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The Casey House
Built by Col. Randolph Casey in 1858, this two-room “dog-trot” cabin was well designed and snugly constructed. It has survived the Civil War in the 1860s, a near-devastating tornado in 1985, and the ravages of time. Most of the building, including the foundation stones, is original. Some new wood was added during repairs from the tornado.
The building has stood on this spot through the settlement of Baxter County, the growth of Mountain Home and the establishment of the fairgrounds just outside the gate. In Casey’s time, several outbuildings surrounded the cabin. They were taken down long ago. We cherish the Casey House as gift from the past and as a reminder that history lives not only in books but in wood and stone and in the memories embedded in these old walls.
Randolph Casey, who built this “dog-trot” cabin, was born in Tennessee in 1810. After his first wife, Gilla Dean, died in 1857, he left his two married daughters behind and moved to Arkansas with his widowed mother, Catherine. Casey was following the lead of his younger brother, John, a doctor, who had settled on the banks of the North Fork River near Jacob Wolf. The two-story Wolf House still stands at Norfork and is a much loved historic landmark. John Casey later married Jacob Wolf’s daughter.
Randolph (usually called Ran) wanted to push further west. Steamboats carried settlers down the North Fork to the White River and as far as Buffalo. From there, folks traveled by wagon, horseback or on foot. Ran and his mother offloaded their belongings onto a wagon and drove the few miles to Rapp’s Barren, how Mountain Home, which was a growing settlement. He opened a tiny store, selling mostly salt, sugar, cloth and gunpowder. It was also the post office. The store is long gone, but the house he built nearby remains. It is several steps above the typical cabin of the times, with its two porches, stone fireplace (you can still see his initials and date of 1858 on the chimney outside), and glass windows.
Ran Casey, the story goes, had promised his mother that never again would she have to live in a log cabin. This house is the proof, from the handsome carved mantle (originally the house had a fireplace in each room, only one survives) to the well-fitted wooden floors. The wide dog-trot is useful for catching summer breezes and serves as extra living space in all but the coldest weather. The house is framed with squared-off logs covered by painted pine siding. The logs were milled and planed at Batesville, then shipped upriver to Shipp’s Ferry and finally delivered to the site by wagon.
Casey served as a colonel in the Confederate Army, and fought in the Battle of Pea Ridge. While home on leave, he was captured by Union soldiers, part of a small force passing through the area. They were preparing to hang Casey from a tree in his own front yard. With the noose around his neck, Casey made a secret gesture to the Union Captain, signaling that he was a member of the Masonic Lodge. Fortunately, the captain was a fellow Mason. He ordered his men to release Casey and to ride away without burning down the house.
In 1873 Baxter County was carved out of adjoining counties. Casey helped set up a county government, and court was held in his store, for which the county paid him $7.00 a month, probably a welcome contribution to the family finances. About this time, as Arkansas was near the end of the painful post-war Reconstruction period, Casey’s doctor brother, John, arrived in town. He opened the area’s first general store/pharmacy/post office on what would become the town Square when a courthouse was built in 1880.
In 1879 Casey married the much younger Elizabeth Smith. He died in 1896, leaving three sons under the age of ten. Randolph Casey’s grave can be found in the Mountain Home Cemetery, along with others of his family and those of the Wolfs. The two clans remained close through the years, with many marriages between them.
By 1909, the Casey family was gone from the dog-trot house, and it was sold for the first time. In the years to follow, it had several owners and renters, becoming ever more rundown and woebegone. By 1950 the land on which it sits had become part of the fairgrounds property. Still, nothing was done to preserve the historic cabin until locals Lloyd Fisk and Neil Nelson bought the building to keep it from being destroyed. In 1871 Fisk and Nelson convinced the county to buy the cabin with the idea of preserving it. In 1976 a federal grant provided $800.00, most of which went into a fence to protect the house from vandals.
The Historical Society stepped in to raise money for a new roof and other repairs. Most of the labor was donated. Old buildings being demolished were scoured for items such as antique glass to replace broken windows and 19th century flooring. Some materials came from the Wolf House, which was being restored at the same time. The Historical Society continues to monitor and maintain the house, helped by an annual grant from the county.