Yell County, Arkansas

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Yell County
Yell County Courthouse 001.jpg
Yell County Courthouse, Dardanelle
Map of Arkansas highlighting Yell County.svg
Location within the U.S. state of Arkansas
Arkansas in United States.svg
Arkansas's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 34°59′54″N93°27′09″W / 34.998333333333°N 93.4525°W / 34.998333333333; -93.4525
CountryFlag of the United States.svg United States
StateFlag of Arkansas.svg  Arkansas
FoundedDecember 5, 1840
Named for Archibald Yell
Seat Danville (western district);
Dardanelle (eastern district)
Largest cityDardanelle
   County judge Mark Thone
  Total949 sq mi (2,460 km2)
  Land930 sq mi (2,400 km2)
  Water19 sq mi (50 km2)  2.0%%
  Density23/sq mi (9.0/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
  Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional district 4th

Yell County is a county in the U.S. state of Arkansas. As of the 2010 census, the population was 22,185. [1] The county has two county seats, Dardanelle and Danville. [2] Yell County is Arkansas's 42nd county, formed on December 5, 1840 from portions of Scott and Pope counties. It was named after Archibald Yell, who was the state's first member of the United States House of Representatives and the second governor of Arkansas; he later was killed in combat at the Battle of Buena Vista during the Mexican–American War. It is an alcohol prohibition or dry county.


Yell County is part of the Russellville, AR Micropolitan Statistical Area.


Native Americans first inhabited present-day Yell County and the Arkansas River Valley for centuries prior to European colonization, using the open, fertile floodplain of the Arkansas River for hunting grounds and farming settlements. During the Thomas Jefferson and Indian Removal era, many Cherokee were voluntarily relocating from Georgia along the Arkansas River, including in Yell County, between 1775 and 1786. A large Cherokee reservation across the Arkansas River from Yell County was established in 1815 to encourage further voluntary relocation from Georgia.

The area presently encompassed as Yell County was first settled by European settlers when James Carden built a house among Cherokee farms in the Dardanelle Bottoms at the confluence of the Arkansas and Petit Jean Rivers in 1819. [3] Lands south of the Arkansas River had been deeded to the Choctaw in 1820s, but white settlement and Cherokee relocation continued apace into the 1820s, spurring conflicts over the prime river-bottom lands. In 1822, the Council Oaks Treaty meeting was held under two large oak trees, reestablishing Cherokee title of 3.2 million acres (1.3 million hectares) north of the Arkansas River previously granted in 1817 in exchange for removing north of the river. The Cherokee that remained south of the river became known as the "Black Dutch", and largely assimilated. [4]

In 1830, the United States Congress enacted the Indian Removal Act, leading to further, now involuntary, Cherokee settlement in the Arkansas River Valley. Cherokee, Muskogee (Creek), and Seminole were forcibly removed along the Trail of Tears through Yell County to present-day Oklahoma.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 949 square miles (2,460 km2), of which 930 square miles (2,400 km2) is land and 19 square miles (49 km2) (2.0%) is water. [5]

Adjacent counties

National protected areas


Historical population
1850 3,341
1860 6,33389.6%
1870 8,04827.1%
1880 13,85272.1%
1890 18,01530.1%
1900 22,75026.3%
1910 26,32315.7%
1920 25,655−2.5%
1930 21,313−16.9%
1940 20,970−1.6%
1950 14,057−33.0%
1960 11,940−15.1%
1970 14,20819.0%
1980 17,02619.8%
1990 17,7594.3%
2000 21,13919.0%
2010 22,1854.9%
2019 (est.)21,341 [6] −3.8%
U.S. Decennial Census [7]
1790–1960 [8] 1900–1990 [9]
1990–2000 [10] 2010–2016 [1]
Age pyramid Yell County USA Yell County, Arkansas age pyramid.svg
Age pyramid Yell County

As of the 2000 census, [12] there were 21,139 people, 7,922 households, and 5,814 families residing in the county. The population density was 23 people per square mile (9/km2). There were 9,157 housing units at an average density of 10 per square mile (4/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 86.63% White, 1.47% Black or African American, 0.58% Native American, 0.69% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 8.99% from other races, and 1.62% from two or more races. 12.73% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 12.00% reported speaking Spanish at home. [13]

There were 7,922 households, out of which 33.60% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.50% were married couples living together, 10.10% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.60% were non-families. 23.20% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.61 and the average family size was 3.04.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 25.80% under the age of 18, 8.90% from 18 to 24, 28.30% from 25 to 44, 22.00% from 45 to 64, and 15.00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 99.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.30 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $28,916, and the median income for a family was $33,409. Males had a median income of $23,172 versus $18,148 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,383. About 11.70% of families and 15.40% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.20% of those under age 18 and 12.80% of those age 65 or over.

