Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Wednesday’s Wonderful Collection - Hardin family letters, SMC.0005.0002

Thomas W. Hardin served the Confederacy as a private in Companies G and H, 37th Georgia Infantry. He joined the army with his son, A.L. Hardin. Thomas was killed at the Battle of Pine Mountain, Georgia, in June 1864.
This collection contains correspondence to and from Thomas W. Hardin, A.L. Hardin, and family. The letters include information from the battlefield about camp conditions and financial affairs at home. Letters relate principally to Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina, during the Civil War.
·         1861 May 28: Thomas Prather, Rutherford, North Carolina, to "Son and Daughter"
·         1862 May 21: Thomas W. Hardin, Knoxville, Tennessee, to "Wife"
·         1862 May 29: Thomas W. Hardin, Knoxville, Tennessee, to "Wife"
·         1862 July 7: Thomas W. Hardin, Rutledge, Tennessee, to "Wife and Children"
·         1862 December 12: Thomas W. Hardin, Readerville, Tennessee, to "Uncle" and A.L. Hardin, Readerville, Tennessee
·         1862 December 19: Thomas W. Hardin, Readerville, Tennessee, to "Brother and Sister" and "Wife and Children"
·         1863 January 24: Thomas W. Hardin, Shelbyville, Tennessee, to "Wife and Children"
·         1863 February 7: Thomas W. Hardin, Shelbyville, Tennessee, to "Wife and Children"
·         1863 March 7: Thomas W. Hardin, Shelbyville, Tennessee, to "Beloved and adored wife"
·         1863 March 8: Thomas W. Hardin, Shelbyville, Tennessee, to "Sister"
·         1863 March 12: [Thomas W. Hardin], "On Picket," Tennessee, to "Beloved Wife"
·         1863 April 5: Thomas W. Hardin, Shelbyville, Tennessee, to "My Dear Wife and Children"
·         1863 April 17: A.L. Hardin, Shelbyville, Tennessee, to "Mother"
·         1863 May 5: Thomas W. Hardin, Shelbyville, Tennessee, to "Wife"
·         1863 June 23: Thomas W. Hardin, Wastrace, Tennessee, to "Wife and Children"
·         1863 November 11: Thomas W. Hardin, Chattanooga, Tennessee, to "Wife"
·         1863 December 29: Thomas W. Hardin, Dalton, Georgia, to "Kate"
·         1864 March 7: Thomas W. Hardin, Dalton, Georgia, to "Wife"
·         1864 March 19: Thomas W. Hardin, Dalton, Georgia, to "Wife"
·         1864 April 10: Thomas W. Hardin, Near Dalton, Georgia, to "Wife"
·         1864 April 15: [Sallie], Elberton, Georgia, to "My Dear Sister"
·         1864 April 29: Thomas W. Hardin, Dalton, Georgia, to Kate Hardin
·         1864 May 6: Thomas W. Hardin, Dalton, Georgia, to "My Dear Wife"
·         1864 May 13: Sallie, Elberton, Georgia, to "My Dear Sister"
·         1864 June 5: Thomas W. Hardin, Big Shanty, Georgia, to "Beloved Wife"
·         1864 June 11: Thomas W. Hardin, "Line of Battle," Cobb County, Georgia, to "Beloved Wife and Children"
·         1878 March 4: A.L. Hardin, Appling, Georgia, to "Mother"
·         Undated: Thomas W. Hardin to [wife]

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

A Conversation with Lauren Jarvis

Lauren Jarvis, information services coordinator
Lauren Jarvis, our information services coordinator, is often busy helping patrons, keeping the research room at its best, researching projects, holding lectures and organizing trips and tours. She recently helped give a tour through the Archives for a group of volunteers. Jarvis has a bachelor’s degree in History and Folklore from Arkansas State University. Before joining the State Archives, she worked as a graduate assistant at the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. Jarvis recently took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about what she does, what she loves and what’s new at the State Archives.

Q: What’s your job title, and how long have you worked at the Arkansas State Archives?
A: I have been with the Arkansas State Archives for 11 years, and my current job title is Information Services Coordinator.

