The Rice-Upshaw House and the William Looney Tavern, restored log structures near Dalton, were highlighted at the recent Arkansas Heritage Month celebration funded by a grant from the Arkansas Department of Heritage. The two structures are among the state’s oldest, dating to 1828 and 1833, respectively.
Both sites were open for tours on May 17-18. Visitors also were able to see demonstrations by historic interpreter Gerry Barker and his oxen, as well as log specialist Eric Sammons and Luke Roberts, blacksmith, both of the Mountain Home area. Also on hand to assist with the tours was historic interpreter Joan Gould of Preservation Matters. Both Gould and Sammons were members of the restoration team.
“We were pleased overall with the turnout,” said Black River Technical College’s VP for Development and REACH Coordinator Dr. Jan Ziegler. Rainy weather held down the numbers on Friday, but a good size crowd came out on Saturday for the event, she indicated. “We also appreciate the participation of BRTC faculty and staff in helping with the events, including transporting visitors between the two sites,” she said.
The event also included evening events at the Randolph County Heritage Museum where guests interacted with Barker in the creation of quill pens and heard about the early frontier “subscription schools” of the type attended by Reuben Rice, early settler credited with constructing the Rice-Upshaw House.
In addition, a second evening presentation by Barker addressed the topic “Frontier Slavery,” providing insight as to what life may have been like for enslaved African Americans owned by William Looney and other early settlers in the frontier era.
The two sites comprise Project REACH (Researching Early Arkansas Culture and Heritage). They were donated to BRTC for restoration and educational purposes in 2006 by descendants of Reuben Rice and William Looney. Making the donations were Jean Upshaw and family and Jack and Christina French.
Restoration of the structures, as well as additional outbuildings at the Rice-Upshaw site, have been funded through multiple grants awarded the college by the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council.
In addition to being open for public visits from 9-12 every second Saturday, March through October, special group tours can be arranged by contacting Jessica McFadden at 870-248-4000, 4189, or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Additional information is available at the REACH website at http://reach.blackrivertech.org.