Thursday, May 30, 2019

ASA Staff Attend Society of Southwest Archivists Conference

Pictured (left to right) Emy Teis, Becky Ballard, Jane Wilkerson and Stephanie Carter

Several members of our staff were in Tucson, Arizona, attending the 2019 Conference of the Inter-Mountain Archivists & Society of Southwest Archives Joint Annual Meeting, "Crossing Borders, Blazing Trails."

Stephanie Carter, Emily Ties, Rebecca Ballard and Jane Wilkerson, along with more than 200 archivists from the Southwest region of the United States, attended the May 15-18 conference. The conference focused on best practices for documenting and preserving materials from minority communities.

Conference speakers discussed the multifaceted challenges their institutions face when trying to build relationships with divers groups. Speakers also addressed outreach efforts and obstacles for including elementary and high school teachers, concerns in digitizing manuscripts and using social media platforms to engage the public. The struggles institutions face to determine what materials would be of interest to a wide-ranging audience were discussed. 

Other topics at the conference included the work flow of an institution. Discussions included software, strategic planning and organization, the evolution of what archivists do and how to get material out to the public. The conference provided Arkansas State Archives staff members an opportunity to explore the ways other archives manage and process archival collections.

A Conversation with Andrew McClain

Andrew McClain
Andrew McClain, our part-time archival assistant, took time from his busy schedule to talk with us about his passion for Arkansas history. He recently finished processing more than 300 historical mining maps at the State Archives to make sure the maps are preserved and made more accessible to the public. McClain has worked in state government since 2017 and is active in researching, preserving and promoting Arkansas’s culture and history. In 2018, he decided to pursue a master’s degree in Public History at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. This year, while also working at the State Archives, McClain became a graduate assistant at the Center for Arkansas History and Culture.

Q: What’s your job title, and how long have you worked at the Arkansas State Archives?

A: I’m a part-time archival assistant. I started working in an extra help position at the State Archives just over two years ago.

Q: What do you do on a typical day at Archives?

A: I’m usually processing some part of our huge maps collection – which is always growing – making sure they’re searchable and stored properly. Sometimes I’m processing other papers and records collections, and I also help pick up donations from other state agencies.

Q: How did you become interested in Arkansas history or working at the Arkansas State Archives?

A: I grew up in Little Rock, and I’ve always been interested in how the city has grown over the past 200 years or so. When I first started at the Archives, it was just a temporary summer job assembling some new shelving, but they let me stick around as extra help to help move boxes around and eventually taught me how to process collections. My first collection was the J.E. Little plantation records, which are the papers of a Faulkner County farming family. Going through these documents and piecing together a family history from 100 years ago was just fascinating to me. I felt like a detective, and I had to resist the urge to put up a corkboard with pushpins and yarn, (I learned that’s mostly the researcher’s job, not the archivist’s) but I enjoyed the work so much that in spring 2018, I started to pursue my Master’s in Public History at UALR.

Q: What’s the most important or interesting thing you’ve discovered while working at Archives? Why?

A: That’s a tough one – there are so many. One little gem I stumbled across early on was in the Silvester Thacher collection: it’s the front page of the Lansing State Republican, a Michigan newspaper, from April 15, 1865, reporting the news of President Lincoln’s death. What’s interesting about the article, though, is that it mistakenly reports that William H. Seward, Lincoln’s secretary of state, was also dead. Seward actually survived being stabbed five times in an assassination attempt that was meant to be simultaneous with Lincoln’s and lived another seven years.

Q: Why do you think the Arkansas State Archives is important for Arkansans?

A: “Public memory” is a concept we talk a lot about in our field – everyone has his or her own family stories and ideas about what our past was like, and all these individual perceptions add up to our collective public memory. The tricky thing about public memory is that it is never 100% accurate, but it still directly informs the decisions we make here in the present. The Archives exist so that Arkansans can access a clearer view of our history, especially if we know what we’re looking for. We collect all sorts of records from state agencies that may not be all that interesting to the average person, but making them accessible to the public is important because it may provide the missing piece of a story that gives us clarity about our past and informs vital decisions about our future.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A: Getting to look at documents and maps that nobody has seen or paid attention to in years, and working to make them available to the public.

Q: How do you see archiving evolving in the future?

