An excellent source for information on the history of Faulkner County is available at the Faulkner County Historical Society's website: www.faulknerhistory.com
HISTORY OF CONWAY
The City of Conway was founded by A. P. Robinson, who came to Conway shortly after the Civil War. Robinson was the chief engineer for the Little Rock-Fort Smith Railroad (now the Union-Pacific). Part of his compensation was the deed to a tract of land, one square mile, located near the old settlement of Cadron. When the railroad came through, Robinson deeded a small tract of his land back to the railroad for a depot site. He laid off a town site around the depot and named it Conway Station, in honor of a famous Arkansas family. Conway Station contained two small stores, two saloons, a depot, some temporary housing and a post office.
Conway was designated the county seat of Faulkner County in 1873, the same year that the county was created by the legislature. In October 1875, Conway was incorporated and, at that time, had a population of approximately 200. When originally incorporated in 1875, Conway was just one square mile surrounding Conway Station on the Little Rock and Fort Smith Branch of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad. By 1959, Conway encompassed 6.9 square miles. During the next 30 years Conway grew rapidly annexing a total of 15.4 square miles. During the 1990's grew even faster, adding 12.2 square miles. Conway now encompasses approximately 45.63 square miles. Almost all area annexed has been through petition by the property owners.
For many years Conway flourished as a trade center for a large rural agricultural area. Hendrix College was established in Conway in 1890. Three years later, in 1893, Central College for Girls was established, and Conway was on its way to becoming an educational center. The University of Central Arkansas was founded in Conway in 1907 as the Arkansas Normal School. Its economy was firmly established upon agriculture and the educational institutions until World War II.
After the war, diversification of the economy was started by Conway businessmen, and several small industries were attracted to Conway. Subsequently, additional state institutions were located in Conway, including the headquarters for the Office of Emergency Services, the Human Development Center, and the Arkansas Educational Television Network.
Conway has a sizable industrial / technological base. Industry located in Conway includes Kimberly Clark, IC Corporation, Virco, Baldwin Piano, and Snap-on. Computer database giant Acxiom calls Conway their headquarters.
HISTORY OF FAULKNER COUNTY
Faulkner County was formed from portions of Conway and Pulaski Counties. Faulkner County became the sixty-ninth county in Arkansas on April 12, 1873, by Act 44 of Arkansas' Nineteenth General Assembly. In 1875 the county lost some of its territory back to Pulaski County, but at the same time gained land from Pulaski County in another location. The residents in these areas did not get a vote in the decision; it was done by the legislature. The county is located in the central part of the state and contains approximately 647 square miles (including land and water areas). The county was named after a well known Arkansas politician, Sanford "Sandy" Faulkner, who was also known as the "Arkansas Traveler". In the territory that preceeded Arkansas' statehood, there were settlers near Greenbrier, Quitman, and Mayflower. The Cadron settlement, which was located at the site of an early French trading post on the arkansas river, was the most established. It dates back to about 1808 and came close to being chosen as the capitol of the Arkansas Territory. A group of Cherokee Indians being removed to the Indian Territory, stopped at the Cadron Settlement on their way along the "Trail of Tears". Several died of cholera while they were there and were buried nearby. The Cadron area flourished until the railroad bypassed them in 1871. Cadron Creek Park near Conway is located at the site of the Cadron settlement. A mural at the park depicts the settlement that was once there.
A majority of the early settlers in the area came because of the agricultural land. Figure No. 2 shows an early resident's observation on land types in the region. People settled near the areas of Greenbrier and Mayflower because of the soils, timber, flowing streams, and climate. In the 1900's cotton was the predominant crop, and the first industries in the area were the cotton gins. Cotton ginning continued in the county until 1972. As time went on, grains (especially corn) became popular crops.
The Soil Conservation Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCCs) had a major impact on Faulkner County during the Great Depression. Soil fertility depletion and erosion had become a serious problem by the early 1930's. Lake Bennett and Woolly Hollow Recreation Center (Woolly Hollow State Park) were created to control soil erosion and conserve water. The Soil Conservation Service sponsored camps to help farmers in the area. One of these camps was set up in Damascus.
Until the Civil War, water transportation was the main form of transportation in Arkansas and towns grew up in areas close to a navigable body of water. After the Civil War, railroads came to the area and train depots often became the focus of economic activity. Therefore, towns needed to be in close proximity to the railroads in order to survive. The railroads were vital to the beginnings of Faulkner County and Conway. In 1853, the Cairo & Fulton Railroad was chartered with plans to construct a railroad from Cairo Illinois to Fulton Arkansas. The company also decided to build a line known as the Little Rock & Fort Smith Railroad (LR&FS). The survey of the LR&FS route was completed in 1854. The route would start in Little Rock, continue in a northwesterly direction crossing Cadron Creek, continue on to Russellville, and cross the Arkansas River at Dardanelle, then continue south of the river to Fort Smith.
Colonel Asa Robinson was appointed as the chief engineer of LP & FS railroad construction. The track was planned to pass over Cadron Ridge causing a steep grade for the trains. Robinson decided that it would be better for the track to go through Cadron Gap instead. In 1870, a train schedule showed a stop in Conway (Conway Station) where the tracks came out of a curve to the west to go through Cadron Gap. One square mile of land was deeded to Robinson around Conway Station. A portion of this was given back to the railroad for a depot (Conway Station) and the remaining land was laid out as a site for the town of Conway which was incorporated in 1875 by the petition of thirty citizens. Conway Station had been chosen as the county seat two years before in 1873.
