Wide, tree-lined streets, a large downtown mural, and attractive parks make the town of Dermott a pleasant place to visit. Dermott Public Schools are the focus of much community interest and activity. As well, there are frequent community events, including the annual Dermott Crawfish Festival the third weekend in May.
The Dermott Historical Museum has an extensive collection of photos and information on the Dermott area founding families, World War II memorabilia, household items, farming and work tools and business equipment. A 1936 Dodge Fire Truck on display is the first pumper fire truck ever owned by the city. Hammock House, a historic period home owned by the Dermott Chamber of Commerce, is available for events and special occasions.
Digging a little deeper into Dermott’s history reveals many interesting little known facts. Dermott’s Founder, Dr. Charles McDermott, was an early inventor of flying machines. Even further back in the pioneering past, from their residence on Bayou Bartholomew, the township in which Dermott is located.
Bowie Township, is named for the family which invented the famous Bowie knife. A large swamp chestnut oak tree, known as the Zachary Taylor tree, is the second largest of its kind in the state and is said to have once been the resting place of General Zachary Taylor. Dermott has a long history of accomplishment by its African-American residents, at one time boasting several black doctors and a clinic for African-Americans that was famous throughout the state. A former student of Morris Booker College, Dr. Samuel Kountz, was a pioneer in organ transplant surgery.
The city of Eudora is the southernmost stop in Arkansas on the Great River Road connecting the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Like many cities of Southeast Arkansas, Eudora has both historic and scenic attractions to draw visitors to the area.
Eudora was founded on the site of a 700 acre plantation by that name owned by E. C. James in the mid 1800’s. The city’s fortunes have prospered and fallen over the years, reflecting the ups and downs of American history and the American economy. What remains still is a fortuitous location on a ridge that is the highest geographical location in the county.
Known as “the Catfish Capital of Arkansas,” it is home to Grand Lake, one of the finest fishing lakes in the country. The J.Austin White Cultural Center provides programming in the arts for children and youth. Historic sites include the Eudora Garden Center, a historic vertical log building built by the WPA and restored by the Eudora Garden Club; the Rubye and Henry Connerly Museum; and the beautiful WPA-era Eudora City Hall. Eudora City Park provides an attractive space for recreation and exercise on extensive walking trails. Each year the city holds a Summerfest the first Saturday of June.
Arkansas City, the county seat of Desha County, was once just yards from the Mississippi River, until the historic flood of 1927 changed the course of the river to a mile east of the town. Its strategic position as a steamboat port and railroad stop gave the town significant influence in the southeast corner of Arkansas.
Arkansas City has several properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the recently restored Desha County Courthouse. Visitors can trace the town’s history at the Arkansas City Museum, established in an old church building. A section of the museum is housed in a portion of a barracks that was used at Rohwer Relocation Camp during World War II. The opera house, some store fronts with balconies on the second floor, and some older homes have survived as reminders of the city’s once busy and gracious past. One historic site of note is the childhood home of John Harold Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines and the largest African-American owned publishing company in the world.
Arkansas City offers a variety of outdoor recreation activities. Bird-watchers, in particular, can enjoy numerous spotting opportunities in the surrounding countryside such as Choctaw Island, recognized by the Audubon Society as an “Important Birding Area.” Hunters and fishermen also find nearby Lake Kate Adams one of southeast Arkansas’ finest for fishing and duck hunting.
“Leveefest,” a food and music festival, takes place in Arkansas City the second Saturday of September every year.
Although Portland is a small Delta town, it has a rich history. It began as a settlement on Bayou Bartholomew and became a steamboat port, an agricultural center, and a railroad town. With mechanization of agriculture the town declined in size and importance, but it is still the site of many beautiful historic structures.
Portland’s oldest structure is the jail, built in 1899. The walls of the brick “calaboose” are more than two feet thick, and the roof is also brick. The building is behind the old Portland Bank (now Parkway Bank) downtown. The Joel Wilson Pugh House, the Jess Dean House, and the Henry Naff House are on the National Register of Historic Places. Architect Charles Thompson designed the Pugh and Dean Houses. The façade of the Parkway Bank, Built in 1900 and the first bank in the county, is on the Arkansas Register of Historic Places. The John Fisher House across the bayou from the site of old Portland is in good condition and is on the National Register.
The city of Montrose came into being in the early 1900’s at the junction of two important railroads. Today Montrose bills itself as “a friendly small rural town that is working with its community to grow and expand using all available resources.” (cityofmontrose.net)
In 1986 Bill Jones opened a business in Montrose based around the barbecue sauce recipe of his grandfather, Jasper Jones of Carrollton, Mississippi. Sassy Jones Sauce & Spice Company makes and distributes various foods, including sauces, jams, jellies, and syrups.
The city of Montrose celebrated its centennial on July 10, 2004. The success of the celebration led to the establishment of an annual Heritage Festival, which includes a talent contest, a cornbread competition, a horseshoe tournament, a bingo tent, children’s games, a dunking booth, gospel and country music, and fireworks. Nearby Lake Grampus has good fishing, with fishing supply retailers in Montrose.
Parkdale is one of the oldest incorporated communities in Ashley County. Originally known as Poplar Bluff, the town’s name was changed when the Missouri Pacific Railroad, which originated in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, added a stop there.
Once a rough, boisterous place due to the railroad, sawmills, and saloons, Parkdale is now a quiet community of about 300 people.
Parkdale was the home of civil rights activist Willie Vaughn and former U.S. Congressman Danny Davis. Four of its properties are on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Baptist church built in 1910, the Methodist church built in 1926, the home of Dr. M. C. Hawkins built in 1912, and the home of Dr. Robert George Williams built in 1903.
The Elaine, in Phillips County, was a planned city built in the early 1900’s around a railroad stop on a line of the Missouri Pacific Railroad. At first a sawmill town, it later became a center of agriculture as vast tracts of hardwood timber were cleared to create rich delta farmland.
Elaine was the site of one of the most important racial incidents of the Jim Crow Era, the Elaine Massacre, in which scores of African-Americans lost their lives over a dispute arising from an attempt of African-American farmers to negotiate for better cotton prices.
Like many other Delta towns, Elaine has declined in size due to mechanization of agriculture, but the Elaine Community Opportunity Seekers (ECOS) formed as a non-profit community development corporation in 2011 to revitalize the community. Their community theater project, Fish Hook Theater, presents dramatizations of stories of the region and sponsors arts and crafts festivals. Elaine is the hometown of musician Levon Helm.