Entries - Starting with O

Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point

Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point is a summer program that trains opera singers and stages performances at Inspiration Point, which overlooks the White River five miles west of Eureka Springs (Carroll County) on U.S. Highway 62. The company has always performed in repertory style, with each student learning several roles over the season. Four weeks of rehearsals are followed by four weeks of performances of three operas with full orchestra, full costumes, and full staging, with all operas performed in their original language. In addition, a children’s opera is performed at venues throughout northwestern Arkansas and southwestern Missouri. Charles Mowers, a German-born engineer and inventor, came from Texas to the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas around 1900 to hunt …

Operabilly

Operabilly is a genre of music unique to the Ozark Mountains of northwestern Arkansas. The term “operabilly” is a compound of “opera” and “hillbilly,” thus indicating a fusion of traditional operatic elements and themes with the motifs and musical sensibilities of Ozark Mountain dwellers. Its foothold in Arkansas’s rich musical history includes performances of My Damn Butterfly and the controversial naming of a stretch of Arkansas highway the highfalutin “Opera Highway 23,” rather than the more accurate “Operabilly Highway 23.” While there have long been so-called “hillbilly opera” productions, these have primarily been comedy productions lampooning the people of Appalachia and the Ozarks through a contrast of low, hillbilly culture with the highbrow word “opera.” True operabilly, by contrast, preserves …

Operation Iraqi Freedom

The armed conflict called Operation Iraqi Freedom began with an invasion of Iraq, led primarily by the United States with the assistance of Great Britain and other allies; the conflict lasted from 2003 to 2011. The invasion was initiated based on intelligence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), and that Saddam Hussein was harboring and supporting al-Qaeda terrorists. The lack of evidence of any WMDs later became a political flashpoint. One goal of the invasion was to overthrow the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein to establish a free and independent Iraqi government, democratically elected by its people. Significant opposition arose in 2002–2003 during the run up to the war, with sixty-three percent of Americans desiring a diplomatic solution …

Opossums

aka: Possums
aka: Didelphis virginiana
Arkansas opossums (commonly referred to as “possums”) are of the Virginia opossum species Didelphis virginiana and can be found in both rural and urban habitats. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission tracks opossum populations and oversees an opossum hunting season during the winter months. As the only marsupials found in North America, opossums have existed for 70–80 million years. They are highly adaptable omnivores who eat a variety of foods including insects, rodents, berries, grasses, leaves, and carrion. The females can have twenty to twenty-five babies in one litter and carry their young in their pouches for up to three months. Opossums have opposable thumbs on their rear feet and can also grasp with their tails. Contrary to popular belief, …

Oppelo (Conway County)

Known by thousands of travelers as the “turn-off” or last gas stop on the way to Petit Jean State Park, the small community of Oppelo had its origins many years prior to the development of the notable intersection of Highways 9 and 154. The often mispronounced name also provides recognition for this community of nearly 800. The area south of the Arkansas River in Conway County was negotiable territory in the early days and became a part of Perry County in 1840, when it was known as Aplin Township. In 1873, the Arkansas legislature returned the area to Conway County. Again, the area’s location relative to Petit Jean Mountain was an important consideration in the reunification with Conway County. The …

Optimus (Stone County)

Optimus is an unincorporated Stone County community in Optimus Township on Highway 5 across the White River from Calico Rock (Izard County), which is five miles to the north. Optimus is about twelve miles north of Mountain View (Stone County), the county seat, and about twelve miles west of Melbourne (Izard County). Bannerstones (stone artifacts whose function is much debated) have been found at Optimus, indicating early habitation by Native Americans in the caves and bluffs of the area. One of these caves, the Clay Cave, is easily accessible from Sylamore Road. Miles Ware Jeffery was born in 1816 in what is today Mount Olive (Izard County), three and a half miles south-southeast of present-day Optimus. His parents, Johoiada Jeffery …

Ord, Edward Otho C.

