Vol. IX, No. 2, 1996


Bull Shoals--From Dream to Reality

by Linda Masters



Editors Note: Bull Shoals, Arkansas is a new town, celebrating its 50th birthday this year. It came into being with the construction of the Bull Shoals Dam and the creation of the big lake on what had been the White River. OzarksWatch asked Linda Masters, a Bull Shoals businesswoman and correspondent for the Baxter Bulletin of Mountain Home, Arkansas. to provide us with a brief history of the town.

He was a dreamer. A man with a vision dancing in his mind's eye of a town unfolding across the sparsely populated north Arkansas land dotted with tobacco fields. A town he dreamed would boom into a city of 3500 within a few years. He was C. S. Woods, Sr., known as "Pappy," developer, founder, and the father of Bull Shoals, Arkansas.

Early in the 1940s, Woods, an experienced developer, set up a real estate business in Harrison, Ark. Just waiting to be in the right place at the right time, he sold land all across northern Arkansas from his of-lice in a hotel for anywhere from $1.25 to $3.00 per acre.

His patience paid off when rumors began to circulate the federal government was going to build a dam on the White River for flood control. Woods wanted to be in the action, so he chose a spot known as Newton Flat as the site to culminate his dream. Newton Flat was in Marion County on the White River. It would be the nearest point on land to the new dam and would have water on three sides when the lake was filled.

Bull Shoals Dam was authorized in 1941, but World War II intervened. Actual construction did not begin until June, 1947. Those few years gave Woods time to set about the business of making his dream become a reality.

Convinced the massive dam and lake would be a tourist drawing card, in 1945 he formed a corporation, obtained $10,000 from investors and got busy buying up land from farmers on Newton Flat. He purchased 17 farms, totaling approximately 1,200 acres.

Woods was not a novice at development. He had spent 46 years in real estate sales and development. This was to be his 15th town, added to a long list of towns he had helped create in Georgia and Texas.

In 1946, Charles S. Woods, Jr. moved his family to Yellville so he could become part of a father-son development duo. Along with Charles, Jr. came his wire, Marguerite and 15 month-old daughter, Lynn. Daughter Marte was born in 1949, just after the family moved into a homestead in Bull Shoals.

Marguerite remembers her husband's sense of humor as they left the paved road at Harrison, heading toward Yellville in a cloud of dust on less-than-gravel roads. "Don't worry honey," he told her, "we'll swing in the last few miles on a grapevine."

When they reached the new town, she stepped out of the car into a deep layer of fine, silty dust, similar to talcum powder. Her husband at her side, however, oblivious to less-than-perfect conditions, was excitedly rambling on about what building was going to be built where.

So, Pappy Woods and Charles, Jr. undertook the task of development, starting from scratch. Marguerite says her father-in-law and husband walked every inch of the peninsula plotting out and mapping streets on the back of a brown paper bag.

On August 15, 1946, Pappy filed a plat in Marion County Courthouse, officially recording a street plan for his new town, the first legal document bearing the name Bull Shoals, Arkansas.

The original town had 21 miles of streets, 131 blocks and 2,076 individual lots. Lots sold from $125 up to $1,000 for those with a potential lake view. Today the town has over 40 miles of streets.

Following their paper-bag blueprint, the two men staked out, bulldozed, cleared, and burned brush, trees, and stumps to physically create the streets. All streets were at least 60 feet wide, with three principal streets, Central Boulevard, East Broadway, and West Broadway (now renamed C.S. Woods Boulevard) 100 feet wide. They put down nine miles of gravel and a three-mile stretch in the center was blacktopped. It is estimated Pappy spent over $65,000 on street development.

C.S. "Pappy" Woods, Sr., developer of Bull Shoals, Ark.

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Taking an active part in these early years of development were Jack and Edith Strahan. Jack was kind of an unofficial partner with Pappy and did much of the physical layout and clearing work. Edith was Woods' secretary, but became also a salesperson and broker.

After tacking a sign to a tree and opening the first real estate office, Pappy built a tower-like structure in the center of town to serve as headquarters of the Ozarks White River Company, Inc. Offices were later located in Flippin and Mountain Home. From the three-story observation tower, potential buyers could get a good view of most of the town, picking out the area where they would most like to own.

In 1947, when actual construction began on the dam, things began to pick up. Buildings were built at the south edge of town to house those who supervised dam construction. This part of town is still known to long-time residents as "Super City."

With the addition of these supervisors and workers, the need for services became greater. The lack of modern conveniences didn't stop anyone from going into business. A cafe opened across the street from Mae Proctor's home on Central Boulevard. "The cafe was lit with kerosene lanterns at night since there wasn't any electricity," she says. Slowly but surely, however, a town began to take shape.

C.J. Petrick arrived to operate a cabin camp. George Tulipana came from Kansas City to open a service station. G.O. Tilley, who was reared in Marion County, moved back from Oklahoma to start the first fishing dock, moving it as often as needed as the lake began to hold water.

Ralph and Rosalie Batchelder came from Texas in 1947 to start a tourist court, and she became the first postmaster. Pappy built a building with an apartment above for himself and his wife, Carolyn. Part of the lower floor became the post of-rice in 1949; the other section became a drug store. Today, the town has moved to its third post office building, and daughter-in-law Marguerite lives in the family apartment.

Dave Hart opened a restaurant and Mr. and Mrs. Head a grocery store. Everett and Bobbie Crow, along with partner Jim Barnes, picked out a spot off the blacktop to build Crow-Barnes Resort, overlooking what would be the lake. Charles and Lenore Tancre moved from Ohio and lived at least one winter in tents while he constructed the cabins which would become Down-in-the Holler Resort.

