Looking for Romance in Arkansas
When posed with the question of an Arkansas-related blog post topic for Valentine’s Day, the rural community of Romance in White County came to mind. As you may know, the town of Romance gets quite a bit of attention during the Valentine month of February, with the local post office being the hot spot. I set out on my search for information on this usually quiet little town.
The Roberts Library’s books, pamphlet collections, and local history journals often have histories of even the smallest towns in Arkansas. The Research Room also has a vertical file of newspaper clippings grouped alphabetically by the name of the town. Searching in Index Arkansas, a database maintained by the University of Arkansas, I found an article from Rural Arkansas reprinted in White County Heritage. From this I learned that Romance was once a thriving trade center. At one time it was named Kentucky Valley, as the area’s early settlers were from Kentucky. Arkansas Post Offices from Memdag to Norsk : a Historical Directory, 1832-1990 shows that a post office was established in 1884. With that, a new designation was required so a new name had to be chosen. It is not known exactly how the name Romance was chosen, but two theories have been passed on by locals. One theory was that a schoolteacher chose it because he thought the bluffs surrounding the area were romantic. An article from Arkansas Living magazine recounted a second theory suggesting that the area, with its nearby stream, attracted lovers needing a quiet place to “spark.”
Romance is typically a sleepy little community. However, as the only place in Arkansas on the U.S Postal Service’s list of places that have words associated with the sentiments of Valentine’s Day, the post office shifts into high gear as the Valentine’s Day holiday approaches. People from all over the country and even foreign nations are eager to have their cards and letters show the hand-stamped cancellation from Romance.
Things got especially busy in 1990 after the U.S. Postal Service chose Romance to be the initial issuing site for the “Love” stamp for that year. Cards are dropped off or mailed in a larger envelope so they can receive the special postmark. Some patrons are repeat customers, coming for many years to get the postmark for their loved ones. The postmark has changed over the years, with the current one being a smaller, circular stamp about the size of a thumbprint.
The Romance post office is not the only location in town that gets in on the Valentine action. An article from the Baxter County Bulletin, dated February 6, 2012, and accessed through Newspapers.com (available to patrons at CALS locations), said that a local minister as well as a justice of the peace are on stand-by for couples needing their services for nuptials or to renew their vows.
The Romance Post Office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Come see us in the CALS Roberts Library Research Room to start a search of your own!
By Alysanne Crymes, library assistant/serials manager, CALS Roberts Library