Edward Otho C. Ord was a major general in the Union army during the Civil War and commanded the Department of Arkansas and the Fourth Military District during Reconstruction. Born in Cumberland, Maryland, on October 18, 1818, Edward O. C. Ord was the son of James and Rebecca Ord. The family moved to Washington DC when Ord was young. Tutored by his father, he was known as a mathematical genius. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point at the age of sixteen. He graduated in 1839 and received a commission as a second lieutenant in the Third United States Artillery. After service during the Second Seminole War and a promotion to first lieutenant in 1841, Ord sailed …

Orient Ferry, Skirmish at

aka: Skirmish at Paroquet Bluff
  The Skirmish at Orient Ferry took place when troops in the Fifteenth Texas Cavalry attacked elements of the Fifth Kansas Cavalry as they ferried their supply wagons across the Black River at Paroquet Bluff, located on the west side of the river above Jacksonport (Jackson County) during their drive to join Major General Samuel R. Curtis’s Army of the Southwest as it marched across eastern Arkansas toward Helena (Phillips County) on the Mississippi River. The bulk of the Fifth Kansas Cavalry left Rolla, Missouri, on June 17 to join the Army of the Southwest. The veteran Kansans traveled fast and light, leaving their wagons and stores to catch up. Captain William F. Creitz and Company A, soon joined by …

Original Tuskegee Airmen

aka: Tuskegee Airmen, Original
Arkansas’s original Tuskegee Airmen were a part of a segregated group composed of African-American Army Air Corps cadets, personnel, and support staff known as the Tuskegee Airmen. There were twelve Arkansans documented who performed and maintained various roles at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Those roles included flight instructor, pilot, flight officer, engineer, bombardier, navigator, radio technician, air traffic controller, parachute rigger, weather observer, medical professional, and electronic communications specialist. Other support staff may have included Arkansans. The term “original” is applied to the individuals who received government and civilian instructional training while at Tuskegee between 1941 and 1946. Approximately 992 pilots were trained at Tuskegee, 450 of whom saw action overseas during the war; four of those were Arkansans. …

Orphan Train Heritage Society of America, Inc. (OTHSA)

The Orphan Train Heritage Society of America, Inc. (OTHSA)—founded in 1986 in Springdale (Washington and Benton counties)—preserves the history of the orphan train era, a period when thousands of children were relocated across the country. Many Arkansans can trace their roots to children who were relocated to Arkansas. Between 1854 and 1929, an estimated 200,000 or more homeless and orphaned children were sent west from eastern cities, accompanied by agents. The purpose was to find families that would take in children in a “free-home-placing-out” program instituted by the Children’s Aid Society of New York City, New York. The children were sent in groups of twenty-five to 100 on trains, making stops along the way where they might be chosen by …

Orphanages

Churches and various fraternal and charitable organizations were the first to take on the burden of providing orphans with care and a home in Arkansas. Many large and small orphanages operated around the state in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, providing homes for hundreds of children without families, as well as other services. Shifting practices in the latter half of the twentieth century resulted in the creation of a foster care system. This system was seen as preferable to long-term institutional housing, although several such institutions still exist in twenty-first-century Arkansas. Many orphanages have operated throughout Arkansas since its establishment as a state, and most began with funding from religious groups. One of the first well-known examples was the Arkansas …

Orr, David

David Orr was one of the earliest preachers in northeastern Arkansas, settling in the state in about 1828. During his time in the region, he started nine different churches and founded the Spring River and Rocky Bayou Baptist Associations in the Ozark Mountains east of the White River. Although Orr was exclusively a Baptist preacher, he was also interested in modern-day religious revelations, such as those of the Mormons and New York farmer William Miller. After his birth in Bourbon County, Kentucky, in 1798, Orr lived near Cincinnati, Ohio, seventy miles away from his birthplace. While in Cincinnati, he was influenced and baptized by Jeremiah Vardeman, a fiery revivalist preacher during the Second Great Awakening. Orr married Eliza Caldwell in …

Orsini, Mary “Lee”

Mary “Lee” Hatcher Orsini was the central figure in two sensational murders and the ensuing media frenzy that took place in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1981–82. After many dramatic turns, including the arrest of her defense attorney on suspicion of conspiring to kill his wife, Orsini was ultimately arrested and convicted. Mary Lee Orsini was born Mary Myrtle Hatcher in Searcy (White County) on August 17, 1947, to Henry Hatcher, who raised cattle on land near Gravel Ridge (Pulaski County), and Julia Hatcher, who was a school cafeteria worker and drove a county school bus; she had two siblings. Though Hatcher later left the impression with acquaintances that she had been a refined “society” girl, she spent her early …

