History Book

On the Opposite Shore: The Making of North Little Rock

Written by Cary Bradburn Hardback 288 pages. $15.00  Call 501-371-0755 for payment and shipping.

On the Opposite Shore: The Making of North Little Rock was published in 2004 by the North Little Rock History Commission. Authored by the award-winning journalist and historian Cary Bradburn, the hardback book is beautifully bound, with 288 pages and 160 photographs that tell the story of North Little Rock from its earliest settlers to the modern era and visions for decades to come.  Autographed books are available from the North Little Rock History Commission offices at 506 Main Street.  Books are also available from the North Little Rock City Clerk’s office at City Hall.

About the Author

 

 

Chapter 1 SECESSION: Fracas on the Free Bridge

Freshly appointed as marshal with authority to deputize as many  men as necessary, Gabe Pratt got his first and most publicized assignment from  Mayor William M. Mara and the North Little Rock Town Council: Seize Argenta!  The town fathers, as the next few hours would show, had acted hastily, unaware  they would have to sweat out another 2 1/2 weeks before officially taking  control of Argenta and adjacent territories, known then as Little Rock’s Eighth  Ward. Events moved swiftly on that Saturday, February 6, 1904, a day that North  Little Rock lost the battle on the free bridge but won the war for Argenta in  the Arkansas Supreme Court. The headline in an extra edition of the North  Little Rock News-Sentinel that afternoon plainly stated, in bold, the joy of  northsiders, “Argenta at Last Secures Her Freedom.”

Speculation in the daily newspapers, the Arkansas Gazette and  Arkansas Democrat, swirled around how Little Rock might try to regain its lost  Eighth Ward, which it annexed in 1890 under an older law that excluded voters  in the targeted area. For almost 14 years the population on the north shore of  the Arkansas River remained adamant in opposition to Little Rock’s territorial  claim. Although litigation had ended on March 26, 1892, with the Arkansas  Supreme Court’s approval of the annexation, the fight for independence, as  Argenta would call it, was far from over. Most of all, losing to Little Rock  had undermined Argenta’s political goal of incorporation. Approval had come in  1890, only to be snatched away by Little Rock, which intervened and persuaded  Pulaski County Judge William F. Hill to revoke the order in favor of granting  annexation. Little Rock voters endorsed it on April 1, 1890. After the 1892  court ruling, Little Rock designated its Eighth Ward from the river on the  south to modern-day 15th Street on the north and from Buckeye Street on the  east to the middle of the Iron Mountain Railroad shops on the west. And if the  court had allowed, that boundary would have further included the entire Iron  Mountain yard and the Joseph W. Vestal & Son florist company in Baring  Cross, both desirable for the tax base.             The politically powerful and influential Little Rock Board of  Trade branded William C. Faucette and Frank Oliver, the Eighth Ward’s first two  aldermen on the 16-member Little Rock City Council, as the “Argenta Anarchists”  because they consistently voted as a minority of two on issues affecting the  north side. Resentful Argenta constantly complained about having few public  improvements to show for all the taxes paid into Little Rock’s treasury. Faucette  served until 1898 and ran for mayor of Little Rock in 1903, ironically as a  plot was unfolding behind the scene to separate Argenta from the capital city.  The Gazette reported on May 3, 1903, about a month after the mayor’s race, that  Faucette believed Argenta had been shortchanged. “The only appropriations which  have ever been made to my knowledge for the streets of Argenta are two in  number,” he said. “One was for the small strip of granite paving that forms the  approach on the North Side to the free bridge [built in 1897 and later known as  the Main Street Bridge]. This cost $450. The other, which is hardly for the  benefit of Argenta, is the fort road running along the river bank to the foot  of Big Rock.”

