Entry Category: Cities and Towns - Starting with O

O’Kean (Randolph County)

The town of O’Kean (Randolph County) first developed in the Black River bottoms, the area to the south and east of the Black River in Randolph County, shortly after the Civil War. Attracted by plentiful game and productive ground, most pre-war settlers in the area lived near the road from Pocahontas (Randolph County) to old Greensboro (Craighead County) and Gainesville (Greene County), or along the Cache River. The history of the actual settlement and naming of O’Kean remains clouded. There were settlers near the junction of the track and road, but the name of that settlement, if it had one, is unknown. The name O’Kean came from Father James O’Kean, the former priest of St. Paul’s Catholic Church. He stopped …

O’Neal (Independence County)

The O’Neal Cemetery is all that remains of a once vibrant river and railroad community located across the White River from Marcella (Stone County). Going west on Highway 106 through Bethesda (Independence County), the O’Neal Road leads to O’Neal, which is about four miles from Bethesda. In territorial days, O’Neal was in Ruddell Township, but it later became part of Washington Township. O’Neal lies on both the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and the White River, south of Lock and Dam No. 3. The rich bottomland around O’Neal is still farmed on both sides of the river. O’Neal is about twelve miles west of Batesville (Independence County), the county seat. O’Neal was founded and first settled during territorial days by John …

Oak Grove (Carroll County)

Oak Grove is a town in northern Carroll County, located at the intersection of State Highways 21 and 103. A narrow strip of land in the town runs north along Indian Creek to the Missouri state line. The town is one of twelve communities in Arkansas identified as Oak Grove, and the only one to be incorporated. When a community in Greene County sought to incorporate with the same name in 1979, it was forced to incorporate as Oak Grove Heights. The forested Ozark Mountains have been sparsely inhabited for centuries. At the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the area was frequently visited by the Osage, who lived farther north but came into what would be Arkansas to …

Oak Grove Heights (Greene County)

Oak Grove Heights is a second-class city located on State Highway 135 four miles north of Paragould (Greene County). It was incorporated in 1979, roughly a century after the community came into being, and consists largely of residences for workers in neighboring communities of Greene County. The wilderness area immediately east of Crowley’s Ridge remained almost entirely uninhabited until after the Civil War, when the railroad industry began to open previously inaccessible regions of Arkansas. When the city of Paragould was established at the intersection of the Cotton Belt and Iron Mountain railways, many of the citizens of Gainesville (Greene County) relocated to the newer city, making it the county seat in 1884. Meanwhile, other settlers came to Arkansas to …

Oakhaven (Hempstead County)

Oakhaven is a town on State Highway 32, a few miles north of Hope (Hempstead County). Originally built as housing for officers serving at the Southwestern Proving Ground during World War II, Oakhaven has never had a post office or a school. Hempstead County was home to some of the most important communities of southwestern Arkansas in the early years of statehood. Fulton (Hempstead County) was an important port on the Red River and once served as the gateway to Mexico—later to Texas—while Washington (Hempstead County) was the county seat and an important city on the Southwest Trail; Washington even served as the Confederate state capital after Little Rock (Pulaski County) was captured by Federal forces in 1863. After the …

Oden (Montgomery County)

Oden, a rural community in northwest Montgomery County, is on the north bank of the Ouachita River eight miles west of Mount Ida, the county seat. Oden’s population in 2010 was 232. In 1849, Henry Beshears settled where Oden now stands, his journey to Arkansas perhaps occasioned by the California gold rush. He wrote to his old neighbors in Mississippi about the wonderful country he had found—the Ouachita bottomlands and the abundant game. In the spring of 1848, a group left Tippah County, Mississippi, in thirteen ox-drawn wagons and arrived in Oden in January 1849. Hunting parties found game plentiful. Liking the land they saw, they cleared some ground and planted corn. A third wagon train came along and also …

Ogden (Little River County)

  The city of Ogden is on the highway that connects Fort Smith (Sebastian County) to Texarkana (Miller County). Now a quiet residential community, Ogden was once an agricultural center for the surrounding cotton farms. Settlers first began arriving in the Red River valley around 1838. John Nunneley was the first landowner in what now is Ogden; he owned many acres of land and several slaves. Other settlers before the Civil War included Paul Bagley and Christopher Waddell. M. W. Bates arrived around 1878 and named the settlement Ogden, which was the maiden name of his second wife. Bates, who served as Little River County judge from 1884 to 1888, owned the first cotton gin, the first sawmill, and the first …

Oil Trough (Independence County)

The town of Oil Trough is located twelve miles southeast of Batesville (Independence County) in the southeastern part of Independence County. It is located southwest of the White River, in a rich area of bottomlands known as the Oil Trough Bottoms. Above the bottoms is the Oil Trough Ridge, composed of black limestone that the Goodspeed history of the area (1889) described as “capable of a superior polish.” Beginning around 1800, the area was a favorite hunting ground for French frontiersmen. The large stands of cane along the river were a perfect hiding place for game, including bear; the limestone cliffs nearby provided the bears with a perfect place for their dens. Indeed, legend has it that the area was …

Okay (Howard County)

Until the late 1980s, the town of Okay (Howard County) was home to a major limestone mining operation located on a peninsula on the east side of Millwood Lake. Most of what remained of the once-thriving company town, founded in the late 1920s, had almost disappeared by the end of the twentieth century. In 1926, Charles Boettcher, founder of Ideal Cement Company, based in Denver, Colorado, dispatched Tom Dodson and Joe Hargis from a branch plant in Oklahoma to scout out a potential Arkansas plant site after learning of the growing movement in Arkansas to improve roads and bridges. A remote site in Howard County was chosen due to its rich deposits of limestone and chalk. A railroad spur necessary …

