Transportation

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Amtrak

Amtrak, with a name derived from the words “America” and “track,” is a partially government-funded American passenger rail service. Its parent enterprise is the National Railroad Passenger Corporation. Amtrak was created in 1970 to provide medium- and long-distance intercity service through the consolidation of existing U.S. passenger rail companies. Sharing track with freight trains, Amtrak officially took over most U.S. interstate passenger rail service on May 1, 1971. However, Amtrak’s regular passenger rail service did not begin to serve Arkansas until 1974, when service on the Inter-American train was extended northward from Fort Worth, Texas, to St. Louis, Missouri. Amtrak is the most recent phase in America’s passenger railroad history, in which Arkansas has played a significant part. From the …

Arkansas Aerospace Education Center (AEC)

aka: Aerospace Education Center
Located near Little Rock National Airport (Adams Field), the Arkansas Aerospace Education Center (AEC) provided the state with aerospace education through the Workforce Development Center of University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College. The center, which is owned by the Arkansas Aviation Historical Society, also housed the state’s only IMAX theater and a library that held the Jay Miller Aviation Collection of aerospace materials. When fundraising began, the center was intended to include a magnet school, a library of aerospace materials, a museum, and an IMAX movie theater. Before the center’s completion, however, the Little Rock School District decided not to build an aerospace magnet school at the center. Another feature, to be called the Arkansas High Technology Training Center, also was …

Arkansas Air Museum

“Promoting Aviation by Preserving the Past” is the mission statement of the Arkansas Air Museum in Fayetteville (Washington County). The museum was Arkansas’s first museum dedicated entirely to aviation history. Located in a hangar at Fayetteville’s Drake Field, the museum occupies the oldest aviation-related structure still standing in northwest Arkansas. The hangar was constructed during World War II. Because of wartime resource limitations, Henry George, Fayetteville’s engineering assistant, developed the hangar out of wood, with construction starting on May 1, 1943. As well as designing the hangar, George worked as plumber, electrician, and welder on the project. At no time did the project employ more than four carpenters, three helpers, and George. Total cost for building the hangar was around …

Arkansas and Oklahoma Western Railroad

  The Arkansas and Oklahoma Western Railroad (A&OW), based in Rogers (Benton County), was incorporated on June 25, 1907, with capital stock of $3,000,000. The standard gauge railroad, previously named the Rogers Southwestern, had twenty-one miles of track built between Rogers and Springtown (Benton County) by the Rogers Southwestern Railroad. The change in the corporate name reflected an intention to build to Siloam Springs (Benton County), as a connection to the Kansas City Southern Railway, and Pryor Creek, Oklahoma, as a connection to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway. The A&OW also announced plans for a thirty-mile extension from Rogers to the health resort of Eureka Springs (Carroll County). The A&OW, assuming it had been built as planned, would have …

Arkansas Department of Aeronautics (ADA)

The Arkansas Department of Aeronautics (ADA) is responsible for regulating aviation in the state of Arkansas as well as encouraging the development of aeronautics-related industries. The Arkansas Department of Aeronautics was created by Act 457 of 1941, which established the agency for a period of twenty-five years, to be headed by a commission consisting of the chairperson of the State Police Commission, the adjutant general of the State of Arkansas, the chairperson of the State Penal Board, the chairperson of the State Highway Commission, and the head of the ADA. The duties, as defined by the act, consisted of providing for the examination, rating, and licensing of airports; adopting rules and regulations for airports and other landing sites; providing for …

Arkansas Department of Transportation

The Arkansas Department of Transportation oversees the planning, maintenance, and policing of state roads and highways. Act 302 of 1913 established the State Highway Commission and renamed the Department of State Lands as the Department of State Lands, Highways and Improvements. However, there remained no designated highway system in the state. In 1921, a federal law required states to designate a system of state highways, to be managed by a state highway department. In 1923, a few months following the closure of the Department of State Lands, Highways and Improvements due to the Arkansas General Assembly’s failure to appropriate money for the agency, the governor called a special session of the legislature to deal with the resulting problems, eventually signing …

