Lake Village   
On the Banks of Lake Chicot, the Nation's Largest Natural Oxbow Lake   
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History of Lake Village

old photo of main street lake village
old photo of lakeshore drive

Founded in 1823, Chicot County  named Vilemont as its first county seat. Vilemont was located near the mouth of Little Boggy Bayou. Southern boundary lines of the newly established county seat were determined by the banks of the Mississippi River. Many pioneers, traveling by pole rafts on the river, made the wild, wet and swampy wetlands of extreme southern Arkansas their new home.

Mail, supplies and merchandise came by way of river packet boats to Vilemont. People came from as far away as 60 miles  in to town to pick up items needed. Vilemont was the center of activity for Chicot County, but not all the activity was of a good nature.

Vilemont was a rough and tumble town. River boatmen, gamblers, thieves and even murderers were among the nearly 500 people who made up the population in the early 1840's.

The only two county officials, Sheriff William B. Patton and County Coroner Richard Latting, were kept busy due to the violent and often deadly crimes that occurred in Chicot County. Crime was so bad that before any other county buildings were constructed, the county jail was built.

As if in judgment of the corruption in the town of Vilemont, the Mighty Mississippi began to eat away at the banks of the county seat. In 1847, all that remained of Chicot County's first seat of government, crumbled and fell into the powerful rushing waters of the Mississippi. Vilemont was no more.

In that same year, Columbia was named as the new county seat. Things went well for several years, until once again the Mississippi River again claimed its second county seat. In 1885, the county courthouse fell into the Mississippi River.

County officials were a little nervous now and decided to move the new county seat inland about 15 miles to a place called Masona. Masona sat on the Bayou Mason. Although the threat of losing the town to the river was no longer a problem, things didn't fare well in Masona. It was too far away from the river activity. It was then decided to make Lake Village the official and permanent seat of Chicot County.

old photo of lake chicot old photo of downtown Lake Village

Lake Village was one of the oldest towns in Chicot County. It was located on the banks of beautiful Lake Chicot. Lake Chicot was formed about 1350 when the Mississippi river had changed its course. It was and still is the largest, natural oxbow lake in the nation. The lake was discovered by the French explorer LaSalle in 1686 and was given the name "Isle de Chicot" which means island of stumps. He gave it this name because of the many cypress knees he mistakenly thought were stumps.

Because of its seclusion and the beauty of the lake, the town was a popular place for the river boatmen and other travelers to stop for a few days rest and relaxation. The swampy wetlands offered great hunting opportunities for hunters and trappers. One could find everything from bear to bobcats.

Lake Village incorporated in 1857 but no city government was established because the county government operated from within the city limits and the town was formed around that county government.

In 1860, Jim Kelley, a slave, formed the first black church in Arkansas. New Hope Missionary Baptist Church is 148 years old and is still an active church in Lake Village.

By 1890 there were two large general stores, several lawyers, dentist, doctors, two hotels, a  drug store, two livery stables, a newspaper office, a hardware store and at least seven saloons.

Some 11 years later, the first mayor of Lake Village was elected. H.S. Wynne entered into office in July of 1901.

Note: The small, sleepy delta town of Lake Village has continually moved forward since the Mayor H.S. Wynne took office in 1901. At a time when most small communities in Southeast Arkansas are seeing little economic development and growth, we are continually seeing growth in our population and business community. A new sense of responsibility for our community and its well being abound within our city government and within the people who call Lake Village home. More often than not, the volunteerism, deeds of kindness and  simple human compassion often seen in Lake Village  are taken on simply because someone saw a need and implemented  a plan to take care of that need.

For more information on the history of Lake Village and Chicot County and to visit MOCCA, the Museum of Chicot County, Arkansas, contact Eleanor Burge at 870-265-2868 , Monday, Wednesday or Friday from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m..