A: Well, certainly more of it will be online, and hopefully accessible to more and more people through shared databases from different institutions. Right now, you usually still need to know exactly what you’re looking for when searching online, because a lot of great materials are still sequestered in old printed finding aids. Getting them online is a lot of work, but it’s valuable work, and when it’s done, it will be easier for people to just stumble upon the little gems they’re looking for, rather than having to know exactly what they’re looking for.

Q: What do you wish people knew about Archives?

A: Plenty of our patrons already know about how the hours can just disappear when they’re looking through old newspapers on microfilm, but I think more people ought to know. It’s one of the most vivid, immersive and immediately gratifying ways to lose yourself in history and see exactly what was on people’s minds and how differently they communicated and expressed themselves just 50 or 100 years ago, and you don’t need to be researching anything specific to enjoy that.

Archives Hires New Assistant of Conservation and Two Others

Hunter Foster, archival assistant for conservation
Hunter Foster carefully placed a piece of Japanese tissue around the frayed edges of one page of an 1867 book, “Roll of Honor Names of Soldiers who died in Defense of the American Union,” using methylcellulose, a reversible adhesive. Later, after going over all the book’s pages, Foster will sew the entire book back together and return it to the Arkansas State Archives’ library collection.

“I’ve always wanted to work in a library or archives,” Foster says. “I’m interested in keeping and maintaining and taking care of a collective memory of a place.”

Foster started work May 13 as the State Archives’ new archival assistant for conservation. He works closely with Curator Julienne Crawford to make sure records, documents and artifacts are preserved for future generations.

The State Archives has millions of documents, images, books and artifacts, forming the largest holdings on Arkansas history and culture in the world.

Foster, who moved from Chicago back home to Arkansas last year, said he had been looking for something that would use his artistic talents while also allowing for his professional development and education. The Archives is a perfect fit, he said.

“I’m excited,” Foster says. “I like it a lot.”
Emily Summers

Foster is among three recent hires at the Archives. Emily Summers and Wesley Oliver recently started as contracted workers to do much-needed archival work, Crawford said. On a recent Thursday, Summers finished scanning and digitizing post-Civil War voting records, while Oliver scanned index cards with information about Arkansas soldiers who served in the Mexican War. Both said they are excited to join the State Archives.

The new employees are a great asset to the State Archives, which has seen an increase in donations of material, said Wendy Richter, director and state historian. County courthouses, private individuals and other state agencies have been donating more records, she said. The conservation work Foster does is vital to maintaining those records so they can be made or kept accessible to the public, Richter said.  
Wesley Oliver

“Our staff members are at the forefront of preserving Arkansas’s history and heritage,” Richter says. “The archival assistant for conservation position is extremely important. I feel Hunter is more than capable and is a great fit for us because of his attention to detail, passion for history and skill as a working artist.”  

With a degree from the Arts Institute of Chicago, Foster comes with a strong background in arts. He also has an art studio in Little Rock where he focuses on sculpture, painting and textile works. His artistic skills fit into a job meant to repair and maintain items, like books, documents and maps. The key, Foster said, is to preserve the material for public use while keeping the original appearance.

Foster said his education and work as an artist has helped him develop focus and patience. The repair process, like the page-by-page repairs he finished recently, are delicate and tedious. Foster spends hours poring over 100-year-plus materials. On a recent workday, he plugged in a Bonnie Raitt album while he finished work on the “Official Army Registry for 1865.”

Work at the State Archives is satisfying, but Foster already has plans to improve himself. He wants to take professional development courses and do his own research, including checking out Archives’ textile collection. “I want to learn and expand the skills I already have,” Foster said.

Hundreds Plan to Attend Symposium on the 1919 Elaine Massacre

Twelve men were convicted and sentenced to death after the Elaine Massacre.
The sentences were eventually overturned. (Photo Courtesy of the Arkansas State Archives)

More than 300 people have registered to attend the Black History Commission of Arkansas’s half-day symposium on the Elaine Massacre of 1919 this Saturday at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock.

Special speakers Drs. Brian Mitchell, Cherisse Jones-Branch and Guy Lancaster will speak June 1 on the history of the massacre, its aftermath and ongoing influence. 

The Elaine Massacre is the deadliest racial confrontation in Arkansas history and among the bloodiest racial conflicts in the U.S. At least 200 black people were killed by white people over the course of several days in September 1919.

