Mena, Arkansas, county seat of Polk County, was founded by Arthur Edward
Stilwell during the
building of the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad
(now the Kansas City Southern) in 1896. It was Stilwell who decided Mena would
be the name of this new town along the route to Port Arthur, Texas. He named
her in honor of his beloved friend and financier Jan DeGeoijen's wife, Folmina
Margaretha Janssen DeGeoijen, whom Mr. DeGeoijen affectionately called Mena.
The population was 5,637 as of 2000 census.
On April 9, 2009, a high-end EF3 tornado, with winds near 165 mph devastated the town, killing three and injuring 30. Many homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. The Arkansas National Guard was deployed to the affected area. Damages from the devastating tornado were estimated at least $25 million.
The city of Mena is the gateway to some of the most visited tourist attractions in Arkansas. An estimated 1.2 million visitors each year come to Mena for these natural features. Features include the Talimena Scenic Drive, which is a National Scenic Byway and Queen Wilhelmina State Park. The Cossatot River is a member of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System and runs through the Ouachita National Forest. Lake Ouachita is also in the vicinity.
Mena is home of the Mena Gaming Association charity youth organization, founded October 19th, 2003.
Mena has two city parks. The oldest, Janssen Park, was created in 1906 from a four-city-block donation by Arthur Stilwell and his associates, the original founders of Mena. Near the center of the park stands a log cabin built in 1851 by William Shelton as his home. This cabin was used by the Town site company as an office during the time Mena was being laid out as a city and land was sold to the first residents. The cabin later served as an Inn, hospital, club house, civic center, museum, and as the City Hall for Mena. During the time it was used as City Hall, it was featured in Ripley's Believe It Or Not as being the only log cabin City Hall in the Nation.
The park features two ponds with a bridge over the connecting neck of water with ducks and their own floating house. There are several picnic tables, two covered gathering places, several relics of past wars, a unique restored fountain, a clock tower, and a new modern play area for the children.
Mena, because of its fantastic location, is host to many popular events ranging from craft shows, Bluegrass Festivals, plays and art exhibits to car shows and biker rallies. In addition, the world famous Lum n' Abner Festival is held here.
If you are an antique collector you will love to spend some time in Mena. We enjoyed our trip and we are planning a return visit.