Orto, Zaphney

Zaphney Orto, a prominent physician who helped discover the link between malaria and mosquitoes, was a U.S. army major and surgeon during the Spanish-American War, and the second president of Simmons First National Bank, founded in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Born to Leonidas Orto and Martha G. McElwee Orto in Somerville, Tennessee, in 1842, Zaphney Orto lived on a farm near Somerville until he was eighteen, then worked in a store for two years. He studied medicine with Dr. S. W. Thompson of Evansville, Indiana, and graduated from the Miami Medical College of Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1872. Shortly afterward, he moved to Arkansas, where he settled in Clover Bend (Lawrence County). He practiced medicine there for two years before moving …

Orton, Mat (Lynching of)

On September 8, 1884 (some papers give the date as September 9), a white man named Mat Orton was lynched in Arkansas City (Desha County) for allegedly setting a fire that destroyed many of the town’s businesses. There is some information about Mat Orton in newspaper accounts and public records. In 1880, he was thirty-three years old and was living in Arkansas City and working as a carpenter. He married Margaret McCoy there on March 14, 1882. An article in the Arkansas Gazette on May 16, 1883, indicates that Orton was a deputy sheriff and was sent to retrieve R. H. Costello (sometimes called Castelio, although census records list him as Costelo), who was wanted in Desha County for the …

Osage

The Osage lived in several villages located in southwest Missouri when Europeans began to explore and settle the lands west of the Mississippi River late in the seventeenth century. During this period, Osage hunters made frequent forays into northwest Arkansas, but, more importantly, their role as key players in economic and political affairs before the modern era touched the lives of nearly everyone living in the region. The Osage language is one of the Dhegiha dialects of the Siouan language family, closely related to languages spoken by members of the Quapaw, Omaha, Kansa (or Kaw), and Ponca tribes. Archaeologists have not identified the pre-Columbian ancestors of the historic Osage, but oral traditions and the mutually intelligible character of Dhegihan dialects …

Osage Branch of the Kings River, Affair on the

This Civil War engagement demonstrates the continued presence of small bands of semi-autonomous Confederate commands along the Arkansas-Missouri border and exhibits late-war atrocities committed against captured black Union soldiers and laborers. On April 16, 1864, a detachment numbering between twenty-six and thirty-six troopers from Company A of the Second Arkansas Cavalry (US), commanded by Sergeant Josiah Watts, foraged for supplies along the Osage Branch of the Kings River about twenty miles from their post at Berryville (Carroll County). Cooper’s Battalion of Brigadier General Stand Watie’s First Indian Brigade—commanded by Captain James Washington Cooper and variously estimated between eighty and 300 troopers—surprised and attacked the foraging party. Watts and his men initially repelled the rebel assault, charged twice, and briefly drove …

Osceola (Mississippi County)

Osceola is located in northeastern Mississippi County on the Mississippi River, approximately fifty miles upriver from Memphis, Tennessee. Osceola is named for Chief Osceola of the Seminole tribe. Local historians have written that he visited the area in 1832 to explore the possibility of exchanging Florida land for Arkansas land, but no historical evidence supports this story. The community was the only county seat of Mississippi County until 1901, when Osceola and Blytheville were named dual county seats. Louisiana Purchase through Early Statehood Originally acquired by the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase, the area was largely populated by Indians. The series of severe earthquakes on the New Madrid fault from December 1811 to February 1812 …

Osceola, Skirmish at

  After losing most of his company (the Osceola Hornets, Company G of the Twenty-fifth Mississippi Infantry, later known as the Second Confederate Regiment) at the April 6–7, 1862, Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee, Captain Charles Bowen returned to Mississippi County in early 1863 with orders to seek new conscripts to supplement the dwindling Confederate ranks lost to sickness and death. Due to limited success with recruitment and Union control of the Mississippi River (making it difficult to cross), Bowen decided to remain in Mississippi County in order to protect lives and property from the rampant lawlessness that had compromised public safety and commercial activity in Osceola (Mississippi County) and the surrounding areas. Records indicate that he offered his resignation …

Oslin, Kay Toinette (K. T.)

