The final direct male descendant of Dr. Steve and Janetta Chism’s visited the Chism House for the first time last week.
A native of Seattle, Wash., Bill Chism said he had never been to Arkansas until last Monday morning, but because he was already planning a trip to Oklahoma City, he thought he should make a drive into the little town in western Arkansas named for his family.
The great-great-grandson of Dr. Stepheb and Janetta Chism, Bill Chism said he has been aware of the Chism House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is believed to be the oldest remaining two-story dog trot house in Arkansas, his entire life.
Chism’s father, Ben Chism was, as a child, brought by his father, Alva Titsworth Chism to view the home in Chismville, Bill Chism said.
Alva Titsworth Chism was born in 1885 and was alive when Bill Chism was born in 1952. Alva Chism is the son of Ben Boone Chism, who was a son of Dr. Steve and Janetta Chism.
Ben Boone Chism had three daughters and three sons, Bill Chism explains. One son died as an infant, a second son had only daughters and the other, Alva Chism, had only one son and one daughter. That son, Ben Chism is Bill Chism’s father.
Bill Chism, who will turn 62 in November, has no children.
The home, which Dr. Chism built as a wedding present for his first wife, Janetta Logan – the daughter of the man for whom Logan County is named – was built in about 1845 and while it continued to stand, it became so dilapidated it was one of the first historic properties named to a list of endangered historic places.
Though the fireplaces have not been rebuilt as yet, Paul Glidewell of Booneville, at the behest of current owner Missy Revely, has restored the property to its former glory using as much of the original timber as possible.
When necessary Glidewell supplemented original material with other which met a stringent criteria to keep the home as authentic as possible in relation to when it was built. Gildewell did so utilizing period era tools.
The reconstruction was atop a foundation and did contain, however, amenities such as electricity and running water, unavailable to the Chism’s during the Civil War era in which the home was built.
Apprised of the project by a friend in Missouri, Bill Chism also tracked the progress of the restoration project through a website established about the project. While here he was given a compact disc of images of the project and several captured of the home over time.
"I’m very impressed with Paul’s work," Bill Chism said. "While I was in Oklahoma City I toured some of the tornado damage and the way this house looked I’m amazed it stood. It looks really good inside now."
While visiting the home, accompanied by Glidewell and archaeologist Larry Porter, who did extensive work at the site, Bill Chism also visited a grave of Dr. Chism’s second wife, Elizabeth Danley Chism, with whom he had two children, Danley and Jessica. He also visited the grave sites of relatives buried in Oak Wood Cemetery in Paris.
That is a long way from Washington. Bill Chism said it is his understanding his grandfather’s brother went to Idaho to work in mines and his grandfather later followed him there before moving on to Seattle where his father would be born in 1928, and ultimately himself.
But with a town named for his family and a county named from the father of his great-great-grandmother, Bill Chism figures he will return to the area.
"I’m going to make it a point to come down here more often, like once a year and roam around the county," the retired Boeing employee said.