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Kingston, Arkansas | A Rural Ozark Town

There are some hidden treasures in the Ozarks. The tiny little town of Kingston, Arkansas in Madison county is one of them. It’s been my adopted home-base since 2005, when I moved up here from south Louisiana.

Something’s up in Kingston these days, though. It’s end of December 2021 as I write this, and I’ll return to update once the mystery is solved. Here’s the question: Why is someone buying and trying to buy all of the houses and buildings around the square? If you know the answer, please do share. A lot of us out here would love to know.

In the meantime, I’ll be curiously waiting to see what is done with the café and the old Bunch building, which I believe were both purchased by the same buyer who is trying to buy the rest of it. I’ll update that assumption, too, if it proves to be mistaken.

Update 12/31/21

Kingston is about to become a busy little town. This is a double-edged sword. Most of us like the relative calm, peaceful, quiet small town life. But more traffic going through can offer good business opportunities, too. It would be nice if those opportunities got taken advantage of by the locals, but a two of the best properties were purchased by someone else – still don’t know who. Regardless of who bought them, this could benefit town residents by providing close jobs and other possible indirect opportunities. The rest of the small store owners on the square can position themselves to take advantage of it still, if they want to.

What’s going on? The old Dogpatch USA site on Hwy 7 near Jasper is about to get a makeover. Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, bought the property and plans to make a nature park out of it.

Why does that affect Kingston? Anyone going to the new park from areas north and northwest of us will most likely go through Kingston to get there. It’s what I consider to be the most scenic route, and it’s the most direct (as direct as anything is possible with our curvy, hilly roads). So that’s why investors have been contacting property owners in Kingston. Businesses, lodging, anything that caters to tourists will be great business ventures in the next few years. It will take some years before the park is drawing the traffic, but that day is fairly certain to happen in the not-too-distant future.

About Kingston

Our town historians John Little and Charlene Grigg have both passed on, and I didn’t take the time to gather information from them when I could have. So I’ve resorted to Wikipedia for the historical information. Kingston was born and named after King Johnson in 1853. That’s it. That’s all of the historical information at that source. I really, really, should have sat down with our historians before it was too late.

There are some wonderful comments below that add historical information about this area. I’m thankful to all of you who contributed!

Anyway, here’s a little about the modern-day Kingston. The town itself is tiny, consisting only of a simple square with a gazebo in the middle for the “downtown” portion and across the bridge heading north there is the school and a gas station. That comprises the “uptown”.

There is a short term rental near the square, and cabins in the surrounding area. Nearest hotels will be found in outlying larger towns and cities. I have a page on my site with local ‘home-away’ and cabin-type lodging. If you know of other places I can add to it, leave me a comment.

Population and Venues

Last I knew, the population was around 500. But most of the people live in the hills surrounding Kingston. And in those hills are a lot of crafty and artistic There was at one time more evidence of that, because we had an art and craft gallery for a couple of years. Now you’ll just have to hope for serendipity to strike. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch Lisa out in front of the old Cob’s store with her wares. More about that below, under the Pop-Up Businesses heading.

What other kinds of businesses are there you ask? Well, we have a feed store, realtor, library, cafe, and bank. And we *used to have* two antique stores, a general mercantile, and an art gallery, but now all but one of the antique stores are closed. Just out of the square, north on 21, we have a gas station/convenience store (it has a grill, too).

Pop-Up Businesses

On some weekends community members will set up a yard-sale or garage sale in the gazebo. And Lisa Davis, one of the square residents, has an assortment of crafts and critters she puts up in a pop-up show on weekends. It’s located at the old Cobb’s store, which is owned by her family but is no longer operated as a store. At her pop-up you’ll find plants, quail, chickens, ducks, rabbits, other random farm critters, and her arts and crafts.

A Pop-Up Art Show?

