Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Free African Americans Expelled from Arkansas before the Civil War

The Arkansas Gazette ran information
about the act that expelled “free persons of color”
from the state of Arkansas on March 5, 1859.

Among the most overlooked groups in Arkansas history have been free African Americans before the Civil War.

The 1835 territorial census in Arkansas counted 176 free black people, who were also called free persons of color. Historically, the term referred to people of African, and sometimes African and European, descent who were not enslaved. In the U.S., many were slaves who had been freed. Others were the descendants of freed slaves.

Free African Americans lived in nearly every county in Arkansas, except Union, Jackson, Pike, Green and Conway counties. Izard County had the highest number of free African Americans with a total of 45 people on the census.

Life as a free person of color was restrictive. For example, in 1836, Little Rock passed an ordinance prohibiting African Americans, both free and enslaved, from carrying any kind of weapon within city limits. If an African American was found carrying a weapon, including gunpowder, then law enforcement was required to confiscate the weapons, and the person received 30 lashes. Housekeepers were allowed to possess firearms, if they had a city license.

However, free African Americans could sue and be sued, own property and travel around the state at will, as long as they had access to documents to prove their freedom. Free people also could rise to prominence. 

Gad Bradley came to Arkansas in the 1830s and settled in Washington, Arkansas. He brought with him his wife, who had been an Army officer’s slave in Oklahoma, which was considered Indian Territory. Bradley had fallen in love with her and had been determined to buy her freedom. He worked hard and saved money until he had enough to purchase her. The couple married and left Oklahoma, settling in Washington, where Bradley worked as a gunsmith. Bradley bought land and built a house, where he raised his family for the next 20 years.

Others were born free. A case in point is Peter Caulder, who was born in South Carolina around 1797. His father, Moses, was a free man. In 1814, Caulder enlisted in the United States Third Regiment of Riflemen during the War of 1812. He accompanied Major Stephen H. Long to western Arkansas Territory in 1817 to establish a fort. Caulder became one of the first inhabitants of a new settlement, which was called Fort Smith.

Caulder later married Eliza Hall, the daughter of David Hall, a free man who lived in Marion County. The couple then set up a homestead in the county and began a family.

Even with the cumbersome restrictions placed on African Americans, the state was still a destination for many free black people. Between 1835 and 1840, the population of free persons of color in Hempstead County increased from six to 61.

The population increase alarmed white lawmakers. In 1843, the Arkansas legislature passed a law prohibiting immigration into the state of any free person of color. The aim was to curb the number of free black people in Arkansas. The new law also mandated people provide proof of freedom and to pay a bond of as much as $500 to assure “good behavior” while residing in the state.

There were some exceptions to the law. Many free people in Arkansas, for example, worked on steamboats that required them to move around the country. Steamboat workers often needed to stay in the state for long periods of time. To address this issue, the state gave an exemption but limited the length of time steamboat workers could stay to three months.

Weeks after the law went into effect, John Pendleton, a free man living in Crawford County, was arrested for violating the law. Pendleton appealed his conviction all the way to the Arkansas Supreme Court. In Pendleton v. State of Arkansas, Pendleton’s attorney argued the law was unconstitutional because it violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause of the Fourth Amendment. The state court ruled African Americans, both free and slaves, were not citizens of the country. Instead, African Americans only enjoyed a “quasi-citizenship” that allowed the state to impose different laws on them based on their skin color.

Meanwhile, tensions between northern and southern states were rising. The nation was hurtling toward a civil war.

On Nov. 3, 1858, Arkansas Gov. Elias Conway addressed the legislature and asked lawmakers to adopt a law to expel free African Americans from the state. The existence of free African Americans living successfully in Arkansas belied the tenant that underpinned the justification of slavery, namely that African Americans were inferior and should be enslaved. The state legislature complied with Conway’s request and passed a law on Feb. 12, 1859 that expelled all free African Americans from the state.

The penalty for not complying with the new law was fierce. Under the worse circumstances, free African Americans could be re-enslaved. Most free African Americans left. Out of the 29 free black people in Hempstead County in 1850, there were only two left after the law passed.

