Magnolia Blossom Festival Approaching

Zoie Clift

The Magnolia Blossom
 is approaching
(May 14-15) so I thought I’d highlight the town today to give folks a peek into
it’s history.

The town, located in
Columbia County, is about 2.5 hours from Little Rock. The town proudly displays
its heritage with colorful murals on buildings around the courthouse square.
Also highlighting the square are stately trees which give the town its name.

As to its history, natural resources have
played an important role in the region. Cotton was the cash crop in the
nineteenth century; timber, oil, and gas 

in the
mid-twentieth century; and later bromine 


The first inhabitants of
the area were

Native Americans

. Settlement of the area began after Arkansas achieved
statehood in 1836, when small communities were formed. Columbia County was
created from portions of Lafayette, Hempstead, Ouachita, and Union counties in
1852. The county seat, Magnolia, was incorporated three years later.

Columbia is the only one of
Arkansas’s seventy-five counties not situated on a river so transportation was
an issue for the county. For early travelers, the county’s creeks and bayous
were too narrow and shallow to support water traffic. The arrival of railroads 

created a
dependable transportation option. It was not until the construction of the St.
Louis, Arkansas and Texas Railroad in 1882 that the first cotton was shipped
from the county by railcar. Cut off from the planned railroad, leaders in
Magnolia resolved to have a spur line built to the city. The branch was
completed the next year. The Louisiana and North West Railroad was built
between Magnolia and points in Louisiana in 1899.

Magnolia grew steadily
after World War II. Cotton remained the chief crop into the early twentieth
century, and offshoots from the cotton industry provided the area with its
earliest trade and manufacturing base. An important example was the Magnolia
Cotton Mill in 1928, the first textile mill in southwest Arkansas.

The discovery of the Magnolia
Oil Field ten years later was another monumental turn for the town. This
quickly led to the development of an oil and gas exploration industry within
the county. While the importance of oil and gas drilling declined steadily, a
new natural resources industry arrived in the mid-1960s with the  discovery of  the high bromine content of brine, an element used in many
chemical and manufacturing processes.  Columbia and Union counties sit on
one of the largest brine reserves in the world. Timber also holds an important
role in the area.

Also in town is 3,000

Lake Columbia

a popular spot for anglers. Nearby McNeil is home to  

Logoly State Park
, which

 hosts an
environmental-education park and twelve miles south of town is the tiny
community of Emerson which every June hosts the

World’s Championship Rotary Tiller
Race and Purplehull Pea Festival


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