Kay Toinette (K. T.) Oslin was a country music singer who skyrocketed to fame in her mid-forties with the hit album 80’s Ladies (1987). Her work is known for its humor and mature perspective, as she achieved success much later in life than most popular musicians. K. T. Oslin was born in Crossett (Ashley County) on May 15, 1942. Soon after her birth, her family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, and then to Houston, Texas. Oslin considers Houston her hometown. Oslin initially performed as a folk singer with Guy Clark in the 1960s and then moved to New York, where she performed as a chorus girl on and off Broadway. She soon began doing advertising jingles, which led to appearances in …

Ostracods

aka: Seed Shrimps
aka: Mussel Shrimps
Ostracods belong to the Class Ostracoda within the Subphylum Crustacea and Phylum Arthropoda. Commonly called “seed or mussel shrimps,” the class encompasses over 33,000 described species and subspecies, and many more remain unknown to science and await formal description. There are two subclasses with living representatives: the Myodocopa and Podocopa. The former is exclusive to marine environments but occupies the benthos as well as the plankton, whereas podocopans occur in marine, brackish, and freshwater environments and occupy almost exclusively the benthos (but also the benthopelagic zone). The main orders are the Archaeocopida, Leperditicopida, Palaeocopida, Podocopida, and Myodocopida. As of 2019, there is no comprehensive list of extant ostracods in Arkansas. Ostracods are important fossil organisms, as they are the most …

Ostrich Farm in Hot Springs

In the early twentieth century, a number of distinctive tourist attractions enjoyed tremendous popularity in the resort city of Hot Springs (Garland County). These attractions drew visitors to the town, as did the Spa City’s hot springs. Beginning in 1900, one of the city’s most remarkable places to visit was the Ostrich Farm on Whittington Avenue. After the Civil War, visitors from all parts of the country began to pour into Hot Springs. With the increasing patronage and resulting improvements in facilities and services, the sleepy little village rapidly acquired the characteristics of a wide-open boom town. By the end of the 1870s, Hot Springs enjoyed widespread acclaim across the nation as a health resort. Naturally, the health seekers needed …

Ottenheimer, Gus

Gus Ottenheimer, an industrialist, became known nationally through his successful efforts in manufacturing women’s garments. He was a land developer as well, and he spent much of the last one-third of his life promoting higher education in central Arkansas Ottenheimer was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on July 18, 1897, to Daniel Ottenheimer and Hannah Berger. He was the youngest of four children. The Ottenheimers were a Jewish pioneer family, some of whom came to the state in the 1850s. Ottenheimer’s father died in 1908. The eldest son, Leonard, became the family breadwinner at age sixteen and forfeited his education to his younger brother. Ottenheimer graduated in 1918 from Washington & Lee University School of Law in Lexington, Virginia, …

Ouachita Avenue Historic District

The bathhouses on Bathhouse Row on Central Avenue were the early main attraction to Hot Springs (Garland County), but as the city grew, it expanded in the direction of the Ouachita Avenue Historic District. The district encompasses the portions of Ouachita Avenue and Central Avenue from Olive Street to Orange Street and includes Pratt Street (once known as Parker Avenue).The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 23, 2011, and is considered locally significant as a commercial center supporting Bathhouse Row and the surrounding residential community of Hot Springs. The neighborhood’s period of National Register significance begins in 1905, after a fire in 1905 destroyed all the structures in the area. The neighborhood’s boundaries encompass …

Ouachita Baptist University (OBU)

Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) is an independent, residential institution in the liberal arts tradition associated with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Founded on April 8, 1886, it capped longstanding Arkansas Baptist interest in making higher learning more readily available to more people, in providing an educated ministry and educated lay leadership, in strengthening denominational loyalty, and in extending denominational influence. It gained university status in 1965 and has been rated by US News and World Report as the “No. 1 Baccalaureate College in the South” and included in its list of “Great Schools, Great Prices.” In 2013, it offered sixty-one degree options in eight schools within the university, and its mission statement proclaimed it “a Christ-centered learning community. Embracing the …

