The Barns of Benton County

Partial Log Barn

The Partial Log Barn, p. 235: This aged barn, a log structure later covered with milled lumber, stands under the flight path of Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. As Harris writes in the book, the farmers who originally built the barn could have never imagined jet liners flying so regularly over their property. This barn is located in Centerton.

Melba Shewmaker has an affection for barns. By her own admission, she has “barn DNA” in her blood. Monte K. Harris’ passion is history. And when it comes to Benton County, she knows her stuff. Together, the two longtime friends have explored, researched and photographed dozens of barns throughout Benton County over the course of nearly two decades.

More than 100 of those barns and some of the stories they provide can be found in Shewmaker and Harris’ book, Barns of Benton County, Arkansas.

The book, a culmination of 16 years worth of driving down old dirt roads, is a tribute to the Benton County of old — one that would be completely unrecognizable to the majority of its residents today. The book serves as a reminder of simpler times. And there’s probably no better duo around to honor the barns of Benton County than Shewmaker and Harris.

Shewmaker was born on the family farm. With timber they cut themselves, her parents built the barn where she played hide-and-seek with her cousins and searched for kittens in loose hay.

When Shewmaker moved to Bentonville in 1970, the population was barely 5,500. Barns, both in use and retired, dotted the countryside. She would eventually grab her camera and begin capturing each one.

May Thomas Barn

The May Thomas Barn, p. 197: While the date of construction on this weathered barn is unknown, it sat on a 40-acre farm purchased by the Thomas family in 1940. The barn, which stood in Little Flock, was torn down in 2014.

Harris is a fifth-generation Benton County resident and an eager student of local history. An advocate of historic preservation, she has spent the last 20 years educating others at the Rogers Historical Museum.

With a notebook in hand, Harris began accompanying her friend in search of Benton County’s barns, documenting every bit of historical information she could find about the old structures and their owners.

The Benton County of today may no longer resemble the Benton County in which these old barns were raised. But thanks to the passion and curiosity of these two dedicated residents, a piece of Benton County’s rich heritage will be preserved and enjoyed for many years to come.

In the words of Shewmaker and Harris, “these barns stand in silent honor of the farm families whose work and dedication should not be forgotten.” And now they can be a part of your home. Their book, Barns of Benton County, Arkansas is available for purchase at the following locations:

The Walmart Museum

105 N Main St, Bentonville, Arkansas 72712

Crystal Bridges of American Art, Museum Store

600 Museum Way, Bentonville, Arkansas 72712

Rogers Historical Museum

322 S 2nd St, Rogers, Arkansas

The Peel Mansion Museum & Heritage Gardens

400 S Walton Blvd, Bentonville, Arkansas 72712

Note: The Peel Mansion Museum Store will ship the book.

Rife Barn

The Rife Barn, p. 162: This barn, located in Rogers, once stood across the road to the south of Osage Springs. The barn, once owned by John and Evelyn Rife, is gone and much of the Pinnacle Hills commercial development was built where it once stood.

Grimes Barn

The Grimes Barn, p. 200: Though the name of the stonemason who hand-cut the stone for this barn is lost to history, it sits on the property originally known as the “old Tom Lindsey farm.” The Ted Grimes family owns it today, and it stands in Sulphur Springs.

Britt Barn

The Britt Barn, p. 176: This barn is believed to have been built in the early part of the 1900s in Bentonville. After the property was sold and plans were developed for an apartment complex at the location, the Britt family removed the old barn and its remains were used in another structure built in Oregon.

Fields Barn

The Fields Barn, p. 180: This large barn was once part of a prosperous farm owned by Edgar Fields, who served as Benton County Sheriff from 1929 until 1933. During those days, as Harris writes, law enforcers like Fields were kept busy chasing the operators of moonshine stills in the hollows and hills of the Ozarks.

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