The following is a brief history of Bright Star AR I have included because it gives a "feel" of how the area must have been when Henry and Martha Bankston first arrived there. I took it from a Xeroxed copy given to me many years ago by an unnamed contributor. The date "1976" was handwritten in the corner of the typewritten copy, but I don't know what it was in reference to. I have only included a portion of the article. There is a reference to "Turk Bailey", nephew of Henry and Martha Bankston.
"A History of Bright Star"
by Alta Hicks
The Citizen presents below a clipping from the Citizens Journal, Atlanta, Tex., which will prove of great interest to many in this section. This brief history of Bright Star, Ark., was written by Miss Alta Hicks, daughter of the well known Judge Floyd. C. Hicks, now a resident of ______ Ark. Miss Hicks tells the story well in a few words. It would require volumes to relate the entire history of this once-famous community. Practically, every gray-haired person in this section recalls the fact that Bright Star was once one of the most widely known communities in the South back in its balmy days. Many scenes that would make volumes of hair-raising history were enacted back in the days of the ox-cart and six-shooter law around old Bright Star. We are pleased to offer this bit of interesting reading to our friends. Miss Hicks, in full, here follows: During 1840, when this part of the country was known as the western frontier, many people of all classes and conditions emigrated from Tennessee, Georgia, the Carolinas, and other states to the West, almost every one looking for a new country in which to settle. About this time, some families by the name of Stuckey, following the usual custom of people coming West, settled in a locality about eight miles west of Red River, eight miles north of the Louisiana line, and five miles east of the Texas line. There were other settlers who came to this locality many years before this time, but about the first settlers of whom we have any account were the Stuckeys. After the Stuckeys became permanently settled, the little settlement became known to travelers as Stuckeyville. The Stuckeys being thrifty and industrious people, the settlement grew and became a landmark on the western frontier well known to travelers.
One mild, star-lit night two men traveling on horseback arrived at the little village of Stuckeyville. As they rode near the village one of the men, upon looking up at the stars, observed one of unusual brightness and called the attention of his companion to the bright star, saying that it was the brightest star he had ever noticed. The two travelers, being strangers and not knowing the name of the little settlement through which they had passed, frequently mentioned it as the place they had first noticed the bright star, and finally they simply designated the place in their conversation with each other as "Bright Star," and thus it became known to many travelers as Bright Star
At some time, possibly several years before the Civil War, a post office was established at Bright Star. The mail route which supplied Bright Star extended from Linden, Texas to Lewisville, Ark., via Bright Star and Spring Bank. The mail was carried on horseback and the mail carrier was often encountered by bears and panthers on his journey.
The place gradually grew into a village of importance, and was well known to travelers from eastern states. At the beginning of the Civil War it had grown to be a trading center for a large area of the surrounding country. It contained eight or ten general merchandise stores, and about the same number of saloons. The merchandise was transported from Jefferson, Texas, in wagons drawn by oxen and up Red River, By steamboats which landed at Spring Bank, about eight miles east of Bright Star. It was a frontier town in which liquor traffic was carried on extensively, and a resort for all classes of people, and became known in all parts of the country as a rough and rowdy place. Men frequently fought and killed each other.
At this time the territory now composing Lafayette and Miller counties was all one county, known as Lafayette. The site of government was a t Lewisville, about forty miles from Bright Star. Red River was between the two places and consequently the people were a "law unto themselves," and disputes were usually settled by the use of weapons. However, there have always been some good law-abiding people in and around Bright Star; but during early days they were in a small minority.
At the beginning of the Civil War a young man by the name of Joe Tyson organized at Bright Star a company of volunteers for the Confederate Army. Some of the members of this company at Appomattox Court House, in Virginia at the time of Lee's surrender, and through many hardships retraced their way back to Bright Star, one of whom was my great-grandfather Isaac Kelly. Capt. Joe Tyson came back to Bright Star and spent the remainder of his life as a minister of the gospel
Among the early merchants at Bright Star were: Turk Bailey, S.L. Bailey, S.L. Baker, H.W. Stuckey, John Stevens, and Isaac Kelly. Among the pioneer physicians were: Dr. Stuckey, Dr. Mitchell, Dr. Magee, Dr. Blanton, Dr. Curry, Dr. Jeter, Dr. Dodd and later the Dr. McCaslands, and Dr. Mathis. Patrick Hazel was the first jeweler. He came from Indiana to Bright Star and spent the rest of his life here. His son, J.A. Hazel, is a jeweler here until the present day. James Stevens was engaged in the hotel business. The school houses were of the rude fashion of pioneer schools and among the first teachers was Professor Wooliver, who was totally blind an was also a great musician.
There were pool halls, tenpin alleys, swimming pools, dance halls, and many other places of amusement in Bright Star. Circuses and menageries, with the usual accompaniment of side-shows, were exhibited here.
William Foster operated a saw mill near Bright Star for a number of years. He was the father-in-law of the outlaws, Cullen Baker.
At the advent of the Texas and Pacific Railway trading points were established at Atlanta and Queen City, Texas, which caused Bright Star to begin to decline. Many people moved to new towns on the rail road, and the leading merchants established in businesses in the railway towns. Some years later the Kansas City Southern Railway came through, and all the business concerns left Bright Star and the post office was discontinued. Bright Star was placed on a rural route, and today all these events are merely a memory of the past.