Pride in Gravette Dates Back to the Start Article by Billie Jines - Cave Springs Scene, March 17, 1965
The folks over at Gravette were feeling rightfully proud of their prize-winning town last week. "It's just wonderful," was the stock reply as a number of Gravette women were asked what they thought the town of Gravette being named first prize winner in its population category for the state in the Fifteenth Annual Arkansas Community Developement Contest.
However, one Gravette woman, Mrs. Marie Myers, thought about the question from her place at the water department desk and recalled that there always had been those who had faith and pride in the town of Gravette -- ever since before it was officially named!
To prove her point, Mrs. Myers brought back to the office, during her lunch hour, four heavy volumes of bound newspapers. They began with Vol. 1, No. 1 of the Gravett (no last "e" at the time) News. The paper, Gravette's first, was founded with that first issue on Sept. 22, 1894 by Mrs. Myers' father, the late A. C. Veach. Mrs. Myers was about five years old at the time, and so, she explained, she had actually been at Gravette as long as there had been a Gravette -- and a Gravette newspaper.
Image of Gravette from around 1910
Of course, the settlement now known as Gravette pre-dates the year 1894, and to this day a spot within the town is still refferred to as Old Chalky or Chalk Valley by the local folks. However, as can be seen through the columns of the 70-year old paper, Old Chalky was not the name of that early settlement. Its name was Nebo, but Old Chalky was the name of the whiskey manufactured there.
Part of the area locals called Old Chalky. You can see the whiskey distillery in the backgound to the left with the "X" above it.
Mr. Veach, the newspaper publisher-editor, began his paper one week before the town was officially named Gravett. He called that first issue the Gravett News, but his news column was entitled, "The Nebo News." The next week in the Sept. 29 edition, Mr. Veach announced:
"Gravett becomes the name of the post office in lieu of Nebo on the first of the month." Here it should be explained that Gravett was named thus to honor a citizen by that name. Some years later, a technicality involving the post office made it seem adviseable to add the last"e", and the man whose name the town bore admitted that his French forebearers originally had also used an "e" on their name. Today, the name Gravette is use exclusively in the town, except for one business -- the bank, which found the legal problems of changing the spelling too involved to warrant the addition of the other letter.
Back to the story: Mrs. Myers was right. The founder of the paper, even back there in late 1894 and right on until he sold the business in 1898, stayed unwaveringly with one aim: To boost and back the town of Gravette. He either or quoted frequently such statements as these:
Sept. 22, 1894: "There is more building being done in this city than any town on the KCP&G."
Sept. 29, 1894: "That Gravett is the best town of it age and size along the line...."
On Nov. 10 that year, the editor wrote an official announcement and compliment for Gravette and Northwest Arkansas which he carried on the front page for several succeeding weeks: "Northwest Arkansas, so long shut-in from the outside world, has been opened up by the construction of the Frisco and Kansas City, Pittsburg & Gulf Railroads and is now famous for its natural resources and advantages offered to home seekers...." The article listed such assets as adaptable soil, the greatest variety of crops, desirable climate, a good spring for for ever quarter section and others.
Naturally, the editor was not simply turning out a paper of re-assurance for his readers. Things were happening and he carried stories that gave the news. "Spanish and American Warship Movements," read one headline of 1898. Another reminds today's reader that many of the citzens of that day had known the Civil War personally. "Meeting of the Blue and the Gray Set," ran the headline.
On May 21, 1988, Mr. Veach commented, "President McKinley has experienced considerable difficulty in getting horses to suit him..." And June 4, he wrote, "The work of construction on the Arkansas and Oklahoma railroad from Bentonville to Gravett is being pushed as rapidly as possible to an early completion..."
But back to the convictions every so often. Like on April 24, 1897: A story headed, "The City of Gravett -- A Few Facts About Our Young City and Its Many Advantages -- A Good Field for Investors," the editor listed many assets of his hometown. Among the business and industries, he named two blacksmith shops, a large flour roller mill, brickyard, two livery stables, and said,"The Chalk Valley Distillery, Gravett, ships more goods than any any other distillery in the state of Arkansas."
Each issue of that early-day paper carried advertisements of the distillery. One read: "R. W. Covey And E. M. Gravett, Covey & Co. Wholesale Liquor Dealers and Manufacturers of "Old Chalky" -- a pure sour mash whiskey, Gravett, Ark. All goods re-gauged and outage guaranteed not to exceed the Carlisle Bill. Mail Orders Promptly Attended To."
Also prominent in the news was another leading industry of the Gravette of the late 1890's: fruit growing.
And in the very location where Mr. Veach first established his weekly newspaper, there stands today the city's water office where his daughter looks out over the town her father had so much faith in -- and she knows that her father's faith in the town was not in vain.
Mrs. Myers points out the fact that the town of less than 1,000 has some 10 churches of about nine denominations. She mentions that Field E. Kindley Memorial Park in the town is a tribute to a citizen who died a hero's death. And she stresses the fact that not only does the town have businesses and industries to offer its citizens employment, but that it is so located that by driving only a few miles in either direction, work is available in surrounding towns. Like others questioned on the mattter, Mrs. Myers is proud of the cooperation shown by citizens of the community.
And, of course, these things make Gravette's neighbors proud, too, for in bringing honor to their own little city, the folks of Gravette brought honor to the entire area.