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Biscoe, also known as Fredonia, is located on Surrounded Hill between the White River and the Cache River in eastern Prairie County. It is on U.S. Highway 70 a few miles east of DeValls Bluff.
Surrounded Hill was surveyed by the federal government in 1849.
Edwin Burr was the first settler to claim title to the land, registering his deed in Batesville (Independence County) in 1853. The area remained relatively unpopulated through the Civil War but gained significance with construction of the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad, which was completed through the Surrounded Hill area in 1871. A depot was built on flat land near the hill, and a post office was established in 1872 with the name Fredonia. The name of the post office was changed to Surrounded Hill in 1875, renamed Fredonia in 1881, then renamed Surrounded Hill again later the same year, and finally named Biscoe in 1902. The name Biscoe appears to have been chosen to honor landowner John Biscoe. An African-American Baptist church was established in 1872.
By 1886, the community had a population of 250, including two merchants and one physician. The community also had two cotton gins and three churches: Baptist, African Methodist Episcopal, and Colored Methodist Episcopal (later Christian Methodist Episcopal). It also had two schools—one for white children and one for African-American children. By 1890, the community had two general stores, two grocery stores, two saloons, a post office, a hotel, a blacksmith shop, a steam-powered cotton gin and grist mill, and two African-American churches.
The community was incorporated in 1909, apparently using the name Biscoe, though residents continued to call the town Fredonia. A two-story brick building was constructed for use as the school for black children in 1920. During the early decades of the twentieth century, Biscoe had a successful local baseball team. Led by pitcher Bill Thomas, the team regularly defeated teams from Brinkley (Monroe County), Cotton Plant (Woodruff County), Hazen (Prairie County), and other surrounding towns. Jennie Carr Pittman, born in Biscoe in 1858, fought for temperance well into the 1920s and 1930s. In the first half of the twentieth century, the town acquired a stave mill and a service station. During the Flood of 1927, the Red Cross cared for nearly 2,000 refugees at Biscoe. By 1937, Biscoe had a community hall, two schools, five churches—all African-American—eight general stores, a drugstore, a barber shop, two bus stations, two blacksmith shops, two gins, three filling stations, a train depot, and a post office. A Baptist church for whites was built in 1951. About the same time, a Church of Christ was established.
During the 1960s, the schools of Biscoe were consolidated into the DeValls Bluff School District, desegregating in the same action. The Cache River National Wildlife Refuge was established along the Cache River east of Biscoe. With its headquarters in Augusta (Woodruff County), the refuge encompasses more than 60,000 acres of wetlands and hardwood forests, protecting habitats and providing feeding and resting area for migrating waterfowl.
The population of Biscoe in 2010 was 363, almost evenly divided between whites and blacks. The city has several agricultural businesses, including Chesser Enterprises, as well as a grocery store, a post office, and two churches. It continues to be known as Fredonia at least as often as it is called Biscoe.
Rich soil from periodic flooding of the White River drew settlers as early as the mid-1830s who established plantations in the area that become Holly Grove. The name was taken from the holly thickets that were native to the area. Though the plantations once were considered a “suburb” of Lawrenceville,” the county seat of Monroe County for a time, the coming of the Arkansas Central Railroad in 1872 reversed their fortunes. Holly Grove’s economy flourished, while Lawrenceville became a ghost town. Incorporated in 1876, Holly Grove became a thriving community and an important depot between Clarendon and Helena.
Despite devastation created by the Flood of 1927, Holly Grove rebounded and was a lively community into the 1950s. As automobile traffic increased, including construction of Interstate 40 just over 20 miles north at Brinkley (between Little Rock and West Memphis), Holly Grove’s heyday diminished and ultimately the railroad tracks were removed.
Holly Grove is a well-preserved historic Delta community, with 20 surviving buildings in the downtown district listed in the National Register of Historic Places, along with two residences and a church. It is on the Monroe County Loop of the Great River Road National Scenic Byway.
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