Newport - The Town That Almost Wasn't. - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Newport, Keith Boles Reports

Newport - The Town That Almost Wasn't.

NEWPORT (KAIT) Newport has gone through some tough times that has earned it the name of "Plucky Newport"

 Between the devastating fires, and floods Newport has risen like a phoenix to where it is today.

Located along a bend in the White river sits Newport, the town that almost wasn't.

 Charlotte Plegge, Historian, "We had a small settlement here about the time that Jacksonport was beginning. But Jacksonport being located at the confluence of the Black and White rivers naturally was where the steamboats wanted to go."

 But Newport had the cross state road from Batesville to Memphis and Little Rock and the ferry crossing.

 In the mid 1800's the Cairo and Fulton railroad proposed a route through the county seat at Jacksonport, being a little big for their britches the town said no, the line went to Newport and the scales tipped in the smaller towns favor.

 Plegge, People started flocking to Newport, because we had the river, the railroad, the highway and the ferry. "

 Newport was incorporated in 1875 But as to where the name Newport came from.

 Plegge, "To be honest with historical research we're not quite sure why it was called Newport even from the beginning when it was a small settlement. "

 In 1881 a vote failed to move the county seat from Jacksonport, but the movement was still afoot and ten years later they tried again.

 Plegge, "When we had the next election in 1891 it passed by almost 88 percent and Newport was the new county seat."

 The courthouse was completed in 1894 and was one of the most imposing structures in town with it's high clock tower rising above the city.

 Newport is like a phoenix rising from the ashes. And I mean that literally, a series of fires starting in 1875 attacked various parts of the town. The last major fire started on March 1st,1926.

  Plegge, "The fire burned for nearly a week and decimated nearly 30 blocks of Newport,mostly in the residential section."

 The cause was never determined and luckily there was no loss of life.

 Other disasters in the 1920's included ice storms and an occurrence much like the one that threatened the town this spring, the "overflow" of 1915.

 In 1942 the army built an airbase at Newport and thousands of army and marine pilots were trained there. After the war the city acquired the land and it continues as the cities industrial park and airport.

 Through the 30's and 40's Newport had a minor league baseball team which produced Hall of Famer George Kell, a name still seen around town today.

 During the fifty's many rock and roll legends played in Newport, like Elvis, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis just to name a few.

And of course the local boys.

Plegge. "Sonny Burgess and the Pacers are from here and, Billy Lee Riley is from here."

 For a town that almost wasn't. Plucky Newport has risen above all the setbacks in it's history to take giant steps forward.

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