Ouachita County

Ouachita County, the forty-fifth county in Arkansas, was created in 1842 from land taken from the northwest parts of Union County. It was named after the Ouachita River on which the county seat of Camden, incorporated in 1844, sits on a bluff at a horseshoe curve of the river. Ouachita is the French spelling of a Native American word that is pronounced “Washita” and supposedly denoted good hunting or a river of many fish. The land in the county was covered with vast forests of pines and drained by bayous and sloughs running to the Ouachita River. The Ouachita River forms part of the eastern boundary of the county, while Clark, Dallas, Calhoun, Union, Columbia, and Nevada counties border the remaining …

Ouachita County Courthouse

The Ouachita County Courthouse, located on 145 Jefferson Avenue, was built in 1933 and is in the heart of downtown Camden (Ouachita County). The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program recognizes the two-story building as architecturally and historically significant as the best example of Georgian-style architecture in Ouachita County. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 13, 1989. As a result of a tornado that struck Camden on the night of December 13, 1931, the Victorian Gothic courthouse built in 1888 was flattened. The loss of that courthouse, renowned as one of the more impressive courthouses in Arkansas at the time, was a setback for the community. The county constructed makeshift wooden structures to house county affairs …

Ouachita Mountains

The Ouachita Mountains, one of the six natural divisions of Arkansas, are generally characterized as folded ridges and valleys composed of Paleozoic rocks. They are unusual in North America in that the ridges are generally aligned east to west, unlike the Rocky Mountains or Appalachian Mountains, where the ridges usually run north to south. The most striking result of this orientation is that there is an extensive south-facing slope on each ridge that is exposed to the heat and light of the sun, as well as a north-facing slope that is protected from direct solar radiation and is consequently cooler and moister. The dry south-facing slopes are often covered with pine forests or woodlands, or even drier oak woodlands, while …

Ouachita Mountains Biological Station

The Ouachita Mountains Biological Station (OMBS) began serving the needs of colleges and universities as a research and education center in 1962. The OMBS was the vision of husband-and-wife team Dr. Richard K. (Dick) Speairs Jr. (1920‒2004) and Dr. Betty McKnight Speairs (1925‒2018), formerly of Louisiana State University and Centenary College (both in Shreveport, Louisiana), respectively. Together they founded the Speairs Charitable Foundation for the perpetual support of the OMBS. The station hosts collegiate groups, graduate students, faculty, and researchers for any aspect of field research and biological education. It is available at any time during the year by reservation only. The OMBS is located in the central part of the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas, between the towns of Mena …

Ouachita National Forest

The Ouachita National Forest, originally called the Arkansas National Forest, was created through an executive order issued by President Theodore Roosevelt on December 18, 1907. Forest Service Chief Gifford Pinchot remarked at the time that this national forest was the only major shortleaf pine forest under the federal government’s protection. In January 1908, the Arkansas Sentinel newspaper reprinted an article from Forestry and Irrigation Magazine that praised the hearty spirit of cooperation manifested by Arkansas’s people and spoke of benefits to be gained by the conservation of timber supplies. At first, the Arkansas National Forest consisted solely of reserved public domain lands (part of the Louisiana Purchase) south of the Arkansas River. The 1911 Weeks Law, which authorized federal purchase …

Ouachita National Recreation Trail

The Ouachita National Recreation Trail, an approximately 225-mile back country trail, runs east and west the length of the Ouachita Mountains. More commonly referred to as the “Ouachita Trail,” it lies primarily within the Ouachita National Forest. Most of the trail (177 miles) is in Arkansas, with forty-six miles extending into Oklahoma. Both ends of the trail are in state parks. The eastern terminus is in Pinnacle Mountain State Park west of Little Rock (Pulaski County); the western terminus is in Talimena State Park in Oklahoma. The trail also crosses a third state park, Queen Wilhelmina State Park in Polk County. Terrain across the length of the trail is rugged, providing a variety of hiking experiences and scenic opportunities. Elevation …

