Known as Canehill by some and Cane Hill by others, this unincorporated community in the Ozark Mountains has a long and rich history. It’s the location of one of the first four-year colleges chartered by the state of Arkansas, the site of the Civil War Battle of Cane Hill in 1862, and home to 16 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The area’s natural springs attracted the community’s first European settlers who built a thriving economy through agriculture. Cane Hill once served as a trading post for the surrounding apple orchards, as farmers would sell their crops to merchants from Fort Smith. The Cumberland Presbyterians established the Cane Hill School that would evolve to Cane Hill Collegiate Institute before becoming Cane Hill College in 1852. It would be the first co-ed college in the state.
Cane Hill’s story also includes setbacks, decline and revival. Once positioned to be a burgeoning epicenter of industry, commerce and higher education, opportunity passed by Cane Hill without stopping – much like the railroad built through Arkansas in the second half of the 19th century bypassed the community in favor of near-by Prairie Grove.
The Civil War had a dramatic impact on the community of Cane Hill. The college college closed and three of the four buildings on campus were destroyed. After the war, the community persevered and was once again reborn into a bustling community from the 1860s to 1880s with a milling industry and local stoneware producer.
However, the college struggled to compete for enrollment with the nearby Arkansas Industrial University, what is now the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and the school’s charter was moved to Clarksville to become the University of the Ozarks.
Today, we maintain the buildings of Cane Hill and the surrounding area for new generations of visitors to enjoy, as we honor the memory of this community and preserve the stories of those who lived here.
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