Q: What do you do on a typical day at Archives?
A: I’m usually bouncing around between projects, but a typical day usually involves assisting patrons in some way. Sometimes that means working out in our research room, helping a researcher locate material for a project or work their way through one of our manuscript collections. Other times that means responding to emails from researchers planning trips to our facility or trying to determine how to access something in our collection because they are unable to visit. Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time organizing equipment upgrades in our research room, so that has meant researching products, planning the necessary staff training and making sure we can offer the best experience to our researchers.

Q: How did you become interested in Arkansas history or working at the Arkansas State Archives?
A: I think I’ve always been interested in history, and I loved the idea of finding a way to work with it every day – whether in archives or museums. When I completed my bachelor’s degree in history, it just seemed like the natural next step to enroll in the Public History program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I ended up working on a lot of newspaper research, which meant I spent quite a bit of time at the State Archives and got to know a lot of the staff members. By the time a position at the Archives came open, around the same time I was completing my course work, it just seemed like it was perfect timing.

Q: What’s the most important or interesting thing you’ve discovered while working at Archives? Why?
A: One of the most interesting things I’ve found while working at the Archives is probably the Arkansaw Water Company Report of the 1927 Flood. The water company was based here in Little Rock and the report provides some nice insight into the growing flood conditions in the city and their attempts to manage it. There are also quite a few photographs from Little Rock and North Little Rock during the flood that I had never seen before.

Q: Why do you think the Arkansas State Archives is important for Arkansans?
A: Ultimately, the State Archives is important for Arkansas because we hold the state’s history. To understand where we’ve been and where we’re going requires direct access to the past. We hold that primary documentation, be it the state constitutions, diaries and letters from local citizens, or newspapers, and it is open to anyone who would like to go through the material. Being able to provide that access for people and that tangible connection to the past is one of the most important parts of my job and a key function of the state archives in general.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: A patron’s excitement when they find a document they’ve been struggling to find. Many of our researchers are genealogists and some have been researching their families for years. When they find the one piece that’s been eluding them in our facility or because of our staff, that’s a pretty rewarding feeling.

Q: How do you see archiving evolving in the future?
A:  The archives field has already seen many changes in recent years, specifically in the push for digitization and the growing demand for online access to material. That’s certainly going to continue and repositories are going to have to identify how to meet that demand within the boundaries of staffing and funding. Since a lot of the modern record will be electronic or born-digital, I think that the priority for many facilities moving forward will be navigating preservation and access to these electronic files, when the sy
stems that created them are increasingly obsolete.

Q: What do you wish people knew about Archives?
A: I wish people know archival research is never as easy as just typing a name into a search box and getting all of the material you need, as lovely as that would be. Archival research requires patience and a refusal to be discouraged if you don’t immediately find what you’re looking for. However, I think the payoff in the end is wonderful. That patience usually results in a researcher locating an item they didn’t expect or finding context for events that they didn’t have before, and in the end, that makes for a much more colorful and nuanced research experience and final product. It’s usually a lot more fun, too.

SARA Acquires New Collection

Courtesy of the Arkansas State Archives

The Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives recently acquired a collection from the estate of Dr. Jo Ann “Jody” Carrigan.

“This collection is a welcomed and important addition,” said Melissa Nesbitt, archival manager. “The Carrigan family was prominent and active in Washington, so this collection helps us preserve and connect to our collective past, historically significant figures and our shared experiences.”

The collection includes family photos, letters and copies of Dr. Carrigan’s essays from professional journals.

Dr. Carrigan was born in Washington, Arkansas, in 1934 and graduated from Washington High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Henderson State in 1953, a master’s degree in 1956 and a doctorate degree in American History from Louisiana State University in 1961. She taught high school for one year in Sheridan, Arkansas, then taught at the college level for several years at LSU. Later, she became the first female, full professor at the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1971. While at UNO, she also became an advocate for women’s issues.

As a historian, she favored research in medical and social history and specialized in U.S. urban history and medical and public health history. She was a volunteer adjunct professor for medical history at the UNO Medical Center and active in organizations such as the Organization of American Historians.

Dr. Carrigan wrote “The Saffron Scourge: A History of Yellow Fever in Louisiana, 1796-1905,” a book that was called the “definitive account of the story of yellow fever in Louisiana,” in an editorial review by The New England Journal of Medicine. SARA has copies of both her 1994 and 2015 book editions.

Dr. Carrigan retired from UNO in 1996. She passed away in 2018 at the age of 84.

