Buena Vista (Ouachita County)
Buena Vista (Ouachita County) is an unincorporated community located about nine miles southwest of Camden (Ouachita County) and eight miles northeast of Stephens (Ouachita County). The name of the community is likely a reference to the Battle of Buena Vista fought near Monterrey, Mexico, in February 1847, during the Mexican War. Former Arkansas governor and U.S. representative Archibald Yell was killed in the battle while leading the Arkansas Regiment of Mounted Volunteers. It is also possibly in reference to a nearby hill that is the highest point in Ouachita County, leading to the adoption of the Spanish translation of the phrase “good view.”
The area surrounding Buena Vista belonged to Union County when Arkansas joined the union in 1836. With the creation of Ouachita County in 1842, more settlers began to arrive in the area. Early names of the area include Venter and Ten Springs. A post office opened in 1848, although it is possible that earlier post offices operated in the area while it was part of Union County. Early landowners in the area include William Hildreth, who obtained forty acres from the land patent office in Champagnolle (Union County) on May 15, 1852. (Hildreth’s first name was also recorded as Wilson.) In the 1860 census, he is listed as living with his wife, Mary, and owning twenty-one enslaved workers, real estate valued at $4,000, and personal property valued at more than $20,000.
Other early settlers in the area include Samuel Laughlin and Humphrey Scroggin, who obtained eighty acres in 1855. Laughlin lived in Buena Vista with his family, while Scroggin resided in Princeton (Dallas County). The area surrounding Buena Vista was heavily farmed, but evidence suggests that at least one store operated in the area before the Civil War.
Organized in 1859, Buena Vista Methodist Church served the surrounding community and was still standing in 2020. Originally named the Ten Springs Methodist Episcopal Church, it housed a school for decades. The school consolidated with the school at Stephens in 1949. Established near the church is the Buena Vista Cemetery. The earliest marked burial is D. Colman Cross, the eight-month old son of Francis and Susan Cross, who died on March 4, 1859. Adjacent to the Buena Vista Cemetery is the Buena Vista African American Cemetery.
Members of the community served in the Confederate army during the Civil War. Resident Jacob Grimmett enlisted in Company C, Thirty-third Arkansas Infantry in 1863, serving with the unit until his death on May 22, 1864. His remains are located in Louisiana near location of his death, but a headstone is located in the Buena Vista Cemetery.
More residents moved to the community after the war. With the construction of the Cotton Belt Railroad in the area in 1882, the population of Buena Vista reached approximately 200. At that time, a sawmill and at least four stores operated in the town.
By 1900, the town also included a grist mill, but the population remained unchanged. The Buena Vista Bethel School operated for a time. Serving African American students, it offered coursework through the eighth grade. Students wishing to continue their education then transferred to Camden. It was located near New Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
In 1936, the Arkansas Forestry Commission constructed a fire tower on the high point located southwest of the town. The steel tower was 100 feet tall and included a closed cabin at the top. The tower no longer stands in the twenty-first century, but it was used in conjunction with other nearby towers, including the Poison Springs Tower, to locate forest fires. In 1960, a number of fires threatened the town, and in an effort to save the post office, locals moved the building across the railroad tracks. When the fires were extinguished, the locals moved the office back to its original location. At least one home near the office was destroyed in the fire.
The post office closed in 1968, with service being split between the offices in Camden and Stephens. The area received water service in 1986 when the Buena Vista/Ogemaw Water Association began operations. The association purchases water from the City of Camden.
In the twenty-first century, the area is heavily forested with a few homes. All that remain of the community are the Buena Vista United Methodist Church, the New Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church located north of Highway 79, and the cemeteries. The ruins of a few businesses remain but are overgrown with underbrush. It serves as a bedroom community for Camden and other nearby towns.
For additional information:
“Buena Vista.” Ouachita County Historical Society. http://www.ouachitacountyhistoricalsociety.org/uploads/3/4/6/4/34649652/buena_vista.pdf (accessed October 9, 2020).
“From the Attic.” Ouachita County Historical Quarterly 19 (December 1987): 32.
Harris, Teresa. “Private Jacob Grimmett Comes Home.” Ouachita County Historical Quarterly 35 (Spring 2004): 10–13.
“Utility Service at Ogemaw.” Ouachita County Historical Quarterly 18 (March 1987): 30.
Henderson State University
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