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Columns | Bob Bowman's East Texas

Naming Arp


by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

Few towns have a name as simple and short as Arp, which sits on a railroad line and Texas Highway 135 eighteen miles southeast of Tyler in Smith County.

According to local history, Arp was named for a newspaper columnist known as Bill Arp . His real name was Charles Henry Smith, a young lawyer and well-known satirist who lived in Georgia.

In the early 1900s, a man reportedly visited the community on a Texas trip, using the name Bill Arp. The people in the community were so impressed with Arp that they named their town for him when a post office was established.

But the kicker is that Smith never visited Arp.


In 1861, during the Civil War, Smith wrote a letter to President Lincoln, expressing his sentiments toward Lincoln’s issuance of a proclamation that the militia of the seceding states disperse and disband.

In the South, the proclamation, which was met with both anger and amusement, came after Confederate batteries had fired on Fort Sumter and most of the Southern states had withdrawn from the Union.

A ferry boat operator read Smith’s letter to Lincoln, and asked Smith if he was going to print the letter and if he was going to use his own name to sign it.

Smith said he had not thought about a signature.

The ferryman, known as Bill Arp, said, “Well, I wish you would put my name on that letter for them is my sentiments.”

The Lincoln article was signed with the ferryman’s name, which marked the beginning of the pen name Bill Arp, which Smith used and made famous throughout the last quarter of the 19th century.

Smith continued to write about the Civil War and for a quarter-century his weekly articles were printed in the Atlanta Constitution under the name Bill Arp.

Smith kept the Bill Arp name until his death at the age of 77. As for the real Bill Arp, Smith often wondered what happened to the ferryman.


Before becoming Arp, the community was known as Jarvis Switch, Strawberry Switch, and Strawberry in recognition for the area’s most productive crop.

In 1903, the Arp School District was incorporated, composed of some 6,581 acres covering 10.28 square miles and owned by 23 individuals.

When the city was finally incorporated as Arp in 1931, the territory contained less than two square miles within the city limits and had a population of less than 650. But just how Arp got its name remains a mystery of sorts.


Bob Bowman's East Texas January 10, 2010 Column
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
Copyright Bob Bowman




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