Tales of hidden treasures, ghost haunting abound in West Point
Written by: Tracy Crain
March 18, 2001

The town of West Point is an intriguing place. Located on Arkansas 36 East in White County, the Little Red River runs alongside this rural haven where tales and treasures abound.

Home to 179 residents, there are stories of American Indian ghosts, burial mounds, fishing expeditions, train causalities and community upheaval.

Rich in history, West Point was nearly voted the capital of the state in 1906 due to the amount of business activity associated with the logging industry and area lumber mills.

Described as being a “wild place,” in its time, West Point grew in fame because of the amount of racial incidents that occurred in the neighboring community of Georgetown, where train passengers were often victims or witnesses to racial persecution.

How West Point earned its name remains uncertain. Mark Andrews, a local construction worker who has studied the town’s history, believes it resulted from the town’s geographical location.

“The land north of the town has a lower elevation,” he said. “When the water from the Little Red River would rise, everyone would take cover at the high side. That’s how West Point evolved.”
Another account indicates the name could have resulted from one of the war battles fought in the area. As for the town’s inception, there is uncertainty as to when the first settlers arrived here.

“We know that there were Indians living on the land at one time,” Andrews said. “You can walk the fields and find a lot of really good artifacts. The old-timers in the area know where the mounds are located. One of them was offered $50,000 by the Smithsonian for their artifact collection. He was afraid to sell it because of the Indian ghost he saw that told him to stop digging.”

The view of the Little Red River, that encompasses most of the eastside of the road that runs through West Point, is breathtakingly beautiful. To say the least, there is ample fishing here.
The road is also home to several historical markers.

Across from the river is a rustic community. Various houses and mobile homes line the roadside creating an eclectic view. One home, in particular, seems to draw the most attention. Located in town, next to the bait shop, the remnants of a two-story home that was burned to the ground sits undisturbed.

There is a large, white vinyl sign in front of the house that reads in red spray paint, “We ain’t coming down. Nor for sale.”

A few houses down the street, there is a cross that sits in the font yard of a mobile home. It reads, rather simply, “Salvation is free.”

The burned house, owned by Bill and Janis Bales, was originally going to be a bait shop.

“It was built a year ago and is believed to have been burned down because of a grudge against Bill,” Andrews said. “Since that incident, the burnt house and the sign have remained in the same location, untouched.”

As for other commerce in the area,” West Point is blessed to have both a community center and a city hall. There is also a post office and grocery store located in town, as well as a Volunteer Fire Department and a Church of Christ.

Most of the residents, described as bean and rice farmers, have been here for the majority of their lives. Andrews describes the people in the community as nice, but nosey.

“There is a lot of gossip here. They want to know what you are doing; and if they can’t see it, they will walk up and look,” he said. “They don’t mean to be prying, but they do gossip quite a bit.”

Although the children in the area attend school in Searcy, West Point did have its own school at one time. That building is now home to a residential care facility.

Tony Kidd, an area resident, is considered a local historian. “He can tell you about all the changes that have occurred here as well as the history of the timberland, the work on the river and at the cotton gins,” Andrews said. “There are a lot of stories about the river because of the ferry that used to be here. There were 12 Union soldiers who are believed to have buried a chest full of goods a little way from here during the war. They all died and no one knows where the treasure is today.”

Jesse Martin, another resident, doesn’t note anything peculiar about his hometown. He just described it as quiet. “There’s not much to do here. I ride my four-wheeler a lot,” he said. “The river is really nice. We have good fishing.”

When asked if he will stay in West Point permanently, Andrews said, “Probably not. I think it would get boring. It’s a great place to visit, but you have to entertain yourself.”

(This article has been recently revised 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 in 2001.)