Monday, September 8, 2008
Forrest City, AR
Welcome to Forrest City the "Jewel of the Delta", hub of business and industry in eastern Arkansas, and the largest city on I-40 between the Memphis area and Little Rock.
Forrest City is a city in St. Francis County, Arkansas, United States. It was named as a result of General Nathan Bedford Forrest using the location as a campsite for a construction crew soon after the Civil War. The railroad construction crew was completing the railroad that connects Memphis, TN with Little Rock, AR. According to 2006 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city is 14,078. The city is the county seat of St. Francis County. According to the 2007 US Census, Forrest City has a population of 13,540
St. Francis County Courthouse in Forrest City.
Photo by John Gill, courtesy of the photographer
Nathan Bedford Forrest, famous Confederate general, became interested in the area around Crowley's Ridge during the American Civil War. After the war, he contracted with railroad companies in Memphis and Little Rock to cut through the rough ridge and succeeded in linking the two cities by rail. The first trains came through in 1868.
View of camp for flood refugees at Forrest City (St. Francis County); 1937.
Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
General Forrest later built a commissary located on Front St. and Colonel V.B. Izard began the task of designing the town. Most citizens were calling the area "Forrest's Town," thus the evolution of the name Forrest City.
The Avery Hotel in Forrest City (St. Francis County), also known as the Belsor Hotel and the Marion Hotel, was built in 1885. It is shown here being torn down in late 1958.
Photo by Ernie Deane, courtesy of the Arkansas History Commission
General Forrest's camp was incorporated May 11, 1870.
On October 13, 1827, St. Francis County was officially recognized by the Arkansas Territorial Legislature in Little Rock. It is located in the east central part of Arkansas. Although the county seat was the now defunct town of Franklin, later moved to the once thriving St. Francis River town. The county seat was permanently moved to Forrest City in 1874.
Map of St. Francis County.
Map created by Mike Keckhaver
Forrest City History
The Forrest City Chamber of Commerce is located in the 100-year-old Becker House. This house has served a variety of functions since being sold by the Becker family. It has been an antique store and later a home furnishings boutique before being occupied by the Chamber.
Forrest City Street
Forrest City is located on Crowley's Ridge, a geological phenomenon that rises above the flat delta terrain that surrounds it. This north-south running highland is some three miles wide and 300 feet above sea level. Several species of trees not indigenous to Arkansas are found here, including Beech, Butternut, Sugar Maple, and Cucumber tree trees.
Plowing The Farm Land
Forrest City is the county seat of St. Francis County,Arkansas, which was officially recognized and approved by the Arkansas legislature on May 11, 1876.
Proof that giant mastodons roamed the slope was revealed in 1949 when workmen excavating for sewer improvements found fossils of the massive beasts within the city-limits of Forrest City.
Famous Forrest Citizans
Al Green, singer and minister,
Albert Greene (born April 13, 1946), better known as Al Green, is an American gospel and soul music singer who received great acclaim in the 1970s. At the 2008 BET Awards Green was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, for all the work he has done throughout his career.
Green was born in Forrest City, Arkansas. The son of a sharecropper, he started performing at age ten in a Forrest City quartet called the Greene Brothers; he dropped the final "e" from his last name years later as a solo artist. They toured extensively in the mid-1950s in the South until the Greenes moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, when they began to tour around Michigan. His father kicked him out of the group because he caught Green listening to Jackie Wilson.
Green formed a group called Al Greene & the Creations in high school. Curtis Rogers and Palmer James, two members of the Creations, formed an independent label called Hot Line Music Journal. In 1967, under the new name Al Greene & the Soul Mates, the band recorded "Back Up Train" and released it on Hot Line Music; the song was an R&B chart hit. The Soul Mates' subsequent singles did not sell as well. Al Greene's debut LP was released on Hot Line in 1967 called "Back Up Train". The album was upbeat and soulful but didn't do well in sales. This was the only album on the Hot Line label. Green came into contact with band leader Willie Mitchell of Memphis' Hi Records in 1969, when Mitchell hired him as a vocalist for a Texas show with Mitchell's band and then asked him to sign with the label.
