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Name changes have been attempted, but unsuccessful, for Newnata in Stone County
Written by: Tracy Crain
May 2001

Sweet Betty Avey has lived in Newnata her entire life. Her great-grandfather George Cooper was the founder and first postmaster of this charming country town centered in the heart of Stone County, near Mountain View.
 
“There’s no place like it,” Avey said. “I’ve lived here my entire life, and I think it’s a great area to raise kids.”
 
The county judge, Stacy Avey, describes it as a place where women and children are safe from violence and crime. He enjoys living in the area.
 
“The young kids play sports. We have baseball in the summer. They also go swimming and fishing down at the creek,” he explained. “A lot of the kids here like to play music. I have never really gotten into it, but everybody here seems to enjoy listening to it.”
 
When school is in session, students in the Newnata area attend classes at the nearby Timbo School District. “They have a good school system,” Judge Avey said. “People move here for that reason. Our teachers do a great job.”
 
As for local commerce, Dapha Avey, owner of the local grocery store, takes care of resident needs. “I’ve lived here for 25 years. I’d say it’s really quiet. There’s a lot of history here,” she said.
 
That is quite true and graciously helping to preserve that history is Betty Avey. Records and articles she has preserved throughout the years reflect more than just mere city hall data and her efforts are certainly appreciated by the townsfolk.
 
“George Cooper was perhaps the most famous resident,” Betty said. He named the town from a list that the post office distributed in 1900. He selected the name Newnata, which means ‘new birth’ or ‘new beginning,’ to be the name of the town. It had previously been known as Green Bush, Cooper Hills and Camp Cooper. “There’s been a few attempts to change the name after it became Newnata, but none have been official,” she said.
 
The Avey family is unique in that almost every postmaster of the post office has been a member of the Cooper-Avey family.
“My grandpa, grandmother, mother and sister were all postmasters,” she said.
 
The founding father, George Cooper, is perhaps the most memorable. According to records that Avey has saved, Cooper was both deaf, mute and illiterate. As a result, he used sign language to speak and was known for writing his name on important documents with simply the letter X.
 
Cooper made his living as a farmer, merchant and licensed distiller of whiskey and brandy, a business that was greatly appreciated by everyone from the town doctors to the regular residents who frequently visited his store.
 
Cooper also maintained a large orchard of peaches, but he was mostly known as being one of the wealthiest men in the area.
Previous articles tell a story of how his wealth got him into a “little bit of trouble.”
 
“His nieces were bragging about his money one day when a group of men overheard them,” Betty said. “The outlaws were quick to look up the uncle. They burst into his house one day and demanded his money.”
 
Cooper, she said, was known to keep his money in the house. When he refused to give the outlaws what they wanted, they decided to get a rope and hang him.
 
“When his wife saw him dangling, she gave the men the money,” Betty said. The outlaws, as reported, were later apprehended at the local casino, where they were gambling.
 
“There are a lot of tales about the Cooper men, including one of murder,” Avey said. “I’d say we (definitely) have an interesting history.”
 
Judge Avey, who enjoys living in this community of less than 200, describes it as a chicken, timber and cattle farming area.
“I have strong roots here,” he said. “It has changed a little in the past 20 years. It used to be that people could work at home, but a lot of them have to work in town now. Most of the property has been homesteaded and that has slowed growth down. It’s difficult to find land for sale out here, but I think that says a lot of good about our area.”
 
Travis Trammell, a local resident and native of Newnata, also enjoys living here. “Everybody knows everybody. It’s just a small town, but I think I’ll always live here,” he said.
 
Judge Avey’s wife, Renee, along with their children, Christopher, Audrey, and Zackery, describe it as a great place to live, too.
 
“Newnata is just the best community,” Renee said. “We hold pie suppers and auctions to help neighbors if someone loses a house, has an illness or just needs help. Everyone is really caring and they all work to help each other.”
 
(This article was revised 12/09 for historical archiving and is an excerpt from Road Trips; a weekly feature of small towns in Arkansas, which was written by Tracy Crain and published by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.)