Dusty Relics of Arkansas History

July 8-14, 2019

By Bob Denman


Origins of city names


If you were to spend any time at all looking at an Arkansas State Highway map and the some 1,300 cities, towns, and communities identified, you might think our state has a monopoly on strange and unusual town names.


Hogeye, Greasy Corner, Oil Trough, Toad Suck, Cotton Plant, and Fifty-Six – Arkansas would support that line of thought. Some are most colorful and descriptive while some are historically significant and in danger of being lost to history. So, let’s remember some of the unique places along the state and county roads of Arkansas. 


For starters, many are named after Arkansas natural resources and easy to identify their origins like Coal Hill, Bauxite, Zinc, and Onyx.


Others are named after the early French explorers Bayou, Metou, Maumelle, Petit Jean and of course Little Rock. 


Still others are named after the native American’s the French explorers found – Choctaw, Pocahontas, Ouachita, Caddo Gap.


Many are named after people and one of the most unique is Paragould, named after two railroad officials, Mr. Paramore, president of the St. Louis A&T and Mr. Gould president of the Iron Mountain and Southern. Jobs sprang up at the intersection of these two railroads and to keep the two companies happy officials named the community after both Paramore and Gould.


Now the aforementioned likely makes sense, but how in the heck did Marked Tree, Oil Trough, Fifty-Six, Cotton Plant and the Toad Suck communities get their names?  


Slashes in the trunk of a huge tree on the banks of the St. Frances River marked a spot of safe crossing for native Americans and early pioneers. The town of Marked Tree developed near the famous blazed tree.


In 1911, a band of hunters camped along the White River and staged massive bear hunts at a time when bear oil was a valued commodity. They killed so many bears that they ran out of containers to store the oil. They felled trees and hollowed out throughs to contain the excess.  Their campsite and the abandoned troughs eventually grew into the community of Oil Trough.


Pleasant Hill was the choice for a new post office in Stone County back in 1905. The postal authorities rejected the name because Arkansas already had a Pleasant Hill. So, they went with their second choice, the number of the local school district, Fifty-Six.


Back in 1846, Mr. William Lynch accidently dropped some cotton seeds near the front door of his new trading post while hauling in provisions. Left unattended, the seeds sprouted and matured in full view of customers who called the store and resulting post office, Cotton Plant.


And finally, Toad Suck, Arkansas’s most unusual town name. The site had a popular tavern where liquor flowed freely near the legendary steamboat landing on the Arkansas River. Legend has it that river men would suck whiskey until they swelled like toads!


So, there you have it.


Help keep these Dusty Relics alive and astound your friends with your knowledge of Arkansas’s most uniquely named communities.   




Paragould is named after two railroad officials – Mr. Paramore and Mr. Gould. Beyond the strange name, visitors can locate the oldest American Statue of Liberty outside of New York. At seven feet tall, this replica Lady Liberty got drafted as a war memorial for Arkansas World War I Veterans.  (Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism)

  • Bob Denman
    Bob Denman