County is home to lots of personalized streets
Written by: Tracy L. Crain
Arkansas Democrat Gazette
Sunday, March 25, 2001
Like so many small communities that originated in the Three
Rivers area, Griffithville was once a flourishing, sawdust, iron
clad, railroad town.
Founded in the late 1800s, legend has it--that this rural wonder
gets its namesake from a tall, dark stranger, mysteriously
remembered as "Griffin."
He supposedly traveled in on a train one day.
Where he headed from there, nobody really knows.
Throughout the years, the town has been associated with farming,
saw milling, and logging industries. It has a rich railroad
history--one that saw peak economic performances as the trains
stopped in during the railroad boom.
Melba Cohen has lived in Griffithville a good long while. She
speaks of the town with a kind, whimsical remembrance. "At one
time, there were eight stores, a barbershop, post office, drug
store, pharmacy, doctor's office, and two beer joints here," she
Griffithville, located on Arkansas 11, seemed to dissipate as
commerce grew in the nearby Searcy area.
"A lot has changed," Cohen said. "Some people have died, and we
lost a lot of the stores due to lack of business."
Perhaps the greatest loss came with the closing of the local
school last year. It is a loss that she remembers greatly.
The memory of the school consolidation that occurred in White
County between Judsonia, Kensett, and Griffithville saddens her.
She speaks with great pride of the one-on-one instruction she
received while a student in Griffithville and about the number
of successful professionals the school produced.
So upset by the school's closing, Cohen wrote an article
describing the loss. Reflecting back, she stated, "In 1939, it
was a beautiful school building. Now it is nothing more than a
memory of burning embers. We all know that time marches on, but
along with the burning embers, a part of our past has died."
That loss is tender for many of the residents who very much felt
as Cohen did about the closing of the school system. "We took a
lot of pride in our teachers," she said. "It was a great place
to go to school. Everyone here hated to see it close."
As for the community today, there are hopeful signs of economic
improvement--however scarce they might be. There are four
churches, a convenience store, a post office, and a community
center in existence.
In addition, there are a few parks for local children. One
playground, in particular, Hamilton Park, located inside the
city limits, was named after long time resident Wilma Hamilton's
"He was the former mayor," Cohen said. "When he passed away, he
had several plans for the community. The park was just one of
the projects he was responsible for initiating."
Lane Chapman, a newcomer to the community, describes the town
with one sentence. "I'd say it's quiet."
Chapman, who just moved a year-and-a-half ago, said the reason
he settled here is because he was able to get a good deal on a
"I moved here from Beebe," he said. "So far, everyone's been
real nice and very friendly. The time it's not great to live
here is during the fall when the big trucks go down the highway
filled with rice. Other than that, it's a great place."
Part of Chapman's reasoning relates to the people who live here
where the camaraderie is jovial and sincere. Although only a
small community of 237, there are fund-raising suppers held in
support of the local volunteer fire department.
There are also Fourth of July celebrations every couple of years
as well as deer and duck hunting opportunities.
Cohen believes the people are what make this community
different. "They're all very nice," she said. "I think we have
some great residents. There's no place I'd rather be. I have
three daughters who live in Little Rock, and I can't see myself
ever leaving. As time moves on, you have to, I suppose. One day
soon, I guess I will."
Along with its residents, there's also a lot to be said for the
rural charm of the area. It's a place bursting with color, fresh
flowers, and a variety of small town treasures that are had to
located anywhere else.
For instance, there is an interesting novelty about this
place--many of the residents here have their own street named
after them or something that's similar.
Then, there are the yards. The first driveway entrance in town,
that belongs to Buck and Wilma Court, is decorated with stars,
ducks, and yard flowers.
Overall, Griffithville is a beautiful, unique place with plenty
of serenity to be found.
(Griffithville is an excerpt from Road Trips; a weekly feature
of small towns in Arkansas written by Tracy Crain and published
by the Arkansas Democrat)