Bernice Historical Society
Bernice Dots #5
By Cathy Buckley
The first business establishment in Bernice was located in a tent and run by a man named Nelson. The first sale made in that store was a box of matches purchased by R.T. “Uncle Dick” Moore. Shortly afterward Will Martin of Shiloh operated a general merchandise business out of a box car he acquired from the railroad.
Within a short period of time Jack Henderson, brother of Capt. Henderson opened a business with Allen Lowery. Then came the business owners from Shiloh; E.B. Robinson, Thomas and Joseph Heard, followed by H.M. Blackmon, Robert Mitcham, Henderson Bros., Selig and Cromwell, and “Gray, McDonald and Lindsey”.
C.J. Morton came from Lisbon and purchased a hardware and furniture business and began operations in 1901. This business later became the Bernice Hardware and Furniture Company and then Bernice Hardware.
There were drug stores, barber shops, shoe shops, butcher, blacksmiths, livery stables and of course the lumber mill which has operated under several names (Kirkland Lumber, Bernice Mill, Bernice Lumber among others).
There was also a printer, John Shumaker. The Farmerville Gazette in their May 23, 1900 issue stated “Mr. J.C. Shumaker has rented the defunct Farmerville Herald printing outfit and moved it to Bernice, where he will start up a new paper”. (Paper would be the Bernice Enterprise)
There were two Physicians in the earliest year of the town: George Carrol, and James L. Dendy.
There had to be a contractor/supervisor to build homes and businesses and that man was Jake Crews, a Shiloh resident and first mayor of Bernice.
Crews built the first house in Bernice for himself in 1900 and soon after the Garland Home and the J.W. Heard home. Crew’s home was later the Caldwell home and was torn down in 2014 and a Family Dollar built on the location.
Fires would prove to be a problem for the young town and what was probably the first destructive fire occurred at the livery of J.W. Stancil in March of 1900. The entire contents of the livery were consumed by fire including a few animals.
Communication with the outside world was important and a telephone line was completed giving Bernice access to Monroe, Ruston, Dubach, Junction City and El Dorado and Farmerville.
In 1901 the town passed an ordinance declaring the following to be “unlawful” activities within the town: Pool rooms, billiard halls, domino parlors and bowling alleys.
The Bank of Bernice was formed in 1901 with J.R. Fuller, merchant from Shiloh, as the first President. The first stockholders were men who would be instrumental in the economic, social and political affairs of the town for many years: J.D. Hamilton, W.F. Grafton, George Sansing, G.W. Moore, R.T. Moore, Y.S. Fuller, M.A. Talbot, E.C. Colvin, J.W. Heard, L.M. Dendy, E.H. Smith and J.A. Rowland.
In April of 1901 the Bernice Times(second paper formed in Bernice) published the account of an attempted crime in the alley behind the beef market and McLaurin’s drugstore. Under cover of darkness someone fired a shot at McLaurin who returned fire sending the assailant scattering. The individual was not identified but the paper declared the “shot might have come from the pistol of some “sport” who endangers us almost every night by promiscuous shouting on the street…such an act is the basest cowardice and the individual too contemptible to live and it is a wonder the good Lord permits him longer to cumber the earth”.
In December an Arkansas paper ran an article about a notorious horse thief from Arkansas who was arrested in Bernice by “city marshal Charles Rooks and jailed, but broke jail, stole a horse from that place and made good his escape.”
Next week: Bernice Boys Burn a Barrel of Booze; Destructive Fires Consume town businesses