Ouachita River

The Ouachita River originates in the Ouachita Mountains of west-central Arkansas near the Arkansas and Oklahoma border and flows 600 river miles before joining the Black and Red rivers in north-central Louisiana. The Ouachita flows through eleven different counties in Arkansas and five parishes in Louisiana. The Ouachita is a river of diverse beauty. It begins as a small mountain stream at Eagleton (Polk County) and flows eastward approximately 120 miles. It winds through lush mountain valleys, steadily building as it flows between huge boulders beneath mountain bluffs. It flows onward on its 600-mile course amid banks of moss-covered oaks and cypress trees in the swampy bottoms of Louisiana. The Ouachita is noted for its great fishing, especially bass, bream, …

Ouachitater Buffaloes

The Ouachitater Buffaloes are a group of approximately twenty-four water buffaloes, living on the banks of Lake Ouachita in Garland County, that were presented to Arkansas by officials in the Vietnamese government as an overture of peace and reconciliation between Vietnam and the United States. Known officially as the Lake Ouachita Water Buffaloes, they have assumed the popular appellation of “Ouachitater Buffaloes” on account of a popular slurring of the words “Ouachita” and “water.” The Vietnamese government developed the idea of presenting some token of peace to the state of Arkansas following President Bill Clinton’s historic trip to Vietnam in 2000. After much debate, Vietnam’s National Assembly finally voted on January 15, 2001, to present to President Clinton’s home state …

Our Lady of the Ozarks Shrine

Our Lady of the Ozarks is a shrine church located atop Mount Gaylor in Crawford County on Highway 71, just south of Winslow (Washington County) and the Crawford–Washington county line. It was organized due to the efforts of a group of women who desired to have a parish for families in the remote area. Established in 1942, it began serving as a chapel for Roman Catholics in the area as well as a popular retreat and annual pilgrimage location for all the state’s Catholics. The shrine was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 29, 2019. Before 1942, the towns in the Boston Mountains did not have a chapel where local Catholics could attend mass—the closest churches being …

Our Town [X-Files Episode]

“Our Town” was a 1995 episode of the television program The X-Files that began with a mysterious disappearance in the fictional town and county of Dudley (Seth County) in Arkansas and centered on strange happenings associated with a poultry-processing operation. Airing on May 12, 1995, “Our Town” was the twenty-fourth episode in the second season of The X-Files, a popular science fiction/mystery program that originally ran on the Fox Network from 1993 to 2002. In the episode, FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) come to Arkansas to investigate the disappearance of a federal chicken plant inspector; the conspiracy-minded Mulder is also intrigued by the report of “foxfire” in the area, though the local sheriff (Gary …

Outhouses

Arkansas, particularly in the mountainous regions, has often been criticized as being the home of the oft-caricatured hillbilly. The hillbilly of lore is lazy, shoeless, and likely has an outhouse rather than modern amenities such as indoor plumbing. Outhouses—otherwise known as the backhouse, privy, or necessary—once dotted the landscape. Originally a time-saving and sanitary invention, it remained a symbol of the poverty that plagued Arkansas citizens for generations. The Greeks and Romans had interior chambers for human waste. The medieval population had garderobes if they could afford them, or troughs and chests. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “outhouse,” used for a toilet, is a distinctly American term, the first recorded occurrence of which is as early as …

Ouzts, Perry Wayne

Perry Wayne Ouzts, a professional jockey from Lepanto (Poinsett County), is one of twenty-one professional riders to have won 5,000 races. Around horseracing tracks, he is nicknamed the “Workingman’s Hero” or, for his unique riding style, “Scoot N’ Boot.” He has also been noted for overcoming numerous potentially career-ending injuries. Perry Ouzts was born in Lepanto on July 7, 1954, but was raised primarily in Rivervale (Poinsett County). During his years in Rivervale, Ouzts began riding horses with his cousins Earlie and Jackie Fires. Earlie Fires was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame of Jockeys, while Jackie’s career ended when his body was crushed during a horse race in 1977, paralyzing him. Ouzts began riding professionally in the spring …

