Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Mineral Springs Waterworks
Mineral Springs Waterworks

MINERAL SPRINGS WATERWORKS, MINERAL SPRINGS, HOWARD COUNTY

SUMMARY

The Mineral Springs Waterworks is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with local significance under Criterion A for its association with the Public Works Administration activities in Mineral Springs, Howard County, Arkansas. Also, it is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C for its unique 1930s waterworks construction. The Mineral Springs Waterworks is being submitted under the multiple property listing “An Ambition to Be Preferred: New Deal Recovery Efforts and Architecture in Arkansas, 1933-1943.”

ELABORATION

The region that would later become Howard County was first inhabited by hunters, gatherers, and nomadic tribes. Located near the Red River, the area was also home to the Caddo Native Americans. European accounts from early explorers in the 16th and 17th centuries show the sophisticated organization of this tribe which occupied the Red River Valley region. The Caddo were recognized by their excellent skills in deer hunting in this forest area. One of the trees of the area, bois d’arc, was named by the Europeans in honor of the Caddo’s bow making skills. When the French and Spanish entered the area, they were assisted by the Caddo. The Caddo became a liaison between the Europeans and Native American tribes. But the Caddo were forced to move further west with the other Native Americans and disappeared from the area by 1855. [1]

During Arkansas’s territorial years 1819-1836, the only public road, the Southwest Trail provided ground access across the territory, starting at the Mississippi River, across a corner of southeast, Missouri and 300 miles to the town of Fulton, Arkansas, on the Red River. After the Louisiana Purchase, Congress appropriated funds for the clearing of the road, which was re-named the Congress or National Road. The name changed once more to the Military Road, when President Jackson ordered Military troops to widen the road to sixty one feet. This passage gave rise to the steamboat landing in Fulton, and was used by people headed west to Texas. The area that later became Howard County was a distance from this road; thus, settlement in this portion of southwest Arkansas was slower than the rest of that region.[2]

In was not until 1873 that Howard County was founded and named after the Arkansas Senator from that area, James Howard. The County formed from parts of Hempstead, Pike, Polk, and Sevier counties.[3] Prior to this time, the early settlement of Mineral Springs stood within Hempstead County. The earliest known settler in Mineral Springs was Cokely Williams. In 1840, he arrived at the springs, near the Hempstead and Sevier county line. In 1842, Williams established a post office that he called Saline, just east of that line. Samuel Moren was postmaster. In 1843 the post office was discontinued but was re-established by Williams in 1843.[4]

Rev. Wesley opened the first store in this area in 1850, and he called the settlement Greenville. The town grew, and schools and churches were organized. Most early families were farmers; however, growth remained slow until after the Civil War. The town was revived when Joe Holcomb a prominent merchant, moved to town in 1867 and called it Mineral Springs. The town was incorporated in 1879. Between the years of 1868-1874 the town thrived because of its rich productive farmland. Farmers would travel to Fulton or Hope to sell their goods. However, the growth rapidly declined mainly because of the construction of the Arkansas Louisiana Railroad from Hope to Nashville, Arkansas, in 1884. A mass exodus of people moved to locate near the railroad in Nashville. By 1890, the town of Mineral Springs had a population of 250, and in 1892 the population was only 100 people.[5]

Despite the decline in population, the town of Mineral Springs continued to attract visitors because of the wealth of its natural resources and the springs.Citizens believed that the springs contained pure water that would heal the sick. The Biographical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas credits Mineral Springs’ popularity to the “healthfulness” of the springs and the school, which was in “flourishing condition.”[6] The numerous schools in the town made Mineral Springs an education center for the area. Even before the county was established in 1874, the Jones Methodist School and the Hayes Academy boarding school were established. By 1890 the Mineral Springs School and South Arkansas College were founded.[7]

Yet, many people believed that a form of transportation was necessary to revive the town. In 1907, the Brown Henderson Improvement Company introduced a new rail line that ran from Nashville to Ashdown, Arkansas, where it linked with the Kansas City Southern Railroad. In addition to serving the lumber company this line promoted settlement in the communities adjacent to the line. This line made a stop in Mineral Springs. Cotton farming flourished due to this new line.[8] The business location of the town shifted its center from what was referred to as old town to its present location. Prominent businesses included Sam Dillards’ Cotton Gin, Wolff’s Drug Store, Kents, T. J. Dillards, Bank of Mineral Springs, Dickinson Brothers, and the Mineral Springs Hardware Co. Dr. Wolfe was given a franchise for electric lights for the town. Within the following five years, the town established a public watering place. An artesian well was drilled between the Hardware and Drug Store. The constant water flow often created a bog in the dirt street.

In the 1930s, the infrastructure of the town was improved, and a new water system was installed. By this time the cotton industry, similar to the population, was on a downward slope. Facing hardships of the Depression, the town sought aid from the Federal Government. Mineral Springs received a total of $34,444.00 in funds from the Public Works Administration.

This amount exceeded the estimated cost of the project which was $34,379.[9] In 1936, the project was finished with a deep well drilled and water tower built on the northeast corner of the public square in old town. There were no chemicals added to the water except for the minimum required amounts of chlorine. In addition to the improved water system, the town benefited from several New Deal projects including the paving of roads, the construction of a new gymnasium for the elementary school, a new library, and two canning kitchens. Even though the town’s population suffered from the Depression, the community worked together to improve the conditions of Mineral Springs. [10]

A new water well was drilled in 1985; however, the original water tower still stands. The Mineral Springs Waterworks remains in operation for the town of Mineral Springs. It is a reminder of the community’s progress and the Public Works Administration’s aid during the 1930s.



[1] Howard County Heritage Club, Howard County Heritage (Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing Co., 1988), 5.

[2] Ibid.,7

[3] Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas, (Chicago: The Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1890), 240.

[4] Howard County Heritage Club, Howard County Heritage, 69.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas, 243.

[7] Howard County Heritage Club, Howard County Heritage, 73.

[8] Howard County Heritage Club, History of Howard County, Arkansas ( Nashville, AR: Howard County Heritage Club., 1973), 30.

[9] Information on Public Works Administration (PWA) funding found in the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

[10] Howard County Heritage Club, History of Howard County, Arkansas, 31.

SIGNIFICANCE

The Mineral Springs Waterworks is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with local significance under Criterion A for its association with the Public Works Administration activities in Mineral Springs, Howard County, Arkansas. Also, it is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C for its unique 1930s waterworks construction. The Mineral Springs Waterworks is being submitted under the multiple property listing “An Ambition to Be Preferred: New Deal Recovery Efforts and Architecture in Arkansas, 1933-1943.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas. Chicago: The Goodspeed  Publishing Co., 1890.

Howard County Heritage Club. History of Howard County, Arkansas. Nashville, AR: Howard County Heritage Club, 1973.
 
Howard County Heritage Club. Howard County Heritage. Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing Co., 1988.

Information on Public Works Administration (PWA) funding found in the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.