Cotton Plant, AR

(Photo taken June 2000)

From the article "Early Days Around Cotton Plant -- Notes from the papers of the late Judge W. T. Trice" in Rivers and Roads and Points in Between, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Augusta: Woodruff County Historical Society, Fall, 1972), p. 26:

The first white man to settle in this section along Cache River was Robert Jones. He came with his family in the year 1816 and stopped on Cache River west of Cotton Plant and cut logs and built a small cabin. He cleared a small patch of ground upon which he produced a few bushels of corn. The country was covered with heavy timber and most of it was covered with heavy cane.

Owing to the fact that game of all kinds, such as bear, deer, panther, wild cats and all smaller game was in abundance and, during certain seasons of the year, wild geese, wild ducks and pigeons, and all lakes were filled with fish, very little labor was required to obtain food. The Indians were still here, and after one year Mr. Jones moved to Arkansas County and settled there.

He had a son named Robert (called Bob) about sixteen years old. When Bob Jones arrived at the age of thirty years he left his father's home and came back and settled upon what is now known as Jones Hill which lies along Cache River west of Cotton Plant. He built a small home of logs and cleared about twenty acres of land. He had brought with him a few horses and cattle. After him followed others...



Originally called Richmond, Cotton Plant's first post office opened in 1852, and the town was legally incorporated in 1887. The town became a large and bustling ecconomic and culture center for the area in the later part of the 19th century. It is some what diminished now, however many people still live nearby.

Cotton Plant was also the site of the largest Civil War battle in Woodruff County which took place on July 7, 1862. Variously known as the "Battle of Cache River," the "Battle of Cotton Plant," and the "Battle of Hill's Plantation," around 200 to 300 Confederate men were killed mostly in bloody hand-to-hand combat with a superior numbered Union force.


From the article "Cotton Plant Fire Department" by Lonnie Craffod in Rivers and Roads and Points in Between, Vol. III, No. 4 (Fall, 1975), p. 26:

Three devastating fires nearly wiped out Cotton Plant's Main Street before there was an organized Volunteer Fire Department. The first of these was in 1901 when most of the buildings in the business part of town were light frame and elevated board walks ran the length of the street. After the fire, the old frame buildings were replaced with brick structures, many of which are still standing

In 1917 or 1918 was the largest and most destructive fire that Cotton Plant has known. It was on the south side of Main Street and burned almost everything east of the present Sol Nathan Store, and down the side street where the Shelby Crafford store is now located. Several two story buildings were destroyed in this fire, including the old Moore Hotel, and a bank building.

Fire took its toll on the north side of Main Street in 1925. According to the report in the Augusta Advocate, Nov. 26, 1925, the fire occurred on the night of November 18th and destroyed five brick buildings, one of them two-story, and caused a loss of more than $100,000 to the merchants. The newspaper reports that the post office fixtures were destroyed, but that the mail was saved by the postmaster, F. G. Kennedy, and his assistants. Salt was used to finally quench the flames. The barber shop was covered with lots of salt, and when the building collapsed the salt put out the fire.

This was before the day of the fire siren and the fire truck. A gun shot sometimes alerted the townspeople that something was on fire, or the Veneer Mill would sound the alarm by blowing its whistle. There was no fire truck, and volunteer bucket brigades fought the flames as best they could...



A modern water and sewage system for the town was built in 1935 by the WPA and was celebrated by a day of speeches, picnics, parades, and fireworks. See "Cotton Plant's First Real Water and Sewer System" by Mrs. Dale McGregor can be found in Rivers and Roads and Points in Between, Vol. IX, No. 3 (Summer, 1981), p. 2-5.


A history of "The Cotton Plant Fargo Railroad" by Mrs. Dale McGregor can be found in Rivers and Roads and Points in Between, Vol. X, No. 4 (Fall, 1982), p. 22-25. The Cotton Plant Fargo Railroad was the last operating section of the old Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad (M&NA). The CP-F was established in 1949 and abandoned in 1977.


A listing of Cotton Plant businesses existing in 1905 was reconstructed from interviews and two extant issues of the local newspaper, The Hustler by Mrs. Dale McGregor in "Stepping on Cotton Plant History," Rivers and Roads and Points in Between, Vol. V, No. 2 (Spring, 1977), p. 9.


The McGregor family had an important role in the history of Cotton Plant and A Little McGregor Family History can be found here. This article was also written by Dale McGregor who had contributed many articles about the history of Cotton Plant as well as being the first editor of Rivers and Roads and Points in Between.


From the article "Cotton Plant School" by Mrs. Horace Arthurs in Rivers and Roads and Points in Between, Vol. IV, No. 1 (Winter, 1976), p. 13:

The first written record of a school at Cotton Plant is a deed record: "A. F. Maberry and wife and Charles Meehan and wife, Maggie, to Cotton Plant School District No. 15, dated 4-14-83." This is the lot where the present building is located. No information could be obtained about this school, however Mrs. Bengel remembers a small frame building on this lot. A raised board walk led to it.

