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Home / Browse / Oak Grove (Carroll County)
Latitude and Longitude:
2.532 square miles (2010 Census)
369 (2010 Census)
September 12, 1938
Historical Population as per the U.S. Census:
Oak Grove is a town in northern Carroll County, located at the intersection of State Highways 21 and 103. A narrow strip of land in the town runs north along Indian Creek to the Missouri state line. The town is one of twelve communities in Arkansas identified as Oak Grove, and the only one to be incorporated. When a community in Greene County sought to incorporate with the same name in 1979, it was forced to incorporate as Oak Grove Heights.
The forested Ozark Mountains have been sparsely inhabited for centuries. At the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the area was frequently visited by the Osage, who lived farther north but came into what would be Arkansas to hunt and to fish. A series of treaties moved the Osage farther west by 1825, opening the land for white settlers. The land where Oak Grove now stands was claimed by John O’Neal in 1859, but he did not begin building on his land until after the Civil War.
By 1871, O’Neal had built a house and opened a store, and a post office was established at his store that year. O’Neal undoubtedly named the store and the post office for a prominent stand of trees. A competing settlement named Yocum was developed south of Oak Grove in the 1880s. As a result, Oak Grove grew slowly, with only the store, the post office, and a few homes to identify the community. The post office was closed in 1875 but reopened the next year. It was moved west to Indian Creek (Carroll County) in 1883 but returned to Oak Grove in 1895. O’Neal died in 1888, and his property changed hands several times before finally being claimed by J. H. Evans and L. R. Evans. The former employed W. R. Phillips of Green Forest (Carroll County) to plat a town of sixteen lots surrounding the O’Neal homestead. Homes were built and a few more stores opened, including a drugstore. A schoolhouse was built around the beginning of the twentieth century, but the Oak Grove school eventually became part of the Green Forest school system.
No steamboat or railroad engine ever came to Oak Grove, but the early dirt roads of the Ozarks went through Oak Grove and not through Yocum. The Newman Brothers Garage served automobiles in Oak Grove as early as 1914, and the population of the settlement began to grow. Around 1920, a tomato cannery was built in Oak Grove, shipping fifteen carloads of tomatoes in its first year of operation. In 1922, local farmers opened a second cannery, and soon the tomato industry was bringing thousands of dollars into Oak Grove. During the Depression, a blight hit the tomatoes, and the industry came to an end in the community.
Oak Grove incorporated as a town in 1938, extending a portion of its border to the Missouri state line so that service stations in the town could sell gasoline at Missouri prices rather than Arkansas prices. The town failed to keep its charter and needed to reincorporate in 1950. In 1953, a group of citizens organized a Baptist church in Oak Grove; the next year, they affiliated with the Free Will Baptists and named their congregation Oak Grove Free Will Baptist Church. By 1954, livestock and poultry had replaced the tomato industry, and three active poultry houses operated in the town. Three general stores were running in Oak Grove at that time. The Green Forest School District closed the school in Oak Grove in 1956, and the schoolhouse became a community building hosting club meetings, social clubs, and elections, with a baseball park and a saddle club also using the grounds.
In 1983, historians wrote that “Oak Grove continues to support a small population with a few stores and a post office. The quiet living in the community finds its focus around the churches of the community and the softball activities of the summer months.” Twenty years later, the town had grown further, supporting a city hall, a fire station, a convenience store, shops, and churches. In addition to the Free Will Baptist church in town are a Church of Christ and a Pentecostal church on Highway 21 west of Oak Grove. The town also has a pizza and deli shop, a hair salon, and some tourist businesses. The poultry industry continues to be the largest employer for the area.
For additional information:The History and Families of Carroll County, Arkansas. Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company, 2003.
Lair, Jim. An Outlander’s History of Carroll County, Arkansas, 1830–1983. Marceline, MO: Walsworth Publishing Company, 1983.
“Oak Grove Town—Site Laid Out Ca. 1890.” Carroll County Historical Society Quarterly 19 (July and October 1974): 2–6.
Steven Teske Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
Last Updated 3/3/2017
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