Adona (Perry County)
|Latitude and Longitude:||35°02’17″N 092°53’53″W|
|Area:||0.95 square miles (2020 Census)|
|Population:||149 (2020 Census)|
Historical Population as per the U.S. Census:
Adona is a city located on Highway 10 in northern Perry County. It began as a railroad town, prospered due to the timber industry, and is sustained by tourism in the twenty-first century. Adona is sometimes humorously described as “the first city in Arkansas” because of its place in the alphabetical order of communities and because of its zip code (72001).
Franklin Russell was the first owner of the land that became Adona, establishing a claim to the land in 1849. However, Russell never lived on this land, eventually selling it to John Howell, who became the first permanent resident. As a small community developed, residents named it Cypress Valley, since it was watered by Cypress Creek. A Methodist congregation began to meet in a schoolhouse around 1886. When the post office was established in 1879, the name Cypress Valley was rejected. The post office was then named Adona, the first name of one of John Howell’s descendants.
In 1900, the Choctaw and Memphis Railroad was built through northern Perry County, and a depot was built in Adona in 1901. A town site was laid out by W. D. Jones, J. J. Rankin, and M. F. Caperton, and the community began to grow. Many of the jobs involved the timber industry. The Fort Smith Lumber Company established a sawmill at Adona, which was named Fowler Mill for a resident of Adona. The lumber company operated a narrow gauge railroad that was the narrowest such railroad in Arkansas, with a width of two feet, six inches. The community was incorporated as a town in 1903. A new school was built the same year. A Methodist church was built in 1905 on land that had been acquired for that purpose in 1900 from T. J. and Adona Howell at the cost of one dollar. A Baptist church was also established in Adona.
Fowler Mill’s operations in the surrounding Petit Jean Mountain area ironically inspired the creation of the Arkansas’s system of state parks. Its contract physician, Dr. T. W. Hardison, suggested to the lumber company management that the timber in the rugged Seven Hollows area of Petit Jean Mountain would be uneconomical to log, so the area might as well be preserved as a park. The Fort Smith Lumber Company officials agreed and directed that the land be set aside. In 1909, when the rest of the marketable timber in the area had been cut, Fowler Mill closed.
Telephone service was established in Adona by 1912. Several stores were built, as well as a cotton gin and a grist mill. School continued to be held in Adona until 1947, when the school district was consolidated into the Perryville (Perry County) school district. The old school building was being used as a community center.
One of the most significant business establishments in Adona is Cypress Creek Park, a campground that draws interest from visitors to nearby Petit Jean State Park. Bluegrass and folk music are regularly performed there, with a series of concerts beginning in 1981. Adona also has Methodist and Baptist churches, a hair salon, and the headquarters of a collectors’ club called Arkansas Military Vehicles. Adona has a volunteer fire department. Most residents work in Morrilton (Conway County), Russellville (Pope County), or Conway (Faulkner County).
A community festival, Adona Fest, was established in 1993. At first it was held in September, but in 2000 it was moved to October due to heat and fire danger. The festival, a fundraiser for the fire department, features a southern-style dinner with fried chicken and traditional side dishes.
For additional information:
Perry County Historical & Genealogical Society. Perry County, Arkansas: Its Land & People. Marceline, MO: Walsworth Publishing Company, 2004.
Trower, Kathy. “Adona, Home to Approximately 143 Citizens, Is Known as the First City in Arkansas.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, River Valley edition, December 10, 2000, p. 8R.
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
Last Updated: 02/16/2022