Twin Groves is a town in northern Faulkner County on Highway 65 between Greenbrier (Faulkner County) and Damascus (Van Buren and Faulkner counties). It was formed in 1991 by the combination of two unincorporated communities, Solomon Grove and Zion Grove.
Solomon Grove was founded by a group of free African-Americans from the Memphis, Tennessee, area before the Civil War. Solomon was the last name of one of those families. Apparently, the group remained at the location even after Act 151 of 1859 required all free blacks to leave the state or risk being sold into slavery. The National Homestead Act of 1862 allowed former slaves to own land, and after the Civil War ended, more former slaves joined the community of Solomon Grove, some traveling from as far away as North Carolina to begin a new life in Arkansas.
A Baptist church was established at Solomon Grove in 1884, and a one-room log schoolhouse was built a few years later. In 1890, the community of Mount Zion was established nearby by a group of African-American families from Memphis. They also built a school and a church. Their school burned in 1895 but was replaced by a new one west of town. Most of the residents were farmers. The population declined sharply in 1919, perhaps due to intimidation from white neighbors, although no threats of violence were recorded.
The schools taught classes only to the eighth grade, but some children went on to boarding schools. A significant number continued to attend college classes at Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). The most prominent citizen of Solomon Grove was Silas Owens, Sr., a stonemason who is responsible for several significant buildings in the area, five of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. Four of these structures are private homes, but the fifth is the Smith-Hughes Building, originally constructed to be a school and now used as a community center and library.
Owens built many structures during the Great Depression and later; his earlier work was supported by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which provided funding for materials and also for apprentice carpenters and masons.
Following desegregation in the middle of the twentieth century, the schools in Solomon Grove and Zion Grove were closed, and children were bused to schools in Guy (Faulkner County). In the twenty-first century, the area is still included in the Guy-Perkins School District. By the 1960s, a sawmill had been built, and many of the farmers had converted their operations to dairy farms.
By the early 1990s, residents of Solomon Grove and Zion Grove were frustrated by their inability to receive funds from Faulkner County to repair their local roads. Led by Richard Ealy Jr., the two communities combined and incorporated as a town. Ealy was elected as the town’s first mayor.
Improvements to Highway 65 that same decade rerouted the highway, moving it away from some of the historic structures. The Twin Groves Cultural Center, featuring some of the early settlers of the community, opened in 2009.
The population of Twin Groves was 335 in the 2010 census, of whom 140 were white and 185 African American.
For additional information:
Dickerson, Rachel Parker. “Twin Groves Cultural Center Highlights Town’s Historic Figures.” Log Cabin Democrat, June 26, 2009, pp. 1A, 5A.
Trower, Kathy. “Twin Groves Works Together to Prosper.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette clipping, undated, Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Central Arkansas Library, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
This narrative courtesy of The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture.