Warren, Arkansas is a city in Bradley County, Arkansas, United States. The United States Census Bureau estimated population in 2006 was 8,143. The city is the county seat of Bradley County.
The Warren Chamber of Commerce hosts one of Arkansas's longest-running annual community festivals, the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival, which celebrates the South Arkansas vine-ripe pink tomato — Arkansas's state fruit and vegetable. Warren Arkansas pink tomato festival is held every year around the beginning of June. They have a tomato eating contest, a pagent, a dog show, and a lot of very fun things to do with your family here in Warren Arkansas.
Warren has been the Bradley County seat of justice since the county’s organization on December 18, 1840. Located in the southeastern part of the state, the town continues to be the county’s commercial, educational, and health care center. It is located on what was variously called the Chicot Trace, Gaines Landing Road, Fort Towson Road, and Washita Road.
Early Statehood through Reconstruction
Warren once served as the official center of the territory now composed of Calhoun, Cleveland, Ashley, and Drew counties. The first circuit court met on April 26, 1841, at Hugh Bradley’s house. The naming of Warren remains clouded in conjecture, but according to local family tradition, the town was named for Hugh Bradley’s slave, Warren Bradley. There is sufficient evidence, however, that the town was named for Bradley’s close friend, Edward Allen Warren, who practiced law in Camden (Ouachita County) and also served the state as a representative and senator.
Bradley County Courthouse in Warren.
Photo by John Gill, courtesy of the photographer
Prior to the incorporation of Warren, there was a settlement close by named Cabeens. In early years, it was also known as Saline Settlement and Pennington Settlement. Dr. John Thomas Cabeen served as postmaster from 1832 until 1843. John Harvie Marks donated thirty acres, and John Splawn donated ten acres of land for the town site.
Warren suffered more from Reconstruction than from the nearby Civil War engagements at Marks’ Mills, Mount Elba, and Longview. There was a Confederate camp located between Warren and the Saline River known as the Warren Camp. Troop movements were numerous between this camp and Camp Shanghai (later Selma) in Drew County. Dr. Junius Bragg wrote letters in which he described the hardships for Warren’s citizens because of troops confiscating all food products. When martial law was declared and Reconstruction began, the town was devoid of business life. The only store in the little hamlet was a new store that opened in May 1865 for the benefit of the Federal soldiers who garrisoned the town. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) became popular in this period, and reports of nightriders were numerous. Governor Powell Clayton sent a militia from Conway (Faulkner County) to Warren to combat the lawlessness in the area.
Post Reconstruction through Modern Era
Major John C. Bratton, W. H. Wheeler, John T. Ederington, and Benjamin Martin later served as the basis for business in Warren. Merchants and Planters Bank was established in the 1890s, and a few years later in 1901, the Warren Bank was organized. These two banks are still in existence today.
Parnell Springs Hotel, part of a resort in northwest Bradley County; 1906.
Courtesy of Ron Moseley
On August 5, 1880, Warren became the western terminus of the Ouachita Division of the Little Rock, Mississippi River and Texas Railway. The advent of the rail opened the lucrative timber market that before suffered from isolation.
Houses provided for lumber mill workers in Warren (Bradley County); circa 1930s.
Courtesy of the Arkansas History Commission
Long before the large lumber mills located in Warren, there were many small mills throughout the county. Among the early mills were Shirey & Butler; Crandall & Leavitt; Edmondson; Glasgow & Temple; Lanark Mill; Whittington; Parker & Kinard, Lowry & Taylor, and J. E. Walker’s mill. Thomas A. Carpenter established the first large lumber mill in Warren in 1891. The Weyerhaeuser group founded the Southern Lumber Company. Rittenhouse and Embree established the Arkansas Lumber Company, and a local man, William H. Wheeler, established the Bradley Lumber mill.
Because of the new mills, Warren began to grow quickly both in business and population. When registration for World War I began, the mills experienced a shortage of manpower and began hiring women. The dress rule for women was simple—wear a dress to work, change into slacks, and wear a dress home.
Two notable aspects of Warren are that it has a YMCA established in 1920, and that many of its antebellum homes still exist today. Eleven buildings in Warren are on the National Historic Register.
Warren has endured two of the most deadly tornadoes in Arkansas history. On January 3, 1949, a late-afternoon storm killed fifty-five people and injured more than 250. In one day, the funerals were so numerous that choirs took turns singing as the coffins rolled down church aisles. The destruction of the Bradley mill displaced 1,000 employees. On March 28, 1975 (Good Friday), seven people died and sixty-two were injured when a tornado took the same path as the one in 1949.
One of three hot water springs at Parnell Springs in northwest Bradley County, center of a booming health resort between 1880 and the 1920s; circa 1906.