Both Peter Caulder and Gad Bradley left Arkansas after the law was enacted. Caulder resettled in Missouri, where he died around 1861. Bradley returned to Indian Territory.

For more information on the history of Fort Smith or Arkansas, visit the Arkansas State Archives at 1 Capitol Mall, Suite 215, or call 501-682-6900. Information on researching African American history is also available online at The Arkansas Digital Ark-ives at

Wednesday’s Wonderful Collection - Litzke-Allen-Morris papers, MS.000322

Paul Randolph Litzke was a salesman for Peters Cartridge Company in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the early 1900s. The Peters Cartridge Company was a national ammunitions company, and it required Paul to travel extensively throughout Arkansas and the United States. Paul was involved in or a member of multiple other outdoorsman and sporting businesses and activities, including the Patent Decoy Duck Caller Company and the Arkansas Wildlife Federation. Paul also helped bring about the construction of Lake Conway, the largest lake to be constructed by a state wildlife agency (Arkansas Game and Fish Commission). Paul led a fundraising campaign to purchase the land for the lake, as well as a petition which changed the state constitution and allowed the land of those unwilling to sell to be condemned. Paul married Lena Katherine Dependahl, a former teacher from St. Louis, Missouri. They had two daughters, Paulina and Katherine. Lena Litzke died in 1923.
Paulina Litzke was born in 1906 and attended Little Rock Junior College, Washington University, and University of California at Berkeley. She returned to Little Rock in 1932 and lived there for the rest of her life. She never married. Katherine Litzke was born in 1909 and attended Washington University in St. Louis. She married Archie Hall Allen in 1930 and passed away in 1932. Archie Hall Allen remarried, and his second wife donated this collection.
Marian Morris was also a long-time resident of Little Rock. The daughter of Charles Edgar and Lula Cox Morris, Marian was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in 1910 and had one older sister, Kathleen Morris Scruggs. Marian received a degree from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and worked for the Arkansas Department of Labor most of her life. She married Harold S. Creelman (Crulman), a World War II soldier, in 1941, but they divorced in 1947. They had no children and Marian never remarried. After she retired, she began teaching English to foreign students as a volunteer. Marian remained an active volunteer for the Little Rock community until her death in 1986. Her father, Charles, also made some improvements to the cotton chopper in 1943.
This collection contains legal and personal papers, letters, memorabilia, and photos of the Litzke, Dependahl, Morris, and Allen families from Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas.
·         Correspondence
o    1. 1890s (Box 1)
o    2. 1900-1910
o    3. 1910-1919
o    4. 1920s (Box 2)
o    5. 1930s (Box 3)
o    6. 1940s
o    7. 1950s
o    8. Undated
·         9. Charles Morris papers (Box 4)
·         10. Marion Morris correspondence
·         11. Marion Morris papers
·         12. Montrose, Colorado, papers
·         13. Family newsclippings (Box 5)
·         14. Family legal documents
·         15. Telegrams
·         16. Family memorabilia
·         17. Marion Morris memorabilia

Thursday, June 27, 2019

New Intern Starts at SARA

Taylor Lawson, intern at SARA
A new intern has started at the Southeast Arkansas Regional Archives!

Taylor Lawson, 21, of Rison, is a senior history major with a minor in psychology and sociology at Henderson State University. She heard about the internship opportunity through her public history class instructor, David Sesser. 

“Taylor started in May but has already shown an aptitude for researching, handling and preserving archival documents,” says Melissa Nesbitt, archival manager. “She is smart, passionate and a quick-learner. We are so excited to have her at the Archives.”

Taylor wants to learn about the archival field because she hopes to have a career in it one day. She took an American history class in high school that piqued her interest and put her on the path to working in the archival field.

As an intern, Taylor is gaining experience in processing archival collections. Among the projects she has worked on so far is the Earl Wagner collection of photographs, which consists of scenes from Hope, Texarkana and Washington, Arkansas, in the 1980s through the 2000s. The photos include community and political events.

Of her work at SARA, Taylor says what she enjoys most is “being able to be so close to history in a hands-on way.”

“When studying history, you often don’t get immersed just by reading from a textbook, so working with historical collections at SARA gives you better insight into the past and the people involved in historical events,” Taylor says.

When she is not studying history, Taylor loves to read mystery and true crime stories. She enjoys listening to a wide variety of music. 

Taylor will work at SARA until Aug. 3. Until then, she has the opportunity to immerse herself in the rich history of early Arkansas and gain experience that could pave the way for a career in State Archives.

The SARA Foundation, Inc., which is the friends group for SARA, sponsors the internship each year, and the Historic Washington State Park provides support for the internship by providing housing. Applications are available each spring.

SARA Foundation’s mission includes providing volunteer support, promoting the acquisition of archival materials, conducting special projects and raising funds that benefit SARA. The SARA Foundation depends on membership dues and other contributions to fulfill its mission. For more information on the Foundation, email, call 870-983-2633 or write to SARA Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 133, Washington, AR 71862.

For more information on SARA or to find out more about the internship position, contact Archival Manager Melissa Nesbitt at or call 870-983-2633.

Historic Arkansas State Flags Return after Conservation

Curator Julienne Crawford and Hunter Foster, archival assistant for conservation,
unpack the original design of the Arkansas State Flag, which was sent off for restoration last year.

Historic Arkansas State flags are back at the Arkansas State Archives after being sent off for conservtion this past November.

“These flags are symbols of our state’s heritage, pride and identity,” said Dr. Wendy Richter, State Archives director and state historian. “We are delighted to have had the opportunity to conserve such iconic pieces of our history.”

The flags were returned June 18 and are in storage, said Julienne Crawford, curator. They may be displayed in the future for brief time periods, but display times must be limited to protect the flags, she said. Previous displays years ago subjected the flags to light exposure that faded and weakened the fabrics.

A historic State Flag, likely donated in 1916 is
in storage at the State Archives after being restored.
One of the flags is the original flag design that Willie Hocker submitted to the flag competition that selected the state’s first official flag. Her design had three stars in the middle with no words. Hocker was later asked to add the word “Arkansas” for the final flag, which the state adopted in 1913. The other state flag is a very early, 1900s State flag with the word “Arkansas” written in blue. It likely was donated to the State Archives in 1916.

The flags were conserved by Textile Preservation Associates, Inc., in West Virginia, through a grant from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council. The flags were cleaned, repaired where possible, and encased in custom-made exhibition cases. The final cost for conservation work was about $12,400, which was below estimated costs.

The company recommended the flags be protected from light because they already have sustained so much damage from exposure. Even with restoration and protective measures, the flags remain delicate.

For more information about the flags, contact the Arkansas State Archives at 501-682-6900. To view the proposed designs for the State Flag, visit the Arkansas Digital Ark-ives website at or read about the Arkansas State Flag on the secretary of state website at  

Archives Adds New Accessions

Wabbaseka School Group, Courtesy of Arkansas State Archives

Our new accessions for June included family newsletters, photos and posters! Come discover, research or explore your Arkansas State Archives. We have thousands of books, records and artifacts to help you find your family stories.

Archival Collections

·         Wensil Clark Collection: Materials were collected by Wensil Clark and mostly relate to genealogical and heritage organizations. The collection, which dates from 1932 to 2011, includes several genealogy and family history newsletters and several copies of her book, “1890 White County Arkansas Census.” Clark, who died in 2012, was a historian and genealogist and was active in many historical societies, such as the Arkansas Genealogical Society and the Arkansas Pioneers Association. The collection was donated by her daughter, Marsha Hylton.

·         Mary Jean Hall Collection: The collection contains material related to Scotland, Arkansas, including school memorabilia, news articles, plaques, posters, photographs, a wedding dress, a uniform and various textiles.    

·         Marion High School Newspaper Collection: The collection, which was donated by John Fogleman, includes high school newspapers from 1937 to 1944.

Benton Baptist Church Records,
Courtesy of the Arkansas State Archives
·         Benton Baptist Church Records, 1890-1901: The donation is a book of church records, which includes membership rolls and council minutes.

