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Berry, Dickinson, Peel Family Papers

Identifier: MC 1372

Scope and Content Note

The materials in this collection are primarily items collected by Ruth Dickinson Berry (1880-1973) and her daughter, Mary Berry Preston (1914-1997).

The materials in the Berry, Dickinson, Peel Family Papers (1833-1977) are a diverse accumulation of records which include family correspondence; political, legal, and financial documents; school records; scrapbooks, albums, and notebooks; greeting cards; clipping files; notes for newspaper articles; records of institutions, clubs, and agencies; notes on family genealogy; a few bound volumes kept by family members, and photographs and postcards.

Subjects of special interest, aside from family matters, include: James Henderson Berry's later professional life, Arkansas Industrial University/University of Arkansas, and files for Bentonville and Benton County in the 1920s to the 1950s. The Benton County material contains information on the Confederate Memorial Statue in Bentonville's town square, construction of the Benton County Courthouse, Bella Vista, Pea Ridge Battlefield, Bentonville Public Schools, Louis McPhetridge Thaden, and Apple Blossom Tours in the 1930s. Of special interest are items related to the Civil War in Arkansas, including a CSA Company C, Third Arkansas Infantryman's memoir from 1863, a company roster, and information on Confederate veterans and veterans' groups.


  • 1830-1977
  • Majority of material found within 1890-1960


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Access Information

Please call (479) 575-8444 or email at least two weeks in advance of your arrival to ensure availability of the materials.

Use Information

No Use Restrictions Apply.

No Interlibrary Loan.

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Biographical Note

Ruth Dickinson Berry was born at Oakland Farm in Calhoun County, Arkansas, on February 8, 1880, and died in Fort Smith on February 1, 1973. She was the daughter of George Ware Dickinson (1843-1912) and Cordelia Barker Dickinson (1848-1943). The Dickinsons came to Arkansas from Mississippi and Georgia in 1844. G. W. (as he was known) was in Cabell's Brigade during the Civil War. He and Cordelia Barker were married in l869 and lived at the Dickinson home place, Oakland Farm, until l881 when they moved their family to Little Rock. Cordelia Barker's family came to Drew County from Tennessee in l855 and established an enslaved labor plantation, Barkada. Members of this family were active in the Confederate cause.

Children of George Ware Dickinson and Cordelia Barker Dickinson were: James Barker (1870-1947), Harvey Thompson (l871-1888), Thomas Tillar (1876-1963), Catherine Evelyn (1877-1893), Ruth Anne (1880-1973), and Georgia May (1882-1960). In the late 1890s, Mrs. G.W. Dickinson moved temporarily to Fayetteville. Her children, Thomas Tillar, Ruth Anne, and Georgia May, were enrolled at Arkansas Industrial University, soon to be the University of Arkansas. Ruth and Thomas graduated from the University in 1900. Mrs. Dickinson kept a rooming house, "The Dickinson Ranch," on Dickson Street where one of her boarders was Elliott Rosson Berry of Bentonville (1879-1953). He and Ruth were married in Little Rock in 1902. Their children were Ruth (1910-1988) and Mary Cordelia (1914-1997).

The branch of the Berry family represented in these papers was descended from James McFerrin Berry and Isabella Jane Orr, who came to Carroll County in 1847. Of their ten children, Mary Emeline (1835-1902) married Samuel West Peel (1831-1924). He is often referred to as Colonel Sam Peel. The branch of the Peel family represented here came to Independence County in the 1830s and moved to Carroll County by 1840.

Samuel W. Peel began a distinguished career when he was elected Carroll County Clerk in 1858. He became an officer in the Fourth Arkansas Infantry, CSA, during the Civil War. In 1867 he moved his family to Bentonville where he practiced law. He was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1882 and served for ten years. He remained influential in Arkansas business and politics throughout his life.

The fifth child of James F. and Jane O. Berry was James Henderson (1841-1913). He also had a long distinguished career in Arkansas politics. He served in Company E, Sixteenth Arkansas Infantry, CSA, during the Civil War. In l866 he was elected to the Arkansas state legislature from Carroll County. In l869 he moved to Bentonville and practiced law with his brother-in-law, Samuel W. Peel. In l872 Berry was elected to the Arkansas State Legislature from Benton County. He became Circuit Court Judge in l878. From l883 to l885 he served as Governor of Arkansas. From l885 to l907 he served as a U.S. Senator from Arkansas.

James Henderson Berry married Elizabeth "Lizzie" Quaile (1848-1932) in l865. He met her in her home town of Ozark while recuperating from battle wounds that resulted in the loss of his right leg. Their children were: Nell Frank (1876-1900), Albert Josephine (1870-?), Jennie Blackburn (1872-1918), Bessie Pittman (1872-1882), Elliott Rosson (1879-1953), and Fredrick Hugh (1884-1968). Nell married William Hyatt. Their children, Berry and William, were raised in the James H. Berry household after their mother died in 1900.

