Perry (Perry County)
|Latitude and Longitude:||35°02’51″N 092°47’39″W|
|Area:||0.70 square miles (2020 Census)|
|Population:||262 (2020 Census)|
|Incorporation Date:||February 20, 1914|
Historical Population as per the U.S. Census:
Perry is a town in Perry County that began as a railroad stop and survived as a lumber town. State Highways 9 and 10 run south as a single highway from Perry to Perryville (Perry County), but they divide in Perry, with Highway 9 running north to Morrilton (Conway County) and Highway 10 running west to Adona (Perry County).
Few settlers came to the northwestern side of Perry Mountain before the Choctaw, Oklahoma, and Gulf Railroad was built in 1898. The depot built at this location was known first as North Perryville, but by the time the post office was established in 1899, the name had been shortened to Perry. Railroad workers preferred the well water of Perry to that found at other stops on the line because of its low mineral content, which posed less of a threat of corrosion to their steam engines.
By 1901, Perry had four hotels, several stores, a sawmill, a shingle mill, a bakery, a livery stable, a grist mill, and a millinery shop. A school was built around 1900. Several saloons were established in Perry, but after the organization of a Methodist church in 1905, the saloons relocated out of town. The railroad was acquired by the Rock Island line in 1904.
The town incorporated in 1914. In 1917, a new school was built, a two-story red brick structure. W. A. Halbrook brought the first electric generator to Perry around 1920, making it the first community in Perry County to provide electric power for street lights. Halbrook’s generator also powered lights and appliances in homes and businesses, but for many years it operated only between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. During the 1920s, the Arkansas Department of Transportation improved the roads running through Perry. The Perry Bank remained open during the Depression years but closed in 1940.
Most jobs in Perry were related to the timber industry, which declined significantly during the Depression. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) built a gymnasium next to the Perry School during the 1930s, and the WPA also further improved roads in the area. In 1949, the Perry school district consolidated with that of Casa (Perry County).
A storm damaged the Methodist church in 1965, resulting in a decision to raze the building and erect a new one. The new church was dedicated on May 4, 1966, and the members of the congregation had paid off the mortgage by the end of 1967. The elementary school in Perry was closed in 1978, but high school students were bused to Casa. The Perry-Casa school district continued to operate until the twenty-first century, when it joined the Two Rivers School District, much of which is in Yell County. The Rock Island Railroad filed for bankruptcy and ceased rail service around 1980.
Businesses in Perry include offices of two electric cooperatives, two sod farms, one convenience store, a construction service and supply company called Southern Chips, and three child care businesses. The Methodist church closed, but a Baptist church remains. The Little Rock and Western Railway also has an office in Perry, overseeing its seventy-nine miles of track that interchange with the Union Pacific and BNSF railroads. Products shipped by the railway include wood and paper products, grain, limestone slurry, cornstarch, salt, and pulp mill liquid.
In 2018, the town acquired the old Perry Rock Island Railroad Depot from the Little Rock and Western Railway, which planned to construct a new building at the site. The town moved the depot to a new location and began undertaking the restoration of the building to use it as a museum.
For additional information:
Bowden, Bill. “Depot at Perry Gets Green Light to Move.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 26, 2018, pp. 1B, 3B.
Living the Times, 1776–1976: A Bicentennial Tribute to Perry County. Casa, AR: Perry County Extension Homemakers Council, 1989.
Perry County Historical & Genealogical Society. Perry County, Arkansas: Its Land & People. Marceline, MO: Walsworth Publishing Company, 2004.
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
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