By Melissa Nesbitt, archival manager for the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives
However, news clippings and miscellaneous loose 19th century Hempstead County court records were pasted over several pages of the voters’ names. A note on the front cover indicated it had made its way into the hands of Lucile Monroe Carrigan, a native of Washington, Arkansas. Had Carrigan been the one who re-purposed the ledger as a scrapbook of Hempstead County history? It is probable, and her intention was indicated by the note attached to the front cover which stated, “These documents are the property of Lucile M. Carrigan. Given to the Historical Records Survey to use as they see fit.” The Historical Records Survey was “organized in 1935 as part of the Federal Writers’ Project, to document resources for research in U.S. history,” and Carrigan worked for the HRS in Hempstead County.
Hempstead County “loose” court records trickling back to SARA isn’t a new phenomenon. They’ve been resurfacing a little at a time for more than 40 years, and here is the backstory.
A new courthouse had been completed in Hope in 1939 as a project of the Public Works Administration (PWA), not to be confused with the Works Progress Administration (WPA). During the move into the new courthouse someone--possibly the county judge or county clerk or an employee--decided to discard the abundant 19th century miscellaneous loose court records. Several concerned and historically minded citizens collected these from the trash pile in no particular order and took them home for safekeeping. Decades later, after SARA’s establishment in the late 1970s, these same people began to donate the records to the archives.
This brings us back to the scrapbook’s usefulness to researchers. Court records often give answers to genealogical and historical mysteries that might not otherwise be solved when these records are lost. Hempstead County is fortunate in that its records are mostly intact. Some counties in Arkansas aren’t as fortunate due to damage from man-made and natural disasters, the ravages of war or neglect through poor storage facilities and practices.
SARA is also fortunate to have the relationship with Historic Washington State Park. Besides providing a location for the archives and maintenance support for the building and grounds, the archives and park staff collaborate on projects like this one in order to better preserve Arkansas’s history and make it available to all.
For more information about this collection or other historical records at the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives, call 870-983-2633 or email email@example.com. More information about Arkansas history and genealogical research is available at the Arkansas State Archives at archives.arkansas.gov or by calling 501-682-6900.
 “69.5.6 Records of the Historical Records Survey,” National Archives and Records Administration, http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/069.html#69.5.6, accessed August 28, 2020.