Pocahontas, By The River

POCAHONTAS (KAIT) So is it Pocahontas or Pocahuntus?

Cindy Robinett, Randolph County Heritage Museum."Well it depends on where you're from. I'm from the hills so we say Pocahuntus. But if you're from off like some folks around here say Pocahontas."

Anyway you say it, the bustling town on the banks of the river keeps it's history near it's heart.

The original town was named after a trader.

Robinett, "This was Bettis bluff. It was a trading post that was started down on the Black river by a man called Ransom Bettis in territorial Arkansas probably around 1820."

The river has always been an important part of Pocahontas history.  And due to extent of available river routes from Pocahontas the steamboat was king.

Robinett, "This was a major port for this area, cotton, timber, lots of things came in and out of Pocahontas so we grew up around the river."

Robinett, "The pearling industry was really really big industry for a lot of folks. People came here from all around the country because they thought they could make a fortune if they found a big pearl in one of those mussel shells."

Besides hunting for pearls, making buttons from the shells was a big business. At one time there were 4 button making businesses in Pocahontas.

But change was in the air.

Robinett, "When we saw the swamps drained, the bottoms and the timber cut and we began to see row crop farming. That's when the industries based on the river began to dwindle."

Clearing the forests to the East of the town for farming literally killed off the town as a riverport.

Robinett, "When the river started literally shrinking because the topsoil and silt was coming in from the farm land that had been cleared off. The rivers aren't big enough any more."

Unlike many of the towns in our area the railroad came but didn't stay although you can see the remnants of the pivoting railroad bridge standing alongside and in the black river. A note here is that the pivot was at one point in the middle of the river.

No town would be complete without a meteor on the court house lawn.

This isn't where it landed but a meteor did fall in the area in 1859 and the Keith family found it. According to the story.

Robinett, "The family actually hauled the meteorite out of the hole and kept it in their yard for years and years and donated it to the city."

Other stories say it's just a big rock on the court house lawn that the Indians moved around. But why would anybody move a rock in a canoe if they didn't have to?

The people of Pocahontas take pride in their town from the hundred year old square to the appreciation they feel toward their rivers. To them the rivers are the soul of the community.

They have contributed to our economy, to industry, recreation, transportation in so many different ways. Our rivers are what make Pocahontas."