Arkansas Properties on the National Register of Historic Places: Camden to Washington Road — Rosston Segment, Nevada County

Arkansas Historic Preservation Program - Monday, January 28, 2019

The Camden to Washington Road – Rosston Segment at Rosston in Nevada County was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 29, 2009. 


The Camden to Washington Road—Rosston Segment is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with local significance under Criterion A for its association with the establishment of transportation networks in Nevada County. It is also being listed under Criterion C as a good example of 19th century road construction in Nevada County, Arkansas.


The Camden to Washington Road, now Nevada County Road 10, runs through a heavily forested, thinly settled area. The vicinity is largely deserted. The land is no longer under cultivation except for forestry. Deer camps are common and vary from primitive camping to clusters of buildings. Hunters fill the woods along the road in the fall and winter. However, as recently as forty years ago, this area was marked with large fields under cultivation and family cotton farms dotted the countryside. The Carolina Methodist Church (NR listed 1/3/1991) served as the spiritual and educational center for a large, rural community.

Long an important thoroughfare, the Camden to Washington Road was, for almost one hundred and fifty years, one of the main roads across south Arkansas. Construction on the Camden to Washington Road began in approximately 1821. The goal of the construction was to connect the villages and settlements of southwest Arkansas with a navigable waterway at Ecore Fabre on the Ouachita River. When completed, the road was a link in a larger road network stretching from Villemonte on the Mississippi River to Warren, Camden, Washington and Fort Towson. It was an important link for points west to the steamboat transportation that came up the Ouachita, especially in the years before the Great Raft on the Red River was dislodged by Captain Shreve. It is also thought that some of the Choctaw who moved west to Indian Territory via Camden and Washington in the 1830s may have moved along this early road.

Likely a combination of new construction connecting with preexisting trails, the Camden to Washington Road was approximately sixty miles long when completed. The road is clearly visible on the Bureau of Land Management survey maps just west of Camden. These plats, surveyed in 1821, show the road leaving Fabre’s Bluff toward the north and west. The road continued west through Ranges seventeen and eighteen.
The road’s path in early Hempstead County is more problematic due to the fact that the Land Surveyor’s maps, completed in 1823, show no roads, fields, homes, or other landmarks. However the selection of the road overseers provides clues to its early location in Hempstead County. The appointment of men like John Nunn, Robert B. Musick, and Martin Parmer as overseers of the road gives good clues to the route of the road prior to 1830.

Caney Creek was a demarcation point for the boundaries of the areas of responsibility for the overseers in the 1820s. Caney Creek runs north and south just east of Cale, Arkansas. Present-day Nevada County Road 10, listed on United States Geological Survey topographic maps as the Washington Post Road, crosses Caney Creek approximately two miles east of Cale. After crossing the creek, County Road 10 continues east to intersect Nevada County Road 47 and the beginning of the Rosston Segment being nominated. From Cale, toward the west, the road headed northwest and crossed present-day US Highway 371 near Mt. Moriah Church; the first county seat of Nevada County at the time of the county’s formation in 1871. It continued to the northwest through hilly terrain where its route can be partially traced by the location of a post office. The road continued west across present day Highway 53 near its junction with Highway 73 just to the east of Harmony Methodist Church and the small community of Sutton, Arkansas. It is in this vicinity that Trammel’s “stand” or inn was located.

Sam Williams, in his memoir Printer’s Devil, makes note of Nicholas Trammel’s place and its importance along the Camden to Washington Road. Born in Tennessee in the 1780s, Trammel was the son of Nicholas and Frances Maulding Trammel. In the late 1810s, he established Trammel’s Trace, one of the earliest roads leading from southwest Arkansas into eastern Texas to Nacogdoches. By 1830, Nicholas Trammel was listed in the census as living in the Springhill Township of Hempstead County. On June 18, 1836, three days after Arkansas statehood, Nicholas Trammel entered 160 acres of public land in the Original Land Entries Book at Washington. It would be nearly seven years before he completed the process of acquiring this tract of land. Finally, patented on March 1, 1843, Trammel’s 160 acres consisted of the Southeast Quarter of Section 25, Township 12 South, Range 23 West. The pre-emption notation on the upper left-hand corner of his Certificate No. 2466 indicates that he had been squatting on the land prior to its sale. Trammel is spelled “Trammell” on the land patent. The site of the “stand” or inn that Trammel ran is believed to be on this land, now an almost impenetrable pine plantation.

