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Franklin (Izard County)

Latitude and Longitude:

36°10'13"N 091°43'34"W

Elevation:

623 feet

Area:

2.018 square miles (2010 Census)

Population:

198 (2010 Census)

Incorporation Date:

January 9, 1940

Historical Population as per the U.S. Census:

1810

1820

1830

1840

1850

1860

1870

1880

1890

1900

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1910

1920

1930

1940

1950

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

-

-

-

100

100

75

117

253

205

184

2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

198

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The town of Franklin is one of the oldest settlements in Izard County. Located on State Highway 56, it is just south of the newest settlement in the county, the retirement community of Horseshoe Bend (Izard County).

The Strawberry River meanders through the hills of northern Arkansas, making the land more attractive to visitors than to farmers. At the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the Osage visited from their homes in the north, coming to the Strawberry River valley to hunt and to fish. By 1825, a series of treaties had moved the Osage west to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), and white settlers began to claim pieces of land for themselves. Early settlers along the river included the Sam Billingsley family, the Alexander Simpson family, and the Asbury Stephens family. Brothers James, Owen, and William Watkins arrived from Franklin, Tennessee, and petitioned the federal government for two post offices, which they named Wild Haws and New Franklin. The U.S. postal service granted the request but inadvertently switched the names. Wild Haws (named for the abundant trees of the area) later was renamed LaCrosse, while New Franklin eventually was known only as Franklin.

During the Civil War, a Federal regiment from Nebraska visited the Franklin post office on March 11, 1864, while it was on maneuvers later named the Wild Haws Expedition. Finding no useful information for their search for Confederate troops, the men moved on, returning to Batesville (Independence County) the following day.

Shortly after the end of the Civil War, a public schoolhouse was built in Franklin. A Masonic lodge met in the upper floor of the two-story structure.

Two future members of the U.S. Congress were born in Franklin: William A. Oldfield in 1874 and Samuel B. Hill in 1875. The two were boyhood friends and played together on the Franklin baseball team in the 1890s. Oldfield would continue to call Franklin his home throughout his political career. He served in Congress from 1908 until his death in 1928. Hill moved to Washington State after receiving a law degree from the University of Arkansas Law School in Fayetteville (Washington County). He served in Congress from 1923 until 1936.

Tornadoes came through the town in 1879 and 1883, but the community was rebuilt each time. Two newspapers were briefly published in Franklin at the end of the nineteenth century, but both failed after only a few issues.

The Bank of Franklin was established in 1905. By 1919, Franklin was described as one of the fastest-growing towns in the county. It had a store run by the Gaston Brothers and a good road leading to Hardy (Sharp County), as well as the bank and the school. The town also had a cotton gin and a flour mill. For about fifteen years in the early twentieth century, a school for African-American students called St. Mark’s Academy existed two miles south of Franklin. In 1912, the school’s black teacher, R. L. Cothrine, was invited to join the faculty of Franklin’s white school at a teachers’ institute.

In 1933, within a week of his inauguration, President Franklin Roosevelt called for a bank holiday in an effort to stabilize the nation’s economy. The Bank of Franklin is thought to be the only bank in the country that did not obey the Emergency Banking Act passed by Congress on March 9. When national bank examiners arrived in Franklin and commented on the bank being open, cashier Thomas W. Simpson replied that he had not received news of the law. Most historians accept his word, given the facts that Franklin had no telephone service in 1933 and the nearest railroad was fifteen miles away. However, Pamela Webb, in an article for the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, has suggested that Simpson’s political beliefs led him to ignore the order from the federal government.

A tornado struck Franklin in May 1933, and bank cashier Simpson was one of three killed in the town. Franklin’s school district was consolidated with that of Violet Hill (Izard County) in the 1930s, although the school building continued to be used by the district until the 1950s. It was then used as a community building until it burned down around 1970.

By 1972, Franklin had two grocery stores, one restaurant, a hardware and furniture store, a pool hall, a garage, and two churches—Baptist and Church of Christ. There were also a Masonic lodge, a Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post, and an American Legion post. The bank was moved at about that time into the nearby retirement community of Horseshoe Bend. The population of the town, which had been 100 when the town was incorporated in 1940 and had dropped to seventy-five by 1960, grew beyond 200 with the establishment of Horseshoe Bend. By 2000, it had dropped to just below 200 again, where it remained at the 2010 census. By this time, one of the biggest businesses in the town was B & B Supply. Franklin also had a general store, a gun shop, several construction businesses and automotive services, a feed mill, and the same two churches.

For additional information:
Shannon, Karr. “Franklin: Small Town of Distinction.” Arkansas Democrat Sunday Magazine, April 8, 1962, p. 11.

Simpson, Tom. “The Historic Town of Franklin, Arkansas.” Izard County Historian 3 (October 1972): 2–14.

Smith-Leavitt, Mary Ruth. “Franklin, Arkansas.” Izard County Historian 29 (January 2004): 8–14.

Stowers, Juanita, ed. The History and Families of Izard County, Arkansas. Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company, 2001.

Webb, Pamela. “Business as Usual: The Bank Holiday in Arkansas.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 39 (Autumn 1980): 247–261.

Steven Teske
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

Last Updated 11/29/2016

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