Hunter, Arkansas is in southeast Woodruff County along Highway 49. Although small today, it was once a thriving municipality that attracted many people from surrounding states. The town is also the birthplace of American Medal of Honor recipient Gilbert Georgie Collier. After being mortally wounded in July 1953, while saving a fellow soldier during the Korean War, his widow received his Medal of Honor on January 12, 1955. This was the last Medal of Honor awarded for actions in the Korean War and Observation Post Collier in the Demilitarized zone between North and South Korea is named in his honor.
Agriculture attracted the first residents to southern Woodruff County, but it was following the American Civil War that real growth occurred. After purchasing land in 1878, Edward Shannon Hunt moved his family to Arkansas along the Military Road in Woodruff County. In addition to farming, he opened a small inn that became known as Hunt’s Station. This later became Hunter, and a post office was started in 1886. Two of the first postmasters were Charles Lawson and W.R. Pettis.
Shannon Hunt was born about 1841 near Lebanon, Ohio and enlisted as a private in Company A of the 79th Regiment Ohio Infantry in early 1864. This regiment served during the Atlanta campaign under General Sherman and Private Hunt was honorably discharged on July 20, 1865. After the war, he returned home and married Elizabeth Williams. The family then moved to Indiana before eventually making their way to Arkansas. Life was difficult in the dense forests of the Arkansas Delta, but they prospered and grew. In 1883, the Southwestern Improvement Association mapped out the site for a proposed railroad running near the Hunt farm. As these tracks were laid through the area, Hunt’s Inn became a popular place for railroad men to eat. By 1885, more and more families were settling around what became known as Hunter.
On July 2, 1906, Hunter was incorporated, and its citizens boasted about several successful businesses in 1907. William Lee Freeman owned a general merchandise establishment and was postmaster. There were at least three other mercantile stores in town and two hotels. There soon came a need for a financial institution as well. The Hunter State Bank was organized with William Penrose as president. Because of the vast wood resources, two lumber mills operated at Hunter which also produced handles. Along with a small school, several churches were in town.
The United Realty & Development Company announced a barbecue and lot sale on June 1, 1917, for Woodlawn Park Addition in Hunter. A following description of the town was given in the Brinkley Argus:
“Hunter has over 500 clever, progressive people. A magnificent $18,000 school building. A mile of concrete walks and more under way. A handsome new Baptist Church, also good Presbyterian, and Methodist Churches More handsome homes to its size than any other town in Arkansas.”
Everything began to change for the prosperous town of Hunter not long after this sale though. In March 1917, the Bank of Hunter was robbed when the safe was blown and the thief escaped with thousands of dollars. Then the sawmill closed, which led to population decline. Agricultural prices also dropped during the Great Depression. Worried about a run by depositors, the bank then closed for six months in December 1920. Sadly, it closed for good in 1928 and liquidated all assets. Much of the town then burned including a hotel in 1937. After another later fire at the school, most students moved to Brinkley.
Today, the town of Hunter maintains a strong sense of community and pride. Although only about one hundred residents remain, there are several churches and a small business. Agriculture remains the chief industry but hunting also brings in outdoorsmen to the area.
Barnett, Paula Harman (June 4, 2022) Hunter (Woodruff County) Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved December 29, 2022, from https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/hunter-woodruff-county-2550/
Christ, Mark K. ( June 29, 2021) Gilbert Georgie Collier (1930-1953) Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved December 29, 2022, from https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/gilbert-georgie-collier-4738/
Vanderburg, Imogene (Ousley). “The Hunts of Hunter” The USGENWEB Project. October 2020. Hunts of Hunter | Woodruff County, ARGenWeb
The Brinkley Argus (Brinkley, Arkansas) 29 Nov 1907, Fri. Page 2
The Brinkley Argus (Brinkley, Arkansas) Fri. May 25, 1917. Page 2
The Brinkley Argus (Brinkley, Arkansas) 10 August 1906. Fri. Page 4
The Monticellonian (Monticello, Arkansas) 29 March 1917, Thur. Page 1
Arkansas Democrat (Little Rock, Arkansas) 30 August 1921, Tue. Page 1Ancestry.com