·         Arkansas Baptist College Grant Report: The documents spotlight the final grant report for a project, “Preserving Our History/Archives,” which was funded by the Black History of Arkansas Commission’s Curtis H. Sykes grant this year.

·         Judie Fite King Collection: The collection, which dates from the early 1900s through the 1930s, includes one photograph of a school group in Wabbaseka, Arkansas. The photo shows Willie K. Hocker, designer of the Arkansas state flag. The Arkansas General Assembly adopted her design in 1913. Another photo shows a school group in Altheimer, Arkansas. Two other photographs show the Cut Price Store in Wabbaseka, Arkansas. Judie Fite King donated the photos, which were given to her by her mother-in-law.

·        Arkansas Secretary of State Records: The Secretary of State’s Office has transferred 226 boxes of election records that include statements of financial interest, election results, general election files, lobbyist files and PACs to the State Archives. The records are part of an ongoing transfer.

Printed Material
·         “308th Strategic Missile Wing: End of an Era 1962-1987,” a yearbook for the Little Rock Air Force Base, donated by April Goff, administrative specialist for the Arkansas State Archives
·         “Arkansas: A Concise History,” by Jeannie M. Whayne, Thomas A. DeBlack, George Sabo and Morris S. Arnold, 2019
·         “First Amendment Studies in Arkansas: The Richard S. Arnold Prize Essays,” by Stephen Smith, 2016
·         “The First Twenty-Five: An Oral History of the Desegregation of Little Rock’s Public Junior High Schools,” by LaVerne Bell-Tolliver, 2018
·         “The Education of Ernie Dumas: Chronicles of the Arkansas Political Mind,” by Ernest Dumas, 2019
·         “Arkansas Beauty,” by Tim Ernst, 2017
·         “Sloan: A Paleoindian Dalton Cemetery in Arkansas,” by Dan Morse, 1997
·         “Ozark Coverlets: The Shiloh Museum of Ozark History Collection,” by Martha L. Benson and Laura Lyon Redford, 2015
·         “True Faith, True Light: The Devotional Art of Ed Stilley,” by Kelly Mulhollan, photos by Kirk Lanier and introduction by Robert Cochran, 2015
·         “The Arkansas Post of Louisiana,” by Morris S. Arnold, 2017

NEARA Symposium Set for Aug. 10

POWHATAN – The Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives will present “Moving About: The History of Transportation in Arkansas” during its annual symposium Saturday, Aug. 10, at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

"Various modes of transportation played a pivotal role in shaping the lives and livelihoods of people in the state of Arkansas," said Dr. Fatme Myuhtar-May, archival manager. "It is important to expose the public to that history. From flatboats to highways, our symposium will address how evolving modes of transportation and access to it changed our region and state."

Special speakers are: Robert Craig, an award-winning historian who will discuss the history of transportation on the White, Black and other rivers; Dr. Michael Dougan, a renowned history professor who will talk about the history of railroads and highways; and Joan L. Gould, a longtime preservation consultant who will focus on early footpaths and roadways.

Little Rock Packet Co. excursion boat, 1920,
Courtesy of the Arkansas State Archives
Lunch will be served. The event is free, but seating is limited. Please make reservations by Aug. 5. Teachers can earn three professional development credits by attending. 

How transportation changed over the centuries has greatly influenced all aspects of the development of Arkansas, from the state’s agriculture-based economy to immigration and the establishment of cities. The history of transportation has also affected families.

“Modern-day studies of early land routes across Arkansas has led to the identification of thousands of previously unrecognized men, women and children whose labors became the genius of the state’s present-day, world-famous agricultural industry,” Gould explained. “These families who first populated the state laid the foundation for the introduction of later technological advancements in transportation methods.”
Gould’s lecture will also include tips for genealogy research and information on the transformation of ancient footpaths by Native Americans, Euro-American and African American farmers.