By 1903 Faucette and his cohorts were putting the finishing  touches on the conspiracy that they somehow kept under wraps for two years.  James P. Faucette, William Faucette’s younger brother, commented years later  that his sibling conceived the “scheme” of taking Argenta from Little Rock, and  “we had a terrible time keeping it a secret.” Working through state Senator  James P. Clarke, state Representative John Martineau (a former Argenta school  teacher and future governor) and state Senator David L. King of Hoxie, William  Faucette managed to get a bill signed into law on March 16, 1903, letting Hoxie  and Walnut Ridge in Lawrence County merge — or so it seemed. What the  “Hoxie-Walnut Ridge” law did was permit any city within a mile of another to  consolidate with all or part of the other as long as a majority of property  owners in the area to be annexed petitioned for the change and a majority of  electors in the areas to be joined subsequently approved it at the polls.

Faucette connived with 200 Argenta businessmen, according to his  brother, starting in 1901 with the incorporation of a town calling itself North  Little Rock on Argenta’s northern boundary, as well as the creation of an  independent school district on the north side. A local school board apart from  Little Rock’s had governed education north of the river for three decades, but  as a “common” district legally bound to the Little Rock district it lacked  taxing authority on its own to raise revenue and couldn’t answer a growing need  for a larger school, the North Little Rock Times recounted in a history of the  northside school system on November 27, 1936. Yet the hidden agenda in forming  the Town of North Little Rock and the new school district was to annex Argenta.  In retrospect, a booklet by the Argenta Business Men’s League in 1906 likened  the incorporation of the town to the Boston Tea Party.

Following adjournment of the legislature in 1903, Little Rock  authorities learned to their dismay the ramifications of the Hoxie-Walnut Ridge  legislation. On May 11, 1903, William Faucette presented signed petitions to  the Town Council asking for a vote on annexing the Eighth Ward to North Little  Rock, as stipulated by the act. The next month the council set an election for  July 21, and voters on that day in Argenta and North Little Rock overwhelmingly  favored annexation, which the July 22 edition (and other editions) of the  Gazette characterized as a “divorce.” Little Rock had earlier filed suit in an  attempt to stop the election, so the fight continued in the courts. But on  February 6, 1904, the Arkansas Supreme Court pronounced “Hoxie-Walnut Ridge” as  valid law and gave life to a new first-class city on the north shore, though an  afternoon of confusion on a muggy day clouded North Little Rock’s      otherwise  remarkable victory.

Within two hours of the court’s decision late that morning,  Marshal Pratt and five deputies swore to the oath of office, grabbed their  pistols and “sauntered to the streets [of Argenta] to search for violators of  the laws of the Town of North Little Rock,” the Gazette wrote on February 7, 1904.  The Town Council by resolution directed Pratt and his men to “clear the  territory formerly known as the Eighth [W]ard . . . of all persons acting in an  official capacity for the City of Little Rock, Ark.” Pratt’s first action was  to arrest two Little Rock police officers for carrying concealed weapons and  confine them at the office of Justice of the Peace William H. Ramsey at 222  Newton Avenue (now Main Street). The marshal and his men then headed out in the  warm breezes for the middle of the free bridge (so named because there was no  toll), where Pratt delineated the new boundary between the twin cities. At the  second light pole from the channel span, the Gazette reported on February 7,  Pratt drew an imaginary line. “That side is Little Rock,” he instructed,  pointing south, “and this side is North Little Rock.” A crowd gathered on the  bridge, the newspapers said, and just then a Little Rock police patrol with  team and wagon approached from the south side at a fast clip and started up the  bridge.

On February 6, 1904, for the sixth Saturday in a row, the North  Little Rock Town Council met in special session at 10 a.m. in the back of Louis  D. Cassinelli’s store at what is now 18th and Orange streets in anticipation of  a ruling in its annexation case, the custom of the Supreme Court then being to  issue rulings on Saturdays. Across the river, a crowd also anxiously waited in  the courtroom at the Old State House. The February 7 Gazette described the  scene at Cassinelli’s: “There was expectancy on the faces of all, for it was  practically known that the decision would be given before noon.”