The Elaine Massacre started Sept. 30, 1919, when African American sharecroppers met to discuss better pay for their cotton. During a union meeting, shots were fired, sparking mass killings. Up to 1,000 white people from surrounding Arkansas counties and as far away as Tennessee traveled to Elaine to take part in the massacre. U.S. troops were eventually called in, and the white mob finally dispersed Oct. 2.

Afterward, more than 200 African Americans were put in jail or stockades, where there were reports of torture. A Phillips County grand jury charged 122 African Americans with crimes connected with the massacre, and a jury convicted 12 African American men of murder. The 12 men were sentenced to death but were eventually released after long court battles.

Teachers earn three professional development credits by attending the free, Saturday event.

The Black History Commission of Arkansas, a board of the State Archives, seeks to raise awareness of the contributions and impact black Arkansans have had on the state’s history. For more information, contact Tatyana Oyinloye, African American program coordinator, at 501-682-6892 or  

  • What: The Elaine Massacre: 100 Years Later
  • When: Check-in at 9:15 a.m.; 9:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, June 1
  • Who: Speakers Drs. Cherisse Jones-Branch, Brian Mitchell and Guy Lancaster
  • Where: Mosaic Templars Cultural Center at 501 W. 9th St. in Little Rock
  • Cost: Free

SARA Genealogy Symposium a Success!

Tracing Your Arkansas Roots: Navigating the World of Lineage Societies,
National Register Listings and DNA, 2019

More than 75 people turned out for the May 4 symposium, “Tracing Your Arkansas Roots: Navigating the World of Lineage Societies, National Register Listings and DNA.”

The genealogy workshop at the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives is held once a year. This year was among the most well-attended. Several attendees said the event was informative and welcoming. 

Melissa Nesbitt, SARA archival manager, presented information on lineage societies and tips for how to join them. Callie Williams, education and outreach coordinator with the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, spoke about the National Register of Historic Places, and Kermit Channell, executive director of the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, discussed ways DNA can be used for genealogy research. His presentation, “Forensic DNA – Advances in Forensic Science,” gave attendees an overview of DNA in forensic science and how advanced the technology is today.

Mark your calendars for May 2, 2020! We’re already looking forward to another great genealogy symposium next year in Washington, Arkansas!

For more information on SARA events or holdings, contact Melissa Nesbitt at

Archives Project Opens Access to Historical Newspapers

The Log Cabin Democrat, Conway, Arkansas,
March 27, 1917, Chronicling America
In the next few weeks, the Arkansas State Archives will have scanned 40 newspaper titles, or about 103,000 pages, and sent them to the Library of Congress. People will have a whole new way to access these historical records online, said Wendy Richter, state historian and director of the Arkansas State Archives.

“One of my biggest goals for the Arkansas State Archives has been to make records more accessible to the public,” Richter said. “This project puts tens of thousands of documents at the fingertips of more people in Arkansas and nationwide.”

The Archives was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant of $208,128 in 2017 to be part of a National Digital Newspapers Program that created the website Chronicling America, which is an open-source website. 

The Newspapers Program is a long-term effort to develop an internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers. Institutions from across the country are participating in the project, which is a joint effort of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress serves the U.S. Congress and is the de facto national library for the U.S. The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent, federal agency that supports research, education, preservation and public programs in the humanities.

To make sure the process runs smoothly, the Arkansas State Archives partnered with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to help with technical aspects of creating and sending quality images. Apex CoVantage, the vendor the Archives uses, has been duplicating microfilm and digitizing newspapers from the duplication. Using the duplicated film protects the originals, staff said.

Processing the newspapers and getting them online has been slow. At one point, the Library of Congress experienced a backlog, but as of last month, 35,947 pages from Arkansas newspapers were put online. More will go up soon, said Kelsey Kahlbaum-Hoisington, project archivist.

“For me, the most interesting thing about this project is getting to read the historical newspapers,” Kahlbaum-Hoisington said. “I was surprised by the amount of humor in the newspapers.”

The last pages for this grant cycle will be sent to the Library of Congress in July, said Kahlbaum-Hoisington, but the State Archives has applied for another grant to continue the program, Richter said. 

New Accessions include Hospital Scrapbook, 1900s Photos

 Bracy Drug Store in Little Rock, early 1900s

We are pleased to showcase our new collections! This month’s accessions include photos from the early 1900s photos, a hospital scrapbook and Arkansas maps.  
 Archival Collections
·         Arkansas Baptist Hospital Public Relations Scrapbook: The State Archives received a donation of a scrapbook dated July 1, 1954 to June 30, 1955 and created by public relations staff for the hospital. The woman who dated the scrapbook found it in a vacant house she was cleaning.

·         Charles Engelberger Collection: This collection includes various books, pamphlets and maps about Arkansas, including a First National Bank pamphlet, "A Historical Look at Little Rock;" a 15th year reunion booklet for Mount St. Mary's Academy; a 1939 Mount St. Mary’s Academy magazine, "The Mercian;" the 1963 American Legion 23rd annual Boy's State booklet, "A New Benedictine Settlement in Arkansas;” an Arkansas highway map; a Phillips 66 Arkansas map; information on an Arkansas semi-centennial oil celebration El Dorado, Arkansas; a Rock Island Railroad Employees' Reunion booklet from 2019; a book titled “Moments of Mount Magazine;” a book titled “Rabbit in a Rail Pile;” and a book titled “With This We Challenge...An Epitome of Arkansas.”

·         Lotta Kavanaugh and Julia Ann Gillette Snodgrass Photograph Collection: Eight photographs, most showing Mr. or Mrs. Snodgrass, were donated to the State Archives. Two of the photographs are of the Snodgrass Bracy Drug Store in Little Rock. The donor is not related to the family. The origin of the photos is unknown. Donated photos are: the Arkansas Federation of Women's Clubs, 1905; the Arkansas Federation of Women's Clubs, 1910; Arkansas State Pharmacists Association, 1903; Eureka Springs, early 1900s; two photographs of Mr. or Mrs. Snodgrass at Bracy Drug Store in Little Rock; Elks Club, early 1900s; and a photograph with AA FP, Little Rock, AR, 1904” written on it. The AA FP photo may be of the bandstand at Forest Park in the Heights in Little Rock.  

State Records Transferred

·         Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism: Executive Director’s Office Records – The records, which are dated from 1969 to 2011, are part of an ongoing transfers to State Archives.
·         Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission Records: The records are public hearing minutes for 2018 and are part of ongoing record transfers.

Printed Material

·         “Tales of Bearhouse Creek and Other Stories” by Lavana Jones Kindle, 2018
·         “Hot Spring County Directory,” 2018
·          “Ouachita School District No. 1 Student Handbook,” 2014-2015

Arkansas State Pharmacists Association, 1903

Little Rock, Arkansas, 1904

State Archives to Get New Equipment

Brian Irby, archival assistant, demonstrates using microfilm at the Arkansas 
State Archives. The microfilm scanner is similar to the new scanners being installed.
Visitors to the Arkansas State Archives and its two branches soon will be able to use new equipment to comb through records more easily.

“The Arkansas State Archives seeks to make its material more readily accessible – that includes having equipment that encourages and enhances the research experience,” said Dr. Wendy Richter, state historian and director of the State Archives. “I think our patrons will be very impressed with the improvements.”

Five new microfilm scanners will be installed in the main research room in Little Rock, and two more will go in the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives in Powhatan and the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives in Washington. The new scanners will improve photocopy quality from microfilm and meet the increased demand for copies from patrons. The microfilm scanners will also allow patrons to save digital images of the microfilm.

“These equipment upgrades allow us to stay relevant to our patrons,” said Lauren Jarvis, public services manager.

The new scanners will allow users to clean up or manipulate the film image to get a cleaner and easier-to-read copy. The large, 34-inch monitors will make viewing material easier, especially for people doing extensive research using the microfilm collection, Jarvis said.  More tables will be going in the Research Room to create more work stations for the microfilm scanners.

New staff member Wesley Oliver uses 
one of the new Epson Expression 
12000XL Photo Scanners that are being 
installed at the Arkansas State Archives.
The State Archives has also recently purchased other equipment to aid in the preservation and digitization of collections.  Eight flat file cabinets for maps, blueprints, large documents and photographs will be added to the main vault.  A set of extra-large flat file cabinets have been added to the State Archives’ space at the Department of Arkansas Heritage Collections Management Facility to house over-sized maps and other large documents. The State Archives has also purchased four new tabloid-sized flatbed scanners to expand digitization projects.

The new digital microfilm scanners and other equipment have mostly been funded through grants from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council. Staff plan to finish installing the new equipment by the end of August.

