Higden (Cleburne County)

Latitude and Longitude: 35°34’24″N 092°12’12″W
Elevation: 525 feet
Area: 0.48 square miles (2020 Census)
Population: 114 (2020 Census)
Incorporation Date: November 27, 1909

Historical Population as per the U.S. Census:



































Higden is a town in the northwestern corner of Cleburne County, located along Highway 16. It sits at the west end of the Higden Bridge, which spans a segment of Greers Ferry Lake and serves to connect Higden with the larger town of Greers Ferry (Cleburne County).

Prior to the nineteenth century, the only inhabitants of the land that would become Cleburne County were Native Americans. The Osage controlled the area and used it primarily as a hunting ground. In 1808, the United States purchased the area from the Osage, and European Americans began settling in the area. In 1817, the United States established a treaty with the Cherokee, giving the Cherokee all the land between the White River and Arkansas River west of a line from near Morrilton (Conway County) to a point on the White River west of Batesville (Independence County). The line became known as the Old Cherokee Boundary Line; this line has retained significant impact on land descriptions in Cleburne County.

Prior to 1894, the settlement that would become Higden was known as Salt Springs Barrens. (The name “barrens” was one given to an area with poor soil.) One of the few things to grow well in the sandy soil of this area was pine trees, so Salt Springs Barrens was initially covered with pine forest. Residents of the area called the town “Barrens” or “Barnes,” a name that reflected the pronunciation of the early settlers.

On June 14, 1894, the first post office was established in the area. This post office was named Channel, after a noted channel in the Little Red River near the area formerly known as Salt Springs Barrens. The name did not last, however, and on April 9 of the next year, the name was changed to Higden for an early resident, Thomas Geoffrey Higdon, who was born in North Carolina in 1815. The spelling discrepancy between the names of the town and the man is due to an error on the application for a post office.

When the Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad built tracks just north of Higden, the community, having few residents at the time, moved roughly one mile northeast so that it could take advantage of the economic prosperity granted to railroad towns.

Higden was incorporated in November 1909. According to some sources, the town’s population was near 1,000 at the time, though the census of 1910 recorded only 336 residents. Most of the citizens worked in the timber industry. In the first decade of the twentieth century, Higden had a drugstore, a cotton gin, a grist mill, a sawmill, a café, a barbershop, a lumber company, a shipping yard, and several stores. In 1912, the city aldermen elected to allow the operation of the Higden Telephone Company, providing telephone service to the residents of the town. In 1916, most of the town was destroyed by fire, and few businesses elected to rebuild.

In the 1950s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers met with city officials in Higden. They informed officials and residents that, upon completion of Greers Ferry Dam, their town would be covered in sixty to eighty feet of water. With that in mind, in 1959, Mayor David Gadberry and the city aldermen voted to move the town to a thirteen-acre site that was once home to the Higden schoolhouse. It is said that only five families did not have to move from their homes in Higden for the creation of Greers Ferry Lake.

In the twenty-first century, Higden has experienced something of a rebirth owing in large part to the very lake that forced it to move. Many expensive homes now line the lakeshore in the Higden area, and businesses have returned to cater to tourists. In 1961, the city voted to pave the streets of town. A city water system was created in 1972. The town doubled in both area and population following an annexation of property along Highway 16 in 1980.

For additional information:
Barger, Carl J. Cleburne County and Its People. Vol. 1. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2008.

Berry, Evalena. Time and the River: A History of Cleburne County. Little Rock: Rose Publishing Company, 1982.

Brewer, JoAnn Barnes. “A Glimpse into the Lives of Some Early Higden/Shiloh Families.” Cleburne County Historical Quarterly 33 (Spring 2007): 1–9.

Sartain, Kimberly. “Towns before the Lake—Higden.” Cleburne County Historical Society Journal 46 (Fall 2020): 62–67.

Emilee Baker
Pangburn, Arkansas


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