This small central Arkansas community can trace its name to a landmark: a huge, lone red oak tree located between two prairies. The surrounding county lays claim to it as well, making it unique among the state's 75 counties in that it is the only one where the county seat and the county itself have the same name.
As with many Arkansas towns, Lonoke's history is tied to the railroad. According to Arkansas Place Names authority, the late Ernie Deane, Major C.P.C. Rumbough, one of the original civil engineers surveying the area for the railroad, is credited with naming the town. It was spelled "Lone Oak" for many years until the engineers suggested the spelling be changed to "Loneoak." The "e" was dropped at a later date. The railroad who employed Rumbough was the Memphis & Little Rock Railroad, later a part of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific system.
With its location in central Arkansas, Lonoke was along the pathway of several historic trails that began or ended in Little Rock. U.S. Generals Steele and Davidson’s Approaches during the Little Rock Campaign and Confederate General James Fleming Fagan’s approach to Helena passed through the town. These, along with other historic Civil War routes and significant movements as the Trail of Tears and the Southwest Trail, are now part of the Arkansas Heritage Trails System.
Located 22 miles east Little Rock, Lonoke is near the geographical center of the same-named county. The first depot was built in 1867 the same year the town was surveyed and plotted. The people of Lonoke founded a town where there had not even been a community or settlement, and within three years, made it the county seat of the newly created Lonoke County. The population had increased from zero to almost 500 people, and by 1910, the population had grown to 1,547.
Today, with easy access to U.S. 70, I-440, and I-40, Lonoke is popular community for families looking to raise their children in a small-town atmosphere. Attractions include the historic Lonoke County Courthouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the restored Lonoke Depot, which houses the Chamber of Commerce, and the Joe Hogan Fish Hatchery, one of the world's largest working fish hatcheries, that also has aquariums, bird watching opportunities, and demonstrations of fish farming methods.