Friday, December 28, 2018

Happy Birthday, Hempstead!

SARA Archival Manager Melissa Nesbitt shows off her shirt
with Michael Terral, Historic Washington State Park staff member, and Aaron Dovell, park volunteer.

Beryl Henry Elementary School Choir
 Hempstead County residents celebrated the county’s Dec. 15 bicentennial birthday with cake, fireworks and a parade.
“Hempstead County, itself, existed before the state of Arkansas did,” said Melissa Nesbitt, archival manager at the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives. “The county has a long and distinguished history and represents part of Arkansas’s unique heritage. Happy birthday, Hempstead!”
Nesbitt and other former and current county and state officials attended the two-hour event. Festivities included a parade, music, vendors and games. Celebrations started at the University of Arkansas-Hope campus and moved to downtown Hope at the Farmers Bank building, which is set to become the county’s new courthouse.
The event ended with a cake cutting and firework display.
Hempstead County became one of Arkansas’s first five counties Dec. 15, 1818. The county was created from what was the Missouri territory. The five original counties became the Arkansas territory in 1819.
Panelists speak during celebration
Hempstead County has produced renowned public officials, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who spoke about the county’s birthday via video posted on social media. Speakers at the event included Hempstead County natives Mack McLarty, who served as Chief of Staff for President Clinton; Judge Lavenski R. Smith, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit; Little Rock attorney Joe Purvis; and Ellen Turner, a professor at Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville.
Hempstead County originally included all of southwest Arkansas and parts of present-day northeast Texas and southeast Oklahoma. The county was eventually divided into 12 counties, including Columbia, Hempstead, Howard, Lafayette, Little River, Miller, Nevada, Ouachita, Pike, Polk, Sevier and Union.
For more information, contact SARA at 870-983-2633 or
Melissa Nesbitt, SARA archival manager, and Peggy Lloyd,
former SARA manager, inside the Archives booth.