Arkansas Highway Commission

In the early part of the twentieth century, Arkansas’s roads were not designed for the arrival of the automobile. The state’s roads were rough and dusty in dry weather, and were impassable during the rainy season. There was no statewide authority to plan or direct road construction in Arkansas, so road construction was handled at the local level, with county courts in charge of road planning and construction. Most roads were built to serve specific neighborhoods or even individuals, and a connected statewide system of roads was far from a reality. These issues came to a head in 1913 in the Thirty-ninth Arkansas General Assembly, which created the State Highway Commission by Act 302 in response to these transportation issues. …

Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum

The Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum (AIMM) in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) is home to Arkansas’s only historic naval vessel open to the public for tours, the USS Razorback (SS 394). It also includes a U.S. Navy tugboat, the USS Hoga. The museum also offers a small research library and a number of permanent and rotating exhibits on submarines and naval history. Hearing of the Razorback’s approaching decommission, a group of submarine veterans initiated an effort to return the submarine to the United States. They approached Mayor Patrick Henry Hays of North Little Rock in 2002 about the possibility of docking the Razorback in Arkansas. At that time, the city was already working to acquire the Hoga, a tugboat present at …

Arkansas Railroad Museum

The Arkansas Railroad Museum in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) grew out of an effort by the Cotton Belt Historical Society to preserve the last steam-powered locomotive built in Arkansas. It has since expanded to include other artifacts of Arkansas’s railroad heritage. The Cotton Belt Rail Historical Society, Inc., was organized on October 18, 1983, primarily for the purpose of saving the Cotton Belt steam locomotive SSW 819, a 4-8-4 Northern-type steam locomotive that was the last steam-powered locomotive constructed in Arkansas. The locomotive had been retired and donated to the City of Pine Bluff in 1955, when machines of its type were being replaced by diesel-burning locomotives. It was placed in a city park, later called the Martin Luther King …

Arkansas River

The Arkansas River originates high in the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains near Leadville, Colorado, and it ends in eastern Arkansas at the confluence with the Mississippi River where the town of Napoleon (Desha County) once stood. The river is 1,460 miles long and flows across three states before making its way into Arkansas. The Arkansas River is the second-longest tributary in the Mississippi-Missouri river system, the sixth-longest river in the United States, and the forty-fifth-longest river in the world. Three major cities are situated along the banks of this river that drains nearly 160,500 square miles of land: Wichita, Kansas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Little Rock (Pulaski County). Significance to Arkansas The Arkansas River, flowing east and southeast across …

Arkansas Waterways Commission

The Arkansas Waterways Commission was established by Act 242 of 1967, and its powers and duties were amended by Act 414 of 1973. It became a division of the Arkansas Department of Commerce in 2019. The mission of the Arkansas Waterways Commission is to develop, promote, and protect the commercially navigable waterways of Arkansas for waterborne transportation and to promote economic development to benefit the people of Arkansas. The navigable waterways in Arkansas include the Arkansas, Mississippi, White, Red, and Ouachita rivers. The Arkansas Waterways Commission is composed of seven commissioners appointed by the governor, with the advice and consent of the Arkansas Senate. Each commissioner serves a seven-year term. Five of the commissioners represent five navigable stream basin areas …

Arkansas Wing, Civil Air Patrol

The Arkansas Wing is one of the fifty-two chapters—including all the states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia—that make up the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), which is the civilian volunteer auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. The Civil Air Patrol was formed on December 1, 1941, for the purpose of conducting emergency service operations including search and rescue, homeland security, and disaster relief missions. Today, the CAP continues to perform those duties, as well as educating the public and its members about the value of aerospace and operating a cadet program for youth leadership development. In late 1941, Arkansas pilots foresaw the need to form an aviation unit to take the place of the Arkansas National Guard’s 154th Observation …

