Hoxie: Railroads Pave the Way
The "Mother of Counties" is the original Lawrence County. It has produced 31 of Arkansas' counties. They were carved out of this vast fertile soil. Lawrence County covered half of the state when Arkansas became a territory in 1819. People first chose to settle there in 1804, however, it took 80 years to establish Hoxie as a town. Less than seven towns had been incorporated into the present boarders of Lawrence County (Welcome Lawrence 6). In 1888, Lawrence County Court moved to incorporate the town of Hoxie. Dr. G. W. Parker, F. M. Lee and A. C. Rogers submitted this petition after long battles to decide where tracks should be laid for the incoming railroad (Pages 2). Being a small farm town the people had to choose a name. The foresighted man given this honor was "H.M. Hoxie, then familiarly known as General Hoxie, and later vice-president of the Missouri Pacific" (Empire39). The history of the town dates back between 1880 and 1883 (Quarterly 5).
This small farm town started when the Kansas City, Springfield & Memphis Railroad (now Burlington Northern) decided to plow it's way through this piece of land owned by the Boas family. When the first decision was made to run the railroad through Walnut Ridge, the Kansas City, Springfield & Memphis Railroad found there was very little land in the city. In fact, there was not enough land to run rails, and the bits of land available were unreasonably priced. When the word spread, the late Mrs. Mary A. Boas donated right of way through her 450 acre farm south of Walnut Ridge to the company. In addition to the right of way, Mrs. Mary A. Boas donated 20 acres of farmland. This was done so that tracks could be laid and railroading could start in the unincorporated town of Hoxie.
Towns look much better when major parts of the population are hard working and honest men. It was apparent, in the beginning, that the worst part of the railroad was the hobo's moving into this quiet, reserved town. Obviously, the town has grown in working population and the hobo's run the "wrong side of the tracks." "During those robust days Hoxie had one of the best and largest hobo camps between Texarkana and St. Louis. It was located south of the mile long tracks in a wooded area not on the railroad right of way. This kept occupants from being harassed by railroad special agents and free of city interruption." "One could, in those days, see the many campfires burning and files of the occupants in the flickering light" (Hobo Camp 6). Many of the families in Hoxie and Mr. Warner was very upset with this hobo town. "The brakeman was instructed to keep hoboes off the trains, but didn't believe in tough treatment of a fellow trying to get form one place to another the best way he could" (Hobo Camp 6). This harassment continues still today.
Even though the town quickly filled with hobos', Hoxie experienced a population growth and a business boom for 27 years. After the roundhouse and yard office were built, more jobs were created. This can all be credited to the rails. After the terminal was installed, the YMCA incorporated into Hoxie and the railroad men now had a place to sleep, shower, read, eat, and socialize. This business boom provided for the basis of Hoxie, Arkansas.
The first business in Hoxie was the Boas Hotel. This was a twelve room frame structure built before Iron Mountain came through Hoxie (Merchants 7). "The Boas hotel sat in the block just north of" the beloved tracks of Hoxie (Green 7)Many businesses flourished after the railroads came through the small farm town. Some of the other businesses that developed were the Warner Drug Store, the First Bank of Hoxie, Little Jack Bottling Works, and Hoxie Lumber Company. These businesses grew in the first five years of the century. Other businesses were established, such as Pringle's Drugstore, the Brady General Store, and the two story Bank of Hoxie. In the 1920's even more businesses moved into the area. Some doctors and lawyers bought land and built offices in the business district. This was a major boom for a city with ten streets (Green 7). There was also the Triangle Theater for entertainment in the railroad town. Families that moved to Hoxie brought children and teenagers. These teenagers needed entertainment and jobs. Many boys learned to be farmhands and pulled red rice in the summer. Hoxie was no longer the outskirt it was in the beginning. The growth of this town built on rails continued for 27 years. Lawrence County was no longer barren.
"For several years Hoxie was a boom town, growing from a population of about 200 to over 2,000 and experiencing exciting activity" (Green 7). Along with businesses originating, Hoxie built a school for the children of the railroad and business men. In the beginning Hoxie had an elementary school and all high school students attended Walnut Ridge High School. The dream of Harry Belk was finally accomplished when Hoxie High School came to be in order in October 1920 (Belk 13+). With the grand improvement, more people moved to Hoxie. Many dreamed that Hoxie would grow to become a city in the near future. That dream is not presently a reality, yet it may blossom in the future.
Since the railroad days, Hoxie has grown slowly. Most of the railroad workers and families moved with the rails. However, the businesses stayed and continued to grow with Hoxie. Today there are around 2,900 people living in Hoxie and almost 4,500 living in Walnut Ridge. More businesses slowly move in the area but the boom has long since been past.
Belk, Harry C. "Hoxie School District: Through the Years." Centennial Edition 1888-2988 HOXIE, ARKANSAS. 20 June 1988.
"The Empire That Missouri Pacific Serves!" St. Louis: Von Hoffmann, 1992.
"From the pages of History: Hoxie." Welcome to the Hoxie- Walnut Ridge Area: Newcomers and Tourist Information Guide. 1997.
"General Information." Welcome to the Hoxie-Walnut Ridge Area: Newcomers and Tourist Information Guide. 1997.
Green, Frances. "Merchants Thrive through Hoxie's past, Fed by Growing Community." Centinennial Edition 1888-1988 HOXIE, ARKANSAS. 20 June 1988: 7+.
"History of Lawrence County, Arkansas." Welcome to the Hoxie-Walnut Ridge Area:Newcomers and Tourist Information Guide. 1997.
Warner, Lucian. "Trains Brought Early Hobo Camp." Centinennial Edition 1888-1988 HOXIE, ARKANSAS. 20 June 1988: 6.
Warner, L.R. "Railroading at Hoxie.." Centinennial Edition 1888-1988 HOXIE, ARKANSAS. 20 June 1988: 20.