Brickeys (Lee County)
The town of Brickeys existed in Lee County for about forty years before its incorporation was allowed to lapse. Its name remains in the twenty-first century as the location of the East Arkansas Regional Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction.
When Lee County was created in 1873, much of the county consisted of plantations that had been worked by slaves before the Civil War and continued to be worked by tenant farmers after the conclusion of the war. The remaining areas were wetlands, interspersed with a few spots of high ground. In 1913, the Missouri Pacific Railroad created a line connecting Marianna (Lee County) with Memphis, Tennessee. Brickeys was one of the stops along that line (known locally as the Marianna Cutoff); the town was named for landowner Peter Brickey. A post office of the same name opened at the depot in 1914, and the town of Brickeys was incorporated in 1925.
A one-room schoolhouse was built in the town around 1922, and a church was used on different occasions by Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist congregations. A Missionary Baptist congregation was established in Brickeys in 1921, which was named St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in October 1922. The town also had a cotton gin, an ice house, two grocery stores, a barber shop, a dance pavilion, and a jail. Later, these were joined by a drugstore, a millinery shop, two doctors, a service station and garage for automobiles, and a fur and pecan buyer.
The town faced a series of crises during its short history. A fire devastated the downtown area in 1925; many of the wooden buildings that were destroyed were replaced by brick structures. Two years later, the Flood of 1927 left several feet of water and mud in the town’s homes and businesses. Flooding was repeated ten years later in the Flood of 1937, and a fire in 1945 destroyed the remaining wooden structures in downtown Brickeys.
The fire of 1925 also destroyed the school, but classes were held in the church until a new school could be built. This school, built of brick, held classes for white children of the area until 1956, when a new schoolhouse was opened. The older structure remained a school and was used by African-American children. A few years later, desegregation and school consolidation ended the Brickeys school district, and children (both black and white) were bused to classes in Marianna.
Automobile and truck traffic took business away from the railroad, and the Missouri Pacific line closed the Marianna Cutoff. People still traveled through Brickeys on U.S. Highway 79, but the mechanization of agriculture after World War II caused a decline in population throughout eastern Arkansas. Incorporation of the town was allowed to lapse sometime after 1960, and many of the town’s structures disappeared.
In 1992, the Arkansas Department of Correction opened a facility near Highway 79 at the location of the defunct town. The East Arkansas Regional Unit has a capacity of 1,432, and it provides jobs for 379 employees. Field crops are grown at the facility, which also includes a substance abuse treatment program. The facility uses the Brickeys post office, which had survived the disappearance of the town.
For additional information:
East Arkansas Regional Unit. Arkansas Department of Correction. http://adc.arkansas.gov/faciliities/Pages/facilityDetails.aspx?show=13 (accessed October 21, 2021).
Lee County Sesquicentennial Committee. Lee County History. Dallas, TX: Curtis Media Company, 1987.
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
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