See Rock City

See Rock City

Monday, September 8, 2008

Wynne, AR

Wynne is the county seat and largest city of Cross County, Arkansas, United States. The population was 8,615 at the 2000 census. Nestled between the Arkansas Delta & Crowley's Ridge, Wynne is home to the largest state park in Arkansas, Village Creek State Park. Currently, Paul Nichols serves as the mayor of Wynne.

Cross County


Cross County Courthouse in Wynne.
Photo by John Gill, courtesy of the photographer

Wynne was named for Captain Jesse Watkins Wynne. A Texan, Wynne achieved the rank of Captain in the Civil War at just 21, and was famous for once leading a group of captors up to the Confederate line, where he then marched them to headquarters as his own prisoners.

Merriman Avenue in Wynne (Cross County), looking east; circa 1910.
Courtesy of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Central Arkansas Library System

In 1867, Captain Wynne moved to St. Francis County Arkansas and joined the firm of Dennis & Beck. At the time, Dennis & Beck held savings for firms and individuals, but eventually, the "Bank of Eastern Arkansas" was formed, and Captain Wynne became its first president.

Wilson Street in Wynne (Cross County), looking south; circa early 1900s.
Courtesy of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Central Arkansas Library System

From 1880-1885, as the St. Louis, Iron Mountain, and Southern railroad was under construction, active steamboat riverports like Wittsburg, at that time the county seat of Cross County, were deserted for the rails.

Downtown Wynne (Cross County); circa early 1950s.
Courtesy of the Cross County Historical Society

The settlement of Wynne was first located in 1882 when a train derailed, leaving one boxcar without wheels and off the tracks. The boxcar was placed upright, and as a compliment to Captain Wynne, designated "Wynne Station." On 27 September, 1882, the Wynne Station Post Office was opened.

Missouri Pacific locomotive, Wynne (Cross County); circa early 1900s.
Courtesy of the Cross County Historical Society

When the east-west branch of the railroad was completed, it crossed the north-south branch near the boxcar, and the name "Wynne Junction" became prominent. On 28 May, 1888, the "junction" was dropped, and the town of Wynne was incorporated.

By the early 1890s, the railroad traffic and subsequent activity in Wynne had made it an even more vibrant town than Vanndale, which had been the county seat since 1886. In 1903, Wynne became the county seat of Cross County.

An unofficial town nickname, "The City with a Smile," was first coined in 1956 by KWYN disc jockey Bud Raley.

Notable Residents

Bud Brooks, who won college football's Outland Trophy in 1954, garnering the award as a member of the heralded "25 Little Pigs", the moniker given to the 1954 Arkansas Razorbacks football team.

Justin Carroll, who won the 1995 Scripps National Spelling Bee as a student at Wynne Junior High School.

Harlan "Bo" Holleman, farmer & seed merchant who was the Republican nominee for U.S. House of Representatives in 1968 & 1976, and served as Chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas from 1980 to 1982.

Harlan H. "Bo" Holleman (January 23, 1927 - March 12, 1982) was a farmer and seed merchant from Wynne, the seat of Cross County in eastern Arkansas, and a pioneer in the development of the modern Republican Party in his home state. He was the Arkansas state GOP chairman from December 6, 1980, until his death some sixteen months later. Earlier he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Arkansas House of Representatives (1968) and the United States House of Representatives (1976).

Holleman began farming in 1950, with 320 acres (1.3 km2) of land. He thereafter expanded his holdings to more than 2,500 acres (10 km²). In 1955, he launched Holleman Seed Service Company, Inc., in Cross County. During the administration of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon Holleman was the Southeast Regional Director of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service and director of Oilseeds and Special Crops Division in the United States Department of Agriculture.

When Nixon was first elected President, Holleman lost a bid for the Arkansas House. Eight years later, when Jimmy Carter unseated President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., and proved particularly strong in Arkansas, Holleman lost in a bid to oust Democratic U.S. Representative William Vollie "Bill" Alexander, Jr. of Osceola in Mississippi County. In the heavily Democratic First Congressional District, Alexander secured his fifth term by defeating Holleman, 116,217 (68.9 percent) to 52,562 (31.1 percent). Holleman's showing was nearly identical to the 31.3 percent that Republican Guy M. Newcomb (born ca. 1928), also of Osceola, had received in 1968, when Alexander won his first race for Congress. Ford, as the House minority leader, had come into Arkansas to campaign for Newcomb. Alexander was subsequently unseated in the Democratic primary by his former aide and future U.S. Senator Blanche Lambert Lincoln.

