Vilonia, originally known as Vilsonia, the “land of two valleys,” was settled in the early 1860s.The name was given to the community by the members of Masonic Lodge No. 324, which was established early in the town’s history. Members of this lodge originally moved from North Carolina, Mississippi, and Tennessee and came to the area now known as Vilonia in search of rich land. When they applied for a post office, the approval came back misspelled Vilonia. Thus, the town’s name.
A farming community, the town incorporated Aug. 23, 1938 under Mayor Thomas Henry Hill, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.” George W. Harris erected a cotton gin powered by steam and also a gristmill. Oscar Simpson owned the first drugstore. R. B. Evans was the Vilonia dentist and a Mr. Davis was the town’s miller. Also, reportedly, Dr. Carr served as the community’s first medical doctor.
After the Civil War, families began growing cotton, grains, vegetables, and fruits. Among the first to arrive was the family of Mary Downs (a Confederate soldier’s widow) from Mississippi with five daughters and a son, William James Downs. He was later the father of Dr. Joseph Henry Downs, who practiced medicine in Vilonia for 54 years and served on the school board for fifty years. Dr. Jessie B. Munn, uncle of Downs, came from North Carolina. He contributed to the community as a physician and a school leader.
The first school was established in 1874. It was a private school, taught by William T. Suttle, on the ground floor of a log cabin used by the Masons. It became a public school in 1880.
About 1900, a two-story frame school building was built on the north campus of the public school. In 1928, Fred Monroe Bollen became its superintendent. Not long before, a brick school building was built on the school’s main campus. All twelve grades were taught and the school consistently won high points in countywide academic competitions.
On January 8, 1942, the brick school building burned. Classes finished the term in other buildings. One month into World War II, all resources were going to the war effort. However, Vilonia citizens also worked on the home front. They donated labor, money and materials to rebuild the school. The new building was finished by the next school year.
Vilonia still boasts a noted educational system, and the school continues to be the center of the community. In 1997, its elementary school was chosen by Redbook magazine as one of the 177 outstanding schools in the nation. Today, the Vilonia School District is revered among the top performing schools in Arkansas.
Vilonia was hit by a tornado April 25, 2011 with a few businesses and many houses destroyed. Residents pulled together and returned stronger than ever. The school district sustained minor damage. However, many of the staff and students' houses sustained damage.