At 10:35 a.m. a telephone call to the council relayed that  Associate Justice James E. Riddick was, indeed, reading the court’s opinion in  the case. Ten minutes later, a second call affirmed what everyone in the room  wanted to hear, that the ruling favored North Little Rock. “Then the town  councilmen took their seats,” the Gazette said, “and the result of the [July  21, 1903] election was read . . . This done, a resolution was adopted declaring  the annexation a fact, and Mayor Mara proceeded to exercise the duties of that  position.” Mara then appointed Pratt, who had already rounded up his deputies.  James P. Faucette recalled later that the northsiders had expected all along to  win the case. “[T]he day the decision was rendered,” he said in a 1954  biography by Fay Williams, “we had taken the fire wagon, the hose and two  horses [from Little Rock’s station Number 6 at 506 Newton Avenue] outside the  city limits . . . We were afraid that the officers from Little Rock would come  over and get them.”

William Faucette and others active in the separation movement  stationed themselves that morning at the Supreme Court in Little Rock,  listening as Justice Riddick recited the monumental decision. When he finished,  “there was an unusual stir in the back of the courtroom, and Chief Justice H.G.  Bunn rapped for order,” the Gazette said. “The gentlemen from the North Side  were leaving the courtroom.” And leave they did, missing Little Rock City  Attorney Ashley Cockrill’s request to hold the status quo for 15 “judicial”  days, as due process allowed to seek a reconsideration of the ruling. The court  granted the delay, which the north side faction didn’t hear. Faucette, for one,  had rushed to the nearby Pulaski circuit clerk’s office, arriving at 11:07 a.m.  to file a plat of the new and larger North Little Rock, the Gazette said.

In the opinion, the justices rejected Little Rock’s contention,  among others, that “Hoxie-Walnut Ridge” was gained by fraud and declared that  the language of the act “seems plainly to authorize the annexation of a part of  one city to another town or city[.]” Riddick wrote that “[t]he question before  us, then, is not whether the act is impolitic and unwise, nor whether its  passage was secured by improper influences, but whether the legislature had the  power to pass it.” The lawmakers clearly did in this case, he concluded.  However, he acknowledged harboring reservations over the far-reaching  consequences of letting the law stand: “We will only add that, feeling some  doubt of the expediency of cutting off a large portion of the city of Little  Rock and annexing it to the town of North Little Rock, we have given careful  attention to the whole argument, and after full consideration thereof feel  compelled to hold that the statute in question is a valid law, and that the  courts have no power to forbid its enforcement.”

About 12:45 p.m., almost two hours after the court decision on a  day that the Gazette described as “so balmy that the strawberries in the  restaurant windows actually looked seasonable,” Pratt arrested Officer A. Jacob  Heene of the Little Rock police force near Madison (Fourth) and Newton (Main),  disarmed him and escorted him to Ramsey’s office. Next Pratt brought in A.B.  Havens, the only other Little Rock officer on duty in Argenta that day, and  then went to the free bridge to mark the new boundary. By this time, Mara and a  curious crowd had joined him.

Encountering bridge patrolman Thomas W. Doyle, Pratt told him to  stay on the south side of the line since he worked for Little Rock, but Doyle  put up a spirited argument, the February 7 Gazette reported with an air of  comedy. Doyle kept insisting that Little Rock paid him to patrol only the south  half of the bridge while the county paid him to watch over the north half. “He  did a little designating of lines himself then,” the Gazette related, “and  announced that as an officer of the city of Little Rock he would patrol the  south half of the bridge, and as an officer of Pulaski [C]ounty he would patrol  the north half. This logic was too much for the North Siders, and they admitted  his right to go on any part of the bridge as an officer.”

That settled, the North Little Rock contingent was withdrawing to  Argenta, when the crowd spotted the Little Rock patrol wagon with a driver and  four officers advancing at a “lively gait as in an emergency case” on their way  to rescue the arrested officers, “and all agreements were forgotten,” the Gazette  said. “The wagon was stopped [midway on the bridge], and the dead line was a  reality.” The paper said that two men grabbed the bits of the horses and  stopped the wagon as its driver, Officer Jeremiah Cornelia, “proceeded as if he  did not see the men and attempted to drive past them . . . The sergeant [Thomas  M. Clifton] and officers [Samuel D. Morgan, Richard G. Cross and Charles W.  Bowman] got out and a parlay ensued. Mayor Mara was in the crowd which stopped  the patrol wagon, but Marshal Gabe Pratt was in charge. The mayor refused to  allow the wagon to pass.”

