, 1929 (twenty-two hours, three minutes, twenty-eight seconds), and the speed record on April 18, 1929 (156 mph).

She married Herbert von Thaden, an engineer and former US Army pilot, in 1928.

Thaden teamed up with Frances Marsalis and set a new refueling endurance record of 196 hours over Long Island, New York August 14–22, 1932. The pair made seventy-eight air-to-air refueling maneuvers. Food, water, oil, and fuel were passed down to the two by means of a rope from another aircraft. The event, dubbed by the press as the “The Flying Boudoir,” gained national attention, and the pair made a series of live radio broadcasts from the aircraft.

After a ban on women in top air races was lifted in 1935, Thaden and co-pilot Blanche Noyes became the first women to win the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race, on September 4, 1936. The two women set a new transcontinental record in the race from New York to Los Angeles. When their plane landed, Thaden and Noyes, believing they had flown too slow to win because of weather-related and mechanical problems, did not know they had won and did not understand the swarm of people around their plane. For her achievements in 1936, Thaden won aviation’s highest honor given to a female pilot, the Harmon Trophy, in April 1937.

Thaden retired from competition in 1938 to spend more time with her two children, Bill and Pat, and write her memoirs, High, Wide and Frightened, detailing the years from 1927 to 1937. In addition to her memoirs, she wrote numerous newspaper and magazine articles dealing with various aviation issues, continued to be active in several aviation organizations, and flew everything from jets to gliders.

In 1951, the Bentonville airport was renamed Louise M. Thaden Field in her honor. She is a founding inductee in the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame and is a member of the Smithsonian Institution’s Aviation Hall of Fame. In 1976, Thaden returned to Bentonville for a rededication ceremony at Thaden Field, and Governor David Pryor declared August 22, 1976, as Louise M. Thaden Day. She died of heart attack in High Point, North Carolina, on November 9, 1979."

I want everyone to be aware of Ms. Thaden and the contributions to women flyers all over the world. In this day and age when we are celebrating achievements by women that have been overlooked, I think her story is one worth repeating.

So if your children are attending Thaden School at South Main and 8th, this is where it comes from. And her old home has been moved to the property for use by the school.

Rob Seibert
Clinton Presidential Library
Encyclopedia of Arkansas,

Photo below Courtesy of the Louise McPhetridge Thaden Collection, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution (SI 83-2121)

#becausebentonville #bentonvillhistory #bentonvillehistorymuseum #Arkansashistory

#becausebentonville #bentonvillhistory #bentonvillehistorymuseum #Arkansashistory

#becausebentonville #bentonvillehistory  #Arkansashistory

#becausebentonville #bentonvillehistory #Arkansashistory


Thanks to everyone who participated in our May 31st get together at the old jail and especially to the Black family for sharing their stories of living in the jail as children and Deputy Dustin Carlton with his extensive collection of Benton County Sheriff's office memorabilia. We all had a wonderful time and look forward to the next one...

Take a look at our photos of the event in our photo album.

Fun with Bentonville Historical Museum

Fun with Bentonville Historical Museum

125 years ago this month the biggest bank robbery in town occurred. Read this new article by board member Larry Horton a...
Gun Battle on the Streets of Bentonville - 125 Years Later

125 years ago this month the biggest bank robbery in town occurred. Read this new article by board member Larry Horton about what happened that day.
#Bentonvillehistory #BentonvillePeoplesBank #NorthwestArkansas
#BecuaseBentonville #BentonvilleKnowledgeFirst #ArkansasHistory

      June 5th, 2018 marked the 125th anniversary of one of the most exciting robberies in Bentonville history, that of the People’s Bank on the southwest corner of the square.         Bentonville in 1893 was a small town of

Bentonville History Museum

We've hit 500 likes on our page! Thanks to all who have liked our stories and events! Please tell your friends!

The Bentonville Historical Museum aims to preserve and display local history for the community and guests.

#BentonvilleHistory #learnBentonville #Bentonvillear #Arkansashistory #BecauseBentonville #tbt #NorthwestArkansas

#BentonvilleHistory #learnBentonville #Bentonvillear #Arkansashistory #BecauseBentonville #tbt #NorthwestArkansas

#learnbentonville #arkansashistory #bentonvillear #bentonvillehistory #northwestarkansas #tbt #throwbackthursday #becaus...

#learnbentonville #arkansashistory #bentonvillear #bentonvillehistory #northwestarkansas #tbt #throwbackthursday #becausebentonville


Bentonville, AR


Be the first to know and let us send you an email when Bentonville History Museum posts news and promotions. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Contact The Business

Send a message to Bentonville History Museum:

Other Nonprofit Organizations in Bentonville

Show All


I am looking for some information on the William and Mary Cloe family who lived near Bentonville in the 1870's to early 1890s. Can someone direct me to some Benton county resources for that time period?
Exciting news! The Benton County Historical Society (BCHS) and the Bentonville History Museum (BHM) are teaming up to bring area teachers an Arkansas Department of Education Approved Professional Development opportunity. The Professional Development dates are Feb. 13, 2019, and Feb. 20, 2019, from 4pm-6pm. The PD will be held at the BCHS Office at 306 NW 2nd St in Bentonville and The Walmart Museum. Teachers will be able to choose one date to attend. There is limited seating so registration is open now. Along with the BCHS and BHM, The Walmart Museum and the Arkansas Archaeological Survey will be presenting portions of the program. Resources provided by: BCHS, BHM, Museum of Native American History, Arkansas State Farm, Arkansas Department of Heritage, The Walmart Museum and the Arkansas Archaeological Survey. Registration information is displayed on the flyer. This program was made possible in part by a grant from the Department of Arkansas Heritage, funded by your 1/8 cent conservation tax, Amendment 75.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!
Happy Halloween!!
I am interested in going to the meeting on Thursday but need a ride home. I can go by cab but getting home is problem. I live a short distance away from downtown, just a few blocks and would greatly appreciate a ride. Thanks.
My Great Great Grandfather , Joseph Henry , was sheriff of Benton County until he was murdered in 1863. His grave is SW of Bentonville with a county road built over it.