Surrounded by the clapboard walls of an infrequently used barn loft in rural Piggott, Arkansas, Ernest Hemingway pounded out pages of his 1929 novel “A Farewell to Arms.”
“Maybe...you'll fall in love with me all over again."
"Hell," I said, "I love you enough now. What do you want to do? Ruin me?"
"Yes. I want to ruin you."
"Good," I said. "That's what I want too.”
While these words are spoken by the novel’s main characters Henry and Catherine, they could be said of Hemingway and his relationship to Arkansas. His time here came about because he fell in love with Pauline Pfeiffer, whose family had moved to Piggott to farm after great success in St. Louis in the cosmetics industry. But Hemingway also grew to love the rural retreat that came with a visit to his in-laws, especially quail hunting, and in a 1933 Esquire article the author wrote that next to Paris, he preferred "Piggott, Arkansas, in the fall."
During the 2021 Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Cheryl Hargrove, with Hargrove International Inc., described Heritage Tourism as “traveling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present” and added that this includes historic, cultural and natural assets. As I reflect on the mission of Arkansas Heritage and, in particular, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, I can’t help but think of how the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a prime example of the Heritage Tourism concept.
Arkansas State University in Jonesboro manages the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum, which opened in July of 1999, in conjunction with what would have been Hemingway’s 100th birthday. The home and barn are on property that was once part of the Pfeiffer family’s 60,000 acres of farmland and was A-State’s first Heritage Site. Today they also oversee the Historic Dyess Colony: Johnny Cash Boyhood Home, Lakeport Plantation, Southern Tenant Farmers Museum, Rohwer Japanese American Relocation Center, Historic V.C. Kays House, and are involved in the Arkansas Delta Byways project to promote tourism throughout a 15-county area that encompasses two National Scenic Byways, Crowley’s Ridge Parkway and the Great River Road.
Hemingway was a great adventurer. At the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum you get a sense of his love of travel and hunting. So, why not channel a little Hemingway and get out and explore The Natural State? A great way to make an Arkansas adventure is to pick a historic site and then research attractions nearby. You can do this on our website by looking at our National Register of Historic Places by county or city—and I guarantee that you'll find a treasure nearby to start your next Arkansas road trip adventure.
Kick off your Hemingway Heritage Tour by plotting a path to the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and then checking out other sites near Piggott. Our friends at Arkansas Tourism have helped us compile a list to get you started:
· Karl and Matilda Pfeiffer Museum in Piggott – This early 1930s Tudor-style residence was the home of Karl and Matilda Pfeiffer, son and daughter-in-law of Paul and Mary Pfeiffer. Matilda, who once had a dream of designing Hollywood sets, designed and supervised the construction of this house, as well as creating the 11 acres of grounds and natural gardens. An avid mineral collector, she amassed more than 1,400 specimens from around the world, along with a library of more than 1,600 books and a collection of Native American artifacts. Her extensive collections are on display for visitors. Karl's brother-in-law and sister, Ernest Hemingway and Pauline Pfeiffer Hemingway, were frequent guests in Matilda's and Karl's home when visiting Pauline's parents at their home next door. Scenes from "A Face in the Crowd," the 1956 movie starring Andy Griffith and Patricia Neal, were filmed on site, and still photographs from the movie also are on display.
· WPA Post Office mural in Piggott – The Piggott Post Office is one of 21 Arkansas post offices that had murals installed in their lobbies between 1939 and 1942 as part of a New Deal art project. The mural was painted by Iowan Dan Rhodes. The subject matter of the Piggott mural is "Air Mail," which Rhodes thought was "of unusual significance to the smaller and more isolated community, linking them as it does to the most distant centers." The mural was added to the National Register on August 14, 1998. The Piggott mural was one of five post office murals from throughout the country selected in 2019 by the United States Postal Service for a "Forever" stamp series.