Human resources

Public safety

The Yell County Sheriff's Office is the primary law enforcement agency in the county. The agency is led by the Yell County Sheriff, an official elected by countywide vote every four years. Police departments in Dardanelle, Danville, and Ola provide law enforcement in their respective jurisdictions, with Bellville, Havana, and Plainview contracting with the Sheriff's Office for law enforcement services.

The current sheriff of Yell County is Bill Gilkey, who has served since 1998. In 2017, he became the longest currently-serving sheriff in Arkansas, after 19 years in the office. He is also the longest-serving sheriff in the county's history. [14] He has announced that he will retire after his term ends in 2022. Gilkey has sat on state boards such as the Arkansas Crime Lab Board and is still currently on the Arkansas Act 309 Board.

Gilkey is credited with the creation of the Yell County Law Enforcement Center in 2016, which replaces two of the county's older jails that did not meet state standards, and houses the sheriff's office. The new building also houses CID offices, revenue office, and an updated E911 dispatch center. [15]

The chief officer of the law in Yell County, as in all Arkansas counties, is the sheriff.

Yell County Sheriffs, 1840-Present
Yell County Sheriffs [16]
NameYear ElectedYear LeftTotal YearsNotable Accomplishments
Theodore P Sadler184018466
  • First county sheriff
S. Kirkpatrick184618526
Joseph Garrett185218542
J. C. Herin185418562
Joseph Gault185618626
Lorenzo Free186218631
O. Wood186318641
William Henry Ferguson186418717
Jesse George187118721
J. A. Wilson187218742
Reuben E. Cole187418806
Levi L. Briggs188018822
Joseph L. Davis188218864
H. B. McCarrell188618904
Joseph Haston Howard189018922
Sam Gordon Albright189218964
B. H. Burnett189619006
James M. Cole190019044
William Franklin Briggs190419062
William L. Tatum190619104
Theodore Riley Gault191019144
Will T. Caviness191419195
J. N. George191919234
Joe D. Gault192319263
Baxter Gatlin192719303
Buford Compton1931194615
Earl E Lad194719569
Herman D. McCormick1957196811
Carlos Mitchell196919767
  • Construction of the old Danville Jail (Replaced in 2016)
  • Construction of the old Dardanelle Jail (Replaced in 2016)
Hartsell Lewis197719781
Denver Dennis197919889
Mike May198919923
Loyd W. Maughn199319985
  • Construction of Juvenile Detention Center (1997) [17]
Bill Gilkey1999202223
  • Construction of New Law Enforcement Center and Jail (2016)
  • Longest serving sheriff in Yell Count (2016)
  • Longest current serving sheriff in the state of Arkansas (2016)

Culture and contemporary life

Thomas James Cotton House, Dardanelle, AR.JPG
Mitchell House, Waltreak, AR.JPG
Two homes listed on the NRHP in Yell County: the Thomas James Cotton House in Dardanelle (left) and the Mitchell House in rural Waltreak

Yell County has several historical homes, structures, and monuments dedicated to preserving the history and culture of the area. The Dardanelle Commercial Historic District preserves the historic commercial hub of Yell County along the Arkansas River. The Mt. Nebo State Park Cabins Historic District preserves ten cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The county also has seven homes, three churches, and two bridges listed on the NRHP.

Upon settlement, Yell County's varied topography created a stratified society, splitting settlers between the more fertile and productive farms of the "lowlands" and the subsistence farming of the steep and less-productive mountain soil of the "uplands". [18] A planter class emerged in the lowlands, and as Dardanelle evolved into a cohesive community, the large landowners moved to town and managed their landholdings from stately homes, similar to the model seen in the Arkansas Delta and the Mississippi Delta. [18] This left the lowlands inhabited largely by poor sharecroppers and tenant farmers, who largely shared economic fortunes with the small farms in the uplands, shifting the "upland/lowland" split to a "town-country" divide based largely on economics.

As mechanization and society evolved and Arkansas became less of a frontier, a wealthy upper class emerged in Dardanelle that came to wield societal, political, and economic power in the county. This society remained relatively closed, with separate social events and often summering on Mount Nebo with other wealthy Arkansans visiting to enjoy the cool mountain breezes. [19] With little of the industrialization that defined the Gilded Age in the Northeast and Midwest, Yell County instead retained an adjusted Old South economic model based on agriculture but adapted to a post-Reconstruction reality. [20]


Yell County Eastern District Courthouse in Dardanelle Yell County Courthouse 002.jpg
Yell County Eastern District Courthouse in Dardanelle

The county government is a constitutional body granted specific powers by the Constitution of Arkansas and the Arkansas Code. The quorum court is the legislative branch of the county government and controls all spending and revenue collection. Representatives are called justices of the peace and are elected from county districts every even-numbered year. The number of districts in a county vary from nine to fifteen, and district boundaries are drawn by the county election commission. The Yell County Quorum Court has eleven members. [21] Presiding over quorum court meetings is the county judge, who serves as the chief operating officer of the county. The county judge is elected at-large and does not vote in quorum court business, although capable of vetoing quorum court decisions. [22] [23] Though Yell County has two county seats, the constitutional officers are not duplicated, with duties split between the two courthouses.