John W. Henry, principal owner of Boston Red Sox,
Boston Red Sox
John William Henry II (born September 13, 1949 in Quincy, Illinois), a futures and foreign exchange trading advisor who founded John W. Henry & Company (JWH). He is the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox and co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing. In March 2006, Boston Magazine estimated his net worth at $860 million, but noted that his company had recently experienced difficulties. In May 2007, reports in the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg noted further difficulties with the firm.
Henry's parents were farmers and he split his time growing up between Illinois and Arkansas. At the age of 15, he suffered from asthma prompting the family to move to Apple Valley, California. He graduated from Victor Valley Senior High in Victorville, California. He attended Victor Valley Junior College in Victorville, California, the University of California at Riverside, the University of California at Irvine and UCLA, majoring in philosophy, but failed to obtain his degree due in part to traveling with rock and roll bands called Elysian Fields and Hillary.
Henry started trading primarily corn and soybeans to learn the basics of hedging the changing prices in these commodities. In 1976, a commodities broker at Reynolds Securities asked him to advise other farmers, but he declined. After spending a summer in Norway with his first wife, Henry developed a mechanical trend following method for managing a futures trading account. He tested his trend-reversal method — which was never out of the market but always held a position (either long or short) in every one of the markets in the account's "basket" of commodities — "using his own money" (in the words of his marketing literature of 1983). When that test proved successful, he founded JWH in 1981, opened a small office across the street from the airport in Irvine, California, and began marketing his management to the largest commodity brokerage firms in America. That proved so successful by 1983, that he moved to considerably larger quarters at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. In 1989, JWH moved to Westport, Connecticut and Henry moved to Boca Raton, Florida. Two years later, JWH established a second office in Boca Raton.
Don Kessinger, born in Forest City, major league baseball player,
Donald Eulon Kessinger (born July 17, 1942 in Forrest City, Arkansas) is a former Major League Baseball shortstop. Kessinger, a six-time All-Star, graduated from the University of Mississippi, where he was initiated into the Sigma Nu Fraternity, and was signed by the Chicago Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1964.
Kessinger was not particularly renowned for his offensive production, but played an excellent defensive game at shortstop. In three different seasons with the Cubs, he turned 100 or more double plays. He won the Gold Glove for shortstops in 1969 and 1970.
Eventually Kessinger would go on to play for the crosstown Chicago White Sox, becoming a player-manager in 1979. However, he would resign before the end of the season, as well as retire as a player on July 31, 1979. In 1978, he earned the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award.
Charlie Rich see Colt, Arkansas,
Charlie Rich (December 14, 1932 - July 25, 1995) was an American Country Music Singer/Musician. A Grammy Award winner, his eclectic-style of music was often hard to classify in a single genre, playing in the rockabilly, jazz, blues, country, and gospel genres.
In the latter part of his life, Rich acquired the nickname The Silver Fox. He is perhaps best remembered for a pair of 1973 hits, "Behind Closed Doors" and "The Most Beautiful Girl". "The Most Beautiful Girl" topped the U.S. country singles charts, as well as the pop singles charts.
Though he resided in Benton, Arkansas most of his life, Rich was born in Colt, Arkansas to rural cotton farmers, beginning a professional musical career while in the U.S. Air Force in the early 1950s. His first musical group, called the Velvetones, played jazz and blues and featured his fiancée, Margaret Ann, on lead vocals. Rich left the military in 1955 and tried to farm five acres in Tennessee. He also began performing in clubs around the Memphis area, playing both jazz and R&B. It was during these hard times that he began writing his own material.