Certainly, Trammel lived on the high ground overlooking Terre Rouge Creek for some time before he officially entered the land to patent. A creek in the vicinity bears his name. More importantly, a petition by the Arkansas Territorial Assembly to Congress on October 24, 1835, sums up the need for roads in Arkansas and identifies Trammel’s inn as already well-known and at a crucial junction of important existing roads. The petitioners noted:

“Your memorialists the General Assembly of the Territory of Arkansas respectfully represent that the sparce population of our Territory renders them unable to open roads for their communication with the neighbouring States. That large bodies of the publick lands of the best quality are unavailable to the Government by the difficulties presented to the emigrant in reaching them with his family and property. That no section of Country illustrates the necessity of opening roads more than that which lies between Columbia on the Mississippi river and the Town of Washington in the county of Hempstead crossing Bayou Bartholomew at or near John Stuarts and the Washita at or near Ecora Fabra and intersecting the Military road leading from Natchitoches La. To Fort Towson near Tramels a well known stand on said road. Of the utility of this road none can doubt when they are apprised of the fact that it will connect by a good and direct land conveyance the Navigable waters of the Mississippi and Washita rivers with two important roads of our Territory for the opening of which large sums of money have been paid by the United States, to wit, The road leading from Natchitoches to Fort Towson and the road leading from Washington to Jackson.”

Just to the south of Trammel’s property was a tract that had been acquired by Martin Parmer in the 1820s. Parmer, like Trammel, had fled Mexican Texas because of his role in the Fredonian Revolt. Parmer’s property was the east half of the Northeast Quarter of Section 36, Township 12 South, Range 23 West. Parmer had no land patent, but his son Isom (aka Isam or Isham) entered 80 acres in Hempstead County on August 11, 1827, and had received a patent on December 10, 1827. Isom was only sixteen at the time and soon conveyed the land to his father in a deed dated Feb. 2, 1828 and recorded in Deed Book B, page 184. Parmer had apparently constructed a dwelling and taken up residence on the public lands in this portion of Hempstead County. He may have built his home on this very tract well before his son acquired title to it. He had already been appointed by the Court of Common Pleas on May 24, 1827, as the overseer of a road from Washington to his house.

Parmer and his son soon fell afoul of federal authorities when Isom Parmer was charged with selling whiskey to the Indians. Within a short time, Martin Parmer sold out to George Hill of Clark County and disappeared with his family. Eventually, Parmer and his son would return to Texas and have a prominent role in the Texas Revolution. Nicholas Trammel purchased this same tract from Hill and his wife on December 14, 1846. Trammel’s deed is in Deed Book G, page 363.

This tract and Trammel’s 160 acres are now in Nevada County on Highway 73 just to the north and west of Sutton, Arkansas. An original survey from the County Clerk’s office in the Hempstead County Courthouse shows the Camden to Washington Road running along present-day Highway 73 and another fork also marked Camden to Washington Road meandering through Sections 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 12, 13, 24, 25 and 36 including the Parmer tract in Township 12 South, Range 23 West.

Parmer’s homestead soon became a local landmark for designating maintenance and construction responsibilities on the western end of the road. On May 25, 1827, the court appointed William Hickman, a Justice of the Peace and prominent early citizen of Hempstead County, to apportion the hands for the care of the road to Parmer’s home. In the March term of 1828, the Court of Common Pleas appointed road overseers to care for a road that was already in existence. Again using Parmer’s home as a landmark, the court decreed: “On motion it is ordered that John Nunn be appointed Overseer of the Public Road from Washington to the Cote Fabre [sic]; and that Martin Parmer be appointed Overseer of the said Public road, from his own House to Caney Creek; and that Robert B. Musick be appointed Overseer of the road from Martin Parmer’s to the Town of Washington.” Interestingly, in the same March term of 1828, Martin Parmer was granted a tavern license as soon as he produced a receipt from the sheriff for the required fee. It seems that Parmer intended to start a business on his land near this newly created and well traveled route. From this court action in 1828 it appears that a pre-existing road, perhaps John Johnson’s road, and a newer road to the Musick place were being connected together as the Ecore Fabre to Washington Road and were being placed under the care of the persons who lived near them in the sparsely populated country.

