13,000-SF Mansion, 300-Acre Estate Auctioned in Cherry Valley

It's amazing what you can learn from the pages of your own newspaper.

We noticed a recent ad in Arkansas Business for a 13,000-SF mansion and 298 acres being auctioned in Cherry Valley (Cross County). The three-story home is divided between an 8,000-SF living area and a 5,000-SF recreation center. The latter includes an indoor swimming pool with diving board, a waterfall and a hot tub. The house has five master bedrooms, five full bathrooms and three half bathrooms. There is a wet bar, a walk-out basement and a home theater. The land around it boasts a 17-acre lake, a 10-stall horse barn and a farm shop, all topped off with cypress perimeter fencing and security cameras.

Not only that, the auction listed other items, including several trailers, an ATV, a boat, a tractor, a bush hog and a 1926 Model T truck.

Needless to say, our curiosity was piqued.

A Violent History

Soon, we noticed that the mansion had popped up on eBay classifieds with the header, "Auction canceled, taking offers," and a listed price of $3.5 million. Then we looked into the history of the property, and that's where it got really interesting.

In 1998, Chris Barber and Charles Rolfe were driving a garbage truck through St. Francis County. As they crossed a railroad track, a Union Pacific freight engine collided with the back of the truck. Rolfe was killed and Barber was partially paralyzed.

The suit that followed went all the way to the Arkansas Supreme Court, where in 2004 a jury decided to dock Union Pacific more than $30 million, at the time the largest award ever affirmed by the state Supreme Court. The railroad's appeal failed.

Of the damages, Barber and his wife received about $5.1 million.

A Pretty Penny

According to Cross County public records, Chris Barber purchased the land in Cherry Valley about a year later for around $612,000. The house itself was built in 2008.

So why are the Barbers selling their property in 2012?

"They basically are looking to downsize; that's the main thrust," said Johnny Mitchum, the broker for the property. Mitchum said the auction was canceled so the land could be offered in four different configurations, each including the house and a different amount of property. The vehicles and other items from the auction aren't included in the current listing, but the house's furniture is.

Currently, the eBay listing has disappeared but the house and property are still for sale at CherryValleyAuction.com.

We reached out to the Barber household and Mike Easley, who represented the Barbers in the suit, but did not hear back from them.