UNION COLONIES: Civil War Settlements Provided Food, Safety

Posted: March 4, 2012 at 5:48 a.m.

The William Wilson mansion stands restored, but empty Thursday northwest of Prairie Grove. The house, which usually remains unoccupied, was used as a Union Army colony during the Civil War. The property is owned by the descendants of Wilson who live in a home near the original house.

By 1864, people across Northwest Arkansas were starving. Three years of the Civil War had left fields fallow, mills burned and stores ransacked.

Dishes line the counter Thursday in the basement of the William Wilson mansion northwest of Prairie Grove.

Light filters through the trees and onto the William Wilson mansion Thursday northwest of Prairie Grove. Several structures no w stand on the propert...

At A Glance

Northwest Arkansas Civil War Colonies

Col. Marcus LaRue Harrision, commander of the Union’s First Arkansas Cavalry Regiment at Fayetteville, organized fortified agricultural colonies to help feed and protect the region’s residents toward the end of the Civil War. The colonies were:

Benton County

• Bentonville: The colony was home to between 100 and 200 people led by Capt. Alfrey. Its location is not known.

• Pea Ridge: More than 40 people lived in the colony that was likely west of the battlefield.

Washington County

• Mountain: The colony was home to about 65 men with a large block house. It was possibly in the now defunct Mountain Township between West Fork and Cane Hill.

• Prairie: Run by Capt. George A. Cline, the colony was home to 85 men.

• Main Fork: Referring to the Main Fork of the White River, Civil War skirmish records note this area is eight miles east of Fayetteville. This colony may not have been fully established.

• Walnut Grove: This colony was organized only partially and was likely near Farmington.

• Union Valley: The colony was based out of the still-standing William Wilson plantation mansion on Ditmars Road northwest of Prairie Grove. It was home to more than 100 people led by Capt. Joseph R. Rutherford.

• Engles’ Mill: The Engles plantation house stands beside Arkansas 62 in Farmington between Bois D’Arc Street and Rhea’s Mill Road. The mill was along the creek that runs beside the house.

• Elm Spring: The colony was probably near present-day Elm Springs. It held about 39 men led by a Capt. Sanders.

• Mud Town: Mud Town was just east of Lowell, though the exact site isn’t known. A man surnamed Winningham was to settle the colony with 50 Union families returning from Missouri after December 1864.

• Mount Comfort: Led by a Capt. Shreve, the colony was likely in the Mount Comfort community in east Fayetteville. Reports said it had 35 men on good land.

• Oxford Bend: The Oxford Bend community is just west of Goshen.

• Middle Fork: The middle fork of the White River is near Elkins. The colony was only partially enrolled.

• West Fork: Led by Capt. B. Lewis, the colony was likely near present day West Fork. The 95 inhabitants did “good service against guerrillas,” Harrison wrote.

• Hog Eye: The Hogeye community is west of West Fork.

Madison County

• Huntsville: A Capt. Bivens led the 85 men stationed in the colony.

• Richland: The colony was on Thomas M. Johnson’s plantation east of Wesley near the intersection of Arkansas 74 and Arkansas 295 in the Drake’s Creek community. More than 200 people lived in the colony led by Capt. Bethel Counts.

• War Eagle: Near Huntsville, the colony was led by Capt. Elitle Haynes and home to 99 men.

• Brush Creek: The colony was at Vaughn’s Meeting House and led by a Capt. Wilkinson.

Source: Staff Report

“I write this as a simple memorandum to guide you in your entreaties for the suffering women and children of Northwest Arkansas. There are thousands of old men, women and children left here yet. You know their condition.”

— Col. Marcus LaRue Harrison

Union Army officer

Wooden beams remain exposed Thursday inside the William Wilson home. The room behind the exposed beams is an addition to the house built during its re...

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