John Johnson’s road was likely constructed in the early 1820s. Johnson, an early settler from Missouri proved to be an energetic businessman. Johnson was in Arkansas as early as 1815 conducting exploratory trips with his father-in-law William Stevenson. By 1818, Johnson, and other members of his family, settled in southwest Arkansas. An early merchant and sawmill owner in present-day Howard County, then Hempstead County, Johnson lived along Plum Creek, just to the north and west of Columbus, Arkansas. He patented lands there in Section 31 of Township 11 South, Range 27 West in 1827.

Johnson partnered with Ephraim Mirick, another early merchant, to bring goods into the county from New Orleans up the Mississippi and Ouachita Rivers. Those goods had to come overland to his store. Sam Williams describes Johnson’s efforts thus: “He and Ephraim Mirick went to New Orleans together at an early day, and each bought a stock of goods, which they jointly shipped up the Mississippi and Ouachita River to Ecore Fabre (now Camden.) Here Mirick remained to keep watch over the goods while Johnson pushed through to Washington to procure wagons and teams to haul them out. On the latter’s down trip with the wagons he blazed and cut out the first wagon road ever opened between the point where Camden now is, and Washington. This was way back in the early twenties.”

The establishment of Washington as county seat along the Southwest Trail in 1825 and the gradual growth of the territory set in motion increased road building. Subsequent road viewers seemingly built on John Johnson’s initial efforts. In November 1825, William Ashbrook and James Johnson reported to the court of Common Pleas that they had completed marking out a road leading from Washington to Musick’s and in September 1826, R. B. Musick was appointed the overseer to care for the road from his house to Washington.

Robert B. Musick, the overseer of the Camden to Washington Road from Parmer’s house to Washington, had no land patents in this early period. Early Hempstead County deed records, however, show R. B. Musick selling two tracts of land north of present-day Hope in 1824 and 1829. The tracts were near each other but not contiguous. Musick sold 80 acres to Samuel Howard for $225 on March 12, 1824. The deed is recorded in Deed Book B, page 284, and was the South half of the Northwest Quarter of Section 3, Township 12 South, Range 24 West. On November 7, 1828, Musick and his wife Patsy sold the West half of the Southwest Quarter of Section 33 of Township 11 South Range 24 West to Hardin Wilson. The deed was recorded on August 8, 1829, in Deed Book B, page 311. This 80-acre tract sold for $400, suggesting by its price that a house and other substantial improvements were on the property. This tract which probably contained Musick’s house is just to the east of present-day Hempstead County Road 217, now a paved road that has been in use for many years. Hempstead County Road 46, a gravel and dirt road, veers off of 217 and continues on into Washington on the northeast corner of Washington Corporation. It is marked in places by deep embankments and could well be part of the old Camden to Washington Road.

Johnson and Miricks’ early efforts at road building illustrate the difficulties associated with conducting business and daily life in southwest Arkansas. Largely a rural area, even to the present day, decent roads were a necessity for connecting small farms, homesteads, and local markets to the larger economic network. As early as 1821 the Court of Common Pleas for Hempstead County was receiving petitions for a road to Camden.

In the July 1821, session of the Common Pleas Court, Judges Isaac Pennington, John English and William Woodward addressed the needs of Hempstead County’s citizens with this order: “On petition of sundrey [sic] citizens of the county of Hempstead praying for a public road to be laid and beginning at the present Seat of Justice running thence the most direct and practicable rout [sic] to the Corafabre [sic] on the River Ouichita [sic] and it is further ordered that John McLeland Richard Tate William Ashbrook and Stephen Vaughan be appointed reviewers to mark and lay out said road and return their proceedings to the next term of this court.”