In 1978, Arkansas party leaders encouraged Holleman to challenge U.S. Senator David Hampton Pryor, who was seeking a second term, but Holleman declined to seek office again.

In February 1981, in a guest column in the former Arkansas Gazette (since Arkansas Democrat Gazette), Holleman set forth his vision of worthy goals for the Arkansas GOP. First, he proposed at least one Republican county committee member be stationed at each voting precinct by 1982. Secondly, Holleman, a former Arkansas GOP finance chairman, suggested a stronger financial base, which had deteriorated since the death in 1973 of its benefactor, former Governor Winthrop Rockefeller. Thirdly, Holleman said that the GOP should seek to attract more minority voters, who largely support Democrats. At the time of his death, Holleman was recruiting candidates to oppose Democratic U.S. Representatives Bill Alexander and Beryl Franklin Anthony, Jr., of El Dorado, the seat of Columbia County in south Arkansas.

Holleman contracted cancer and underwent unsuccessful chemotherapy. On his death, then Governor Frank D. White, a Republican, requested that flags at the state capitol be flown at half-staff in Holleman's memory. "I am deeply grieved by the passing of Harlan "Bo" Holleman, who not only was the chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party, but was an outstanding citizen of our state," White said.

Holleman was survived by his wife, the former Emaline Moore of Wynne; a son, David Allen Holleman of Wynne; a daughter, Nancy Maretta Holleman of Irvine; his stepmother, Faye Holleman (1905-1991) of Wynne; four sisters (Lucille, Bonnie, Puddie and ), and three grandchildren (Nicole T. Sloan of Jonesboro, AR, Beaux Jordan Linton of Paris, TN and Cade Allen Holleman currently studying in Seoul, Korea).

Services were held at the First United Methodist Church in Wynne. Interment was in Lewis Cemetery in Hickory Ridge in Cross County.

Holleman was a supporter of the Institute of Politics and Government in Little Rock. The Harlan H. Holleman Political Science Scholarship was established in his honor in 1984.

J.L. "Bex" Shaver, Democratic Lt. Governor of Arkansas from 1943-46, and president of the Arkansas Bar Association

J.L. "Jim" Shaver, Jr., Democratic Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1977-78, and president of the Arkansas Bar Association.

Hugh "Bones" Taylor, a former Wynne Yellowjacket, who played wide receiver with the Washington Redskins from 1947-54, and was honored as one of the 70 Greatest Redskins in 2002. Taylor was later the head coach of the Houston Oilers in 1965, and was an assistant with the New York Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, and the San Diego Chargers.
DeAngelo Williams, former Wynne Yellowjacket and current NCAA record holder for most career all-purpose yards (7,573) and 100 yard rushing games (34). Fourth on the all-time NCAA rushing list, Williams is currently a runningback with the Carolina Panthers.

Hugh Wilson "Bones" Taylor (July 6, 1923 – November 1, 1992) was an American football wide receiver in the National Football League.

Taylor played for the Oklahoma City College before entering the National Football League in 1947. In his first NFL game, he gained 212 yards receiving, setting league records for an NFL debut and first game of the season. Those records were eventually broken by Anquan Boldin in 2003 and Frank Clarke in 1962, respectively. As a member of the Washington Redskins from 1947-1954, the 6-foot-4-inch Taylor was an outstanding end and made the Pro Bowl in 1952 and 1954.

After his career, he coached in the American Football League, becoming the head coach of the Houston Oilers in 1965, succeeding Sammy Baugh. The Oilers went 4-10, resulting in Taylor's dismissal at the end of the season.

DeAngelo Williams (born April 25, 1983 in Little Rock, Arkansas) is an American football running back in the NFL who currently plays for the Carolina Panthers. He played for the University of Memphis Tigers in college, drafted 27th overall by the Carolina Panthers in the 2006 NFL Draft.

Wynne is located with the west slope of Crowley’s Ridge to the east and the L’Anguille River on the west side of town. Wynne started off as a small railroad town but soon became the county seat of Cross County. In the last 100 years, the city of Wynne has progressed and is now a great attraction for industry, recreation, and is becoming a popular place to reside. The newest attraction to Wynne is the twenty-seven-hole golf course opening to the public in the summer of 2007, at Village Creek State Park.

