Monthly Archives: August 2008

Original Bradley High School Building, 1915-1956

The start of the 2008–2009 school year year is perhaps an appropriate time to begin looking at some aspects of the past of the Bradley schools.

Below are three photos of the original Bradley High School Building, which was built in 1915 and demolished in 1956.  It was a three-story building, but the main floor was actually a half-story above the ground.  The bottom floor was a semi-basement.  I can remember my grandfather telling about the frequent problems that arose with water either seeping into that semi-basement or even coming into it from actual flooding.

This building was located approximately where the Bradley High School gym is now, although it did not extend as far out toward Highway 160.  The northwest corner of this building and of the current gym would have been in roughly the same place.  Its front faced the highway (east) side.

The first photo shows the front view of the building when vegetation was allowed to grow up its walls, and there was a shrub-lined walkway out to the highway.

Old HS Bldg, Front View

The next photo was taken from the northeast angle of the building, without vegetation:

Old HS Bldg, Northeast view

The final photo was taken from the southeast angle of the building, obviously in the afternoon.  Just  out of the photo in the lower right corner was a small, shallow fish pond.  In the lower left of this photo can be seen a merry-go-round and the building on the diagonally opposite corner of the campus which was used for many decades as a lunchroom/home economics building. 

Old HS Bldg, Southeast view

Conway Cemetery Historic State Park

The Bradley area’s primary claim to historical significance lies, of course, in the fact that Walnut Hill was the residence of the first Governor of Arkansas, James Sevier Conway.  Amidst much fanfare, for Bradley, anyway, the Conway family cemetery became a state park in 1986.  Among the speakers at the dedication of the park was then Governor and future President Bill Clinton.  Since 1986, the State’s maintenance of the park has often been, to put it diplomatically, less than ideal.  However, during a recent visit, the park appeared to have been maintained reasonably well.

Sign at entrance, 300 pixels

Governor Conway’s tombstone has deteriorated to the point that it is almost unreadable.

Governor James S. Conway tombstone, 300 pixels 

Near Governor Conway’s grave is a plaque which recites, in the briefest of terms, his biography.

Plaque at Conway Cemetery, 300 pixels

The plaque reads:

“James Sevier Conway

Dec. 9, 1796 — March 3, 1855

First Governor of the State of Arkansas

Born in Greene County, Tenn., he came to Arkansas in 1820 to make land surveys.  In 1823 he settled at Walnut Hill, Lafayette County and began to acquire a large cotton plantation.

President John Quincy Adams in 1825 appointed him to survey the western boundary of Arkansas from the Red River to the Arkansas River.

President Andrew Jackson in 1831 appointed him Commissioner for Arkansas in determining the southern boundary of the State.

In 1832 when the office of Arkansas Surveyor General was created, he was appointed to the post.

In 1836 he was elected Governor of Arkansas and after serving his one term of four years, he retired to Walnut Hill.”

Governor Conway’s grave also has another marker, placed there by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

DAR marker, 300 pixels

The tombstone of Arkansas’ first First Lady, Mary Jane Bradley Conway, underwent a crude repair many years ago but is, for the most part, readable.

DSC00054 A

“Gone To Rest


Wife Of

J. S. Conway

Died Feb 15, 1878


68 ys. 5 ms. 15 ds.”

[The bottom line says something about “a faithful friend,” but the bottom two lines are mostly illegible.]

One of the most poignant aspects of the cemetery are the graves of five of the children of James and Mary Jane Conway who died in infancy or childhood.  They had five children who lived to adulthood, and apparently had ten children in all.  This would make for a infancy-childhood mortality rate in the Conway family of fully fifty per cent (50%), a figure we would consider shocking today, but which was probably not atypical at the time.

Here are photos of the grave markers of those five children.  Below each photo is a transcription of each marker, insofar as can be ascertained.

Infant Son, 300 pixels


Son of

J.S. & M.J.


[no dates given]

Mary Elizabeth, child, 300 pixels


Dau. of

J. S. & M. J.



Jan. 12, 1833


Oct. 17, 1845


12 Ys 3 Ms 4 Ds”

James Sevier, child, 300 pixels


Son of

J. S. & M. J.



Mar. 23, 1838


October 31, 1845


7 Years 7 Ms.”

Sarah Juliette, child, 300 pixels


Dau. of

J. S. & M. J.



Mar 5, 1843


Oct. 11, 1946


[The marker has sunk into the ground, obscuring the last line.  However, it should read “3 Years, 7 Months,” or something similar.]

William Nelson, child, 300 pixels


Son of

J. S. & M. J.


Born July 24, 1851


October 13, 1855”

[This marker has also sunk into the ground, obscuring what are probably the bottom two lines.  If they followed the pattern of the other markers, they would read “Aged 4 Years, 3 Months,” or something similar.]

Finally, the Conway cemetery can be, when properly maintained, not just a place of historical significance, but also a place of quiet beauty.  These photos were taken about an hour and a half before sunset earlier this month:

Wide shot of Conway Cemetery, 300 pixels

Sunset shot, 300 pixels

Bumpham School Alumni

Even a casual reader of this site can spot its most glaring weakness:  the near-total absence of material concerning Bradley’s black community.  However, that is a circumstance of necessity (to this date, anyway) and not of choice.

In an earlier post (10/1/07), I mentioned that much of the material to be found on this site would be, at least initially, taken from the archives of my own family.  Families tend to collect and save information and mementos about themselves.  That’s what families do.  As a result, I have almost no material about the many contributions of African-Americans to Bradley and the area around it.

Fred Harris, who grew up in Bradley and now lives in Doddridge, has brought to my attention the existence of a group of alumni of the Bumpham School, which was located about a mile north of Gin City, and operated as an all-black school until complete integration of the Bradley Schools began in the fall of 1970.  (I can remember the exact date because I was a teacher in the Bradley Schools for the first year of full integration, 1970–1971.)  This group even has its own web site,  The ex-Bobcats have planned their next triennial reunion for July 3, 4, and 5 of 2009.

If any readers of this site should have any photos, old newspaper clippings, etc., of general interest concerning Bradley’s black community, and are willing to share them, I would be most interested in seeing them and possibly sharing some of them with the readers of this site.  Perhaps the single most interesting item along those lines would be pictures of the Bumpham School while it was still in operation.  But information concerning area churches and cemeteries, as well as other groups, would also be quite interesting. 

Second Bank Robbery, 1990 (Part 2 of 2)

The last time the Bank of Bradley was robbed was on Monday, July 23, 1990.  Better than any summary of the events that I could write is the following article from the Lafayette County Democrat of July 26, 1990.  It is reprinted here by permission.

– – – – –


The Bank of Bradley was robbed around noon Monday, with two armed black males entering the bank and demanding money.  The suspects fled and after being fired at by Lane Pierce, bank president, dropped the money and disappeared into a wooded area.

According to Mike Loe, State Police CID investigator in Magnolia, the robbery occurred at approximately 12:35 p.m.

“Two black males entered the bank, one of them produced a gun, and had one of the tellers place an undetermined amount of money in a pillow case,” Loe said in an interview Monday afternoon in Bradley.

“They exited the bank, and bank president Lane Pierce fired.  They dropped the pillow case,” he continued.

At the time of the interview, Loe said the pillow case containing the cash had been recovered but authorities had not yet counted the money.

Pierce reported that the two suspects entered the front door of the bank holding pistols, and said, “This is a hold-up.”

“I was in my office way away from it,” he noted.

“They were real nervous,” he added.  “They were trying to tell the teller to find them some money.  We had some tellers gone to lunch and their drawers were locked.”

Pierce reported that the suspects shoved one of the tellers to the floor, but she was not injured.

“They went out the front,” Pierce continued.  “I was in my office and I have a back door.  I had a small pistol.

“I thought they might come down this side and sure enough, they did,” he continued.  “I fired and they dropped the money.”  The two men continued north and were believed to be hiding in a wooded area near Bradley.

A truck parked alongside the street, across from the bank, caught one of the shots.

Pierce said that he had been president of the Bank of Bradley for the past 15 years, and this was the first robbery during that time.

Unconfirmed rumors Monday afternoon had the men wearing masks and clear plastic gloves during the robbery.  It was rumored that the two men had broken into the Bradley Clinic prior to entering the bank, where they had stolen some clear disposable surgical-type gloves.

Monday afternoon members of the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Office, Miller County Sheriff’s Office, Arkansas State Police, Lewisville City Police, Bradley City Police and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission assembled in Bradley to assist in the man hunt.

Railroad employees working the area were alerted to the situation, and warned to be on the lookout for the two suspects.

Bloodhounds were brought in from Wade Correctional Institute in Haynesville, La.

It was reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had been called in. 

They Robbed The Bank! Twice! (Part 1 of 2)

The Bank of Bradley was robbed twice, first in 1938 and then again in 1990.  Despite being separated by the span of fifty-two years, both robberies shared a common feature:  The escaping robbers in both cases were fired upon by the ranking member of bank management present at the time. The first robbery occurred on Monday, June 6, 1938.  The following are excerpts from a contemporaneous newspaper article.  The name of the newspaper is not known.  Apparently, the article was updated with new developments as they became available.

