Cotter, Arkansas: An early postcard view from Marion County
Cotter Historical Briefs

By Anne Ramey

Some important dates in 
Cotter history

Cotter was first inhabited by Bluff Dwellers, and at least 14 Native American tribes inhabited north central Arkansas over time.

1819     Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, a New York explorer and ethnographer, spent the night of Jan. 14 at what is now Cotter. He came to the Ozarks primarily to learn about the area's geography and minerals. The report of his explorations was published in 1853 as Scenes and Adventures in the Semi-Alpine Regions of the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and Arkansas.

1838-39 About 1,000 Cherokees crossed the White River near Fallen Ash Creek, just upstream from downtown Cotter, on the Trail of Tears. Cherokee Chief John Benge and a "wealthy merchant" from Georgia named Thornton led them. Thornton's daughter and another child were in a wagon that was swept underwater. Thornton's daughter barely survived, and the other child drowned.

1892 Herbert Hoover, who was president of the United States at the beginning of the Great Depression, spent the summer helping State Geologist John C. Branner survey the area.

1901 More than 20 mining companies were active in Baxter County, with a total capitalization of over $21 million. Many more were active in Marion County. Much of the mining traffic came through Cotter, and remaining slag suggests there was a smelting mill on the downriver side of Cotter The mining era lasted through World War l.

1902 On Nov. 21, after lengthy public debate, a Missouri-Pacific official announced that thc White River Line would meet the main Missouri-Pacific line at Lake's Landing, which was renamed Cotter in honor of popular railroad manager, William Cotter.

1903 The Cotter post office opened

1904 The first school in Cotter was opened with 40 pupils

1905 Construction of the railroad bridge was completed, but Louis Collins, Clyde and Sneed's father, died at 35 helping build it.

1905 Cotter was incorporated. It already had a population of 600 and was served by at least 43 businesses.

1906 The first passenger train arrived in Cotter in January.

1930 World's largest Marsh Rainbow Arch bridge was opened across the White River at Cotter on U.S Highway 62. Now named the R. M Ruthven Bridge, it is on the National Register of Historic Places - and must be saved!

1960 The last passenger train pulled out of Cotter on March 21. The engineer was A.C. Schultz, son of Charles Schultz, who reportedly was engineer on the first passenger train in to Cotter (accounts differ).

1992 The Cotter Care Crews organized to improve some of the deteriorating areas of lite community Among the accomplishments of the all-volunteer group are city beautification and the development of parks and walking trails.

A Cotter Story from 1819

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft: explorer, ethnographer, mineralogistIn 1819, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft spent the night of Jan. 14 at J. Yochem's, where Cotter is now. In Scenes and Adventures in the Semi-Alpine Regions of the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and Arkansas (1853), he wrote:

Thursday, Jan. 14th.
We concluded to lend our canoe to Mr. Yochem, who in addition to his own, stood in need of it to carry down bears' bacon and pork, to a trader lying at the mouth of the Great North Fork, of whom he had made some purchases.

The distance was computed at 35 miles by water, and included some of the most difficult navigation in the river, while by land it was only 15. Leaving our baggage therefore to be brought down in the canoe, we took a foot or horse-path leading across the country, and arrived a little before night ... at the mouth of the Great North Fork [now Norfork].

Our canoe did not arrive that night .... [A keel boat was "lying in" where Schoolcraft was waiting for his canoe.] The articles brought up in it for the purposes of exchange, were chiefly flour, salt, and whiskey, with some coffee, calico, and a few smaller articles. In return, beaver, deer, otter, bear, and raccoon skins, bears' bacon, fresh pork, and beef, in the gross, venison, bees'-wax, honey, and buffalo beef, are taken.

Friday, Jan. 15th.

Compelled, by the non-arrival of our canoe, to spend the day at this spot, I determined to improve the time by a ramble through the adjacent country, and to seek that amusement in the examination of rocks, and trees, and mountain-scenery.

... We here behold the assembled tributaries flowing in a smooth, broad. deep, and majestic current ... skirted at a short distance by mountains of the most imposing grandeur.... [The] extreme limpidity and want of colour ... was early seized upon by the French traders on first visiting this stream, in calling it "La Rivière Blanche" (White River).

Saturday, Jan. 16th.

[The canoe returned at dusk the night before with the man who had borrowed it] accompanied by several neighbors and friends in their canoes, who also came down to trade, making a party of twelve or fourteen in all. Whisky began to circulate freely, and by the time they had unloaded their canoes we began, plainly to discover that a scene of riot and drinking was to follow .... We did not lie down to sleep for that was dangerous .... As soon as light could be discerned in the morning we joyfully embarked in our canoe, happy in having escaped bodily disfiguration.

Anne Ramey is collecting information for a history of Cotter that will include stories of daily life. If you have information, a story, a picture, or an artifact she may photograph, please contact her at PO. Box 308, Cotter, AR 72626; (870) 435-6018; or

This brief history was compiled from several sources: McClelland's History of Baxter County; Adams' The White River Railway; Lawry's Cotter, Arkansas, The Story of a Small Town; and Steamboats and Ferries on the White River by Huddleston, Rose, and Wood.

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Last edited: 10/17/2007
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