Mount Nebo. From the Special Collections Department, University of Arkansas.
While working on some research for another publication I began reading about the history of Mount Nebo, the 1,350-foot mountain near Dardanelle. Today a portion of the mountain is owned by the Arkansas State Parks and is a popular tourist destination for hiking, camping, and skydiving. But back in the late 1800s and early 1900s the mountain was home to multiple privately owned hotels and a local city government. Many of the region’s wealthy, as well travelers from other states, spent their summers in the cooler mountain temperatures. Some people even called the mountain home year round. In the 1924, Nebo was also home to the first all-female local government in Arkansas.
In the early 1900s, long before the state park owned property on the mountain, a fire burned several public buildings, including the Summit Hotel, a cornerstone in the local tourist industry. As the years went by and the hotel was not rebuilt, people who spent their summers on the mountain, and those who were employed during the tourist seasons, were forced to move and find work elsewhere. In 1924 a group of women who lived on and/or or summered on the mountain became increasingly concerned about the future of their community and felt the all-male city council wasn’t enacting necessary measures to keep the city intact. They decided to take matters in their own hands.
Before 1919 most women in the U.S. were not allowed to vote, much less run for office. The Constitution dictated that it was up to the individual states to decide who could vote, and by 1886 only Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah allowed women to express their opinions at the polls. It wasn’t until the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 that Arkansas women, along with the rest of the nation, would gain access to the ballot.
So just a few years after the ratification of the Amendment, Yell County women began exercising their rights to serve their community in public office. When election time rolled around local women ran formative campaigns. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, some even ran against their own husbands. Once the votes were counted, an all female city council and female mayor were instated, making this the first all-female government on record in the state of Arkansas.
Did members of your family serve in the all-women’s government on Mount Nebo? I’d love to hear more about it! You can visit contact me at the link above. If you’re new to the Boiled Down Juice site be sure and check out the write-up by Benji Hardy about the recent march for immigration reform in downtown Dardanelle, check out past columns about life and history in Arkansas, and listen to some of the music we post in our weekly Monday Music series. You can also check out the Garden Book research we’re working on at the McElroy House: Organization for Cultural Resources and Community Action, which features stories of area growers and why they choose a life closer to the land.
Thanks so much for reading and sharing your stories!
The Seed and the Story is a partnership with the Courier and Post Dispatch newspapers in Pope and Yell County, Arkansas and is written by Boiled Down Juice editor, Meredith Martin-Moats. This weekly column explores folklife, oral history, and community in central Arkansas, particularly the Yell County area where the column originates. Columns are often written in partnership with the McElroy House: Organization for Folklife, Oral History, and Community Action and humbly attempt to bridge intergenerational themes in the region.