Clifton’s good judgment diffused a potentially violent  confrontation. He decided to leave his men and wagon on the bridge to go by  foot back to the Little Rock police court at City Hall, 120-122 Markham Street,  where he obtained warrants and returned to the bridge. Still milling around the  wagon, the crowd heard Clifton read the warrants empowering him to arrest Pratt  and his deputies, R.L. Freeland, G.W. Phillips and O. Reinesch, the Gazette said,  noting that the police sergeant then barked: “Get in the wagon.” At Pratt’s  request, Clifton let the North Little Rock men walk on this 70-degree midwinter  afternoon to the police court for arraignment in a special session at 2 p.m. to  hear charges of interfering with an officer.

The Gazette characterized the arrests as a surrender, reporting  that Mara whispered encouragement in Pratt’s ear before his marshal strode off  into custody. “Then and there,” the paper said, “Mayor Mara threw up the sponge  and relinquished the control of the town of Greater North Little Rock, which he  had held for a little over two hours. His only comment was: ‘Well, we will go  over to the South Side and get them out.’” The Democrat reported on February 9  that “large crowds congregated on both sides as soon as it became known that  the patrol wagon, which had been started for the North Side to release Heene  and Haven, had been stopped forcibly by City Marshal Pratt and his deputies and  forbidden to enter upon the territory of North Little Rock. An overt act on the  part of either side would likely have precipitated serious trouble, and the  outcome is due largely to the coolness and promptness of Sergeant Clifton.”

Upon detaining the North Little Rock men, Officers Cross and Bowman  each took a prisoner, and Clifton escorted two, according to the February 7  Gazette, “and the march into the territory of the enemy was begun. There was a  large crowd following the officers and their prisoners, and as they came off  the free bridge incline the word seemed to have been passed over the city and  another crowd was waiting to see who the officers had.” In court with lawyer  Marcus D.L. Cook on behalf of the North Little Rock officers before Police  Judge Peter Schmuck, Faucette presented a truce arranged with Little Rock Mayor  Warren E. Lenon to drop all charges on both sides of the river. North Little  Rock officials promised to abide by the Supreme Court’s order delaying the  mandate and apologized for the town’s rash response.

Ramsey released Patrolmen Heene and Havens about 2:30 p.m. Two  more North Little Rock deputy marshals, C.E. Stockton and Emmett White,  apparently uninformed of the latest turn of events, were arrested a little  later on the east side of Argenta, hauled into court and let go on condition  that they abide by the agreement. The Gazette reported that Havens, after his  release, arrested Stockton and held him at Eickhoff’s Saloon at 301-303 East  Washington Avenue until a patrol wagon came from headquarters to pick them up.  This time, the paper said, “there was no one on the bridge to dispute the  passage, and the wagon rolled off the incline and down Washington [A]venue  without interruption.”

Faucette explained in a statement to the Gazette that “[t]he  trouble today with the police department was because of a misunderstanding of  the terms of the decision. We heard the decision in our favor, but did not hear  the part about the fifteen days, as that was made after we left. Believing that  no further bar to the separation existed, those interested went home, and, as  soon as the Town Council acted, Mayor Mara proceeded to take charge. It was not  until sometime later that he learned of the fifteen-day business.” Despite the  embarrassment, Faucette could smile. He had finally gotten a taste of Argenta’s  long-denied independence.

Newspaper headlines chronicled the stunning development. “Little  Rock Has Lost Her Eighth Ward,” the Gazette told its readers on the front page  of the Sunday paper on February 7. Likewise, the Arkansas Democrat reported:  “Eighth Ward Cut Loose From City Of Little Rock.”  While conceding that repealing the  Hoxie-Walnut Ridge law was moot for the time being, the Gazette observed that  Little Rock’s attorneys “argue that if legislation which allows a portion of  Little Rock to be detached against the will of the majority of the city is  possible, legislation which allows annexation of territory against the will of  the people living in the territory to Little Rock also is possible.” However,  the Gazette cautioned that “the men who engineered the divorce movement are  already organized, they are far-sighted, they are wise and they are  determined.”