· Crowley’s Ridge (throughout the region) – Crowley's Ridge, located in eastern Arkansas, is a unique geological formation believed to have been created by water, ice and wind action over a 50-million-year period. Crowley's Ridge was originally an island between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. When these rivers shifted their courses, Crowley's Ridge was left behind as a long, low, hilly formation. Crowley’s Ridge has played an important part for the cultures that called eastern Arkansas home for centuries, from Native Americans to early settlers. When the Mississippi River and its tributaries would flood, Crowley’s Ridge was one of the few reliefs from the overwhelming water. The ridge can be reached from locations along Arkansas’s Great River Road, with the closest location being within the St. Francis National Forest in Marianna/Helena-West Helena. The ridge extends for 200 miles from southern Missouri south through eastern Arkansas to Helena-West Helena. The only uplifting in the otherwise flat Arkansas Delta, the anomaly rises 150 feet and is just 12 miles across at its widest point. One of the unique features of Crowley’s Ridge is its natural vegetation. Many of the trees that make up the forest on Crowley’s Ridge are similar to those found in the western Appalachian Mountains. The ridge is covered with a lush mixed forest including oak and hickory and uncommon hardwood trees such as American beech, sugar maple, and the tulip tree or yellow poplar. Native Americans used Crowley’s Ridge as “safe haven” from the Mississippi River during floods. Early settlers to the Arkansas Delta also used the Ridge to flee from flooding. Now visitors will find a variety of state parks, a national forest, Civil War historical sites and museums located along Crowley’s Ridge. It is also home to Arkansas’s first national scenic byway, Crowley’s Ridge Parkway. Arkansas’s Upper Delta region is where the Ozarks meet Crowley’s Ridge and the flatlands of the Delta. It became an Arkansas Scenic Byway in 1997 and received the national designation in 1998. The byway rambles through eight counties in eastern Arkansas.
· Pumpkin Hollow in St. Francis (10-minute drive) – A must-visit during the fall, Pumpkin Hollow is the home of Arkansas’s first cornfield maze. Pumpkin Hollow offers a new “puzzle” each fall, along with a huge pumpkin patch. Select your own pumpkins and specialty squash from more than 30 varieties, along with corn stalks, other fall decorations, and more from the Pumpkin Hollow Store. New attractions are added each year, including hayrides, pony rides, petting zoo, Kids’ Barn, pig scramble, pond slide, catfish feeding, hay play area, barrel train ride, pedal tractors, zipline, gourd trellis, Friendly Forest, Hopalong Rodeo, and much more. The kid-friendly farm is open seven days a week from mid-September through the end of October. (Check the website for specific dates and hours.) Pumpkin Hollow also is famous for Horror in the Hollow, its haunted attractions open on weekends during the fall season. These include the Forest of Fright (haunted woods walking trail), Misery Manor, Zombie Paintball Patrol, and Bubba's Butcher Barn. Pumpkin Hollow was named in 2014 as one of the country's coolest pumpkin patches by USA Today, and in 2018 it was named one of the top 15 pumpkin patches in the United States by the Travel Channel.
· Chalk Bluff Park, Battle Site and Natural Area in St. Francis (10-minute drive) – Chalk Bluff is important both geologically and historically. It overlooks the St. Francis River and lies at Arkansas’s northeast point of Crowley’s Ridge. During the 1800s, Crowley’s Ridge served as the best north-south transportation route across the lowlands of the northeast part of the state. An Indian trail and later a military road crossed the St. Francis River at Chalk Bluff. A ferry was established by the Seitz family at the site around 1840. By 1860, a village had grown up around the ferry and the small store that had been opened by the Seitz family. During the Civil War, Chalk Bluff was a strategic location between Confederate Arkansas and Union Missouri and was the site of several skirmishes, including May 1-2, 1863 action as Gen. John S. Marmaduke retreated from an unsuccessful raid into Missouri. Chalk Bluff survived the war and continued to prosper despite heavy property damage. In 1882, however, the St. Louis, Arkansas, and Texas railroad crossed the river two miles south of Chalk Bluff. The new town of St. Francis prospered, and Chalk Bluff gradually died. A highway bridge was built at St. Francis around the beginning of the 20th century, and the Chalk Bluff ferry crossing was abandoned. The Chalk Bluff site, an Arkansas Natural Heritage Area, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It also includes a recreation area, with a pavilion and picnic tables, a walking trail and plaques interpreting the Civil War battle at the site.
· Downtown Paragould (40-minute drive) – Downtown Paragould has grown and continues to flourish due to, in part, the efforts of its property and business owners and Main Street Paragould. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Downtown district covers more than 35 square blocks. Pruett Street, considered the district’s “main street,”is a wonderful mix of dining options, entertainment venues, specialty shops, office/professional and service providers. Other main points of interest like the Historic 1888 Courthouse building, which houses the Paragould Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Collins Theatre are along Emerson Street. The Caboose, on East Emerson, is home of the Main Street office and the perfect place to begin exploring the Downtown area. It’s a nod to Paragould’s railroad heritage and is a place for a photo op. Another is the Paragould War Memorial featuring a seven-foot bronze Statue of Liberty, which has the distinction of being the oldest Statue of Liberty outside the state of New York. Restaurants like SkinnyJ's, , Terry's Cafe, Carlos’ Street Tacos, Chow at 118 and Hamburger Station cater to all cravings from Southern favorites to fine dining and everything in between. Your sweet tooth can even be satisfied with a stop at Paragould's premier sweet shop, Something Sweet. Looking for a little retail therapy? Downtown shops and boutiques are full of items to tempt you. Both kids and adults can find a place to play. The Collins Theatre hosts musical events, concerts and other live stage productions. Or, enjoy quality family time with children at an interactive play space. Grownups can also unwind over live music at bars and nightclubs in the district. One of the best times to visit Downtown Paragould is during special events and other seasonal activities where block after block is full of fun. Experience it for yourself. Discover the “One & Only” Downtown Paragould to eat, shop and play!
· Crowley’s Ridge State Park near Walcott (an hour’s drive) – Atop the forested hills in northeast Arkansas, Crowley’s Ridge State Park is situated on this unique geological formation. Native log and stone structures, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, set the tone for this park’s rustic quality. The park is a great place to explore Crowley’s Ridge itself. In addition to the structures made by the CCC, the group also built five miles of trails for visitors, ranging from fully accessible to moderate. The trails are great for hiking but also for those on the lookout for birds or wildlife. Of course, as most of our Arkansas State Parks do, Crowley’s Ridge offers great fishing options at Walcott Lake. Anglers will find everything from largemouth bass to catfish in the 31-acre lake.
· Pocahontas (one-hour drive) – With a recorded history that predates territorial days, the Pocahontas (pop. 6,518) region is well-represented in publications that list Arkansas "firsts." While most of the county's early events are centered around its historic port towns, there are several other places of interest to travelers. Historic Davidsonville State Park, a few miles down the Black River from today's Pocahontas, received Arkansas's first U.S. post office in 1817 and the territory's first federal land office in 1820. While Davidsonville was making its mark on history, another village was taking shape upstream. Bettis Bluff was named for its first settler, Dr. Ransom S. Bettis, and when Randolph County was created in 1835, the little port town was named the new county seat. It also received a new name: Pocahontas. In its early days, the Old Southwest Road brought commerce and travelers to the area. Several famous frontiersmen, including Sam Houston, Stephen Austin, Gen. U.S. Grant and others, also traveled the trail. For many, Pocahontas was the first supply stop in Arkansas. It is no wonder that many of Pocahontas' tourist attractions are rooted in this era. Nearby Maynard is home to the Maynard Pioneer Museum and Park which includes an over 100-year-old cabin filled with antiques from the 1800s, as well as three pavilions, playground equipment and RV hook-ups. Wilderness Valley Ranch provides overnight guided horseback rides, hay rides and buggy rides with a natural camping experience. Pocahontas is one of Arkansas's most historic towns. The Southwest Trail, a network of routes that became a major emigration route during the 1820s, passed through the city, as did Confederate General Sterling Price's troops during Price's Raid, the last Confederate offensive in the Trans-Mississippi Campaign. These passages, along with other historically significant routes, are now part of the Arkansas Heritage Trails System. Today, Pocahontas retains its historic downtown business square and beautifully restored 1872 Victorian Italianate courthouse. Most of the commercial outlets facing the square have been renovated to compliment the stately courthouse. The Imperial Dinner Theatre offers live stage productions paired with an exquisite meal for a rich dinner theater experience. The Studio for the Arts, located in the former Imperial Theatre, provides drama, ballet, art and voice training for all ages. Randolph County is the only county in Arkansas to claim five rivers and one lake and water sports factor heavily in the recreational opportunities available to residents and visitors. The Black River, the local river on which the town grew up, presents anglers with excellent big-bass fishing. The Current River's strength is canoeing, although bass, bream and crappie fishing is consistently productive for fishermen. With 23 miles of navigable stream between Mammoth Spring and Hardy, the Spring River is the state's most reliable paddling stream. Its waters run cold and swift the entire year. Excellent fishing is also available in the Fourche River which empties into the Black River about 500 yards east of the city. The Eleven Point River's small-mouth bass fishing and good duck hunting extend along the river's 40 miles of floatable waters. Downtown Pocahontas is one of the largest National Historic Districts in Arkansas, encompassing 17 square blocks. Picturesque red brick buildings showcase some of the best Victorian architecture in the state. You can enjoy art galleries, restaurants and performance venues in this lively town that blends the quaint charm of the past with great food, espresso, music and theater. The unique terrain around Pocahontas combines the beauty of the Ozarks with the mystery of the edge of the delta. And for those who like quirky curiosities, you can’t miss the half-ton “meteorite” that blazed from the sky in 1858, as local lore tells the story, and is now preserved on the courthouse lawn. Unique local businesses allow you to soak in nostalgia: you can get a haircut at the state’s oldest continuously operating barber shop, which first opened in 1873. The Futrell Pharmacy is one of the oldest pharmacies in Arkansas, and to the delight of visitors and local regulars, still runs a real, old-fashioned soda fountain. At the Randolph County Heritage Museum on the town square, you can learn more about how the town gained its unusual name. The Old Frisco Train Depot and Museum (1913) preserves the history of local transportation and commerce and features a 1920s caboose car, in addition to hosting the county’s Visitor Information Center. The NoMa Arts & Entertainment District is a four-block area on North Marr Street that includes galleries, restaurants and cultural offerings. Marr Street Productions is a dance and music studio as well as a coffee shop with both indoor and al fresco seating. The Downtown Playhouse offers live stage plays, and the Opera House Art Park offers an outside seating area with landscaping. For those seeking downtown accommodations, Lesmeister Guesthouse provides upscale lodging in the heart of the historic district. Other county attractions nearby include the state Natural Heritage Site at Hall’s Creek Canyon and Davidsonville Historic State Park.
· Walnut Ridge (one hour and six-minute drive) – In September 1964, the Beatles chose a small town in northeast Arkansas to land their plane on the way to a ranch in Missouri. Walnut Ridge was chosen because the airport had a large runway and there wouldn’t be a huge crowd waiting for them. But a group of teenagers spotted the plane, headed to the airport, and saw the “Fab Four” depart the airplane. When the Beatles returned a few days later, more than 300 people were waiting, to their surprise. And thus, Walnut Ridge became the only Arkansas community the Beatles visited, if only for a short time. Walnut Ridge has embraced the Beatles history. There is a life-size sculpture of the Beatles as they appear on the “Abbey Road” album. Nearby, the Guitar Walk, a 115-foot-long by 40-foot-wide guitar based on John Lennon’s Epiphone Casino, honors musicians that played along the historic Highway 67. Each September, the city hosts the Beatles at the Ridge festival. Businesses and storefronts throughout Walnut Ridge now sport Beatles signs, collages and caricatures year-round.
· Jonesboro (one hour 9-minute drive) – Jonesboro, one of the state's most progressive cities, was established in 1859 among the rolling hills of Crowley's Ridge in northeast Arkansas. Downtown is filled with gift shops, restaurants, art galleries, a day spa and an active civic center called the Forum. Arkansas State University offers one of the mid-South's finest museums, a fine arts center and an indoor sports/entertainment complex. The Forrest L . Wood Crowley's Ridge Nature Center provides an interesting tour of the natural wonders of the region, plus serves as a stop along Crowley's Ridge National Scenic Byway. The town is located along Davidson's Approach, a movement of U.S. General John Wynn Davidson's troops during the 1863 Little Rock Campaign, and U.S. General Frederick Steele's movement during the second phase of the Pea Ridge Campaign. These along with other historic Civil War routes and significant movements as the Trail of Tears and the Southwest Trail, are now part of the Arkansas Heritage Trails System.
· Dyess (one hour 25-minute drive) – Dyess is located about 40 miles north of West Memphis in southwestern Mississippi County and is on the Sunken Lands Cultural Roadway Loop off the Great River Road National Scenic Byway. It was established in May 1934 as “Colonization Project No. 1,” a New Deal agricultural resettlement colony to give destitute farmers a chance for a new start in life. It was named for W. R. Dyess, Arkansas's first Works Progress Administration head, who suggested the idea to the Roosevelt Administration but died in a plane crash before the project was fully implemented. The colony was laid out in a wagon-wheel design, with a community center at the hub and farms stretching out from the middle. Five hundred farmsteads were created, each with at least 20 acres, a three- to five-room farmhouse, and an adjacent barn, smokehouse, privy and chicken coop. Qualifying farm families were selected and relocated from every county in Arkansas. One such family was led by Ray and Carrie Cash, who left Kingsland in Cleveland County, Arkansas, in 1935 with their five children. Young J.R., who would eventually become known worldwide as Johnny, was only three years old when the family arrived in Dyess. Two additional children were born after their arrival. Cash would later say that many of his early songs, such as “Five Feet High and Rising” and “Pickin’ Time,” were inspired by his time in Dyess. He left the community to join the Air Force after graduating from Dyess High School in 1950.Today, Dyess remains a farming community, though it has dwindled to a population of just over 400 people, and all but a handful of the original colony houses are gone. The Cash home remains, however, and Arkansas State University purchased it in 2011 and began restoring it as it would have looked the day the Cash family moved in. Historic Dyess Colony: Johnny Cash Boyhood Home opened to the public in August 2014 and now includes restored buildings in the Colony Circle, as well as the Cash home. The Dyess Colony Visitors Center is located at the site of the former Theatre and Pop Shop and includes a gift shop, short video and exhibits. The Dyess Colony Administration Building includes exhibits about the development of the colony and the impact of Dyess on Johnny Cash and his music. The Cash home is furnished as it was when the Cash family lived there. There also is a driving tour that provides images and information at the former locations of colony buildings, including the school, hospital, cannery, cotton gin, cooperative store, café and shops, community building and other sites.
· Wilson (1 ½ hour drive) – Less than 15 miles from Dyess is the town of Wilson. Named after its founder, R.E.L Wilson, it would become one of the largest farming empires in the South. You’ll definitely want to check out the Wilson Café. With award-winning Chef Roberto Barth at the helm, the menus feature Southern food that never disappoints. The café recently added breakfast to the daily options. You can check out the menus at https://eatatwilson.com. Do some shopping at the stores located around the quaint, Tudor-inspired town square, including White’s Mercantile, owned by Holly Williams, granddaughter of the legendary Hank Williams. The shop offers everything from clothing to kitchen items, candles, Southern accents, books and more. Learn more at https://whitesmercantile.com.Across the square, you’ll find Hampson Archeological Museum State Park. The state-of-the-art facility provides visitors with many opportunities for hands-on experiences as well as visually stunning displays. The park exhibits a nationally renowned collection from the Nodena site, a 15-acre palisaded village that once thrived on the Mississippi River. Artifacts and exhibits share the story of an early aboriginal population of farmers who cultivated crops and hunted native game. The community that once lived there also created its own art, religion, and political structure. Visit the park’s website at www.arkansasstateparks.com/parks/hampson-archeological-museum-state-park.
Learn more about Hemingway’s time in Arkansas here: https://myarpbs.org/hemingway.