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.
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.