Transportation

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McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS)

The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) was the largest civil works project ever undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the time of its opening. Today, it is responsible for $1 billion to $2 billion in trade transportation in Arkansas each year and from $100 million to $1 billion in trade transportation in Oklahoma. Additionally, the system has numerous flood protection projects, hydro power plants, and soil conservation and recreational areas. Many communities, such as Little Rock (Pulaski County) and North Little Rock (Pulaski County), have taken advantage of the development to enhance further riverfront developments, such as the River Market and the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park. At 1,460 miles long, the Arkansas River is …

McDermott, Charles M.

Charles M. McDermott was a medical doctor, minister, plantation owner, Greek scholar, charter member of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, and inventor. His patented inventions include an iron wedge, iron hoe, a cotton-picking machine, and a “flying machine.” He was a regular contributor to the Scientific American, and he was among the first to advocate the germ theory of disease. Charles McDermott was born on September 22, 1808, in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. His parents, Emily (Ozan) and Patrick McDermott, owned sugarcane plantations. He had four brothers and two sisters. It was at the plantation home, Waverly, where McDermott became interested in flying. McDermott entered Yale University in 1825 and obtained a bachelor’s degree with honors in 1828. On December …

McDonnell, James Smith, Jr.

James Smith McDonnell Jr. was one of the most significant aerospace industrialists of the twentieth century, building McDonnell-Douglas into the second largest military and commercial aviation corporation in the United States. James McDonnell was born on April 9, 1899, in Denver, Colorado, to James Smith McDonnell Sr. and Susie Belle McDonnell. The youngest of four McDonnell children, he was raised in central Arkansas, graduating from Little Rock High School in 1917. He spent his childhood in Altheimer (Jefferson County), where his parents had one of their two mercantile stores. Although McDonnell initially leaned toward a career in politics, his father encouraged him to pursue a career more suited to his personality. Completing his BS in physics with honors at Princeton …

McKennon, Pierce Winningham “Mac”

Pierce Winningham “Mac” McKennon was a talented musician but is more widely remembered as a famous World War II flying ace. He destroyed twenty German aircraft and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross with four clusters, the Air Medal with sixteen clusters, the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Unit Citation, and the Croix de Guerre. Pierce McKennon was born in Clarksville (Johnson County) on November 30, 1919, to Dr. Parma D. McKennon, a dentist, and Inez Winningham McKennon. He had two older brothers. The family moved to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in 1921. He graduated from St. Anne’s Academy in Fort Smith and entered the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) on a music scholarship in 1937, but he left …

McNeely Creek Bridge

The McNeely Creek Bridge is a single Warren pony-truss bridge near the community of Beirne (Clark County). Constructed in 1923, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 26, 2004. Beirne is an unincorporated community founded in 1880 along the Cairo and Fulton Railroad. Settlement of southern Clark County progressed slowly before the establishment of the railroad, with few roads connecting the area with Arkadelphia (Clark County) or other communities. With an economy based on timber, the community grew as it became one of the best shipping locations for raw timber in southwestern Arkansas. The community was linked by road to nearby Gurdon (Clark County), about four miles to the northeast, likely shortly after construction of …

Memorial Field Airport

Memorial Field Airport is located southwest of Hot Springs (Garland County), three miles from the city center. The airport is a mixed-use airport, with the majority of usage coming from general aviation. Its total economic impact to the Hot Springs area in 2015 included 703 jobs and over $52 million to the local economy. Memorial Field Airport has two runways. The primary runway is 6,595 feet, and the crosswind runway is 4,098 feet; the airport covers an overall area of 844 acres. In 2015, there were 132 aircraft based at the airport, and the airport saw approximately 37,500 flight operations. The construction of the Army and Navy Hospital in Hot Springs in the 1930s was the catalyst for upgrading the …

Memphis and Little Rock Railroad (M&LR)

The Memphis and Little Rock Railroad (M&LR) was the first railroad to operate in the state of Arkansas. The M&LR was a 133-mile-long railroad line that ran from Hopefield (Crittenden County), just opposite Memphis, Tennessee, to Little Rock (Pulaski County). A five-and-one-half-foot-gauge railroad, it was constructed between 1854 and 1871. At the beginning of the Civil War, only the eastern portion of the railroad between Hopefield and Madison (St. Francis County) was in operation. Construction on the eastern and western thirds of the railroad was complete in 1862, but the Civil War interrupted construction of the middle division of the railroad. During this period, the M&LR played a vital role for both Confederate and Union forces and was under Union …

Memphis to Little Rock Road

aka: Military Road (Memphis to Little Rock)
The Memphis to Little Rock Road was one of the first major public works projects in the Arkansas Territory. Spanning the swamplands of eastern Arkansas, the heights of Crowley’s Ridge, and the expanse of the Grand Prairie, it opened the state to emigrants from the east. The road was also a major route for Native Americans during the forced relocations of the 1830s. The Memphis to Little Rock Road, also known as the Military Road (as were most of the early Arkansas roads constructed under the auspices of the U.S. Army), was authorized on January 31, 1824, when the U.S. Congress passed an act for construction of a road opposite Memphis, Tennessee, through the swamps of eastern Arkansas to the …

Memphis-Arkansas Memorial Bridge

The Memphis-Arkansas Memorial Bridge on Interstate Highway 55 connects Arkansas with Tennessee at Memphis. Since its opening on the morning of December 17, 1949, the span has served as a vital link for automotive traffic to cross the Mississippi River. When the Frisco Bridge was built for railroads in 1892, automobile traffic was not a factor. The Harahan Bridge, the second bridge linking Arkansas and Tennessee, opened in the summer of 1916. Due to increasing numbers of automobiles on both sides of the river, carriageways were hung off both sides of the Harahan in 1917. These provided a single lane for traffic on either side of the bridge. Although Arkansas cars could cross the Mississippi River at Memphis beginning in …

Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport

The Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport near the city of Mena (Polk County) in the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas is located approximately 160 miles west of Little Rock (Pulaski County). It is an airport that focuses on private aircraft and, as of 2011, does not have scheduled commercial air service. Beginnings The first rough airstrip was located south of the town on the McBride family’s property, and a hangar and flying school opened in 1942, run by Hartzell Geyer. The initial runway was a grass one that a local farmer would mow and bale for hay. Due to increased commercial traffic, the Civil Aeronautics Commission (CAC) after World War II determined that Mena would be needed as an emergency landing …

Metroplan

Metroplan is the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for central Arkansas. Metroplan’s core responsibilities are to determine long-term transportation needs and priorities for federal funding for the region. It does so through a council of local governments, the Arkansas Department of Transportation, and local transit agencies. From its inception in 1955, Metroplan evolved from an organization focused on planning needs in Pulaski County to a multi-county association with a federal mandate. Metroplan is supported by member dues and federal and state grants. Membership is open to local governments and covers five counties: Pulaski, Saline, Faulkner, Lonoke, and Grant (non-voting). Its office is housed in the Pulaski County Regional Building in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Originally named the Metropolitan Area …

Miami [Steamboat]

The Miami was a steamboat destroyed by fire on the Arkansas River in 1866 with a loss of as many as 200 passengers and crewmen. The Miami was a 175-ton sternwheel packet built in 1863 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The vessel initially operated between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Louisville, Kentucky, on the Ohio River but was sent to Memphis, Tennessee, in August 1865 to make runs between that town and Little Rock (Pulaski County). Captain E. A. Levy was in command when the steamboat left Memphis at 9:00 p.m. on January 27, 1866, with a full load of cargo and as many as 300 passengers, including Gen. Ashley’s Band, an African-American musical group from Little Rock, and ninety-five men of Company E …

Mississippi, Ouachita and Red River Railroad

The Mississippi, Ouachita and Red River Railroad Company (MO&RR) was the first railroad to begin construction in Arkansas. Chartered in 1852 by John Dockery of Columbia County, the railroad began at Eunice (Chicot County), south of Arkansas City (Desha County), in 1854. At the onset of the Civil War, the railroad was incomplete, extending approximately seven miles south and west from the Mississippi River. Completion of construction and actual operation of the railroad did not occur until well after the Civil War. The road never made a profit and was merged with the Little Rock, Pine Bluff and New Orleans Railroad in 1873. The first articles of incorporation for the MO&RR were filed with the State of Arkansas by John …

Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad (M&NA)

The Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad (M&NA) was a regional carrier that, at its peak, stretched from Joplin, Missouri, to Helena (Phillips County). The railroad was plagued with weather-induced disasters, periods of labor unrest, questionable decisions by absentee managers and owners, unforgiving topography, economic conditions, fires, and bad luck. After the completion of the line, it existed for only four decades. The M&NA was the victim of a territory that could not produce sufficient revenue to support it. It had tough competition from the Missouri Pacific’s two routes through the region and their stronger traffic connections. The railroad was also constructed in a less-than-substantial fashion, which led to its many washouts, floods, and infrastructure failures. The railroad began as a …

Monte Ne Railway

  Monte Ne (Benton County) resort promoter William “Coin” Harvey built the five-mile standard gauge Monte Ne Railway to link the new resort to the St. Louis–San Francisco Railway (Frisco) main line at Lowell (Benton County). Frisco surveyors laid out the route, and Frisco workers assisted in track construction prior to the June 19, 1902, opening. (Harvey’s fellow “free silver” proponent William Jennings Bryan spoke at the grand opening, but the event was sparsely attended due to heavy rain and a charge to hear the speaker.) The Monte Ne Railway used poor quality fifty-six-pound rail purchased from the Frisco, which, like other big railroads, sold worn-out main line and side track to smaller companies. The Monte Ne Railway shared the depot at …

Museum of Automobiles

The Museum of Automobiles is located atop Petit Jean Mountain in Conway County. This museum is primarily dedicated to the exhibition of quality antique and vintage automobiles, as well as related items for the cultural and educational benefit of the general public. Additional exhibits include an antique gun collection, a display of Arkansas license plates, and a player piano. When Winthrop Rockefeller made Arkansas his home in 1953, he developed Winrock Farms on Petit Jean Mountain. In 1961, he purchased a collection of fine antique and classic cars from the James Melton museum of Hypoluxo, Florida. He had a building constructed on Petit Jean Mountain to house the cars and named it the Museum of Automobiles. He opened the museum …

Narrow Gauge Railroads

Arkansas was home to nine narrow gauge railroads that offered freight and passenger service to the public. The three-foot gauge was most common; a pair of 3½’ gauge railroads later converted to the yard-wide gauge. Arkansas’s narrow gauge mileage peaked at more than 550 miles in the mid-1880s but declined rapidly thereafter. Narrow gauge railroads required less capital because they used narrower right-of-way and followed the terrain closely to minimize the cost of moving earth for cuts and fills. Passenger and freight cars were smaller, lighter, and supposedly more efficient than standard gauge equipment. Narrow gauge steam engines required lighter track and less-expensive bridges. The disadvantage of narrow gauge was a lack of easy freight interchange with the standard gauge …

Nevada County Depot and Museum

The Nevada County Depot and Museum, founded in 1976, is the only museum in Nevada County. Located in the 1912 Iron Mountain Railroad Depot in downtown Prescott (Nevada County), it is a non-profit organization that preserves and promotes the history of Nevada County. In 1968, passenger service from the Prescott Depot was suspended by the successor to the Iron Mountain Railroad, the Missouri Pacific Railroad. The City of Prescott purchased the building and its adjoining parking lots from the Missouri Pacific in 1970 for one dollar. Over the next two years, the building was used for a variety of purposes, but the noise of passing trains soon forced the city simply to use the depot for storage. During the 1972 …

Newport Air Field

During World War II, one of the army’s seven training airfields built in Arkansas was located at Newport (Jackson County). Over 4,000 men trained during the three years the Newport Army Air Field was in operation. At one point, over 4,800 people were living on the base, more than doubling Newport’s 1940 population of 4,301. Newport was chosen as a site through the encouragement of Congressman Wilbur D. Mills. The flat land already lent itself to airport usage as most trees had been cleared and the ground had been drained for farming. The project was announced in the middle of May 1942, and construction began almost immediately. Thirty-four farm families were displaced from the main site, along with those living …

Norfork Dam and Lake

Built on the North Fork River, just upstream from its confluence with the White River in Baxter County in north-central Arkansas, Norfork Dam and Lake are named after the nearby town of Norfork (Baxter County). The dam was authorized by Congress in the Flood Control Act of 1938, and construction began in the spring of 1941, making it one of the oldest U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ multi-purpose concrete structures. The reservoir extends north from the dam site to near Tecumseh, Missouri, and covers portions of Baxter and Fulton counties in Arkansas and Ozark County in Missouri. The drainage area controlled by the reservoir is about 1,806 square miles. The project also contains a powerhouse that houses the generators and …

North Little Rock Municipal Airport

The North Little Rock Municipal Airport, owned by the City of North Little Rock (Pulaski County), is located four miles north of that city’s business district. The airport is an officially designated general aviation reliever airport, meaning that the overwhelming majority of usage for the airport comes from general aviation, not commercial flights. In 2015, the total economic impact of the airport was estimated at 138 jobs and just under $16 million provided to the local economy. In 1949, 570 acres of land were acquired for construction of the airport, which would have two runways. The airport was officially opened in September 1960. Some portions of the airport had already been in use, including a runway. In honor of the …

Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA)

Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, or XNA after its International Air Transportation Association (IATA) code, is located in Highfill (Benton County) and is roughly equidistant from Bentonville (Benton County), Fayetteville (Washington County), Rogers (Benton County), Siloam Springs (Benton County), and Springdale (Washington County). It is a mixed-use airport with both commercial and private airplanes. It has the second-largest amount of scheduled commercial service in the state of Arkansas and, in 2007, served more than 1.2 million passengers. Local business leaders including Sam Walton, founder of Walmart Inc., and several local and state elected officials joined together to push for a new airport. Due to the rapid growth in population and business (especially the continued expansion of Walmart Inc.), Drake Field, located …

Old Arkansas 51, Curtis to Gum Springs

Old Arkansas 51 is an abandoned highway located in Clark County between the towns of Curtis and Gum Springs. Constructed in 1931, it was replaced by U.S. Highway 67 in 1965. This stretch of highway was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 21, 2004. The communities of Curtis and Gum Springs were settled in the late nineteenth century, and each served as stops on the Missouri Pacific Railroad. The two settlements were connected by roads, which were improved over the decades. The roads evolved from the Southwest Trail, one of the earliest roads in the state. Named Arkansas Highway 51, the road linking the communities became part of the Arkansas Highway System when it was created …

Old Highway 16 Bridge

The Old Highway 16 Bridge, located on Lakefront Resort Road near Edgemont (Cleburne County), is a reinforced concrete, closed-spandrel deck-arch bridge built in 1936 with assistance from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era federal relief program. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 11, 2011. Edgemont began as the Kinderhook settlement in the mid-nineteenth century but did not thrive until the arrival of the Missouri and North Arkansas (M&NA) Railroad in 1908, after which the town had a bank, three sawmills, a cotton gin, a lumber company, and several restaurants. A result of the railroad construction was the “Edgemont Cut,” which sliced through a steep ridge that ran between Edgemont and the middle fork …

Old River Bridge

The Old River Bridge spans a section of the Saline River at the end of River Street in Benton (Saline County). It is one of the oldest remaining bridges of its kind in the state. The Old River Bridge spans 260 feet and is composed of iron beams, two large trusses, and a wooden platform supported by iron columns. The bridge itself dates back to an act of the Saline County Court, which appropriated $5,000 “for the construction of an iron bridge over the Saline River at the Military Road Crossing” in 1889. Construction was completed in 1891 by Youngstown Bridge Company of Youngstown, Ohio. The land around it is also important, having been the site of William Lockhart’s settlement …

Old U.S. 79 Kingsland Segment

Constructed in 1916, Old U.S. 79, Kingsland Segment, is a historic road located in Kingsland (Cleveland County). The segment measures almost 2,150 feet in length. Added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 28, 2005, it continues to serve as a local road. Kingsland incorporated in 1884, shortly after the Cotton Belt Railroad was constructed in Dorsey County. The heavily timbered county was renamed Cleveland County in 1885 to honor President Grover Cleveland. The railroad and other transportation systems became vitally important to the development of the economy of the county, as they were ways to get timber and other crops to market. By 1890, Kingsland was a thriving small community with a post office, a furniture factory, …

Old U.S. Highway 67

Highway 67 was one of the original highways included when the Arkansas State Highway System was formed in 1923; it was also one of the first Arkansas highways to be integrated as part of the U.S. highway system in 1925. By the late 1920s, Highway 67 was in need of serious improvement. The Arkansas State Highway commission began a major effort to upgrade and improve Arkansas’s major highways, including Highway 67, through the 1930s. Five sections of the highway and one rest area from this period, as well as a bridge and a rest area, have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The route of the highway followed that of the Southwest Trail of the early 1800s, …

Old U.S. Highway 71

Originally constructed over several years in the 1920s and 1930s, U.S. Route 71 began serving as a major thoroughfare in western Arkansas. Bypassed by new construction between the 1950s and 1980s, what is now referred to as Old U.S. Route 71 has six sections listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Each section listed on the register continues to carry local traffic in the twenty-first century, which is a testament to the sturdiness of the construction. The various sections of the road were constructed in a similar manner. Made of Bates-type concrete, the road surface includes tan stone mixed with concrete and laid over a wire frame. The road includes nine-foot-wide lanes that are separated by a four-and-a-half-inch-wide gap …

Pig Trail Scenic Byway

The “Pig Trail” is the name of a winding, mountainous byway between Fayetteville (Washington County) and Ozark (Franklin County), one used for decades by students from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville and sports fans. A driver following the route travels on State Highway 16 southeast from Fayetteville just past Greasy Creek in Madison County to a junction called Brashears Switch, then turns right on the southbound State Highway 23 to Ozark and the intersection with U.S. Highway 64—some fifty-two miles. The Pig Trail Scenic Byway is a nineteen-mile stretch of this road located in the heart of the Boston Mountains, running through Ozark National Forest and over the Mulberry River. Today’s traveler is more likely to use the …

Railroads

In the mid-nineteenth century, the newly created state of Arkansas needed an efficient means of transportation to speed its development. Railroads were constructed in order to get goods to markets elsewhere and to bring in new technologies, as well as people to work in and populate the state. The construction of railroads had a significant impact on the state, creating towns where none had existed while all but eliminating others due to their lack of ready rail access. Many of the cities and towns in the state were named after prominent railroad executives who influenced, and in some cases were essential to, these communities’ development. While very little passenger service still exists, many of the same routes are used to …

