Fifty-Six (Stone County)

Latitude and Longitude: 35°57’27″N 092°13’07″W
Elevation: 869 feet
Area: 2.07 square miles (2020 Census)
Population: 158 (2020 Census)
Incorporation Date: March 3, 1971

Historical Population as per the U.S. Census:




























Fifty-Six is one of two cities in Stone County. It stands on State Highway 14 in the northern part of the county. Fifty-Six (sometimes spelled without the hyphen) is located near Blanchard Springs Caverns, one of the most visited tourist sites in the Ozark National Forest.

The forested hills and mountains of northern Arkansas were claimed as hunting and fishing land by the Osage, who lived in southern Missouri, when the United States first acquired the land as part of the Louisiana Purchase. White settlers gradually arrived in the area, but the rugged land remained only sparsely settled for many years. Stone County, which was formed in 1873 from parts of four other counties, had about 5,000 residents at the time, most of whom lived on farms or in small, isolated settlements. Its county seat, Mountain View, had fewer than 100 residents when the county was formed.

One of those small settlements, called Newcomb, applied for a post office in 1918. The community name was rejected by the postal service, and the name Fifty-Six was substituted—reportedly because that was the number of the community’s school district. Despite its small population, Stone County had as many as seventy-one school districts until the 1940s, when school consolidation reduced the number to five. Fifty-Six was one of the five, but it later was consolidated into the Tri-County School District, which was itself closed in 1993. The post office became a rural branch of the Mountain View post office in 1966.

In 1940, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built a dam on Sylamore Creek, creating Mirror Lake. It also built two bridges and an observation shelter, all out of native stone. The CCC’s work, now part of the Blanchard Springs Caverns land administered by the U.S. Forest Service, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Because of its name, the community captured statewide attention around the beginning of the year 1956. At the time, the settlement had a population of thirty-nine, as well as the post office, two churches, and four stores. The primary occupation among residents of Fifty-Six at that time, according to the Arkansas Democrat, was guiding more than 5,000 deer hunters through the hills of the Ozark National Forest. However, plans had just been announced to harvest many acres of white oak from the forest in a ten-year project that was expected to involve four new mills, including a stave mill, in the Fifty-Six vicinity. The same article also makes passing reference to prospectors seeking uranium deposits in the area.

Blanchard Springs Caverns was opened to the public in 1973. The extensive cave system has two hiking trails as well as an interpretive center and gift shop. The North Sylamore Creek Hiking Trail also brings tourists to the area. Seeking to benefit from tourism, the residents of Fifty-Six voted to incorporate as a town in 1971. The municipality reincorporated as a second-class city in the early twenty-first century. The population of the town and city has remained between 150 and 180 throughout its years of incorporation.

Businesses in Fifty-Six include Cedar Wood Cabins, Cody’s Restaurant, a country store, a beauty shop, a handyman service, and a sawmill. Fifty-Six has at least one church, which is affiliated with the Missionary Baptists. The town was the birthplace of country musician Billy Don Burns.

For additional information:
Earngey, Bill. Arkansas Roadsides: A Guidebook for the State. Little Rock: August House, 1987.

“Fifty-Six Gets Ready for 1956.” Arkansas Democrat Magazine, January 1, 1956, pp. 7–9.

Steven Teske
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies


    Musician Billy Don Burns stated in an interview for a magazine that he was born in Fifty-Six, I’m guessing around 1955. He’s not “famous,” but he is, in the country music world.

    Donn Kevin Gobel