Ius Edwards of Madison County, Tenn., settled in this Cypress Valley community of Pulaski County in 1858, taking 160 acres of land in Section 11, T 5 N, R 11 W. This land is about two miles east of the present town of Vilonia. Edwards paid his first taxes, which amounted to $3.42. This was an assessment on his land and one horse, along with his poll tax. Of this amount 97 cents went to the state tax fund, while $1.45 went to the county and $1.00 went for the poll tax. During Reconstruction this land had taxes, in 1872, of $31.79, which is more than the taxes he would pay 69 years later in Faulkner County.
Vilonia was first settled by the family of Mary Downs in 1861. The new hamlet grew slowly. After the Civil War the families of J.R. Simpson of Mississippi and John Munn began new homes here.
Some other early families in the Vilonia area were those of Calbern and Martha (Dallas) Gunter who settled in Central Arkansas in 1857. A son, Roberts J. Gunter, was born in the community Nov. 19, 1869. The Gunter family was from Tennessee.
J.B. Williams was born Aug, 29, 1860, near Cypress valley, a son of J.C. and Saran Jones Williams.
George I. Kirby was born March 4, 1863, at Vilonia to Hybern and Mary Sowell Kirby. Charles W. Langford was born at Vilonia Sept 26, 1867, a son of Hiram Langford.
The family of W.A. Goss moved here during the Civil War and he was born near Vilonia on July 26, 1864. Mrs. Mollie Jones Hogan was born in 1868 near Vilonia a granddaughter of Joel and Hattie Coleman Jones. Her mother was Georgia McDaniel Jones.
In 1866, Joel J. Jones added his family group to this settlement. Then in 1870 G.W. Harris erected a frame cotton gin and grist mill which used steam as a source of power.
Dr. Carr came to Vilonia in 1870 for a general practice of medicine. Dr. Carr erected and stocked a general merchandise store, as did W.R. Evans.
By 1873, the new budding village was named Vilonia, reportedly after its Masonic lodge. The origin of the name ha not been recorded. During this time, John T. Sanford began a residence at Vilonia.
A Baptist Church was organized about 1880 followed in 1884 by a Methodist Church. Near the century's end the organization of an Holiness Academy was begun in Vilonia.
Postal service began Sept. 1, 1879. George H. Wilson was the first postmaster being replaced Nov. 9, 1880, by W.E. Vanlandingham.
The first school was erected about 1880. By 1901 it was a one-room school with Z.L. Anderson as the teacher at $32.50 per month. This school's revenues were provided by a five-mill school tax. In 1902, J.H. Downs accepted the school. In 1905 another room was added and two additional teachers were employed to instruct 153 pupils.
By 1911 the school district was able to erect a three-room school building for three teachers and 300 students. An auditorium was erected in 1919 with a home economics building, and an agricultural Smith-Hughes department was added in 1922.
The ladies Community Club furnished the home economics room, while the men if the community assisted the Vilonia young men in erecting a workshop for their agricultural instruction.
Maintaining a 12-grade school, the Vilonia district until 1929 never floated a bond issue, for the school patrons preferred to make private contributions over and above the school tax mileage.
A survey dated March 14, 1932, revealed that recent efforts to consolidate the school district were effective. From the Vilonia records the district income for 1931-32 was $9,344, while the year of 1928-1929 it had been only $9,185.80. The savings of teachers' salaries, however, was enough to take care of new transportation costs with the same number of employees. Previously only a third of the area students could attend high school. By, 1932m using a bus, they could reach a high school in the Vilonia district. In addition, school was one month longer than before.
Of course, Vilonia fell heir to a bad debt expense of some of the smaller schools in this consolidation. Of other district debts, $1,550 had to be paid off, but this was done without any increase of taxation.
Jan. 9, 1942, the $20,000 Vilonia brick school building which housed all 12 grades burned to the ground. The buildings have been replaced in the interval and beautiful new buildings now grace the Vilonia system's campus.
There are at present many small stores lining both sides of the highway which divides Vilonia in half. With the paving of the new Conway-Vilonia highway, in 1922, the benefits were immediate.
The community could now reach Conway in 30 minutes by automobile. In addition, jobbers now delivered fright and soft drinks without freight charges and at Conway prices. Freight from Conway in the past had been 20 cents per hundred pounds.
The Union cash Store at Vilonia was organized in 1921 with a capital of only $400. By 1935 it had grown to 86 members with $4,000 in paid in capital. The store was housed in a frame and rock building which cost the firm $1,000. In 1934 a ten per cent dividend was paid to the investors in addition to $250 of claims for redemption of stock of deceased members at par value.
The firm lost $1,100 in a bank failure, but still managed to pay a two per cent dividend. This was the only time it had failed to pay its regular 10 per cent dividend. R.L. Saye had been the manager of the Union Cash Store for all but one year of its life.
Fearing disaster in an impending story, the balloon New York, owned by its pilot, Clifford B. Harmon, an eccentric New York aeronaut, landed near east Round Mountain, near Vilonia, at 4 p.m. March 2, 1907. Harmon was attempting to break the world's balloon long distance record.
About noon his balloon was seen traveling over Vilonia at a height of 700 feet. Harmon came down within speaking distance to enable the pilot to ascertain his location. The balloon then left. About 4 p.m. it descended, landing in a farm pasture. The balloon was taken to nearby Austin, 10 miles east, to the Iron Mountain Railroad, where it could be shipped back to the San Antonio starting point of this ill-fated 790-mile flight.
During 1959 a new migration to Cypress Township occurred. Thirteen families of Mennonites arrived from the North, numbered about 60 persons who with their plain dress and ability to extract the fruit of nature from the soil, recreated the vents of 90 years ago. Other of this group are excellent cabinet makers or carpenters. They found life here little to their liking, however, and after a trial period they decided to return to their former homes.