Okolona (Clark County)

Okolona is a small town located in southwestern Clark County, near the Little Missouri River. Okolona served as a regional agricultural and transportation hub in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries before slowly fading into obscurity. The earliest known inhabitants of the area were Caddo Indians, who constructed a mound that is today located near Main Street. The first white settlers arrived in the Okolona area in the early 1830s. They named their new community after their hometown in Mississippi. In 1858, a post office was established in the town, and by the 1860s several general stores had been opened in the area. The earliest settlers founded schools in the area, and education would continue to play an important …

Ola (Yell County)

Ola is the third-largest city in Yell County. It was originally known as Petit Jean, but its name was changed to Ola on December 10, 1880. On March 20, 1900, it was incorporated as a second-class city. Louisiana Purchase through Early StatehoodThe area that became Ola was part of the Ward Township, Section 3, Township 4 North, Range 21 West. The 1850 Census shows twenty-two families residing within the Ward Township and includes a store and scattered, outlying homesteads. Postal service was established in 1848. Early settlers came from North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee, attracted to the area by its cheap land and commercial possibilities. Civil War through the Gilded AgeThe first house was completed in 1860 by homesteader …

Old Austin (Lonoke County)

Settled in the early 1820s, what is now called Old Austin, located about thirty miles northeast of Little Rock (Pulaski County), was one of central Arkansas’s early settlements. Local folklore holds that Old Austin narrowly missed being the state capital. Once a thriving town, it experienced a decline after being bypassed by the railroad in the late 1800s. Today, it serves as a bedroom community of Cabot (Lonoke County) and nearby towns. The first settlers, among them James Erwin, came to the area in 1822. Before the founding of a town, the settlement at various times was called Oakland Grove, Oakland, Saundersville, and Atlanta. In 1848, Isaac Dunaway and Colbert Moore built the settlement’s first store. Growth was enhanced by …

Old Hickory (Conway County)

Old Hickory in Conway County is just one of the many rural, unincorporated Arkansas communities that once served as area commercial centers and have since disappeared. Located about fifteen miles northwest of Morrilton (Conway County), the community was perhaps best known for a general store that closed in 1983. The first documented white settler, John H. Jones, was drawn to the area in 1849 by cheap land. On September 22, 1858, a post office was established with Abihu Arnn as its first postmaster. It is said that the long-lost original name for the post office was rejected due to its being too long. One story states that Julius Mackie Washington Masingill, an early settler, then suggested naming the office after the hickory …

Olio (Scott County)

Olio is an unincorporated community in eastern Scott County located along Highway 80. Olio was established in 1858 along Dutch Creek. Agriculture and timber have contributed to the economy and way of life in the region. Prior to European exploration, the area surrounding Olio was a wilderness. Several species of wildlife that no longer inhabit the area, such as elk and buffalo, were present throughout the region. Numerous archaeological sites and burial mounds are located along the banks of prominent waterways such as Dutch Creek. Archaeological findings have provided evidence of early inhabitants dating to the Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian periods. Further archaeological evidence has indicated that the people of the Caddo tribe later inhabited the area. During the late …

Oliver (Scott County)

Oliver is an unincorporated community located in northwestern Scott County along Highway 28 north of the Poteau River. Agriculture has traditionally been important to the area. Prior to European exploration, Oliver was a wilderness lush with native vegetation and numerous species of wildlife—including buffalo and elk, which no longer inhabit the area. Archaeological evidence from the Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian periods has been discovered throughout the area. Additional evidence has indicated that the Caddo tribe had a strong presence along the Poteau River and other prominent waterways. Throughout the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, French trappers and explorers traveled west from the Arkansas Post along the Arkansas River. From there, they began traversing smaller tributaries such as the Fourche La Fave River and Poteau River. It is likely that …

Olyphant (Jackson County)

The community of Olyphant is most noted for being the site of the last train robbery in Arkansas. On November 3, 1893, eight men hijacked Iron Mountain passenger train No. 51, robbed the passengers, and murdered the conductor, William P. McNally. The robbers were tracked down, tried, and found guilty, and three were hanged in Newport (Jackson County) in the only known multiple execution in Jackson County history. Olyphant is located on Highway 367 halfway between Newport, eight miles to the north-northeast, and Bradford (White County), eight miles to the south-southwest. Before the Civil War, Grand Glaise (Jackson County), a river port on White River, was the dominant community in the area and the second-largest town in the county. The …

Omaha (Boone County)

  Omaha is a town in northern Boone County, about five miles from the Missouri state line. The town is on State Highway 14 (old U.S. 65) and was a stop on the Missouri Pacific railroad’s White River line. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Osage—who lived in what is now southern Missouri—would frequently visit the Ozark hills of what is now northern Arkansas on hunting and fishing expeditions. After the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, both Cherokee and Shawnee moved into the area. Local lore says that a Native American village called Sha-wa-nah existed at the site where Omaha would be built, although the village’s existence has not been verified by archaeological evidence. Even after treaties were revoked …

Onia (Stone County)

Onia (pronounced Ownie) is located on Highway 263 three and a half miles north of Timbo (Stone County) near Roasting Ear Creek. The creek—popular for swimming, fishing, and baptisms—reportedly received its name when ears of corn were washed downstream during a flood. The two main landmarks of Onia are the Bethany Baptist Church and the post office in the center of the community. At one time, the area was part of the large community of Locust Grove, which was located in Searcy County before Stone County was created on April 17, 1873. What is today Onia was often referred to by locals as Lower Clark, with Upper Clark being in the Thola area of Searcy County. Near the old Roasting …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …