History

Step back in time for your getaway!

History buffs, railroad aficionados, and adventure seekers can revel in the rich history of our reconstructed pioneer cabins. The Ozark foothills are full of relics from the booming days of railway, when pioneer towns cropped wherever train depots became hubs of trade.

Book your stay at one of 3 cabins once part of the “Pettigrew Railroad Camp” that helped build north-central Arkansas in the 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Historic Train Bridge still standing in Shirley, Arkansas

Cabin 1 (Bass Cabin):

This cabin served as the paymaster’s cabin. Since pay was by cash and company scrip, a guard was posted outside 24 hours a day. Company scrip was accepted at all of the local establishments. However, due to the nature of the work environment, cash payments were frowned upon. Since the town that sprung up around Pettigrew was mostly a “company town” it is no surprise that most of the funds meted out here, both cash and scrip, were eventually returned to the coffers of the Company in Cabin 1.

Cabin 2 (Trout Cabin):

This cabin served as one of the many supply cabins. Here all the supplies to house and feed the timber workers were stored and provisions parceled out to the cook and cabin attendants (usually new recruits awaiting their opportunity to join the “Timbermen”). Two meals a day were provided to the workers with a small repast served in the field at noon. Mice were always a problem so this cabin had attendant cats in service to the timber company.

Cabin 3 (Walleye Cabin):

This cabin served at the “Infirmary and Recovery Station” for those workers who had suffered heat exhaustion, swamp fevers, snake bites and injuries common to the timbering trade. The services available were limited to the talents of the appointed “Timber Master” who was temporarily taken off the work detail and given respite duty in the business of caring for the afflicted. Some veterans of medical services in the wars of the 19th century were available to fill this need. Other times the job was done by those with strong stomachs and a generous heart, but possessing little training.


A piece of history

The St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad operated in Missouri from 1876 to 1980. In 1881 the company established a rail line from Monett, Missouri to Rogers, Arkansas. In that year the company began a period of rapid expansion westward and needed building materials to fuel that expansion. In 1900 a spur was created from Fayetteville, AR to Pettigrew, AR in the Ozark timberlands to supply the company with oak cross-ties and to feed the booming lumber industry. The Pettigrew operations continued through World War Two, but the slow down in railway expansion and the increasing operating costs resulted in the company closing the “Pettigrew Spur” on February 2, 1947.

The 30 cabins at Pettigrew, Arkansas were abandoned.

In 1965 a church group purchased 10 of the cabins and moved them to the present day site in Choctaw, AR at a cove on the newly created Greers Ferry Lake. The site was operated as a Christian retreat until 1996 when the camp was closed and 7 of the cabins were sold and moved away. Four of the sold cabins can be seen on the property directly to the east of this location. The rest are lost to history.

Arkansas Historical Society


More History

Want to learn more about the history of Van Buren County? Check out our local history page and plan amazing historical stops during your visit: