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Amity (Clark County)

Latitude and Longitude:

34°15'53"N 093°27'46"W

Elevation:

703 feet

Area:

3.3 square miles (2000 Census)

Population:

723 (2010 Census)

Incorporation Date:

August 28, 1907

Historical Population as per the U.S. Census:

1810

1820

1830

1840

1850

1860

1870

1880

1890

1900

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

140

211

-

1910

1920

1930

1940

1950

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

813

680

608

608

591

543

614

859

526

762

2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

723

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amity traces its beginnings to the arrival of a group of pioneer families, under the leadership of Deacon William F. Browning, Clark County surveyor (1846–1850, 1852–1854), who settled along the old Caddo Cove Road just north of the Caddo River late in 1847. An abundance of water and rich bottomland drew them to the area. Soon after his arrival, Browning built a large two-story log house just west of Caney Creek. It soon became the center of an expanding community. According to Laura Scott, an early Clark County historian, Browning named his settlement “Amity” because he hoped to find in it “peace and brotherhood.”

In August 1848, Browning and a group of local citizens formed what would become the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, the first religious organization in the area. He built a large log church house, which also served as Amity’s school, taught by Captain Robert S. Burke, Browning’s brother-in-law. The Amity post office was established nearby a few months later.

Although old Amity saw no actual fighting, the Civil War was a trying time for the community. Union soldiers burned the Burke schoolhouse and Browning cotton press. As the war progressed, the local population, at first supportive of the Confederate cause, became divided in its loyalty, with family members serving in both the Union and Confederate armies. After the war, the center of the community shifted to the south side of the Caddo River, to an area that was first settled by John Hays Allen and Dr. Amariah Biggs, the latter a widely known local physician and Methodist minister, about 1850. Shortly afterwards, the Amity post office was relocated to this new area.

By 1870, Colonel Philander Curtis, a Connecticut native who is remembered as an old bachelor who wore a wig and kept a pet bear, had moved to the area. He built one of the first business houses where Amity now stands and served several years as postmaster. In 1871, Curtis and two other local businessmen, Riley Thompson and Jacob H. Lightsey, purchased property from Allen and laid out a small town site, centering on a public square. By 1874, Amity was a thriving little village with new businesses and several churches. The adjacent area became Amity Township in 1877. In 1880, a move was made to incorporate the community, but nothing came of it.

Early in the 1870s, a new schoolhouse was built in Amity to replace the one operated before the war by Captain Burke. One of the first teachers was Richard Melancthon Burke, son of Captain Burke, who operated the Amity Male and Female Academy from 1877 until his death in 1883. His successor was Samuel M. Samson, who arrived in Amity in 1888 and spent the next twenty years as head of the Amity High School, a private boarding school. After his departure, the school was absorbed into Amity public schools. In 1995, Amity schools consolidated with those of nearby Glenwood (Pike County) to form the new Centerpoint School District.

In 1887, it was rumored that gold had been discovered in the nearby Trap Mountains, and there was a brief but intense gold rush. When the rumors proved false, the gold rush fever quickly subsided.

Amity’s fortunes took a turn for the better shortly after 1900, when the Gurdon and Fort Smith Railroad was built through the area. Within a short while, the little town became a major shipping and trade center. Large sawmills in nearby Rosboro (Pike County) and Glenwood (Pike County) provided employment for its labor force. The Bank of Amity was formed in 1905, and its old brick offices are now on the National Register of Historic Places. The Amity Enterprise newspaper began in 1899, the Four–County Courier in 1915, and the Amity Owl in 1922. The Standard is the only newspaper being published in Amity as of 2006. In the years leading up to World War II, the worldwide shortage of cinnabar (mercury) created a mining industry in the nearby Ouachita Mountains. However, with the end of the war and an increase in the world supply, the mines were abandoned. In 1940, the forerunner of the Curt Bean Lumber Company, now one of Arkansas’s largest independent manufacturers of Southern pine and CCA-treated lumber, began in Amity. Although the cooperate office moved to nearby Glenwood in the early 1970s, the company still maintains a mill in Amity. In 2003, the 230.5-acre campus of the Arkansas Sheriff’s Youth Ranches opened on nearby DeGray Lake. The town now serves as a bedroom community for commuters working in nearby towns and cities.

For additional information:
Hughes, Mary. “History of Amity, 1937.” Place File. Arkansas History Commission and State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.

“Reflections of the Past, Amity Alumni Homecoming Celebration.” Glenwood Herald. June 14, 1997, section C.

Robles, Josh. “Amity’s Lost Black Community.” Clark County Historical Journal 33 (2006): 8–16.

Scott, Laura. History of Clark County. Publications of the Arkansas Historical Association, Vol. 1. Fayetteville: Arkansas Historical Association, 1906.

Russell P. Baker
Arkansas History Commission and State Archives

 

Last Updated 11/30/2011

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