The Pioneer Village has been bringing White County’s history to life since 1968

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Pioneer Village, the main preservation project of the White County (Ark.) Historical Society.

The village started at the White County Fairgrounds with one log home donated by the Gordon Family. First year visitors numbered about 3,000. Over the years, the village grew and foresighted members of the WCHS sought to move the village to a location it could call its own and to provide more space. That location proved to be at 1220 Higginson St., in Searcy, Ark., across from the Searcy Sports Complex.

Thanks to the dedication of dozens of county historians, benevolent benefactors, and a host of others intent on preserving the frontier legacy of White County, Pioneer Village now contains that original log home, an old school house, a Calaboose, a blacksmith shop, a barn, outbuildings and a host of antique farm equipment. Visitors to the village get an excellent feel of 19th century frontier life in White County.

Three times a year the village becomes a bustling frontier community full of craftsmen plying their trade, musicians playing folk music, dozens of vendors selling homemade crafts and foods, as well as educational presentations. Civil War history buffs are also treated to Civil War encampments and history lessons. Two-day open houses are hosted the first weekend in April and November, and the Christmas Open House (complete with Santa Clause) happens the first Saturday of December.

“We had over 2,500 visitors this year for our fall open house,” said Elizabeth Heard, WCHS treasurer. “We pull from 38 counties in the region with a few out of state visitors who happened to be in the area when they heard about the open house.”

An army of dedicated volunteers spend countless hours each year planning and working hard to make sure the open houses are successful. But it is not just about the three open house weekends. Members are constantly researching and writing about White County’s history and report to the society the last Monday of each month. The society also publishes an annual White County heritage book with new historical facts and pictures. The publications and donations received at the Pioneer Village open houses help fund the WCHS projects.

“This (Pioneer Village) is a preservation project,” Elizabeth said. “Our volunteers do it for the love of history.” Unfortunately, each generation is one more removed from this great history. We are trying in some small way to not only preserve the history, but to pass it on.”

The grounds of Pioneer Village are open daily, with the buildings being open when there are activities on the grounds. The village also hosts field trips, seminars and other educational events throughout the year.


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