Delta Roads and Travels - Wheatley

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James Dean

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Friday, January 20th 2023
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Arkansas Delta Arkansas History Delta Roads and Travels SaintFrancisCounty WheatleyArkansas
      Located along Interstate 40 and Highway 70, Wheatley lies in the southwestern portion of St. Francis County, Arkansas. Although some families lived in the area before the Civil War, this community was not formed until the central portion of the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad was completed in 1871. Since trains required stops every few miles, a railroad depot was built at the location of Wheatley around 1870. A post office was also established in what was first called Britton. Another record has it named Midway. The town was renamed Wheatley in April 1872 though, after its first postmaster Wheatley Dennis. He sadly passed away that same year.
      Wheatley was first located in Monroe County, but the Arkansas General Assembly adjusted this boundary in 1873 and placed it in St. Francis County, after a school was built. The town began to grow as other businesses moved in. This was still a wild area though, and people took risks when traveling on the backroads. In 1877, Gus Ness of Batesville, was robbed by five men with pistols as he travelled between Wheatley and Goodwin.
      In February 1894, a fire destroyed the drugstore of W.S. Brookes & Company. This was also the location of the post office, so it had to be moved to the McPhaul building. Other merchants of Wheatley included Dr. J.R. West and C.F. Hemenway. Although growth was happening, there was a move to advertise the positives of this area to the world. In 1900, the "Forrest City Times" boasted about this community.
"The country adjacent to Wheatley is as fine for cattle raising and grazing as there is in the world, and many persons are already profitably engaged in this enterprise, and ranches are being established. Its farming resources, too, are boundless, and there is no community which extends better opportunities to the farmer and home seeker."
      Railroad expansion in 1900 also made Wheatley grow in population. With almost 200 residents, the town was incorporated in 1907. The first election was then held in December 1907, and Chauncey F. Hemenway became Wheatley's first mayor. In 1909, the Wheatley Rice Milling Company was established. This was soon followed by more investment. Sadly, a major tornado struck the town in 1929, killing five residents and causing severe damage. Wheatley was rebuilt though, and the town prospered into the 1950s. Then, Interstate 40 was completed across Arkansas during the 1970s, which offered some economic growth with an interchange being built near the town. The school districts of Wheatley and Palestine were combined in the 1980s. Riceland Foods continued to be the largest business at Wheatley. #ArkansasHistory #wheatley #wheatleyarkansas #stfranciscounty #MainStreetMonday
Batesville Guard (Batesville, Arkansas) 15 Feb 1877, Thu. Page 2
The Forrest City Times (Forrest City, Arkansas) 9 Feb. 1894, Fri. Page 6
The Forrest City Times (Forrest City, Arkansas) 20 Apr. 1900, Fri. Page 2
The Forrest City Times (Forrest City, Arkansas) 10 Jan 1908, Fri. Page 2
The Forrest City Times (Forrest City, Arkansas) 17 May 1907, Fri. page 4
Teske, Steven. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. "Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Wheatley (St. Francis County) retrieved. 11/18/2022.

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