Early Days of Siloam Springs, Arkansas 1880s to 1900s
Brief Look in Pictures When Siloam Springs Got Started
The 1880s and '90s
The Civil War was over and northern federal troops had ceased the last of their occupation a few years earlier in northeast Arkansas. Siloam was still a frontier town but lured visitors by offering "many springs to cure most ailments." Some visitors stayed. Malaria was becoming less frequent and the biggest threat to peace and safety were not the Indians, but the thieves and outlaws hiding in Oklahoma territory. Churches were the moral anchor of the community and parks laden with their canopy of American Elms and oaks provided the center for contact with family and friends in the summer evenings. In between sat several saloons, or "parlors," wherein certain men gathered to brace themselves with liquor and perhaps play a social round of cards. These could be travelers, lawmen or local farmers and blacksmiths, all mixed together with known heathen of questionable character in a spirit of neutrality. The "upper class" citizen were the banker and store owner as well as others who had the means to own stylish homes, many which were featured in postcards and brochures exhorting the virtues of civilized life. Church ministers and doctors topped the list through their honored profession. School teachers were also honored even though their dwelling might be more humble. Such a list was not written or strictly adhered to. Nor was it unkind, but everyone knew their level in society.
Ladies were the product of their mother and mother-in-law, sisters, aunts and female cousins. Inside the home, girls were brought up to be proper and modest. That entailed the wearing of dresses or skirts that were patently conservative. Many were brightly patterned and inventive, creating beautiful necklines and accentuating figures. The modern bra was not invented yet but corsets and other innovative methods were used to enhance that part of the female architecture. The wearing of these contraptions were regarded as "modest enhancements" as women dressed up for functions outside the home. Not all ladies could afford these things. They stayed with the multiple frills and lace adorning the bust and learned gentlemen always averted their eyes. The culture of proper attire also included a long hemline and stockings to hide the ankle and leg. Public exposure of a feminine limb was tolerated but left an impression of lack of proper upbringing. Women who regularly exposed too great a plunging neckline and bare calf or ankle were looked upon as "loose." Inside the home, housework necessitated the same liberties of movement as the men, albeit remaining modest. Loose fitting skirts and blouses lent this freedom so ladies could tend to the chores of everyday life. Men were bound by the same culture to wear hat, jacket and tie in public unless the visit necessitated something otherwise. Many photos of that era show both men and women in fine dress in the store, the park, or fruit market, whereas today’s look would be casual, even downright brogue.
The average man and woman in Siloam Springs adhered to a culture more stable than what we have today. Often a man was five to ten years older than the woman he pursued for matrimony. One story is the fellow who wrote postcards to a girl while he traveled. She was barely 14 while he was entering his twenties. There is no record of her replying but his intentions were finely focused on her "charm and loveliness," and what a fine young lady she was becoming. Some years later, history records their marriage. It was not always like this. Some marriages were between young people in their early teens. Child birth was celebrated as the continuing of a family into the new generation. Preference for a boy was greater than for a girl in a family where hard labor provided their living. Farmers and other families of labor looked toward handing over the farm or business to the son, or to the daughter who married a strapping young man familiar in the ways of that trade. Regardless, both sons and daughters were appreciated. The prospect of a mother-to-be surviving child birth wasn't nearly as good as today. Cemetery stones still show the short life of a mother who had not the stamina or medical care to survive.
As far as I know, this is one of the earliest photos taken of the Siloam frontier. Nobody knows the date this was taken or I haven't found the person who can autherticate it. Perhaps late 1870's or early 1880's. You can click on the photo to make it bigger.
All we know for sure is it was a Sunday afternoon. It must have been comfortable judging from the photo. The photo had writing on it to authenticate the day, but not the month or year. This was probably 1900 to 1910.
Siloam is growing. Merchants and land owners from all around are tending to the business at hand. This was taken in the 1890's. The image is in good shape although not sterling. You can click on the image to make it bigger.