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Butterfield lies in the northern part of Hot Spring County, north of Malvern (Hot Spring County) on Arkansas Highway 51. This small residential community once served as an important stop for stagecoach and rail travelers.
The Concord Stagecoach line established a stop in the mid-1800s at the present location of Butterfield, and a community emerged around it. The origin of the town’s name is unknown. Some sources state that the name came from the famous Butterfield stage line, while others say the community was named in honor of a Colonel Butterfield who made several stops at the community. Still others state that it was named in honor of a railroad supervisor named D. A. Butterfield.
By 1891, the town had grown large enough to establish a post office. Originally, the mail station was named Womble, after a well-established family in the area. It was changed to Butterfield about a year after its establishment.
The town grew around the railroad. It housed a depot, ticket agents, and other railroad services, along with other local camps and industries that supported the Western Pacific Railroad. Much of the equipment used in the area mining operations were offloaded at Butterfield. By the early 1900s, Butterfield was home to at least two stores, two sawmills, and a rock crusher that supplied gravel for railroad piling used by the Rock Island Line.
Methodist and Baptist congregations were established during the development of the community. The Methodist church was established about 1914, with a new building being constructed in 1966. A new Baptist church was constructed in 1955. Only a Missionary Baptist Church remains in the twenty-first century.
A school was established in 1892, with new buildings constructed in 1902 and 1920. The school closed due to consolidation by the 1940s.
Butterfield also provided passenger service to Malvern and Manning (Dallas County) from the late 1800s through the early twentieth century. The one-car locomotive used for passengers was affectionately known as the Doodlebug. It was reported to look more like a streetcar than a railroad car.
When President Franklin Roosevelt was scheduled to visit in 1936 during the Arkansas statehood centennial celebration, the dirt roads that provided transportation for the area were paved. The development of these same highways over the years led to the decline of the railroad and eventually the town.
In the twenty-first century, the community is mostly residential with a few small businesses. Most of the residents are employed in Malvern, Hot Springs (Garland County), or other nearby towns.
For additional information:
Spurlin, Juanita. “The Butterfield Rock Crusher.” The Heritage 19 (1992): 187–140.
Stovall, Larry. “Butterfield.” The Heritage 36 (2009): 35–36.
Williams, Gerald. “The Butterfield Rock Crusher.” The Heritage 43 (2016): 71.
Last Updated 2/13/2018
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