Listed in Arkansas Register of Historic Places on 12/02/98
The circa 1899 Reverend Lee James House was a part of the late 19th century African-American community of Texarkana. It was built by Baptist Reverend Lee James to serve as a boarding house for working class residents employed by the railroad. The Reverend Lee James House is being nominated to the Arkansas Register with local significance under Criterion A as it is the only structure remaining from the late 19th century African-American neighborhood of Iron Mountain. The building has undergone extensive alterations which preclude it from listing on the National Register.
The railroad had a direct influence on the formation of Miller County and the city of Texarkana, Arkansas. Prior to the Civil War the county of Miller had existed but it was dissolved and annexed to Lafayette County by Governor James Sevier Conway because of his perception that county residents lacked patriotism. (Some Miller Countians displayed loyalty to the independent republic of Texas to the west.) The act to establish the county was approved in 1874 after the railroad began surveying the state. The Cairo and Fulton Railway began surveying in 1856 but the Civil War brought an end to any surveying activity until 1873. The Cairo and Fulton later became the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway.
Surveyors for the Cairo and Fulton reached the Texas state line in 1856 and camped in Texarkana. It is thought that a member of the company, Colonel Calvin Hervey suggested bringing together parts of the three state names that converged around the county - Tex-as, Ark-ansas and Louisi-ana. Despite there being no land platted or substantial structures the area was known as Texarkana for years thereafter. Another theory for the city's namesake is attributed to a boat on the Red River by the name of the "Texarkana." The land was owned by the railway and as the rails were nearing completion in the fall of 1873 settlers began to camp out in the area in tents. In that year the railway began to plat a town with streets running parallel to their tracks near the state line and the Arkansas city of Texarkana was incorporated in 1880.
The railway boom during the years 1882 and 1888 contributed to a period of great growth in the city. Nine railway lines were centered in Texarkana, among them the Iron Mountain Railway. The Iron Mountain Railway line owned the bulk of the land in that area and most of the houses constructed there were occupied by railway employees. The area was originally known as the Iron Mountain Addition but in later years it became the Pine Hill Addition. The street of Pinehurst, where the Reverend Lee James House is located, was outside the city limits until well after the turn of the century. The bulk of the population was African-American but the neighborhood was integrated. The addition was largely undeveloped during the 1920s and 1930s but the area did include a grocery store owned by a local family and several African-American churches, one of which was the Lonoke Baptist Church.
The church was presided over by the Reverend Lee James from 1917 to about 1923. The Reverend had a boarding house constructed on what was then Lincoln Avenue to house middle-income African-American families. He was a resident of the Iron Mountain Addition and is listed as such in the city directory of 1912, which is the first year his name appears, but there is no street address for the family. The street of Pinehurst first appears in the city directories in 1912. From that year to 1917, Lee James was listed as a laborer and farmer and by 1927 he was listed as a carpenter. The James family disappears from the city directories until 1937 when he is listed as living on Booker Street. The current owners, the Jamison family, came to Texarkana in 1943 from Lewisville and rented a room until the early 1950s. They bought the boarding house in the late 1970s. The Jamison's daughter has been attempting to maintain the house which was empty for many years.
The Reverend Lee James House on Pinehurst in Texarkana is being nominated to the Arkansas Register under Criterion A as a surviving example of the type of housing seen in the late 19th century predominately African-American neighborhood of the Iron Mountain Addition. The addition was constructed on land owned by the Iron Mountain Railway and was home to many early employees of the rail line. The neighborhood grew as a result of the inroads made by the railway and was part of the great growth afforded by the railroad. The boarding house has undergone many structural changes which prevent it from placement on the National Register but it retains its essential form and status as a remnant of one of the earlier developments of Texarkana.
Information submitted by Jeraldine Jamison Parker, Gaithersburg, MD. 1998.
Information submitted by Jamie Simmons, Texarkana Museums System, Texarkana, TX. 1998.
Lucas, Reverend Silas Emmett, Jr. "The Goodspeed Biographical and Historical Memoirsof Central Arkansas." Goodspeed Publishing Company, Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis, 1889: 181.