What road these men laid out is now no longer certain, for the seat of justice was changed from the home of John English in the Marlbrook settlement to the newly-laid out town of Washington, a somewhat more central location in the county. As early as the March Term, 1824, the Court of Common Pleas was meeting at the home of Elijah Stuart in Washington. On October 10, 1825, the Territorial Assembly approved Washington as the seat of justice for Hempstead County. Thus the direction of the road was changed toward Washington and the road became the Ecore Fabre to Washington Road.

Just as Johnson and Mirick played a prominent role in constructing the western end of the Camden to Washington Road, John Nunn was a central figure in construction of the eastern end. John Nunn, the road overseer from Ecore Fabre to Caney Creek, was an important local official in early Hempstead County. He was one of the commissioners that selected the site of Washington for the county seat, and he served as a justice of the peace. Nunn is most closely identified, however, with the development of early Camden and Ouachita County, then located in Hempstead County. He arrived at Ecore Fabre in 1824, becoming its first permanent American settler. A native of Georgia, Nunn and his brother planned to move freight up the Ouachita to Ecore Fabre and then pole it by keelboat farther up the Ouachita and the Little Missouri to a point near Washington. Steamboats began to arrive at Ecore Fabre in 1824 and 1825 and travel to Washington by this route was heavy until the early 1830s.

Despite the popularity of this route, low water above Ecore Fabre would have prevented transportation on this river for much of the year, necessitating the Camden to Washington Road. Like Johnson, Nunn’s efforts at road building and maintenance were, though standard practice, very crude efforts. Standard road building efforts of the early 1810s and 1820s consisted of blazing a trail, marking the trail, removing saplings and brush to the ground, and removing trees. Tree stumps of varying heights were left in the roadway to rot. Often these paths were no wider than one wagon width and little effort was made to provide safe, dependable water crossings. In wet weather these early roads quickly became impassable. Many early roads were often called roads to nowhere as they frequently led from a home to a creek or home to fields.

A few roads connected farmers with market centers but the majority of antebellum roads were for limited local use. Nevertheless, the Court of Pleas efforts at connecting existing “roads to nowhere” into a longer roadway were ambitious and to be applauded.

In 1829, Union County was formed. The Rosston segment of the Camden to Washington Road became a part of that county and left the jurisdiction of the Hempstead County Court of Common Pleas. About 1830, the function of the Common Pleas Court was split into the Circuit Court and the County Court. Further information on the care and maintenance of the road under study is in the Union County county court records until 1842. In 1842, Ouachita County was created. The segment of road under study became a part of that new county and remained in that county until 1871. The Ouachita County court records were destroyed by a courthouse fire in 1875. With the creation of Nevada County, Arkansas, in 1871, the segment of road under study fell under the care of Nevada County where it remains today.

The Rosston Segment of the Camden to Washington Road being nominated is approximately twenty-one miles from Camden and forty miles from Washington. This segment of unimproved road runs from Nevada County Road 46 on the east to Nevada County Road 47, also known as Kirk Road, on the west. The approximately 2.5 mile long segment is in Sections 21, 22, and 23 of Township 13 South, Range 20 West. Most of the land along the segment of road under study was patented, with some exceptions, in the 1850s. A post office, named Caney, was established at Marsh’s store in Section 17 of Township 13 South Range 20 West on the Washington to Camden Road in 1850. The store and post office became the focal point of a scattered rural community known as Caney. The post office continued in operation until 1906.

William Marsh owned the store shown on an 1865 map produced by the Confederate army and served as the postmaster. This map of Ouachita County is a valuable detailed resource showing not only the road network but the cultivated fields and the farmers who work the fields. Among the different roads shown, the map includes the Camden to Washington Road, the Old Moss Road, and the Anderson Road. Even at this early date the map refers to the Rosston Segment as the Old Washington Road.

The family of William and Rebecca Marsh emigrated to Ouachita County from Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1849. William and Rebecca were married in North Carolina in 1845 and came to Arkansas seeking new opportunities. William was a merchant and farmer in both North Carolina and Arkansas. William’s son John followed his father into the retail business, most likely continuing to operate his father’s store.

Two other sons, William E. and Dr. George O., managed sizeable and successful farms in the area near the store and the Rosston Segment of the Camden to Washington Road. Dr. George was also one of the few physicians in the area and his services were therefore in high demand. The Marsh family were all of the Methodist Episcopal faith and more than likely were prominent members of the Carolina Methodist Church.

