White Countyís Letona is only U.S. town without a duplicate name, residents says
Written by: Tracy L. Crain
Arkansas Democrat Gazette
Sunday, April 29, 2001

The post office seems to be a "happening" little spot for the town of Letona, population 218, located in White County off of Arkansas 310.

Debbie Pearce, postmaster, describes her hometown as a great place. "All the nice people live here," she said.

Marlon Covington, a seemingly happy customer visiting with Pearce at the post office, agrees. "Life is great here," he said.

For all concerned, it certainly seems to be just that.

Hazel Wyatt, a resident who lives in one of the townís historical landmarks, an old hotel and former orphanage, is familiar with much of the communityís historical railroad and American Indian memoirs.

"The hotel, which now serves as my house, was built by Bill West in 1908. Some say it was 1910. It sits next to where the railroad track used to be located," Wyatt said. "After the war in 1945, people stopped utilizing the Missouri and Arkansas Railway train that ran through here and started driving cars. When the train dissipated, they took the MTNA depot that used to sit where the two pine trees are located on my lawn. The old railroad bridge and my house are about the only two historical artifacts left."

Unlike most railroad towns where the name evolved from a railroad worker, Wyatt believes the name Letona came from its Indian heritage.

"There were two Indian men who discovered the area," she said. "The name came from joining their names together. Letona is the only town in the United States without a duplicate name."

Community activities in this provincial Indian Territory mostly evolve around fund-raisers for the local fire department and events at the senior citizen center.

"The mayor has built us a new park, and there are some beautification projects going on with that," she said. "Otherwise, itís a quiet town. I hope it stays that way, too. We have our share of problem areas, but weíre working on them."

For enjoyment, children in the community spend summer afternoons jumping off the cliffs at the nearby Little and Big Creek Bluffs.

"We donít have any baseball around here. I donít think there are enough kids to form a league," Wyatt said. "There are mainly retired persons who live in this area, but they are all very active."

Dora Lawrence, for instance, is one of the oldest community members, and you can see her every morning walking. She walks everywhere.

Thereís a local pizza shop, an old country store, and a beauty shop located here. Or, residents can travel the 14 or so miles to Searcy if they need to go shopping.

For the most part, trail riding is a popular attraction here.

James Goodwin, a pastor in Letona, speaks highly of the community.

"I live here for the peace and quiet. Thereís no trouble. Weíve got our sour apples, but there are very few community problems," he said. "We have an up-to-date fire department, and our equipment is equal to any. We also have speakers from various law enforcement agencies who visit our town meetings."

What Goodwin enjoys the most about this place is the spirit of cooperation he finds.

"I like the fact that the community has been so good to help when needed. As the pastor of the church, Iíve found that we always have good cooperation when people need assistance. The hospitality here will equal that of any place," he said. "Maybe Iím bragging, but since I live here, I think I have the right to brag on my community if I want to."

One of the more famous residents in Letona, Goodwin remembers a local doctor from the area--Doc. Spain.

"Doc Spain was just a good doctor who delivered most of the residents in this town," Goodwin said. "Everyone knew and loved him. People travel to visit the old house where he lived. He was one of the nicest men in the area and has one of the greatest legacies following him."

A local teenager, Shannon Pearce, appreciates the bare-knuckled, hardworking life his parents have made here among the rural landscape of Letona and is familiar with much of its history.

"Along with the hotel and the railroad, I know that we used to have some cotton gins," he said. "Thereís not much to do, so we go swimming."

Letona, a little piece of heaven quietly tucked away from the mainstream life of Searcy, seems to be a country explorerís paradise.

Residents here have everything needed to enjoy the simple, starry skied love of the rural outback without having to drive too far to enjoy the conveniences of the city.

(Letona is an excerpt from Road Trips; a weekly feature of small towns in Arkansas written by Tracy Crain and published by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.)