The upgrades were needed, Dr. Richter said, because some equipment had not been upgraded in about 10 years and was becoming difficult to maintain and troublesome to operate. Patrons have occasionally complained that a few rolls of microfilm are difficult to read or to get a good copy of on the current microfilm readers. However, the new digital readers will allow staff to address those issues, including microfilm that is too dark.

“This new equipment is something we are very excited about because we know it will improve the research experience for our patrons,” Dr. Richter said.

NEARA Manager Speaks to Kiwanis Club

Dr. Fatme Myuhtar-May,
NEARA archival manager,
receives a mug and coin from
President Lloyd Clark.
The Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives in Powhatan holds valuable collections of historical documents that are available to researchers and the community at large, Dr. Fatme Myuhtar-May, archival manager, told the Kiwanis Club of Walnut Ridge on May 16.

Lloyd Clark, president of the Lawrence County Historical Society, asked Myuhtar-May to address the club. Walnut Ridge public-service administrators and policy makers were among the audience members.

NEARA’s collections and its mission to serve the community by providing access to information and by serving as a partner in educational and historical preservation initiatives in the region. Myuhtar-May invited Kiwanis members to use the Arkansas State Archives’ branch for their research needs as well as to support its services by:

·         Donating family papers, business activity records, photographs, memorabilia and anything that commemorates Northeast Arkansas’s history and communities
·         Volunteering to unfold and index records to make them available for researchers. The next Volunteer Day is June 14.
·         Participating in  the “Gathering Oral Histories Project” by becoming an interviewee or an interviewer or by recommending/reaching out to community storytellers
·         Dropping by to say “hello” and ask about NEARA’s newest resources and services. 
       For more information, contact Fatme Myuhtar-May at 870-878-6521 or

Thursday, May 16, 2019

State’s Second Deadliest Tornado Hit Fort Smith in 1898

Photo of wreckage from the 1898 tornado in Fort Smith,
courtesy of the Arkansas State Archives.

Arkansas has a long history of natural disasters, including tornadoes. One of Arkansas’s most destructive tornadoes hit Fort Smith on Jan. 11, 1898.

The first few weeks of January in Fort Smith had been unusually warm and balmy with storms each evening. When another storm started on the evening of Jan. 11, it wasn’t initially alarming. However, around 11 o’clock, a tornado formed in Oklahoma, just west of the city, and headed east, picking up power as it went. The tornado entered Arkansas and first struck Fort Smith’s National Cemetery, leaving a 100-yard-wide path of destruction. It ripped trees from the ground – scattering them like toothpicks –and threw heavy, stone cemetery markers. The storm flattened the cemetery’s 5-foot stone wall, according to a newspaper report.

As the tornado approached the main part of town, it grew even larger and more powerful. Marble sized hail pounded the city, damaging roofs and smashing windows. By the time the tornado entered the city proper, at 11:15 p.m., the streets and sidewalks were covered with broken glass.

The first victim of the tornado was George Carter, a fireman for the city’s Grand Opera House. As he watched the approaching storm from his home on Garrison Avenue, the tornado blew in his window sending a pane of sharp glass through his torso and killing him instantly. The tornado then ripped his house apart.

Tracking eastward, the tornado ripped the roof off of Fagan Bourland’s store on Sixth Street, then proceeded to destroy Lunsford’s Blacksmith shop and a boarding house named The National House. The federal court in Fort Smith was in session that week, and hotels and boarding houses were full. Many people were asleep, but residents of the National House heard the approaching storm and escaped the building.

Other visitors were not so lucky. As the tornado crossed Sixth Street, it destroyed Mrs. Burgess’ boarding house, where 25 people were sleeping unaware of the danger. The tornado destroyed the house, killing three women and leaving other residents trapped under the rubble.

The force of wind was staggering. The bell in the steeple of the Baptist church was blown 100 feet as the tornado razed the building. The city’s high school, completed only a few months earlier and not yet insured, was gutted and destroyed. The school’s roof was blown onto Dr. W.T. Cate’s house, which destroyed the house and left Dr. Cate trapped inside.

The tornado then made its way through the most densely populated parts of the city, leaving death and massive injuries in its wake. Electric poles were snapped, and gas lines ruptured. Many of the buildings left standing in the tornado’s wake caught fire, including a block of buildings on Garrison Avenue. Will Lawson, a resident in one of those buildings, said his wife died in his arms. He was unable to get her body out of the ruins.

The tornado had knocked down telephone lines, which complicated rescue efforts by making it harder for rescue workers to communicate. To prevent igniting more fires, power to downtown Fort Smith was turned off, but that left rescuers in complete darkness as they searched for survivors. As the fire spread, the Fort Smith Fire Department rushed toward the disaster, only to be impeded by debris.
Heavy rain pelted survivors in the wake of the tornado. The injured searched for shelter amid piles of rubble and brick. Doctors created makeshift hospitals in buildings that remained standing. St. John’s and Charity Hospitals opened its doors to anyone who needed help.

Bob Hirschberg and his son worked with several other rescuers to save those trapped in the buildings near the high school. They were able to dig out 17 survivors from the wreckage.

Fort Smith Fire Department Capt. J.J. Little sent an ominous and concise message to the Birnie Brothers Funeral Home: “Come down and take care of the dead.” Some of the dead were taken to the city morgue, where the city coroner ordered the doors to the morgue be kept open for townspeople searching for lost loved ones.

As the people of Fort Smith gathered the next morning to assess the damage, it became clear hundreds of people were now homeless and more than 100 were injured. The death toll quickly rose to 50, but several more people succumbed to their injuries in the next few weeks, raising the death toll to 55. The 1898 tornado remains the second deadliest tornado on record to hit Arkansas.

The tornado also hurt the city economically. The loss of businesses meant many residents were now unemployed. Further, many of the destroyed buildings and businesses were not insured, which would make rebuilding difficult. According to newspaper reports from the time, the tornado lasted for only 4 minutes, but in that time, it did about $1 million in damage. Adjusted for inflation, that amount would equal about $30 million today.

Miraculously, residents quickly picked themselves up and rebuilt Fort Smith. Within days, the city raised thousands of dollars in pledged aid from its residents. In just two years, as the 20th century dawned, most of the scars left by the storm were gone.

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 is also available online at

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wednesday’s Wonderful Collection - Millar-Mauney papers, SMC.0004.0007

Millard M. Mauney owned forty acres of diamond-bearing land outside Murfreesboro, Arkansas, and refused offers to sell after the first diamonds were discovered in 1906 on an adjoining property. He sold thirty acres to Horace Bemis, leasing the remaining ten acres to the Kimberlite Company, consisting of Austin Q. Millar, his son Howard A. Millar, and W.L. Wilder as trustees. After Bemis died, his heirs sold their land to the Millars, who tried to buy Mauney's land. Mauney staunchly refused, even trying to buy back the land the Millars bought from Bemis. An act of arson destroyed the Millar operation in 1919. They were never able to recover from the loss.
This collection includes correspondence from Howard A. Millar, Consulting Mining Engineer, to the M.M. Mauney estate, reporting diamonds found on the leased Mauney land.

·         1915 April 24: Howard A. Millar, et al., Murfreesboro, Arkansas, to M.M. Mauney estate, Murfreesboro, Arkansas
·         1915 October 11: Howard A. Millar, et al., Murfreesboro, Arkansas, to M.M. Mauney estate, Murfreesboro, Arkansas
·         1916 February 9: Howard A. Millar, et al., Murfreesboro, Arkansas, to M.M. Mauney estate, Murfreesboro, Arkansas
·         1916 June 1: Howard A. Millar, et al., Murfreesboro, Arkansas, to M.M. Mauney estate, Murfreesboro, Arkansas
·         1916 August 28: Howard A. Millar, et al., Murfreesboro, Arkansas, to M.M. Mauney estate, Murfreesboro, Arkansas
·         1918 June 25: Howard A. Millar, et al., Murfreesboro, Arkansas, to M.M. Mauney estate, Murfreesboro, Arkansas
·         1918 November 11: Howard A. Millar, et al., Murfreesboro, Arkansas, to M.M. Mauney estate, Murfreesboro, Arkansas

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Wednesday’s Wonderful Collection - John Henry Roberson and family papers, MG.00469

John Henry Roberson was known to baseball fans as "Rube Robinson." Roberson was born August 16, 1889 in Floyd, White County, Arkansas. He was labeled "Rube Robinson" by the press. According to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, "His baseball career as a pitcher covered 22 years. He signed his first professional contract in 1908 and reached the major leagues with Pittsburgh in 1911. He won 40 games for the Pirates and Cardinals in 1912-15. He joined the New York Yankees for one year and later pitched for Little Rock in 1916-17 and 1919-27, winning 26 games in 1920 and 1922. He spent part of 1923 on loan to New Orleans and was with the Arkansas Travelers part of 1928. He retired after the 1929 season with Atlanta. He had a career record of 304-222."
Roberson married Dorothy Lee Latture on December 28, 1912. She worked for the School Instruction Association which later became the Parent Teacher Association. Dorothy and John Henry had one son Fred O. Roberson. Fred and his wife Marie had two children, Gloria and Fred O., Jr.
After baseball, J.H. Roberson worked for Pulaski County and the Arkansas State Highway Department, retiring in 1959. Roberson often tutored children from the Riverside Community House on playing baseball, and in 1962 he was inducted into the Arkansas Hall of Fame. J.H. Roberson died in July 1965, in Little Rock, Arkansas.

This collection contains four scrapbooks and other material related to John Henry "Rube Robinson" Roberson's baseball career, and two scrapbooks related to Dorothy (Mrs. John Henry) Roberson's career with the Parent Teacher Association and her work as an assistant probation officer.
·         Scrapbook I, John Henry Roberson, 1911-1991
·         Call for military service, 1917
·         J.H. Roberson business cards, 1925 and undated
·         Income tax return, 1920-1925
·         Player contracts, 1918 and 1925
·         Correspondence of J.H. Roberson, 1922-1965
·         Scrapbook II, John Henry Roberson, undated
·         Missouri Pacific Station (the Railroad World Series), 1929 and undated
·         Scrapbook III, John Henry Roberson's best baseball years, 1917-1929
·         Newsclippings, 1954-1958
·         Arkansas State Highway Department, 1953-1959
·         Speech of Arkansas Hall of Fame banquet, 1962
·         Arkansas Hall of Fame program, John Henry Roberson, 1962 January 18
·         Arkansas Hall of Fame program, 1964 January 23
·         Life insurance, 1929
·         Scrapbook IV, John Henry Roberson, 1928-1966
·         Scrapbook V, Dorothy Latture Roberson newspaper clippings of the family, 1908-1962
·         Postcard, 1967
·         Parent Teacher Association newsclippings, undated
·         Scrapbook VI, Dorothy Latture Roberson, Pulaski County Assistant Probation Officer, and photographs, 1950-1967

Monday, May 6, 2019

Impassioned Speech Led to African American Voting Rights

Photo of Mr. William H. Grey, courtesy of
the Persistence of the Spirit Collection
at the Arkansas State Archives.
At the end of the Civil War, the nation was confronted with the question of how to readmit Southern states into the Union. This long process of answering that question and reintegrating the South was called Reconstruction.

Reconstruction pitted those who wished the South to be readmitted with little change to their pre-war political structure against those who hoped the process would bring lasting change. In Arkansas, those differing forces came to a head in 1868.

Arkansas began Reconstruction in 1863, after the capture of Little Rock by Union forces. In 1864, Arkansans met in a convention to ratify a new constitution. Other than the abolishment of slavery, the new constitution made few changes from the state’s pre-war constitution. One of the most striking parts of the new constitution was it extended voting rights only to white men, which left out the possibility of African American voting rights.

The U.S. Congress took control of Reconstruction in 1867, after the impeachment of U.S. President Andrew Johnson, and stringently demanded more political change in the South. Lawmakers, led by Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania and Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, required Southern states to write new state constitutions extending voting rights to African Americans. Seventy delegates met in Little Rock to write a new constitution in January 1868. Among those delegates was William H. Grey of Helena, Arkansas.

Grey was born to free African American parents in 1829 in Washington, D.C. In the 1850s, he worked as a servant in the house of Virginia Gov. Henry A. Wise. Wise often took Grey to the Capitol, where Grey undoubtedly learned the art of politics.

After Gen. Sterling Price captured Little Rock in 1863, Grey moved to Helena where he established a farm, practiced law and became a minister in a Helena church. Grey became involved in the Republican Party and quickly became one of its leaders.

In 1867, Grey became a delegate to Arkansas’s constitutional convention and was the leading African American voice in the convention. Among the eight African American delegates at the convention, six had been born slaves, which made their presence in the convention all the more poignant.