If you’d like to see any of my original artwork, I’d be happy to bring my tent down and set up an impromptu art show for you, too. I don’t have the time to go down and set up every weekend just to see if anyone will pass through and stop. But if you know you’re coming through and are interested in my Ozark pigment watercolor original art, I’ll be glad to put the tent in the car and make a pop-up!

Just email me to set up the day and approximate time you’ll be passing through town and I’ll be there with my earthy Ozark pigment nature paintings. You can see my online portfolio at MadisonWoods.art. If there’s a particular one you’re interested in, let me know. Sometimes they’re not on hand and are in shows. If that’s the case I can let you know.

Here’s a few of my favorites:

Looking for your dream hideaway in Kingston, Arkansas?

If you are interested in business or land-ownership opportunities in the Kingston area, please touch base with my daughter. She’s a real-estate agent for this area and specializes in helping buyers find their dream country home, farm, or ranch. You can also stop in at Ranch One Realty and talk to Craig, which is also the feed store owner. It’s right there on the square.

Where the Heck is Kingston, Arkansas?

You’ll easily find it heading north on Highway 21 from Clarksville, AR (off of I-40) or by heading south on 21 (off of Hwy 412). See the map at the top of this post.

If you’re heading to Boxley or Ponca, you’ll already be in the vicinity.

Kingston Square Arts shop in Kingston, Arkansas.
No longer open, but here’s the old Bunch Trading Post . Most recently it was Kingston Square Arts shop in Kingston, Arkansas. There were iterations of other stores in here before, and likely will become something new again in the near future (hopefully). The building is historic and has interesting features to see inside, like the old ledgers from when it was an operating general store from the late 1800’s – late 1900’s.

I had a vested interest in Kingston Square Arts, and the store that existed in it’s location before. A little corner of the shop used to house my artwork. If you meant to stop in before it closed, but missed the window, you can email me about my artwork. My email address is madison@wildozark.com. If you were looking for pottery by Greg Hall, you can find him via his website at www.Oddbowlz.com.

Grandpa’s Antique Store

This iconic Kingston antique store and destination is closed and for sale.

The Bank

The bank is also a historic building. Pretty much all of the buildings on the square are. Inside the bank you can see the old tin ceiling tiles and the old bank vault. Both are in the lobby.

Others

There’s also Bargain Buddy (antiques), the library (very small by most standards, but much larger than it used to be!), and a newly renovated building for Ranch One Realty & Feed store. There’s a gas station just off the square to the north that also serves food.

I’ve probably left something out, so if you’re reading this and want to mention another spot to stop in our town of Kingston, Arkansas, or talk about the history of Kingston, just leave a comment and let everyone know!


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Author/Artist Info
________________________________
I make watercolor paints (I call them Paleo Paints) from the lightfast pigments foraged from Madison county, Arkansas. Most of them are gathered from our own creeks here at Wild Ozark.

My inspiration is nature – the beauty, and the inherent cycle of life and death, destruction and regeneration.
We’re surrounded by it here in the remote hills of northwest Arkansas.

My Portfolio is at MadisonWoods.art

Click here to join my mailing list.

25 thoughts on “Kingston, Arkansas | A Rural Ozark Town”

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  1. I just went by there today on the way from, to Eden Falls. Looks like a movie set for a western. Looks like aghost town. It is Labor Day today.

    1. Thanks for dropping by the website, Andrew! LOL, yes, Kingston looks like a ghost town often these days. At the moment, no one is using the cafe, mercantile, or old Bunch trading post – or the old antique store – so there isn’t much open for business. However, someone bought most of those buildings and they should be putting them into service over the next few years. Then it’ll look less like a ghost town.

  2. Kaytee Koertge

    Hello. I have been drawn to Kingston just recently. I moved out here by Ponca and Compton a couple yrs ago due to covid and change of direction. I am a natural health practitioner including yoga and massage and healthy foods in my practice. So i am exploring and asking for direction from the Lord on this and any help you can give me is appreciated. I guess i am looking for the right place (building) for me to do this. I am blessed with another business and my health business is to bless others and i guess thats why Kingston is on my mind – blessings need to be felt there ?? Idk. Love Kaytee.

