I had a minor revelation today while looking at online maps of Searcy County, Arkansas.

Many of the "towns" listed on old United States Federal Census documents for the county are probably just roads.  I’ve driven through the mountains of Searcy County (most recently in April 2010) and I didn’t see much evidence for a host of lost towns, but the place names listed on those old census documents match up to several roads in the area.

For example, in my recent post on John Henry Graham, I stated that the census gave his residences as Red River and Mount Vernon.  There are several candidates for the "town" of Red River in the area, the most obvious being the river named Red.  The river would be a natural reference point to any census-taker of the late 19th Century.  There are also two roads in the area that mention the river as part of their name:  Little Red River Road and the nearby Red River Circle.  So it’s probable that John Henry resided on one of those roads and/or near the Red River.

Mount Vernon seems to be a little trickier to place in Searcy County at first look.  There is actually a town named Mount Vernon in Arkansas, down near Little Rock, but that is Faulkner County.  How come the 1920 census said it was in Searcy County?  A little more digging around the Internet revealed that there was once a Mount Vernon Township in Searcy County, lo and behold, it was located in the same geographical area as the Red River.