Cedarville (Crawford County)

Latitude and Longitude: 35°34’11″N 094°22’01″W
Elevation: 787 feet
Area: 8.89 square miles (2020 Census)
Population: 1,424 (2020 Census)
Incorporation Dates: July 5, 1881, and August 25, 1998

Historical Population as per the U.S. Census:

































Cedarville (Crawford County) is in northwestern Arkansas, five and a half miles east of the Oklahoma border and ten miles north of Van Buren (Crawford County). It is located at the intersection of Highways 59, 162, and 220. Situated in the Webber Valley of Lee’s Creek in the foothills of the Boston Mountain range of the Ozark Mountains, it is the fourth-largest town in Crawford County.

Approximately three miles north of Cedarville is a rock formation believed by some to be the foundation of an old fort. It measures about 450 by 150 feet. While some people believe that the formation is natural, others attribute the formation to Native Americans or even to Hernando de Soto and his men. The de Soto suggestion is unlikely, both because his expedition almost certainly never visited Crawford County and also because they did not build large stone forts during their travels.

By the time of historic records, the Osage were controlling all of northwest Arkansas, claiming it and utilizing it as a hunting territory to the exclusion of all other groups. Their main villages were to the north in Missouri, but their expeditions undoubtedly visited the area. They used rock shelters for food storage, temporary camps, and burial places, but never for long-term occupation.

Valentine Matlock built the first home in the area of what is now Cedarville in 1840. Thomas Edward “Doc” Young was among the next residents. Dr. Honoria Austin also practiced medicine in the Cedarville area during this time, but exact dates are unavailable. A curve on Highway 59 was named “Doc Austin Curve” in her honor. Legend has it that she lived in a tent with several dogs and dressed in men’s clothing. She was the first woman doctor in Crawford County.

Cedarville was a thriving community with about twenty inhabitants. In March 1879, plans for the town were laid out by Archibald Hayes, Charles Crowell, Palmer and Lee Neal, James O’Bryan, Philip Howell, and W. E. Nipper. The surveyor was Davidson Dickson.

Cedarville was incorporated on July 19, 1881. Businesses included Dr. Young’s office, Shelley’s Shoe Shop, O’Bryan Saloon and Grocery Store, Palmer Neal’s General Store, the Crowell Store, and Lee Neal’s Drug Store. Because of the abundance of cedar trees in the area, H. S. Anderson named the town Cedarville. The first post office was established in 1872, with Henry C. Crowell as the first postmaster.

The abundance of free land for homesteading drew families to the area. Logging, the manufacture of railroad ties, and farming were the main money makers for early settlers. Cotton and livestock were the primary cash crops. Strawberries became very popular in the late 1880s and early 1890s. They became so popular that the market was flooded, and the bottom dropped out of the strawberry market. Many small farmers went broke. Some farmers diversified to fruit orchards and vegetables, such as green beans and tomatoes. During the Depression, many families left the farms for California, where migratory farm workers were needed. Later, the airplane factories drew more families to the West Coast with prospects of jobs and high wages.

In the 1890s, Cedarville’s government became inactive and remained so for almost a century. No one can recall Cedarville having a mayor since the 1930s, due mostly to the drop in population during the Depression and the war years.

In 1981, Cedarville was unincorporated due to a petition filed by Bonnie (Neal) Coffee, a granddaughter of Palmer Neal, one of the founding fathers of Cedarville. Coffee was born and raised in Cedarville but had relocated to the state of Washington. She owned property in Cedarville and wanted to subdivide and sell the property but was told that it was impossible because of plans for streets and alleyways in the original plans for Cedarville. Coffee, through her attorney Pete Rogers, filed a petition for un-incorporation and, since there were no objections, the order was signed by Crawford County judge George Wilmuth.

In 1998, a group of concerned citizens, including Ruth Whitaker, Beverly Pyle, Libby Burchfiel, Norman McAllister, and others, met to discuss re-incorporation. Van Buren to the south was experiencing such rapid growth it was feared that Cedarville would be overrun and swallowed up in the expansion. A petition was filed and, there being no objection in the thirty-day waiting period, an order of incorporation was signed on September 25, 1998, by Crawford County judge Jerry Williams. McAllister was elected Cedarville’s first new mayor on November 3, 1998, along with a clerk/treasurer and five aldermen. Cedarville city limits were also expanded.

Cedarville has experienced phenomenal growth in recent years. It has always been a bedroom community for Van Buren and Fort Smith (Sebastian County) to the south and Fayetteville (Washington County) to the north. Very few people living in Cedarville actually make their living there.

Cedarville continues to grow at a rapid rate. It has a new city hall, city park, fire station, and a Dollar General store, all built since incorporation. It also has a post office, florist shop, gas station, Masonic lodge, auto body shop, senior citizens center, beauty and barber shop, convenience store, and waterworks, along with two churches. A new library is being built on property purchased from the Cedarville School District.

Cedarville’s first elementary school was built in 1870. John Hughes was the first teacher. By 1900, a second teacher was added, with a curtain dividing the one-room building. The school burned in 1917. In 1919, a building was moved from the nearby Rena community and reconstructed at Cedarville. A native rock building was constructed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) with help from local volunteers in 1931–32, and it housed all twelve grades. The total cost was $1,700. Classes were held in the building until 1982.

Around 1940, sixteen districts were consolidated into the Cedarville School District. These included Natural Dam, Cove City, Uniontown, Rosedale, Shiloh, Philadelphia, Independence, Post Oak, Pleasant Grove, Peaceful Home, Shamrock, Cedarville, Figure Four, Salem, and White Water, all in Crawford County. There were no black families living in the Cedarville area, therefore desegregation was not an issue.

The Old Rock School Building was renovated in 1997–98 by several local families who volunteered their time and talents and who obtained grants to help pay for materials. By 2012, it housed the Cedarville Community Center, the Cedarville History Museum, and a gift shop. The Cedarville Branch of the Crawford County Library System was located in the building until it relocated to its new building in 2011.

Cedarville built a new elementary school prior to 1971, and additions were made to the building in the 1980s. A state-of-the-art high school was finished in 1986. The middle school was built in 1996.

For additional information:
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northwest Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.

Eno, Clara B. A History of Crawford County. Van Buren, AR: Press Argus, 1944. Reprinted 1992 by Brown Printing and Publication.

Hopkins, Eula, and Wanda M. Gray, compilers. History of Crawford County, Arkansas. Van Buren, AR: Historical Preservation Association of Crawford County, 2001.

Howard, James E. The Schools of Crawford County, Arkansas, 1832–2003. Van Buren, AR: Historical Preservation Association of Crawford County, 2003.

Patsy V. Blain
Van Buren, Arkansas


    The Old Rock Building was used for classes through May 1986. I attended Cedarville Public Schools K-12 and graduated in 1986. My senior English class was in the Rock Building. The late Mr. Olin Stewart was our instructor. Although we are considered to be the first graduating class out of the new high school, we never attended classes in the new building. Classes began in the new high school in the fall of 1986. 

    Jamie Carter