In 1871, Green Berry Evans opened a small store and the area’s first post office at Cadron Gap. The store was located where the vacant lot is today just south of the Alon gas station on the Old Morrilton Highway. Evans supplied horses to the men engaged in building the railroad.
Although the original survey for the Little Rock & Ft. Smith railroad showed the line crossing Cadron Ridge near the mouth of Cadron Creek, Col. Asa P. Robinson rerouted the line in favor of an alternate route further east that utilized the natural gap at Cadron Gap.
Cadron Gap School was located on the hillside just above the store. The old L-shaped two-room building faced the railroad and later Highway 64/65. The front was up off the ground on rock pillars so that it was level with the back of the building that opened up to the sloping hillside. Two iron stoves heated each classroom.
Mr. and Mrs. Mont Higgs, parents of Mrs. Maggie Griffith, were the first teachers, then Misses Ivah and Claudia Kuykendall became the teachers. The boys played baseball on the hillside down toward the roadbed with one corner of the schoolhouse serving as third base.
For many years, the train began a steep climb through Cadron Gap after leaving Conway. After cresting the elevation, the downgrade off of Cadron Ridge was followed by a sharp curve to the north which led onto the Cadron Creek Bridge, a wooden structure with a long trestle approach on each side.
The two-percent grade up Cadron Ridge severely limited the tonnage that could be hauled by one locomotive, but a temporary solution involved “doubling the hill.” At the highest elevation, known as Alpine or Summit Switch, a siding was installed. A locomotive would haul the front half of the train up and set it out on the siding. It then returned and picked up the remainder of the train.
The train was then reassembled before continuing its journey. A switch engine, stationed in the Conway yards, also helped boost westbound trains up the grade. In 1902, the rail line was relocated, turning west at Hairston Street toward the quarter-mile tunnel that was built through Cadron Ridge.
Chester “Check” T. King and his wife, Beulah, were in the wholesale produce business until the Depression hit. When the business failed, they sold their cow for $50 and opened up a Gulf service station in Wooster. In 1933, they built this service station and a short-order café at Cadron Gap with a living quarters in the back.
The sign at the road said, “We pride ourselves in operating a service station instead of just the ‘Filler-up kind.’ Service means check battery, sweep floorboard, check air, including extra tire, and clean windshield.” Note the sign also advertises beer, which was legal for a few years after Prohibition ended. The café had the first curb service in Conway.
Later they built three duplex cabins and added a skating rink. The cabins had hot/cold running water and showers; butane tanks for cooking and heat; inner spring mattresses and electricity—all the comforts needed by travelers.
During the war, Highway 65 (now Highway 25) was paved all the way to Damascus. Highways 64 and 65 ran in front of the store before splitting so there was lots of traffic in the area, some continuing west on 64 while others continued north on 65.
After World War II, Bill Ross took over the store, selling fish caught in the Arkansas River as well as fishing bait, including minnows. There was a homemade tank on the southside of the store with a bubbler to keep the fish alive until they were sold.
Ross also made bologna sandwiches. Many locals remember going into the store with its rickety floors to get fishing supplies, sandwiches and a drink on their way to Lake Beaverfork or elsewhere. Bill and Iva’s house was located on top of the hill just north of the store.
In 2005, Ross’ store and the remnants of the cabins were razed, leaving the vacant lot that is now a shale pit and a place to park 18-wheelers. The gas station was erected just north of the store and cabins.