    1. Hello Kaytee! Welcome to the neighborhood 😀 It’s a beautiful area, even if it is a bit hot and dry at the moment. Right offhand, I don’t know of anything available in Kingston. There are a lot of unused buildings, but I don’t think any of them are for sale, but I could be wrong. The owner of Ranch One feed store on the Kingston square, Craig, is a real estate agent, so he’d be a great person to ask about that. My daughter, Gabby Hill, is also a realtor and handles a lot of properties in the area. Her email is gabbie@mwrealty.com if you’d like to reach out to her. Good luck in your search! ~ Madison

  3. Hi, this was a great article you wrote about Kingston. I love to find out more interesting history on Kingston and this area. Here’s a few things I noticed you might want to amend : going toward Boxley on hwy. 21 is north, not south, and going toward 412 on hwy 21 is south. Also, Grandpa’s Antique store has been sold and is not officially for sale right now. And ‘rumor’ I’ve heard about the buildings in Kingston being bought up-the arts building, the cafe, I’ve heard that Johnny Morris bought them. And that he’s trying to buy more buildings there, and land. I don’t know what his plans are for this, and can’t confirm that it’s him that bought them, but if it’s true, I’m sure he will do something awesome in Kingston, just as his plans are for the old Dogpatch. Hope he keeps it natural in Kingston as well. Since I’ve lived here, I’ve said that Kingston is such a quaint, pretty little (kinda Hallmark like) ‘town’, and should have more to offer. I know locals don’t want change, and don’t like all the tourists, but they are are here, and more is coming, can’t stop progress. So many tourists go through Kingston already, we should have more to offer there and make it a better, prettier place for them to drive through. It’s a shame to see all the historical buildings just wasting away, and become an eyesore, instead of making them better. While I can understand the locals wanting everything to remain the same, I also can envision what it should be, and if locals want this area to be what they want, they should get on board with what is coming, whether they like it or not, and locals should be buying up those buildings and land and capitalizing on what is coming for themselves, to make it like they want it. If not, someone else will do it for them. I love this paradise I moved to, and love the peacefulness of where I live now and I also do NOT want this area to become “Disneyland’. But with all the recent publicity about this area, in famed magazines and such, everyone is wanting to come here, to escape, to enjoy all there is to offer here in nature, and peace…what everyone is looking for. I am an ‘outsider’ and always will be, moving to this area, not born and raised here. And I love it here.

    But progress is coming, whether we like it or not.

    These are just my opinions and observances (as an outsider), not meaning to offend anyone.

    I’ve met a lot of amazing folks since I’ve moved here, I’ve heard a lot of history about this area, just met some folks today that told me so much more. I, like you, want to know more of the history here, so if you want to know some more of those folks who could tell you so much more about here, just contact me and I can introduce you to them.

    I love your art, and all that you capture in your true and amazing works of nature of this area, and I love that you make and use paints that you have created from natural rocks in this area. Simply amazing! I’ve met you a few times at your ‘popups’, and I’m always cheering for the recognition and awards that you’ve received.

    1. Hi Debbie, I’m very happy you’re visiting me here at my virtual home! And thank you so much for sharing your observations about what is going on in Kingston. I tend to agree that it is better to accept that change is coming and make the most of it. I do understand the desire for it to just stay small and quiet, too. Oh, I know who bought the Grandpa’s store. If it is Mr. Morrison who is buying up properties, I’m sure he will have big plans for the area. I can imagine bike and hiking trails all the way from Kingston to the new Nature Park. While I’m not thrilled to see Kingston change, I am one of those who will try to make the best of it. I’m sure we’ll run into each other again out there, too! And, oh, what famed magazines has Kingston appeared in? I did not know this tidbit.

