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Southside (Independence County)

Latitude and Longitude:

35°41'54"N 091°37'24"W

Elevation:

358 feet

Area:

N/A square miles (2000 Census)

Population:

N/A (2010 Census)

Incorporation Date:

October 24, 2014

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Southside is a second-class city in Independence County, south of Batesville (Independence County). It incorporated in 2014 to prevent Batesville from annexing the community.

Batesville, on the White River, was one of the earliest settlements in Arkansas Territory. According to the Goodspeed history of Independence County, the Trimble family moved from Kentucky to a settlement five miles southwest of Batesville in 1817. They were most likely the first white settlers in what now is Southside. Batesville flourished, while the population south of the river remained sparse. Neighbors of Jackson Trimble in 1860 included Benjamin Taylor, Elijah Harvey, Mary Prichard, and Thomas Crouch. 

Around the beginning of the twentieth century, T. J. Walbert started the Walbert Oil Company to drill for oil at Oil City, later renamed Southside. The Southside School District was once one of ninety-six school districts in Independence County; other smaller school districts, such as McHue (Independence County) and Salado (Independence County), were consolidated into Southside, leaving it one of four school districts in the county in 2015.

A baseball park was one of Southside’s main attractions during the twentieth century. Around 1960, First Baptist Church of Batesville established a mission congregation in Southside. The Batesville High School football team played its home games at Southside during some seasons. After 1961, U.S. Highway 167 was extended from Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Ash Flat (Sharp County), passing through the community of Southside and through Batesville.

In 2014, Batesville proposed annexation of Southside to allow room for growth for the city. An election to decide the issue was scheduled for November. Residents of Southside opposed the annexation and began the process of incorporating the city. In October, Independence County Judge Robert Griffin approved the incorporation petition, making the election moot. With the ballots already prepared, the annexation issue remained on the ballot and was defeated by a vote of 2,211 to 1,395.

The official date of incorporation was October 24, 2014, although the City of Batesville was contemplating a lawsuit, and a required thirty-day grievance period in which to file any opposition was observed. Batesville officials objected to the proposed borders of Southside because they included two-thirds of the Batesville Regional Airport. By the end of February 2015, Batesville officials had decided to drop their lawsuit and to allow Southside to continue to organize a city government.

Southside has two Baptist churches, a Church of Christ, a grocery store, a general store, two restaurants, and several automotive businesses. The population of Southside was estimated to be about 1,400 residents in early 2015.

For additional information:
Heard, Kenneth, “Southside Suit Dropped, City Set to Be 501st.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 28, 2015, pp. 1B, 10B.

Spencer, Angela A. “Ray Bowman: Southside’s First Mayor Focused on Keeping Promises.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Three Rivers Edition, August 23, 2015, pp. 4S–5S.

Steven Teske
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

Last Updated 9/18/2015

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