At her passing, UNO lowered its flag to honor her. In a news release this year, Henderson State University accepted Dr. Carrigan’s estate gift that established the school’s Carrigan History Scholarship Endowment.

Dr. Carrigan was a descendant of the Carrigan, Monroe and Dugger families, all of whom settled in Washington in the mid-19th century. These families were all prominent in local and state history and were some of the wealthiest families in Washington. The new material will be added to Carrigan, Monroe and Dugger items that are already in SARA’s archival materials.

For more information about the collection or about SARA, contact Melissa Nesbitt at or 870-983-2633.

NEARA Makes Presentation at Genealogy Event

Dr. Fatme Myuhtar-May lectures July 20 at the Craighead
County Public Library in Jonesboro.

Dr. Fatme Myuhtar-May, archival manager at the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives, provided a summary of the branch’s holdings July 20 at the Craighead County Public Library in Jonesboro as part of Genealogy Night Lock-in.

About 120 people attended the annual event. Myuhtar-May spoke before an audience of 40 genealogy enthusiasts. She talked about the services, resources and collections, including the Lawrence County Court and Walnut Ridge Court records, available to researchers at NEARA.

The court records are among the core collections of the branch and have been well used as a source of genealogical and academic research.

Myuhtar-May explained how NEARA’s staff prepare detailed indexes – in addition to finding aids – for the collections that can then be searched to locate a person’s name, a location, a year or an event with a few computer-keyboard clicks. She also highlighted how important the work of volunteers and interns is for NEARA in processing collections and making them research-accessible.

“Making collections available to the public requires a lot of work,” Myuhtar-May said. “We could not do it without our volunteers and paid summer interns.”

The branch recently held its annual Volunteer Day. About 18 volunteers helped NEARA unfold court records June 14. NEARA summer intern Lindsay Penn also has diligently indexed records.
“I am very grateful to them all, as well as to our sponsors who make it possible to hire an intern,” Myuhtar-May said.

Myuhtar-May invited the audience to visit the archives and to become volunteers. Residents can volunteer in multiple ways and can take part in archival initiatives, such as the Gathering Oral Histories Project, which collects audio stories.

For more information, contact NEARA at 870-878-6521 or email the archival manager at

Historical Records from Lee County Being Preserved

Records stores at the Lee County Courthouse
Arkansas State Archives staff have been busy collecting historical records in Lee County.

“We brought back what ledgers could be salvaged and a lot of loose papers,” said Jane A. Wilkerson, archival assistant.

Like other counties throughout Arkansas, Lee County has struggled to find enough space to store its historical records and ledgers. Many ledgers were stored in a basement without temperature control. Preservation storage techniques recommend storing records in dry and temperature-controlled areas.

The records from Lee County are similar to records the State Archives acquired from Hempstead County and include civil, circuit and chancery court documents. State Archives staff worked with Lee County Circuit Clerk Diane Bowman.

ASA staff prepare for the long drive back from Lee County,
where they are helping preserve historical records.
Staff moved box after box of records with the help of inmates from the Department of Arkansas Correction. About three cargo van loads worth of records were brought back to the State Archives in two trips on June 25 and July 17.

Next, the loose papers must be unfolded and placed in acid free folders and boxes. Volunteers have already started doing some of the unfolding and indexing work, which is the first step to making the records accessible to the public.

Lattimore Joins Black History Commission

Photo Courtesy of Ricky Lattimore
Pastor Ricky Lattimore, of McGehee, is the newest member of the Black History Commission of Arkansas.

“I want to make sure that we as a community know our black history and know it is also American history,” Lattimore said. “We all need to know about history regardless of race. We have to know where we came from to know where we are heading. I just want to make sure that history never loses its purpose.”

The seven-member commission is appointed by the governor and meets quarterly. The Black History Commission, which sponsors educational events and administers a grant program related to black history, is dedicated to preserving Arkansas’s black history and educating people about it. The commission meets next at noon Thursday, Aug. 1, at the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

Lattimore, whose term will expire Jan. 14, 2026, replaces Myron Jackson. Commission Chairman Carla Coleman welcomed Lattimore as the newly appointed member and said she hoped he is ready to commit to "the charge to educate and inspire” the people of Arkansas.

