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Gassville (Baxter County)

Latitude and Longitude:

36º16'59"N 092º29'39"W

Elevation:

764 feet

Area:

3.416 square miles (2010 Census)

Population:

2,078 (2010 Census)

Incorporation Date:

January 20, 1903

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

191

227

228

273

233

434

859

1,167

1,706

2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2,078

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gassville (Baxter County) has a history of settlement beginning in the 1840s. Its level, fertile plain and proximity to the White River made it an ideal location for families to build their homes. It was near enough to the river to provide transportation for marketing crops and far enough from the water to have a healthful climate. The area was originally called “Turkey’s Neck” because of the shape of the bend of the White River.

The Mount Pleasant Baptist Church (later the Gassville First Baptist Church) was organized in 1868, making it the second-oldest church in Baxter County. In 1869, twenty-one families arrived by wagon train from Cherokee County, Georgia, led by James Coffee. His father, Colonel James A. “Squire” Coffee, had settled at Turkey’s Neck in 1868 and sent for his family and neighbors to join him. He operated a cotton gin and a blacksmith shop under a giant oak tree (where the City Hall and Community Center are in the twenty-first century).

In 1876, Pinkney A. Cox and S. E. Denton opened the “Cox & Denton Emporium” (general store) that drew customers from northern Arkansas and southern Missouri. According to legend, Cox was an incessant talker, and his customers referred to him as a “gasser.” When the post office was established in 1878 with Cox as the postmaster, the little town was officially named Gassville. As of 2011, it is the only Gassville in the United States.

The Denton Hotel opened in 1879, followed by a millinery shop, a drugstore, two blacksmith shops, two churches, a bank, a two-story academy, and a canning factory. Gassville has experienced many of the “firsts” of Baxter County. In 1908, E. W. “Lige” Owens was appointed the first rural mail carrier in the county.

The city was also the location of the county’s first feud, which ended in the murder of the county’s first sheriff in 1892. Brothers S. E. “Eng” Denton and Lee Denton owned the Denton Emporium in Gassville. Just down the street was a smaller store owned by the Twiggs family and operated by John Twiggs. Both families owned large cattle spreads outside of town and had been good friends at one time, but bad blood developed between them, leading many in the town to side with one faction or the other. According to the evidence before the coroner’s jury, John Twiggs entered the Denton Emporium and began cursing at Lee Denton. As he was leaving, both Eng and Lee shot at him. He was carried to a boarding house, where he died about six hours later. About a week later, the Denton brothers appeared before the grand jury in Mountain Home (Baxter County) but were not bound over for trial as no one could say which single bullet was the fatal shot. By early June, one Jesse Roper—either a Twiggs relative or a hired gunslinger, depending upon the story—arrived to live at the Twiggs Ranch. A deputy sheriff attempted to arrest him for carrying a pistol but was unsuccessful and sent for Sheriff Abraham G. Byler to serve the warrant. When Byler and his posse approached the house, Roper flung the door open and came out firing his Winchester rifle, killing Byler.

The county’s first hospital was opened in Gassville by Dr. William Jones Rollins in 1923 and expanded in 1937. For years, it was the only hospital in northern Arkansas, also serving patients from as far away as central Missouri. In 1949, the Bull Shoals Gazette carried a story titled, “Largest Hospital in the Smallest Town in America Turns Out Cured Patients Almost At an Assembly Line Regularity.” The hospital closed in 1954. The building that had housed the hospital was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

Gassville also had the first—and only—drive-in theater in the county, which was opened in 1952 by Bob and Doris Brixey and closed in 1987. Gassville was the first town in the United States to receive city water works through the Federal Urban Renewal Program. It was also the home of the first industry in Arkansas to be sponsored by two counties (Marion and Baxter). At one time, the Mar-Bax Shirt Company employed more than 2,000 workers. Mar-Bax closed in 2006.

All of Baxter County experienced a population explosion starting in the 1970s. Part of this growth can be attributed to the opening of Mar-Bax in Gassville and Travenol Laboratory in Mountain Home. The construction of the two area dams that impound Bull Shoals Lake and Norfork Lake also made the area attractive to tourists and retirees.

As of 2010, the population of Gassville exceeds 2,000, making it the second-largest city in Baxter County. In February 2008, a tornado ripped through Gassville, leaving a destructive path through the city, causing one fatality and injuring many others, and leading to the closure of the Baxter County Historical and Genealogical Society’s museum in Gassville.

For additional information:
History & Families, Baxter County, Arkansas. Mountain Home, AR: Baxter County Historical and Genealogical Society, 2003.

Messick, Mary Ann. History of Baxter County, 1873–1973. Mountain Home, AR: Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce, 1973.

Shiras, Frances H. History of Baxter County, Arkansas. N.p.: 1982.

Maryanne Edge
Baxter County Historical and Genealogical Society

Last Updated 11/29/2016

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