Reconstruction through the Gilded Age

David C. Cross, Confederate soldier for whom Cross County was named.
Courtesy of the Cross County Historical Society

The town can date its history to 1882, when the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad laid tracks in the area. A train derailed and left behind a boxcar, which was turned upright and named Wynne Station. The town was named for Captain Jesse Wynne of Forrest City (St. Francis County); he was influential in starting Forrest City’s first bank, the Bank of Eastern Arkansas (now the First National Bank of Eastern Arkansas, which operates in Forrest City and Wynne).

Wynne became the headquarters for construction of the railroad being built from Bald Knob (White County) to Memphis, Tennessee, in the summer of 1885, and developed into a “typical Western town.” With five saloons in Wynne, men working with the railroad drank and gambled for leisure. By 1887, Wynne had grown with six general stores, seven groceries, two drug stores, two hotels, three doctors, one jeweler, one blacksmith, one lawyer, a gent’s furnishing store, two saloons, two barbers, and two meat markets. Development slowed on September 2, 1887, when a fire destroyed more than two-thirds of the town’s business district. Damage was estimated at $200,000, but the buildings were quickly rebuilt.

In 1888, Lon D. Freeman established the town’s first newspaper, the Wynne Ripsaw. Around 1904, it was bought by a stock company and renamed the Wynne Progress. The Cross County Democrat was established around 1895. It was operated by T. E. Wood through most of the early 1900s until its consolidation with the Blade Exchange. The Blade Exchange was established around 1900. The two papers together were published by Fred O. Cogbill and called the Blade-Democrat. In 1910, it was then taken over by J. W. Bolin and renamed the Cross County Democrat. Frank Jones then became the owner, renaming the paper again as the Wynne Star. In 1924, this paper was consolidated with the Wynne Progress. The Wynne Progress became a weekly paper with C. O. Wahlquist as editor-publisher. The Wynne Star (later known as the Wynne Daily Star-Progress) became a daily paper with Jones as editor-publisher.

The two papers went through several owners and stock companies. For a time, only one weekly paper was published for Wynne. The Wynne Progress is still producing two weekly papers: The Wynne Progress and The East Arkansas Newsleader.

Also in 1888, the east-west line of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad was finished. This location was called Wynne Junction, and later that year, the town was incorporated as Wynne. It is not known why it was named for Captain Wynne.

Early Twentieth Century

By 1903, the county seat moved from Vanndale to Wynne. Wynne had grown larger than Vanndale, and with its railroad connections, it was easier to access for many people. The first county documents were kept in an opera house on Front Street until a courthouse was built in 1915.

In 1897, the first telephone system came to Wynne. By 1955, more than 1,500 people had telephone lines via the Wynne Exchange. Between 1918 and 1926, water and light companies were built and major streets were paved. In 1929, the Cherokee Public Service Company was the first to supply natural gas, but it was not until 1954 that the city actually received these services from the Mid-South Gas Company.

Wynne had schools disbursed throughout the community dating back to 1886, but in 1902, a two-story brick school was built to serve all grades. When a high school was built in 1950, the original building was used for elementary grades. There were also several community schools for children living outside of town. From 1896 until 1902, a Catholic School called St. Anselm’s School was also located in Wynne.

A major bottling company was originated in Wynne in 1907. This company went through several owners before becoming the Nehi-Royal Crown Bottling Company in 1940. It bottled drinks such as Coca-Cola for a short time during its first years of establishment under Will Snowden. In 1924, G. G. Doris bought the company and incorporated the Royal Crown products and, for a short time, bottled Dr. Pepper. This company began bottling for Nehi-Royal cola and became one of the top bottling companies serving northeast Arkansas.

A few of the first establishments in Wynne are still in business. Among these are Graham Hardware, established in 1917, and Kernodle Funeral Home in 1927.

Wynne was a railroad town for most of its early history. During the Flood of 1927, the railroad was used to transport people to higher ground. The railroad set up tent cities in Wynne. Flood victims came in on the train’s boxcars, and local citizens assisted in feeding and caring for them.

