The Grand Prairie Historical Society was founded in 1953 by a group of public-spirited persons from across the region, whose aim was to preserve the area’s rich abundant history and make others aware of this heritage. Among them were Rev. Lawrence Maus, J. E. Howard, John M. Henderson, Lillian C. Young, Ballard Deane, Dr. Harold V. Glenn, Garner Allen, Grover C. Carnes and Arthur Macom. The group adopted a constitution stating the society’s purpose as promoting the history and historical records of the Grand Prairie, marking historical sites, encouraging tours and informing the public of the society’s work. More than 1700 people have been members over the group’s existence, representing a geographical balance within the Grand Prairie. Publication of the Grand Prairie Historical Bulletin has played a major role in achieving the society’s objective of collecting and preserving data on the early history of Arkansas County and the surrounding region. The award-winning journal has provided a vehicle for contributors to share diverse historical topics with current members as well as future generations.
The Historical Bulletin was first published in 1958 by editor Boyd Johnson, making it one of the first county historical journals in Arkansas. The publication has received sixteen awards from the Arkansas Historical Association for articles and overall presentation. The informative articles are an excellent resource for those researching the Grand Prairie region’s history. The society holds quarterly meetings in January, April, July and October. Meetings are held throughout the region in diverse venues such as churches, schools, libraries, community centers, hunting lodges, museums, and other historical sites, with new places scheduled each year. Meetings feature interesting programs given by knowledgeable speakers on topics of area interest. GPHS has participated in countless heritage preservation events over its history. The group has twice hosted the Arkansas Historical Association’s annual conference, and has seen three of its members become president of the statewide organization.
Society members were instrumental in the elevation of the original Arkansas Post State Park to national memorial status in 1960, and in the founding of Arkansas Post County Museum (the current Arkansas Post Museum State Park) in the same year. GPHS conducted Civil War centennial observances in the 1960s at Arkansas Post and Saint Charles, and in 2011 placed a sesquicentennial plaque commemorating the Battle of Arkansas Post. Over the years, other markers have been placed at locations of historical significance around the region. In 1976, the group led several US bicentennial observances in Arkansas County. Members played a large role in the Arkansas County bicentennial celebration in 2013, and in the same year led a sesquicentennial observance of the Civil War battle. GPHS has sponsored the microfilming of old county records, and members have cleaned and stored newly-found county documents. The society is active in an ongoing effort to preserve the oldest and most fragile Arkansas County record books, which number among the earliest existing county records west of the Mississippi.
The Grand Prairie is a unique portion of the eastern Arkansas Delta region, distinguished from the surrounding alluvial plain by a subsoil layer of clay. This feature makes the region ideal for rice cultivation, since water is slow to permeate the silt loam topsoil and clays. On the surface, the Grand Prairie differs from the Delta in that the clay layer tends to support grasses and other shallow-rooted vegetation rather than woodlands. This difference was more apparent in the days before the overall Delta region was cleared for row crop farming. The counties of Arkansas, Prairie, Lonoke, and Monroe include parts of the Grand Prairie.