The Flagstones: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

In the early days of Conway Station, visitors came to the business district on foot while others rode an animal—often a horse, donkey or mule. Farmers often came in an old wagon while a few traveled by horse and buggy. The sidewalks and the streets were mostly dirt and when it rained, they were muck and water. Wooden boardwalks were often laid to make it easier to cross the mudholes.

As the town developed in the mid-1890s, however, flagstone sidewalks began to replace the boardwalks that covered the muck and dirt walkways. City officials encouraged the laying of these sidewalks by offering to sell the slates to downtown property owners, promising to use city workers to install them.

The flagstone was acquired from a quarry at Cabin Creek, now known as Lamar, in Johnson County. The quarry, which dated back to 1887, produced a very hard blue-gray sandstone. The stones were sold wholesale by the railroad flatcar lot at the actual cost and transported by rail to Conway.
The stones were removed from the quarry in sheets or slabs and then cut to size by craftsmen with hammer and chisel. Varying in thickness from two to four inches, the larger stones measured 42 to 48 inches and weighed 150-200 pounds each.

The first recorded reference to these new flagstone walks was in June 1895 when the Log Cabin newspaper reported that a stone crossing had been laid between the Heiliger and Menty corners. Menty’s store was located on the corner of Front and Oak.

Many of the sidewalks in the original townsite were paved with this flagstone. One of the busiest sidewalks there was along Main Street, connecting the courthouse to the railroad depot, shops and downtown hotels. A flagstone walk was constructed over this pathway in June 1903. Business property owners along the path paid for the stones and the city of Conway provided the labor for the sidewalk construction.

While many of these flagstone walks were laid in the commercial area, there were some laid in the residential area if the property owners could afford it. Caldwell, Center, Clifton and Robinson Avenues all had flagstone walks. Having a flagstone walk in front of your home was a sign of affluence.

Over the years, these sidewalks fell into disrepair or disappeared completely but in 1986, the Conway Downtown Merchant Group agreed to help restore a section of the flagstone walk on Main Street that extended east from the Faulkner County Courthouse. The restored portion ran adjacent to the property owned by Dr. Jim Flanagin, Jr. In 1987, Flagstone Walk was dedicated in the downtown area.
Conway Mayor Bill Wright committed the city’s participation in the project. After replacement of some of the broken stones and mortaring the joints with concrete, the area between the sidewalk and curb was sodded and beautified. A bronze marker was attached to a section of the stone that was mounted on a concrete pedestal adjacent to the walk.

A dedication ceremony was held on April 26, 1987. Robert Tyler, Chamber President, served as master of ceremonies. Rev. John Shell, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, gave the invocation and Mayor David Kinley gave the welcome. Ed Camp, chairman of the Downtown Merchants group, and former mayor, Bill Wright, spoke.

The dedicatory talk was given by Nancy Lowe of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Commission. Freed Duncan, past president of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce (CACC), unveiled the marker. Arrangements for the ceremony were made by Woody Cummins, chair of the CACC special events committee. The marker was provided by Burger King Corporation.

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