Photo: special to the Democrat-Gazette/ Marcia Schnedler

Story originally published by Arkansas Online.

A number of Arkansas towns have downtown walls decorated with murals. But Pocahontas stands out with its Randolph County Quilt Trail, displaying reproductions of more than 50 quilts on buildings in its 17-square-block National Historic District.

Created in 2009 by Five Rivers Historic Preservation, the quilt copies are nearly full-size and printed on marine vinyl. They portray a variety of historic, cultural, and geometric motifs that reflect the heritage of generations of women in the Arkansas town with a deep and varied history.

It's likely (but not certain) that Pocahontas is named for the famous American Indian maiden. The town was a major staging area for Confederate troops, and was occupied by Union forces who burned part of the town in 1863. Located on the Black River, it thrived during the riverboat era of the 19th century and the subsequent glory years of railroading. Most buildings in the historic district are brick and date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when German settlers were prominent here. For decades, visitors flocked to Pocahontas when mussels were harvested to gather shells to make pearl buttons from. A sign in the town reminds visitors of those hard times: "With the promise of a brighter future, shellers flocked to these shores seeking wealth and prosperity. What they found was often something different. Hard work, rugged living conditions and an ever-present feeling of uncertainty about what the day's catch would bring in."

A walking-tour guide to the quilts is available at Randolph County Heritage Museum. Other attractions in the Historic District include:​

  • Sanitary Barbershop, dating to the 1880s and said to be the state's oldest such business
  • A huge alligator gar caught in 1955 at Shaver's Eddy on the Black River. More than 7 feet long and weighing 164 pounds, the fish had to be shot before Rudolph Gazaway Sr. and his son could land it.
  • Futrell's Pharmacy, occupied by a pharmacy or drugstore since 1854. The present owners maintain a soda fountain with prices to match its old-fashioned motif.A single scoop of ice cream, with a choice of 12 flavors, is $1.