Overflow National Wildlife Refuge

Overflow National Wildlife Refuge was established on November 6, 1980, to protect one of the remaining bottomland hardwood forest tracts in the Lower Mississippi River Valley (LMRV). Located in Ashley County, it is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service under the Department of the Interior. These bottomland forests are used by a huge contingent of migratory birds including waterfowl, wading birds, raptors, and songbirds. Original refuge land acquisitions were limited to forested bottomlands only, as they were in eminent danger of being drained and cleared for agriculture. The refuge has been officially designated a globally Important Bird Area (IBA) by the American Bird Conservancy. Most of the land within the …

Overstreet Hall

Overstreet Hall, located at the intersection of East University Street and North Jackson Street on the Southern Arkansas University campus in Magnolia (Columbia County), is a three-story, Colonial Revival–style building constructed between 1941 and 1943 with assistance from the Work Projects Administration (WPA), a Depression-era federal relief program. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 26, 2016. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal agencies provided financing for several construction projects at Magnolia A&M College (which later became Southern Arkansas University) during the Depression. The Greek Theater was constructed through the National Youth Administration (NYA), Cross Hall and Nelson Hall were built by the Public Works Administration (PWA), and the building that would later be called …

Overton, William Ray

William Ray Overton was a U.S. district judge from 1979 to 1987 and is best known for his ruling in the McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education court case, which held the teaching of creationism to be unconstitutional. William Ray Overton was born on September 19, 1939, in Hot Spring County to Elizabeth Ford and Odis Ray Overton, a mine foreman at Magnet Cove (Hot Spring County). His mother, who taught several subjects in Hot Spring County’s public school system, was known for her skill with the English language; Overton joked that he got some learning in language by osmosis. Overton was an only child. His father died in 1957 when Overton was sixteen years old. In 1963, his mother …

Owen, Hurley (Lynching of)

Hurley Owen, an African-American man, was lynched in Texarkana (Miller County) on May 19, 1922, in front of a mob numbering in the thousands for the alleged crime of murdering a local police officer. His body was subsequently burned. Hurley Owen (or Hullen Owens, as his name was sometimes reported) had been arrested on Thursday, May 18, 1922, on a charge of stealing automotive parts. The following afternoon, he reportedly told Patrolman Richard C. Choate and Police Chief L. J. Lummus that he was willing to show them where he had hidden away more stolen goods. They followed him into an alley, where he pulled a .45 caliber pistol from a trash bin. According to the Arkansas Democrat, Lummus then …

Owens, Freeman Harrison

Freeman Harrison Owens was a pioneer cinematographer and inventor of cinematic technology, including the A. C. Nielsen Rating System, a plastic lens for Kodak, and the method of adding synchronized sound to film. He is credited with 11,812 inventions and held 200 patents during his lifetime. Freeman Owens was born on July 20, 1890, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). He was the only child of Charles H. Owens and Christabel Harrison Owens and grandson of Arkansas Supreme Court judge William M. Harrison. Owens attended Sixth and Beech Street Elementary School, but he dropped out during his senior year at Pine Bluff High School. He went to work for a movie theater when he was twelve years old. He cleaned the …

Owens, Silas

Silas Owens Sr. was an African-American stonemason, carpenter, and farmer from Faulkner County. Owens was known in the central Arkansas area for his superior craftsmanship and a vernacular style of construction known by the twenty-first century as the Mixed Masonry. This style of architecture could be found throughout Arkansas, and there were many contemporary masons who utilized the technique; however, Owens’s work stood out. His artistic eye, exhaustive work ethic, and exacting coursing methods resulted in a deliberate pattern that became his trademark. Silas Owens Sr. was born on December 26, 1907, to Haywood and Matilda Owens in the Faulkner County community of Solomon Grove (which merged with Zion Grove to become Twin Groves in 1991). He and his five …

Oxford (Izard County)

  The city of Oxford was not incorporated until 1945, although it has been an active settlement since the middle of the nineteenth century. Located on Highway 9 in Izard County, Oxford is about halfway between Melbourne (Izard County) and Salem (Fulton County). One of the first settlers to arrive in what would become Oxford was Wiley Croom. He joined William McCollough and James McCuistion, both of whom were evidently already living in the area, although they did not register their land grants at the federal land office until the 1850s. Croom built and operated the first cotton mill and the first grist mill in the region. He later added the first cotton gin, which was also the last cotton gin …

Oxford American (OA)