Over the past few election cycles Yell county has trended heavily towards the GOP. The last Democratic presidential candidate (as of 2020) to carry this county was Bill Clinton in 1996.

Presidential elections results
Yell County vote
by party in presidential elections [24]
Year GOP Dem Others
2020 77.5%5,22619.1% 1,2843.4% 231
2016 71.56%4,60822.98% 1,4805.45% 351
2012 67.66%4,04228.82% 1,7223.52% 210
2008 63.09%3,80833.18% 2,0033.73% 225
2004 55.23%3,67843.75% 2,9131.02% 68
2000 49.75%3,22347.26% 3,0622.99% 194
1996 31.77% 2,11156.43%3,74911.80% 784
1992 32.79% 2,50654.49%4,16512.72% 972
1988 55.84%3,53543.64% 2,7630.52% 33
1984 59.56%4,05139.39% 2,6791.06% 72
1980 44.65% 3,18751.87%3,7023.48% 248
1976 25.04% 1,93274.96%5,785
1972 66.48%3,31033.52% 1,6690.00% 0
1968 34.44% 1,81928.65% 1,51336.91%1,949
1964 30.86% 1,52768.86%3,4070.28% 14
1960 37.96% 1,30358.49%2,0083.55% 122
1956 40.70% 1,38159.18%2,0080.12% 4
1952 39.54% 1,24359.92%1,8840.54% 17
1948 16.85% 40877.08%1,8666.08% 147
1944 22.94% 48977.02%1,6420.05% 1
1940 9.08% 22490.64%2,2360.28% 7
1936 11.78% 31888.22%2,3820.00% 0
1932 11.88% 27287.77%2,0100.35% 8
1928 27.65% 80271.91%2,0860.45% 13
1924 19.15% 33475.34%1,3145.50% 96
1920 34.21% 1,04263.20%1,9252.59% 79
1916 27.12% 78172.88%2,0990.00% 0
1912 17.18% 43655.20%1,40127.62% 701
1908 34.70% 1,04058.16%1,7437.14% 214
1904 44.32% 91352.38%1,0793.30% 68
1900 33.73% 79865.68%1,5540.59% 14
1896 26.32% 81273.29%2,2610.39% 12


Public education

Early childhood, elementary and secondary education within Yell County is provided by four public school districts:

Dissolved school districts

Public libraries

The Arkansas River Valley Regional Library System, is headquartered in Dardanelle and serves multiple counties and consists of one central library and six branch libraries, including the Yell County Library, a branch library in Danville.




Unincorporated communities


Townships in Arkansas are the divisions of a county. Each township includes unincorporated areas; some may have incorporated cities or towns within part of their boundaries. Arkansas townships have limited purposes in modern times. However, the United States census does list Arkansas population based on townships (sometimes referred to as "county subdivisions" or "minor civil divisions"). Townships are also of value for historical purposes in terms of genealogical research. Each town or city is within one or more townships in an Arkansas county based on census maps and publications. The townships of Yell County are listed below; listed in parentheses are the cities, towns, and/or census-designated places that are fully or partially inside the township. [25] [26]

  • Birta
  • Bluffton
  • Briggsville
  • Centerville
  • Chula
  • Compton
  • Crawford
  • Danville (Corinth, Danville)
  • Dardanelle (Dardanelle)
  • Dutch Creek
  • Ferguson (Belleville)
  • Galla Rock
  • Gilkey
  • Gravelly Hill
  • Herring
  • Ions Creek
  • Lamar (Plainview)
  • Magazine
  • Mason
  • Mountain
  • Prairie
  • Richland
  • Riley (Havana)
  • Rover
  • Sulphur Springs
  • Ward (Ola)
  • Waveland


Major highways

Notable people


See also

Related Research Articles

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Dardanelle School District is a public school district in Dardanelle, Arkansas, United States. The school district provides comprehensive education to residents of northern Yell County, in the Arkansas River Valley area. It also serves the unincorporated area of Delaware in Logan County.

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Yell County Courthouse United States historic place

The Yell County Courthouse is a courthouse in Dardanelle, Arkansas, United States, one of two county seats of Yell County, built in 1914. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. The courthouse is the second building to serve the Dardanelle district of Yell County.


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Coordinates: 34°59′54″N93°27′09″W / 34.99833°N 93.45250°W / 34.99833; -93.45250