The Rev. William A. Hutto, a Baptist minister, selected the name from the Bible, but geographically it is dissimilar. Damascus of old is in a fertile valley of a rich, wide river, but the Damascus of Faulkner County is placed atop a bleak hill which extends about eight miles. It is surrounded by clear mountain streams. Pine Mountain Creek is on the north and Batesville Creek is on the south east. This latter creek winds to the west, where it empties into Cove Creek to firm the western edge of this eight-mile plateau.
The Hutto family moved to this area in 1874, and was later joined by the Brown family. At that time the only road was in a dense forest some four miles east. It was the Clinton-Little Rock road, which passes through tiny Gravesville.
William A. Hutto decided on two tracts of homestead land split by the county line. His farm is the present site of this small village. Alex A. Brown, a son-in-law, also took up land nearby. The Hutto homestead was a cabin 18x20 feet with a dirt floor at first. A board floor was fitted in when time allowed. This home still stands and is now occupied by Eugene Presley.
This is not a close-knit community, but other settlers began to arrive. The Lee family came soon after the Hutto and Brown families, as did James Spires. Spires took land some two miles southwest of the Hutto community. In 1883 his daughter, Allie Spires, died and was buried on the home farm. The burial ground is known today as Spires Cemetery and is used by many families of this community.
During the summer of 1881 the men of Hutto community got together and erected a brush arbor on a place a mile south. This was the first school on the community. Willis Hammons had come here from Mississippi and was asked to become the school teacher. The arbor was located near his home of Henry Sledge, so that in inclement weather shelter could be provided for the young children.
This brush arbor was moved to another location at the Dunbar Spring, just off the present Highway 65. The school was to remain here until a little schoolhouse was erected in the town proper. Miss Parilee Martin taught the youngsters for a term or two, after which she was succeeded by Miss Ruth Stevens.
In 1889 The Baptist Church was erected and the school offered both summer and winter terms of two or three months each. This school still operated with one teacher, until 1900, when a two-story, four-room building was erected. Students came from as far as four miles each day to school. The teachers received $20 to $30 per month in this era.
W.E. Halbrook instituted the Halbrook School System in 1911. He located his schools at Martinville, Damascus and Choctaw. Many boarding students came here from other counties to attend this school.
The 1912 school at Damascus was in a two-story building in an oak grove. The building was small but plans were being made to provide either a new building or an extension to the existing plant. Prof. J.N. O'Neal was principal. Private subscriptions were collected to aid the district with the meager funds provided by the state public school tax. One hundred dollars was the average donation of each family. A School Improvement Association was formed to put on plays, or other community activities to provide funds for the school which provided their children with a high school diploma.
During the depression, which caused a lot of schools to close because of a shortage of tax monies, the citizens of Damascus provided a high school by private donations of time and money. The Damascus school in later years has been consolidated with the Southside district.
The town was named in 1887. Then began a business resurgence. The mail needs of this hamlet were first met in the town proper Nov. 15, 1887, when J.B. Allen was appointed the first postmaster. Other postmasters have been T.M. Patterson, A.A. Brown, Howell Tindall, a Mr. Landers, Admon Wilson, J.W. Hensley, Mrs. Sadie D. Privitt and Miss Ruth Loyd.
Prior to the establishment of the Damascus post office, the mail had been received at nearby Martinville or at Bee Branch. Later it was received at Pinnacle Springs when that town blossomed on nearby Cadron Creek. The mail came up from Conway through Greenbrier.
The first merchant here was A.A. Brown, who operated a general mercantile business in 1888. The Will Chapman and the Conklin general stores were both opened in 1890. Fletcher Hawkins placed in operation a cotton gin that year. This was the early "R" type pf cotton press which was powered by mules or oxen. Two or three bales could be pushed through this press in a day. When the new screw press was installed at the gin the day's run often equaled eight bales of cotton.
In the early pioneer days the cotton seed was left at the gin and became a problem to the gin owner. Some farmers dumped theirs on the fields, where it decayed and was plowed under the following spring. It was then discovered that cotton seed was a fertilizer. Later the farmer put a shovel full in each hill of corn, with amazing results.
