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Springdale High Alumni Board

Poultry rules the roost in Springdale.

The city proudly boasts that it's the home of Tyson Foods Inc., the world's largest poultry producer and one of the industrial giants that rev the economic engine of Northwest Arkansas. Aside from Tyson, poultry accounts for thousands of other jobs within the city, at businesses that serve Tyson and at other big poultry companies such as Cargill, Hudson Foods and Springdale-based George's.

And thanks to the topography of the region and the work of some highway engineers, the two major highways that serve its residents - U.S. 71 and U.S. 412 - meet in a booming area on the west side of Springdale. There, Springdale business owners have marked the spot with a regional convention center, hotels and a new outlet mall.

But before chicken production and highways dominated the landscape, the community grew around the clear Spring Creek, the town's namesake. The city wasn't always called Springdale, however. When settlers in what is now Springdale wanted to open a post office in 1872, they had to change their community's name altogether.

Then, it was known as Shiloh, but another Arkansas town already went by that name. So the settlers named the town after their creek more than 50 years after the first white families settled there.

In the early 20th century, railroads and highways brought prosperity to Springdale. Fruit was growing in the area during the early 1920s and brought with it a booming canning industry. Disease wiped out many of the orchards, but the town bounced back in the 1940s and '50s with the hatching of the poultry industry and all its related businesses - feed, trucking and processing.

Success in the trucking industry also has been a source of pride within Springdale, which was at one time the home of the largest privately owned truck line in the United States, Jones Truck Lines.

Owned by Harvey and Bernice Jones of Springdale, JTL will probably be remembered more for the Joneses' generosity than for the days when the trucks were on the road. After building the business from two mules and a wagon to an $80 million firm, the couple sold the company in 1980, and it went out of business under new ownership a decade later. Harvey Jones was dead then, but Bernice Jones bought the old terminal buildings with an eye for making something the community could use.

In 1995, the first phase of the Harvey and Bernice Jones Center for Families opened to the public. When it's finished, it will include 200,000 square feet of space for families to meet and to play, all free of charge. It will include an ice rink, a pool, a chapel, a cable television station and many other amenities.

With the city's economic success has come growing pains. A town of about 29,000 people in 1990, Springdale has grown to an estimated 38,000 in 1996.

The 20-percent population boom has left the city reeling from demands for extra police protection, more parkspace and relief from traffic congestion.

The same highway interchange that makes Springdale the crossroads of the region has attracted most of the city's retail business, draining some of the life out of the area surrounding Spring Creek, the historic downtown area.

A move is afoot to revitalize the downtown area, with the philanthropist Bernice Jones spearheading much of the effort.

Find out more about Springdale at the University of Arkansas' Aladdin Community Resource Center.


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