Orville Mears, who was born in a cabin whose location is now deep under the waters of the lake, and Claudelle Tilley remember as youngsters being thrilled when an occasional airplane would land in town. Dam engineers who would fly in landed in the only suitable spot--smack dab in the middle of downtown Bull Shoals, near the real estate office and observation tower.

Betty Grissum and Allan Morrow were the first couple married in Bull Shoals at the United Methodist Church in 1952. Randolph and Juanita Smith, who operated a ceramic shop, were the first couple to have a child born in Bull Shoals.

After the initial job of developing was underway, Pappy left building and construction to those who were expert at those trades and turned his efforts to one of his strengths --publicizing the town and drawing potential buyers to the area.

A NEW TOWN WHICH HAS A GREAT FUTURE. This was how he advertised his creation. He told people that the location of the town, right on the edge of the now-filling Bull Shoals Lake, provided opportunities not found in other communities. He created demand by continually reporting how many lots were sold and how few were still available, explaining that the population would be limited by the natural terrain in which the town was located. His advertising ingenuity attracted scores of tourists and those seeking new homesites to the town.

Not satisfied, Pappy continued to search for ways to draw throngs of people to the area. One of his ideas was to make Bull Shoals the greatest flowering garden in the Ozarks. He planted over 10,000 tulip and daffodil bulbs and some 5,000 gladioli along the main city streets to create a profusion of blooming color. Fifty years later, in the spring, random patches of tulips and daffodils dot the streets.

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He urged residents to pick a particular kind of flowering shrub so everyone could plant the same kind. Tourists, he said, would travel out of their way to visit Bull Shoals to see the flowering gardens.

Work on the dam and the town continued. A road was built across the top of the dam, connecting Baxter and Marion counties. The road was not part of the original plans, but its inclusion gave a boost to the town by making it more accessible.

The dam was completed in 1951. No less than President Harry Truman came to dedicate the dam in 1952. More and more people interested in the area and the newly created lake came to look into business opportunities.

Telephone service arrived in Bull Shoals in 1952. Ray and Mille Sanders started a telephone company with two pay phones, one of which was nailed to a tree. Another phone was soon located at Woods' real estate office, and for several years these three phones were the only ones in town. The Sanders' business venture eventually became Northern Arkansas Telephone Company which continues to serve communities throughout this part of the state.

When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to lease contracts to conduct business on the newly formed lake, G.O Tilley moved his boat dock off the lake and down to the White Riven George and Mary Harlow arrived in Bull Shoals to start the first commercial boat dock, which is operated today by the John Eastwold family.

In addition to selling land for his own gain, Pappy and his family were civic minded. The Woods families, Gus McCracken, and L.R. Johnson donated land for the construction of a community building which was completed with the help of much donated labor by members of the Chamber of Commerce.

Pappy later promoted nightly square dances and other community activities which were held in the building. Today the building is called The Meeting Place, sits next to a new city municipal building, and is used for senior citizen activities.

The Woods families also offered donations of land to any religious denomination which would build a church. Groups of Presbyterian-minded and Methodist-minded folk accepted the offer in 1947 and 1948, respectively, and in the early 1950s built the Bull Shoals Presbyterian and the United Methodist churches.

The town also had a one-room schoolhouse. "I wouldn't take a million dollars for the education my children got in that little one-room school," Marguerite Woods says today. Eventually the school consolidated with Flippin, Arkansas public schools.

A fire department was organized by Les Grissum in 1953, starting with a 1947 Ford tanker and backpacks donated by the U.S. Forestry Service. Grissum served as fire chief until 1970. "For 17 years," his daughter, Betty Morrow, says, "the one-and-only fire phone rang in our house."

The town was officially incorporated in 1954 by the State of Arkansas and city government was instituted.

Despite all the town had to offer and Pappy's creative advertising campaigns, the town didn't grow at the pace he had hoped and predicted. When "Pappy" died in 1957, at age 80, he left considerable debt. Charles, Jr. and Marguerite painstakingly paid off every cent of the debt so the town would continue.

During the 1960s the town plugged along. Due to the efforts of the Crows and other resort owners, the tourism business started to flourish as sportsmen flocked to the area to enjoy the fine fishing opportunities of Bull Shoals Lake and the White River.

In 1960, a transplanted Little Rock attorney, Roy Danuser, opened Mountain Village 1890's and Bull Shoals Caverns, two new tourist attractions. Danuser is also responsible for the Top O' the Ozarks Tower which gives tourists a panoramic view of the Twin Lakes area.

By 1969, a shopping center, subdivision and golf course had been added to the growing town.

During the 1970s, the town became a mecca for retirees as well as tourists, building trades boomed, and the population almost doubled. In 1971, the town became a city of the second class and the mayor began to serve four year terms.

Charles, Jr. continued Pappy's real estate business until he retired. The father-son pioneering duo was put to rest in 1986, when Charles, Jr. died.

The '80s and '90s brought Bull Shoals a more controlled growth. The current population is approximately 1,800 and continues to grow slowly, mostly with retirees.

The town now has a municipal water and sewer system and a class-6 rated volunteer fire department. An ambulance service is housed in town, provided by Baxter County Regional Hospital.

September 27-29, 1996 the town celebrated its 50th anniversary during the annual Colorama fall festival. Many events commemorated the founding of the town. The celebration honored the Woods family in several ways for their pioneering efforts.

And somewhere, we know, Pappy Woods, the dreamer whose dreams finally came true, was watching.

Materials for this article were provided by Marguerite Woods, Edith Strahan, Betty Morrow, Mae Proctor, Claudelle Tilley, Orville Meats, Delphia Danuser, Bobbie Crow, Doris Griffin and the late Lenore Tancre. LM

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