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  Griffithville in White 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 said.

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 husband.

"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 house.

"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)