Beebe (White County)

Latitude and Longitude: 35º04’14″N 091º52’46″W
Elevation: 246 feet
Area: 10.14 square miles (2020 Census)
Population: 8,437 (2020 Census)
Incorporation date: May 4, 1875

Historical Population as per the U.S. Census:




































Beebe started out as the intersection of the railroad and Des Arc Road (now Highway 31). By 2020, Beebe’s official population stood at 8,437, a significant growth since 2000. Beebe is also the home of Arkansas State University–Beebe.

Reconstruction through the Gilded Age
Roswell Beebe was president of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad Company, which became part of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad Company. This was the company that built the railroad through White County. In 1872, the first train stopped at Des Arc Road. This intersection was designated Beebe Station in honor of Roswell Beebe. The train stopped there to take on wood and water to power the steam engine. Many of the new residents and businesses came from Stoney Point (White County). Beebe got its first post office on April 30, 1872.

Henry Beverly (H. B.) Strange was a merchant at Stoney Point and one of the first businessmen to move his business to Beebe Station in 1872. His home was on the west side of town. His daughter, Vida Strange, was the first child born in Beebe.

One of the area’s earliest settlers was Jim Smith. He settled at Stoney Point in the late 1860s and moved to Beebe a few years later. There, he bought a five-acre plot and built a house in 1872. Smith, a civil engineer and surveyor for twenty-five years, surveyed Beebe’s first street and the town’s boundaries, in addition to erecting a post office building and a cotton gin. Smith, at one time, owned most of the town and was long considered Beebe’s richest man. In 1891, he built the two-story red brick building on the north corner of Main and Center streets. The building still bears his initials, “J. S. S.” Over the years, there have been various businesses in this building: a bank, a bakery, a pool hall, a doctor’s office, and a dentist office. The upstairs was used primarily as offices for professional people.

In 1875, thirty-two citizens signed a petition of for the incorporation of Beebe, and it was presented to County Court Judge A. M. Foster. Beebe was incorporated on May 4, 1875.

In 1890, the town had several businesses, including stores, hotels, boarding houses, meat markets, blacksmith and wagon shops, a combined sawmill and grist mill, cotton gins, livery stables, a photo gallery, and a fruit evaporator. Beebe also had the White County Bank, separate churches for white parishioners and African Americans, a public school for white children, five physicians, a dentist, and two weekly newspapers.

In 1891, an African-American man named James Bailey was lynched for allegedly attacking a white woman.

Early Twentieth Century through the Modern Era
Beebe got electricity around 1904, provided by a gasoline-powered generator. The chugging of the single-stroke gasoline engine could be heard all over town. Electricity was provided to certain areas of town on certain days, and the generator was turned off at 9:00 or 10:00 p.m.

In the first half of the twentieth century, the farms between Beebe and Bald Knob (White County) produced more strawberries than any county in the United States. Beebe had a Strawberry Festival in the spring of the year, lasting for a week. At that time U.S. Highways 64 and 67 came through downtown Beebe, and every person driving through town was given a half pint of strawberry ice cream. The Beebe Jail, built with New Deal funds, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Beebe Colored School, built in the 1940s, is listed on the Arkansas Register of Historic Places.

In the past fifty years, two bypasses have been built around Beebe. One of those bypasses, DeWitt Henry Drive, is a main thoroughfare and a thriving business area. The new bypass, Highway 67/167 gives people the ability to work in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and live in Beebe or one of the outlying rural communities.

On January 21, 1999, a devastating tornado ripped through the town. Damages were estimated in the tens of millions of dollars. The Beebe High School was severely damaged, and the just-completed $2.5 million junior high was totally destroyed. Several homes and businesses and two churches were totally destroyed. Hundreds of homes were damaged. There were two fatalities attributed to the storm. The high school gym was leveled shortly after being evacuated, though no one was injured. On January 24, President Bill Clinton came to Beebe to survey the damage.

Founded as the Junior Agricultural School of Central Arkansas in 1927 by W. H. Abington, Arkansas State University’s campus in Beebe (ASU–Beebe) has evolved and grown to become a center for long-distance learning and technical trade programs in central Arkansas. In 2005, it conferred more associate’s degrees than any other two-year college in Arkansas. It offers the Associate of Arts, the Associate of Applied Science, and the Associate of Science degrees. Technical certificate programs and a number of online courses, as well as the Associate of Arts online, are offered. On the Beebe campus, Arkansas State University offers bachelor’s degrees in eight areas of study and master’s degrees in three areas. ASU–Beebe is the largest employer in the city.

For additional information:
Arkansas State University–Beebe. (accessed April 13, 2022).

City of Beebe. (accessed April 13, 2022).

Roswell Beebe Materials, 1795–1925. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. Central Arkansas Library System, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Richard White
Beebe, Arkansas


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