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This site, as well as the Bella Vista Historical Society, would like to be contacted by anyone who would like to share their stories about
Bella Vista in any decade of the 1900ís from the Linebarger days, through the Keith days, up to and including the Cooper days. 
If you, or a loved one, has a story to share, please call Carole Harter at 479-640-8336 or
 bellavistamuseum@gmail.com and/or dustie@dustie.art
If you'd rather WATCH a video about the history of Bella Vista, click the WATCH link to view a Youtube "Shout Out" video created by
Northwest Arkansas's Shiloh Museum, featuring a delightful tour by Xyta Lucas (co president of the Bella Vista Historical Society).

Xyta gives a thorough overview of the Bella Vista History Museum. The museum is full of fascinating physical bits and pieces from the
past, which when stitched together, create a rich visual tapestry of over 100 years of history leading to our Beautiful Bella Vista of today!

Early Arkansas, In Beauty They Walked....

As was the case throughout the US, the history of Bella Vista, Arkansas begins with the Native Americans who lived and hunted here in the Ozarks.  Artifacts have been found throughout the area, many of which are on display at the Bella Vista, Museum located at the bottom of Kingsland Road on 71 highway.

Arkansas, in it's entirety, was part of the Louisiana Purchase arranged by then president, Thomas Jefferson, with the French, who laid claim to the lands.  After the purchase, settlers began migrating from the east and settling in the area.  Arkansas became the 25th state of the United States on June 15, 1836.

Arkansas, as a cotton growing state, was a slave holding state, fighting on the side of the south during the Civil War.  Battles and skirmishes took place throughout Arkansas, two of the largest right here in Northwest Arkansas.  The Siege of Fayetteville and the Battle of Pea Ridge.  The Pea Ridge National Military park is 4300 acres and honors the men who fought and died there, on both sides of the battle. 

For a very comprehensive look at the battles and skirmishes fought by the Arkansas Militia Click Here.

After the war, more and more settlers moved into the area, mostly in Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville.  The OZARK hills in the far NW corner of the state, with it's rocky grounds and dense Oak/Hickory forests, made living in the the area very difficult. Early in the settlement of this area the sparse population was made up of small homesteads spaced a goodly distance apart.

Those same OZARK hills that made farming and getting around difficult, however, allowed for lush forests and beautiful scenery, which did not go unnoticed. 

An Eye For Beauty!  Many eyes in fact...

Before the widespread use of air conditioning, and with the widespread use of the automobile, attractive lush green places with lots of trees and cool spring water were in demand.  Especially if they were accessible by road.  The Valley in the midst of the OZARK Hills in Northwest Arkansas fit the bill perfectly.

At least that was the thoughts of various visionaries, each doing their part to bring this beautiful area of the Ozarks to the attention of first hundreds, and then thousands of people!

The Bakers

The first of those visionaries was Presbyterian Minister,  Rev. William Baker and his wife, Mary.  They inherited some property in the area and visualized sharing it with others by creating a resort.  They started by building a dam across Sugar Creek and plotted a subdivision with the intention of selling Lots.  It's around this time that the name, Bella Vista, was first used, a Spanish name meaning beautiful view.

The Bakers had early success and in anticipation of further growth, they created the Smith-Baker Land Company.   It wasn't long before their efforts were noticed by land developers from Arkansas's neighbors in the south, Texas.  In 1916 the Bakers decided to sell Bell Vista, most likely because the offer to purchase was just too lucrative to turn down.

The Linebarger Brothers

Although the new owners currently lived in from Dallas, they had actually grown up in Northwest Arkansas.  With the purchase of the Bella Vista resort,  The Linebarger Brothers felt they were coming home!

The brothers were successful real estate developers in Texas, having built and developed the town of Tomball, Texas.   Forest W., Clayton C., and Clarence A. Linebarger were ready for a new venture and Bella Vista was right up their Alley!