On the other side of the political aisle was a group of men, many of whom were Confederate veterans who were opposed to a number of the Republican-backed laws. They were led by Jesse N. Cypert, a Confederate veteran from White County who had been a delegate to the 1864 Constitutional Convention and the Secession Convention in 1861.

As the convention progressed through the winter of 1868, it became clear that one of the major issues was voting rights. Grey’s camp was intent on excluding Arkansas’s former Confederate government officers and politicians from the voting rolls, while including African Americans on those rolls. Cypert’s faction called for voting rights to be extended to white men only.  

Days after the opening of the convention, Cypert demanded the formal acceptance of the already established 1864 Constitution. To do otherwise, he asserted, would be to abolish “white man’s government of our fathers, and an erection of an Africanized government in its stead.”  Cypert proposed an ordinance to accept the 1864 Constitution and end the convention.

Grey, the de facto leader of African American delegates in the convention, denounced Cypert’s ordinance. Grey began his address by expressing shock that Cypert would offer such an ordinance. “Now, sir, who having stood by the government and the old flag in times of trouble,” he continued, “for this and other considerations we are here not to ask charity at the hands of the honorable body, but to receive, at the hands of the people of Arkansas in convention assembled, the proportionment of our rights… I am here, sir, to see those rights of citizenship engrafted in the organic law of this state.”
Grey argued equal rights were owed to African Americans. “We are here, sir, to receive the amount due us as citizens of the United States and the State of Arkansas, and we are content,” Grey said.  His speech, which was successful, was possibly the first time an African American voice was heard in Arkansas politics.

On Jan. 17, the convention rejected Cypert’s ordinance by a vote of 53 to 10. Following the rejection of Cypert’s ordinance, the convention passed a new constitution. The Constitution of 1868 was a revolutionary document that allowed African American men the right to vote.

After the convention, Grey remained in public life, serving as Commissioner of Immigration and State Lands and later as an assistant U.S. assessor. He died in Helena in 1888, leaving a lasting mark on Arkansas politics with his impassioned speech on behalf of African American voting rights.

For more information about Arkansas history, visit the Arkansas State Archives at 1 Capitol Mall, Suite 215, or call 501-682-6900. Information is also available at

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Officers Elected for ASA Commissions

Top, right to left: AHC Chairman Jason Hendren and Vice Chairman Dr. Micheal Tarver
Bottom: BHCA Chairwoman Carla Coleman and Vice Chairman Dr. Jesse Hargrove

The Arkansas State Archives is pleased to announce the 2019 elected officers for the Black History Commission of Arkansas and the Arkansas History Commission.

Carla Coleman, of Little Rock, and Jason Hendren, of Bentonville, were reelected by their peers to serve in chair positions for the Black History Commission and History Commission, respectively. Dr. Micheal Tarver, of Clarksville, is the new vice-chairman of the History Commission, and Dr. Jesse Hargrove, of Alexander, is the new vice-chairman of the Black History Commission.

The Arkansas History Commission is administered by a seven-member board appointed by the governor with the approval of the state senate. The commission reviews Arkansas State Archives projects and expenditures quarterly. Besides Hendren and Tarver, members are: Jimmy Bryant, of Conway; Mary Dillard, of Malvern; Ronald Ruller, of Little Rock; Robert McCarley, of Little Rock; and Rod Soubers, of Mountain Home.

The Black History Commission works to promote, preserve and memorialize the contributions and impact of African American Arkansans. Besides Hargrove and Coleman, commissioners are: Patricia Johnson, of Pocahontas; Rev. Frank H. Stewart, of Conway; Elise Hampton, of Conway; Myron Jackson, of Little Rock; and Dr. Cherrise Jones Branch, of Jonesboro.

Coleman was appointed to the Black History Commission in 2004. She was first elected chairwoman in 2008. Hendren was appointed to the History Commission in 2017 and was elected chairman last year. Drs. Hargrove and Tarver both were appointed to their respective commissions last year.

The officers were elected to their positions during regular meetings earlier this year.

The public is welcome to attend commission meetings. The Black History Commission will meet next at noon, Thursday, May 9, in the Heritage Room of the Department of Arkansas Heritage at 1100 North St. in Little Rock. The History Commission will meet at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 30, at the Powhatan Historic State Park at 4414 Highway 25.