October 18 -- Fox, Arkansas
Updated: Oct 20, 2022
October 19, 2022
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Fox is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) in Stone County, Arkansas, United States. It was first listed as a CDP in the 2020 census with a population of 237. Fox is located along Arkansas Highway 263, 21 miles west-southwest of Mountain View. Fox has a post office with ZIP code 72051.
History and geography
The town was officially established in 1905, when the post office was named Fox. However, early settlers to the area were in the community by the mid-1800s, with passage of the Homestead Act in 1861 making the area attractive to those who had the fortitude to survive as subsistence farmers on the hilly, rocky, heavily wooded terrain. Early settlers farmed at Meadowcreek or along the Little Red River, five to six miles away, before several families moved up the mountain to Fox.
The town was roused to defend the existence of its post office in 2011 when the USPS announced proposed closings. The community launched an all out campaign to save the post office, producing a YouTube video with locals telling their story. The town's campaign to keep their post office was featured in Seattle-based Equal Voice Newspaper, which led to a New York Times feature article in December 2011. The USPS public meeting to gather public input was one of the best attended in Arkansas, with almost 200 residents present and representatives from Senator Boozman's and Congressman Crawford's offices present. After public pressure from rural residents around the country to their congressional delegation, the USPS proposed a compromise in May 2012 to leave all post offices open with reduced hours and non-career employees in most cases.
Fox is the home to Rural Special School, a part of the Mountain View School District, although the school is located 2 miles (3.2 km) away from the town center at 13237 Highway 263. The school serves a number of small communities on the isolated mountain including Fox, Meadowcreek, Mozart, Parma, Rushing, Sunnyland, and Turkey Creek. The K-12th grade school has between 200-220 students. The school's small size made it subject to Act 60 which required annexation or consolidation in July 2004 of all school districts in Arkansas with fewer than 350 students.
On July 1, 2004, the former Rural Special School District consolidated into the existing Mountain View School District.
Today the school is part of the Mountain View district but maintains its separate campus. Local residents have been champions of the school from its beginning in 1946 to the present. Much of the original campus was built by volunteer labor. Historic Old Main which is listed on the National Historic Register was built from materials collected by local veterans who helped dismantle structures at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock. The Turkey Creek Schoolhouse, built in 1925 and used until Rural Special School came into existence in 1946, is also listed on the National Register of Historic places. Today supporters fill the gym at ballgames, volunteer for projects, donate to fundraisers, and rally for the school when called to action. Students routinely perform high on standardized academic performance tests. The school hosts events for the community including a Senior Citizens Thanksgiving Dinner, that celebrated its 40th year in 2012, and an annual program to honor veterans. Students also provide musical performances at a Christmas Concert and at a Spring Variety Show. The school has an active Parent Teacher Organization that raises funds for programs of the school through an annual Fall Festival. Extracurricular activities of the school include BETA, FBLA, FFA, FCCLA, Spanish Club, Art Club, Quiz Bowl, Yearbook, basketball, baseball, softball, track, and golf. Starting in August 2013, Rural Educational Heritage Inc. began operating Little Fox Trotter Academy, an Arkansas Better Chance preschool for three- and four-year-old students in the Fox area.
Rural Educational Heritage, Inc., a nonprofit organization formed to support Rural Special School and the community, was established in 2008. The organization raised $100,000 towards building a preschool and technology center with construction completed in October 2013. A Fox community website chronicles some of the events and history of Fox, Arkansas.
Fox is one of thirteen north central Arkansas communities included in Ozark Byways, which seeks to promote small towns in the region.
Music and notable alumni/residents in entertainment
Branson comedian and singer Paul Harris is a graduate of Rural Special School. He visits his alma mater with some sage advice(mostly humorous) for students and donates a concert each year to raise money for scholarships for Stone County students. Music is an important part of the school and community. Most likely this began as the chief source of entertainment for residents of the isolated community. Folk musician Dave Smith moved to Fox in 1979 and learned old-time music from fiddler Fate Morrison at weekly jam sessions at the Lonnie Lee residence. Smith, together with Robert and Mary Gillihan comprise the folk band Harmony. Shape-note singing was also taught at singing schools in the community from the early 1900s through the 1960s. Today the school has a music roots program with Dave Smith teaching lessons on fiddle, guitar, and mandolin. Students also enjoy traditional music classes and choir. John Taylor, a former resident of the area is a fiddler and has a family band called Sons of the Ozarks.
Several artisans call Fox their home. Tom & Sage Holland are internationally respected glass beadmakers; Joe Bruhin produces beautiful ceramics with his Japanese-style woodfired kiln. At Bear Pen Leathers Dave Smith crafts custom leather items such as knife sheaths for some of the best knife makers in the country. He also makes cowboy gear. Bladesmith Shawn Ellis is a graduate of Rural Special High School at Fox and in August 2017 was featured on the History Channel's "Forged in Fire" competition. Ellis won the competition and a $10,000 prize. http://stonecountyleader.com/ellis-wins-forged-in-fire/
The Fox Country Store is open seven days a week and run by proprietors Pam and Craig Hicks. Fox Flower & Gift is operated by Selena Linville. Numu Coffee is a wholesale distributor of fresh roasted specialty coffees, owned and operated by Robert Huckleberry and his wife Susan. Auctioneers hailing from Fox mountain include Travis Linville, David Lock, and Josh Linville.
There are a number of churches in the Fox area: Fox Assembly of God, Skyland Baptist, Zion Baptist, Fox Unity Pentecostal, Trinity Pentecostal at Turkey Creek, Fox Church of Christ, Bethlehem General Baptist, Parma Full Gospel, and Antioch General Baptist at Rushing. Fox was the home of the first Catholic church in Stone County but the church since moved to the population center of the county at Mountain View. In recent years Fox area churches organized a joint revival with each night hosted at a different church and sermon delivered by a pastor of another local church. Local churches also produced a joint Christmas program in 2011. The Antioch Outreach Center at Rushing provides a food pantry distribution on the third Saturday of each month and hosts a blood drive every other month.
Park & Community Center
The Fox Community Center is located a few blocks north of Fox. The former American Legion building has a large meeting room, kitchen, and bathrooms. Photos of over 200 area veterans surround the walls of the community center. The building may be rented for private celebrations, family reunions, etc. The Fox Park features playground equipment, basketball court, pavilion with picnic tables, bathrooms, softball/baseball field, and a paved walking track that circles the park. Since Fox is unincorporated, the two properties are owned by the county but managed by the Fox Community Services Committee.
From the Encyclopedia of Arkansas:
Fox is located on Highway 263 between Timbo (Stone County) and Rushing (Stone County). Turkey Creek flows a few miles north and northeast of Fox, while Jimmys Creek is to the northwest.
With the passage of the Homestead Act in 1862, early settlers began to eke out a living by growing crops along Meadowcreek and the Little Red River. A few hardy frontier families slowly moved up the hill from the river; their settlements would become the community of Fox.
Fox was originally called Smart, but when the post office was opened in 1905, another name was required, as there was already a Smart in Arkansas. As the debate over a name was taking place, someone caught a fox in the middle of town. One of postmaster George Washington Harper’s brothers suggested that the post office be called Fox, and so it was. Others say the name derives from the Fox family who lived in the area at the time.
The Turkey Creek School was built in 1925 and served Fox until 1946, when the isolated Stone County communities of the hill—including Fox, Meadowcreek, Mozart, Parma, Rushing, Sunnyland, and Turkey Creek—built one common school located along Highway 263 two miles from Fox. Called the Rural Special School, the tiny school was noted for its high educational standards. However, in July 2004, with only 200 students, Rural Special was made to consolidate with Mountain View Public Schools in accord with Act 60 of 2004.
Because of its isolation, the Rural Special campus remained in use. Since August 2013, Rural Educational Heritage Inc., a nonprofit organization, has operated a successful preschool in Fox. The traditional frame Turkey Creek school building designed by George Green and Robert Hawkins was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 25, 1985.
The original pioneers not only brought their farming equipment and animals, but they also brought their musical instruments and crafts. Fox is noted for its fine folk musicians and craftspeople who, during the folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s, met at the Lonnie Lee residence for “hootenannies.” Two such musicians were David Jackson Samuel Lafayette “Fate” Morrison and his brother William Perry (Willie) Morrison, both fiddlers. Morrison family tradition holds that an ancestor fiddled for George Washington at Valley Forge. Noted local guitarist Seth Newton Mize usually played with them. The Morrison brothers and Seth Mize traveled the world with their neighbor from Timbo, folk musician Jimmy Driftwood, in the 1950s and 1960s, entertaining and promoting local folk music and folklore. Following Fate Morrison’s death in 1988 in Fox, a lane connecting with Highway 263 was named the Fate Morrison Road.
Versatile folk musician David Smith, together with Robert and Mary Gillihan, make up the folk band Harmony, which performs in Fox and elsewhere. The Gillihans were featured entertainers at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View (Stone County) at one time. Fiddler John Taylor, once of Fox, has a popular family band known as Sons of the Ozarks. Popular Branson, Missouri, comedian and singer Paul Harris graduated from high school in Fox. Several noted artisans of Stone County have called Fox their home, such as ceramic artist Joseph Aloysius Bruhin III.
Governor Orval Eugene Faubus has ties to Fox. His third wife, Janice Ann (Jan) Hines Wittenberg, the daughter of Ted Hines and Dovie Branscum, hailed from the community. The couple was honored in the folk festival parade in Mountain View on April 18, 1987. She is buried in Fox Cemetery.
Fox and the surrounding area, particularly Meadowcreek, played a significant role in the back-to-the-land movement. Two brothers, David and Wilson Orr, consolidated their assets to buy 1,500 acres along Meadowcreek and the Little Red River. The two brothers moved their families to the area in June 1979 and began building a community that, they hoped, would supply all its own food and energy. This effort became known as the Meadowcreek Project. Meadowcreek is a three-mile-long valley rimmed on both sides by high, rocky bluffs rising 500 feet above the canyon floor, with rich farmland and 1,200 acres of mixed hardwoods and evergreens. There is also abundant water. The Meadowcreek project is ongoing, with headquarters on Meadow Creek Road in Fox.
An uproar ensued in 2011 when the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) decided to close the Fox Post Office, along with many other small post offices throughout the nation, in an effort to save money. Following a campaign by the citizens of Fox, the USPS relented in May 2012 and permitted Fox to keep its post office, with reduced hours.
In the twenty-first century, Fox is a prosperous community of 763. Its popular store, the Fox Country Store, is open seven days a week. It also has a flower and gift shop, a wholesale distributor for Numu Coffee, a park with a paved walking track, and a community building that once belonged to the American Legion. Several churches serve the area.
With an elevation of 1,414 feet, Fox is ideal for an assortment of towers, the most significant being a radio tower for KFFB, whose station is located at Fairfield Bay (Van Buren and Cleburne counties). About a mile north of Fox is a television tower for Arkansas PBS, Arkansas’s public television station.