INCORPORATION DATES OF FAULKNER COUNTY MUNICIPALITIES
1868Quitman; 1875Conway; 1928Mayflower; 1938Vilonia; 1949Greenbrier; 1958Wooster;
1966Guy; 1969Enola; 1978Mt. Vernon; 1991Twin Groves; 1999Holland
Growth in Faulkner County coincided with building the railroad. In the Palarm area, agricultural development was taking place. Mayflower and Gold Creek were "flag stops" for passenger trains since they had no depots. The first major stop after Argenta (North Little Rock) was Conway.
Early in the Twentieth Century, relocation of a section of the railroad took place just north of Conway. A train tunnel was constructed that cut through Cadron Ridge which eliminated the steep grade problem, allowed for more tonnage to be carried by trains, and made the route quicker. Work on the tunnel began in 1902 and was completed in 1904.
In 1825, the Federal Government began surveying for a military road to go from Little Rock to Fort Gibson (in northeast Oklahoma). The military road entered Faulkner County at the mouth of Palarm Creek (where today Highway 365 enters the county) and meandered on to the Cadron. This road later became known as the Little Rock.
From the beginning, the county has been plagued with funding problems for roads. One of the first problems was whether Faulkner or Conway County would pay for the Springfield . . .
The General Assembly created six road improvement districts in Faulkner County during 1919. These districts assessed all of the property within a three and one . . .
U.S. Highway 65 was constructed in the late 1930's and was one of the first hard . . .
The completion of Interstate Highway 40 during the 1970's in Faulkner County brought new people to the area. I . . .
The first industry in Faulkner County was probably Stanley Mills, a sawmill and gristmill. Much of the industry in the county consisted of sawmills and gristmills until the turn of the century. Increased mechanization helped to create new industry everywhere, including Faulkner County. In 1911, the first bottling works between Little Rock and Fort Smith was opened in Conway. In 1934, Dave H. Ward began to make school bus bodies in Conway in his business known as Ward Body Works. This is still one of the largest industries in the county, but is now called IC Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of International Truck and Engine Corporation. Virco came to Conway in 1954, Baldwin Piano in 1958, Tiffany Stand and Furniture Company in 1969, and Conway Mills Division of Kimberly-Clark in 1970.
Faulkner County is also home to Acxiom, an "information age" direct mail and data processing corporation which began in Conway in 1969 as Demographics. Since 1969, the company has been known as Conway Communications Exchange, CCX, and finally Acxiom. They currently employ 1,600 people from all over central Arkansas and have national and international clientele.
The Conway Chamber of Commerce has made many significant contributions to Conway and Faulkner County. It began in 1891 as the Conway Board of Trade and became the Conway Chamber of Commerce in 1927. Between 1891 and 1927 the organization underwent several reorganizations and name changes, but it always worked for the betterment of the county.
Two of the projects that most impacted the county were the Lake Conway Project and the Conway Development Corporation. The latter created the Conway Industrial Park. Lake Conway was dedicated in 1951, and covers about 6,700 acres. The development of the lake boosted growth in and near Conway and Mayflower because people wanted to live on the lake. Lake Conway is the largest Game and Fish Commission lake and is a popular fishing area. The Chamber has also been instrumental in attracting to Conway and Faulkner County the State Civil Defense Headquarters, the Arkansas Children's Colony (Human Development Center), and the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN).
Faulkner County is ranked as the second fastest growing county in the state. Much of the growth is attributed to the impact of manufacturing jobs and the scenic beauty of the county. Many families from Pulaski County, and other surrounding counties, have moved to Faulkner County, reportedly, because of the small town atmosphere and quality schools. The population of Faulkner County in 1990 was 60,006 and the projected population for 2010 is 108,730.6 Even with the constant influx of people and new development, Conway, Greenbrier, Vilonia and other cities in Faulkner County still strive to maintain that small town atmosphere which appeals to so many people.
When originally incorporated in 1875, Conway was just one square mile surrounding Conway Station on the Little Rock & Fort Smith (LR&FS) Branch of the Cairo & Fulton Railroad. Conway expanded gradually over the next 85 years. By 1959, Conway encompassed only 6.9 square miles. During the next 30 years, Conway grew more rapidly annexing a total of 15.4 square miles. During the 1990s, Conway has grown even faster adding 12.2 square miles during the decade. Conway now encompasses a total area of approximately 45.5 square miles, but is adding new territory almost monthly. It is important to note, that for many years Conway's annexations have been by petition and it is Conway's policy to annex only if the property owners in the affected area assume the financial burden of extending Conway Corporation water and sewer lines into the annexed area.
Although a Mayflower post office was first established in 1880, in 1928 the community formally incorporated a small area that straddled both the Missouri Pacific Railway (formerly LR&FS) and old Highway 65 (which was relocated and improved in 1931 and is now designated Hwy. 365). Subsequent annexations were small until 1977, when the city substantially enlarged its territory by annexing to the west and north, including residential neighborhoods adjacent to Lake Conway. Mayflower now encompasses a total area of 3.0 square miles.
In 1938, the community of Vilonia incorporated a small area located along what is now designated Hwy. 64. Vilonia's total land area, is presently 6.4 square miles.
Conway is located in central Arkansas at Latitude 35°05'25" North and Longitude 92°26'49" West. The official Conway elevation measured at Cantrell Field Conway Municipal Airport is 320.6 feet. Conway lies north of Round Mountain, elevation 560 feet; and south of the Cadron Ridge, elevation 550 feet. The Arkansas River bounds Conway on the west and Lake Conway, an Arkansas Game and Fish reservoir, lies to the south-east of Conway. City-owned Beaverfork Lake lies northeast of Conway.