Early Recording Career In the Late 50s & 60s
Rich was a session musician for Judd Records, which was owned by Jud Phillips, the brother of Sun Records founder Sam Phillips. After recording some demos for Sam Phillips at Sun Records that Phillips didn't find commercial enough, and too jazzy, legend has it that he was given a stack of Jerry Lee Lewis records and told: "come back when you get that bad." In 1958, Rich became a regular session musician for Sun Records playing on records by Lewis, Johnny Cash, Bill Justis, Warren Smith, Billy Lee Riley, Carl Mann, and Ray Smith. He also wrote songs for Lewis, Cash, and others.
His third single for the Sun subsidiary, Phillips International Records, was the 1960Top 30 hit, "Lonely Weekends," noted for its Presley-like vocals. None of his seven follow-up singles were a success, though several of the songs became staples in his live set, including "Who Will the Next Fool Be," "Sittin' and Thinkin'," and "No Headstone on My Grave." These songs were often recorded by others to varying degrees of success, such as the Bobby Bland version of "Who Will the Next Fool Be."
Rich's career stalled, and he left the struggling Sun label in 1964, signing with a subsidiary of RCA Records. His first single for RCA, "Big Boss Man," was a minor hit, but again his Chet Atkins-produced follow-ups all stiffed. Rich moved to Smash Records early in 1965. Rich's new producer, Jerry Kennedy, encouraged the pianist to emphasize his country and rock & roll leanings, although Rich considered himself a jazz pianist and had not paid much attention to country music since his childhood. The first single for Smash was "Mohair Sam," an R&B-inflected novelty-rock number, and it became a Top 30 pop hit. Unfortunately again for Rich, none of his follow-up singles were successful. Rich was forced to change labels, moving over to Hi Records, where he recorded straight country, but none of his singles made a dent on the country charts.
Cal Slayton, comic book artist,
Cal Slayton (born November 19, 1968) is an American comic book artist and designer who grew up in Forrest City, Arkansas, attended college in Little Rock, Arkansas and now lives in Texas with his wife. His most prominent work was on the indie comic book Shades of Blue published first by AMP Comics and then by Digital Webbing. His work has also been seen in books such as (Super) Hero Happy Hour, Dead@17 Rough Cut, Digital Webbing Presents and Champion of Children.
After graduating college with a degree in Graphic Design and Illustration in 1992, Cal Slayton began working in the design as well as doing freelance design and illustration. His comic book debut was in 2000 with issue #3 of AMP Comic’s Shades of Blue. Writer/Creator James S. Harris asked him to take over the art duties after the departure of the original artist.
Shortly after, Cal wrote and illustrated the first story ever published by Digital Webbing in the anthology Digital Webbing Presents. The short was titled “Lost Child”, which followed a man search for a missing girl.
Cal worked on the remaining AMP run of Shades of Blue, which ended with issue #10. He also drew all five issue of the book when Digital Webbing took over as publisher, as well as designing the new Shades of Blue logo.
In October 2002, Cal self-published the mini comic Spookytown under the creator-owned Hired Gun Comics.
In 2003, Cal illustrated the Gail Simone-written back-up story "Part Time" for Geek Punk's Super Hero Happy Hour #4. Later that same year, he contributed artwork to the short "No Love" for Ghostwerks Comics' Champion of Children #2.
In 2004 he drew "Two Shots, Two Slugs" for Geek Punk's Hero Happy Hour Super Special.
In 2005, he contributed art to Dead@17 Rough Cut 2 published by Viper Comics.
He designed the logo for the comic Hero Camp published by Image Comics.
Dennis Winston, NFL player,
Dennis Edward Winston (born October 25, 1955 in Forrest City, Arkansas) is a former professional American football linebacker in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New Orleans Saints. He played college football at the University of Arkansas.
Lawrence E. Rea Jr., Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force,
Andre Jackson, Actor,
ndré Jackson is quickly earning a reputation as one of the entertainment industry's most promising young actors.
He has been noted for his fine performances, including the Drama Critic's Circle Award for his role in Mark Stein's "The Scottsboro Boys" where he earned the title of Best Featured Actor along with an award for Best Ensemble Cast, a THREE time LA Weekly Award recipient, and a NAACP Theatre Award winner for his breathtaking performance in August Wilson's "Joe Turner's Come And Gone".
