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Victoria (Mississippi County)

 

Latitude and Longitude:

35°45'24"N 090°03'21"W

Elevation:

233 feet

Area:

0.306 square miles (2010 Census)

Population:

37 (2010 Census)

Incorporation Date:

February 24, 1966

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

-

-

-

-

-

-

198

175

110

59

2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

37

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Victoria is a town in Mississippi County, located on Arkansas Highway 158 about three miles west of Interstate 55. Although it was founded in the late nineteenth century by Robert E. Lee Wilson as part of his plantation empire, the town did not incorporate until 1966. Since that time, it has steadily declined in size.

Wilson earned a fortune in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, acquiring and developing land that other people considered worthless. In 1870, he inherited 400 acres of Mississippi County land from his father. In the following years, he purchased more land, eventually owning roughly 50,000 acres. Wilson harvested the valuable hardwood trees from this swampland and constructed his own rail line to bring the wood to market. He then drained the land and brought in sharecroppers to plant cotton, corn, and alfalfa. Wilson established several communities to support the lumber workers and the farmers. Stores, schools, and even churches were built and essentially owned by Wilson and by his family.

The community of Victoria was named for Wilson’s sister. Wilson also had a daughter named Victoria; she married Frank Wesson, an heir of the firearms manufacturer. Meanwhile, the settlement of Victoria continued to thrive as part of the Wilson family operation. White and African-American farmers both lived in the area and worked on the farms. Later, Mexican workers were also brought in to work on the farms. Like other agricultural communities in Arkansas, Victoria was threatened by the Flood of 1927 and endured the Depression that followed. Managers of the family business began to replace workers with machines, leading to a decline in population. During World War II, a prisoner-of-war (POW) camp operated near Victoria, providing replacement farm labor to compensate for the American men serving overseas in the armed forces.

Strife within the Wilson family during this same time period resulted in a division of the land. Following a long-running dispute with manager Jim Crain, Victoria Wesson’s family laid claim to about 7,800 acres of farmland in the area of Victoria in 1948. The land is still owned and operated by Wesson Farms Inc., which has administrative offices in Osceola (Mississippi County). Meanwhile, in order to acquire the benefit of city services such as a water and sewer system and locally managed police protection, the residents of Victoria chose to incorporate as a town in 1966.

Since its incorporation, the town of Victoria has steadily declined. Though nearly 200 citizens were counted in the 1970 census, the population had fallen to thirty-seven by 2010. According to census records, thirty-five residents of Victoria are white, and two are Hispanic. The town has no businesses, churches, or schools. The area is served by the Osceola school system.

For additional information:
Waldon, George. “Wilson Family Legacy Remains through Wesson Farms.” Arkansas Business, July 11, 2011, p. 17.

Whayne, Jeannie. Delta Empire: Lee Wilson and the Transformation of Agriculture in the New South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2011.

Steven Teske
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

Last Updated 1/24/2017

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