Aviation

Aviation history in Arkansas includes one pioneer inventor, a few attempts at commercial airplane production, a regional commuter airline, a now-national air freight company, and varying degrees of impact on the state’s communities. By the 1970s, aviation had become essential both for business use and for personal travel. Balloons and Dirigibles Balloon ascensions became popular throughout the United States in the 1850s, and balloons also figured in the Civil War, though none were deployed in Arkansas. There was an ascension in Yell County in 1879, and in 1902, balloonist Charles Geary came to Baxter County to perform, along with “Professor” Murgle, who demonstrated the parachute. Balloon production was apparently limited to the Hot Springs Airship Company of Joel Troutt Rice …

Baring Cross Bridge

The Baring Cross Bridge is located in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) over the Arkansas River at river mile 166.2. It is the western-most bridge of the six bridges spanning the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock. The first Baring Cross Bridge, the first bridge built across the Arkansas River, opened in 1873. In the 1850s and 1860s, the Cairo and Fulton Railroad Company (C&F) developed two divisions north and south of the Arkansas River. Before the bridge was constructed, the railroad company used ferries to transport equipment, people, animals and commercial freight across the river. Ferries, however, were slow and had a limited amount of cargo space, which caused frequent backups in service. Also, cargo was lost in ferry …

Batesville Regional Airport

The Batesville Regional Airport is located on Highway 167 (Batesville Boulevard) in the town of Southside (Independence County), about four miles south of Batesville, the county seat of Independence County. The City of Batesville owns the airport, which is a public-use general aviation airport averaging ninety-five aircraft operations per day (approximately six percent of which are military). The airport and hangars accommodate light general aviation aircraft of all sizes, including small jets. In 2015, the airport had more than fifty based aircraft and employed seventy-two people. The economic impact of the airport on Batesville and Independence County—including on motels, restaurants, transportation businesses, and the poultry industry—has been estimated by the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics to be approximately $5,486,400 annually. The …

Beebe, Roswell

Roswell Beebe was the first benefactor of the city of Little Rock (Pulaski County); the town of Beebe (White County) was named after him. In the late 1840s and the 1850s, he was one of the most important businessmen and politicians in Little Rock. He donated several pieces of land to the city. Roswell Beebe was born on December 22, 1795, in Hinsdale, New York, to a wealthy English family. When he was seventeen, he talked his father into letting him go to New Orleans, Louisiana. He was behind the cotton bales with Andrew Jackson when the United States turned back the British at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Roswell was successful in several businesses. The 1832 New …

Big River Crossing

aka: Harahan Bridge
The Harahan Bridge, which spans the Mississippi River to connect Memphis, Tennessee, with West Memphis (Crittenden County), was built in 1916 as a two-track railroad bridge and converted in 2016 to add a bicycle and pedestrian pathway, replacing one of the old abandoned auto roadways; the structure was renamed Big River Crossing. The Union Pacific Railroad owns the bridge and agreed to add the pathway, which was financed with a federal grant. The new pathway connects Main Street in Memphis to the Delta Regional River Park on the Arkansas side and to the Big River Trail. After completion, the Big River Trail, for use by pedestrians and bikers, will extend from the head waters of the river to the Gulf …

Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport

The Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport (formerly Little Rock National Airport/Adams Field), located two miles east of downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) on the south side of the Arkansas River, is a mixed-use airport with both commercial and private airplanes, as well as a military presence. It has the largest amount of scheduled commercial service in the state of Arkansas and serves more than two million passengers annually. Little Rock’s first airport, operated by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, opened in 1917 as the Little Rock Intermediate Air Depot. This small airfield expanded in 1926 due to the growing needs of the 154th Observation Squadron of the Arkansas National Guard. In 1928, the first aircraft manufacturing business arrived on …

Black River Bridge (Historic)

The Black River Bridge is the name given to a historic bridge spanning the Black River in Randolph County. Built as part of U.S. Highway 67, the Black River Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 9, 1990, and maintained by the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The Pocahontas (Randolph County) section of Highway 67 opened in February 1931. The confluence of Highways 90 and 115 with U.S. Highway 67 in Pocahontas required a bridge to provide for safe travel across the Black River. To begin the construction of a bridge, the State Highway Commission needed federal approval through the U.S. Congress and through the War Department. This approval was set in place to ensure that …