André is now performing the lead role of "Simba" in the Tony Award winning production of "The Lion King".
Roshawn Franklin, Actor,
Roshawn Franklin was born in Forrest City, Arkansas, on June 27, to Gwendolyn Franklin. She was 21 years old when she gave birth to him, and he is her only child. With no choice but to raise him by herself due to his father not being in his life. She decided the best thing for her to do was to move with her sister in California. By the time Roshawn was 10 years old he already knew that he wanted to become an actor. So much so that he told his fifth grade teacher that he wanted to play the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the upcoming black history month play. His performance brought everyone to tears and received a standing ovation. He loved that feeling and from that moment forward his dream to become an actor was confirmed. Though very quickly a new dream took over, to play basketball for the NBA, but in the back of his mind he already knew what his first love was.
After graduating high school and having basketball scholarships fall through, he experienced very hard times from seeing his mother go through a divorce and financial hardships. He looked back to his dream of acting as his only hope to getting himself and his mother in a better situation. Determined to become an actor, he took on Hollywood full steam never to look back. He started to sneak on studio sets and back stages gathering up as much information as he could from who ever he could. Soon after that his first agent discovered him while he was cracking jokes, and making everyone laugh on an elevator in Hollywood. She believed in him and signed him right away, and the rest is history.
Since then he has appeared in many top television shows, national commercials and films. He is also creating, producing and writing film projects.
Frank Fowler (UnderGround Music LeGend)
Ryan Hawkins (Leader Of Group SMFC)
Forrest City, Arkansas
Forrest City, Arkansas has always been linked with Memphis, the big city located only 45 miles away. This is certainly true for the small Jewish community in Forrest City, which functioned almost as a colony of Memphis. Many of the Jewish settlers in this seat of St. Francis County maintained social, economic, and religious ties to the larger community to the east. Perhaps because of the proximity of Memphis, Forrest City never developed a large or active Jewish community; its congregation was small and short-lived.
Forrest City developed once Memphis and Little Rock were linked by railroad. Former Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest built a commissary to serve train passengers in the area, which came to be known informally as “Forrest’s town.” In 1870, the town was officially incorporated as Forrest City. By 1874, it had become the county seat. In 1880, 900 people lived in Forrest City.
A few Jews were part of the early development of Forrest City. Julius Lesser lived in town for several years in the 1870s. He established a cotton business, and handled a majority of the cotton grown in the area. By 1880, he had moved to Marianna, Arkansas, and later moved to St. Louis, where he founded one of the biggest cotton companies in the country. Two immigrants from Germany, Alexander Becker and Charles Lewis, were business partners who came to Forrest City in 1875, and soon became two of the most prominent businessmen in town. They opened a large dry goods store and even built an opera house on the store’s second floor. Max Yoffe came in the 1890s, and opened a retail store. He became an important civic leader, and served on the city council.
In the early 20th century, a handful of recent Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe settled in Forrest City. Most had lived elsewhere in the region before coming to Forrest City, and many did not stay very long. Harry Warshavsky arrived in town in 1906. He had come to the U.S. a few years earlier to escape service in the Russian army. He initially settled in St. Louis, where he began to peddle in the surrounding area. He first opened a store in Pocohontas, Arkansas, but then decided that Forrest City offered greater opportunity. Warshavsky later moved to El Dorado during that town’s oil boom.
Some of these Jewish families remained in Forrest City, becoming a vital part of the local society and economy. After leaving Russia, Sam Sharpe settled in Memphis and became a tailor. He moved to Forrest City in 1914. Sharpe was an active leader in the local Masonic Lodge. After he died, they named the Masonic Hall in his honor. His son Harold was a longtime lawyer in Forrest City. In 1962, Harold Sharpe helped to form a second country club in Forrest City after the first one refused to accept Jews. Max Cohen started his store in Forrest City 1933 and his son Barry took it over in 1980.
