Saginaw (Hot Spring County)

Saginaw is an unincorporated community located in Hot Spring County about eight miles southwest of Malvern (Hot Spring County) and four miles northeast of Midway (Hot Spring County). The community’s settlement was closely associated with the Ouachita River, which is about one mile to its east.

Early landowners include Joseph Cunningham, who obtained a land patent for just under 120 acres in 1837. Robert Stribling received a land patent for forty acres located near Saginaw in 1845. At the same time, he received title to an additional eighty acres in a neighboring section. In the 1850 census, Stribling appears with his wife and five sons, as well as twenty-one slaves. He owned $5,500 in real estate and continued to acquire land in the 1850s. He died sometime before the 1860 census. His wife, Sabie or Sabra, is listed as running the farm with eleven slaves, and she owned $12,000 in personal estate and $2,500 in real estate.

Other landowners in the area included Elizabeth Sanders, who in 1882 obtained just under sixty acres on the Ouachita River. Sanders was widowed with three sons. Drury Brown also received a land patent in 1882 for just over sixty-one acres. He appears in the 1880 census along with his wife and son, working as a mechanic.

The early economy of the area focused on large-scale row crops, including cotton. Located on the Military Road, the community attracted settlers due to the rich soil along the Ouachita. Timber was also harvested in the area.

The Saginaw Lumber Company operated from a base on the east side of the Ouachita for more than a decade beginning in the late nineteenth century. A floating boardwalk bridge linked the community on the west bank of the river to the lumber company. The company established a number of short line railways to haul logs and created a major line connecting the community to the main St. Louis and Iron Mountain line. Called the Saginaw and Ouachita River Railroad, it operated from 1905 to 1913. A post office operated in the community from 1896 to 1914. Saginaw is served in the twenty-first century by the post office in Donaldson (Hot Spring County).

When the available timber in the area was exhausted, the lumber company ceased operations. The site of the former mill became part of the Saginaw Improvement Association, which advertised the community to interested settlers. A publication printed by the association described the land around the community in detail, listing the benefits of establishing a farm in the area, from the good soil and abundant water to the numerous fire hydrants. The association opened a general store, and a school operated in the community for eight months with plans to extend the term to nine months. The advertisement also explicitly mentioned white farmers in the community, but no reference to African Americans appeared in the publication.

New Hope Baptist Church was started in Saginaw in 1859 with a congregation made up exclusively of enslaved worshippers. After first offering services on the bank of the Ouachita River and then moving to a brush arbor, the congregation constructed a small building after the Civil War. The church continued in Saginaw until 1955, when it moved to Malvern and became Greater New Hope Baptist Church.

The Morrison Plantation Smokehouse was constructed around 1854 in Saginaw. By the twenty-first century, it was the last remaining structure from the plantation that included hundreds of acres on both sides of the Ouachita. The smokehouse is located on private property.

No businesses besides operations associated with cattle or timber operate in Saginaw in the twenty-first century. The Saginaw Missionary Baptist Church is located in the community, with cemeteries located in Social Hill (Hot Spring County) to the north and Midway to the south. Students in the community attend school in the Malvern or Ouachita school districts.

For additional information:
Rondeau, Flora. “Greater New Hope Baptist Church.” The Heritage 35 (2008): 125.

“Saginaw.” The Heritage 33 (2006): 143–147.

“Saginaw, Hot Spring County, Arkansas: About 1910.” The Heritage 22 (1995): 13–15.

David Sesser
Southeastern Louisiana University


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