– – – – –

“THREE BANDITS ROB BRADLEY, ARK., BANK AND FLEE WITH $685 Three men held up the Bank of Bradley, 50 miles north of Shreveport at 9:10 a.m. today, and fled in a fusillade of shots with $685.25.  The bandits overlooked approximately $2,000.

Jack Meek, assistant cashier, who was alone in the bank at the time, said the bandits headed south on the Shreveport highway in a maroon-colored Ford two-door sedan of 1938 model, with Louisiana license plates.

Sheriff Oce Griffin of Lewisville, Ark., who was in Bradley at the time, immediately telephoned a report of the robbery to the sheriff’s office at Benton, La., south of Bradley on the Shreveport highway and deputies were posted along the route the bandits had taken.

The fleeing bandits were reported to have headed south to Leila, just across the Louisiana line and just north of the village of Bolinger, and to have turned east toward Spring Hill or Cotton Valley.  A description of one of the bandits was furnished officers by Meek, who said he did not see the two confederates except for fleeting glances.

As the gunmen departed, Meek said he opened fire on their car with a .12 gauge sawed-off shotgun, but did not know whether he hit the car or its occupants.

. . .

Search for three gunmen who robbed the Bank of Bradley (Ark.) of $685.85 entered Caddo parish Tuesday afternoon after the Sheriff’s office at Benton reported finding the bandits’ abandoned automobile on the Shreveport road near Plain Dealing.

The abandoned car, a maroon-colored Ford sedan of 1938 model, had numerous gunshot holes in the rear of it, officers said, indicating a shotgun blast from the bank’s cashier had struck the car.

Officers immediately sounded a warning for lookouts in Caddo and Bossier parishes, saying the gunmen had transferred to a green Oldsmobile sedan and had probably turned from the Shreveport road at Swindle’s station to ferry across Red River for Belcher.

. . .

Louisiana state highway police headquarters here said today they believed Floyd Hamilton, escaped Texas convict, was one of the bandits who robbed the Bradley (Ark.) State Bank Tuesday morning of $685.25.”

– – – – –
The newspaper story itself is not consistent in specifying the amount of money taken, mentioning $685.25 twice and $685.85 once.  One of the more interesting facets of the article is that it mentions an initial suspicion that the robbers were headed to Spring Hill or Cotton Valley, and later mentions that they were headed to Belcher, in the opposite direction.

Floyd Hamilton was, indeed, one of the robbers.  He was assisted by Ted Walters and Jack Winn.  Both Hamilton and Walters were alumni of none other than the Bonnie (Parker) and Clyde (Barrow) Gang.  By 1938, though, Bonnie and Clyde had already met their demise.  Also a member of the Bonnie and Clyde Gang was Floyd Hamilton’s brother, Raymond Hamilton, who had met his own demise in the Texas electric chair three years earlier.

Floyd Hamilton and Ted Walters were both convicted in federal court in Fort Smith of robbing the Bank of Bradley, and both served time in Alcatraz.  Both attempted, unsuccessfully, to escape from there in 1943.  At some point, Floyd saw the error of his ways, was paroled, and was eventually pardoned by President John F. Kennedy. 

There is no shortage of material on the internet concerning Hamilton and Walters.  About 2 months later, on August 12, 1938, they robbed the Coca-Cola Bottling Plant in Nashville, Arkansas.  (  The day after that, they were almost shot and captured in Sevier County, Arkansas.  (  Both these sites specifically mention the Bank of Bradley caper.

More Notes on Old Post Office-Bank Building

Shown below is an image of the Bank of Bradley portion, mostly, of this building, taken on an overcast winter’s day in 1975, three years before it was demolished:

120510 Bradley landmarks 75 B

And here is a photo taken much earlier in front of the Bank, showing the lettering on the windows:

009 A

The two young ladies in the photo are Thomasene Jester and Ruth Joy Jackson.  The photo is courtesy of Mrs. Marjorie Bishop.

Two items from the old Bank of Bradley are now in the Cochran museum:  the “Bank” sign above the front door and part of the door to the vault, which was mentioned in the article in the previous post on this site.

DSC00038 A

DSC00041 A

Incidentally, Jack Meek, who was assistant cashier at the time the Bank was robbed in 1938, gave a newspaper interview in 1990 which casts doubt on part of the “Big Store No More” article.  According to him, the robbers forced him into the vault, but he was able to release himself before firing on the robbers as they made their escape.