Remmel Dam

aka: Lake Catherine
Remmel Dam is situated on the Ouachita River at Jones Mills (Hot Spring County). It was constructed in 1924 by Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L), now Entergy, in response to the growing demand for electrical power in southern Arkansas and surrounding states. The dam impounds Lake Catherine and, together with Carpenter Dam in Hot Springs (Garland County), provides hydroelectric power for southern Arkansas. Part of a three-dam project on the Ouachita River along with Carpenter Dam (completed in 1931) and Blakely Mountain Dam (completed in 1953), it played an important role in the early development of AP&L. In 1916, former riverboat captain Flave Carpenter met with Harvey Couch, who founded AP&L in 1913, to discuss the possibility of building dams on …

Roads and Highways

From the creation of Arkansas Territory to present-day Arkansas, road construction has been critical to the development of the state. The construction of roads helped to increase the population of the state in the early years by improving access to areas west of the Delta. The Delta, made up of swamplands, streams, and rivers located in eastern Arkansas, had always been a major obstacle to travel west from the Mississippi River. The earliest routes used for transportation in Arkansas were rivers and creeks due in large part to the number of open waterways in Arkansas and the fact that travel on foot was difficult in swampy areas. These waterways were used by Native Americans and early explorers. Later, Indian trails …

Rock Island Bridge (Little Rock–North Little Rock)

aka: Choctaw Bridge
aka: Clinton Presidential Park Bridge
The Rock Island Bridge is a lift-span bridge crossing the Arkansas River between downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) and North Little Rock (Pulaski County). One of six bridges linking the two downtowns, the Rock Island Bridge was originally constructed as a railroad bridge in 1899; it was converted to serve as a pedestrian bridge in 2011 to complement the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park. In late 1898, the Choctaw and Memphis Railroad was organized with the goal of establishing a railroad into the Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma). Congress passed legislation authorizing construction of a new bridge across the Arkansas River in January 1899, and the Little Rock Bridge Company formed that May to develop plans for constructing the …

Rock Region Metropolitan Transit Authority

aka: Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CATA)
The Rock Region Metropolitan Transit Authority (Rock Region METRO), previously the Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CATA), is the largest public transit agency in Arkansas. Rock Region METRO provides public transportation services for the metropolitan Little Rock (Pulaski County) area seven days a week. The twenty-two fixed routes and four express commuter routes provide transportation service to 10,000 riders every weekday. A “demand response” Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) para-transit service operates alongside the fixed route hours and coverage area. A heritage streetcar system called the River Rail System operates approximately 3.4 miles of track throughout downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock (Pulaski County). Prior to the creation of CATA, the public transit system was owned and operated by private …

Rodgers, James Ronald, Sr.

James Ronald Rodgers Sr. was the nation’s first African American to be appointed manager of a major commercial airport, the first black head of a major independent city agency in Little Rock (Pulaski County), and the state’s first black commercial loan officer. James Rodgers was born on March 15, 1947, in Little Rock to Homer and Ruth Rodgers. The fifth of six children, he spent his childhood in the Tuxedo Courts housing development south of Roosevelt Road. Rodgers grew up working with his mother, brothers, and sister for his father’s janitorial service. After graduating from Horace Mann High School in 1965, Rodgers attended Little Rock University—now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR)—for a year and a half. In …

Saline County Regional Airport

The Saline County Regional Airport, now located at 1100 Hill Farm Road in Bryant (Saline County), has a history dating back to World War II. Governed by the Saline County Regional Airport Commission, the airport serves hundreds of small-aircraft pilots daily. The airport sits on 1,200 acres of open field located southeast of Bryant, eight miles from Little Rock (Pulaski County). The Saline County Regional Airport features thirty-six T-hangars, ten private hangars, and three large corporate hangars. The first privately owned airstrip in Saline County was built outside Benton (Saline County) by Mike Richards, a used-car dealer and contractor, in 1942. However, Richards’s airstrip was bisected when Highway 67/70 was built in the late 1950s. On March 9, 1958, the …

