The Ozarks: Chester

The history of The Ozarks’ hidden gem -The story of Chester: a small mountain town with a steadfast spirit.

The Railway

Arrive by Train

The A&M railroad is central to the spirit of Chester, Arkansas. Once a pivotal part of Chester’s survival as a town, now the train serves as a window into the past. As a guest at the Beard and Lady Inn, we encourage you to arrive by the A&M railroad or simply take a train ride through the mountains to experience their wild beauty.

The Ozarks

Explore The Ozarks

The Beard and Lady Inn is surrounded by the Ozark National Forest where nature enthusiasts can summit the highest peaks in the Ozark Mountains. With over 1.2 million acres to explore, hikers, bikers, canoers and campers have access to endless excursions. 

Chester & Train

The Beard and Lady Inn sits in the center of Chester: a tiny mountain town of approximately 150 people. Chester began as a timber town on Frisco, the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway. What followed was an unpredictable story of growth, fire, floods, and redemption.

Timeline of Chester History
  • 1839 - Jacob Yoes, the hotel's founder, was born in Washington County, Arkansas 
  • 1840 - Townspeople build a log cabin schoolhouse built as a summer school for children
  • 1850 - Samuel Rush enters the land 
  • 1852 - Solomon Basham enters the land
  • 1853 - Captain James C. Wright, a Royal Arch Mason, entered the land and later the Rankin and Furlow families
  • 1861-1865 Civil War - Bushwhackers, Confederate sympathizers, gave the farming families trouble and Union troops drove the bushwhackers out.
  • 1863 - Jacob (Jake) Yoes, who became a prominent business owner and Mason in the area, was shot in the both hips and left leg by a Confederate Army while serving in the Union Army and held prisoner for three months in Van Buren
Jacob Yoes in the Army
  • 1882 - Frisco line built down from Fayetteville to Chester past a point near Capt. James C. Wright's cabin in the valley of Howard's Fork Creek
  • 1883 - Captain Wright opened a one room post office at the train depot in which he was postmaster and also sold groceries, the town of Chester is named after the Iowa hometown of one of the locomotive engineers
  • 1884 - Jacob Yoes built a 20X50 feet frame store and Capt. Wright built a blacksmith shop he sold to Yoes

Jacob Yoes as US Marshall and Entrepreneur
  • 1885 - Schoolhouse built
  • 1887 - James Wright built a grocery store housing the post office and developed a nine block layout
  • 1887 - J.W. Emerson started a sawmill in the fall shipping railroad ties and lumber on the railroad plus strawberries from Capt. Wrights four acre berry farm
  • 1887 (July) - Frisco Railway opened a Chester station and built a two story depot in September, water tower, and the Frisco round house and repair shops were built with coal chutes and timber yard employing 100 men
  • 1887 - A Methodist Church and Masonic lodge No. 459 were built
  • 1888 - (January) - Capt. Wright built a second blacksmith shop and built a barber shop
  • 1888 (February) - Jacob Yoes and his sons open a hotel and dry goods store from hand-kilned bricks called the Chester House which is now the Beard and Lady Inn
  • 1889 - Incorporated (3rd town in Crawford County) - Jacob Yoes appointed as US Marshal of the West Arkansas District under the "hanging Judge" Isaac Parker. Yoes had 200 deputies under his command.
  • 1890 - Population hits 222 and Yoe's son,William and niece, Abigail Yoes, run the Chester House
  • 1895 - Around this time Butler's Saloon was added as a one-story addition on the north side of the Chester House
Chester House Inn with Butler's Saloon managed by Garret Butler
  • 1900 - Frisco line completed down to Fort Smith through Van Buren
  • 1908 - Entire town nearly destroyed by fire
  • 1920 - Population back up to 223
  • 1934 - Town floods and levee built at Howard's Fork
  • 1936 - Second fire destroyed 12 buildings 
  • 1918 - 1939 - Potential brothel period 
  • 1942 - Masonic lodge rebuilt from some of previous building (National Register of Historic Places)
  • 1957 - Levee breaks and town floods again
  • 1960s - Vesta Furlow runs store built by Jacob Yoes - the only structure in Chester to survive the fires and floods (now the Beard and Lady Inn)
  • 1975 - Colonel Weldon O. Ramey purchased the Chester House and placed it on the National Register of Historic places at the time housed the Chester Post Office

Chester House Inn with Post Office sign and mailbox

  • 1980s - Schoolhouse refurbished (National Register of Historic Places)
  • 1988 - Film Biloxi Blues starring Matthew Broderick features shots of the Arkansas & Missouri railroad train that passes in front of the Beard and Lady Inn - Filmed in the oldest coach #104 


Filming of Biloxi Blues in front of Beard and Lady Inn, Photo by J.P. Bell 

  • 1994 - Film Frank & Jesse starring Rob Lowe, Bill Paxton, and Randy Travis features shots of the railroad and the front of the Beard and Lady Inn
Beard and Lady Inn is setup to look like a bank and hotel
Bank robbery scene in the Convention Hall area
Shot on the stairs of the Beard and Lady Inn
The old mercantile store with the church in the background
Van Buren covered in sand and made to look like a Wild West town
Randy Travis robbing the Arkansas & Missouri train
  • 2003 - Don and Tina Shores purchased the Chester House Inn and Antiques running a bed & breakfast, and antique store
  • 2018 - HBO's True Detective Season 3 filmed a crime scene nearby at Yellow Rock in Devil's Den, Mount Gaylor Lookout Tower and used Mountainburg's Public School buildings for multiple scenes. 

  • 2020 - Lance and Lacey Hendrix purchase the Chester House Inn renovating all 9,600 square foot and renaming the Beard and Lady Inn
  • October 19, 2021 - The Beard and Lady Inn hosts its grand opening.

      Hotel facts cited from the 1889 book History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin and Sebastian Counties Arkansas by and the Encyclopedia of Arkansas website