Lattimore was born in McGehee and has lived there his entire life, except for the three years he spent in the military. He ran as a Republican against Rep. Mark McElroy in 2017 but lost the race in a three-way election. He is now Chairman of the GOP for the district covering Chicot County to the Missouri line.

Lattimore has a long history as a presenter, teacher, politician, advocate and minister. He lives by his favorite quote: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress,” by Frederick Douglass.

Lattimore has been a pastor for 24 years and ministers at the Tabernacle Baptist Church. He has 16-plus years of experience working with at-risk youth and as an expert in gangs and other criminal organizations. He is a liaison and gang expert for law enforcement and the juvenile court system, where he worked for 10 years. He ministers in prisons, specifically at the Delta Regional Unit. He also operates programs to help people have food, house goods and clothing.

“I’m involved in a whole lot,” Lattimore said. His mission in life is to help people from all different backgrounds – “the haves and have nots” – and to be a public servant, he said.

“I’m compassionate toward all people regardless of race,” Lattimore said. “I like to see everyone treated fairly and their needs met. I just have a compassionate heart for people – that’s my daily life, making sure people are helped and treated fairly.”

Lattimore is interested in all aspects of his community. He is part of the disaster relief team for Chicot and surrounding counties, was a McGehee city councilman for four terms and is part of the Delta Regional Economic Advancement Mission, which works to improve the quality of life and economy of communities in the Delta region.

He has been married 38 years to his wife Judy and has three adult children: Tamara, 33, Andre, 35, and Ricky, 37.

As part of the Black History Commission, Lattimore plans to see how and what black history is taught in public schools. He said he is interested in continuing to preserve black history and making sure people learn from the past because history influences and informs the present.

“Our history made us who we are today,” he said. “If you don’t know your history, you are doomed to repeat it.”

New Accessions in July

Records from the Arkansas River collection
Our new accessions included Lee County records, a large collection of material related to the history of the Arkansas River, Home Demonstration Club material, a 100-year history on the City of Russellville, farm ledgers from the 1940s and Arkansas River maps from the 1950s! Visit your Arkansas State Archives and discover Arkansas’s amazing history.
Archival Collections

·         Lee County records: A large collection of county records was transferred from Lee County to the ASA, including civil, circuit and chancery court documents.
·         Russellville Centennial collection: The Pope County Library donated a book published as part of Russellville’s Centennial Celebration, which was held June 1970. The book includes information about the celebration and the history of the city from 1870 to 1970.
·         Wheeler Farm collection: Tina Sansone, of the Germantown Regional History and Genealogy Center, recently donated items discovered at an estate sale. Donated items are: Wheeler Farm ledgers that include employee names and farm expenses; a Social Security time book from 1942 to 1944; two, weekly time books from 1940 to 1945; one day book from 1939 to 1941; and one undated, black-and-white photograph of Gustavus A. Fogleman, whose son owned and operated Fogleman Farm in Marion, Arkansas.
·         Arkansas River collection: Mary Little of Hot Springs donated a 1950 book of maps of the Arkansas River and land purchase records from Arkansas Post. The loose land purchase records are thought to be from the Land Commissioner's Office and are dated from the 1840s to the 1850s.
·         Hickory Plains Home Demonstration Club collection: Mary Grace Smith of Little Rock donated this collection of scrapbooks, correspondence, photos, clippings, pins and other items related to the Hickory Plains Home Demonstration Club in Prairie County. 
·         Arkansas River Historical Society collection: The Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum transferred the Arkansas River Historical Society collection to the ASA.  The museum had received the collection when the Arkansas River Historical Society’s museum in Catoosa, Oklahoma, closed.  The collection includes approximately 275 boxes of archival material and artifacts related to the history of the Arkansas River, as well as interpretive panels.

State Record Transfers

·         Interdepartmental Relations Committee records: IRC records, mostly from the 1970s, were transferred to archives. The documents include minutes, agendas and memorandums related to meetings and seminars.
·         Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism Executive Director’s Office records: Records, including correspondence, news releases and publications, were transferred to Archives from ADPT. The records include information on the Louisiana Purchase and Logoly, Mammoth Springs, Marks Mill, Millwood, Mississippi River and Mount Magazine state parks from 1964 to 2011. The documents are part of an ongoing transfer.
·         Arkansas State Senate Journals-Bills History and Rule Books: The transfer includes seven volumes and four copies of rule books from the Arkansas State Senate from 2017 to 2018 and Senate Bill history.
·         Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial collection: The Secretary of State’s Office transferred records related to the Louisiana Purchase. The material is connected to the Secretary of State’s Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial event and is part of a collection that was previously transferred to Archives in 2009.