Blakely Mountain Dam

aka: Blakely Dam
aka: Lake Ouachita
Blakely Mountain Dam, located approximately ten miles northwest of Hot Springs (Garland County), was created to provide hydroelectric power and to control flooding along the Ouachita River. It impounds Lake Ouachita, the largest lake completely within the state of Arkansas at over 40,000 acres. In 1870, the U.S. Congress authorized a survey of the Ouachita River to investigate improving its navigability and preventing floods along its course. However, nothing was done until the 1920s, when Harvey Couch and his company, Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L), began searching for sites for hydroelectric dams along the Ouachita River. AP&L built Remmel Dam and Carpenter Dam, which were in place by the early 1930s. Plans for a third, larger dam were announced in …

Bobby Hopper Tunnel

Arkansas has seven railroad tunnels but only one highway tunnel. Named for the Arkansas Highway Commission director at the time of the tunnel’s construction, Bobby Hopper, the northwest Arkansas commission representative from Springdale (Washington County), the Bobby Hopper Tunnel is located on Interstate 49 in Washington County just north of the Crawford County line with its closest exit at Winslow (Washington County). U.S. Highway 71, once classified by Reader’s Digest as “one of the most dangerous highways in America,” includes a perilous stretch between Alma (Crawford County) and Fayetteville (Washington County) through the Ozark Plateau. Thus, construction of an alternate route was designed to make the trip safer, as well as reduce travel time. Approved in 1987 and completed in …

Boone County Regional Airport

The Boone County Regional Airport is located three miles outside of Harrison (Boone County). The airport is a mixed-use airport, with the majority of usage coming from general aviation. It is estimated that, in 2015, the airport provided 120 jobs and had an economic impact of over $12 million to the local economy. The first flight to what is now the Boone County Regional Airport was in 1921. It was flown by Earl Rowland, a local flying legend. He was a World War I pilot, a test pilot for Cessna Aircraft, a member of the World War II Air Transport Command, and winner of five national air races. Although his landing in Harrison in 1921 inaugurated aviation to the area, …

Bridges

At the time Arkansas became a territory, most water crossings were fords. When travelers came to a body of water such as a small river or stream, they would look for the shallowest place and cross there. Generally, these fords were adequate for the small number of early travelers in the territory. But as the population of the state slowly grew and a system of military roads was developed, it became necessary to bridge larger bodies of water to make travel faster and easier for the military and the local population. The first attempts at bridge-building in Arkansas were by private individuals. These individuals applied for a franchise to build a toll bridge, which was granted by the territorial legislature. …

Bull Shoals Dam and Lake

Bull Shoals Dam site is located on the White River about ten miles west of Mountain Home (Baxter County), where the river divides Baxter and Marion counties. The site is named after its location at a shoal (a shallow and swift reach of river), borrowing from the French “Boill,” meaning a large spring. Private power companies had explored the possibility of building a dam at Wildcat Shoals above Cotter (Baxter County) as early as 1902 but never began any work toward it. Congress approved the construction of six reservoirs in the White River Basin in the Flood Control Act of 1938. A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report in 1930 had recommended the Wildcat Shoals site along with seven others …

Butterfield’s Overland Mail Company

aka: Overland Mail Company
Butterfield’s Overland Mail Company carried the first successful overland transcontinental mail by stagecoach through Arkansas as it went from the Mississippi River to California. Though only running from 1858 through 1861, it was the longest stagecoach line in world history at approximately 2,812 miles and was a major factor in the settlement and development of Arkansas and the American West before the Civil War. Its two main routes ran through Arkansas, westward from Memphis and south from Missouri, connecting in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). Many sites in Arkansas, such as Butterfield Trails Village in Fayetteville (Washington County), still reflect the era of Butterfield’s Overland Mail Company. Before modern technology, the mail was America’s lifeblood. “Post roads” were created in the …

