History of Evening Shade Arkansas
Evening Shade Arkansas is
a peaceful town resting at the foothills of the Ozarks.
The population today is 437. The little town, in Piney Fork Township of Sharp County, has a very interesting and colorful history, revolving around hopeful and sturdy pioneers, a spring, a creek, and a mill.
In 1817 Captain James William Thomson (Thompson) came with his family, to what was then, Arkansas Territory. They came by flatboat on the White River, to Batesville. Exploring the country to the North, Captain Thomson chose to locate near a small stream which later became known as “Mill Creek”, just South of the present town of Evening Shade.
He took up land, cleared a spot, and built a cabin of logs. The woods abounded in game of all kinds, and the question of meat for a family was no problem. The problem was getting breadstuff. No wheat was grown at first, corn being used both for bread and feed for the stock and poultry. The corn for bread was ground by hand , between stones. This was a slow and tedious process.
Soon after Thomson arrived , he saw the need for a water powered mill, and he and his sons set about the business of building one. In time, they built a dam across Mill Creek, and fitted it with a wooden waterwheel, which turned the stones that ground the corn.
As other people came to the area and cleared more land, they also began to raise some wheat, for bread. Thomsons Mill was the only such operation in the area, and soon developed into a thriving business. Even the Cherokee Indians who lived across White River to the West, abandoned their pestle mills and brought corn to Thomson to be ground.
Mail service was slow and erratic for the settlers in the area, so Captain Thomson petitioned for a post office . In filing the necessary documents, he realized that no formal name had been given to the settlement. Standing near the Spring and his mill, beneath tall pines that cast a welcome shade, he wrote in the name “Evening Shade”. It is said that his Cherokee customers were actually first to call this spot “ The Place Of Evening Shade”.
The Post Office at Evening Shade was formally established on October 14,1847 with James William Thomson as the first Postmaster. At this time , Arkansas had been a State in the Union for about 11 years.
That same year in November of 1847 the first school was established at Evening Shade, in a one room log cabin. It had 23 students attending from the surrounding area. This school was later known as “Possum Trot”. It was in operation until the late 1920’s when all one room schools began to be consolidated.( Through the years it had been improved from the original log building)
In April,1849, an itinerate
merchant from Alabama and Mississippi, named Samuel Cammack, appeared at
Batesville with a flatboat loaded with merchandise much in demand on the
He inquired as to a likely spot for a store, and the Thomsons Mill area was suggested.
Thomson in turn suggested that Cammack confer with John W.Shaver, who had settled on Piney Creek in 1844. Shaver recommended a spot near Plum Spring, a mile North of Thomsons Mill.
The two men cleared the necessary roads and the business was established in a tent, with a bulldog for a guard. Shaver became a partner in the business and eventually owned it along with other useful enterprises in the area. The fact that the history of Evening Shade is so well documented is largely due to the efforts of succeeding generations of the Shaver family.
Plum Spring, eventually became the focal point of all business activity in the area.
After the Civil War in 1868,
County lines were redrawn and Sharp County was created from parts of the
very large Lawrence County.
Sharp County was named in honor of Mr. Ephriam Sharp, one of the Representatives from Lawrence County. His hometown of Evening Shade was named as one of two county seats, the other being Hardy in the Northern part of the county. The two county seats , each with its own courthouse were placed so, because of the many rivers and streams that people had to cross to get to the courts of those days. Travel was difficult until roads and bridges were built.
The original mill continued to improve under succeeding owners, J.H. Beveridge and Isaac Sharp, who added a carding mill. A turning point in the development of the area came with the death of Sharp in 1875, at the age of 37. Isaac Sharp was the nephew of Ephriam Sharp, for whom the County was named.
Nancy Sharp, the young widow
of Isaac, and mother of three children, hired Mr. John Medley
To operate the mill. He not only kept it going , but later married Mrs Sharp. She lived less than six months after the wedding. Mr. Medley assumed responsibility for his stepchildren, and began a number of progressive enterprises.
Water power was never quite suitable for manufacturing lumber in large quantity, and Medley was intrigued with the idea of building a steam powered sawmill in order to more fully utilize some of the virgin pine and oak forests in the area. In 1881 he began preparing for the installation of his coveted steam sawmill on a tributary of Mill Creek, three miles west at “Dusock” where the present Deer Run Park is located.
After the Medley Mill began producing high quality lumber in almost unlimited quantities, many of the fine homes still standing today, were constructed.
The original Evening Shade Roller Mill as it was known by then, reverted to its original use, in grinding corn and wheat until floods finally destroyed the dam.
Evening Shade was a prosperous community for about 100 years after the civil war. The situation changed in 1967, when the voters decided to place one court house in the middle of Sharp County, at Ash Flat, since travel was no longer a problem because of good roads and highways and bridges. When Evening Shade lost its Court House, it caused an economic depression.
The Evening Shade economy got a boost in 1990 when their name was chosen to be the title of a television show. That Show ,“EVENING SHADE”, caused this tiny community to become a tourist attraction. The now famous, “ Evening Shade Cookbook”, was marketed by the Evening Shade High School students, who were able to earn credits, as well as enough money to build themselves and their community a brand new gymnasium/auditorium, with a hand up from the T.V. stars and producers endorsement, and the nationwide publicity they generated.
As well as the new gym, we have lots of happy memories of all the interesting visitors we had during our brief moment of fame. It was a lot of fun, but we realize that the real lasting treasure is our our Evening Shade History. For those who are interested enough to go deeper than this outline, and get to know about our pioneers, they will find that those people are as intriguing as the characters in “ Gone With The Wind”, and they were real !
This History compiled
By Billie M.Rivers October 19,1999
Some of the information is from the succeeding generations of the John W. Shaver family, including Charles W. Shaver, Owen C. Shaver, Caruth Shaver Moore, and Maurine Moore Kramer.