Preservation Tips and Techniques Help Club Protect Family Heirlooms

Curator Julienne Crawford gives a presentation
on preserving family heirlooms for the
Heritage Seekers Genealogy Club of Arkansas.

Julienne Crawford picked up an acid-free box. Behind her, a PowerPoint outlined storage materials that would help preserve antiques and heirlooms.

“Light can damage certain material, including textiles, so storing material in boxes away from light is important,” Crawford said. In fact, the State Archives recently ran into the problem of “shattered” silk in a 1913 Arkansas state flag, she said. Crawford explained that not only light played into the silk shattering, but also that historic silks were often processed with salts to make it heavier to be sold by the pound and the salts damage the silk over time.

Crawford, the curator and collections services coordinator at the Arkansas State Archives, recently presented “Preserving Your Family Heirlooms” for the Heritage Seekers Genealogy Club of Arkansas at the Second Presbyterian Church in Little Rock. About 22 people turned out to hear how best to care for old family photos, silver, glass, wood, quilts and other artifacts.

Crawford is knowledgeable in the preservation field, said Leeh Wilkinson, a club member who attended the lecture. Wilkinson said Crawford’s tips and demonstrations will help her preserve her own family’s history and heirlooms.

“We all have some things that – whether they are museum quality or not – they are important to us,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson brought her 91-year-old uncle’s photo album, filled with letters, to show Crawford. The letters are from people who were interested in her uncle’s pioneer dentistry in implants, Wilkinson said, but the paper was starting to adhere to the album’s magnetic pages.

Freezing the pages might help remove them, Crawford advised.

Other club members asked about best ways to preserve family quilts. Some quilts have a variety of material that can bleed and fade easily, Crawford said. Quilts should be unfolded and refolded periodically to prevent strain on only one area, rarely cleaned and never hung solely by their corners, she advised. Display time for quilts should be limited and they should be displayed flat if possible or with support all away across the quilt, such as adding a hanging sleeve.

Other tips for handling materials included washing hands frequently or wearing cotton or nitrile gloves; emptying salt shakers of salt to prevent corrosion; avoiding polishing silver, especially with commercial polishes and dips, because it can damage the item and rub the sliver off; and having jewelry professionally cleaned and checked for loose settings.

The presentation was “a good review of all the details,” said Dave Bash, who attended the lecture. Bash said he has done preservation work before and felt Crawford’s advice was spot on.
Throughout her lecture, Crawford repeated an important part of preserving and documenting the history of family heirlooms. Use a soft pencil and write down photo information on old family photos, for example, Crawford said. Sometimes, quilt-makers sew information about their quilts into their masterpieces, which can help later generations research.

Make a list of important heirlooms and write down the history, Crawford said. Whatever the heirloom is, from tea pot to vintage photo, write and keep information about it and its maker or owner, she added.

“The key is to document as much as you can and store the material in a climate controlled area with proper storage material,” Crawford said.

Preservation lectures are often requested by historical and genealogy associations, museums and educational groups and universities. The presentation helps people learn techniques to properly store and preserve historical material, Crawford said. To schedule an Arkansas State Archives speaker, visit or call the State Archives at 501-682-6900.

Arkansas State Archives Celebrates Volunteers

About a dozen volunteers gathered July 9 for an appreciation reception and a group tour of the Arkansas State Archives.

“You have been instrumental in helping us make these historical records readily available to the public,” said Dr. Wendy Richter, director and state historian. “The index work you do will lead people to the content. We appreciate you. We appreciate you.”

For the past year, the volunteers have met every Tuesday to unfold, index and organize historical records – some from as far back as before Arkansas became a territory. The index work has helped the State Archives build a timeline that will aid researchers, said Nadia Lalla, a volunteer.

