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Dyer (Crawford County)

 

Latitude and Longitude:

35º29'32"N 094º08'16"W

Elevation:

430 feet

Area:

2.612 square miles (2010 Census)

Population:

876 (2010 Census)

Incorporation Date:

July 22, 1889

Historical Population as per the U.S. Census:

1810

1820

1830

1840

1850

1860

1870

1880

1890

1900

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

343

1910

1920

1930

1940

1950

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

433

609

425

513

398

450

486

608

502

585

2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

876

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dyer is a second-class city in Crawford County. It lies on Highway 64 west of Mulberry (Crawford County) and east of Alma (Crawford County); Interstate 40 crosses over the northern end of Dyer. Dyer is most known for being the headquarters for Tony and Susan Alamo, whose religious foundation owned several buildings and businesses in the city beginning in 1975.

Highway 64 follows the path of the East-West Military Road, which was authorized by Congress in 1825 and largely completed by 1828, linking Little Rock (Pulaski County) with Fort Gibson in what is now Oklahoma. In the 1840s, Joel Dyer acquired a farm adjacent to the road and began offering water and a rest stop to the west-bound wagon trains that used the road. The wagon stop at his farm became a designated stagecoach stop in 1858, and Dyer regularly received mail from the driver for local residents. Dyer died in 1864, but his sons Stephen and George continued to farm and to receive travelers. Stephen Dyer built the first cotton gin in the area before 1880. A one-room school house was built north of Dyer in 1867.

The Little Rock and Fort Smith Railroad paralleled the old highway and was completed through the area in 1876. The Dyers provided material for a railroad depot, which was at first called Dyer Station. In 1884, a town was platted by George Dyer and John Moss. To encourage new settlers, town lots were given away at no cost. The town of Dyer soon had two stores, a sawmill, and a blacksmith shop, as well as the railroad depot and the cotton gin. A post office was established in 1885. Stores and a hotel soon followed. A second school building was constructed on land donated by Stephen Dyer. The town was first incorporated in 1889.

Among the crops raised on farms near Dyer in the early twentieth century were alfalfa, apples, corn, cotton, grapes, hay, peaches, peanuts, potatoes, radishes, sorghum, strawberries, sweet potatoes, and watermelon; in addition, residents raised cattle, hogs, and poultry.

A new cotton gin was built by the Dyer Gin Company in 1903; it was owned by the Cherokee Cotton Oil Company. It was destroyed by fire in 1923 and was replaced by an electric gin, which burned to the ground in 1939. Fire also destroyed the business district of Dyer on June 30, 1909. Seven brick buildings were then erected to replace the stores that had been lost. The Farmer State Bank of Dyer was established in December 1909. That bank went out of business during the Great Depression, and the building was then used as a canning factory. A small jail was built in 1918; it was later used as a storm shelter.

Highway 64 was paved in the 1920s, linking Dyer to cities east and west. Joel Dyer owned the first gas station in town, which was located next to the highway. Other businesses included an ice cream parlor, clothing stores, a furniture repair and manufacturing business, and a beer parlor. In 1932, during the Depression, the upper grades of the Dyer School District were closed and students were sent to Alma.

Natural gas service was established in Dyer in 1949. Dial telephones were installed in 1955. Many homes in Dyer were damaged by a storm on February 25, 1956, with one home and the Assembly of God church destroyed. The consolidation of the Dyer school district with Alma’s school district was completed in 1967. In 1969, the Dyer Public Water Works was established. During the following decade, Interstate 40 was completed in Crawford County, following a similar route as the military road, the railroad, and Highway 64, and cutting through the northern part of Dyer. A new city hall was opened in 1971, and the first library in Dyer opened the next year.

Tony Alamo Christian Ministries established its headquarters in Dyer in 1975. Alamo was born as Bernie Lamar Hoffman in Joplin, Missouri, and pursued a musical career in California, where he met Edith Opal Horn, who had grown up in Alma. After marrying, they changed their names to Tony and Susan Alamo and began a Pentecostal street ministry in Hollywood, California. Their compound in Dyer brought street people from urban areas to work in businesses owned by the Alamos, including restaurants and a clothing factory. Over the years, the church and businesses were investigated for tax fraud and for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. After Susan died in 1982, her husband maintained her corpse in a glass casket, promising that she would be miraculously resurrected. Her body was moved several times before it was finally interred in 1998. Alamo served prison time for tax evasion from 1994 to 1998, after which he re-established his ministry in Fouke (Miller County). As of 2012, Alamo is in prison and no longer owns any property in Crawford County.

Dyer was reincorporated as a second-class city in 1981. It constructed a new fire station in 1985 and completed a new sewage treatment system around 2001. Businesses in the city include Arkansas Screen Printing. The city has three churches: an Assembly of God church, First Baptist Church, and a Church of Christ.

For additional information:
“Dyer Community Club.” Heritage 13 (July 1969): 8–10.

Hopkins, Eula, and Wanda M. Gray, et al. History of Crawford County, Arkansas. Van Buren, AR: Historical Preservation Association of Crawford County, 2001.

Steven Teske
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

Last Updated 3/3/2017

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