History of McGehee
The history of the city of McGehee and the history of the railroad through McGehee are intricately interwoven. The history of the railroad dates back to 1870 when a railroad was constructed from Pine Bluff southeast through Varner, to Chicot.
Important in the history of the town of McGehee is the McGehee family which came to the area from Alabama in 1857. Benjamin McGehee, his wife, Sarah, a son, Abner and daughters Laura and Mary settled on land that is now a part of McGehee. Abner McGehee, son of Benjamin and Sarah McGehee purchased 240 acres of land on July 1, 1876, on which the town of McGehee was later to be located. When the railroad came into McGehee in 1878 and continued south and southwest, people began to move into the area. Abner McGehee constructed a large commissary building and entered the mercantile business to accommodate the new arrivals.
One of the first buildings in the area was a saw mill. The lumber cut in this mill was used to build shotgun type rent houses. A post office was established in the McGehee commissary, and in 1879 Abner McGehee became the first postmaster. The post office was named McGehee and served between 400 and 500 people. An order of incorporation was signed March 5, 1906. The first meeting of the town council was held July 21, 1906.
Today the economy of the area is largely dependent upon agriculture. The railroad has been largely replaced by the trucking industry which hauls farm products from the gins and grain bins of the area to their destination.
From a population of 400 in 1879, McGehee has grown into a community of about 5,000 citizens. The citizens are proud of their hospital, their schools, their recreational facilities, their churches and their city government. As port facilities on the Mississippi River are developed and as the present highway system is rebuilt to accommodate increased traffic, McGehee will continue to grow.
The City of McGehee is located on U.S. Highway 65 in Southeast Arkansas approximately fifteen miles south of the site where the Arkansas River empties into the Mississippi River. McGehee is one hundred miles south of Little Rock, Arkansas.
The area has a 90+ degree temperature about 90 days of the year and is 32 degrees or less about 41 days of the year. The annual rainfall is 57 inches.
McGehee’s city government consists of a Mayor, six Councilmen, a City Attorney, a City Clerk and an Administrative Assistant.
The McGehee Police Department is made up of eight police officers and a Chief of Police. There is also a volunteer force.
There are five full time members in the McGehee Fire Department and eighteen volunteer firemen. The city has three fire trucks, one equipped with the extraction “Jaws of Life”. The fire rating is six; the city has applied for a rating of five.
The Ambulance Service operates four ambulances, two of which are equipped with a defibrillator, Pulse-Ox and other latest life saving equipment. The Ambulance Service employs ten Emergency Medical Technicians. Of these, three have been certified as Emergency Medical Intermediates and five are certified Paramedics. The service currently has more than 524 members.
Adequate housing is available for different income groups. Average price and and square footage ranges are
1,100 square feet – $25,000.00
1,500 square feet – $45,000.00
2,000 square feet – $75,000.00
There are approximately 200 rental homes of 1500 square feet in McGehee. The average monthly rent ranges from $250.00 to $350.00. All buildings must conform to the Southern Building Code. Twenty units of housing for the elderly have just been completed. Two real estate agencies are available for help in finding housing.
McGehee is served by U.S. Highway 65, which runs north and south, Arkansas 4, which runs east and west, and Arkansas 1. Highway 65 links McGehee with Little Rock, Kansas City Missouri and Tulsa Oklahoma to the north and Jackson Mississippi, New Orleans Louisiana, Monroe Louisiana and the Gulf Coast to the south. Arkansas 4 East connects McGehee with Memphis Tennessee and Arkansas 4 West connects the city with Texarkana Texas and Dallas Texas.
Civic Clubs and active organizations of McGehee are as follows: Masonic Lodge #643, McGehee Boy’s Club, Leisure Lodge Auxiliary, Daughter’s of the American Revolution (DAR), McGehee Cemetery Association, Desha County Historical Society, (PTO) Parent, Teacher Organization – Elementary School, Chi Omega Alumnae Chapter of Southeast Arkansas, Arkansas Razorback Club, Softball Leagues, Ducks Unlimited, Desha County Retired Teachers Association, Alcoholics Anonymous – Al-Anon Family Group, McGehee Hospital Auxiliary, American Legion and Auxiliary, Great Bodies Auto Club, McGehee Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, Women’s Civic Club, Lion’s Club, Modern Matrons, Retired Federal Workers, McGehee Industrial Foundation, AARP, Junior Girl Scouts and Daisy Girl Scouts, Keystone Chapter #349 of Eastern Star, Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Boy Scouts Troop 42, Cub Scouts Pack 106, Seark Charities, Desha Court #2 Order of the Amaranth, Parks Commission, Baseball Leagues, Tennis Leagues, McGehee Community Food Pantry McGehee Beautification Commission and McGehee Community Choir.
Entergy, Arkansas offers three-phase power in all standard voltages from 115 volt transmission and 13,800 volt distribution feeder systems with no seasonal restrictions.
Reliant Energy offers an abundant supply of natural gas for industrial, commercial and residential customers. There are no seasonal restrictions.
Water and Sewer
City water is drawn from three wells with an average depth of 750 feet and two elevated tanks with a capacity of 600,000 gallons. The water is chlorinated and fluoridated. An almost unlimited supply of process water is available from the nearby Mississippi River. McGehee has a class six fire rating. The sewer system has a capacity of 1.9 million gallons a day. The sewer system serves virtually all incorporated areas of the city.
AT&T provides service to the area. Electronic switching, fiber optics and touch tone dialing are available. DSL and broadband services are now available in McGehee. McGehee is the Southeast Arkansas switching center for Southwestern Bell Telephone.
VYVE Communication offers digital services as well as basic cable services. They serve all incorporated areas of the city In addition to cable services, broadband high speed internet and is available.
How To Arrange For Utilities and Services
RESIDENTIAL & SMALL BUSINESS
Electricity – Entergy, Arkansas: Billing & Service – (800) 368-3749, Power Outage – (800) 968-8243.
Natural Gas – Reliant Centerpoint Energy, 324 Highway 425 South, Monticello, AR 71655 at their toll free number (800) 992-7575.
Water hook-up and garbage pick-up – McGehee Water and Sewer Department, Highway 4 West, McGehee at (870) 222-4114.
Telephone Installation – AT&T – Residential Customers – 800-288-2020
Cable Television – Allegiance Communication on East Ash Street in McGehee at (870) 222-5082.
Agricultural agencies include the Desha County Extension office, a part of the University of Arkansas, and federal agencies of the Soil Conservation Service and the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service.
McGehee has a City Council/Mayor form of government. City government is housed in the Municipal Building.
The Municipal Building also houses the State Revenue Office – DMV, McGehee Water Department, McGehee Ambulance Service and McGehee Chamber of Commerce.
Also in McGehee are the State Highway Department offices, SEArk Community Action, Veteran’s and Youth services, a Government-funded Day Care Center, and a Desha County Court Building.