Wolf Bayou

"If a squirrel falls out of a tree in Wolf Bayou, it makes the news," says Hill Top Cafe customer.

Written by: Tracy L. Crain
Arkansas Democrat Gazette
Sunday, May 27, 2001

Blink and a traveler could very well miss the community of Wolf Bayou.

It's a cliche, but so true. There's no post office. There are no stores. The population, although not exactly dismal, is not that large.

There are a few signs of commerce, such as the Hill Top Cafe that sits on the outskirts of town.

"Greers Ferry Lake is about the only thing going on out here. If a squirrel falls out of a tree, it makes the news," Katherine Woodham, a regular at the cafe, says.

As for employment, Woodham's husband Lyndle, states, "People either work or they don't work. It's a real laid back area."

Wolf Bayou, located in Cleburne County, does have a few morsels to offer those sneaky squirrels seeking snacks, rhetorically speaking. There's so much history here that former resident Louie Clark researched and wrote a book about the genealogy and origin of the township.

According to his research, the name of the community is believed to have derived from the creek in the area:

"There's a brooke in Wolf Bayou that people call a creek. Why the creek was called a bayou and not a creek is difficult to explain, but I think it had to do with the fact that original surveyors for this land were French, and creeks to them were called bayous. The first post office was named for the bayou and the name of the town was most likely a result of combining the name of the post office with the word wolf, a symbol that the area was laden with them."

The area, Clark further explained, was rough territory in 1818. When the first post office opened in 1852, it was one of the few between here and Quitman. As time evolved, it seemed the town did as well.

"Hillside farming, cotton gins, a general store, blacksmith shop and gristmill were here," Clark said. "It amazed me when I wrote the book and realized how much went on in this community during the early 1900s."

The Ward family and John Ross, are considered the founding fathers. Ross, Clark said, is the person who founded the community. The Ward family members were noted as the most prominent residents.

"They operated the gin, general store, and post office," he said. "A member of the their family, Otto Ward, became the first doctor. He grew up and died here. It was the only place he ever practiced."

Although no school system is in place today, Wolf Bayou was once home to a rather good one. Pictures that Clark has preserved show classmates lined up on the steps of a wooden school building where locals earned what's been described as a good southern education.

He remembers, "We had a girl in our graduating class who had a premonition of death and wrote about that experience in a poem. A few days after she wrote it, one of my best friends recited the poem aloud. The girl died a few days later."

Clark continued, "To this day, the lady who recited the poem can recall it as clear as day, and she's over 90 years in age."

Good times were also shared among the residents that lived here-- that's evident from Clark's second book, a pictorial history on the community.

Despite the strong roots and deep southern pride of its families, Wolf Bayou never quite developed into a full-fledged town, something that has been attributed to its location on the map.

"It's positioned between two hills, and because of that, couldn't keep a road in it," Clark said. "At one time, it moved to the top of the hill and it had the potential of being one and probably could have if it were not for the neighboring communities out here."

When writing of the town, Clark extends great energy describing the famous Cherokee Line that runs throughout the boundaries of the township.

"That line is representative of where the government had said the Indians would stay," he said. "It runs through the Northwest part of Wolf Bayou and will always be a part of this area and its heritage."

For those interested in learning more about the families in residence here, Clark is considering the idea of making extra copies of his book.

Clark, who resides in nearby Drasco, has already sold more than 1,000 copies of it.

"People from as far away as California will look me up and ask about purchasing one. Family roots run deep around here," he said. "We have a lot of pride in our memories."

Overall, Clark says, there is no mayor for this township, but one is hardly needed since the community lacks most of the criminal and drug problems that seem to run in accordance with some other rural areas.

As Katherine Woodham describes, "There are problems like that in a few towns up the road from us, but we don't have any problems in our area, and we're proud of that. We're trying to keep it that way, too."

(Wolf Bayou 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.)