Incorporation Date: September 18, 1896
Mena was founded in the late nineteenth century as a railroad town in western Arkansas. Situated amid the Ouachita National Forest and surrounded by noteworthy state parks and trails, the city is now something of a tourist destination, though it also has a diversified economy based upon agriculture and manufacturing.
Mena was one of many towns founded along the route of Arthur E. Stilwell’s Kansas City, Pittsburg & Gulf Railroad (later the Kansas City Southern), stretching from Kansas City, Missouri, to Port Arthur, Texas. The town of Mena takes its name from the nickname of Folmina Margaretha Janssen deGeoijen, the wife of one of Stilwell’s financiers (Janssen Park is also named after her). The first train pulled into Mena on August 19, 1896, the same day the New Era published its first edition. Mena was incorporated the following month. The Bank of Mena opened its doors on May 5, 1897, and the county seat was moved from Dallas to Mena in 1898. By 1900, the city’s population was 3,423. The new city readily advertised itself both as a spa city situated in a healthy environment and as a center for agriculture and extractive industries such as timber and mineral resources.