Sol Cohn was a Russian immigrant who opened Cohn’s Penny Store in Forrest with $100 he had managed to save. The store became successful and Cohn eventually opened four other stores in nearby towns. He later sold them all and bought a wholesale grocery business in Forrest City. His children and later grandchildren joined the family business, which grew into one of the largest wholesale grocery enterprises in the state.
Esrael Snyder was a peddler who was based out of Little Rock. After traveling through several towns in Arkansas, he decided to settle in Forrest City and opened a scrap metal business. His son-in-law, Louis Barg eventually took it over. He formed the Barg Steel and Pipe Company in 1974. Barg was active in the local community, serving as the chairman of many local charities. He was also a justice of the peace for a few years.
By 1920, 49 Jews lived in Forrest City, most of whom were immigrant families from eastern Europe. Many of these Jewish merchants belonged to the Orthodox Baron Hirsch synagogue in Memphis, but with poor roads linking the two cities, they were not able to worship there regularly. One of their biggest concerns was the Jewish education of their children; many Jewish kids in Forrest City would attend Sunday school at local churches when the Old Testament was being taught. Concerned about this, Jean Warshavsky wrote to the rabbi at Baron Hirsch asking for his help in forming a Sunday school for the dozen or so Jewish children in Forrest City. Rabbi Samuel sent some educational materials to Warshavsky, and encouraged them to form a congregation.
In 1914, they formed Tifereth Israel (Glory of Israel), and began to bring in a cantor for the high holidays. They held services in Hebrew at the local Odd Fellows Hall. By 1919, they had 20 members. The congregation soon languished and had to be reestablished in 1920. Rabbi Jerome Mark of the congregation in Helena, Arkansas helped to reorganize Tifereth Israel and its religious school. The reorganized congregation worshipped in the Reform style, though many members continued to belong to Baron Hirsch in Memphis as well. Traditional Jewish observance was very difficult in a place like Forrest City, where economic necessity forced most to work on Saturdays and kosher meat could be hard to find. Tifereth Israel eventually disbanded as Forrest City Jews went to Memphis for religious services, a trip made much easier once the interstate highway was built.
This lack of religious resources in Forrest City did not stop local Jews from preserving their traditions. Louis Barg remained an active member of the Orthodox Baron Hirsch Synagogue, driving his children to Memphis each Sunday for religious school. Barg was also a leader in B’nai B’rith, serving as head of the groups’s Arkansas region as well as an international vice-president. After the congregation disbanded, the local B’nai B’rith lodge served as the focal point of Jewish life in Forrest City. Many members came from surrounding towns.
The Jewish community of Forrest City was always small. In 1937, 37 Jews lived in town. Since then, the number of Jews in Forrest City has declined significantly. The community was never large enough to support a congregation for a prolonged period, though since they were so close to Memphis, Jews in Forrest City did not feel compelled to maintain their own institutions.
St. Francis County Museum Logo
The St. Francis County Museum is filled with artifacts, photographs, fossils, documents, and more, all of which paint a vivid picture of our rich history. The museum is housed in the Rush-Gates Home, built in 1906 by Dr. J. O. Rush. It was completely renovated in 1998 to house the museum.
You'll learn about the unique geological phenomenon known as Crowley's Ridge. Displays include Native American pottery and other prehistoric artifacts. Also included are displays covering the African-American history of St. Francis County, agricultural history, and our veterans of armed conflicts.
Forrest City Grocery
The St. Francis County Museum and Rush-Gates Historic Home is the perfect place to learn about the history of St. Francis County and Eastern Arkansas. The 7000-square-foot home contains many artifacts of the era, including a reconstruction of Dr. Rush's office.
Guided tours are offered at the museum, and the facility can also be rented for meetings and special events.
Learn more about the history of Eastern Arkansas at Parkin Archeological State Park and visit Village Creek State Park, St. Francis National Forest, and Crowley's Ridge Scenic Parkway.
