Train passing through Birta. Image from Trainweather.com
The Seed and the Story is a weekly column exploring folklife, oral history, and community in central Arkansas, particularly the Yell County area where the column originates. The column is published in the Post Dispatch and is syndicated in the Courier. It also runs each week on the Boiled Down Juice.
Heading down Highway 10 through the small towns and communities of Ola, Casa, Homewood, Adona, and Perry, the deep, rich colors of the fall leaves are gorgeous. Not far from the highway sits a large section of the Ouachita National Forest to the south, and to both the north and west you’ll find sections of Petit Jean State Park and Petit Jean Wildlife Management Area. With Rose Creek Mountain situated near the highway and the segments of railroad running alongside the road, it’s hard to imagine a more beautiful place, especially this time of year. The deep reds and yellows of the trees glow against the late afternoon fog as it clings to the ridges and at the edges of valleys. This part of the county is nothing short of mesmerizing.
Highway 10 was one of the first highways created in Arkansas as part of the numbered Highway system implemented by the Arkansas State Highway Commission in 1926. It runs a little over 135 miles from Oklahoma State Highway 120 to I-30 in Little Rock. Passing through Sebastian, Logan, Yell and Perry Counties, it winds through numerous small communities, many of which were once home to general stores, post offices, and schools. One of these small communities is Birta, located about five miles east of Ola.
Birta was once a busy and populated community with both a large community store and post office. The once busy railroad passed near the town crowded with trains on their way to and from the popular stop in Ola. The community is encircled by multiple waterways including Coker Creek, Baskin Creek, and the Petit Jean River to the north. Birta sits at the eastern most end of Yell County, right near the Perry County border. Today the community still has both a Baptist and Methodist church and remains home to several families. It also has a beautiful cemetery located near Pleasant Ridge Road.
According to book Yell County Heritage, published by the Yell County Historical and Genealogical Association in 1996, the former store in Birta was called Dunn’s Store and former postmasters were John Goodson and Albert Carson. Did you grow up in Birta or spend time there? Do you remember the busy railroad, Dunn’s store, or the post office? Perhaps you logged in the area or operated a small truck path of vegetables to sell to area markets. I’d love to hear your stories and learn more about life in beautiful Birta both past and present.