Along with the Marsh family the Magness family was well known in the area. James Magness was an early settler along the road who made his living trapping, hunting and operating a crude inn for travelers in the sparsely populated region. Sam Williams described the locale thus:

“People traveling from Washington to Camden, used frequently to stay all night at Magness’, although it was a pretty rough place to stop. For a long time there were only about four houses on the road between Washington and Camden. One was at the Williamson place, six miles from Washington; then Capt. James Cantley’s twelve miles; then old Nick Trammell’s, twenty miles; then the Magness place, forty miles, between which and Camden, a distance of twenty miles, there was not a solitary house. It was a matter of necessity to stop there, if the accommodations were somewhat rough.”

Magness was a rough frontiersman and early settler who married into the well known Tate family of Ouachita County. Magness owned land on the south side of the Camden to Washington Road in the vicinity of the Carolina Church. He received land patents on lands in Sections 22 and 27 of Township 13 South, Range 20 West in 1837 and 1839 and in Section 13 of Township 13 South, Range 21 West in 1850. His daughter Cassandra Magness, whom Williams also describes, received a land patent on forty acres in Section 21 of Township 13 South Range 20 West in 1839. W. C. Hatley, who patented lands in the 1840s, purchased Magness’ interests in the area. The location of his farm can be seen on the 1865 Confederate Army map.

The length of the Camden to Washington Road and the western and eastern termini made it a market road. Lesser feeder roads connected from the north and south. Caney, established circa 1850, was on the wane by 1900 and had its post office discontinued in 1906. The Carolina Methodist Episcopal Church (NR listed 1/3/1991) was started in approximately 1856. The current location of the church was purchased from the John W. Shell and W. C. Hatley families in 1870. Construction of the church was completed in 1871. It remained a center for religion and education until well into the twentieth century.

Carolina Methodist Church quickly became and long remained, with regular services until 1977, important to the community along the Camden to Washington Road. It served the religious needs of both races in the area. As was common to Methodist Church architecture in the antebellum south, black parishioners used second floor balcony to attend the service. Further solidifying its importance, the church ground was also the site of a school.

Established shortly after the Civil War the school served the local community well into the 20th century. Mrs. Claudie White of Rosston, now in her late eighties, remembers her mother teaching at Carolina in the 1930s. The church was called Carolina and the area was often referred to as the Carolina Settlement during the antebellum period because so many of the settlers migrated there from both North and South Carolina.

With the end of slavery and the coming of the railroad in the 1870s, many people from this area moved to Prescott and Camden to become merchants, businessmen, professional men and county officials in the new railroad town and the old river town of the New South. Farming along the Rosston Segment continued until well into the 20th century. However, a complex set of events including the Great Depression, the rise of mechanization in farming, and the development of the automobile, among many others, caused a general decline of the community. During World War II many of the remaining farmers left seeking job opportunities in the towns and cities. Today this area, once part of an important early thoroughfare, is largely depopulated and deserted.

Statement of Significance

The Camden to Washington Road, Rosston Segment is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with local significance under Criterion A for its association with the establishment of transportation networks in Nevada County. It is also being listed under Criterion C as a good example of 19th century road construction in Nevada County, Arkansas.


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Book C, Court of Common Pleas and Circuit Court (Volume 1, 1824-1828), Hempstead County, Arkansas Territory. Transcribed by the Hempstead County Genealogical Society. Hope, Arkansas: Hempstead County Genealogical Society, 1993.

Book C, Court of Common Pleas and Circuit Court (Volume 2, 1829-1831), Hempstead County, Arkansas Territory. Transcribed by the Hempstead County Genealogical Society. Hope, Arkansas: Hempstead County Genealogical Society, 1994.

Boyd, Gregory A., J.D. Family Maps of Hempstead County, Arkansas, Deluxe Edition, with Homesteads, Roads, Waterways, Towns, Cemeteries, Railroads and More. Norman, OK: Arphax Publishing Co., 2005.

Carter. Clarence Edwin, comp. Territorial Papers of the United States. 3 vols., Territory of Arkansas. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1954.