The Oxford American (OA) is a quarterly journal of Southern culture and literature. Affiliated with the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway (Faulkner County), it publishes short fiction, poetry, and articles in a glossy format in the vein of Harper’s or the Atlantic Monthly. The Oxford American is best known for its music issue, which focuses on often-overlooked Southern musicians and includes a CD of selected songs from these musicians. The Music Issue has been featured on National Public Radio many times and has won two National Magazine Awards for Best Single Topic Issue. OA has sporadic special issues with topics including Southern art, architecture, film, and food. Founded under editor Marc Smirnoff in Oxford, Mississippi, in 1992 as a …

Oxford Bend, Action at

aka: Action at McGuire's
As part of Major General Thomas C. Hindman’s initial attempt to threaten Fayetteville (Washington County) and gain control of northwestern Arkansas in fall 1862, this skirmish preceded the Battle of Prairie Grove by more than a month. At daylight on October 28, 1862, a combined force of approximately 1,000 men from Colonel James O. Gower’s First Iowa Cavalry and Colonel John F. Phillips’s Seventh Missouri State Militia Cavalry (US) of Brigadier General Francis J. Herron’s Army of the Frontier attacked a Confederate camp at Oxford Bend in Washington County, four miles east of Fayetteville. There, they engaged approximately 3,000 cavalrymen commanded by Colonel Jesse L. Cravens of Major General Thomas C. Hindman’s Trans-Mississippi Corps. Cravens’s brigade consisted of Bass’s Texas …

Ozan (Hempstead County)

aka: Mound Prairie (Hempstead County)
Ozan is a railroad town on U.S. Highway 278 in northern Hempstead County. Although never a large settlement, it has played a significant role in Arkansas history, particularly that of the Methodist Church in Arkansas. When European explorers first entered the land that would become Hempstead County, they encountered the Caddo, who lived in villages along the Red River. Europeans and Americans were particularly attracted to the rich soil of southwestern Arkansas. After the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the Caddo—whose numbers were greatly reduced due to diseases introduced by Europeans—gradually were pushed out of the area, ending up in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) by the time Arkansas achieved statehood in 1836. The name Ozan appears to be a form of …

Ozan Lumber Company

The Ozan Lumber Company operated a number of mills across southwestern Arkansas from the late nineteenth century to its sale to the Potlatch Corporation in 1964. Two distinct companies owned by members of the Bemis family operated under the Ozan name. James H. Bemis and Benjamin Whitaker opened a sawmill in Prescott (Nevada County) in April 1891. In July, the owners incorporated the business as the Ozan Lumber Company. The name was apparently taken from the nearby town of Ozan (Hempstead County). Whitaker remained a part of the business for only a short period before selling out and embarking on other ventures. The lumber business proved to be successful, shipping timber on the company-owned Prescott and Northwestern Railroad. The company …

Ozark (Franklin County)

Founded in 1836, Ozark is one of the state’s oldest cities. Ozark, from the French words “Aux Arc,” meaning “at the bend,” is located at the most northern bend in the Arkansas River, which flows through the city’s southern boundary. Louisiana Purchase through Early Statehood In the early nineteenth century, following the Louisiana Purchase, the Arkansas River was well traveled. The Cherokee lived along the river, and American military personnel used that route to travel to and from Fort Smith (Sebastian County). Local folklore claims that French explorers came up the Arkansas River in 1819. They reportedly shot an arrow and vowed to found a town where the arrow landed. The arrow allegedly landed just northeast of the present Franklin …

Ozark Arts and Crafts Fair

aka: War Eagle Fair
The Ozark Arts and Crafts Fair (a.k.a. War Eagle Fair) is an arts and crafts festival held each October. The event takes place on historic War Eagle Mills Farm, seventeen miles east of Rogers (Benton County). The fair, begun in 1954, grew out of an exhibition hosted by a local handweavers guild and into an institution that some have described as the “granddaddy of craft fairs.” Each year, hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of visitors flock to this rural community in the northwest corner of the state. Throughout its history, the fair has served as a major economic stimulus within the state and contributed thousands of dollars to scholarship funds at major universities and colleges throughout Arkansas. The War Eagle …