Once booming sawmill town now a marvel of ruins.
A Clark County town that once boasted a population of more than 700 residents at its peak is still perched on the Antoine River, but you won’t find any hotels, stores or a movie theater there. In fact, many Clark County residents today know of the old mill town but have never been there. Graysonia is about an hour’s drive from Arkadelphia, but that’s not because the city is far away — it’s the rugged, winding Graysonia Road that leads to the ruins, which include only the eerie remains of a kiln and part of the timber mill.
According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture’s Web site, 350 people lived in the town at its founding in the early 1900s. It was one of numerous timber mill towns that sprouted in southern Arkansas due to the state’s then-growing timber industry. At its peak, the Web site says, Graysonia had one of the largest mills in the South and was a thriving community. Lumber demands were effected by World War I, so the mill prospered most between 1915 and 1920, when more than 500 employees worked and daily produced 150,000 board feet of lumber. Other mills in the area, like the Mauldin sawmill in Montgomery County, produced only 25,000 board feet each day at full production.
The name of the town was derived from William Grayson, who joined Nelson McLeod in 1902 to become major stockholders in the Arkadelphia Lumber Company. Because not enough resources were available in the area, the operation moved to a site near the Antoine River in 1907 and was named in honor of Grayson, the company’s president.
Though it was a town owned by a lumber company, it was different than others of its like because it incorporated and elected its own government officials.
Before the Great Depression swept the country, Graysonia had a large commissary, a confectionery, a movie theater, three hotels, a school, a church, a water system and electric services.
Despite the economic downfall of the country, the planer mill continued its operation until 1931. A major factor in the town’s decline was the manner in which lumber companies would cut timber until it was gone, then move to another area where more resources were available.
After the mill finally shut its doors, an ore known as Cinnabar was discovered in the area, and former lumbermen stayed in the area and worked for the Arkansas Quicksilver Company. But the mining business soon died out, as did Graysonia. People moved away and found jobs in other mills and towns. Some of the equipment from the Graysonia mill was relocated to a mill in Delight.
On Nov. 19, 1950, the post office in Graysonia closed its doors and began routing its mail through Alpine. In the same year, the U.S. Census listed the population of the town as zero.
(Information for this article was taken from www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net)