Monday, July 3, 2017

Greco-Roman Jasper, Arkansas

Jasper lies northeast of Parthenon and a much farther distance from Venus. Jasper is in Newton County, in the northwest part of the state.

The 2010 census lists 466 residents. The 2000 census had the population at 498 residents, 99.98% of whom are white. That comes out as 497.9 people. Census showed 0.01% Native American and 0.01% “other races.” Federal math at work. Jasper’s biggest ever population was in 1980, when 519 people lived there. The smallest population was 91 in 1880.

Jasper is not a wealthy place, with 25.9% of families and 31.6% of the population overall living below the poverty level.

The Encyclopedia of Arkansas says Jasper was settled as a village along the Little Buffalo River by 1840. “Today, it is the hub for outdoor enthusiasts enjoying the Buffalo National River, one of the last free-flowing waterways in the United States, and the Ozark Highland Trail.”

Well, ain’t that nice – Outdoor enthusiasts enjoying one of the last free-flowing rivers in the United States. Let’s all go up to Jasper, mix and mingle with the almost 500 residents and then take our kayaks down the Buffalo River.

How did the town get its name, you ask?

“At least three different stories are told about the origin of the name Jasper. One oft-repeated legend says that Cherokee Indians traveling west on the torturous Trail of Tears gave the town its name after being surprised by the village’s warm hospitality. A second version of this same story tells of a precious ring, containing a jasper stone, given to the postmaster in gratitude for care given to the Cherokee travelers. Yet another account states that postmaster John Ross coined the name by comparing the mellow color of the local stone to jasper, one of the twelve precious stones mentioned in Revelation.”

Interesting, that John Ross part. There might have been lots of men with that name, but the most famous John Ross was principal Cherokee chief from 1828-66. Kind of coincidental, maybe, “Trail of Tears” and Postmaster John Ross?

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