In early Arkansas, penal bonds were commonly posted for a variety of court-related functions. County officials, for example, had to post bonds swearing to uphold their office or forfeit the specified amount of money. Likewise, citizens who were fulfilling court obligations like the administrators of an estate also had to post a bond. These bonds were sworn to the Governor of Arkansas starting in 1819 with establishment of the Arkansas Territory. The practice continued once Arkansas reached statehood on June 15, 1836.
While it was rare, occasionally legal action was taken to make the individuals who posted a penal bond forfeit their payment. To do so, someone would have to allege that the bonded person did not fulfill the duties of the bond.
One such case occurred with the estate of Isaac Knighten in 1846. His heirs contested that the administrators failed in their duties, which prompted a lawsuit from the Governor of Arkansas against the administrators. In this case, a lawyer on behalf of Gov. Thomas Drew alleged that the administrators failed to adequately execute the estate on behalf of the minor heirs (children under the age of 21). Because of their failure, Gov. Drew demanded the administrators pay the full penal sum of $1600.
The case goes on to distribute the Knighten estate appropriately. In what may seem an ordinary document, the early history of Arkansas is captured and saved for Arkansans to discover 182 years later.