The next record is a warranty deed dated July 31, 1890, which shows: "W. T. Echols and W. N., his wife, and R. P. McGregor and S. A. McGregor, his wife, conveying to the Cotton Plant School Company lots 14-15-16-17 and 18 Block 13 of the town of Cotton Plant, Arkansas." This property is where the S. M. Bush, Horace Arthurs, and Diffy houses now stand.

This deed further states that thirty-four citizens organized the Cotton Plant School Company -- so this might have been a private school.

John Anderson, a family long prominent in this locality, was the headmaster and one of the three teachers.

This two story, frame building burned around 1905, and classes were held in the courthouse while a brick building was built on the spot where the auditorium and gymnasium now stand.

Cotton Plant students attended the school which opened in 1907 for more than fifty years. It burned in 1960. Interested citizens salvaged the cornerstone and it now stands in front of the new building...



(Photo taken June 2000)   (Photo taken June 2000)

Arkansas State Gazetteer and Business Directory, Volume 1, 1884-5 (St. Louis, MO: R. L. Polk & Co. copied in Rivers and Roads and Points in Between, Vol. VIII, No. 4 ( Fall, 1980), p. 31:

COTTON PLANT. A post village on the B & B RR in Woodruff county, 86 miles northeast of Little Rock, 20 miles southeast of Augusta, the county seat. Searcy is the nearest banking point. Settled in 1854, it contains a steam grist mill and a cotton gin, and ships cotton. Population, 160. Mail daily. Jacob Salinger, postmaster.

Henry Allen, livery; R. G. Bridgewater, justice of the peace; Samuel Brown, barber; W. A. Chaney, general store; S. B. Cobb, physician; A. C. Carter, general store; T. T. Greer, constable; Nelson Hill, justice of the peace; P. H. Holey, cotton gin; R. R. James, physician; R. R. James & Bro., druggists; J. B. Keoth, general store; Jacob Salinger, general store; M. J. Simpson, hotel proprietor; Wm. H. Smith, blacksmith; Spiny & Pennel, general store; S. B. Ware, grocer; J. M. Westmoreland, physician.



Arkansas State Gazetteer and Business Directory, Volume II, 1888-9 (St. Louis, MO: R. L. Polk & Co. copied in Rivers and Roads and Points in Between, Vol. X, No. 4 (Fall, 1982), p. 27:

COTTON PLANT. A post village on the Batesville and Brinkley Railroad in Woodruff County, 76 miles northeast of Little Rock and 30 miles south of Augusta, the county seat. Settled in 1856, it contains a steam grist mill and a cotton gin, and ships cotton. Population, 450. Mail, daily. W. T. Echols, postmaster.

Bison Bros. and Co., general store; Cohen, Ike, general store; Carter, A. C., general store; Cotton Plant Supply Co., general store; Haley, P. H., cotton gin; Henderson, Echols and Co., general store; Henry, T. C., blacksmith; Hobgood, J. F., railroad and express agent; Jacobs, F., general store; James Bros., general store; James, R. R., physician; Jones and Belky, grocer; McGinis, Gus, grist mill; McGregor, R. P., cotton gin; Maberry, A. F., lawyer; Mathis, W. J., physician; Mehan, Charles, livery and sale stable; Neely, J. W., livery and sale stable and constable; Pennelt, J. W., dry goods; Rehoe, J. L., blacksmith; Russell, J. W., dry goods; Salinger, A., general store; Salinger, S., dry goods; Spivy, W. R., grocer; Thomas, Monroe, baker; True, W. T., lawyer; Westmoreland, J. W., physician; Westmoreland, R. N., grocer; Whitfield, D. J., hotel.



(Photo taken June 2000)   (Photo taken June 2000)

Cotton Plant has also been the home of a significant and vital black community as well. Among one of the more well-known members of that community, was the highly-influential gospel singer known as Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973) who was born there. Her mother, Katie Bell Nubin (a. k. a. Ma Bell), a mandolin player, was also an active musician on the evengelical circuit (and later played with Dizzy Gillespie's band). Rosetta's popularity as a gospel singer was only surpassed by Mahalia Jackson's. She was also notoriously known for her secular music as well (often getting in touble with gospel music fans). She performed a hybrid synthesis of black spirituals, hillbilly, and boogie woogie backed by popular big jazz bands of the thirties and forties. She was an early performer of the electric guitar which she played from the hip. Her flamboyant stage presence, outlandish clothes, and dyed flame-red hair, was a precursor of things to come, and as such she had a significant influence on early white rockers such as Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. Many compiliations of her recordings are available, and many websites exist in appreciation of her talent and style. A significant biography also now exists about her, Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-And-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, by Gayle F. Wald, (Beacon Press, Boston, MA: 02/01/2007 -- thanks to Kimberli Rice, for bringing this to my attention). Also, the 27th season of the PBS series American Masters, was launched with "Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock & Roll" in February of 2013 which contained many rare items about her life.

During my short visit to Cotton Plant in 2000, I was unable to locate the site of her home and I do not know if there is any kind of marker or monument to the fact that she had lived there. Certainly such recognition is due if it does not already exist.


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This page created on 08/25/2000 13:27. Updated 06/19/2013 21:12.