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Western Grove (Newton County)

 

Latitude and Longitude:

36°06'03"N 092°57'14"W

Elevation:

1,073 feet

Area:

1.087 square miles (2010 Census)

Population:

384 (2010 Census)

Incorporation Date:

May 20, 1929

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

-

-

-

-

184

148

179

378

415

407

2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

384

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Western Grove is located on U.S. Highway 65 in the northeastern corner of Newton County. Travelers along the highway have made it possible for Western Grove to support a larger number of businesses than is typical of rural towns in the Ozark Mountains region of Arkansas.

Joseph Holcombe was the first to claim land in the area that would become Western Grove. As early roads were developed, the area gained a trading post. The community was originally established before the Civil War under the name of Marshall Prairie. Among the early settlers in the area were William O’Daniel (1849), Edward Potts (1854), and Lewis M. Potts (1861). The post office, established in 1854, was named for postmaster John H. Marshall.

Following the war, the area grew slowly. In 1886, the name of the community and post office was changed to Western Grove. That same year, B. F. Ruble and Ira Marshall opened the Western Grove Academy. They described Western Grove as “a neat little village…surrounded by romantic scenery, good water, healthful climate, and the best of society.” Their schoolhouse was a two-story frame building with two classrooms. It appears, however, that the school did not enroll enough students to complete even the first school year. By 1913, one of the academy’s former students, James Garland Ferguson Sr., had become principal of the public school in Western Grove and re-created the academy for his students. Ferguson, who was a politician, insurance agent, and philanthropist as well as a teacher, held a law degree from the Arkansas Law School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and served three terms as Arkansas’s Commissioner of Mines, Manufacturers, and Agriculture. However, this academy, too, was short-lived.

Around 1913, the community included a cotton gin, a grist mill, several stores, and several churches. Western Grove incorporated as a town in 1929. By 1949, Western Grove had two general stores, two grocery stores, two cafes, a blacksmith, and a garage for auto repair. Improvements to the highway meant more travel, both for the residents of northern Arkansas and for tourists passing through the area.

As of 2013, Western Grove has about fifty businesses and enterprises, including five churches, two trucking businesses, several lumber and construction businesses, a bank, two bed-and-breakfasts, and a head start center. North Pacific Lumber Company and the high school are the town’s largest employers. Western Grove High School is part of the Ozark Mountain School District and has about 100 students; the elementary school has about the same number. The population of Western Grove in 2010 was 384, predominantly white.

For additional information:
Lackey, Walter F. History of Newton County, Arkansas. N.p.: 1950

———. “History of the Western Grove Academy.” Newton County Homestead 1 (August 1959): 39–40.

Steven Teske
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

Last Updated 1/24/2017

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