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Omaha (Boone County)

 

Latitude and Longitude:

36°27'08"N 093°11'19"W

Elevation:

1,352 feet

Area:

0.383 square miles (2010 Census)

Population:

169 (2010 Census)

Incorporation Date:

February 1, 1936

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

-

-

-

146

91

195

160

191

207

165

2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

169

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Omaha is a town in northern Boone County, about five miles from the Missouri state line. The town is on State Highway 14 (old U.S. 65) and was a stop on the Missouri Pacific railroad’s White River line.

In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Osage—who lived in what is now southern Missouri—would frequently visit the Ozark hills of what is now northern Arkansas on hunting and fishing expeditions. After the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, both Cherokee and Shawnee moved into the area. Local lore says that a Native American village called Sha-wa-nah existed at the site where Omaha would be built, although the village’s existence has not been verified by archaeological evidence. Even after treaties were revoked and the Cherokee and other nations were moved to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), white settlers were slow to arrive in the area. A road from Harrison (Boone County) to Springfield, Missouri, did pass through the area. A post office was established in 1873; no record has been found to determine the the reason it was named “Omaha.”

The first postmaster at Omaha was John C. Noel. James Middleton, who would later become postmaster, moved into the area in the 1870s and established a store. Other men living in the area when the 1880 census was recorded were James Longwell, Calvin Zigler, Ruben Noel, Clinton Abbott, Joseph Cummings, Joseph Kimberling, and James Youngblood. A sawmill had been built by 1880.

Early in the twentieth century, the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad built a rail line connecting Newport (Jackson County) to Nevada, Missouri. Railroad construction in Boone County in 1904 required extensive building of bridges and tunnels. The railroad tunnel near Omaha is on the National Register of Historic Places. The town of Omaha was platted in 1903 and grew along with the success of the railroad. The Iron Mountain Railroad, as it often was called, competed with the Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad in Harrison. During the Harrison Race Riot of 1905, the only reported death occurred at Omaha.

A bank was incorporated in Omaha in 1907, and a wood-frame schoolhouse was built. As the town continued to grow, a new school was built in 1915, with a gymnasium added in 1925. During the period of school consolidation led by William E. Halbrook in the 1920s, Omaha was one of the eight school districts that survived, gathering students from the smaller school districts that were being closed.

By the end of the 1920s, the town had four stores, a doctor, a cream station, a hotel, and a canning company. The town also had five churches—Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, Assembly of God, and Pentecostal. The bank was liquidated in 1929 with the onset of the Depression, but all depositors received 100 percent of their money. U.S. Highway 65 was completed between Harrison and Omaha in 1928 and was finished between Omaha and Lead Hill (Boone County) in 1930.

Omaha did not incorporate as a town until 1936. The town continued to survive, mostly due to the school district and to traffic on the railroad and the highway. The school and gym burned in 1951, but both were soon rebuilt. In 1960, passenger service ended on the railroad, which by then was part of the Missouri Pacific line. Since that time, freight traffic has also been greatly reduced. Early in the twenty-first century, a new route was surveyed and paved for U.S. Highway 65, passing several miles to the west of Omaha.

Within the area covered by the Omaha ZIP code are nearly 100 businesses, including several stores and restaurants, seven churches, a poultry plant, a cattle ranch, an equestrian center, automotive services, construction businesses, hunting equipment services, a motel, and an RV park. In the 2013–14 school year, the Omaha School District had just over 400 students.

For additional information:
Boone County Historical & Railroad Society Inc. History of Boone County, Arkansas. Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company, 1998.

Miers, Linda. “Matlock Photos of Omaha Area.” Boone County Historian 6 (July–September 2008): 5–8.

Steven Teske
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

Last Updated 3/3/2017

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