Unique Arkansas Town Names

By Brooke Mason

bnmason@lc.edu

When I first found out Arkansas has some unique town names, I wanted to do an article about them. The more I skimmed through the names, the more I wondered why they were named that. So, I Googled every town on my list and tried to find the namesake backstory to all of these unique named towns. I’m not huge into history, I never liked it in school. However, learning how these towns got their names was actually really interesting to me. Some of these towns, though, I could not find the namesake story, but I still included them below. I have listed 26 town names with namesake backstories and 20 towns without. 

Appleton, AR – It was named for an apple orchard that surrounded an early drug store. 

Arkadelphia, AR – The town was settled in about 1809. It was known as Blakelytown until 1839, when the settlement adopted the name Arkadelphia. The town was named “Arkadelphia,” a combination of Ark- from the state’s name Arkansas and adelphia from the Greek meaning “brother/place.” 

Beebe, AR – The community was named after Roswell Beebe, a railroad executive responsible for bringing the rail line that runs through the city. Beebe was incorporated in 1875. Beebe is also home to Arkansas State University. 

Corning, AR – Hecht City moved to the present site of Corning in 1871, when the Cairo and Fulton Railroad surveyed the land for the proposed route. The railroad through the settlement was completed by 1872. On February 5, 1873, the name was changed from Hecht City to Corning, in honor of H. D. Corning, an engineer with the railroad. I was going to comment on what Corning is or even means but it makes sense that it was someone’s name. 

Danville, AR – The city was named after the steamboat Danville, which plied the Petit Jean River in the 1840s. The number of creeks in the area led to the construction of numerous waterpower mills around Danville. This is a pretty common name, but I wonder if a lot of Dan’s ever reside in these towns.

DeQueen, AR – Not to be confused with DeKing. The town was named after the anglicization of the family name of the Dutch merchant and railway financier, Jan de Goeijen (1861–1944). De Goeijen was reportedly rather unhappy with the deformation of his name.

Dog Patch, AR – The town was originally named Marble Falls, also known as Marble City, from 1840–1883, Willcockson from 1883–1934, and finally, Dogpatch from 1966–1997. A Choctaw Indian named Ah-Che-To-Mah was the first settler known to have acquired title to land in the vicinity of Marble Falls. The Marble Falls Post Office is located in the parking lot of the now defunct theme park called Dogpatch USA. For a time, the town was known as Dogpatch to promote the theme park. The theme park closed in 1993, and in 1997 the citizens of the area voted unanimously to change the postal designation back to Marble Falls, the name it has today. 

Dumas, AR –In 1870, a planter, merchant and surveyor of French descent, William B. Dumas, bought acres of farmland from the Abercrombie Holmes family. The area was named Watson District and the town continued to develop. Then, the District was renamed Dumas and was incorporated in 1904. Dumas proudly proclaims itself as “Home of the Ding Dong Daddy,” a reference to the Vaudeville song, “I’m a Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas,” by Phil Baxter. However, this is up for debate, as the city of Dumas, Texas, also lays claim, with some documentation, to the song being about them.

Fifty-Six, AR – When founding the community in 1918, locals submitted the name “Newcomb” for the settlement. This request was rejected, and the federal government internally named the community for its school district number 56. It has frequently been noted on lists of unusual place names. Imagine trying to pick a cool name for your town and the government just shoots you down and says, “Let’s just name it by the school district number.”

Flippin, AR – I thought the name was funny and then found out why it was named Flippin. The town was named for the Thomas H. Flippin family and was incorporated in 1921. 

Horseshoe Bend, AR – Sounds more like a street name to me rather than a town name. However, it is named for the large loop or horseshoe bend in the nearby Strawberry River. This city has a lot to offer. They have a nice website showing things to do, places to eat and places to stay. 

Imboden, AR – The town was named for an early pioneer Benjamin Imboden who settled there around 1828. He was a descendant of a noble clan of Imbodens whose original home place was the mountains of Switzerland. I’ve learned that most of these towns with different names are just someone’s last name. 

Little Rock, AR – The famous city of Arkansas. I just want to know, is there really a little rock or is it all a lie? Little Rock was named for a stone outcropping on the bank of the Arkansas River used by early travelers as a landmark. It was named in 1722 by French explorer and trader Jean-Baptiste Bénard de la Harpe. Travelers referred to the area as the “Little Rock.” Though there was an effort to officially name the city “Arkopolis” upon its founding in the 1820s, and that name did appear on a few maps made by the US Geological Survey, the name Little Rock is eventually what stuck. So, they really did name it after a little rock. I like that better than the suggested name. 

Magazine, AR – The city was named after a nearby mountain called Mountain Magazine. 

Manila, AR – By the late 1890s, a community known as “Cinda” (named after an early postmaster’s sister) had developed in the area. In 1901, this community incorporated as a city, and chose the name “Manila” to honor Commodore George Dewey’s 1898 victory in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish American War. “Manila? Like the folder? Nooo, like the Battle of Manila Bay!” In the early 1900s, the Jonesboro, Lake City and Eastern Railroad extended a rail line to Manila. In 1910, the Manila Depot was constructed by the railroad. This train station now serves as a museum and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Marked Tree, AR – The city got its name from a tree located on the bank of the St. Francis River until 1890 that had been blazed to mark a section of the river where Native Americans could walk about 120 yards (110 m) across land to reach the Little River and avoid paddling 12 mi (19 km) upstream. Marked Tree has been noted on lists of unusual place names.

