The Headquarters House is a charming little house located in the historical district of Fayetteville, a college city that hosts one of the important campuses of the Arkansas University, on East Dickson Street at no. 118. Built in 1853 in Greek Revival style, and sporting a lovely Rose Garden which accommodates twelve rose varieties specific to mid 19th century*, this house belonged to judge Jonas Tebbetts who lived here with his wife Matilda and their children, until the start of the Civil War.
In the garden of the house, the visitor can see another 19th century remnant. The law office of Archibald Yell (1797-1847), the state’s first congressman and its second governor, was transported in the 1990s from its original place of location, the Waxhaws Estate, and brought to the Headquarters House gardens, where it was renovated. The small cottage of the office was built as early as 1835*.
Jonas Tebbetts (1820-1913) was originally from New Hampshire and, as a young man, established a law practice in Van Buren (Arkansas). He represented the legal matters of the members of the Cherokee, Choctaw, and of the other Native-American communities living in the Indian Territory (the present day Oklahoma). In 1844 he was elected prosecuting attorney of the Seventh Circuit Court of Arkansas. Later on, he was appointed a representative of the Washington County (one of the major counties of North-West Arkansas) to the General Assembly of the state of Arkansas. Backed by these official positions, Jonas Tebbetts, a staunch proponent of the Democrats, promoted his anti-slavery ideas*.
In the context of the outbreak of the Civil War, Arkansas seceded from the Union in 1861. Jonas Tebbetts, however, put his house at the disposal of the Union’s military forces. The latter transformed it in their headquarter’s house (hence the name). Unfortunately, the Confederate military forces soon took over the control of the city, and, in 1863, the house became the site of a battle, which was important for the status of the boundary between the two camps. The house still bears traces of the battle, one door has a mini-bullet hole.
After the war, the Tebbetts family never returned to live in their house in Fayetteville. The house changed subsequent owners and it was restored several times. Eventually, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s, and since then it has been a museum that documents the American small-town life of those people who established the first modern institutions and imposed the rule of law in this part of the USA. In addition, the Headquarters House Museum hosts summer and winter events meant to keep alive the memory of the 19th century, and of people like Jonas Tebbbetts, by connecting the newest generations of Fayetteville to the memory of their ancestors.
When visiting the house, you get a feeling of coziness rooted in the idea of simple life and old style comfort, which is doubled by the always surprising discovery that the mums of the 19th century, beside their cohort of children, had time to enjoy and even exceed in playing the piano, in making wonderful hand-work such as quilts, in entertaining the ‘distinguished’ society of their husbands’ collaborators. The kids in turn seemed obedient without being unhappy, seemed cheerful and frivolous without neglecting their educational obligations pertaining to their age. These are, obviously, one sided remarks that ignore the limitations of the society back then (of which slavery was not a minor aspect). However, early and mid 19th century can still teach us, in the 21 st century, lessons about generosity, about thinking ahead of your time, about courage, and about loving one’s country with the simplicity one loves his family.
*Of the twelve varieties of roses, it is worth mentioning: Hermosa, brought to US in 1837, a Bourbon-China cross which blooms once a year, in mid May; Blush Noisette, introduced to US in 1817, a fragrant type of rose; Celine Forestier, brought to US in 1858, it has a spicy scent; Green Rose, introduced to US in 1845, it has a spicy fragrance with a hint of pepper.
*The info about the office of Archibald Yell, as well as the details about the original roses can be found in the leaflet issued by Washington County Historical Society, the body which administers the Headquarters House.
*More details about Jonas Tebbetts and his life, in: https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/jonas-march-tebbetts-2818/ (accessed on 1st of March, 2021)