Courtesy of Ron Moseley
Warren’s heyday was in the 1920s and 1930s when the lumber mills were most active. Although the mills declined after years of harvesting timber, Potlatch is still one of the largest employers in Warren. Tomato farmers also employ numerous workers.
The first school was established in 1847 near Cabeens and was held in the Methodist Church building. Josephine Horne opened an academy for young ladies in 1851 and charged $35 for a five-month session. Thomas Henry Mathis, a Kentuckian, organized a private school in 1856. Mathis later went on to be one of the founders of Rockport and Mathis in Texas. The Baptist church organized the Baptist Centennial Institute in 1874, and in 1906, the Presbyterians raised money to build the Presbyterian Training School, a scholarship school. Like most of the smaller schools in the state, Warren was fortunate not to have major problems during integration. The town currently has five schools: a high school, a junior high, two elementary, and the Southeast Arkansas Community Based Education Center (SEACBEC), a vocational/technical school. Warren is also home of the Southeast Arkansas Human Development Center, one of six in the state that is dedicated to providing training and care to people with developmental disabilities.
Warren calls itself the Pink Tomato Capital of the World. It is home of the Pink Tomato Festival, one of the state’s oldest festivals, established in the 1950s. Each June, thousands of people descend on Warren for the festival. Many state dignitaries and the governor usually participate in a tomato-eating contest. One of the most enjoyable activities is the Tomato Luncheon, where the entire menu, including dessert, is made with tomatoes. In 1987, the Arkansas General Assembly officially adopted the South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato as the state fruit.
Official State Fruit and Vegetable aka: South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato
In 1987, the Arkansas General Assembly conferred official state symbol status on the pink tomato, long a staple of Arkansas gardens. Act 255, introduced as House Bill 1480, asserted the aesthetic and culinary excellence of the Arkansas-grown tomato and determined that, because it was technically a fruit but generally consumed as a vegetable, it should serve as both in the state’s collection of official symbols. The act’s wording describes a type rather than specifying a species because there exists no registered breed styled “South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato.” The measure was introduced by Representative John Lipton of District 90 whose constituency included Bradley County, long associated with Arkansas tomato production.
The state symbol status recognizes the role of the tomato in Arkansas agriculture and memorializes a cropping technique that has lost ground in the market. In the last half of the nineteenth century, Americans embraced the tomato as a healthy staple. Many varieties were grown, mainly for local or regional markets; excess production was canned. By the 1920s, southeast Arkansas market farmers favored strains of tomato that ripened to a pink hue and could be picked and shipped at “breaker” (first ripening). These were possibly descended from such pink “heirloom” strains as the Brandywine and the so-called Cherokee Purple, both identified before 1890. In 1959, Arkansas’s commercial tomato production exceeded 290,000 tons, with a market value of more than $2.5 million.
In 1956, citizens of Warren (Bradley County) organized a modest festival to honor the crop, which by then was known familiarly as the Bradley Pink. In 1961, University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) agronomist Joe McFerran released a variety with the registered name of “Bradley Pink”: a pink-fruited plant resistant to wilt and suitable for staking or caging. A decade later, UA released another pink variety, the Traveler (sometimes incorrectly referred to as the “Arkansas Traveler”).
The South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato, which was adopted as the official state fruit and vegetable by the 1987 Arkansas General Assembly.
Courtesy of the Arkansas Secretary of State's Office
Arkansas remains a significant source of tomatoes for the U.S. market, although its contribution has dwindled. U.S. Department of Agriculture marketing figures for Arkansas tomato shipments show that, in 1989, southeast Arkansas producers shipped 11,820 tons of fruit. The 2004 total was 4,795 tons, in flats and cartons. The total for 2005 was 4,285 tons. Moreover, few of these fruit were other than red: the pink tomato’s market share has been eroded in recent years by supermarkets’ reliance on durable strains, picked green and force-ripened in warm rooms or by exposure to ethylene. Thick-skinned varieties are favored for this because they resist damage in shipping. Such fruit is available to consumers year round, but gourmets say it lacks the delicacy of flavor and texture of vine-ripened fruit. For Arkansas consumers, the vine-ripened pink tomato remains available in farmers’ markets and other locally sourced produce stands during summer. Warren continues to host the Pink Tomato Festival each June.
Official gubernatorial portrait of Harvey Parnell, twenty-ninth governor of Arkansas (1928–1933).
Courtesy of the Arkansas Secretary of State's Office
One of the most prominent men from Warren in the early days was Josiah Gould, a lawyer, a circuit judge, and a state senator for several terms. In 1858, he wrote the first digest of the statutes of Arkansas; it is known as “Gould’s Digest.” Another well-known person was John Milton Bradley. He was the colonel of Company E, Ninth Arkansas, part of what was referred to as the Parsons Unit. In recent years, John Lipton served as the state highway commissioner, speaker of the House of Representatives, and state senator.