As part of the New Deal programs during the Great Depression, artists were paid to travel and place section murals in local post offices that depicted the environment of that area. In 1938, a Colorado artist, Ethel Magafan, and her twin sister, Jenne, placed the mural “Cottonpickers” in the Wynne Post Office. The mural was sketched on site as Ethel Magafan observed the work being done. This was one of twenty-one murals placed in Arkansas post offices. The “Cottonpickers” mural is one of nineteen murals that still exist in Arkansas. It can be seen still hanging above the post master’s door in the Wynne Post Office. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) completed several projects in Wynne; among these was the Women’s Progressive Club.

World War II through the Faubus Era

During World War II, the railroads in Wynne saw more action as approximately twelve troop trains came through town every thirty minutes. Members of the Missouri Pacific Women’s Booster Club served sandwiches, doughnuts, and coffee to the troops. They also collected post cards and letters to be mailed.

1888 Cross County Courthouse in Vanndale.
Photo by John Gill, courtesy of the photographer

World War II led to a shortage of farm workers in Wynne. In 1944, local citizens met to discuss this problem and agreed to receive German prisoners of war. By June 5, 1944, three hundred POWs had arrived and were available to work on local farms. A camp was established to house 600 prisoners but was reported to have housed around 2,000 at one time. These prisoners worked on local farms and helped to build the sewer and water systems located west of Wynne. They also worked on the Gibbs-Harris rice dryer, the first rice dryer in Cross County and among one of the first in the state, and built a rice dryer in Wheatley (St. Francis County). Hundreds of POWs were disbursed around the county to work. The novel Summer of My German Soldier, written by Bette Greene, was based on childhood memories about these same prisoners working in nearby Parkin (Cross County).

Wynne had five school districts until consolidation in 1944. The Rolfe, McElroy, Hamlin, and New Hope districts (all in Cross County) consolidated with the Wynne School District this same year. A separate high school and elementary school, known as the Childress schools, were used for African-American children in the district. After the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, the Wynne Public Schools adopted a “Freedom of Choice” policy that allowed the students to decide where they wanted to attend. However, in 1971, the Wynne schools and Childress schools were desegregated and combined.

Modern Era

The last passenger trains came through Wynne on August 28, 1965, signaling the decline of the railroad era and the rise of improved highways for the transportation of people and freight. Wynne still continues to grow. Today, it has several retail businesses, a community hospital, and five major manufacturers: Addison Shoe Company, Carwell Elevator Company, Inc., Mueller Cooper Tube, McKnight Milling Company, Wynne Exhaust Distributors, and Fulbright & McNeill Incorporation (FMI). Agriculture is also a leading industry that includes rice, soybeans, wheat, cotton, milo, and corn. Producers Rice Mill, Inc., one of the leading rice suppliers, with eleven plants throughout Arkansas and two in Mississippi, has a plant in Wynne.

During the 2005–06 school year, the Parkin School District was annexed with the Wynne School District. The Wynne schools received over a hundred students from the Parkin School District. Today, Wynne has four campuses and one school district serving an estimated 3,000 students.

Wynne’s largest attraction is Village Creek State Park. Opened in 1976, Village Creek is approximately 7,000 acres located about five miles outside of Wynne on Crowley’s Ridge.Village Creek is the second largest state park in Arkansas. The park serves visitors from all over the world, offering them a little piece of nature, history, and recreation. Its most recent addition is under construction and will consist of a resort featuring a twenty-seven-hole golf course, golf clubhouse, twenty-room lodge with a restaurant, a convention center, banquet and meeting space, a full-service spa, fifty cabin units, and fourteen villas comprising fifty guest rooms.

Wynne has a 100-acre sports complex with baseball, softball, and soccer fields and a horse arena. The county has two rivers and many small lakes and ponds. Crowley’s Ridge Country Club is also located a couple miles outside of the Wynne city limits. A movie theater, skating rink, bowling alley, and community pool are also available. The town hosts a Farm Fest celebration each spring, the Cross County Wildlife Expo, and the Fine Swine Bar-B-Q.

The Caboose Museum is in the Jess W. Wallin Memorial Park. The caboose was donated by the Union Pacific Railroad; it displays memorabilia of Wynne’s railroad days. The Cross County Veterans Memorial Monument and Museum is on the grounds of the Cross County Courthouse. This museum displays memorabilia donated from veterans and others in the community to remember the veterans from the Civil War to the present who have served from Cross County. Coming soon to Wynne is a new county museum, directed and established by the Cross County Historical Society. This museum is also located on the grounds of the Cross County Courthouse and was originally one of the first elementary schools in Wynne.

