Oden (Montgomery County)

Latitude and Longitude: 34º37’08″N 093º46’37″W
Elevation: 761 feet
Area: 0.81 square miles (2020 Census)
Population: 180 (2020 Census)
Incorporation Date: February 14, 1929

Historical Population as per the U.S. Census:

































Oden, a rural community in northwest Montgomery County, is on the north bank of the Ouachita River eight miles west of Mount Ida, the county seat. Oden’s population in 2010 was 232.

In 1849, Henry Beshears settled where Oden now stands, his journey to Arkansas perhaps occasioned by the California gold rush. He wrote to his old neighbors in Mississippi about the wonderful country he had found—the Ouachita bottomlands and the abundant game. In the spring of 1848, a group left Tippah County, Mississippi, in thirteen ox-drawn wagons and arrived in Oden in January 1849. Hunting parties found game plentiful. Liking the land they saw, they cleared some ground and planted corn. A third wagon train came along and also decided to stop. Thus, the community of Oden was born. Many of the early families’ descendants still live around Oden and along the Ouachita River from Mena (Polk County) to Mount Ida.

The post office opened on December 18, 1882, with Louis J. Johnson as postmaster. In the early twentieth century, Oden was a thriving town with a hotel, a bank, a hardware store, grocery stores, a service station, and more. A predominantly agricultural community, Oden was incorporated in 1929.

Two things led the town into a decline from which it never fully recovered—a 1931 fire that destroyed seven buildings, and the Depression. The Depression led many farmers to move to California or Lee County, Arkansas. Today, at the crossroads are the post office, a general store, a native rock building that was once the Oden Bank, and a few abandoned buildings and wells. In Oden are Methodist and Baptist churches and the Oden Cemetery (with approximately 600 graves), where Decoration Day is the third Sunday in May. Taylor Town, a subdivision in Oden, was named after C. C. Taylor, who, in the 1960s and 1970s, built a few small, economical homes with white boards on the outside. He rented and eventually sold the homes. A volunteer fire station serves the community.

In the past, cotton was an important cash crop. In the 1950s, row cropping faded. Oden’s farmers once raised broilers, pullets, and laying hens, but today, the smaller broiler houses are being abandoned for beef cattle because the chicken houses are not close enough to the processing plants.

The Ouachita National Forest covers sixty-three percent of the county. A ranger station stands west of the public school. Nearby is the Big Brushy Recreational Area with hiking trails, which are part of the Ouachita Trail system. Each spring, the Ouachita Challenge, a sixty-mile mountain bike tour and race, starts at the Oden school.

The first school in Oden was established in 1860, but the Oden School District was organized in 1928, when many area schools consolidated. Today, children travel by bus from Pine Ridge (Montgomery County), Hog Jaw (Montgomery County), Sims (Montgomery County), and other communities. In 2005, the Ouachita River School District in western Arkansas was formed. There are two schools in this district: Acorn Schools, located in northern Polk County and southwestern Scott County, and Oden Schools, located in western Montgomery County.

Ode Maddox, who was a state representative from 1957 to 1998 and served on the House Education Committee, received his elementary schooling at Caney and later graduated from Oden in March 1932. He served as a teacher at Oden starting in the fall of 1934. The Oden Schools serve as the community’s largest employer, and Ode Maddox Elementary School is the largest building in the town. Student names from the senior classes can be found etched in marble on the sidewalk in front of Oden High School. Many former pupils have returned to teach in Oden.

For additional information:
Montgomery County Arkansas GenWeb Project. http://www.argenweb.net/montgomery/ (accessed August 5, 2022).

Montgomery County Historical Society. Montgomery County: Our Heritage. Mount Ida, AR: Montgomery County Historical Society, 1986.

Olwyn Whitehouse
Montgomery County Arkansas GenWeb Project


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