Schilberg, Richard

Richard Schilberg was an aviation pioneer whose early efforts in Stuttgart (Arkansas County) made him Arkansas’s first acknowledged aircraft manufacturer. Richard Schilberg was born on September 28, 1887, at Canada, Kansas, the son of Gottlieb Schilberg and Juliana Heidt Schilberg. He moved to Stuttgart in 1909 and opened a welding shop, initially specializing in agricultural machinery. He married Gladys Fricker on January 28, 1913. They divorced in 1926 and he married Mable Stilzen in 1927. The couple took their first airplane rides in June 1913, when one of Arkansas’s first aerial exhibitions came to the town. Increasingly interested in flying, he began building aircraft in Stuttgart by 1914, becoming the first major promoter of aviation in the Grand Prairie region. …

Sebastian County Road 4G Bridge

The Sebastian County Road 4G Bridge, located on what is now West Harmony Road where it crosses a tributary of Sugar Loaf Creek near West Hartford (Sebastian County), is an open masonry substructure bridge constructed in 1940 through the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era public relief agency. Sebastian County leaders in 1939 decided to undertake an ambitious and widespread effort to improve rural roads throughout the county with assistance from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal agencies. They applied for funding from the WPA and on December 11, 1939, that organization approved $1,226,362 for a county-wide project to “improve roads, including clearing; grubbing; excavating and grading; constructing curbs, gutters and bridges; draining; laying pipe; surfacing; and performing incidental and …

Shady Lake CCC Bridges

The Shady Lake CCC Bridges were nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A with local significance for their association with the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Polk County. The bridges, completed by crews from Camp Shady in December 1936, were constructed as a part of the Shady Lake Dam project begun in October 1935. The CCC originally developed the area for recreational purposes, and the bridges and road still service numerous camping and picnicking sites around the lake in the twenty-first century. The Shady Lake CCC Bridges were also nominated under Criterion C with local significance as a good example of CCC native-stone bridge construction. These single-span structures are supported by arched, corrugated …

Shreve, Henry Miller

Henry Miller Shreve was a steamboat captain and inventor who is noted for performing much-needed clearance work on America’s major river systems during the first half of the nineteenth century. This work included using his own specially designed snag boat to clear large obstructions from the Arkansas River between Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and Little Rock (Pulaski County), greatly aiding steamboat travel and trade in the state of Arkansas. Henry Shreve was born on October 21, 1785, in Burlington County, New Jersey, to Isaiah Shreve and his second wife, Mary Cokely. He had four half-siblings from his father’s first marriage to Grace Curtis. Henry, the fifth child born to Isaiah and Mary, was barely three when, in 1788, his father …

Silitch, Mary Frances

Mary Frances Files Silitch is the first woman to be editor-in-chief of a national aviation magazine. A licensed pilot, she has flown 250 kinds of aircraft and logged 5,000 hours of flight. Mary Frances Files was born on November 9, 1935, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to William Thomas Files and Johnnie Caldwell Files of Parkdale (Ashley County); she has two sisters. Her first flight was in an open-cockpit crop-duster airplane over the family farm at the age of four. She attended schools in Parkdale and Wilmot (Ashley County) but graduated from All Saints Episcopal School in Vicksburg, Mississippi. She attended Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College), where she began her journalism career as the managing editor of the Sou’wester, …

Snag Boats

As American settlers pushed westward following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, their goals of settlement, civilization, and trade were hindered by the hazardous nature of the western rivers. The pioneers found the Mississippi River and its tributaries, such as the Arkansas and Red rivers, filled with obstacles and debris. Snag boats, tasked with the removal of sunken trees and the clearing of the rivers, were one of the first answers to the growing loss of life and property. The navigability of the rivers became a priority to settlers, who believed the future prosperity of the Lower Mississippi Valley and the western frontier, including Arkansas, was acutely tied to the safety of river trade. As western river trade became more important …

