Sesame Club hears program on history of transportation in PB


The Sesame Club recently met in the Oak Room at Pine Bluff Country Club.

Donna Davis, president, called the meeting to order at 1:30 p.m. and led the members in the reading of the Collect.

A brief business meeting was followed by the presentation of the fifth program in the series “Celebrating Life in Pine Bluff, Arkansas — Past to Present.” Cindy Trotter described “Getting Around in Pine Bluff — Horsepower Then and Now.”

“Getting around” began with river travel by Joseph Bonne, who, in 1819, made his way upstream on the Arkansas River and built a cabin on a “high bluff covered with pine trees.”

Jefferson County was established in 1829. The first county seat was at Joseph Bonne’s cabin and named The Town of Pine Bluff in 1832. It became a port for steamboats and they were an integral part of daily life.

Trotter’s great-great-grandfather, Col. J.T. Chidester, in 1857, formed a company to provide stagecoach lines connecting Pine Bluff and other towns in South Arkansas and North Louisiana.

With the coming of the railroad in the 1870’s and 1880’s Pine Bluff city population grew to 2,081.

In 1886, Wiley Jones established a mule-drawn street car system in Pine Bluff. By 1902, the street cars were electric. The system was bought by the city and is now known as Pine Bluff Transit.

In 1905, all automobile owners in Jefferson County met at the end of Main Street to pose for a photograph — this was the start of the Pine Bluff Automobile Club. The seven cars drove to Little Rock and back, taking one day to drive up, one day to rest, and one day to return.

The nation began to focus on good roads at the start of the 20th Century. The Jefferson County Road Improvement District No. 4 built a concrete road 23 miles long in 1914 — the longest in the country at that time. Some shipped their automobiles to Pine Bluff from other parts of the state just to drive on the new highway. Tradition holds that it was called Dollarway because it cost one dollar a linear foot to construct. The final cost was closer to $1.36.

Pine Bluff’s first municipal airport was completed in 1927. It was named Toney Field in honor of Pine Bluff’s mayor.

World War II brought stricter regulations for airfields which made Toney Field obsolete. The United States Army built Grider Field Airport to house the Pine Bluff School of Aviation which furnished flight training for air cadets for the Army Air Corps. Over 9,000 pilots had been trained by the time the school closed in 1944. Grider Field is now a city-owned public-use airport.

Trotter ended her informative and interesting program with: “Planes, trains and automobiles… and boats to boot — Pine Bluff has had and still has transportation for everyone!”

The hostesses, La Nelle Roberts, Diana Millenbaugh and Sue Trotter invited members for refreshments to tables attractively decorated with memorabilia associated with Trotter Ford Company.

The next meeting of Sesame Club will be March 27.