Natalie Henry’s painting, Local Industries (1940, oil on canvas), at the Springdale (Washington County) post office.
Courtesy of the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History (S-95-177)

Post Office Art

Arkansas has nineteen Depression-era works of art created for U.S. post office buildings. Two are sculpture bas-reliefs, and seventeen are paintings. In addition, another painting was destroyed in a post office fire, and one was never installed and was lost during World War II. The art was part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and was created to reflect life in the United States at the time and to honor hard work. During a time of national economic crisis and with the specter of World War II on the horizon, images of strong workers, productive farmers, and determined pioneers were intended by Roosevelt to reassure and motivate Americans. The goal was to remind Americans of their history at a time when the future looked uncertain and to glorify Americans’s work ethic. Consequently, the Arkansas post office art emphasizes workers.

Professional national and regional artists throughout the United States were selected for the Arkansas art through a competitive process. Only two of the artists were Arkansas residents: Natalie Henry, a native of Malvern (Hot Spring County), and H. Louis Freund, the artist in residence at Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County).

The artists were directed to consult local citizens and the postmaster to select topics. The program, administered by the U.S. Treasury Section of Fine Arts, was the first federal program to require public participation in the section of public art. As the first comprehensive public art program in America, it used the post office as a democratic art gallery. The Treasury Department tied the budget for the art to one percent of the construction budget of the post office, a method known today as “percent for art,” which set the precedent for current public art funding.

In Arkansas, the art is displayed in smaller communities that were part of rural American in the 1930s. Consequently, the post office art was the first public art that many Arkansas residents had seen. The post office was selected for the site of public art because, at the time, it was the center of activity in every community.

The Section of Fine Arts exercised tight control over all aspects of the art, from the subject matter to the choice of colors and composition of objects in the art. Using what is sometimes called the realism style, the art was easily understood. The art in each of the Arkansas post offices has unique stories. Natalie Henry used her father and other relatives as models for workers in the Springdale (Washington County) farming mural, and one of the homes featured in the DeWitt (Arkansas County) mural still stands down the street from the post office. The bauxite mining theme in Benton (Saline County) reflects Arkansas’s contribution to the war effort as America’s only source of aluminum-producing ore. The nostalgic theme of nineteenth-century rural mail delivery evokes the excitement of the arrival of mail by stagecoach in Clarksville (Johnson County). A cotton industry mural in Dardanelle (Yell County) champions the heroic African-American field worker, while the painting of resting farmers in Morrilton (Conway County) reflects a “pride in work” message appropriate to New Deal ideology. Several artists’ work was interrupted by their call to military duty, and colleagues completed the art.

Village Creek State Park

Bike Trails

Fishing at Village Creek

The Elms Plantation

Huge old pecan trees line the drive to this 1886 plantation listed on the National Register of Historic Places; guest rooms in the mansion plus three small lodges and two cottages on property sleep a total of approximately 40; excellent for group retreats, family reunions, meetings, weddings and other special events; fishing in the on-site pond; tours offered Thursdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; last tour begins at 2 p.m.; call ahead because facility is closed at times for special events, weddings and holidays.

Altus Heritage House Museum

Original German-American State Bank, circa 1800s, with early coal mining equipment, local history; listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Thrio's Coffee House

Arkansas's premier coffee house and largest with three floors of historic brick and wood ambiance; homemade or freshly baked cakes, cookies and cinnamon rolls; cappuccinos, lattes, mochas and frappes; smoothies, Italian sodas, herbal teas; weekly live music; board games, puzzles, etc.; karaoke; art gallery; 3rd Floor Lounge w/ping-pong; gourmet sandwiches, soups, salads; poetry reading; meeting/banquet service

John H. Johnson Museum

The restored childhood home of the founder and publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines, located in historic Arkansas City. Johnson founded The Johnson Publishing Company in Chicago in 1942, eventually making it the country’s largest African American-owned publishing business. Besides the magazines, the company's properties include a book division and Fashion Fair Cosmetics. The museum tells the story of his success. Created by Arkansas City residents, it is affiliated with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.