Unknowing passers-by of the historic Boone-Murphy House at 714 W. Fourth Ave. shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday probably did a double-take, wondering if they had somehow traveled 150 years or so back in time after they saw a woman in a mid-1800s style dress walking about and a pair of blue-clad Union (Kansas “Red Leg”) soldiers — complete with weaponry — standing guard outside the residence.
The three were actually Civil War re-enactors, adding a sense of period realism to the dedication of the renovated residence that was built around 1860 and served as Union army headquarters during the time of the October 1863 Battle of Pine Bluff. Originally situated at 702 W. Second Ave. (at a corner of West Second Avenue and South Beech Street) and moved by the Heckatoo Heritage Foundation in 1977 to its present location within the Fifth Avenue Historic District, the structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
Heckatoo not only financed the move, but also donated the building and the land it occupies to the city.
In keeping with its status, the structure will now serve as the headquarters of the Pine Bluff Historic Commission. Several commissioners were on hand for the dedication service.
“It will also be available for tours and use by local civic groups, at least once it’s furnished,” Mayor Debe Hollingsworth said while addressing event attendees.
Hollingsworth said the site has an important purpose, especially to area youth.
“It tells the important story of the Battle of Pine Bluff and its significance in the Union Army’s strategy for control of the Arkansas River Valley and the wider war west of the Mississippi River, also known as the Trans-Mississippi campaign,” she said.
Hollingsworth noted that Union Gen. Powell Clayton, commander of the controlling Federal forces, actually resided in the house for a spell in addition to utilizing it as his headquarters. Clayton, a Republican, became Arkansas’ governor a few years after the war. Later, he served as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico.
Before concluding her remarks, Hollingsworth thanked several agencies and groups that had provided grants and other financial assistance in the rehabilitation effort.
The house was constructed by Thomas A. Boone. After the war, according to historian Ron Kelley, Boone mortgaged the house to Robert S. Thompson and William H. Dupuy. When a loan to the two was not paid, the property was sold to John P. Murphy, who resided there until his death in 1892.
Afterward, Murphy’s widow married Charles F. Moore. The couple continued to reside there.
“The city began rehabilitating the house in 2010 and just completed the work this month,” Hollingsworth said.