The transfer of Argenta to North Little Rock came on February 23,  1904, following intense negotiations on a property settlement in which North  Little Rock gave up Argenta’s 1903 tax revenue to Little Rock, a sum of about  $18,000, in return for acquisition of the $3,500 fire department building  constructed in 1895 at 506 Newton Avenue. Little Rock waived its right to  further litigate the case, and North Little Rock relinquished any claim to the  fire equipment, fire alarm and electric light system. Faucette and J.M. Griffin  negotiated for the northsiders, but judging by an entry in the North Little  Rock council minutes of February 15, 1904, reaching an understanding with  Little Rock was no picnic. Faucette’s interim report to the council that day  despaired of “the futility of arriving at any honorable or equitable  agreement[.]” Nevertheless, the antagonists forged a compromise about a week  later and both councils approved ordinances on the night of February 22, 1904,  affirming the property settlement, the Gazette reported the next day. North  Little Rock also arranged to lease the fire equipment, plus two horses, for $50  a month, according to the North Little Rock council minutes of February 23. The  fire alarm system was not part of the deal, however, and North Little Rock  decided to acquire its own fire apparatus and alarm. The minutes reflected that  the city on April 13, 1904, had accumulated debts of $6,727.31, including  $3,247.31 for construction of a city hall and jail. The rest was for fire  fighting and horses.

Initially after the separation, the seat of government moved from  Cassinelli’s at 18th and Orange in the old town limits to Ramsey’s office at  222 Newton. The Gazette reported on April 8, 1904, that construction was  largely completed at the newly renovated Argenta City Hall at 506 Newton, which  had a ground floor for two fire hose wagons and the city jail. On the second  floor were the council chambers, sleeping quarters and a bath for firefighters,  and offices for the mayor, city clerk and police. “The building has been  thoroughly remodeled and is equal in appearance to any city hall in the state,”  the Gazette said. The newspaper added that delivery was expected by May 1 on  two new hose and truck wagons and that North Little Rock would return the old  hose wagon No. 6 and two horses — “Dick” and “Dock” — to Little Rock. The  Gazette also noted that an “expensive Brussels carpet,” given as a gift to  Faucette, covered the upstairs floor.

Housed in a belfry atop the new city hall, an 850-pound bell, cast  in 1886 at a foundry in Cincinnati, sounded the fire and curfew alarms.  Officers worked out a system, the April 8 Gazette said, for the turnkey at  police headquarters to notify patrolmen in the field by tapping on the fire  bell. If the call was for the Third Ward, for example, three taps on the bell  would alert that ward’s patrol to call headquarters. The bell also rang at  9 o’clock sharp every night to warn children  to get off the streets. Responsible for chiming the bell and enforcing the  curfew and truancy laws during the early 1900s was a police officer and later  police chief, John Bell Duckworth, who had been a driver for the old Number 6  fire unit. In a column on April 27, 1958, Gazette reporter Roy Reed related a  story he heard from longtime City Clerk Percy Machin that Duckworth — everyone  called him John Bell — “patrolled on a horse for curfew breakers and hookey  players and he carried a long black whip. He never used the whip on anyone,  Machin said, but it was an effective moral weapon.”

The City of North Little Rock’s first council convened in the new  City Hall on April 11, 1904, with William C. Faucette presiding as mayor with  eight aldermen. Things looked bleak financially. Bills piled up for  construction of the city hall building and the city had little money, having  bargained away the 1903 revenue for its freedom. The minutes of council meetings  indicated that for the first year and a half of the new city’s existence it  leased 24 street lights from Little Rock for $120 a month, until notice of  cancellation in June 1905. The Faucettes, whose various business interests  included ownership of a bank and small electric generating plant, incorporated  the power company and upgraded its facilities in 1906, and then sold it to  North Little Rock for $50,000 in IOUs, which the city repaid from profits on  electric sales. This was the beginning of the North Little Rock Electric  Department, long the city’s principal source of revenue and a major income  producer to this day. The bank, founded as Faucette Brothers on April 1, 1901,  at 405 Newton Avenue, incorporated on April 23, 1904, as Twin City Bank. Although  not the only bank in town, it became synonymous with North Little Rock for  seeing the city through the shaky financial start.

One account in the Gazette on February 23, 1904, said that Little  Rock’s councilmen invited Faucette to join them inside the bar at their table,  after he showed up at their meeting the previous evening on approval of the  property settlement. He sat by Eighth Ward Alderman Elmer O. Manees, who was  attending his last Little Rock council meeting. The ward’s other  representative, Charles Robken, had resigned to move to Texarkana. Faucette  “took no part in the proceedings, except to pay close attention,” the Gazette  said, “until the proposed ordinance setting the property rights in the Eighth  [W]ard had been read twice[.]” Then he rose to speak, greeted by applause. He  assured the audience that North Little Rock held no animosity toward Little  Rock, no matter what they might read in the newspapers. “The fight you have  made to retain your Eighth [W]ard has been an honorable one and has aroused the  admiration of the enemy,” he told them. Another article in the February 23  Gazette reported that as soon as the North Little Rock Town Council approved  the agreement earlier on the evening of the 22nd, Faucette, “springing into his  buggy, drove at break-neck speed to the Little Rock City Hall[.]” According to  the newspaper, the North Little Rock ordinance was introduced at 8:05 p.m. and  passed 10 minutes later, then announced at the Little Rock council at 8:30 and  acted on at 8:45. “Thus in forty minutes was completed one of the most  important transactions concerning the North Side ‘divorce case’ . . . in that  it does away with any further legal proceedings,” the paper summarized.

At 7 p.m. February 23, 1904, the time agreed on by both sides  during a conference that morning, North Little Rock became a city of 8,203  people, according to its own census by a committee of enumerators, Frank O.  Cook, Joe Inda and Fire Chief Walter Powers. Little Rock, with a population of  38,307 in the 1900 census, lost more than 7,000 residents and annual revenue of  $18,000 to $20,000 from its Eighth Ward. “[N]o blaring of trumpets or  celebration of any kind” marked the transfer of authority, the Gazette noted on  February 24, adding that “[t]he news that the [Little Rock] city council had  passed an ordinance which showed beyond all doubt that all was over but the  signing of the papers of separation in the famous divorce suit was quite a  surprise to many, who were under the impression that the fight would be continued  until the last breast works had been captured by the enemy.”

Little Rock Mayor Lenon with City Attorney Cockrill and North  Little Rock Mayor Mara with Faucette met in conference from 10 a.m. to noon on  February 23 to work out the lease for fire equipment and settle on the time for  the transfer of Argenta to North Little Rock. At 1 p.m. Lenon signed the  ordinance his council had passed the previous evening and then the four  representatives of both cities endorsed the back of the North Little Rock ordinance,  according to the Gazette. The North Little Rock council convened at  2:50 p.m. to declare the July 21, 1903,  annexation election result and hear a report from Faucette on the lease  agreement from that morning’s conference, among other things. The only thing to  do after this was wait for the appointed hour. “Promptly at the stroke of 7  last night,” the February 24 Gazette said, “the police who have patrolled the  north side for the past 13 years marched across the bridge; the fire company,  leaving its apparatus behind, followed and the town of North Little Rock sprang  in a moment from a population of 1,200 to a city of 9,000 inhabitants. Those  who were aware of the time of the transfer expected to hear the clang of the  fire bell, but no demonstration whatsoever was made.”

With approval of the state Board of Municipal Corporators  following entry of the Supreme Court mandate, and by proclamation of Governor  Jeff Davis, North Little Rock became a city of the first class on February 26,  1904. The new boundaries stretched eastward to Buckeye Street, south of  Washington Avenue, up to modern-day Pershing Avenue on the northernmost line.  The western boundary went down Pike Avenue to 11th Street, then cut through the  Iron Mountain shops along a common border with the Town of Baring Cross to the  middle of the river at a point east of the Baring Cross Bridge. By annexation  in May 1904, the eastern boundary pushed out to Redwood Street and the  northwest corner reached Fort Roots on Big Rock.

