Boswell (Clark County)

Boswell is a community in Clark County that was most active in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Located about five miles northeast of Okolona (Clark County), the area was first settled in the 1830s. The Southwest Trail passed through the community, bringing travelers and settlers. Around 1845, Hawes Coleman moved into the area and built a plantation called “Will-Be-Do.” Coleman was a lawyer and farmer who originally lived south of Arkadelphia (Clark County) along the Ouachita River but moved his family west in an effort to escape malaria. The area was in the South Fork Township during this period.

The land was sparsely settled during the Civil War. A Federal army under the command of Major General Frederick Steele marched through the area during the Camden Expedition. Several skirmishes took place near the settlement as troops under the command of Brigadier General Joseph Shelby led attacks on the Union wagon train.

The community gained its name from the Boswell family, who first appear in the 1880 census. Charles Boswell attended Okolona High School in the 1870s and would later own a store in the community. Over the next decades, nearby Okolona grew in population, and a Boswell Dry Goods Store operated in the town in 1899. The Boswell Post Office began operations in 1897, with Charles Boswell serving as the first postmaster. The office operated until 1912, when the Okolona branch began to serve the area. A telephone line was installed between Arkadelphia and Boswell in 1902.

The Boswell store also served as a polling place, and a school was constructed nearby in the late nineteenth century. Another nearby school was named Shady Grove but received the nickname of “Thin Gravy” due to the persistent mud around the building. The rival Boswell School received the nickname “Thick Gravy,” and the two schools competed in regular baseball games and spelling bees. The Boswell School consolidated in the 1920s with Okolona, but the district opened a school for African Americans in Boswell in 1930. This school consolidated in the 1940s with the Rosenwald School in Okolona.

Boswell was never a large community and is often referred to jointly with the nearby communities of Dobyville, Shady Grove, and Bethel. This area is called Trinity and was based on the central location of Trinity United Methodist Church at the intersection of roads leading to Arkadelphia, Okolona, Gurdon (Clark County), and Hollywood (Clark County).

The population of Boswell and the surrounding communities continued to fall during the twentieth century. In the twenty-first century, the Boswell area consists of several homes and two churches. The majority of the community operates farming or ranching businesses.

For additional information:
Richter, Wendy, et al. Clark County Arkansas: Past and Present. Arkadelphia: Clark County Historical Association, 1992.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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