Gifford (Hot Spring County)

Gifford is an unincorporated community located in Hot Spring County about five miles northeast of the city limits of Malvern (Hot Spring County). It is located about one mile northeast of the intersection of U.S. Highway 67 and U.S. Highway 270 in Gifford Township.

Early settlers in the community include John West, who obtained eighty acres of land in 1857. He farmed the land with his wife and children. Other land grants were awarded after the Civil War, with John Richardson receiving eighty acres in 1875 and Christopher Chapman claiming land three years later.

Additional residents moved to the area after the completion of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad in 1873. The railroad proved to be an important part of the community, with the line bisecting Gifford. A listing of communities in the county published in 1885 gave the population of Gifford as twenty-five. A sawmill owned by Joseph Brown was in operation, along with a post office that opened in 1874. A railroad station was also located at Gifford, allowing lumber to be shipped from the mill. Another mill owned by John Becker operated in the area in the early 1880s.

On the night of November 21, 1900, a north-bound train was held up in Gifford by robbers. Lighting a fire on the tracks, the group forced the train to stop and removed the money from one of two safes held in the express car. Unable to open the larger safe with five sticks of dynamite, the robbers disappeared into the night and were not captured, making away with at least several hundred dollars in cash and silver.

The center of the community for many years was the Gifford School, which opened in 1870. The school originally operated for only six or seven months each year and, by the early twentieth century, offered coursework through the eighth grade. By 1922, all twelve grades were being taught. The first graduate of the twelfth grade was Gladys Marie Paul in 1926. Electric power reached the community in 1936, and later that year, a new gymnasium at the school was constructed with support from the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The school district consolidated with Glen Rose (Hot Spring County) in 1946. The high school students attended Glen Rose, while the elementary school continued to operate. In 1955, a new elementary school opened.

A hotel served the community in the early twentieth century. Located near the railroad tracks, it mostly was used by the men working in the lumber mill. At that time, the Alexander Lumber Company operated the mill and used a short line railroad to transport logs to Gifford.

The post office closed in 1929, with service transferred to Malvern. In 1980, an article in the county historical journal listed Gifford as a ghost town. The community did exist at that time, although the author argued that it was a shadow of its former self. Many of the early settlers are buried in nearby Francois Cemetery. In the twenty-first century, Gifford serves as a bedroom community for Malvern and other nearby towns.

For additional information:
Fair, J. H. “Gifford School History.” Heritage 1 (1970): 29–35.

House-Greiss, Frances. “Ghost Towns of Hot Spring County.” Heritage 8 (1980): 115–118.

David Sesser
Henderson State University

Last Updated: 06/05/2020

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