Oil Trough, AR – The town is believed to have acquired its name in the early 19th century from a trough used to render bear fat, which was sold to customers in New Orleans. That just seems unsanitary to me.

Okay, AR – The community was so named for the “OK” brand cement manufactured at a local cement plant. Very interesting, I must say. 

Pea Ridge, AR – The area was inhabited by Native American tribes long before settlers arrived. The town’s namesake wild peas are believed to be a product of early farming by the Native Americans, since it would have taken many years of preparation and cultivation to produce them. The peas just naturally grew there and provided the Native Americans food. Pea Ridge is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places for the Battle of Pea Ridge that happened during the Civil War. The town holds a lot of history, if you’re interested in that I would check it out some more!

Plumerville, AR – Plumerville began as Plummer’s Station, a stage station on the Fort Smith to Memphis branch of the Butterfield Overland Mail. I wonder if there is a lot of plumbing business there. 

Possum Grape, AR – This town was not listed on the town names, however it is, in fact, a very real town. It was named in 1954 and for nearly two decades, residents were split on whether the name should be possum or grape. 

Scranton, AR – Not as famous as Scranton, PA but the town was named after it!

Smackover, AR – It’s like they just took two words and threw them together, or I guess smacked them together. It does have a deeper meaning than that, though. In 1686, the French settlers called this area “Sumac Couvert,” which translates to “covered in sumac bushes.” This was transliterated, that is, phonetically Anglicized by the English-speaking settlers of the 19th century and later to the name “Smackover.”

Stamps, AR – The community has the name of the local Stamps family. I couldn’t find out why, or what the significance of this family was to this town. 

Texarkana, AR – Because everybody wants to be a little bit like Texas. Texarkana is on the Arkansas and Texas state line. Directly across that line is Texarkana, Texas.

Yellville, AR – Yellville is named after Archibald Yell, who was the first member of the United States House of Representatives from Arkansas and the second Governor of Arkansas. I wonder if everyone in this town talks really loud. 

Namesake Stories Unknown

Arkansas City, AR – did they run out of ideas? Until the flood of 1927, Arkansas City was an important commercial and cultural center and one of the most important ports on the Mississippi River. The flood of 1927 devastated the city. More than 2,000 people had to be rescued. The harbor closed and made the railroads unnecessary. The city never fully recovered from this tragedy. Arkansas City is listed on the National Register of Historic places. 

Beaver, AR – This town has a population of 67 people. It is located deep in the Ozark mountains and is also listed on the National Register of Historic places. That’s pretty cool for a town named Beaver. 

Bono, AR – Do you know of any attorneys who offer pro-bono work in Bono, AR? I could not find the backstory to this town’s name, but I did find a quote from the current mayor of the town from their website. “When we hear the words, ‘pro-bono,’ we generally think of a lawyer doing free legal work. Actually, it is a Latin phrase which means, ‘for good.’ So, that means that the word bono means good.” 

Branch, AR – It is part of the Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area. There was really no other information about this town that I could find. Naming it Branch is intriguing. 

College Station, AR – It is part of the Little Rock–North Little Rock–Conway Metropolitan Statistical Area. Maybe they planned on the town being a college town and it just didn’t work out. 

England, AR – I wonder if the people’s accents are different there. England has historically been a farming community with surrounding acreage growing mainly corn, soybeans, rice, and cotton. Just outside the city limits is Clear Lake, a lake known for its fishing and bald eagles that nest there yearly. 

Friendship, AR – I just want to know why the town was named this. Maybe two people founded the town, and they couldn’t decide who’s name to use so they decided to name it based on their friendship. 

Geneva, AR – Like the convention? When I tried to look this town up, I only found links to map quest giving me directions on how to get there. I’m assuming it must be a really small town in the middle of nowhere. Maybe with a few hidden secrets like namesake story. 

Grannis, AR – Is it like grandma but not grandma but like a cool nickname for your grandma?

Guy, AR – Probably just named after some guy like usual.

Hamburg, AR – I find this town name quite funny. I couldn’t find any good information on it besides a few notable people. Like Scottie Pippen, who was an NBA basketball player for the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, and Portland Trail Blazers, six-time NBA champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, born in Hamburg in 1965. 

London, AR – London was renamed from Haddoxburg by the first postmaster. The reason is unknown. Interesting… 

Nail, AR – I couldn’t find any information on this town either. Maybe just another really small town. 

Nimrod, AR – Nimrod is an unincorporated community that is near The Fourche LaFave River Bridge and the Wallace Bridge, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. No information on why they decided to name the town that.

Peel, AR – Maybe lots of peeling goes on there. Peeling out of a parking lot, peeling some fruit, I don’t know.  

Quitman, AR – When you’re trying to convince your buddy that he doesn’t need his job. No information on why the town was named this. 

Strawberry, AR – No information. It seems Arkansas has a lot of towns named after fruits and animals.

Sweet Home, AR – Doesn’t really roll off the tongue like Alabama does. I could not find the story as to why the town was named this.

Tomato, AR – No information on why it was named that. It is on the list of unusual place names. If they aren’t growing tomatoes there, then what are they even doing?

Waldo, AR – Ladies and gentlemen, we found him. No information on why it was named that, but my best guess is that it was after someone named Waldo. 

 

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