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White County Historical Society

The White County Historical Society has been the guiding force in the preservation of the history of White County’s people and institutions. It continues to work to preserve the heritage and records of the county.

The first meeting of what would become the White County Historical Society was held at the Searcy City Library on July 28, 1961, and attended by thirteen people. From the beginning, the society was dedicated to preserving the history of White County, providing information for those interested in genealogy, and encouraging the dissemination of information. In June 1962, the society began publishing White County Heritage on a quarterly schedule. The first edition was sent to over thirty people and contained several stories and two cemetery listings.

The minutes for the February 1962 meeting contain the first mention of plans for a museum, and Ewing Orr, Ivan Quattlebaum, and Nell Henry were appointed to locate a space for such an institution. In January 1967, the Searcy City Council offered the back room of the old library, and the museum opened on May 7, 1967. It remained in existence until 1978, when Ellen Key, who had been the driving force behind the museum, announced she was stepping down. The society donated much of the contents to Arkansas State University–Beebe.

In September 1967, Pioneer Village opened at the White County Fair, drawing some 3,000 visitors. The village was the result of a joint effort of the White County Fair Board and the White County Historical Society. It began with the donation of the 1870s Gordon log house, which was moved to the fairgrounds. The Little Red School, an old post office, a smokehouse, a barn, a blacksmith shop, and even an outdoor toilet were eventually moved to the site. The contents of Pioneer Village were given to the society in 2002 by the White County Fair Board, with the understanding that they would be moved off the fairgrounds property as the fair site was being expanded. It is presently located on land donated by the City of Searcy.

The 1990s represented a down period for the society. Many of the founding members were no longer active, and newer members were in short supply. The society experienced a renaissance, however, when Eddie Best became president. In 1998, Best began publishing a monthly newsletter in addition to the historical journal, which has been published annually since 1979.

From the earliest days of the society, listing all of the graves in the county has been a priority. By the mid-1970s, most of the then-known cemeteries had been listed, and by 2007, the society’s website included more than 180 cemetery sites. The society also has worked to locate the numerous slave and black cemetery sites, the locations of which have been lost over time.

In 2007, the White County Historical Society had approximately 500 members, and its publications were mailed to over 550 people and institutions.

For additional information:
White County Historical Society. http://www.whitecounty.us/ (accessed October 10, 2016).

David Dawson
White County Historical Society

Last Updated 10/10/2016

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