Mount Magazine is the highest point in Arkansas at 2,753 feet above sea level and is the centerpiece of Mount Magazine State Park. The mountain is located between the communities of Waveland and Corley in Logan County. Mount Magazine has attracted national attention due to its population of rare butterflies such as the Diana fritillary; in fact, ninety-four of Arkansas’s 134 species of butterflies live on Mount Magazine. Native American tools such as projectile points and pottery shards have been found there. However, there is no evidence to suggest there were permanent Native American settlements on the mountain.
French explorer Jean-Baptiste Bernard de La Harpe is believed to have been the first European to have seen Mount Magazine, when he explored the Arkansas River Valley in 1722. On April 6, 1819, noted English botanist Thomas Nuttall recorded his first sighting of a “magnificent empurpled mountain,” resembling a “long ridge or table.” The mountain’s name, according to Nuttall, came from French hunters who thought it looked like a large barn, or “magazine,” where ammunition was stored. This led to it being called Barn Mountain and finally Magazine Mountain or Mount Magazine. Mount Magazine does not have a sharp peak or summit—it is a massive plateau. Recent scholarship, however, holds that Nuttall was actually writing about Mount Nebo, which is part of the “Magazine Range,” not to be confused with either the Ozarks or the Ouachitas. It is believed that what is now called Mount Magazine was referred to as “Castete Mt” on Nuttall’s map.
Despite the mountain’s high bluffs, the 2,200-acre plateau on top of Mount Magazine, with its rich soil and abundance of wild game, attracted many settlers to what is now Logan County. The mountain’s unique climate and fertile surroundings provided the perfect place for homesteaders. In 1853, the U.S. Congress passed an act that opened land overlapping the mountain for the construction of a railroad. Excess land was then sold to settlers at low prices: One could buy a large parcel of land in the area for as little as $2.50 an acre. President Abraham Lincoln’s Homestead Act of 1862 opened lands under the public domain, of which Mount Magazine was a part, to settlers who agreed to live on and develop the land. In exchange, homesteaders paid taxes to the government, allowing the economy to grow and the West to be settled.
While some moved into the area during the Civil War, most settlements appeared near Mount Magazine after the war ended in 1865. In 1873, Thomas Rush Cameron, a former Confederate, moved his family to the mountain. Their sixty-acre farm was located above what is now called Cameron’s Bluff in his honor. Reportedly, his wife had a respiratory condition, so he believed the high elevation would be beneficial to her health. Cameron participated in the first government-run survey of Mount Magazine. In 1875, the Arkansas General Assembly gave the commissioner of state lands the power to make deeds and sell lands in delinquency to new occupants to keep them on the market. T. M. C. Birmingham, a former engineer in a New York regiment during the Civil War, was among the first to take advantage of the newly opened territory. He purchased 320 acres for $160 in 1878.
In April 1899, a board of directors meeting of the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Memphis Townsite Company was held at Booneville (Logan County). The company started selling plots of land in what was to be a planned resort community on top of the mountain. By 1900, the town plat had been drawn up showing roads, alleys, parks, a hotel, and more than 400 lots. The plat referred to the Mount Magazine as the “Highest Point Between the Rockies and the Alleghanies.” The West End Hotel, later named the Skycrest Inn, first appeared in the tax books in 1902. It was owned by the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad. By 1931, however, more than two-thirds of the lots in the new resort town were in forfeiture.
In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made Mount Magazine a part of the Ouachita National Forest and by 1941 all land on top of the mountain was under control of the federal government. Over the next few decades, steps were taken to create an official state park on Mount Magazine. In 2002, Governor Mike Huckabee dedicated Mount Magazine State Park.
For additional information:
Green, Garvin. Mount Magazine: A History. Edited and updated by Don R. Simons. Paris, AR: Paris Express-Progress, 2004.
Nuttall, Thomas. A Journal of Travels into the Arkansas Territory during the Year 1819. Edited by Savoie Lottinville. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1999.
Simons, Don R. Images of America: Mount Magazine. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. 2017.
Cody Lynn Berry
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