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Willisville (Nevada County)

Latitude and Longitude:

33°31'01"N 093°17'54"W

Elevation:

358 feet

Area:

1.584 square miles (2010 Census)

Population:

152 (2010 Census)

Incorporation Date:

July 6, 1971

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

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

209

196

188

2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

152

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willisville is a town in southern Nevada County. It is located on U.S. Highway 371.

Caddo Indians were living in what would become Nevada County when the land was acquired by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Gradually, white settlers moved into the area to farm cotton and other crops. Thomas Mendenhall purchased land south of the future location of Willisville in 1855 and 1856. Nathan Ray purchased land just north of that location in 1860.

After the Civil War, Jason Tyson opened a general store where Willisville is now located. Tyson had moved from Alabama to Arkansas in 1860 and had served in the Confederate army. In 1883, his son John was named postmaster of a post office that was to be named Tyson’s Store. The name was changed to Willisville, evidently to honor Willis G. Herring, who was appointed postmaster in 1893. The Goodspeed history of Nevada County, published in 1890, described Willisville as “a post village” that had two country stores, a grist mill, and a cotton gin. A business directory published in 1892 mentions two general stores and a grist mill and gin, the latter owned by Herring. The directory also notes a population of forty and that the nearest railroad station was in Waldo (Columbia County), thirteen miles away. Cotton, animal hides, and produce were shipped from Willisville.

Six years later, the population had risen to fifty, the town still had two general stores, the grist mill and gin were owned by Bascom Charles “Charlie” Butcher, and the postmaster was A. N. Reasons, a physician who owned one of the two general stores. The post office closed in 1907, and Willisville disappeared from business records.

The north-south highway traveling through Willisville was designated State Highway 19 in 1926. In 1971, the roughly 200 citizens of Willisville chose to incorporate as a town to make federal and state money available for improvements. A school district with elementary and high school classes existed in Willisville into the 1970s. Early in the 1990s, the state highway passing through Willisville was renamed U.S. Highway 371. By 2010, the population had dwindled to 152, including 126 white residents and twenty-two African American.

Politician Joyce Elliott was born in Willisville in 1951.

For additional information:
The Goodspeed Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1890.

Steven Teske
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

Last Updated 1/24/2017

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