Dr. J.O. Rush
Dr. J. O. Rush moved to St. Francis County in April of 1896 and began his practice near the town of Colt. Wanting to capitalize on the railroad, he moved his office to the Dyer building on Front Street in Forrest City in 1900. It was in 1906 to 1907that he built his home (then at 300 North Front Street), which included his offices. At the time, it was known as "the immense house down on Front Street.
In 1912 he started collecting relics as a hobby. He had been to see a patient out in the county, and as he was leaving, members of the family said that they had no money to pay the bill. It was then that Dr. Rush noticed some pottery in the yard and accepted it as payment. Over the next 57 years, Dr. Rush collected more than 3700 pieces in his home museum. It is still one of the largest collections in the state. It includes pre-historic, Indian, Civil War, African-American, South Pacific, Mayan, Incan, and local interest pieces.
For years, Dr. Rush made his calls with horse and buggy, traveling in all kinds of weather over muddy trails. As roads improved, he saw the need for faster transportation. He bought one of the first automobiles in the county (a second-hand Ford) and established the first Ford dealership here. Dr. Rush also owned and supervised about 600 acres of farm land west of Forrest City and at Blackfish.
Dr. Rush was a member of the American Medical Society and Secretary of the Cross-St. Francis-Lee Medical Association, Secretary of the Third Counselor District Medical Society, and Rock Island and Cotton Belt Surgeon's Society. He was the Forrest City Health Officer, serving without pay for many years. He was also a member of the commission that built the first "hard" roads in the county, including Highway 70 to Memphis.
Dr. Rush was also well-known for his "deep, hearty laughter," which resounded through the streets of Forrest City for more than 50 years. He married Cora Peak of Lexington, Missouri, in 1901. He and his wife had three daughters: Francis Marian, Anne Virginia, and Stella Mae. Dr. J. O. Rush died in Forrest City in 1961.
Dr. J. O. Rush's Home
When Dr. J. O. Rush built his home at Forrest City in 1906, he included wide hallways and oversized doorways on the first floor. He knew in advance that his residence would be accommodating emergency stretchers and hospital beds. A century later, those spacious hallways are helpful in displaying artifacts in the St. Francis County Museum.
The placement of the home some 50 yards from the railroad tracks was no coincidence. In addition to his family practice, Dr. Rush was a surgeon for the railroad, and his clinic became a convenient drop for injured workmen and ill passengers. He also used the railway to reach other towns along or near the east-west tracks across the Delta.
The 7000-square-foot house remained in the Rush-Gates family until 1995, when it became county property. With public support, private donations, labor, and planning, the structure was restored for about $150,000. Original estimates had been as high as $500,000. A $157,000 renovation was completed in 2005. An elevator to the second floor was added to provide handicapped access. A partial glassed-in area on the porch enhanced and enlarged the information/interpretative facilities. And, a Crowley's Ridge Scenic Byways Resource Center was added.
Ghost hunters will be happy to know that a few odd and unexplainable happenings have been reported in the building since renovation. According to news articles, objects have mysteriously "moved" from one place to another, secured doors have opened by themselves, and strange noises have been heard. The Associated Press distributed the story in October 1999, just prior to the museum's very successful Halloween candlelight tour.
The Arkansas Paranormal and Anomalous Studies Team (ARPAST) has made several trips to the museum and reported some unexplained voices on recordings. A local group, Paranormal Research in Unknown Phenomenon (P.R.U.PH) has also conducted research.
Museum tours are available year round. Large groups can be accommodated by calling ahead. There are also several special events during the year, including some over "lock ins" and paranormal studies.
This is the second time the Rush-Gates House has served as a museum. Dr. Rush, a Missouri native, started collecting prehistoric artifacts as a hobby a few years after his arrival in St. Francis County in 1900. Mississippian Period native pottery and projectile points, along with fossilized mastodon bones, sea shells, and shark teeth (all unearthed locally) became part of Dr. Rush's waiting room displays. The collection grew as more patients paid their medical bills with relics.
