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Keo, AR

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The tiny town of Keo packs a lot into a small area and makes a wonderful day trip, particularly for people in Central Arkansas. The town is located on U.S. Highway 165 between the towns of Scott and England and is around 20 miles from Little Rock.  

The entire downtown area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places with buildings from the early 1900s. Groves of pecan trees and huge antebellum style homes illustrate the cotton-plantation history of Keo, as do the massive cotton gins. 

Unique merchants are located in town and places to eat such as Charlotte's Eats and Sweets. This spot located on Keo's Main Street is inside an old apothecary shop and offers food and homemade desserts like Italian cream cake and caramel pie. The restaurant generates an old-fashioned feeling and a soda fountain still produces the confectioneries that marked its heyday.


The region around Keo has long been inhabited. The Dunham family and Cobb family were two of the region’s main property owners following the Civil War. Lafayette Cobb, who moved to the area in 1873, owned a general store. Established in his store in 1880, the post office was variously called Cobb Settlement and Cobbs. 

As early as 1884, citizens of the Cobb Settlement began moving their homes and businesses to be near the impending rail line. The new community was named Keo in honor of Keo Dooley, the daughter of Judge P. C. Dooley, who was a prominent landowner in the late nineteenth century. Keo’s post office opened in 1889. The railroad later became part of the St. Louis Southwestern Railway, known also as the Cotton Belt. 

Cobb opened a second general store in Keo, and soon the community had seven general stores, two blacksmiths, a sawmill and shingle factory, a bank, a schoolhouse, several cotton gins, a restaurant, a hotel, a real estate office, a drugstore, a feed stable, several butchers, a Baptist church, and several doctors. The town was incorporated in 1916.

Fires destroyed many of the buildings in Keo in 1913 and 1926. In 1927, floodwaters approached the town but did not cause damage within its borders. Many refugees from the surrounding farms took shelter on the grounds of the public school during the Flood of 1927.

In 1926, Arkansas established its first highway system. Arkansas Highway 11 passed through Keo on a route parallel to the railroad. The highway later became U.S. Highway 165.

The movie Shotgun Stories—written and directed by Little Rock, Arkansas native Jeff Nichols and released in 2007—was partly filmed in the Keo area in 2005. On June 15, 2011, the Keo Commercial Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places. 
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