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story.lead_photo.caption A map showing the 40-acre UA property

BALDWIN -- For sale: 40 acres donated to Arkansas in 1871 for an "agricultural university" in Washington County.

On Friday, the University of Arkansas board approved the sale of one of the original tracts of land donated for what became the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

The undeveloped land is a couple of miles south of the Baldwin community and about 6 miles east of the downtown Fayetteville square.

The property is bisected by Ed Edwards Road -- also known as Washington County Road 53 -- as it climbs Robinson Mountain heading south from Baldwin. Most of the university property is to the west of the road, where a deep ravine plunges into thick woods.

"This is apparently an unused tract of land that, at this point, if we aren't going to use it we might as well sell it," said Mary Hightower, a spokesman for the university's Division of Agriculture.

She said money from the sale would stay with the Division of Agriculture. It could be used to build labs and improve old infrastructure.

Hightower said she didn't know when the property would be put up for sale or what the asking price will be.

The trustees met Thursday and Friday in Fayetteville.

Mark Cochran, vice president for agriculture, told the board Thursday the property appraised for $180,000. He noted it's near Stonebridge Meadows Golf Club, which is about 2 miles away as the crow flies.

"This property was conveyed to the state of Arkansas by David Walker on Oct. 9, 1871, for the nominal sum of $1, 'for the use of the agricultural university,'" according to a letter from UA System President Donald Bobbitt in the board's agenda packet. "The deed does not contain any restrictions on the sale of the land and it was one of several land donations to secure the location of the Arkansas Industrial University in Fayetteville."

Bobbitt recommended approval of the sale of this and two other tracts, and the board followed his recommendation.

Walker was a lawyer, judge and the leading Whig in Northwest Arkansas for about 50 years, according to The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. He ran for Congress in 1840, losing to Archibald Yell, who outgunned Walker in a shooting match at one campaign stop. Walker died in 1879 after his horse got spooked at the county fair and toppled him from his buggy.

A month before he gave the 40 acres, Walker had donated 280 acres for the university. That land was in Johnson and Washington counties, according to the deed.

Bids and offers of money, land and grants were made by different cities and counties trying to woo the university, and the board accepted the offer to place the university in Fayetteville.

Thomas Smith, president of the board of trustees, reported on Sept. 17, 1871, that the high bid for the university included $100,000 from Washington County and $30,000 from Fayetteville, both of which were provided through 30-year bonds at 8 percent interest, according to the "First Report of the Arkansas Industrial University" published in 1873.

The entry also stated that Walker gave 280 acres, Lafayette Gregg gave 120 acres and William A. Britton gave 20 acres, all of which were contingent on the university being located in Washington County.

Lesser bids would have placed the university in Prairie Grove, Batesville or Little Rock, said Charlie Alison, a Fayetteville historian and university spokesman.

"David Walker and Lafayette Gregg, who had served in opposing armies during the Civil War, came together after the war and led the Fayetteville community in its bid to secure the location of what was originally called the Arkansas Industrial University," said Alison. "They exemplified the philanthropic cooperation that got the university up and running nearly 150 years ago.

"The surprising thing to me is that the university never had to sell this 40-acre tract during its early days, when operating revenues were sometimes very tight during the 19th century. The property is just woodland with a small ravine and little or no historical connection to the university other than its ownership and the person who provided it to the state for establishment of the university, more a historical anomaly than history itself."

The Fayetteville campus was built on property that belonged to William and Martha McIlroy.

According to a Dec. 18, 1871, deed, the McIlroys sold the university 160 acres for $11,000.

The property included the McIlroys' wood-frame house, which was used as one of the first university buildings, according to an article by W.J. Lemke in the January 1954 issue of Flashback, a publication of the Washington County Historical Society.

Information for this article was contributed by Jaime Adame of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

NW News on 09/11/2017

Print Headline: UA ready to sell land donated in 1871

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