The White River flows beside Calico Rock & Peppersauce
Peppersauce, also known as East Calico, is one of the few authentic ghost towns in Arkansas and the only ghost town inside the city limits of a town in America. French traders and trappers traveled the White River plying their goods and by the early 1890's, a town, Calico Rock, had been established with a few homes situated above the cliffs and taverns along the waterway to serve the boaters. The barkeeps served "Peppersauce," the name for the local moonshine. The taverns were no place for decent folk or children as the patrons were mostly thieves, troublemakers, and rogues of every stripe. Knife fights, fist fights, and gun fights were common. When the railroad came to town and laid tracks below the bluffs in 1902, local vigilantes drove off the riff raff.
Tracks through Calico Rock
When the train started making regular stops in Calico Rock in 1903 and with the bad elements out of the picture, more homes and businesses sprang up and by the 1920's, Peppersauce was thriving. At it's height, there were schools, churches, several grocery stores, a grist mill, a lumber mill, a grain and feed store, an ice plant, an electric plant, and even Ford and Chevy dealers. There was work for everyone who wanted it, crime was mostly limited to a few drunks on Friday and Saturday nights, and in general, life was good.
An old home in Peppersauce
By the late 1940's though, things had begun to decline. The electric plant closed when high-tension lines were brought in. The farmers turned to raising cattle instead of food or cotton and over the next few years, logging halted when most of the timber was cut. As businesses closed people moved away looking for work elsewhere and that forced more businesses to close. In the 1960's, the train no longer stopped and eventually, everyone moved away and Peppersauce died. Some of the buildings burned, some caved in due to leaky roofs and heavy snow, and vines and weeds grew over others, but approximately 20 are still standing in various stages of disrepair.
This used to be the Chevy dealer
In the 1960's, Calico Rock, the town around Peppersauce, got a new life. Arkansas built a prison nearby, anglers around the world learned about the great trout fishing in the river, and antique shopping became a booming business. Calico Rock now has a population of over 900, but other than just a handful of folks who have restored several buildings and now live in them, Peppersauce remains a ghost.
In the 1920's, there was a minor scandal when the town's mortician ran off with another woman. The mortician's wife, who had lived with him in the back of the funeral parlor, continued to operate the business for a number of years. She eventually sold it and the new owners also lived in the back half of the building, still embalming bodies in the basement and holding funerals in the front. It continued to operate until the 1950's when it was one of the last remaining businesses in Peppersauce.
The other shoe dropped.
Strolling along mainstreet Peppersauce at the end of the day.