Display cases, filled with rare and beautiful native items, continue to be exhibited just as Dr. Rush arranged them decades ago. Although an amateur archeologist, the physician maintained a record system for his "museum" very much like professionals use today. Friends contributed additional objects from world travels, including an Eskimo harpoon, Mayan and Incan relics, African spears, and items from the South Pacific.
Other rooms in the museum illustrate the region's agricultural history. There's also a tribute to area veterans of foreign wars and conflicts, and an exhibit on St. Francis County communities and former courthouses. A huge clock-face, one of four that towered over the old 1897 courthouse, is on display, along with the building's massive cornerstone.
Another exhibit tells the story of Scott Winfield Bond (1852-1933), who was born into slavery in Mississippi and came to St. Francis County as a young man. Bond starting renting farmland at age 22, and steadily built his agribusiness venture into a fortune. He amassed some 4,000 acres, employed more than 400 families, and owned timber and milling operations, cattle ranches, and fruit orchards. Bond was the state's first black millionaire.
The paintings of John Isom, local music and art teacher, and the story of Dr. John Emerson Burke, a dentist who became the first African-American to study at the Mayo Clinic, are also chronicled in the museum. Another room houses an exhibit on Harry T. Shellhouse, who conducted the first surveys for the roadway that became U.S. 70 between Memphis and Little Rock.
Yet another room is the restored treatment room used by Dr. Rush. His 1899 diploma, surgical items, examination table, lamps, and even a chart listing various medical service prices, are displayed.
The facility is also a tourist information center for the Crowley's Ridge Scenic Parkway, which follows Hwy. 1 through Forrest City.
Pictures of Forrset City and St. Francis County
Old St. Francis Courthouse
First Car in St. Francis County
Mules and Wagon
1922 Ball Team
High School Ball Team
High School Band
De Rossitt Home
First Boy Scout Troop
What is now St. Francis County was inhabited by Native American Indians for hundreds of years before the first white man laid any claims. No one knows when they arrived, but there is evidence of Native American settlements in Eastern Arkansas as far back as 1000 A.D. Parkin Archeological State Park preserves and interprets a 17-acre site of a Casqui Village thought to be the site visited by the expedition of Hernando de Soto.
First White Explorer's
Spaniard Hernando De Soto was probably the first white man to visit what is now Eastern Arkansas. His expedition crossed the Mississippi River in May of 1541. Some historians put the river crossing near Helena; others say it was near Memphis. Regardless, De Soto chronicled a meeting with Indians in the summer of 1541 at a settlement near present-day Parkin. It is believed that De Soto's men erected a giant cypress cross in the region and were generally welcomed by the Native Americans. The expedition traveled north and west for several more weeks, but the Spanish were in search of gold. They found swamps, mainly between the Cache and White Rivers, and they decided to return down the St. Francis River, crossing near Madison. De Soto explored much of Arkansas over the next few months, but never found any gold and never left the state. He died of a fever and was secretly buried (some believe near Helena) in May of 1542.
First White Settler's
There are no more written accounts of Europeans in the region for 130 years after De Soto. In 1673, Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet, French Catholic Missionaries, came down the Mississippi River from Illinois and entered the Arkansas River. In 1682, Chevalier De LaSalle reached Native American villages on the Arkansas River and took possession of all lands drained by the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The land was called Louisiana in honor of the French King. In 1686, Arkansas Post became the first white settlement in the state.
The French were never able to settle the land on a large scale and had trouble with Native American tribes, especially the Chickasaws. In 1739, the French built a fort near Wittsburg on the St. Francis River in Cross County. It was later abandoned. In 1762, the region became a Spanish territory. In 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte forced Spain to cede the land to France. Then in 1803, the territory became part of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase. At that time, there were fewer than 500 white settlers in what would become Arkansas. Most were French Canadians, but many English immigrants began arriving after 1810.
