Gilbert Fite, who published his history about Bella Vista in 1993, "From Vision to Reality," wrote that there were many activities that brought Bella Vistans together and fostered a spirit of community.
"In February 1968, William Cashin, one of the Village's earliest residents, got a group together to form what a couple of months later became known as the Pioneer Club," Fite wrote. "The group adopted its name because members were among the first residents of modern Bella Vista. They met monthly for potluck suppers and programs of general interest. Clifford Mann was elected the club's first president. Membership grew rapidly and reached around 125 by 1970."
Fifty years ago this month, the January 1972 issue of the Village Vista, the monthly publication that preceded The Weekly Vista, included a column by B. Rockwood called "Bits and Pieces," which reported on the latest Pioneer Club meeting. It started with a potluck dinner at the Hill 'n Dale Club Room on Jan. 3. (The Hill 'n Dale stood at the northeast corner of Lake Bella Vista; all that remains in that spot today is a concrete slab; the building went through several uses before it burned in an accidental fire in 1998.) The program chairman was Bill Harris, and the president by then was Gordon Koch. He reported that the club started in 1968 with 16 members. At that January 1972 meeting, there were approximately 160 in attendance, with 14 new members joining that month. The program was on fire hazards and fire prevention in the home, and was presented by Jerry Hamm, a senior at Bentonville High School and the youngest member of the Bella Vista Fire Department. Bill Harris reported that the next month's program would be equally timely and informative.
The Pioneer Club is no longer listed on the Bella Vista POA's website (www.bellavistapoa.com/members/clubs) but it remained an active organization for many years as new retirees moved to Bella Vista and joined. However, over the past couple of decades the population of Bella Vista has changed to the point that retirees now make up less than a third of the total. That change has resulted in some of the older organizations that were geared to retirees not having enough members to carry on.
For more information about the history of Bella Vista, visit the Bella Vista Historical Museum at 1885 Bella Vista Way (Highway 71 & Kingsland). Regular hours are from 1-5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday. Admission is free. For more information call 479-855-2335 or visit online at bellavistamuseum.org.