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Entry Category: Businesses - Starting with S

Saline Courier

aka: Benton Courier
The Saline Courier (formerly known as the Benton Courier) is the largest and oldest newspaper in Saline County. The paper began its life as the Saline County Digest, established by Vermont native W. A. Webber in 1876, as the official mouthpiece of Saline County Democrats, although it later lost that affiliation. The Digest was published weekly in a seven-column folio with an average circulation of 1,000. In November 1882, the Digest changed hands for the first time. It was purchased by B. B. Beavers, who renamed it the Saline County Review; in November 1883, Colonel Samuel Houston Whitthorne bought Beavers’s interest in the paper and renamed it the Saline Courier. Whitthorne was the father-in-law of prominent Benton doctor Dr. Dewell …


Hot Springs (Garland County) has had a number of newspapers come and go throughout its history. Local residents but also visitors to the Spa City from around the country have made up the readership of Hot Springs’ papers over the years. Between 1873 and 1883 alone, fifteen Hot Springs newspapers began and ended operation. This fact led Robert W. Leigh, historian of the Arkansas Press Association, to state in 1883, “Hot Springs has been the birthplace and burial ground of many a newspaper.” The Sentinel-Record (often abbreviated as S-R), the only local newspaper circulated daily throughout the area, remains as the last survivor of a series of newspaper mergers in Hot Springs. The first record of a local newspaper in …

Simmons First National Bank

Simmons First National Corporation is the largest publicly traded financial holding headquartered in Arkansas. By 2007, it had paid dividends for ninety-nine consecutive years and employed more than 1,000 people. It has total assets of nearly $8 billion. Founded by Dr. John Franklin Simmons, Simmons National Bank opened its doors for business at the corner of Main and Barraque streets in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on March 23, 1903, with four employees. First day deposits totaled $3,338.22. Simmons opened its trust department on June 5, 1922, and was one of the first Arkansas banks to reopen, without restrictions, after the federally imposed “bank holiday” in 1933, during the Great Depression. In 1937, the bank opened its personal loan department. The …

St. Louis Southwestern Railway

aka: Cotton Belt
The St. Louis Southwestern Railway began in Tyler, Texas, in 1875. Construction began in Arkansas in 1881. When completed in 1883, the railroad ran diagonally across the state from Texarkana (Miller County) to St. Francis (Clay County). In 1930, the company operated 712 miles of track in Arkansas. The Cotton Belt, as it was better known, would reach its peak mileage in the state in the early 1930s. By the middle to late 1930s, the Great Depression and declining passenger revenue led the railroad to begin abandonment of many of its subsidiary companies and branch lines. Southern Pacific Railroad gained control of the Cotton Belt in 1932 in an effort to gain connections to eastern markets at St. Louis, Missouri, …

St. Louis–San Francisco Railway

aka: Frisco
The St. Louis–San Francisco Railway Co. (SLSF), better known as the Frisco, was organized in 1876 in Missouri. By 1881, the company consisted of a handful of lines concentrated in central and southern Missouri but reaching to Wichita, Kansas; Vinita, Oklahoma; and Fayetteville (Washington County), Arkansas. Although the Frisco never built into the heart of Arkansas, its feeder lines across northwestern and northeastern Arkansas connected communities with other lines across the state as well as the markets throughout the nation, allowing development of agricultural resources, industrial hubs, and resort communities on the periphery of the state. The Frisco was built on remnants of the older Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, acquiring right of way and trackage in Missouri and Indian Territory (present-day …

Stephens Inc.

Stephens Inc. of Little Rock (Pulaski County), a privately owned investment bank, is among Arkansas’s most prominent businesses. The company, one of the nation’s largest investment banks not based on Wall Street, was founded in 1933 by Prattsville (Grant County) native W. R. “Witt” Stephens as the W. R. Stephens Investment Co. Witt Stephens’s younger brother, Jackson T. (Jack) Stephens, joined the company in 1946 and went on to serve as chairman and chief executive officer from 1956 to 1986. Since 1986, Jack Stephens’s youngest son, Warren Stephens, has served as CEO. Witt Stephens was a regional manager based in Colorado for National Crafts Co. when his father, a farmer who served two terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives, …