Like many towns in Arkansas, the centrally located community of Cabot owes its existence to the railroad. It was founded in 1873 as a water and fuel stop for the Cairo & Fulton Railroad. The railroad was created in by Congress in 1853 when it granted lands in Arkansas and Missouri to be used as a right-of-way. The rail was to extend from a point on the Mississippi River opposite the mouth of the Ohio River, through Little Rock, ending in Fulton, Arkansas at the Texas border. In 1891 the St. Louis Iron Mountain purchased the route and awarded Cabot its plat and bill of assurance. Local historians believe Cabot was named for a railroad engineer.
In addition to the railroad, Cabot was also along the Butterfield Overland Stage route from Memphis to Fort Smith, and the legendary Southwest Trail. The first business in town was the Patton Brothers Mercantile, built in 1873 by W. M. Patton. It remained in the family until 1904. After leaving the mercantile W. M. Patton became the first president of the Bank of Cabot. Other “firsts” in town were: James Milton Park, the first doctor; The Guard, the first successful newspaper which began in 1885 by Dr. G. W. Granberry; the first cotton gin which was the project of James Neely in 1888, and the first church was Baptist, which is still in existence today.
Before the town ever came into being, a typhoid and measles epidemic in 1862 wiped out approximately 1,500 Confederate soldiers at a camp in the hills of what are now the Cabot and Austin communities. The camp was named for Brigadier General Allison Nelson, who was in command of the 10th Texas Infantry Regiment and was a staging location in central Arkansas for Rebel forces gathering from Arkansas and Texas. The dead were buried in unmarked graves and lay almost forgotten until 1898 when a group of Confederate veterans began taking care of the area. One of the veterans donated some land for a cemetery four miles southeast of what is now Cabot. After the Arkansas Legislature appropriated $1,000 for a monument in 1905, the remains of 428 Rebel soldiers were taken from the woods and re-interred in the new Camp Nelson Confederate Cemetery.
Small headstones of Arkansas marble were placed on the graves and a 12-foot obelisk was built in their memory. As the veterans grew fewer in number, the cemetery began to deteriorate and was overtaken by undergrowth. A restoration project in the 1980s by local civic groups and citizens restored the cemetery and it is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. According to local Civil War buffs, the cemetery is the only all-Confederate one in the state.
On March 29, 1976, several F3 and F4 tornadoes decimated the town. The strongest one tore through downtown, killing five people and injuring others, leaving millions of dollars worth of damage. Residents of Cabot fought back and they now have a thriving town of over 22,000 ranking it as the state’s 20th largest. In recognition of the revival after the devastation, the town held a celebration in 1978 called “Cabot: We’re Back.” That event has evolved into the annual Cabotfest which is held each October.
A springtime festival celebrates of the area’s favorite crops – strawberries. Each April Strawberryfest is held at Veterans’ Park Community Center and features games, carnival, a pageant and local produce, including strawberries.
As the town grows, so do the amenities. Three golf courses within city limits and more in the area make it a duffer’s delight. Two of the courses, Mountain Springs and Cypress Creek, are part of the Natural State Golf Trail. The park system provides access to swimming, baseball, football, soccer and other outdoor activities.
Cabot is located 20 miles northeast of Little Rock in Lonoke County.