Court of Common Pleas and Circuit Court: Hempstead County, Arkansas Territory, 1819-1822. Transcribed by the Hempstead County Genealogical Society. Hope, AR: Hempstead County Genealogical Society, 1990.

Craig, Marion Stark. Early Arkansas Residents: Tax Lists of the Counties of Arkansas and Lawrence in the Territory of Missouri, 1814-1816. N. P.: Morgan Books, 1984. Reprinted Conway, Arkansas: Arkansas Research, 1992.

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Deed Records. Office of the Circuit Clerk, Nevada County Courthouse, Prescott, Arkansas.

Gaughan, J. E. Address by J. E. Gaughan at the Annual Meeting of the Arkansas Historical Society at Camden, Arkansas, on April 28, 1961. Unpublished typescript. Place File #013, Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives, Washington, Arkansas.

Geographical Site Locations of U. S. Post Offices in Arkansas. Microfilm. Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives, Washington, Arkansas.

Hempstead County County Court Records. Transcribed by the Public Works Administration. Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives, Washington, Arkansas.

Hempstead County Genealogical Society, comp. Hempstead County, Arkansas Early Marriages, Prior to 1875. Hope, Arkansas: Hempstead County Genealogical Society, 2004.

Hempstead County Records. Microfilm, 89 rolls. Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives, Washington, Arkansas.

Index to 1830 and 1840 Census of Hempstead County, Arkansas. Unpublished typescript. Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives, Washington, Arkansas.

Lloyd, Peggy S. “George and Nancy Hill.” Unpublished typescript, 2007. Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives, Washington, Arkansas.

Map of Ouachita County, Arkansas, 1865. National Archives, Washington, DC.

Medearis, Mary, ed. Sam Williams: Printer’s Devil. Hope, Arkansas: The Etter Printing Co., 1979. Second printing, 1990.

McLane, Bobbie Jones, comp. Hempstead County, Arkansas, United States Census of 1850. Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas: Bobbie J. McLane, 1967.

Nevada County Map. Prescott/Nevada County Chamber of Commerce.

Original Government Surveys. Office of the County Clerk, Hempstead County Courthouse, Hope, Arkansas.

Screeton, Lisa. “Carolina Methodist Church.” National Register of Historic Places nomination, November 14, 1990. On file at the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Steely, Skipper. Six Months from Tennessee. Wolfe City, Texas: Henington Publishing Company, 1982.

Stevenson, Mrs. James Harold and Mrs. Edward Lynn Westbrooke, comps. and eds. Index to Wills and Administrations of Arkansas From the Earliest to 1900. Jonesboro, Arkansas: Vowels Printing Co., 1986.

Thomason, Phillip. Historic and Historical Archaeological Resources of the Cherokee Trail of Tears, Multiple Property Listing, July 30 2002. On file at the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Union County County Court Records, Books A-D, 1830-1853. Microfilm Roll #21 of Union County Records, Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives, Washington, Arkansas.

U. S. Topographical Maps for Nevada and Hempstead Counties, Arkansas. 7.5’ Quads. Arkansas Geological Commission, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Willock, Billye Stevenson. William Stevenson Descendants. Unpublished typescript, 1996. Family History File #686, Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives, Washington, Arkansas.


www.brazoscounty John P. Blair, “Palmer, Isom (1811-1874)”, Bryan, TX: PDF, 2005.

Resource Persons:

Andrews, Pat. Hope, Arkansas. Nicholas Trammel and the Trammel site, Nevada County, Arkansas.

Cagle, Roy. Prescott, Arkansas. Photography of County Road 10, Nevada County, Arkansas.

Langston, Wayne. Sutton, Arkansas. Roads west of Highway 371, Nevada County, Arkansas.

Mitchell, D. W. Prescott and Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Nevada County Road 10 and the Carolina vicinity, Nevada County, Arkansas.

Pinkerton, Gary. Lumber, Texas. Nicholas Trammel and Trammel’s Trace.

White, Mr. and Mrs. Claudie, Rosston, Arkansas. Roads east of Highway 371, Mt. Moriah, early settlement, Civil War and the Carolina vicinity, Nevada County, Arkansas.

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