Curator Julienne Crawford shows volunteers historical maps.
The end goal of the project is to make genealogy research easier, Dr. Richter said. Eventually the records will be digitized and available online, she said. Volunteers already have recorded more than 20,000 names and combed through more than 10 cubic feet of records. They have handled thousands of pages of records from Hempstead County, one of the state’s original and oldest counties, since July of 2018. Those records include divorces, lawsuits, lists of properties and even street plans.

“This is a way to get in and look at information,” Lalla said about volunteering “It’s nice to touch the older stuff and to look at the handwriting.”

During the reception, volunteers said they loved helping because the work is fun. They said handling the documents gave them a glimpse into what life was like between 1815 and the 1930s.

“It’s witnessing, kind of second hand or third hand, the complexity of record keeping and how the law enters so much into the past,” said volunteer David McCullough. “People’s personal lives really are reflected in the old documents and court records.”

Volunteers laughed as they told stories about learning to index records. The beautiful script on historical records can be difficult to read and can lead to momentary mistakes, like thinking “O’Clock” is a name.

The group will continue to meet every Tuesday, but documents will likely be from a different county, Dr. Richter said. The group has nearly completed the documents from Hempstead County, she said.

Susan Boyle, a volunteer and treasurer of the Friends of the Arkansas State Archives, organized the reception and is the force behind getting volunteers to join in for the indexing project. She said she plans to continue to volunteer and support the State Archives and hopes more volunteers will join the weekly indexing sessions this year.

For more information or to volunteer, contact the Arkansas State Archives at or call 501-682-6900. See more volunteer opportunities or register online at

Volunteers and staff laugh while posing for photos during a reception recognizing
volunteers for a year's worth of hard work helping the Arkansas State Archives.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Wednesday’s Wonderful Collection - Wilhelm Berg papers, MS.000054

Wilhelm Berg was a wagon manufacturer. According to the 1900 census, he was born in August 1851 in Germany. He immigrated to the United States in 1881. His wife, Maggie, was born in 1852 and immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1854. Berg appears to have died around 1929 or 1930.
This collection consists of the papers, books, periodicals, catalogs, et cetera, of Wilhelm Berg of Little Rock, Arkansas.
·         I. Correspondence
o    A. 1908 February 11: Anton Horstmann, proprietor of Monrovia Bottling Works, Monrovia, California, to [Wilhelm Berg]
o    B. 1908 September 6: [?] to [Wilhelm Berg]
·         II. Financial papers
o    A. 1893 January 25: Invoice, J.W. Mast, Heavey Hardware, 218 East Markham Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
o    B. 1894 May 4: Envelope, Eureka Carriage and Harness Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, to Wilhelm Berg, Little Rock, Arkansas
o    C. 1894 May 30: Invoice, Lanz and Berg, Wagon and Carriage Manufacturers, 213 West Tenth Street, Little Rock, Arkansas
·         III. Miscellaneous
o    A. 1879 May 14: Miscellaneous document
o    B. 1907 January 26: Broadside, "Wipperfurther Volksblatt..."
o    C. Undated: Card, "Mitglieds-Karte des Deutfchen Krieger u. Landwehr=Dersins..."
o    D. Undated: Pamphlet, "Constitution, Rebengengesetze und Regeln..."
·         IV. Periodicals
o    A. Uerztlicher Rathgeber
§  1. 1885 July 28
§  2. 1885 August 11
§  3. 1885 August 25
§  4. 1886 January 20
o    B. 1887 April: Brown’s Machine Journal-A Paper Devoted to the Interests of Machine Men Everywhere; St. Louis. Vol. IX, No.2.
·         V. Catalogs
o    A. Undated: Beck and Corbitt Iron Company, St. Louis (R.P. Studley and Company, St. Louis, Missouri)
o    B. Undated: E. Nason and Company, 111 Nassau Street, New York
·         VI. Books
o    A. Financial
§  1. 1888 December 3-1892 May 3: Record of Sales. "Blotter" 1888-1892
§  2. 1889-1890: Account book 1889-1890
§  3. 1889: Account book 1889
o    B. Other
§  1893: Harrell, John M., The Brooks and Baxter War: A History or the Reconstruction Period in Arkansas (Slawson Printing Company, St. Louis; 1893). Autographed by author.
§  Undated: Three German (devotional) books
§  Undated: Series of lessons in French for German speaking people

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Free African Americans Expelled from Arkansas before the Civil War

The Arkansas Gazette ran information
about the act that expelled “free persons of color”
from the state of Arkansas on March 5, 1859.

