Cove (Polk County)

Latitude and Longitude: 34°26’06″N 094°24’21″W
Elevation: 1,047 feet
Area: 1.60 square miles (2020 Census)
Population: 319 (2020 Census)
Incorporation Date: July 6, 1926

Historical Population as per the U.S. Census:

































Cove is a town on U.S. Highway 71 in western Polk County. It is home to Van-Cove High School, part of the Cossatot River School District.

The rugged hills of the Ouachita Mountains remained sparsely settled until after the Civil War, although Cove appears on maps as early as the 1850s. It is not clear why the name Cove was chosen for the community. The Skirmish of Sulphur Springs was fought near the location of Cove on January 25, 1864. Henry McDaniel purchased land in the area in 1876 and began clearing land for his farming operation. By 1890, Cove was noted as “an enterprising and good business village” with five general stores, a drugstore, three blacksmith shops, a wagon shop, a schoolhouse, a combination sawmill and grist mill with a cotton gin, and a church building shared by Baptists, Cumberland Presbyterians, and Methodists. The school, established in 1884, met in a log cabin until it burned down in 1889. For one year, students met in a storefront while a new schoolhouse was built from local lumber. That building continued to be used as a school until 1929.

The Kansas City Southern Railroad was built through Polk County in 1896. It bypassed the county seat at Dallas and brought about the new city of Mena, which eventually became the county seat. It also missed the village of Cove by about a mile. William Blake Barton sold the railroad forty acres of land, confident that his investment would be profitable. A depot was established on the railroad near Cove, and businesses began to relocate. The Short Lumber Company built a planing mill on land leased from the railroad, and Barton opened a store with his father, Basil Barton, as partner.

A post office was established in 1897. For about a year, it was known as Venice, but the name Cove Station was chosen in 1898. (The name Leroy was also considered.) Eventually, the name was shortened to Cove, and the previous settlement became known as Old Cove. A new school was built in the new community on land donated by Barton. New lumber companies were established, including the Barton Lumber Company and the Cove Lumber Company. A hotel opened in 1914. Cove was incorporated in 1926.

By the time of the town’s incorporation, much of the lumber in the area had already been harvested. National and state highway systems were being established at that time. Arkansas State Highway 4 and U.S. Highway 71 were both constructed through Cove, bringing travelers through the town. In 1929, five small school districts (Thurman, Piney Grove, Welcome Home, Mount Clair, and McCauley) were consolidated into the Cove School District. The Old Cove school also became part of the Cove School District at this time. During the Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and National Youth Administration (NYA) built several buildings on the Cove campus, including a home economics building, a library, and an agriculture building. The latter was used as a lunchroom for several years because the school could not afford to hire a teacher for the agriculture program. A Baptist church was established in Cove in 1947.

In 1949, the school districts of Cove and Vandervoort (Polk County) were consolidated. The new district was named Van Cove. The district elected to use the Cove campus for its high school. The high school still operates in the twenty-first century as part of the Cossatot River School District.

In 2015, businesses in Cove included two grocery stores, a convenience store, a Mexican restaurant, a bank, a hardware store, and two automotive care businesses. The post office and Baptist church also continue to operate. The population of Cove in 2010 was 382, predominately white.

Boyce Alford, born in Cove, was an optometrist who also had a long career in public service. He was active at both the local and state levels, serving in the Arkansas General Assembly for ten years and holding various local offices for an additional twenty years.

For additional information:
“Cove 1898–1998.” Mountain Signal 4 (November 1998): 3–13.

Kelley, Quince. “Building Highway 4 West of Cove.” Mountain Signal 4 (October 1998): 25–27.

Twiford, Ormond H. “Life of an Arkansas Logger in 1901.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 21 (Spring 1962): 44–74.

Williams, Troy, and Leon Toon, eds. History of Polk County, Arkansas. Dallas, TX: Curtis Media, 1988.

Steven Teske
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies


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