Cache River

The Cache River arises near the Arkansas-Missouri border at the confluence of a few agricultural ditches and flows south-southwesterly through Arkansas until it empties into the White River just east of Clarendon (Monroe County). Though it is not a major transportation corridor, the Cache River has nonetheless had an important place in Arkansas history, especially in debates about environmental conservation. The town of Cash (Craighead County) takes its name from the river. The Cache River was an important water resource for prehistoric Native Americans; for instance, important Indian mound sites connected to the Plum Bayou culture lie within the Cache River floodplain. These early peoples could exploit the variety of natural resources provided by the river and surrounding area, which was …

Caddo River

The Caddo River of west-central Arkansas is known widely as the Natural State’s premier family float stream. This scenic river is named after the Caddo Indians who settled the Ouachita Mountain drainage area. Since that time, many generations have settled, explored, and enjoyed this watercourse. This spring fed Ouachita Mountain stream offers something for everyone. Visitors to the Caddo can experience diverse recreational opportunity in a safe, easily accessible, natural setting. For centuries, this unique waterway has carved its way through sedimentary rock formations, creating a broad shallow river valley and leaving miles of gravel along its path. In some places, the nearly vertical beds of sandstone and novaculite create rapids and water gaps. The Caddo, known for extremely clear …

Cairo and Fulton Railroad

Today’s Union Pacific Railroad line from the Missouri state line through Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Texarkana (Miller County) was constructed by the Cairo and Fulton Railroad. Over a period of more than 100 years, the Cairo and Fulton merged first into the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern (StLIM&S), then into the Missouri Pacific, and finally into today’s Union Pacific. As the first railroad to connect Arkansas to Missouri and the eastern United States, the Cairo and Fulton opened up the state for development. The Cairo and Fulton Railroad was chartered by the State of Arkansas on February 9, 1853, to build a railroad line from the Arkansas-Missouri state line across Arkansas to Texas. The State of Missouri, on …

Camden Army Air Field

aka: Harrell Field
Camden Army Air Field (a.k.a. Harrell Field) was one of three contract primary flying schools located in Arkansas during World War II. The other two were at Grider Field in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and Thompson-Robbins Field in West Helena (Phillips County). The Arkansas communities where the schools were located gained much-needed jobs not only for the construction phase but also from operation of the schools. The need for these contract flying schools arose because Kelly Field in Texas could only graduate 500 pilots a year, and most of the current Army Air Force (AAF) pilots did not have enough flying hours to be instructors. AAF’s commanding general, Henry Arnold, devised a plan for contract primary flying schools located in …

Camden to Washington Road, Rosston Segment

The Camden to Washington Road formerly connected the towns of Camden (Ouachita County) and Washington (Hempstead County). Some sections of the road still exist in the twenty-first century, including a segment near Rosston (Nevada County) that is part of Nevada County Road 10. This portion of the road was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 29, 2009. The first effort to create the road began in 1821 when residents of Hempstead County petitioned the Court of Common Pleas to construct a road linking their county with a point on the Ouachita River. This would allow farmers to transport their crops to the nearest navigable river. A map drawn that same year shows a road leaving Ecore …

Carpenter Dam

aka: Lake Hamilton
Carpenter Dam is the second of three dams constructed along the Ouachita River in the vicinity of Hot Springs (Garland County), following Remmel Dam (completed in 1924) and preceding Blakely Mountain Dam (completed in the 1950s). The concrete gravity dam was built by Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L), which later became Entergy, for purposes of producing hydroelectric power. It impounds the 7,200-acre Lake Hamilton. Carpenter Dam was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 4, 1992, in recognition of its role in the growth and development of Hot Springs. Flavius Josephus (Flave) Carpenter, an associate of AP&L president Harvey Couch, selected the site for the construction of Carpenter Dam, ten miles upstream from Remmel Dam, and so …

Carpenter, Flavius Josephus (Flave)

Flavius Josephus (Flave) Carpenter was a steamboat captain, U.S. marshal, and businessman. He is credited with selecting sites for two Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L, now Entergy) dams on the upper Ouachita River. Carpenter Dam, which created Lake Hamilton, is named for him. Flave Carpenter was born on March 24, 1851, in Franklin County, Georgia, to Martin Sims Carpenter and Martha Weeks Carpenter. The family moved to Arkansas in 1857, settling in Clark County. Carpenter’s father owned and operated a steamboat that plied the Ouachita River from Arkadelphia (Clark County) to points south, including New Orleans, Louisiana. As a young man, Carpenter accompanied his father and learned to pilot the boat. On June 28, 1875, Carpenter married Jane Elizabeth Wallis …

Carrollton Road

The Carrollton Road was part of an east-west road that crossed northern Arkansas in the 1830s and is noteworthy as one of the few documented roads used by the John Benge Detachment of Cherokee during the Indian Removal of the late 1830s. A segment of the road survives today. The Cherokee Removal detachment led by Captain John Benge initially consisted of 1,079 people and seventy wagons, though others would join the group as it headed west. The detachment departed from Fort Payne, Alabama, in late September and early October 1838. It crossed into Tennessee and later crossed the Mississippi River at Iron Banks in Kentucky. Traveling west and southwest through Missouri on the Military Road, the detachment crossed into Arkansas …

Central Delta Depot Museum

The Central Delta Depot Museum in Brinkley (Monroe County) is an initiative of the Central Delta Historical Society, which was organized in the 1990s to preserve the history and heritage of the central Delta area. The museum’s scope covers all of Monroe and parts of Woodruff, St. Francis, Prairie, Lee, Phillips, and Arkansas counties. Louise Mitchell, a Kingsland (Cleveland County) native who had taught at Brinkley High School, served as the first president of the Central Delta Historical Society and editor of its journal from 1997 to 2001. In 1999, she led a letter-writing campaign—directed to Union Pacific officials, President Bill Clinton, the area’s congressmen, and others—to save Brinkley’s Union Train Station from destruction so a museum could be established. …

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway

The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (commonly called the Rock Island) was an Illinois railroad that gained access to Arkansas in 1902. Its purchase of the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad gave it the beginnings of a transcontinental route along the thirty-fifth parallel and the beginnings of a route to the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans. Ultimately, the railroad would purchase more than thirty-two separate railroads to create a network in Arkansas that was more than 700 miles long, with railroad lines in the Mississippi River Delta and the Arkansas Grand Prairie representing the importance of agricultural products to its business. Oil from southern Arkansas, coal from western Arkansas, and lumber products from central and southern Arkansas were …

Choctaw Freight Terminal

The Choctaw Freight Terminal served the Choctaw and Memphis Railroad Company (originally the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad) as a hub for the transportation of goods to and from Little Rock (Pulaski County). Located in the eastern part of the city, it was covered over by a superstructure in the 1960s and then razed in 2001 to make way for the construction of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park. At the time of its demolition, it was the last surviving example of a traditional two-story brick freight station in Arkansas. When the Choctaw and Memphis Railroad Company began freight and passenger service from Little Rock to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1899, a depot for passengers stood on the Little …

Climber Motor Corporation

The automobile craze grew by leaps and bounds during the early twentieth century. A 1907 issue of Outing Magazine reported that “In 1906, the cost of the annual American output of automobiles was $65,000,000. There were 146 concerns in business, which represented a capitalization of probably $25,000,000 and were giving employment directly and indirectly to an army of men which reached well up into the hundreds of thousands.” Arkansas was in no way left behind by the explosive growth of the use of the automobile. By 1913, there were 3,596 registered passenger vehicles in Arkansas. Even though automobile production was growing year by year, the improvement of roads to accommodate the new vehicles was severely lagging behind across the nation, …

Coast Guard Auxiliary

aka: U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, established by Congress in 1939 to assist the U.S. Coast Guard with all missions except military operations and law enforcement, is composed of more than 32,000 volunteers worldwide. Its traditional role has been promoting recreational boating safety through public education courses, assisting with search and rescue missions, conducting marine safety patrols on lakes and rivers, supporting regattas and marine events, and offering free vessel safety checks for recreational boaters as well as commercial vessels. Before members of the auxiliary can inspect a boat, a detailed instruction course is required. The course must be repeated every three years. In 1962, eighty avid Arkansan boaters, primarily from two boat clubs in the Little Rock (Pulaski County) metropolitan area, provided …

Coffey, Cornelius Robinson

  Cornelius Robinson Coffey was the first African American to establish an aeronautical school in the United States. His school was also the only aviation program not affiliated with a university or college to become part of the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP). His pioneering efforts led to the integration of black pilots into the overall American aviation industries, both civilian and military. Cornelius R. Coffey was born in Newport (Jackson County) on September 6, 1903, to Henry Coffey and Ida Wright Coffey. In 1916, Coffey had his first experience riding in an aircraft and was convinced that aviation was his calling. In 1925, Coffey left Arkansas for Chicago, Illinois, to pursue a career in aviation by enrolling in an auto …

Combs, Cass and Eastern Railroad

The Combs, Cass and Eastern Railroad Company (CC&E) has several distinctions. It was the last railroad built in northwestern Arkansas. It reached the highest elevation of the railroads operating in northwest Arkansas and was the sole standard gauge logging railroad there. Prominent Arkansan J. William Fulbright became president at the age of eighteen, thus becoming the youngest railroad president in the United States. Construction of the then-unnamed railroad began in 1913 at Combs (Madison County) on the St. Paul (Madison County) branch of the St. Louis–San Francisco Railway (Frisco). The line headed south along Mill Creek for nearly nine miles. Upon entering Franklin County, the railroad encountered difficult rock conditions as it climbed to Summit (Franklin County) at about 1,900 …

Command-Aire

In 1926, the Arkansas Aircraft Company was founded in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to build small personal airplanes. The company represented the first and one of the few aircraft companies that have existed in Arkansas. The Arkansas Aircraft Company, which later became known as Command-Aire, was nationally known for its aircraft, and it was one of the country’s leading airplane manufacturers in the late 1920s. Robert B. Snowden Jr. was the company’s president, and John Carroll Cone was in charge of sales. Albert Voellmecke—a graduate of the University of Braunschweigaud in Germany and an employee of the Heinkel firm, a noted German aircraft builder—was sent to America by the Heinkel firm in 1927 to advise the company. He later became …

Cone, John Carroll

John Carroll Cone was a promoter of aviation in Arkansas and established two significant air organizations in the late 1920s—the 154th Observation Squadron of the Arkansas National Guard and the Command-Aire manufacturing company. During his later career, he advised two U.S. presidents in commercial aviation policy. Carroll Cone was born on July 4, 1891, in Snyder (Ashley County) to Jesse H. and Annie A. Cone. He attended Ouachita Baptist College, now Ouachita Baptist University (OBU), prior to enlisting in the United States Army and volunteering for training in the Army Air Service. A veteran fighter pilot with three probable kills but only one confirmed kill in combat during World War I, Cone proved more valuable as an instructor than as …

Cotter Bridge

aka: R. M. Ruthven Bridge
Completed in 1930, the R. M. Ruthven Bridge, originally named and often still called the Cotter Bridge, is located near Cotter (Baxter County) on the business route of U.S. Highway 62 and crosses the White River between Baxter and Marion counties. Recognizable for its Rainbow Arches, it was the first landmark in Arkansas to become a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and is one of only a small number of bridges designated as such. East-west travelers through northern Arkansas often encountered problems crossing the White River. Although ferries operated at several places along the river, the river had a tendency to flood rapidly, grounding the ferries and hindering traffic sometimes for several days. The fastest detour was to cross 100 …

Crenchaw, Milton Pitts

Milton Pitts Crenchaw, of the original Tuskegee Airmen, was one of the first African Americans in the country and the first from Arkansas to be trained by the federal government as a civilian licensed pilot. He trained hundreds of cadet pilots while at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute in the 1940s and was the catalyst in starting the first successful flight program at Philander Smith College in Little Rock (Pulaski County) from 1947 to 1953. His combined service record extends for over forty years of federal service from 1941 to 1983 with the U.S. Army (in the Army Air Corps) and eventually the U.S. Air Force. Milton Crenchaw was born on January 13, 1919, in Little Rock to the Reverend Joseph C. …