South Arkansas Regional Airport

aka: Goodwin Field
The South Arkansas Regional Airport at Goodwin Field is located eight miles west of El Dorado (Union County). The airport is owned by the municipality of El Dorado and is a mixed-use airport primarily used for general aviation. There has been spotty commercial service in the history of the airport. The airfield was constructed in the early 1940s by the Civil Aeronautics Administration under the auspices of the National Defense airport program. The terminal building was built in 1947. There is minimal evidence that the Army Air Force actually used the airport to a great extent during World War II, despite the construction of it for that purpose. The airport uses two asphalt runways, the longer one (4/22) at 6,601 …

Southwest Trail

The Southwest Trail is a general term referring to a network of routes connecting the mid-Mississippi River Valley (the St. Louis-St. Genevieve area of Missouri) to the Red River valley (northeast Texas) in the nineteenth century. Most of the trail crossed Arkansas from northeast to southwest, entering at Hix’s Ferry (later Pitman’s Ferry) across the Current River in Randolph County and exiting at several crossings of the Red River south and west of Washington (Hempstead County). It followed the edge of the eastern terminus of the Ozark Plateau in northeast Arkansas and of the Ouachita Mountains in central and southwest Arkansas. The trail avoided the swamps, which covered much of eastern Arkansas, while skirting the foothills of the Ozarks and …

Springfield to Fayetteville Road

The Springfield to Fayetteville Road was built upon elaborate networks of horse trails that were likely established by the Osage. The trails extended into northwestern Arkansas and as Springfield, Missouri, was being established in southwestern Missouri in the late 1820s, settlers co-opted the established trails for their own use. The trail from Springfield to Fayetteville (Washington County) came to be called by that name and was established in 1835, totaling 146 miles. It was the major road prior to the 1838 establishment of what later became known as the Wire Road or Telegraph Road by the United States military. Also called Pioneer Road, the Springfield to Fayetteville Road was employed by the U.S. Army in 1838 to remove Native Americans …

Springfield–Des Arc Bridge

aka: Springfield Cadron Bridge
aka: Springfield Bridge
The Springfield Bridge is the oldest bridge in Arkansas, although it has been moved from its original location. It was erected in 1874 across the North Cadron Creek three miles east of Springfield (Conway County) on the Springfield–Des Arc Road. This early thoroughfare connected Des Arc (Prairie County), a thriving port for steamboat traffic on the White River, with Springfield, the county seat of Conway County from 1850 to 1873. Before the bridge was built, C. A. Simmons operated a ferry at the river crossing, charging five cents for a pedestrian, fifteen cents for a person on horseback, or seventy-five cents for a two-horse spring carriage. On November 8, 1871, Conway County awarded a contract to the King Bridge Company …

St. Francis National Scenic Byway

The St. Francis Scenic Byway is a twenty-one-mile stretch of road wholly within the St. Francis National Forest linking Helena-West Helena (Phillips County) and Marianna (Lee County) and traversing the hilly southern portion of Crowley’s Ridge; it is designated a National Forest Scenic Byway. The route merges Arkansas Highway 44 and Forest Service Road 1900, combining nine miles of pavement and fourteen miles of well-tended gravel. Rambling across national forest lands, this corridor is included in both the Crowley’s Ridge Parkway and the Great River Road. The Federal Highway Administration oversees the National Scenic Byways Program, America’s Byways, yet the title “byway” may be bestowed by some 600 byway organizations, both government and private. The National Forest Service initiated its …

St. Joe Historical Missouri and North Arkansas Depot and Museum

The St. Joe Historical Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad Depot and Museum, which is located in St. Joe (Searcy County), is a repository of railroad and local history. It also serves as an area tourist information center. The museum, which opened in May 2011, is housed in the 1902 Missouri and North Arkansas (M&NA) Railroad depot. When the M&NA ended area service in 1946, the depot closed after over forty-three years of operation. Over the next few years, the building was used as a church, to provide classrooms for the local school district, and as a feed store. Once the feed store went out of business, the vacant building began to deteriorate into a community eyesore. A movement to preserve …

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 …