Historical sign of Princeton

When the railroad first came to Dallas County, it missed Princeton. Many today are unaware that the thriving community of Princeton was once a leader in South Arkansas and the first County Seat of Dallas County. Princeton had the first Post Office in the county, in the home of Presley Watts, Postmaster. The early schools in the area were at first private, but later public schools served effectively by 1874. The first public school building was a two-room building. It was used until 1898, when a new two-room building was built west of Highway 9 in the northern part of town. This building was used until 1936. The school consolidation of the 1930's and 40's reached Princeton in 1936. The Works Project Administration (WPA) built a brick veneer building that served until 1965 when the Princeton School District was consolidated with Fordyce. A small part of the school district was consolidated with Sparkman that same year.

The early churches in the Princeton area were the Princeton Baptist Church (led by Rev. Bayless of Tulip Baptist Church, who preached and pastored in Princeton as early as 1847, when a church building was built it Princeton), the Princeton Methodist (itinerant preachers from 1843 until Rev. Hayes began a work and a building was built in 1846) and the Princeton Presbyterian (led by Rev. A. R. Banks in 1846, who divided his time between the Tulip congregation and the Princeton congregation). The Ben Few Campgrounds organized in 1898 and named after Rev. Ben A. Few, was a popular place for revival meetings. The first year the meetings were held in a brush arbor. In 1899, the land was cleared and a log tabernacle was erected. The log tabernacle was lighted by coal oil lamps. People traveled in buggies, wagons and on horseback to attend the meetings. Rev. R. W. McKay was the first evangelist to hold a meeting at the camp.

In 1850, Princeton had four doctors and one dentist. The dentist was Dr. C. C. Adams. The doctors were Dr. Peter Clark, Dr. Miller W. McCraw. Dr. William F. Smith and Dr. W. E. Clark.

Although it is popularly believed to be a fact, Princeton and Fordyce were never connected by rail service the promise of prosperity offered by the railroads made change necessary. Princeton remained the Dallas County Seat until 1908 when it was moved to Fordyce.

Source: Merritt, Richard (1976) Review of Dallas County, AR History gleaned from the Bicentennial Edition of the FORDYCE-NEWS ADVOCATE.

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