Ashdown, AR. 17 miles North of Texarkana, AR - TX.
On Highway 71/59 N.
An area known to Little River County residents as "Turkey
Flats" was the site for the original City of Ashdown, first named Keller. The
"flats" were located where the Peytonville-Richmond Road crossed the
Texarkana-Fort Smith (KCS) Railroad. It was chartered less than a year after a
segment of the railroad was extended to the area from the Red River. Land speculators recognized the value of this
transportation junction and one of them, Judge Lawrence Alexander Byrne, a railroad lawyer
purchased 80 acres in the "Turkey Flat" area. Judge Byrne developed several
sawmills along the railroad tracks. Byrne's mill at Keller burned in 1890 and when the
Judge viewed the damage he was reputed to say "The mill has burned down and is in
ashes, but I'm going to build a town here and call it Ashdown". Keller
officially became Ashdown June 11, 1892. Soon afterward,businesses and families began to
Four miles east of Keller,
Peytonville was the center of a farming community stretching over miles of rich, fertile
soil. Richmond, five miles to the southwest, was the county seat from 1880 to 1902 and
another important trade center. The railroad had linked Keller to the crossroads of the
area and Texarkana. When the railroad was stretched to Wilton in 1892, yet another market
was available to be tapped.
Judge Lawrence Alexander Byrne, a railroad lawyer and land speculator,
was interested in several of the sawmills located just outside Keller along the railroad.
When one of these mills had burned in 1890, Keller, upon inspecting the damaged property,
said, "The mill has burned down and is in ashes, but I am going to build a town here
and call it Ashdown." Keller officially became Ashdown June 11, 1892.
A small frame building which served as a commissary was constructed and
operated by S.A. Maddox during the survey of the railroad. It faced west toward the tracks
and stood in the middle of what is now Main Street. John Westbrook opened a store later
and both of these establishments were operating by 1891. Other businesses opened in 1892,
as did several saloons in 1893, although they were voted out ten years later. Ashdown's
first hotel was built by Mrs. Ann Gurley in 1891 on the corner of Keller and Main street.
Other businesses began to spring up along Front and Main streets. In 1894, a boarding
house and livery stable were operated by Joe Johnson where the Ashdown Clinic now stands.
Johnson later built a hotel at the intersection of State 32 and U.S. 71 and replaced it
with a $40,000 brick structure in 1910. Ashdown was the third largest town in Little River
County in 1901 with 400 persons. Only Winthrop, population 655, and Hudson, population
500, were larger.
The United States government had earlier opened 1,209 acres of land in
the county for resettlement at seven to eight per cent interest. This farm land was
selling at $5.00 per acre, with the buyer paying one-third in cash and the balance over a
three-year period. This encouraged the purchase of property to such an extent that by 1909
Ashdown was the largest town in the county with a population of over 800. By this time the
local businesses were thriving, but if it was necessary to go to Texarkana for shopping or
business, a round trip on the Kansas City Southern cost 75 cents. The three railroad
companies serving Ashdown in 1909, was the Kansas City Southern, the St. Louis and San
Francisco and the Memphis, Dallas and Gulf Railways, which was one of the reasons for the
surge in the town's population in the next 12 months. Fifteen hundred persons resided in
Ashdown by June 30, 1910, an increase of almost 88 percent over the previous year.
Joint capital in the town's two banks reached $100,000 and a trust
company had another $25,000. Seven of the town's 30 retail mercantile houses had stocks
valued at $130,000 and two wholesale houses were worth $100,000. Between 1809 and 1911,
120 new dwellings costing $130,000 and 24 new business and factory buildings valued at
$178,000 were erected.
The Prairie Oil and Gas Co. built a 26 - mile pipeline through the town
at a cost of $10,000 per mile. Prices for land had jumped to $8.00 to $20.00 an acre for
unimproved land & $20.00 to $35.00 an acre for improved land. Fifteen thousand acres
were in cultivation within a five mile radius of Ashdown in 1910, including 8,500 of
cotton, 5,000 of corn, 1,000 of small grain, 500 of alfalfa and 300 in fruit. Goods
shipped from Ashdown in 1910 included 50 carloads of Irish potatoes, 20 cars of cattle, 20
carloads of horses, and mules, six of hogs, 100 cars of hardwood lumber, 500 of railroad
ties, 150 of pine lumber and 15,000 pounds of hides and furs.
Perhaps the trigger that set off Ashdown's rapid expansion was its
acquisition of the county seat in 1906. Richmond was the county seat up until 1902, when
Ashdown and Rocky Comfort became involved in a legal battle over the new location of the
county records. After Rocky Comfort was declared the county seat following a 1902
election, some Rocky Comfort citizens confiscated the county records and took them home.
They had gotten wind of a possible restraining order pending another election. Ashdown won
the subsequent election and County Judge T.B. Arnett ordered the records moved there in
1906. They were placed in the Mizell Building, which served as the courthouse until 1907,
when the present one was built.
The Little River News, originally published in 1888, was purchased by
R.P. West in 1892 and moved to Ashdown, where it was called the Ashdown Herald. It was
renamed Little River News after it was bought by O.T. and F.M. Graves in 1898. By 1911 it
was a semi-weekly publication serving Ashdown and the surrounding area.
Ashdown's first school was a one room building owned by Alex Bishop and
located west of the present Community Building. It was organized in 1891 and the students'
parents paid three dollars tuition per month. Three more buildings were built before 1928,
when Superintendent J.R. Burlington was authorized to buy the land were the present high
school building is located. A two-story brick structure burned shortly before completion
in 1929, but it was replaced in 1930. This building housed the first indoor basketball
court in the county.
By 1901 the town had a brick bank, a new steam gin and a population of 400.
Ashdown also had several saloons and was considered a lawless town not fit for respectable
people. In December, 1903 saloons were voted out. The 1910 population of Ashdown was
1,500. Steady growth occurred until the Great Depression of the 1930's which found Ashdown
with a population of around 2,200. In 1960 the population was 2,725. In 1968
Nekoosa-Edward's Paper Plant (now Georgia Pacific) located in Ashdown bringing an increase
population. 1990 census counted 5,245 residents. Ashdown now boasts of several light
industries, a modern hospital, several medical clinics, restaurants, schools, churches and
other amenities that make Ashdown a great place to live.
Historical Society - The Hunter-Coulter House.
Built for William Grant Hunter in 1918 who established an
undertaking business in Ashdown which was maintained until his death. W.G. Hunter died on
September 13, 1925. William's wife, Nancy sold the home to John W. Coulter and his wife
Melverda (Verda) Mae in 1928. John was a local dentist. Dr. Coulter died on February 14,
1962. Mrs. Coulter continued to live in the house until her death on June 13, 1987. Their
daughters sold the house to Ed and Helen Russell on September 28, 1991. The Russell's sold
the house to the Little River Historical Society on August 31, 1993. The Hunter-Coulter
house Museum was listed on the National Register of historic Places on June 20, 1996.
The landscaping outside the Hunter-Coulter Museum will eventually
include some 150 to 200 different species of plants and flowers, including many native
plants, such as dogwood and sassafras. Inside the house are many historic documents and
artifacts that residents have been donating to the museum. One of the most successful
fund-raisers has been a Thursday noon home style dinner. Served from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at
a cost of $5.00 per person.
Location of the Hunter-Coulter Museum is at the South East
corner of the Little River County Court House.