In late January 1905, Baring Cross voted for annexation to North  Little Rock. As anticipated from the day of the Supreme Court decision on the  Hoxie-Walnut Ridge law, the council on January 10, 1906, formally changed the  city’s name to Argenta, as many were calling it anyway, even occasionally in  the official minutes of the council. Then in October 1917, the city’s name  reverted back to North Little Rock on the advice of James P. Faucette, who  believed it would increase property values as a recognizable location  nationally. Years later, he expressed some regret about the name-change.  Proposals, none successful, to rename the city have popped up numerous times  over the years, meeting with amusement, disinterest or irritation.

As fledgling North Little Rock grew in the early 1900s, relations  with Little Rock, while not usually hostile, were cool at best. Despite  Faucette’s assurances, distrust lingered. “It is anticipated and feared that  the separation may lead to a great deal of bitterness and ill feeling between  the two cities. A foretaste of the possibilities in this direction was  discernible in the episodes of yesterday[,] “ the Gazette had warned the day  after the clash on the bridge. Whether meant as a joke or not, or just to  needle its neighbor to the south, the North Little Rock council on August 10,  1904, appropriated $5 to Duke Harston to pay his fine in Little Rock for  spilling sawdust on the street.

Pursuing the reannexation of Argenta in the legislature, Little  Rock gained passage of the so-called force bill, which led the Gazette to  predict on April 3, 1907, that “[t]he creation of a Greater Little Rock through  the restoration of the former Eighth [W]ard . . . was rendered most  probable[.]” This law permitted a combined vote of both cities if 50 registered  voters of the city to be annexed petitioned for an election. Petitions did  circulate that year — never to be turned in for certification, however. Based  on an interview with James Faucette, then 84, the Gazette wrote on January 6,  1952, that he declined to elaborate on their “mysteriously” disappearing, but  implied “that ‘someone’ held up the Little Rock men and relieved them of their  petitions.” According to his biography in 1954, “James Faucette laughed as he  suggested that he would not have any trouble finding these old petitions today,  not if he wanted to try.”

Frustration over Little Rock’s failure to reclaim Argenta in the  years following the breakup were sounded by a Gazette writer in an article the  North Little Rock Times reprinted on March 4, 1965. An editor’s note said that  Winetta B. Seymour of North Little Rock clipped it for her scrapbook and that  it dated to about 1908. Partly a diatribe against William Faucette, as well as  praise for the former railroad engineer as a hard worker and “a good mayor,”  the piece regretted that Faucette “has beaten the best lawyers that Little Rock  could pit against him, at their own game, and Little Rock is losing heart.”  Accompanying the text was a cartoon of Faucette carrying a city on his back and  leaping across the river. “Ran off with a Town,” the caption read.  Despite lacking a formal education, Faucette  had the “power of bitter invective,” the Gazette said, noting that he had  conducted a “red-hot” race for Little Rock mayor in 1903 — “a working man’s  campaign for working men.”

But instead of waiting to try again two years later, the newspaper  writer groused, Faucette created his own city so he could be mayor. “He went to  the newly furnished mayor’s office and sat down in the new revolving chair,”  the paper said. “He put his feet upon the desk, the finest one in Argenta, and  looked over the grounds . . . In person Faucette is a giant. He is over six  feet tall and every line of him bespeaks the physically dominant man . . . If  he wishes to do a thing officially and there is a city ordinance preventing it  he has it nullified or ‘nullifies it himself.’   If an ordinance is necessary for an official act which he wishes to  perform he has it passed. If it is not passed quick enough to suit him he does  it anyway. If anyone treads on his official or personal dignity he whips him  and the reminder is seldom required twice by the same offender . . . He decides  everything, from the cut of the coat of the chief of police to the policies of  the city[.]”

Little Rock didn’t give up trying to regain its Eighth Ward, but  William Faucette, a state legislator in 1911, succeeded in getting an amendment  to annexation legislation that required majority votes in both cities, thus  ensuring that Argenta would have a say in any attempt to alter city boundaries.  The issue came up again during the 1919 legislative session. In later years  efforts focused on merger rather than annexation, a recurring proposition to  this day — it’s enough, perhaps, to make the Faucette brothers roll over in  their graves at Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock.