Names: Caddo Gap (Centerville)
First Settled: 1830s
Famous: DeSoto's most westward visit
Population: not inc. town so not listed
To Do: Canoe, fish, swim, hike
Travel tip: Turn at the 240 Jct. and visit the Hopper area while you are in the Caddo Gap area. See the historic Hopper church/school, and the old “Narrows” swimming hole.
Home to Caddo Cottage B & B & Veronika's Cabin and Arrowhead Canoe & Cabin Rentals.
Caddo Gap History
Caddo Gap was first named Centerville for the post office which was located there. The first business on record was a gristmill, constructed in 1851 by Ballam Strawn. This mill was located on the lower section of the Narrows, on the Caddo River. After suffering losses during several floods Mr. Strawn moved the mill closer to his house, and placed it over a natural spring.
The area was first settled by Indians, then Negro people who were set free during the Civil War, and then by the white settlers.
In 1842, Bounty Land Warrants were given to persons who served in the United States military. Officers were given up to 160 acres which took in the area known today as Caddo Gap. However, when a Mr. Kown was granted the land where the town now stands he found out the land was on the west side of the Caddo River he told the government he didn't want it and turned the land back.
Drue Allen Wallace received a patent for this 160 acres when he was only twenty-nine. He and his young wife Tanie, twenty-seven, moved to the wilderness which later became the town of Caddo Gap.
Personal tragedies, feuds, marriages, lawsuits, and rugged frontier living are all woven through the town's history. Moonshining was the cause of many skirmishes, and more than one murder.
It is said that the Cole Younger and Jesse James gangs used the area for a hideout when "doing business" in Hot Springs. They cut over through the mountain pass on their way back into Indian Territory, now Oklahoma.
By 1900, Caddo Gap had grown to a population of several hundred. The town, built around a grove of trees, had five dwellings and four stores. There were two hotels and a company store.
Today there is only the old Gap Mercantile located just off Highway 8, East, and the new post office, located near the Indian monument.
Be sure to visit this one-of-a-kind old mercantile, the Indian monument, and notice the old tin covered building across from the Indian which has a Coca Cola ghost sign on it (regrettably, this has been destroyed). During the early part of this century sign painters were hired to paint huge billboard-like signs on buildings of all types. These signs have been painted over or worn to a dim silhouette through time. You can faintly see the beautiful hand lettering and make out some of the description on these old signs. Popular ads included coca Cola, flour and tobacco products, and ads for professional such as doctors or dentists.
If you find one take a picture, as these signs are a rare sight and have all but disappeared.
There is a wonderful example of a ghost sign in Mount Ida. This sign was used in a recent movie shot in several locations in Montgomery County, including Mount Ida and Caddo Gap. The movie, The White Water Kid, staring Randy Travis, was scheduled to be released in the fall of 1999, but was not released until several months later. It may be out on video by now..
Caddo Gap's Indian
At the forks of the road in front of the post office at Caddo Gap, is the bronze figure of an Indian nine feet in height, mounted on a tall pedestal of native stone. The Indian has his right hand raised, giving the friendship sign, but history tells a different story. The inscription on the marble tablet in the face of the pedestal reads:
Here DeSoto reached his most westward point in the United States. Here was the capitol of the warlike Tulu tribe of Indians who fiercely fought DeSoto and his men. Relics found in this vicinity suggest the romance of past centuries about which history will ever be meager and incomplete.
Arkansas State History Commission, 1936
The monument, built in 1936, was a WPA project initiated by Attorney Osro Cobb of Little Rock (formerly of Caddo Gap) after he had been appointed by the President of the United States to serve on the Arkansas State Relief Commission.
During the planning stage of the monument, Cobb and Colonel John R. Fordyce of Hot Springs (Vice Chairman of the National DeSoto Commission created by Congress to research Hernando DeSoto's explorations) had professionals transcribe and research DeSoto's journals, which had been kept by the three scribes accompanying him. It was determined to the Commission's satisfaction that Caddo Gap was the most westward point in DeSoto's expeditions and that he and his forces were defeated by the Indians after a three-day (bloody) battle.
Over a thousand persons attended the dedication of the monument on Saturday, May 22, 1937. The principal speaker was Governor Carl E. Bailey. Chief Gray Horse, an Apache living at Hot Springs, gave an Indian benediction. After the benediction, the governor and the chief smoked the peace pipe to assure peace in the valley, "so long as grass grows green and the water of the river runs to the sea."
For forty-two years this Tula (Caddo) brave stood watching over Caddo Gap. Thousands of tourists stopped to read the inscription and to take pictures. Then, in 1978, following a severe storm, it lay in a crumpled heap at the foot of the pedestal, completely beyond repair.
The Caddo Gap Indian Monument Restoration Project Committee, headed by Caddo Gap native Jewel Davis, began the tremendous task of restoring the Indian. Three thousand five-hundred dollars had to be raise locally before the Arkansas Arts Council could fund the remaining money. After the local citizenry raised its share, the AAC selected Guy Tillman, a Hot Springs artist, to cast a new bronze Indian. For several months, Tillman and four apprentices worked on the project at Henderson State University, in Arkadelphia, the only place in the area with a foundry adequate for the job.
After completion, the new Indian was place on the old pedestal and a second dedication was held on Sunday September 21, 1980. Governor Bill Clinton (later President Bill Clinton) made the dedication address. Judge Cobb gave a brief history of the first Indian, and Mrs. Davis made a thank-you speech.
But the Indian was not complete. A young man who happened by the crumpled Indian had removed the feather from his head and the new Indian was bare headed. When a picture of the new Indian was printed in a local paper and the youngster (now grown) saw he was bareheaded, he came forward, admitted his crime, and presented the feather to be reattached. so, the Caddo Gap Indian is once again complete and stands sentry over the small community greeting tourists and bidding a warm, friendly welcome.
This "young boy" has recently returned to Caddo Gap to construct a beautiful park near the monument, as well to renovate an old home place as a beautiful bed & breakfast. Be sure to stop for a few minutes of peaceful meditation in this lovely little park. And, if you want to spend the night there are several lodging choices in the area of Caddo Gap and the Narrows. Click here for a list.
Source: Most of this story was written by Glovon Rayburn Orrell for the Montgomery County History Book Vol. 1. For information on ordering the book write Montgomery County Historical Society, P. O. Box 6, Mount Ida, AR 71937