      With the directions, if I turn off of Hwy 412, I have to go south to get to Boxley. If I go north on 21 at 412, I’m heading to Berryville. If I’m in Boxley, I have to go north to get to Kingston. Between Kingston and Clarksville, I’m calling that leg of Hwy 21, 21 south, though I don’t know if it’s labeled that way. I’ll look when I go out to town today, lol. However, that’s all direction by highway and by as the crow flies, it all flies out the window sometimes, haha. But if I have that wrong, I sure do need to understand it.

      Thank you for your support, I appreciate it tremendously! Come back and visit here anytime and just email me if you want to come out to visit in real life, too. I’m eager to see what happens with the cafe and hope they put something good for people to meet up at least for coffee back in the square.

  4. My ancestor Joseph Rogers received Bounty land next to the Bohannons from a bounty land grant in 1854 from serving with Captain Newman in the Battle of New Orleans. He has been entered on the war memorial of soldiers of Arkansas of the war of 1812 buried in Arkansas. This is on the Capitol Grounds of Little Rock. His wife Rachel Rogers was a Merrell and grand daughter of famous Captain Benjamin Rogers of the Revolution. He was a great Patriot and died near Saulsbury North Carolina in 1771.

  5. My Ancestor was Joseph Rogers whose family had a flower mill off of the kings River near Kingston. Its likely his wife Rachel Merrell is buried at the Upper Campground cemetery there close by her son Lawson Rogers. Its likely my Rogers family moved there between 1830 and 1841.

    1. Hi Kem, thanks for adding some more information about Kingston people to my page! It’s so fascinating to read about the settlers that founded this area, and to see how many still have family continuing here. We’ve recently lost one of our great historians, Charlene Grigg. She had binders of newspaper clippings and stories. I bet she would have liked to have added these notes to her collection.

  6. Came across this site and thought I’d say howdy. My ancestors settled in the Kings River Valley near Kingston in the 1830’s, about 20 years before King Johnson founded (platted) Kingston. They were one of four original white families to settle the area. My paternal grandparents were born in the Kingston area.

    I lived in Kingston 1964-1966, then again in the mid-to-late 1970s. My parents owned the land (approx 350 acres) on the big hill that you see when standing on the square looking past the school over the bank and cafe. There were approx 300 people living in and around town in the 1960s. My parents retired there in 1974 and sold the land in 1996. Jim and Susan McDougal, who went to prison in the “Whitewater-gate” scandal in the Clinton Administration, owned the property next to my parents’ in the 1970s. The Madison Guaranty that was an integral part of that story was the bank. (In the 1960s is was owned by (Ralph?) Bunch. Hugh Bunch owned the general store on the corner. That may be what you refer to as the antique store.

    I have lots more to tell, but must sign off. Please get in touch if you’d like.

    By the way, I noticed that a “Charlene Grigg” was listed as a painter. I knew a wonderful woman by that name in the ’60s. She was about 20 years my senior, married to Billy Grigg (kids Cathy and Gary), and they owned a small general store just off the square toward their house. (Curt Grigg, Billy’s brother, owned the garage on the square near his house. His wife was Donnie Jean Gurley Grigg, a cousin.) Curt and Billy ran cattle on my dad’s place.

    Jim Gurley

    1. Hi Jim, thanks for contributing some interesting history and context to our little town of Kingston! Charlene is still here, lives just up the road from the square. She is indeed a lovely woman and a wonderful painter. When you say ‘original white families’, where there families of other ethnicities here too? I didn’t move here until 2005, and worked in Bentonville until 2013, so I didn’t have time to get to know many of my ‘neighbors’ during that time. Now I don’t go into town often, just stay at home except for errands once a week, so that doesn’t lend itself to much socializing either, lol. Charlene has a tremendous amount of history collected in binders and I enjoyed looking through them, especially loved the old photos.

  7. Hello Tommy, I think I had you and Tom Little mixed up when I answered you. He is the son of Johnny Little who I thought was descended from Grey Eagle. Apparently all three of us are descended from Thomas and Luvinia. It’s interesting to hear from you both.