For the next 35 Years the Brother's expanded Bella Vista into a 1st class resort, attracting summer visitors from throughout the United States!   After the resort was well established the two older brothers went back to Dallas to run the Real Estate interests there, leaving the youngest brother, C. A. Linebarger, in Bella Vista to oversea the day to day business of the Bella Vista Resort!  

Under C.A.'s guidance thousands of visitors found a summer Mecca, away from the unbearable heat and stuffiness of larger cities.  Often whole families would come to Bella Vista to stay the summer, while the husbands would stay in the cities and come to Bella Vista to visit their families on the weekends. 

Just as today many Bella Vistians head to Florida or South Texas during the winter, then families did the same, only reversing the seasons, leaving their homes in the summer to excape the heat, and returning in winter.

During the Linebarger years C.A. was directly responsible for the development of the Sunset Hotel and the Wonderland Cave nightclub, both hotspots during the heyday of the "Linebarger" years of Bella Vista, Arkansas. 



An original old cabin built in the early 1900s in Bella Vista, which which now sits on the grounds of  The Bella Vista History Museum.  It's been furnished with period pieces and is open for viewing when docents are available and during special programs throughout the year.

Change was in the wind....The E.L. Keith Years

After WWII, better roads and more reliable automobiles encouraged the growth of  roadside hotels and inns. Americans began traveling the highways and byways, heading to far away places they couldn't easily have reached just a few short years earlier.  More and more families were, forgoing spending summers at a time at inclusive resorts, opting instead to take "vacations" to places like The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, and Niagra Falls. 

The older Linebargers had, by now, passed along most their interests in Bella Vista to C.A. and he saw the handwriting on the wall.  C.A. decided it was time to hunt for a new owner of the Bella Vista resort and to retire himself.

The timing couldn't have been better for Cave Springs resident and businessman, E.L. Keith.  Keith had just finished developing a small recreation area around a lake he had named for himself, Keith Lake, and was ready to take on a larger project.  He found that project in the aging Bella Vista Resort.  C.A. Linebarger could now spend his days fishing his beloved Sugar Creek and sharing a brew with lifelong friends in the Village, leaving the resort business up to It's new owner!

E.L. enjoyed his new project for 10 years, pouring his soul, as well as his money, into the resort, improving many of the amenities. Keith deepened and further developed Lake Bella Vista, rebuilt the concrete pool which had fallen into disrepair in the later Linebarger years and increased operations of the popular riding stables (now the site of Cooper Elementary School), expanding the riding herd to as many as 40 horses that were imported for the summer seasons. 

He built a grocery store, a 30 unit Motel, and a popular restaurant along highway 71 which attracted more then simply resort visitors.   Keith also added to his property holdings by buying additional acreage with the intentions of building a housing subdivision.

According to the 1960s brochure above, Bella Vista is ideally located in Mid-America's beautiful OZARK Mountains and is one of the Nation's finest communities.  It fulfills your vacation dreams with a full range of outdoor activities with social and recreational facilities for every age.  

Keith loved his Bella Vista resort, but it is true what they say...everything has a price!  No one knew this better then the owner of an organization called, the Cherokee Village Development Company.  They had been scouting for an area of the county in which to develop a recreation/retirement community with a view to the future when they learned of Keith's Bella Vista resort.

Although Keith sold after only a decade of being the guiding force of Bella Vista's growth (making a tidy profit for his efforts), he never regretted the move. Like C. A. Linebarger before him, E.L Keith remained a staunch supporter of Bella Vista and of all the growth  that was happening in Bella Vista during the Cooper years! 

He could often be seen walking the trails, fishing in the lakes and waving to new comers and olbies with a smile!

An Eye For Beauty and The Future!  The Cooper Years....

Bella Vista, Arkansas County Club

Awash with the success of  the real estate development venture, Cherokee Village, Arkansas, John Cooper Sr. was scouting Northwest Arkansas with the idea of another vacation and retirement resort in mind. Having hunted and fished this beautiful area of the Ozarks, this area was a natural choice for John Cooper, Sr.  It's said that when John Cooper stood on one of the ridges of the Ozark hills here in Bella Vista, his vision was as large Bella Vista is today! 

Far seeing, even before he signed on the dotted line to purchase the Bella Vista resort from E.L. Keith, the Cherokee Village Development Company began buying up farms and land north of the current village on both the east and west sides of highway 71.  It's said that didn't stop buying until they owned an estimated 16,000 acres. 

Cooper's purchase of the "old" Bella Vista Resort was completed in 1963, giving Cooper the right to use the Bella Vista name and it's reputation, both crucial when Cooper began advertising lots for sale in this new planned community of his! 

Everything that we experience today, the magnificent golf course, the beautiful lakes, the Country Club, Roidan Hall, Metfield Clubhouse, Branchwood Clubhouse, Loch Lomond Marina and Clubhouse, the tennis courts, the walking trails...the life we all live here in Bella Vista....all of it is because of the vision of John Cooper Sr. which was carried on by John Cooper Jr.





Buy the BOOK "From Vision to Reality; A History of Bella Vista Village from 1915 - 1993" brand new direct from the Bella Vista History Museum being sold through Amazon.com with all proceeds benefiting the Historical Society.


The Cherokee Village Development company went onto become Cooper Communities, Inc., and, although Bella Vista is no longer owned by CCI, they still own much of the undeveloped land west of Forest Hills Blvd. as well as most the commercial land throughout Bella Vista.    

Eventually and inevitably, and as a direct result brought about by changes in the Village by John Cooper Sr the village of Bella Vista outgrew it's "resort" mentality and, by a vote of the village residents and lot owners, became a full fledged city, the City of Bella Vista, on November 7, 2006. 

Bella Vista has come a very long way since the Bakers first built their dam across Sugar Creek and created Lake Bella Vista.   

I think if they could see us today, the Rev. William and Mary Baker, F. W., C. C., C. A. (and his wife, Regina) Linebarger,  E. L. and Ilda Keith and John. A. and Mildred B. Cooper couldn't help but be proud of being a part of such a dynamic and beautiful community as Bella Vista, Arkansas!


Above is a painting and below is a photograph of the Bella Vista Riding Stables which was torn down in 2006 to make way for Bella Vista Elementary School, the 1st school built in Bella Vista..

This large barn was part of the old Knot's farm and an important feature of the Bella Vista resort from the early days, serving as a riding stables both during the Keith and Cooper years.  The location of the stables today is now home to Cooper elementary school.

Click on the painting or photograph to see the larger image of this wonderful historical painting by local artist, Charles Harrington.


The Bella Vista Historical Museum has more history on its website, please check it out at www.bellavistamuseum.org


This old postcard is of an old view along old highway 100 shot looking
south near the intersection of what is now Wellington and 71.

A bit of history still standing in Old Bella Vista, at least in 2009. 
This sign is on one of the hillside gravel roads in the old part of
Bella Vista, across 71 hwy from Bella Vista Lake.

The Original Sunset Hotel on the hill above 71 hwy, across the road from Bella Vista Lake.  Hard to believe
the land in front of the lake was used to graze livestock during the Linebarger and the early Cooper years.

Thanks to Xyta Lucas and the Bella Vista History Museum for the use of this old photo.


A special thank you to the Morguefile.com and to the following photographers
Mary R. Vogt from Siloam Springs, Arkansas ( turtlehawk2002@yahoo.com)
 and ABP Photos ( abpphotos@yahoo.com), and lenasinging2000

Information for this history came from reading writings at the Bella Vista Historical Museum
as well as by reading the  books "The Bella Vista Story" by the Bella Vista Historical Society
and  "From Vision to Reality: A history of Bella Vista from 1915 - 1993" by Gilbert Fife,
both which are available at the Bella Vista Historical Museum!

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