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Rison History

Town in U.S.A.

Rison was named for William R. Rison, a banker, of Hunteville, Alabama. The Cotton BelUSA-Risont Railroad had been built through this section of the state several years previously. Rison had been designated as a station on the new railroad by the surveyor general of Cotton Belt, Colonel Sam Fordyce. It seems odd that Colonel Fordyce and Mr. Rison should have become friends for Colonel Fordyce served the Federal Army in the Ciyil War and Mr. Rison was a Confederate. Nevertheless, the name of the city of Rison was a result of this friendship.

Incorporation of the city of Rison was approved in the Cleveland County Court, August. 26, 1890. The incorporation of the town came on the heels of Rison being declared the county seat as a result of a special election which had been held following the destruction of the courthouse at Toledo by fire in March 1889. There was much dissension over which town would be named the county seat with Toledo, Beasley's Switch, New Edinburg, Kingsland and Rison competing for the title. In the election Kingsland and Rison received the most votes, so a runoff was held and finally after several court hearings, Rison was distinguished as the seat of Cleveland (then Dorsey) County. The county courthouse was then re-located in Rison around 1890. At this time, the population of Rison was reported at approximately 400 people.

Rison has always been a logging town. The sawmill industry was the first industry to locate in Rison and has been very important in the development of the city. The first sawmill was the J. I. Porter Lumber Company which was located near where the Hausing Project currently stands. This was a very large logging operation, and when they went out of business in 1910, rnany thought that Rison would die with the Lumber Company. However, some smaller sawmills moved into the city and resumed logging. One of the more important sawmills in the 30's and 40's was the J. L. Sadler Lumber Company which was located near where the C & J Lumber Cornpany sawmill now operates. As forest products became more and more in demand, mills were built which produced specialized wood products. Hampton Stave Company had a large stave mill which cut staves to be used for wooden barrels. Also in operation at different times in Rison were a utility pole mill, box plant, and a tent pole factory. All of these mills hired many residents of the area, so their location aided the growth and commerce of the town. It was not unusual in those days for a lumber company to build frame houses near the mill for their ernployees to reside in, thereby contributing directly to the progress of Rison.

Cotton farming was an important factor in the Rison area for many years, but began to decline after World War II. Many sharecroppers and tenant farmers raised cotton in the hills surrounding Rison and ,,40 acres and a mule" was a way of life for many farmers. Several cotton gins processed the cotton produced in Cleveland County with as many an 12 gins operating in the county at one time.

The first mayor af Rison was E. T. Renfrow, who had previously been the clerk when the county seat was in Toledo. W. B. Sadler was the first merchant in Rison and operated a store at the corner of 2nd and Main. W. M. Boyd was the proprietor of the first drug store, located where the Rison Loundrymat presently stands. Thera were several Dry Goods stores in the early days of Rison. At one time Rison boasted three hotels within its city limits. The Harrison Hotel, the Commercial, and the Phoenix all provided lodging for travelers passing through the town.

The Bank of Rison was organized in 1902 and was the first bank in the city. lt was located at one time where Moore's Hardware store currently stands. There were two banks in Rison at one time, the Bank of Rison and the Farmer's and Merchant's Bank.

Electricity was introduced to Rison in 1915 or 1916. This utility was not supplied on a 24 hour basis until 1917. This marked the beginning af a new era in which machinery, lights and appliances could be operated at any time.

Passenger trains were very important in the early development of Rison. Rison had a depot, and hotel accomodations were available very close to the downtown area. The passenger trains provided four to six departures per day frorn Rison and the cost of travelling was as low as .02ç per mile. A trip to Pine Bluff by rail in those days cost only .44ç. When the passenger service was discontinued in the 1950's, the effect on the City af Rison was adverse. The advent of the automobile was the primary reason for this, since they offered people an alternative means of travel. Automobile travel destroyed the local Hotel Business since travelers could move on to the larger cities of Fordyce and Pine Bluff for the night.

The highways passing through Rison have not always followed the course that they do today. U.S. Highway 79 winded through Rison and was called the „Old Kingsland Road". The Old Warren Road was part of the Pine Bluff-Camden thoroughfare, and is now Highway 113. Mockingbird Lane is the oldest county road in Cleveland County and was once part of the Little Rock-Mountain Road.

In Rison's 90 years of existance it has accumalated a wealth of beauty and history unsurpassed by any city. Nestled in the piney woods of southeast Arkansas, Rison has always thrivThe history of Rison is boasted by the Pioneer Village, and the preservation of many old buildings of the area. The beauty and history along with the friendly atmosphere makes Rison a wonderful place to live or visit any time of the year.

ed on timber and farming for its growth; although farming has lessened in scale, the timber industry has grown and is the main economic factor of the area.

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