Hardy's past set the precedent for today's tourism popularity

HARDY, AR (KAIT) - Clayton and Forty Islands were two names that residents wanted to name Hardy, but after a strong endorsement by his boss for saving his life in a railroad workers brawl, the town was named Hardy after James A. Hardy Jr.

Hardy Junior was Batesville transplant and manager of the railroad construction camp which was located across from Forty Islands.

Hardy was officially founded in 1883 on 600 acres along the river. Clayton Walker walked the area and plotted the town.

In its early days, Hardy was isolated from the county seat in Evening Shade because of the river and the poor condition of roads at that time. That problem was solved in1894 when the town officially became the county seat for the Northern district and a courthouse was built.

Being a county seat lasted until 1963 when the county offices moved to Ash Flat.

The Spring River has always been an attraction and detriment to the town as it still is today. A flood in 1915 took out the old bridge and damaged businesses along the river.

At one time there were roller and grist mills on the river, and briefly a cotton gin, as well as a liquor warehouse, but Sharp County went dry in 1944.

Other businesses in Hardy primarily have been located on Main Street and Front Street. Many of the old buildings still remain including a bit of the old court house and many of the old stores.

Guthrie Castle remembers what it was like when he was young. "It was just a very nice country town. The people were very friendly and yet at the same time all the Memphis people were different to say the least."

Hardy is surrounded by high bluffs; just to the North of Hardy is a high bluff a favorite of lovers and people looking for great views. The Biggers Homestead House, now a bed and breakfast that commands an incredible view of the river and the valley below. From the guest gazebo you can see people floating and playing in the river.

On the Southern side of the river is Whapeton Hill. This hill was probably the beginnings of the real commercial tourist trade to the area.

The first inn was built by Memphis doctor George Buford who discovered the beauty of the hill when he and his wife were stranded in Hardy when their train broke down.

The 1930's brought Memphians to Whapeton Hill as a "get away" from the big city. They came by train, the "Kansas City Florida Special" operated by the Frisco Railroad.

Castle, "My father made arrangements during the summer to stop the train here on Friday evening and then going back, stop very early in the morning on Monday."

Castle said the first thing his father, a Memphis banker, would do after getting off the train on Friday nights would be to go swimming in the river. Castle said his 92 year old aunt still has a cabin on the hill and goes swimming when she visits.

There have been two inns built on top of the hill, although both burned. A favorite of the Memphians was the stately Whapeton Inn run by Guthrie Castles' grandmother Della.

Castle, "What made it popular was the river. They came here for the joy of playing in the river and the tennis courts and the square dances at night and those kinds of things that were hard to come by in those days." Castle said his family never really made any money at the inn owing to the short "season" from the first of June to the end of September.  But now he echoes many modern Hardy business people that if the inn was still there it would do well, "now I think that it would be different with the spring and the fall is better known over here and people come."

Hardy may never be an industrial hub but its history of popularity as a tourist area and a great place to live will keep it moving into the future.

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