It also was discovered that the cows would eat the seeds that had been dumped around the corn stalks or cotton stalks which the cattle ate for forage during the winter. Nothing happened to these cattle, so the farmer began to store the cotton seed away in their barns for winter forage.
A brick kiln was opened at Damascus prior to 1890, E.M. Brown and Greenbrier Scarbrough operated this plant. They had a ready market for these early bricks, but the settlers soon found that they disintegrated, for the clay in this area was not suitable for brickmaking. This business failed.
Dr. Cantrell moved to Damascus at this time to serve the medical needs of the now fast-growing community. Howell Tindall installed another cotton gin, and in 1892, he began the grinding of corn and wheat in his steam-driven grist mill.
Cotton in this era, 1880-90, sold for seven or eight cents per pound. This made a bale worth about $40. By the time cotton seeds could be sold for $3 a ton. The cotton was sold at Plummerville. Often it was necessary to borrow a neighbor's mule or oxen to deliver this cotton to Plummerville. In fact, the entire community took turns using each other's equipment for this trip.
Dutch Spiries purchased a cotton gin which would turn out 20 bales of cotton per day. The boiler was wagoned in from Morrilton with a team of six yoke of oxen which took three days to cover the 27 miles. By 1948 there were no cotton gins in the area.
Alonzo Brown became a chicken peddler in this area. He later opened a store at Damascus in connection with his peddler route. Butter, eggs and chickens were collected from the countryside and marketed in Little Rock. The fortnightly run to Little Rock by Brown brought the producers three cents per dozen for eggs and 12 cents per pound of butter. Around 1890 great flocks of cattle, sheep. hogs, turkeys or geese were driven through Damascus on their way to Little Rock or Morrilton. Many farmers now raised geese in an effort to keep the crabgrass out of their cotton.
About 1890 a colony of Negroes was brought into this community into this community by a white man from Memphis, Tenn. Many of them settled on homesteads of land that had not yet been taken by the white people along the ridges south of Damascus in the community which today is called Solomon's Grove. Some of the farms however, were very near the town.
Some of the Negro families were the two Jackson men, Chambers, the Jenkins farm, a Patton man and those of Riley and Moses Thomas. The latter two were on the Van Burn County side of Damascus.
The Chambers farm was 160 acres. George Chambers was the first Negro to die here was buried on his farm. A Negro school was opened here, constructed of logs, but it burned in 1895. The school was then moved to the Riley farm west of Damascus, where it remained until it was moved to Solomon's Grove and a modern stone building could be erected there.
A church for this Negro community was erected on the Jackson farm. When this farm was sold to a white man the building was moved to another place, although the cemetery remains. For some reason the Negro population here began to decrease and by 1917 all of the Damascus Negro residents had moved south into the tiny black community of Solomon's grove, some three or four miles away.
Other Negro families here in the 1890 decade were those of Soll Smith, Call Smith, Lige Allen, Bill Falls, Buck Goff, Major Bailey, Dick Fields and Frank Walker.
In 1924 a new concrete roadway was constructed up from Conway. Ten years earlier, William A. Brown had purchased a Model T Ford and was this the first rural mall carrier to institute a motor route in Arkansas.
During 1933 a new highway, U.S. 65, was surveyed through Damascus and was relocated a quarter-mile east of the main business district of Damascus. In 1935 this roadway was paved, causing many new buildings to be built along it. In 1948 the post office building was moved to face this road.
Claude Grable erected a telephone service line into Damascus from Quitman in 1935. In 1948 Douglass E. Fletcher of Alabama bought the system and in 1955 it was sold to Allied Telephone Co..
A Baptist church had been erected near the school complex. In 1944 the church began the construction of the new native stone edifice on the site of the old building.
The Church of Christ purchased a town lot in 1917 and erected a native stone building in the community that faces the Martinville road.
The Methodist church at Damascus was organized Aug, 25, 1946. A new sanctuary was erected on Highway 65 in Van Buren County.