Joan L. Gould, a graduate of the University of Nebraska, is owner of Preservation Matters, a preservation consulting business. Over the past three decades, Gould has provided historic research for preservation projects and National Register nominations in Arkansas and Missouri. Specific projects have included the Early Arkansas Settlement Studies I & II; the 1829 Izard County Territorial Courthouse, or Jacob Wolf House in Baxter County; the 1828 Rice-Upshaw House and the 1833 William Looney Tavern in Randolph County; and the early history of Lawrence County.

Train traveling through Arkansas, undated,
Courtesy of the Arkansas State Archives
Robert Craig, who grew up in Newport, Ark., is an avid history researcher and writer. He has edited, written and published multiple historical articles and books on Independence and Jackson counties. His work has appeared in “The Stream of History,” a publication he edits for the Jackson County Historical Society, and the Central Arkansas Library System’s Encyclopedia of Arkansas. His research has earned him awards from the Arkansas Historical Association. Craig is finishing research on Jackson County during World War II, which includes information on the Army Air Field that was constructed in the county. He lives in Kennett, Mo.

Dr. Michael B. Dougan, of Neosho, Mo., is professor of history emeritus at Arkansas State University. He earned a bachelor's degree from Missouri State University, formerly named Southwest Missouri State College, and a doctorate from Emory University. He taught at Arkansas State University from 1970 to 2006. Dougan has published multiple articles and books on a wide range of historical Arkansas events over many time periods. His books include “Community Diaries: A History of State Newspapers” and “Confederate Arkansas: The People and Policies of a Frontier State in Wartime.” He authored “Arkansas Odyssey: The Saga of Arkansas from Prehistoric Times to Present” and has written many entries for The Encyclopedia of Arkansas. In 2017, he was the first recipient of the Five Rivers Historic Preservation’s Ransom Bettis Award in recognition of his research into Randolph County’s history.

The symposium will focus on Northeast Arkansas but will include information on other Arkansas regions and the state overall. For more information about the symposium, contact Fatme Myuhtar-May at 870-878-6521 or Make a reservation via Eventbrite.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Volunteer Day Resounding Success at NEARA

Eighteen volunteers turned out June 14 to help NEARA celebrate Volunteer Day.

POWHATAN – Eighteen volunteers came out for Volunteer Day at the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives on June 14 and helped preserve pieces of the region’s history.

“The turnout was incredible,” said Dr. Fatme Myuhtar-May, archival manager. “The community cares deeply about learning and preserving its history.”

Volunteers came from Paragould, Black Rock, Strawberry, Newport, Hoxie, Salem, Ash Flat, Jonesboro, Pocahontas, Evening Shade, Horseshoe Bend, Charlotte, Smithville and even Little Rock, which is about two hours away. Many volunteers arrived around 8:30 a.m. and stayed past 3 p.m. to work on Walnut Ridge court records.

Volunteers carefully unfolded records, removed rusty staples, paperclips or stick pins, and then placed the documents in folders and archival boxes. Once a cubic-foot box was full of unfolded records, a volunteer labeled the folder with the box number, folder number and name of the collection. 

During Volunteer Day, at least 12 cubic feet of material was unfolded and labeled. NEARA staff will index the material before it is made available to researchers. Some volunteers also worked on indexing records by typing the information into a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet will allow patrons to search the information by name or keyword.

Several attendees said they intend to become regular NEARA volunteers. The Volunteer Day was so successful, archives staff are considering holding another one. Volunteers help preserve records and make them more accessible to the public, Dr. Myuhtar-May said.

“Volunteer days are very important for NEARA because it takes a lot of time to unfold and index records,” she said. “With only two full-time staff members whose time can be filled by reference tasks and administrative duties, having outside help to process records is essential.”

Dr. Myuhtar-May said she is grateful to each person who came to help NEARA. She was especially moved by the presence of 91-year-old Jack Sloan from Powhatan, who came to help unfold records with his daughter Lesia Sloan Phillips and his young great-grandson. 

“NEARA Volunteer Day 2019 showed that there is a strong sense of community in Northeast Arkansas, that the community cares about history and that residents are willing to help make records available to researchers,” Dr. Myuhtar-May said.

For more information on ways to volunteer at NEARA, contact Fatme Myuhtar-May at 870-878-6521 or