WASHINGTON MONUMENT MARBLE QUARRY

While there is Arkansas marble in the Washington Monument, The Monument to the Monumentthe monument is not made entirely of Arkansas marble. Back in the 1830's, when the government was wondering where it was going to get the money to buy the materials to complete the monument, somebody had the bright idea of soliciting donations of building stones from the states and from other sources. In all, 188 stones from around the world were included in the Washington Monument. Arkansas' donation came from this hillside.

You can see the Arkansas stone when you visit the Washington Monument in Washington DC. It's pretty easy to spot being at eye level as you go up the stairs in the monument and having the word "Arkansas" carved in it in huge block letters. Arkansans were understandably enthusiastic about their contribution, since 1836 is the year Arkansas was admitted to the union.

Here's the text from the placque on the stone. "THIS MARKER COMMEMORATES THE ARKANSAS MARBLE IN WASHINGTON'S MONUMENT TAKEN BY BELLER AND HARP BROS. FROM THIS HILL IN 1836. THIS MARKER ERECTED 1954 BY NEWTON CO. HISTORY SOCIETY__ W.F. LACKEY PRES. MANDA HICKMAN SEC." I think it's pretty telling that the officers of the History Society gave themselves about as much space on the marker as those who actually dug up the marble and shipped it to Washington.

If you'd like to visit this hallowed spot, it's on the west side of scenic highway 7 just across from Dogpatch. Dogpatch used to be named "Marble Falls," but was changed officially to "Dogpatch" when an amusement park based on the Li'l Abner comic strip was built here. The amusement park has operated off and on for about twenty-five years and as of this writing could probably be had for back taxes.

RTJ--11/18/98

UPDATE

The Abovementioned Peter Beller moved to Arkansas from Alabama in 1833. In 1834 (says the source below), he and the three Harp Brothers dug a 4' X 3' X 2' hunk of marble out of this hillside for the Washington Monument. The stone was hauled on a sledge by a team of twenty oxen sixty miles across the Ozark and Boston Mountains to the Arkansas River. It was sent by barge to New Orleans, and thence by sail to the Potomac Basin.

Later, a second stone from this hillside was donated by area freemasons, who felt it was an appropriate donation to honor the fact that George Washington was himself a master mason. The article didn't say so, but I assume the stone was much the same size. Surely the architect in charge of construction would have specified acceptable dimensions.

Some time around 1840 Beller acquired land that included nearby Marble Falls and built a mill there. Although never officially named, Beller's Mill prospered and grew until the civil war, when the men were pressed into service and their families fled to larger towns to escape attacks by bushwhackers, copperheads, scallawags and other miscellaneous bandits.

In 1870 a man named Willcockson set up another mill here, and a town grew which bore his name. Mineral waters and healing springs contributed to the town's prosperity. Advances in medicine in the 20th century reduced the flow of visitors, and the town's star faded. Albert Raney and Sons bought the land, changed the name to Marble Falls, and diverted the cold mountain spring water into a trout hatchery, which they operated for several decades. In the late 1960's, a group of Harrison businessmen bought the trout farm and built an amusement park around it. The theme park was based on characters and locations invented and popularized by Al Capp in his daily comic strip "Li'l Abner."

To promote the park, the name of the town was changed again, to "Dogpatch."

In 1997, long after the park had closed its gates, remaining residents successfully petitioned the government to have the name changed back to Marble Falls, but the name Dogpatch still lingers on many maps. Check your Rand McNally for Dogpatch on highway 7 between Harrison and Jasper.

Source: Arkansas Gazette, 23 March 1969, section E, page 6, column 4.

RTJ -- 3/1/2001


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