This week the letter is M. M is for Mena, Arkansas. I have liven in Mena for 30 years now. My wife and I moved to Mena from Colorado in April of 1981 and have made our home here ever since. We drove from Colorado to Mena in this 1967 Toyota Stout Pickup that I had custom painted to show my patriotism.
The history of Mena begins in the last decade of the 19th century. In 1895, Arthur Stilwell sent railroad scouts to the Ouachita Mountains. The men were to scout the area and lay out the best path for the soon to be built railroad, which was to run from Kansas City to the Gulf coast.
When the surveyors came there was very little cleared land. The area purchased for the future townsite of Mena was a farm owned jointly by Dr. G.G. Baker and R.S. Owens of Old Dallas. The two men sold it to the Townsite company for $5,000.
It was Stilwell who decided Mena would be the name of this new town along the route to Port Arthur, Texas. He named the town in honor of his friend Jan DeGeoijen's wife, Mena.
It was Mena's father for whom Janssen Park was named. Janssen Park is still a focal point of Mena, and many community events including Relay For Life are held there.
Mena became an official town on August 19, 1896. The town fathers chose the official coming of the first railroad passenger car as the town's birthday.
The most historical building in Mena is the old log cabin in Janssen Park. Built eight years before the Civil War, this hand-hewn cabin was constructed by William Shelton, a crippled veteran of the Mexican War, for his home.
Throughout the years, with little physical change, it has served as a home, hospital, inn, a club house, civic center, a museum , and for a time, as the City Hall of Mena. It was thirty-one years old before a title grant was obtained for the land. During those years before 1882, it was just another "squatter's cabin".
In 1906, the cabin, together with four city blocks surrounding it, was donated to the City of Mena by Arthur Stilwell and his associates. They were so charmed with its natural setting, and so vocal in their admiration, that it inspired the local people to develop the park.
I have really enjoyed the last 30 years that I have spent in this beautiful area. The Ouachita mountain views are spectacular, and there is a quiet beauty here in every season of the year.
Moving to Mena is a decision that I have never regretted. I love this area!
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