Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wednesday's Wonderful Collection - Samuel James Matthews papers, SMC.11.3

Samuel James Matthews was born in Marshall County, Mississippi, in 1833. In 1845, his father moved the family to a farm northeast of Monticello in Drew County, Arkansas. Samuel began studying law at an early age and served as Drew County Clerk from 1856-1860 and 1886-1888, and County Judge from 1882-1884. He represented Drew County in the Constitutional Convention of 1868. After the Civil War, Samuel began a nursery and fruit business and raised blooded stock. He also practiced law in Monticello with Z.T. Wood and James R. Cotham. In 1903, due to failing health, Samuel moved to San Diego, where he died December 29, 1903. He is buried at Monticello.
Samuel was married to Anna M. Wilson, and they had three sons and six daughters. One of their sons, Justin Matthews, Sr., was instrumental in bringing about major improvements in North Little Rock in the early 1900s, including street pavement, sewer and drainage improvements, and construction of two new bridges over the Arkansas River. Justin also developed the Park Hill District in North Little Rock as well.

This collection contains papers belonging to Samuel James Matthews and his wife, Anna, including deeds, receipts, promissory notes, bonds, insurance policies, land patents, and letters.

  • Deeds
    • 1. 1857 November 4: State of Arkansas to Samuel J. Matthews and William T. Wells (Reel MG00205)
    • 2. 1857 November 4: State of Arkansas to Samuel J. Matthews and William T. Wells
    • 3. 1857 December 17: William T. Wells to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 4. 1858 March 19: Thomas Flanaghan to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 5. 1858 August 9: Ellis Low to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 6. 1858 August 20: William D. Mims to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 7. 1858 September 4: James N. Slemons to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 8. 1859 January 17: Hugh Rodgers to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 9. 1859 May 31: James N. and Nancy E. Slemons to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 10. 1861 March 30: Deed of conveyance, David S. Wells to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 11. 1861 July 6: William T. and Pattie P. Wells to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 12. 1861 July 9: Ely K. and Sarah J. Haynes to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 13. 1861 November 30: Alexander B. Hale to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 14. 1861 December 28: James L., Pamily L., and John Benthal to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 15. 1862 March: Edward Davis to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 16. 1864 January 20: Ely K. and Sarah J. Haynes to Albert D. Wilson and Anna M. Matthews
    • 17. 1864 January 23: Daniel O. and Bettie Harris to Albert D. Wilson and Anna M. Matthews
    • 18. 1865 November 9: Solomon Goar to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 19. 1866 March 3: Albert D. Wilson to Anna M. Matthews
    • 20. 1866 March 12: Alexander J. Wilson to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 21. 1866 March 19: Isaac A.J. and Ebeline Handly to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 22. 1866 April 3: Charles McDermott to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 23. 1866 June 5: Sheriff's deed to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 24. 1866 June 5: Sheriff's deed to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 25. 1866 June 5: Sheriff's deed to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 26. 1866 June 5: Sheriff's deed to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 27. 1866 September 19: Charles and Hetty L. McDermott to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 28. 1866 December 26: Ely K. and Sarah J. Haynes to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 29. 1868 September 9: William T. and Pattie P. Wells to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 30. 1869 December 7: William T. and Pattie P. Wells to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 31. 1870 January 15: William H. and Margarette A.T. Harper to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 32. 1870 March 5: Henry C. Adcock to Algernon S. Crute and Samuel J. Matthews
    • 33. 1871 January 23: Deed of conveyance, William P. Montague, Drew County Clerk, to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 34. 1871 January 26: Clerk's tax deed to Samuel J. Matthews (Reel MG00206)
    • 35. 1871 November 16: William H. and Margarette A.T. Harper to E.K. Haynes
    • 36. 1872 March 6: Warranty deed, William Henderson Isom to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 37. 1872 May 8: Clerk's tax deed to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 38. 1872 May 13: George W. and Sarah Reeves to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 39. 1873 November 10: David S. and Louisa Wells to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 40. 1878 March 10: Zephaniah J. and Mary E. Wood and Zachary T. and Tommie S. Wood to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 41. 1879 August 22: Albert B. Zellner to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 42. 1881 February 15: Eli Rogers to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 43. 1883 February 10: Henry W. and Lula M. Wells to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 44. 1884 October 30: William T. Wells to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 45. 1885 December 11: Ely K. Haynes to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 46. 1892 September 27: F.P. and Amanda C. Walker to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 47. 1894 November 16: Henry H. and Minnie Wells to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 48. 1896 March 10: Quit-claim deed, J.M. and H.N. Woodward to H.M. Wells
    • 49. 1896 November 28: A.W. and Cornelia Jeter to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 50. 1897 May 7: Samuel J. and Anna M. Matthews to H.H. and Minnie Wells
    • 51. 1898 October 4: Clerk's redemption certificate to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 52. 1912: Right-of-way deed, Ashley, Drew, and Northern Railway Company (incomplete form)
  • Accounts and receipts
    • 53. 1866-1869: I.A.J. Handly to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 54. 1886 October 8: Receipt, Henry Hankins to Samuel J. Matthews
    • 55. 1921 August 4: Inheritance tax receipt, Joe Ferguson to David A. Gates
    • 56. 1922 December 14: Postmaster to Bertha Matthews (concerning transfer of 1918 war savings certificates to the federal reserve)
  • Land surveys and drawings
    • 57-60
  • Promissory notes
    • 61. 1856 June 7: I.A.J. Handly to Marvin A. Wilson
    • 62. 1859 February 24: I.A.J. Handly to William M. Harrison
    • 63. 1861 January 4: I.A.J. Handly to William M. Harrison
    • 64. 1861 September 7: I.A.J. Handly to William M. Harrison
    • 65. 1873 October 11: D.S. Wells to Samuel J. Matthews
  • Bonds
    • 66. 1858 September 8: A.G. Hightower, Ethelbert Carlton, and James A. Jackson to Thomas G. Hudspeth
  • Insurance policies
    • 67. 1921 February 19: Anna M. Matthews, Home Insurance Company, New York
    • 68. 1924 February 19: Anna M. Matthews, Home Insurance Company, New York
  • Absract of ownership
    • 69. 1870, 1873: Town lots sold by E.K. Haynes
  • Power of attorney
    • 70. 1850 March 26: Solomon Goar to Jonathan Ferguson
  • Receipts for lands
    • 71. 1855 December 8: Receiver's Office, Champagnolle, Arkansas, to Ellis Low
    • 72. 1855 December 15: Receiver's Office, Champagnolle, Arkansas, to Ellis Low
    • 73. 1856 May 10: Receiver's Office, Champagnolle, Arkansas, to Ellis Low
    • 74. 1857 February 3: Receiver's Office, Champagnolle, Arkansas, to Ellis Low
    • 75. 1857 February 20: Receiver's Office, Champagnolle, Arkansas, to Ellis Low
    • 76. 1858 August 12: Receiver's Office, Champagnolle, Arkansas, to Ellis Low
    • 77. 1859 October 24: Receiver's Office, Champagnolle, Arkansas, to Ellis Low
  • Land patent
    • 78. 1875 April 10: Ulysses S. Grant to Issac A.J. Handly, assignee of William S. Rivers
  • Letters
    • 79. 1859 April 2: Solomon Goar, Rock Creek, California, to Jonathan Ferguson, Monticello, Arkansas
    • 80. 1861 February 10: Solomon Goar, Rock Creek, California, to Jonathan Ferguson
    • 81. 1921 August 4: David A. Gates, Little Rock, Arkansas, to Bertha Matthews, Monticello, Arkansas

