Pencil Bluff (Montgomery County)
Pencil Bluff is an unincorporated community located in Montgomery County, nine miles west of the county seat, Mount Ida (Montgomery County). Today, Pencil Bluff encompasses the two former area communities of White Town and Sock City.
White Town grew along Highway 6, which ran from Mount Ida to Fort Smith (Sebastian County). In the early 1920s, a car repair workshop and small store served White Town, followed some years later by a café. In 1930, Highway 6 became U.S. Highway 270 when it was improved and relocated around White Town.
Two differing accounts exist documenting how Sock City received its name. According to one, the area’s men hid money in their socks when they met to play poker. The second story details how men from the nearby logging town of Mauldin (Montgomery County) came to a dance hall near White Town, where so many got into fights that the area earned the name Sock City. For several years, the name was commonly used and can be seen on some state maps from the 1930s.
Schools and churches, often in the same building, made up some of the earliest structures in the area and played an integral role as gathering places for the surrounding population. Some of the first churches in the area were Grenade Methodist (established circa 1890), Macedonia Methodist (circa 1884), Oak Hill Methodist (circa 1882), and River Side Community Church (organized in 1930).
Three schools served the White Town and Sock City communities during the early 1900s: Macedonia, Grenade, and Oak Grove. As part of a statewide trend of school consolidation in the 1920s and 1930s, all three schools consolidated into the Oden School District, now part of the Ouachita River School District.
As was the case for many communities in Arkansas during the early 1900s, the timber economy was profitable in Pencil Bluff, and several sawmills operated in the area. Four sawmills, operated by locals, were fed with lumber from the Ouachita National Forest. The short-lived but large nearby timber town of Mauldin, only five miles from Pencil Bluff, contributed in part to the early population of the community.
During the Depression, Byron Galloway arrived in Sock City from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and purchased a large amount of land, which he sold in parcels as the area grew. Sometime in the late 1940s, Galloway, along with several other area residents, changed the community’s name to Pencil Bluff. The name came from the school children who had long written on slate slabs from the nearby bluffs overlooking the Ouachita River.
During the post–World War II years, streets were laid for home sites in one area of the community; however, the homes were never built. The Baptist church purchased two of these lots, and one of the original streets can be seen today in the Pencil Bluff Cemetery.
The Pencil Bluff Post Office opened in July 1949, with Floyd E. Harris serving as postmaster. The post office had several locations before the current post office building was built in 1975. Many new businesses joined the growing community in the 1950s. Among these were a garage, a café, a boat rental and fishing guide service, and several cabins available for rent. Some of these businesses have since closed, though the post office remains in operation in the twenty-first century.
In 1999, to celebrate Pencil Bluff’s fiftieth anniversary, the members of the Pencil Bluff 50th Anniversary Committee compiled and published a book featuring a brief overview of the community’s history, interviews with long-time residents, photographs, and memorials.
For additional information:
Fryar, Barbara Ault. “Pencil Bluff.” Mountain Signal, September 1999, pp. 25–28.
Montgomery County Historical Society. Montgomery County, Our Heritage. 2 vols. Mount Ida, AR: Montgomery County Historical Society, 1987, 1990.
Pencil Bluff 50th Anniversary Committee. Our Fifty Year History, Pencil Bluff, Arkansas, 1949–1999. Pencil Bluff, AR: Pencil Bluff 50th Anniversary Committee, 1999.
Smith, Kenneth L. Sawmill: The Story of Cutting the Last Great Virgin Forest East of the Rockies. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1986.
Historic Arkansas Museum
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