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Elm Park is an unincorporated community located in north-central Scott County along the Petit Jean River between where Highways 378 and 23 form a junction with Highway 71. The date of Elm Park’s establishment is unclear. Agriculture has traditionally been an important way of life in the community.
Prior to European exploration, Elm Park and the surrounding area was an unexplored wilderness. Species of wildlife that longer inhabit the area, such as elk and buffalo, were present throughout the region. Archaeological findings have provided evidence of early inhabitants dating to the Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian periods. Additional archaeological evidence has indicated that the Caddo tribe had a strong presence along the Petit Jean River and other prominent waterways.
Throughout the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, French trappers and explorers traveled west from the Arkansas Post along the Arkansas River. From there, they began traversing smaller tributaries such as the Petit Jean and Poteau River. It is likely that they traveled through the area where Elm Park is now located.
Settlers began arriving in Elm Park and the surrounding area in the 1840s. The area continued to be settled through the late nineteenth century. Most families participated in a wide variety of agricultural practices.
The Civil War affected people living in the area near Elm Park as it did throughout the rest of the Confederacy. Men who were called to fight in the war served with both the Confederacy and Union. Additionally, the women, children, and elderly were left to look after the homes and farms.
With an influx of settlers in the area, a cemetery was soon needed. Bloodworth Cemetery was the first established in the area near Elm Park about 1875. A small cemetery, known as Wiley Cemetery, was established near Elm Park in circa 1886. The cemetery is named for the two Wiley family members buried in it; however, there are nineteen other unmarked field stones in the cemetery.
Many farmers in the area faced economic hardship during the Great Depression of the 1930s with the monetary decline of cotton and other agricultural products.
In 1966, a rest area was established in Elm Park along Highway 71. The Elm Park rest area is the only one located along the Arkansas portion of Highway 71 and one of only seven off-interstate rest areas in the state. In the 1990s, there was a threat of the rest area being closed; however, residents in the area protested its closing and eventually helped save it. Elm Park and other area residents continue to use the area for picnics, reunions, and recreational activities. Agriculture continues to be an important way of life in Elm Park, mostly in the form of cattle and chicken farms.
For additional information:
Cate, Michael. History of Scott County, Arkansas. Dallas, TX: Curtis Media Corporation, 1991.
Echoes: The Scott County Historical and Genealogical Society Quarterly. Waldron, AR: Scott County Historical and Genealogical Society (1986–).
Goodner, Charles. Scott County in Retrospect. Mansfield, AR: Frank Boyd, 1976.
Goodner, Norman. A History of Scott County, Arkansas. Siloam Springs, AR: Bar D Press, 1941.
McCutcheon, Henry Grady. History of Scott County, Arkansas. Little Rock: H. G. Pugh and Company, 1922.
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Last Updated 2/22/2019
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