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Arkansas History's Mysteries - UFOs and Arkansas

The night sky is full of mysteries.  For centuries, humanity has gazed into the black of night and wondered at what it was seeing.  Early astronomers charted the heavens, recording the minutest of details about the cosmos as they saw it.  Today one can go to archaeological sites around the world and find ancient buildings aligned perfectly with the stars in the sky or with annual events such as the summer or winter solstice.  Because of this attention to detail, any anomaly has caught the star gazers’ attention, causing new theories to be cast to explain new observations.  Human nature, on the other hand, has shown itself to be capable of following fancy, of sharing in mass panic.  Between 1896 and 1897, the entire country found itself in the grips of UFO mania, a mania that even ensnared the state of Arkansas.
The story begins in California on November 17, 1896, when people in Sacramento reported seeing a large floating light in the sky.  Some who saw the strange object reported hearing the sound of singing and noises as if a great celebration was taking place on board the airship.  Although the local press greeted the story with skepticism, soon the sightings spread across California for the remainder of 1896. 
In February, 1897, the mysterious sightings spread into the Midwest as the airship was sighted in Nebraska and Kansas. In March, it was spotted floating above Kansas City, Missouri.  By April, Canada got into the action when people in Manitoba also reported seeing the object.  As the stories of airships in the sky spread, the sightings grew more elaborate.  Those who saw the airship in Abilene, Texas, reported that they heard the sound of a full orchestra coming from the craft.  Witnesses in a few locations claimed to even talk to the pilot.  Still, another account in Aurora, Texas claimed that the airship crashed on a farm and the pilot was killed.  Although the pilot’s body was burned in the crash, the Dallas Morning News reported that there was enough left of him to prove that he was “not an inhabitant of this planet.”  Legend has it that the pilot is buried in an unmarked grave on that farm to this day.
Soon the sightings began in Arkansas.  On April 17, 1897, children playing outside in Texarkana’s warm early spring evening noted seeing the airship in the sky.  They quickly alerted their father, J.F. Floyd.  Floyd told the Daily Texarkanian newspaper that he was unable to describe the airship in much detail.  He noted that it appeared as “a huge ball of fire traveling with fearful velocity.”   While Floyd’s story lacked much detail, a few days later, Iron Mountain Railroad conductor Captain Jim Hooton reported to the Arkansas Gazette that he had come across the airship in the woods while on a hunting trip near Homan, in Miller County.   

He told reporters that he spotted the airship landed in a field.  When he approached, the pilot and his crew came out of the ship.  Hooton asked them if this was the ship that had been seen across the country and the pilot said it was.  Then a crew member told the pilot that the ship was ready to go and then it blasted off into the sky.  Hooton got a good enough look at the airship to make a sketch of it for the newspaper.
Perhaps the most prominent of the sightings in Arkansas came on May 7, 1897, near Hot Springs.  Deputy Sheriff McLemore and Constable Sumpter were out trying to serve a court subpoena when they saw the airship approach and descend to the ground.  They saw the pilot, who they described as a tall man with a long black beard, filling the airship with water from a nearby stream.  The pilot invited them to come on board and take a ride, which they declined.  To prove their story’s authenticity, the lawmen swore out legal affidavits telling the tale. 
Meanwhile, the airship’s presence was also spotted in Malvern and throughout Hot Spring County.  The Malvern Times Journal printed a rather tongue in cheek affidavit signed by citizens that they had seen the airship as they exited the White Elephant Saloon.  The bar-goers swore, “Our sight was dazzled by the brilliancy and splendor of a beautiful ship flying in midair.  Its majestic wings fanning the air so violently that the breeze therefrom blew fiercely through our whiskers and cooled our excited brows, and passed serenely on.” 
So, what can be said about this series of events?  Were there really UFOs from another planet making their way to earth on an intergalactic summer vacation trip?  What were people seeing throughout the country that spring?  It is quite easy to discount the account from a group of possibly inebriated witnesses, but not all of the witnesses had just stumbled out of a saloon.  It is possible that many of the witnesses were possibly telling tall tales to get publicity; or maybe they were wrapped up in the hysteria of the moment.  Another possibility was that they really were seeing something.  That spring there were reports in the newspaper about an airship built by a Professor Bayard that was to debut in Nashville, Tennessee, at a science exposition.  Although this was years before the Wright Brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, there had been numerous inventors during this time period who built experimental aircraft.  None of them, however, were capable of prolonged air travel.  Bayard’s airship, however, would explain the cases where witnesses claimed to speak to the pilot.  So, there may be some truth to some of the sightings. 
What is certainly interesting about the rash of sightings is that it seems that none of them attributed the airship to otherworldly creatures.  In fact, of the surviving newspaper accounts, they almost exclusively attribute the airship to an unknown human inventor.  The only sighting claimed to be from space was the report of the crash from Aurora, Texas, and that account is problematic because the sightings continued across the country at least a month after the supposed crash.  Nevertheless, possibly the constant press reporting fueled the hysteria that spring causing people to think that anything that seemed out of the usual, a shooting star for instance, was the airship that was so constantly in the news.  Nevertheless, the rash of UFO sightings would be repeated again and again for the next 120 years.  Maybe it was hysteria driven simply by media hype?  If so, it was one of the first great examples of mass hysteria driven by unidentified flying objects.  Or maybe, if one visited bath house row that summer, one might have caught a glimpse of a little green man, wrapped in a towel, enjoying a little relaxing trip to the spas?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wednesday Wonderful Collection, Woodmen of the World, Bois D'Arc Camp Number 28 records, MG.0194

The Bois D'Arc Camp Number 28, Woodmen of the World, was organized at Hope, Arkansas, shortly after Joseph Cullen Root founded the national society in 1890. One of the benefits provided to members of the organization was a distinctive tree-trunk-shaped grave marker. In 1944, the Hope lodge was one of fifty nationally recognized for outstanding fraternal and patriotic service.

