“We want you to write something about Peterpender.” Thus the assignment was given me by my mother and my sister. (They outrank me.) Well, that will be a challenge (I thought to myself), but I will have a go at it.
The first question that popped to mind was the reason for the name. Thanks to the kind assistance of Trisha King and Sandra Wilson at the Charleston public library and Mrs. Kaye Pendergrass, we have the answer to that question.
About 1890, the folks in what was then called Lone Oak community had applied for a postal permit. Since there already was a Lonoke in another part of the state (pronounced the same), the permit was denied and they were required to come up with a different designation. Folks were gathered under the big oak tree at the Pendergrass store discussing a name for the post office.
During the dialog, Dr. Keith Hudson rode up and suggested that they name the post office after Peter Pindar, the noted satirist of days gone by. (Peter Pindar was the pen name of John Wolcot, an English writer who died in 1819.) That name was not likely to be duplicated. Although the suggestion evoked some laughter, time was of the essence, and no one else had a better nomination. Evidently the idea caught on, the spelling was adjusted, and the town identity was born.
You will see variations of the spelling of the community name. Sometimes it is one word, sometimes two. However, from the information Mrs. Pendergrass gave me, I gather that the “correct” spelling from the beginning seems to have been Peterpender (one word) with the vowels in Pindar changed to e’s. (Since there is no municipal government to punish me, hopefully public scorn is the worst I will suffer if I am wrong about that.)
The focal point of the community today is the headquarters of Pendergrass Cattle Co., Inc. Basically it comprises the intersections of Highways 288 and 60 with Highway 41. Just go north from Highway 22 at Branch and you will be there in no time.
In trying to figure out just how large greater metropolitan Peterpender might be, I took some time to drive down each highway about a half mile from the Pendergrass headquarters to count the houses. I noticed nine homes. If you were to extend the “city limits” to a mile, I figure that number would at least double.
Mrs. Pendergrass said that some people who live a fairly good distance from the farm still say that they come from Peterpender. That is not an unusual practice. Folks in Arkansas will generally say they come from the closest community that has a name. (By interesting contrast, I have noticed that rural people in Georgia and Alabama tend to say they come from a certain county instead of a certain town.)
Most small communities suffered as modern transportation shortened the trip to the larger towns, and no doubt that happened with Peterpender. It takes only a few minutes now to reach downtown Branch. At one time there were a cotton gin, two stores, a blacksmith shop and a barber shop located in Peterpender, but no more. The post office stayed open until the 1920s, when it was absorbed by the Charleston office.
A few weeks back I wrote about the community of Maggie on Highway 10 in Logan County. Today no highway sign exists showing where it was. However, there is a sign for Peterpender, and so the hamlet lives on. There are perhaps as many homes within what once would have been considered Maggie, but when the sign went down, the town went down in people’s minds, especially with Blue Mountain so close at hand.
My mother grew up south of Malvern, and they got their mail through the Rolla post office. Eventually it was consolidated into the larger facility in Malvern, and Rolla became just a spot on the map. I think there is still a highway sign marking the theoretical community, but little else beyond a house or two. That story could be repeated countless times in the history of small places in Arkansas.