A Brief History of Magnolia, Arkansas

Magnolia telephone office ca. 1907. Photo courtesy of Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives.

Magnolia is a city in southwest Arkansas, north of the center of Columbia County, Arkansas. In March 1853, three commissioners were appointed to locate the geographical center of the county for purposes of establishing a county seat. However, the geographical center ended up being in the bottoms of Big Creek, so the site for the county seat was moved one mile to the east. The commissioners were at a loss as to what to name the new city until, at a dinner with local planter R. G. Harper, the planter’s daughter suggested the name of Magnolia. The absence of any actual magnolia trees did not keep the name from sticking. The mainstay of the local economy from the beginning was cotton, which was hauled to Camden or Shreveport, Louisiana, before the advent of the railroad. In 1899, the same year the city’s phone system was established, the Louisiana and Northwestern Railroad connected Magnolia to locations in Louisiana (Lancaster, 2018). In 1938 Magnolia’s economic base changed with the discovery of the Buckner oil field nearby. The petroleum and natural gas industry developed, followed by light manufacturing, which today includes steel and aluminum products, specialty chemicals, lumber, and rubber-coated fabrics (Britannica, n.d.).


Encyclopedia Britannica. (No date). Magnolia, Arkansas, United States. Retrieved from britannica.com.

Lancaster, Guy. (2018, Jul. 7). Magnolia (Columbia County). Retrieved from encyclopediaofarkansas.net.

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