Wednesday, June 15, 2016

1836 Arkansas State Auditor’s Journal finds its way back to State Archives

June 15 officially marks the 180th anniversary of Arkansas’s entry into the union as the 25th state.  The Arkansas State Archives received a fitting donation to mark the occasion.  An Arkansas State Auditor’s journal containing entries from the first year of statehood through 1874 was donated by Philip Palmer of Maumelle to the state archives.

The journal, which contains entries by noted Arkansans like John Selden Roane and Elias Conway, the state’s fourth and fifth Governors, and includes correspondence and information about land grants, taxation, and county-level politics and finance, was almost lost to history.  Palmer purchased the journal at a “junk store” in Benton in 2013.  Store owners told Palmer that they had acquired the journal at a storage bin auction.  The journal was at the bottom of a box with other, unremarkable contents thrown in on top.  Palmer purchased the journal because he understood its historical value and wanted to save it from further damage or destruction.

In 2015, Palmer contacted Dr. Lisa K. Speer, State Historian and Director of the Arkansas State Archives about the journal.  While Palmer initially loaned the journal to the State Archives for copying, ultimately he decided to make the loan a permanent gift.  His only requests were that the donation be announced on Arkansas Statehood Day, and that the donation be recorded in memory of his parents, Dibrell W. Palmer and Billye June (Hiland) Palmer, who instilled in him an appreciation and love for the past.

Speer, State Archives Director, says of Palmer and the donation, “The State of Arkansas is indebted to Mr. Palmer that this important piece of history came into his care.  The ledger fills a gap in our records from the State Auditor’s office.  In the hands of a less historically-minded citizen this journal might have been lost.”  Speer also noted that the inadequacy of the current public records law in Arkansas provides the archives with no legal process for recovering state records that have fallen into private hands, a process called “replevin” that other state archives use to recover lost or misappropriated official records.  “I am very grateful to Mr. Palmer,” Speer said, “for understanding that the greatest value in this ledger was the historical worth for telling the story of Arkansas’s early days as a state.”

The Arkansas State Archives, located in Little Rock, maintains the largest collection of historical materials on Arkansas in the world.