This collection contains minutes, photographs, and other items pertaining to the Bois D'Arc Camp.

The collection is available on microfilm only.

  • 1. Minutes, 1949-1951
  • 2. Photographs of members, 1940
  • 3. Centennial plaque, 1990 October 8
  • 4. "Drill Regulations Uniform Rank Woodmen of the World," 1914
  • 5. “Fraternal Service Award” text, 1944

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Saving the Tree: Preserving Family History

The Arkansas History Commission and the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives (NEARA) will be hosting a workshop on Saturday, Sept. 19 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Powhatan Courthouse in Powhatan Historic State Park. The theme of the workshop will be “Saving the Tree: Preserving Family History.”

There will be three hands-on sessions focused on the organization and preservation of family documents, photographs, and heirlooms, including  “Papers and Photographs” and  “Artifacts and Heirlooms” presented by staff from the Arkansas History Commission, Powhatan Historic State Park, Plantation Agriculture Museum, and Jacksonport State Park.  The final session will be held at nearby Powhatan Cemetery with Arkansas Historic Preservation’s Special Projects Historian Holly Hope giving a presentation on caring for headstones and markers. 

The event will also feature a scanning booth at NEARA.  Participants are invited to bring in material for scanning.  An AHC archivist will scan and save to CDs copies of scanned material for the participants, who will be asked to share the digital copies with the Arkansas History Commission for research, exhibits and publication. 

The workshop is free but registration is required. Check-in will begin at 9 a.m. Lunch will be catered.  All session supplies and materials will be provided. Registrants will also receive samples of archival supplies donated by Hollinger Metal Edge.  Registration is limited and deadline for registration is Sept. 16, so be sure to make reservations soon!

The Arkansas History Commission, located in Little Rock, is the official state archives of Arkansas and maintains the largest collection of historical materials on Arkansas in the world. The Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives is a branch of the Arkansas History Commission and is dedicated to collecting and preserving primary source materials that represent the unique history, culture and heritage of northeast Arkansas.  Located at 11 Seventh Street in Powhatan, NEARA has been open since 2011. 

For more information about the symposium or to register, email: or by phone at 870-878-6521.

This event is funded by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities and is done in cooperation with Powhatan Historic State Park.

Friday, August 14, 2015

August 2015 Newsletter

Look inside the August Issue of the Arkansas Archivist for these and other features:

AHC and North Little Rock History Commission Present WWI Symposium

The Arkansas History Commission and the North Little Rock History Commission are joining forces to honor those who served their country in World War I almost a century ago.  On August 29, from 10 am to 3 pm, the AHC and the NLRHC will hold a symposium  called, The Great War: Service on All Fronts, at the Patrick Henry Hays Senior Center in North Little Rock at 401 West Pershing Boulevard.

“Who Do You Think You Are?” Visits AHC in June

The Arkansas History Commission has been keeping a big secret this summer! In April, we were notified that representatives of the TLC genealogy documentary series “Who Do You Think You Are?” were coming to scout our location for a forthcoming episode in the 2015 season of the series.  In May, story producers from Shed Media, one of the partners of the show, visited Little Rock to meet with staff, check out our location, and review preliminary research conducted for the episode. 

AHC Introduces WWI Traveling Exhibit
At the World War I symposium the AHC and North Little Rock History Commission is hosting, the AHC will debut a new traveling exhibit focusing on Arkansas during World War I.  The traveling exhibit, entitled, The Great War: Arkansas in World War I, spotlights Arkansas’s role in the war, both on the battlefield and on the home front.  The exhibit consists of twelve panels that showcase images from the AHC’s holdings, including original documents, photographs, posters, maps, and historical objects.

From the Director

Last month, I talked about a number of factors that shape the Arkansas History Commission’s digitization initiative, like the initial costs of scanning and creating metadata, and also those ongoing costs of storing and migrating digital data so it remains accessible throughout the life of your project.  So, given the costs involved in creating digital collections, how does an agency with limited funds, like ours, ultimately decide what materials will be digitized for online access?  With a collection that has been growing for over 110 years, I can promise you that the selection process isn’t random, and at times the choices can be agonizing.