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
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
Unlike most railroad towns where the name
evolved from a railroad worker, Wyatt
believes the name Letona came from its
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
One of the more famous residents in Letona,
Goodwin remembers a local doctor from the
"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
Letona, a little piece of heaven quietly
tucked away from the mainstream life of
Searcy, seems to be a country explorerís
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.)