Felsenthal (Union County)

Latitude and Longitude: 33°03’34″N 092°09’24″W
Elevation: 82 feet
Area: 1.482 square miles (2010 Census)
Population: 150 (2010 Census)
Incorporation Date: July 6, 1904

Historical Population as per the U.S. Census:

1810

1820

1830

1840

1850

1860

1870

1880

1890

1900

1910

1920

1930

1940

1950

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

273

167

208

203

158

220

95

152

2010

150

Felsenthal is near the Saline River’s termination into the Ouachita River in southeastern Union County, just north of the Louisiana state line. It was established by the lumber industry, but since 1975 has prospered due to tourism, including hunters and fishers.

David Felsenthal, a Jew born in Bavaria (now part of Germany) in 1833, moved to Arkansas when he was twenty years old. He lived first in Woodlawn (Ouachita County) and then moved to Camden (Ouachita County). He and his wife had nine children, four of whom—Adolph, Isaac, Sidney, and Lee—formed the Felsenthal Land and Timber Company around the beginning of the twentieth century to harvest the trees of southern Union County. They established a company town for their workers and workers’ families, naming the town Felsenthal.

The post office opened in 1903, and the town was incorporated in 1904. Two excursion trains in 1905 brought prospective buyers to the town, including Governor Jeff Davis. During the lumber boom, the town reached a population of 1,200. It had public schools, a bank, an opera house, three hotels, a brick company, and two newspapers. The town also had a baseball team. Union County leaders planned to divide the county into two judicial districts with a courthouse in Felsenthal, but flooding in 1906 brought an end to those plans. The nearby city of Huttig (Union County), established by the Frost-Johnson timber company about the same time as Felsenthal, proved to be more successful at attracting and keeping businesses. Felsenthal became unincorporated in 1911, though it later reincorporated. The post office closed in 1969.

In 1975, the Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge was established in Union, Bradley, and Ashley counties. Consisting of 65,000 acres, the refuge preserves a network of lakes, sloughs, and bayous as well as forests of hardwood trees. Felsenthal reincorporated in 1978. In 1984, the Felsenthal lock and dam on the Ouachita River were completed, regulating the deliberate flooding of the refuge for the benefit of trees and wildlife, as well as creating Lake Jack Lee. Cabins were built in Felsenthal for tourists, and a new sewer system was installed. Despite the dam, flooding remains a problem for the community.

By 1987, the town consisted of 150 permanent residences and welcomed an average of 1,200 visitors each weekend. In 1985, the town sponsored its first Bream Fest, a fishing tournament held over a weekend in late May. The festival also has a water slide and obstacle course for children, live music, food and craft vendors, a horseshoe tourney, and bingo.

In 2015, Felsenthal had a Baptist church, a campground, and a recreational site. Residents and visitors generally travel to El Dorado (Union County) for shopping, restaurants, and other amenities. Students attend school in the Strong-Huttig School District.

For additional information:
Felsenthal, Arkansas. http://felsenthal-ar.com/index.html (accessed September 16, 2019).

LeMaster, Carolyn Gray. A Corner of the Tapestry: A History of the Jewish Experience in Arkansas, 1820s–1990s. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1994.

Steven Teske
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

Last Updated: 09/16/2019