    1. That alright I’m always glad to hear from family. I think one day I’m going to try to get to Kingston to visit with as many as I can . I live around Tulsa Oklahoma.

  8. Ok Etheldred Little and Elizabeth Betsy Moye Little had four kids that I know .
    Thomas Napoleon Little
    Nancy Jane Little
    Lydia Little and
    Grey Eagle Little
    I know that Grey Eagle Little and his side lived around Prauge okla. He is buried there .

  9. Roxanna Begley McCullough

    Hello Tommy. It’s nice to hear from you! I do have one question. My mother and Johnny Little has talked several times about the family and it was her understanding that he was descended from Grey Little who was a brother to Thomas Napoleon Little. Is that incorrect? My mom still lives at Kingston on 21 towards Boxley. I went to school and graduated from Kingston in 1986. I moved to Berryville in 1989. That is amazing to hear that Flossie is still living!! Let me know about your family and I would love to visit you sometime and look at pictures if you have any. We have no pictures of any of the older ones.

  10. Yes mam , My 3rd grea grandparents was Thomas Napoleon Little and his wife was Luvina Angeline Little ( Eberhardt ) , My 2nd great grandpa was James Leo Little and his wife was Nancy Little ( Spencer ) . My great grandparents were William Jackson Little and his wife was Arizona Little ( Lane ) . I know that Thomas and Luvina are buried in the Kingston cemitary. My grandparents and their parents are buried in the Little cemetery just north of Seminole Oklahoma. William Jackson Little moved his family there around 1906. I don’t know about now but in the 70s my grandma told me I was kin to half the town at that time .

    1. Roxanna Begley McCullough

      My 3rd great grandparents were also Thomas and Lavina Little. I am a 6th generation of the Littles. It’s amazing to find someone else descended from them. Their daughter Margaret was my 2nd great grandma. My mom still lives at Kingston.

    2. Thanks for dropping in and leaving a comment, Roxanna! It’s pretty cool that you’ve found a relative here 🙂 If Tommy doesn’t reply soon, I may forward this to him because I bet he’d like to read it, but he might not be following comments.

  11. My great grandparents were early settlers of Kingston. Lanes , Littles . Use to have a Little and Norris reunion back in the 70s and 80s there unroll they moved it to Idaho in the late 80s . I was told that they founded the town and built the first school so they could teach there kids . Use to be a picture in the store on the square that had pics of my grandparents in it . My grandpa is Leo Jay Little and my grandma is Vina Columbus Little ( Hill) . They both have passed away but I still remember going to the reuion on one of my cousins land right outside of town.

    1. Hi Tommy, thanks for leaving a comment! I know the Littles own Grandpa’s Antique store on the square, are you of those Littles? Charlene Grigg is the one who comes in while I’m working at the gallery and helps me learn the history and people of old Kingston. I’ve lived her 13 years and still haven’t made a dent in learning everyone’s names. Have a great day 🙂

    2. Hello Cousin, I just saw your post and thought I’d give you a shout. My name is Thomas D. Little named after my 3rd grandpa, Thomas Napolean Little also…..My parents were John D. and Lois (White) Little, proud owners of Grandpa’s Flea Market on the Square in Kingston. I also used to attend the reunions in Kingston when i could as I am 20 year retired US Army and during that time I wasn’t always able to attend. I remember Leo and Vina. My grandparents were Clyde and Wilma (Parker) Little. Doyal Little and his wife Flossie (Clark) Little owned the farm the reunion used to be held at, Flossie is still alive at 106 but her mind has slipped. Their Grandson Brent Mitchell and his family own and live on that farm now. I am the only Little (sir name) left living in Kingston now so anytime you are thinking about heading this way contact me and we will try to visit?

    3. Thomas it was nice to hear from you . Going to the reunion my grandpa and grandma will always be a great memories. I know they would get excited when it rolled around. Here is my email feel free to write
      Wilkersont897@gmail.com

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