Spring Hill (Hempstead County)

Spring Hill is an unincorporated community in Hempstead County located about six miles southwest of Hope (Hempstead County). The community is about seven miles from the Red River and was an important early settlement in southwestern Arkansas.

A fertile farming area due to the location near the Red River, Spring Hill became a popular location for early settlers. Many land grants were made in the area beginning in 1837. Aquila Davis quickly became a significant landowner, with a total of 400 acres owned individually or jointly with others, all of the land having been acquired between April and August 1837. George Foster also obtained 120 acres in 1837. He appears in the 1850 census with three relatives and fifteen slaves. Barbara Garland acquired forty acres of land on April 15, 1837. The Garland family—including Rufus, Barbara, and three children (Rufus, Elizabeth, and Augustus)—moved to Lost Prairie (Miller County) in 1833. The elder Rufus died the same year, and Barbara moved the family across the river to Spring Hill. With the help of her attorney, Thomas Hubbard, Barbara Garland closed the estate of her first husband and began teaching at the Spring Hill Female Seminary. By 1836, she had married Hubbard and moved to Washington (Hempstead County). Augustus Garland attended the Spring Hill Male Academy before continuing his education in Kentucky. He later served as Arkansas governor, Confederate representative and senator, U.S. senator, and U.S. attorney general.

A Presbyterian church began operations in the community in 1836. Among the church charter members was a woman named Letta, who was held in bondage by W. B. Morelton. Known simply as the Spring Hill Church, it remained active until around 1847, when the remaining members joined the church located at Washington.

The area served as an important military stronghold for Confederate forces after the fall of Little Rock (Pulaski County) to the Union in 1863. A massive set of fortifications was constructed south of the community along the Red River at Dooley’s Ferry, a crossing point on the river. The fortifications were added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 22, 2004.

The community remained primarily agricultural, with few businesses. A post office opened in the community in 1835 and continued to operate until 1906. The community is served by the post office in Hope in the twenty-first century. Community events like boxing matches and lunches brought visitors to the community from Hope and other nearby towns. Electric lines from the Hope Municipal Power Plant reached the community in 1937.

Education played an important role in the history of the community, with several institutions operating in the area over the decades. The Spring Hill Female Academy opened in April 1836. Operated by Elizabeth Pratt, the school quickly became popular with families across the state, and three additional rooms had to be constructed to expand from the original single-room building. The success of the school led to the creation of the Spring Hill Male Academy, with operations beginning in May 1838. After the success of the two schools in the late 1830s and early 1840s, both likely ceased to operate by 1845. While it is possible that the schools did continue catering to local students, they no longer attracted students from across Arkansas.

In December 1904, an African American teenager named White Jetton was lynched near Spring Hill for having allegedly attacked a white farmer, but information on the event is scarce.

The Spring Hill School District serves the community in the twenty-first century. Created in 1929, the district consolidated five existing schools into a single system with a centrally located building. The schools consolidated included the Crank School in July 1929, and the district began soliciting bids for the construction of a new building. Construction on the building began the following month, and it opened that November. Operating an elementary school and a high school, the district enrolled 589 students in the 2019–20 academic year.

The Bethany Baptist Church, Spring Hill United Methodist Church, and Spring Hill Christian Church are located in the community. An African-American church operated at Dooley’s Ferry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A cemetery started by the church is located at the site of the military fortifications. A number of other cemeteries are located in the community. The Turner Cemetery contains marked graves dating to 1839, while the Powell Family Cemetery contains graves dating to 1848. The newest cemetery in the area is the Sullivan Cemetery, with graves from 1900.

South of the community, the Dr. Lester Sitzes III Bois D’Arc Wildlife Management Area offers recreational opportunities for fishers, campers, and boaters.

For additional information:
“Big Crowd Turns out for Electric Party, Spring Hill.” Hope Star, September 30, 1937, p. 1.

“Hope Plant Ready to Turn on Power in Its New Rural Lines.” Hope Star, September 21, 1937, p. 1.

Moffatt, Walter. “Arkansas Schools, 1819–1840.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 12 (Summer 1953): 91–105.

“Notice to Contractors.” Hope Star, July 8, 1929, p. 5.

“Spring Hill Boxing Bout Interesting.” Hope Star, August 21, 1929, p. 5.

“Spring Hill Opens School Building.” Hope Star, November 8, 1929.

“Spring Hill School Building Going Up.” Hope Star, August 13, 1929, p.1.

Spring Hill Vertical File. Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives, Washington, Arkansas.

Stokes, Allen. “Education in Young Arkansas: Spring Hill Female Academy.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 27 (Summer 1968): 105–112.

Watkins, Beverly. “Augustus Hill Garland, 1832–1899: Arkansas Lawyer to United States Attorney-General.” PhD diss., Auburn University, 1985.

White, Dena, “Slavery in Hempstead County, Arkansas.” Honors thesis, Ouachita Baptist University, 1984. Online at https://scholarlycommons.obu.edu/honors_theses/188 (accessed November 20, 2020).

Williams, Charican. “Spring Hill Church Founded in 1836.” Hope Star, June 26, 1936, p. 25.

David Sesser
Henderson State University

Last Updated: 11/20/2020

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