Ruth Dickinson Berry, while related to, and associated with, many well-known individuals, had an active life of her own as a wife, mother, grandmother, clubwoman, and newspaper correspondent. For over thirty years she wrote local interest pieces for the Arkansas Gazette and other regional papers. She was a national officer in Chi Omega and edited their national publication. She was active in the Red Cross, D.A.R., U.D.C., Benton County's Apple Blossom Festivals, the Pea Ridge Battlefield Association, and the Methodist Church. She remained in close contact with her mother in Little Rock, and her sister Mrs. Georgia Bunn, in Memphis. Her daughter (sometimes designated Ruth Strawn and sometimes Ruth, Jr.) married Paige Mulhollan and was the mother of Paige and Jimmy. Ruth D. Berry's daughter Mary Cordelia married William Preston. Their daughters were Ann and Polly.

Mary Berry Preston, one of the principals in the collection, graduated from Bentonville Public Schools in 1931. She attended Missouri Valley College and the University of Arkansas. In 1935 she was elected the University Campus Queen. She graduated in l936. In 1941, she married William Preston and moved with him to military bases in the United States. After the war they moved to Fort Smith. Mary's sister, Ruth Berry Mulhollan lived in Fort Smith at the time and the sisters saw each other frequently and made frequent trips back to Bentonville to visit their parents. In Fort Smith, Mary B. Preston was active with Sparks Hospital, the Free Ferry Garden Club, the Fort Smith Rose Society, the American Cancer Society, the Democratic Women's Club, the Arkansas Alumni Association, the Methodist Church, and, especially, Chi Omega. Mary Berry Preston continued in the tradition of her grandmother, Mrs. G.W. Dickinson, and her mother, Ruth Dickinson Berry, as family record keeper. The items in the Berry, Dickinson, Peel Family Papers were stored in her home at the time of her death in 1997.


20.5 Linear Feet (21 Boxes and 2 Oversize Folders)

Arrangement of the Papers

Material is arranged and described in ten series:

  1. Series 1. Correspondence (Boxes 1-8)
  2. Series 1. Subseries 1. General Family Correspondence
  3. Series 1. Subseries 2. James Henderson Berry Correspondence
  4. Series 1. Subseries 3. Elliott Rosson Berry to Ruth Dickinson Berry Correspondence
  5. Series 1. Subseries 4. William Hyatt Correspondence, Primarily to Nell Berry Hyatt
  6. Series 1. Subseries 5. Cordelia Barker Dickinson to Ruth Dickinson Berry Correspondence
  7. Series 1. Subseries 6. Mary Berry Preston Correspondence
  8. Series 2. Records related to James Henderson Berry (Box 9)
  9. Series 3. Barker, Berry, Dickinson, Peel Family Documents (Box 9)
  10. Series 3. Subseries 1. Civil War Items
  11. Series 3. Subseries 2. Political, Legal, Financial Documents, Certificates, and Awards
  12. Series 3. Subseries 3. Genealogy Notes, Documents, Correspondence
  13. Series 4. Records of Institutions and Organizations (Box 10)
  14. Series 5. Ruth Dickinson Berry's Notes, Clipping Files, Drafts of Articles (Box 10)
  15. Series 6. Bound Journals, Notebooks, Scrapbooks, Autograph Books (Box 11)
  16. Series 7. Greeting Cards (Box 12)
  17. Series 8. Images. (Boxes 13-14) and Oversize Boxes (16-18)
  18. Series 8. Subseries 1. Family Snapshots and Portraits
  19. Series 8. Subseries 2. Arkansas Industrial University/University of Arkansas
  20. Series 8. Subseries 3. Photographs and Illustrations for Ruth D. Berry's Articles
  21. Series 8. Subseries 4. Arkansas Postcards and Cards sent to the Hyatt Children
  22. Series 8. Subseries 5. Unidentified Images, Blue-Tint Prints, Negatives
  23. Series 9. Published Items Belonging to Family Members (Box 14)
  24. Series 10. Badges, Ribbons, Mementoes (Box 15)

Acquisition Information

The Berry, Dickinson, Peel Family Papers were donated to Special Collections by William Preston, husband of Mary Berry Preston, in October 1997.

Related Materials

Records relating to the Berry, Dickinson, Peel Family Papers in Special Collections include:

James Henderson Berry Papers 1905-1913 MC 100

"Hon. James H. Berry," by Mary C. Berry 1942 MC 744

Zillah Cross Peel Papers 1898-1980 MC 781

John Wilson Peel Papers 1862-1875, n.d. MC 927

David W. Peel, Jr., Papers ca 1880-1977 MC 585

"The Public Career of James H. Berry." Paige Mulhollan. MA Thesis 1962 T 1962 M89p

Processing Information

Processed by Ellen Compton; completed in November 2001. An additional unprocessed item (Box 21) was integrated into the collection by Katrina Windon in October 2022. Finding aid language was updated by Katrina Windon in September 2023 as part of a project to update outdated or harmful description related to slavery or to enslaved persons.



Berry, Dickinson, Peel Family Papers
Ellen Compton
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Department Repository

University of Arkansas Libraries
365 N. McIlroy Avenue
Fayetteville AR 72701 United States
(479) 575-8444