Dardanelle Pontoon Bridge

The Dardanelle Pontoon Bridge was the largest pontoon bridge in existence in the United States, crossing the Arkansas River between Dardanelle (Yell County) and Russellville (Pope County). A toll bridge, it opened for traffic in 1891 and lasted until the construction of a steel bridge replacement in 1929. The bridge cost $25,000, financed by a group of stockholders and built by Roberts and Sons of Independence, Missouri. Construction started in 1889, and the bridge opened for traffic on April 1, 1891. It was over 2,200 feet long and eighteen feet wide, with a load limit of 9,000 pounds. Originally, each end of the bridge was anchored to a piling, and only the center actually floated. However, the fluctuation of the …

De Soto Expedition, Route of the

When the Spanish expedition of Hernando de Soto crossed the Mississippi River on June 28, 1541 (June 18 on the Julian calendar, which was used at the time), it entered what is now Arkansas. It spent the next eleven months roaming around the state until de Soto’s death on May 31, 1542 (May 21 on the Julian calendar). After his death, the survivors made their way to Mexico. There have been many attempts to identify the expedition’s route through Arkansas, using information from the four written accounts of the expedition. Three of these were written by men who had accompanied the expedition, and the fourth was authored forty or fifty years later, based on interviews with survivors. The route reconstructions …

DeGray Creek Bridge

DeGray Creek Bridge is a pin-connected Pratt pony-truss bridge located near Arkadelphia (Clark County). Constructed in 1915, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 21, 2010. It is the only known surviving bridge of its type in the state. The bridge consists of two steel trusses, seven feet tall and twelve feet apart. A steel deck substructure is attached to the trusses, and pins hold the sections together. The deck is covered by wooden planks. This bridge is connected to the banks of the creek by concrete and is a single lane wide. The bridge and similar bridges were prefabricated to be constructed in a manner that would allow them to be quickly and easily …

Dexter B. Florence Memorial Field

The Dexter B. Florence Memorial Field is an airport located in Arkadelphia (Clark County). Owned by the City of Arkadelphia, the facility serves both local general aviation and as the location for Henderson State University (HSU) flight operations. The first airplane to visit the city landed on May 25, 1918. Other planes infrequently appeared in the city over the next two decades until the first airport was constructed in 1933–34, located across the Ouachita River from Arkadelphia. The first plane landed at that facility on April 24, 1934. The land was leased for only three years, and after the expiration of the lease, the airport closed. It was reopened in 1939 when students from Henderson State Teachers College (which later …

Dockery, Jess Orval

Jess Orval Dockery was an aviation pioneer and an innovator of agricultural aviation in the Mid-South region, based first in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and, later, Stuttgart (Arkansas County) and Clarksdale, Mississippi. He played a leading role in developing aerial application processes, perfecting the science of crop dusting and spreading the practice to the Midwest. Jess Orval Dockery was born on February 26, 1909, in Dallas, Texas, to Jess P. Dockery and Myrtle Kemp Dockery. Confederate general Thomas Pleasant Dockery was his great-uncle, while socialite Octavia Dockery was a cousin. During World War I, his family moved to Lawton, Oklahoma, where his father ran a jitney service to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. This gave Dockery access to the base’s aircraft, leading …

Dollarway Road

The Dollarway Road represents Arkansas’s early twentieth-century efforts at road building for automobiles. Called the Dollarway Road because of its cost, it is important as an early example of the state’s short-lived system of road improvement districts. The Dollarway Road was also the longest continuous concrete pavement in the United States when complete, and it marked the first use of reinforced concrete for bridge construction in Arkansas. Bicyclists started Arkansas’s Good Road Movement, which led to the establishment of the Good Roads League of the State of Arkansas in 1896. Upgrading road conditions and funding roads was a major concern. In 1907, the state legislature created road improvement districts, locally controlled groups that determined where roads would go and who …