A Brief History of Ola, Arkansas

Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Transportation.

Ola is a city in Yell County, Arkansas. The first house in Ola was completed in 1860 by homesteader Elisha Harrel. A permanent post office was established in 1880. This early settlement included one doctor, a school, and an interdenominational church. Originally called Red Lick, the area became known as Petit Jean in 1866, after the nearby river. The Petit Jean Post Office was discontinued on September 27, 1875, but re-opened on January 10, 1876. One post–Civil War entrepreneur was John Mathias Harkey, who came from Texas in 1851. He served as a Confederate army captain, and, on returning to his farm in 1865, he erected a sawmill, a flour and grist mill, and a cotton gin. He opened a mercantile store in 1870. He was such a prominent citizen that in 1880 his proposal to rename the town after his first child, Ola, was readily accepted. The post office officially changed its name to Ola on December 10, 1880.In 1899, the Choctaw Railroad needed a right of way through Ola. Harkey granted the right of way under two conditions: first, Ola would be the railroad name used; second, the railroad would guarantee for ninety-nine years to stop at Ola. The deal was struck, and Ola entered a period of expanded growth based on its railroad location (Gleason, 2018).


Gleason, Mildred Diane. (2018, Sep. 4). Ola (Yell County). Retrieved from encyclopediaofarkansas.net.

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