Becomming A County
St. Francis County was officially recognized and approved by the Arkansas Territorial Legislature on October 13, 1827. The county was named for the river, but no one knows exactly who named the river. Most historians agree it was probably named by French Catholic missionaries in the late 17th century. There is evidence of a early Jesuit mission near Helena where the St. Francis River drains into the Mississippi. The land itself was taken from part of Phillips County. At the time, St. Francis County included parts of what are now Cross, Lee, and Poinsett Counties.
1895 County Map
The county seat started at the home of William Strong, one of the early settlers and the county's first sheriff. It was soon moved to the newly-created town of Franklin near Old Military Road. This location was about two miles from the St. Francis River - not close enough for some. In 1838, Poinsett County was formed from part of St. Francis, putting Franklin in the extreme northern part of the county. So in 1840, the county seat was moved to Madison near an old Indian village on Crow Creek. In 1855, Mt. Vernon, then a bustling community, was named the county seat, and a courthouse and jail were built. These burned in 1856, forcing the county seat back to Madison. There it remained until 1874, when the county seat was moved to its present location in Forrest City.
Forrest City Cemetery,End of South Izard (behind Catholic Church)
Many founders of Forrest City are buried here, with graves going back to the 1800s.
Forrest City, the Jewel of the Delta, sits atop Crowley's Ridge, the rugged and beautiful outcropping that runs from Missouri through Arkansas. The Ridge rises from the rich Delta farmland surrounding the city, creating interesting landscape contrasts in the area. With friendly people, little traffic congestion, and a down-home atmosphere, Forrest City is the ideal spot to live. Just 45 minutes from Memphis and a little over an hour from Little Rock, the town offers small town convenience and big city access. Zipping around town to run errands or conduct business is a breeze, and you'll find that you can be home from work in time to play ball with the kids or walk your pets. However, there is also sufficient cultural, social and recreational activity to keep those who like a busy social calendar active.
Originally recognized by the Arkansas Territorial Legislature on October 13, 1827, St. Francis County was originally a part of Phillips County. The history of the county is displayed at the St. Francis County Museum, one of the designated hospitality centers for the Arkansas Scenic Byway that winds through Forrest City. Named for the St. Francis River, a major route for pioneer traffic, the county is currently divided into ten municipalities. Forrest City incorporated in 1871, is the county seat. The county also encompasses the towns of Caldwell, Colt, Goodwin, Heth, Hughes, Madison, Palestine, Wheatley, and Widener, each town with its own distinct identity.
Excellent public and private schools and quality healthcare are taken for granted in the area. Recreational opportunities abound. The area is home to Village Creek State Park, Arkansas' largest and the area has bragging rights for fishing and hunting areas frequented by outdoorsmen from all over the United States.
Visit Forrest City and meet our people. Find out for yourself why we like to call Forrest City Home.
Campbell House,305 N. Forrest Street,Hours: Private Residence
The Campbell House is associated with William Wilson Campbell and is an excellent example of the Prairie style of architecture. The 1917 Campbell House has maintained a great deal of architectural integrity over its 89-year history and still conveys the intentions with which it was designed. The building's namesake, William Wilson Campbell was actively involved in activities in Forrest City, the state of Arkansas, and even made a name for himself on the national scene during the Truman administration. Beginning with his employment at the First National Bank of Eastern Arkansas in 1909, Campbell involved himself in important state and local matters including representation on the Arkansas-Memphis Bridge Commission. Campbell retired in 1954 after having served as President of the First National Bank of Eastern Arkansas for 31 years. He died on May 28, 1970 and finished out his life serving on various boards and committees demonstrating not only his commitment to serving the people of the community but also their trust in him as a leader. The building's association with one of Forrest City's most influential citizens makes it a significant landmark for the city to recall its early beginnings. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places Dec. 21,.
Mann House,422 Forest Street,Hours: Private Residence
The Mann House was designed by Charles L. Thompson in 1913. It is one of the most decorative and gracefully detailed of Thompson's Colonial Revival houses and is unique because its Colonial Revival features are allowed to stand alone, without the blend of Craftsman elements that characterize many of his later Colonial Revival designs. Listed on the National Historic Register Dec. 31, 1984.