Among the most overlooked groups in Arkansas history have been free African Americans before the Civil War.

The 1835 territorial census in Arkansas counted 176 free black people, who were also called free persons of color. Historically, the term referred to people of African, and sometimes African and European, descent who were not enslaved. In the U.S., many were slaves who had been freed. Others were the descendants of freed slaves.

Free African Americans lived in nearly every county in Arkansas, except Union, Jackson, Pike, Greene and Conway counties. Izard County had the highest number of free African Americans with a total of 45 people on the census.

Life as a free person of color was restrictive. For example, in 1836, Little Rock passed an ordinance prohibiting African Americans, both free and enslaved, from carrying any kind of weapon within city limits. If an African American was found carrying a weapon, including gunpowder, then law enforcement was required to confiscate the weapons, and the person received 30 lashes. Housekeepers were allowed to possess firearms, if they had a city license.

However, free African Americans could sue and be sued, own property and travel around the state at will, as long as they had access to documents to prove their freedom. Free people also could rise to prominence. 

Gad Bradley came to Arkansas in the 1830s and settled in Washington, Arkansas. He brought with him his wife, who had been an Army officer’s slave in Oklahoma, which was considered Indian Territory. Bradley had fallen in love with her and had been determined to buy her freedom. He worked hard and saved money until he had enough to purchase her. The couple married and left Oklahoma, settling in Washington, where Bradley worked as a gunsmith. Bradley bought land and built a house, where he raised his family for the next 20 years.

Others were born free. A case in point is Peter Caulder, who was born in South Carolina around 1797. His father, Moses, was a free man. In 1814, Caulder enlisted in the United States Third Regiment of Riflemen during the War of 1812. He accompanied Major Stephen H. Long to western Arkansas Territory in 1817 to establish a fort. Caulder became one of the first inhabitants of a new settlement, which was called Fort Smith.

Caulder later married Eliza Hall, the daughter of David Hall, a free man who lived in Marion County. The couple then set up a homestead in the county and began a family.

Even with the cumbersome restrictions placed on African Americans, the state was still a destination for many free black people. Between 1835 and 1840, the population of free persons of color in Hempstead County increased from six to 61.

The population increase alarmed white lawmakers. In 1843, the Arkansas legislature passed a law prohibiting immigration into the state of any free person of color. The aim was to curb the number of free black people in Arkansas. The new law also mandated people provide proof of freedom and to pay a bond of as much as $500 to assure “good behavior” while residing in the state.

There were some exceptions to the law. Many free people in Arkansas, for example, worked on steamboats that required them to move around the country. Steamboat workers often needed to stay in the state for long periods of time. To address this issue, the state gave an exemption but limited the length of time steamboat workers could stay to three months.

Weeks after the law went into effect, John Pendleton, a free man living in Crawford County, was arrested for violating the law. Pendleton appealed his conviction all the way to the Arkansas Supreme Court. In Pendleton v. State of Arkansas, Pendleton’s attorney argued the law was unconstitutional because it violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause of the Fourth Amendment. The state court ruled African Americans, both free and slaves, were not citizens of the country. Instead, African Americans only enjoyed a “quasi-citizenship” that allowed the state to impose different laws on them based on their skin color.

Meanwhile, tensions between northern and southern states were rising. The nation was hurtling toward a civil war.

On Nov. 3, 1858, Arkansas Gov. Elias Conway addressed the legislature and asked lawmakers to adopt a law to expel free African Americans from the state. The existence of free African Americans living successfully in Arkansas belied the tenant that underpinned the justification of slavery, namely that African Americans were inferior and should be enslaved. The state legislature complied with Conway’s request and passed a law on Feb. 12, 1859 that expelled all free African Americans from the state.

The penalty for not complying with the new law was fierce. Under the worse circumstances, free African Americans could be re-enslaved. Most free African Americans left. Out of the 29 free black people in Hempstead County in 1850, there were only two left after the law passed.

Both Peter Caulder and Gad Bradley left Arkansas after the law was enacted. Caulder resettled in Missouri, where he died around 1861. Bradley returned to Indian Territory.

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 on researching African American history is also available online at The Arkansas Digital Ark-ives at