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Captain R.J. Wilson The Man, The Captain, The Building


The Captain

Captain R.J. Wilson was born west of Dover, Arkansas, on September 20, 1835. He attended Cane Hill College in Northwest Arkansas and was a good student with an interest in Latin. After graduating from college he returned home to the family farm. In 1861, he enlisted for service with the Confederacy. He attained the rank of Captain and participated in many battles and skirmishes. When he returned home he was penniless, but had a strong desire to return to farming. By 1866, he had saved over $2,000 and was able to buy a half-interest in his brother's dry goods store at Norristown. In 1874 Captain Wilson bought out his brother's half of the store and moved the store to downtown Russellville where the railroad had just been completed.

Captain R. J. Wilson was one of the leading merchants in the Russellville area. He was nicknamed "Honest Bob." The store was known as R. J. Wilson and Sons for over half a century. Besides being a business owner he was also one of the organizers of the People's Exchange Bank in 1890 and served as its first president from that time until his death. He also served on the school board and city council. Captain Wilson was married in 1870 to Cassandra Bonaporte Ford. Mrs. Wilson was from Shreveport, Louisiana. Captain Wilson, upon his wife's request, built a family home that resembled her old home in Louisiana. It was furnished and decorated in the same matter. Tragically, Mrs. Wilson lived in her new home only one year before she died in 1884. The couple had four children. Captain R.J. Wilson died January 31, 1923, and the age of 87.

The Building

The Captain R. J. Wilson building has had an interesting history. In its early days it not only was the location of the Captain's dry goods business, but also home to the Pope County Courthouse. When the courthouse was moved from Dover to Russellville in 1887, court was held on the second floor of the building until May 16, 1889, when the new courthouse opened.

The building has always been home to a retail shop. The Hunt Walden Department Store operated out of the building for over thirty years beginning in 1943. After that an electronics store, Electric Moo, Sound Investments, and others occupied the building.

A complete remodel was done in 1998-1999, removal of drop ceilings, interior walls, stairwells to second floor, wiring and plumbing upgrades. The Heart and Soul Book Store occupied the building for eight years. The wood ceilings and center columns are the original from the 1870's. The second floor was changed from a vast empty room into four unique and spacious apartments that took over three years to complete.

The building is still a retail business, Dog Ear Books. The newest local bookstore that opened in the community. Go and check it out, and imagine all the places it's been in the past.

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