McGehee is a city in Desha County, Arkansas, United States. The population was 4,570 at the 2000 census.
The history of the City of McGehee and the history of the railroad through McGehee are intricately interwoven. The history of the railroad dates back to 1870 when a railroad was constructed from Pine Bluff southeast through Varner, to Chicot.
In April 1923, the Gulf Coast Lines and the International-Great Northern were acquired, forming the Missouri Pacific Lines.
Important in the history of the town of McGehee is the McGehee family which came to the area from Alabama in 1857. Benjamin McGehee, his wife, Sarah, a son, Abner and daughters Laura and Mary settled on land that is now a part of McGehee.
Abner McGehee, son of Benjamin and Sarah McGehee purchased 240 acres (0.97 km2) of land on July 1, 1876, on which the town of McGehee was later to be located.
When the railroad came into McGehee in 1878 and continued south and southwest, people began to move into the area. Abner McGehee constructed a large commissary building and entered the mercantile business to accommodate the new arrivals.
One of the first buildings in the area was a saw mill. The lumber cut in this mill was used to build shotgun type rent houses.
A post office was established in the McGehee commissary, and in 1879 Abner McGehee became the first postmaster. The post office was named McGehee and served between 400 and 500 people.
An order of incorporation was signed March 5, 1906. The first meeting of the town council was held July 21, 1906.
During World War II, the outskirts of McGehee was the site of an American concentration camp used to house Japanese and Japanese-American civilians who had previously lived on the U.S. West Coast.
Today the enonomy of the area is largely dependent upon agriculture. The railroad has been largely replaced by the trucking industry which hauls farm products from the gins and grain bins of the area to their destination. From a population of 400 in 1879, McGehee has grown into a community of about 5,000 citizens. The citizens are proud of their hospital, their schools, their recreational facilities, their churches and their city government. As port facilities on the Mississippi River are developed and as the present highway system is rebuilt to accommodate increased traffic, McGehee will continue to grow.
McGehee is located at 33°37′32″N 91°23′40″W / 33.62556°N 91.39444°W (33.625426, -91.394330).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.4 square miles (16.6 km²), all of it land.
As of the census of 2000, there were 4,570 people, 1,836 households, and 1,259 families residing in the city. The population density was 711.7 people per square mile (274.8/km²). There were 2,044 housing units at an average density of 318.3/sq mi (122.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 56.72% White, 41.51% Black or African American, 0.57% Native American, 0.24% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.22% from other races, and 0.70% from two or more races. 1.49% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
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