Transcribed by Louis Reitzammer from
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas
Goodspeed Publishing Company (1890)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
(Click on a subject to read information)
Location--Soil and Products--Geology--Timber--Overflows of the Mississippi
Organization--The Records--County Officers--Courts--Pioneers
History of the Seat of Justice--Railroads and River Traffic--Desha in the War
A Remarkable Document--Ruffians and Crime
Arkansas City and Her Sister Towns and Villages
Schools and Churches--Census Statistics--Property Valuation--The Press
This county is situated on the eastern border of the state, in what may be termed the second tier of counties from the Louisiana line. It is bounded north by Lincoln, Arkansas and Phillips Counties, east by the State of Mississippi, south by Chicot County, and west by Drew and Lincoln Counties.
The entire county, measuring about forty-three miles north and south by thirty east and west, forms part of the rich "Mississippi River Bottoms," and its soil is composed of those alluvial deposits which have made those bottoms famous the world over for their fertility and productiveness. The principal crops are cotton and corn, but when attention is paid to them, farm and plantation products of all kinds yield largely.
Distinctively an agricultural county, Desha has never yet had emblossomed within her limits any of that mineral wealth which characterizes some other portions of the State. Geologically her formation is the same as that underlying this whole region of country, and has no special or individual interest, either from a scientific or an economic point of view. The county is washed along its eastern border by the "Father of Waters," in its majestic flow from the winter-chilled regions of the North to mingle with the semi-tropical waters of the Gulf. The Arkansas River, flowing down out of Kansas, across the northeast quarter of the Indian Territory and diagonally across the State of Arkansas, finds its union with the Mississippi, about the center of the eastern border of this county. In the northeast part of the county, The Arkansas receives the White River. Through nearly all parts of the county, creeks and bayous flow, losing themselves in the streams mentioned, in places widening into small so-called lakes, such as are familiar to all residents of this region.
Desha County has been, and is yet, partially, timbered with all the varieties of timber indigenous to this part of the country, and the manufacture and sale of lumber have constituted one of the county's most important interests.
A serious obstruction to the material progress of the county has been the overflow of a good portion of its surfaces by the Mississippi, which has been so frequent and so extensive as not alone to flood out and retard crops, but to destroy valuable property, thus discouraging enterprise, and to necessitate the reconstruction of much of the railway within the county limits. By the shifting of the river courses, once promising towns have been blotted out, and in one instance the site of one of the most important of them is said to have been left on the Mississippi side of the river, which flows over much of the balance of it. Something is hoped from Government improvements, and a new order of things in this respect is looked for to do as much as anything else to usher in that period of rapid and substantial business and material prosperity to which the citizens of Desha County are entitled by virtue of their enterprise and determination, which have accomplished so much in the face of such great obstacles.
Desha County was formed December 12, 1838. A portion was attached to Drew County by an act passed January 21, 1861. A part of Chicot County was attached to Desha, February 10, 1879, and a part of Lincoln, March 10, following. That portion of the county records which should contain the record of county and early township organization is missing. The county court re-established the boundaries of the following townships June 7, 1870: Wilkinson, Mississippi, Red Fork, Chester (now in Arkansas County), Island (now absorbed by other townships), Richland, Jefferson and Randolph. Franklin Township was created April 9,1879; Silver Lake Township on the same day; Old River Township May 12, 1881, Walnut Lake Township July 29, 1884, and Clayton Township October 7, 1886. At this time the county contains twelve townships, named and bounded as follows: Mississippi Township, bounded north and east by the county line, south by the county line, Wilkinson and Old River Townships, and west by the county line; Randolph Township, bounded on the north by the county line, east by Silver Lake Township, south by Walnut Lake Township, and west by the county line; Silver Lake Township, bounded north by the county line, east by Red Fork Township, south by Jefferson Township, and west by Randolph Township; Red Fork Township, bounded north by the county line, east by Old River Township, south by Old River and Richland Townships, and west by Richland and Silver Lake Townships; Old River Township, bounded north by Red Fork and Mississippi Townships, east by Wilkinson Township, south by Wilkinson Township, and west by Red Fork Township; Wilkinson Township, bounded north by Mississippi and Old River Townships, east and south by the county line, and west by Richland Township; Walnut Lake Township, bounded north by Randolph Township, east by Jefferson Township, south and west by the county line; Jefferson Township, bounded north by Silver Lake and Red Fork Townships, east by Richland Township, south by Clayton Township, and west by Walnut Lake Township and the county line; Richland Township, bounded north by Red Fork Township, east by Wilkinson Township and the county line, south by Franklin and Clayton Townships, and west by Clayton and Jefferson Townships; Clayton Township, bounded north by Jefferson and Richland Townships, east by Richland and Franklin Townships, south by Bowie Township, and west by the county line; Franklin Township, bounded north by Richland Township, east and south by the county line, and west by Bowie Township; Bowie Township, bounded north by Clayton Township, east by Franklin Township, south and west by the county line.
Unfortunately, not only for the historian, but also for the citizens of the county, the records of Desha County are imperfect, in consequence of the fact that while stored temporarily in Texas during the war, as a measure of safety, taken to insure their preservation, portions of them were mutilated, and some important books and papers lost or destroyed. The records of the organization of the county and circuit courts are wanting, and other interesting historical data is inaccessible, because of the deficiency above referred to. The first deed recorded in the county was placed on record July 5, 1839. It was given by Creed Taylor, of Jefferson County, to Solon B. Jones, of Jefferson, later of Desha County, and conveyed the land upon which one of the additions to Napoleon was afterward located. The consideration was $12,500. It is not probable that the same property is now worth $100, which goes to show that even at that early day and in this, then new country, a boom had the effect of almost marvelously increasing the market value of real estate.
The officers of Desha County, since its organization, have been as follows:
County and Probate
J. R. Morris, 1838-40; L. V. R. Ryan, 1840-42; J. Wilkinson, 1842-46; S. H. Davis, 1840-48; R. L. Mayson, 1848-52; W. R. Anderson, 1852-56, 1858-60; G. B. Watson, 1856-58, 1860-62; E. Randolph, 1862 to Jan. 1, 1865; Robert C. Mayson, Jan. 1, 1865, to 1866; John Hyde, 1866-72; W. B. Peterson, 1874-76, 1878-82, 1884-89; J. P. Clayton, 1876-78; B. F. Merritt, 1882-84; J. P. Jones, 1889-90.
G. B. Watson, Jr., 1838-40; G. B. Watson, 1840-42; W. F. Berry, 1842-44; D. G. W. Leavitt, 1844-46; D. Ripley, 1846-48; W. A. Doherty, 1848-52; John Davis, 1852-54; J. P. Clayton, 1854-60; J. D. Murphy, 1860-62; I. M. Murphy, 1862-64; James Murphy, 1864-72; R. E. Doran, 1872-74; J. W. Grayson, 1874-76; J. P. Jones, 1876-86; H. Thane, 1886-90. This official is ex officio clerk of the county and probate courts and recorder.
A. C. Jamison, 1838-40; H. C. Hinton, 1840-42; G. Cooper, 1842-50; E. Randolph, 1850-54; G. E. Mayson, 1854-58; J. V. Jacobs, 1858-60; S. C. Clayton, 1860-62; S. T. Howill, 1862-66; V. R. Ryan, 1866-68; A. A. Eddington, 1868 to May 3, 1873; W. W. Granger, May 3, 1873 to 1874; J. P. Jones, 1874-76; I. Bankston, 1876 to January 11, 1884; Jacob S. Ross, January 11, 1884 to February 11, 1884; S. W. Lowman, from February 11, 1884; M. W. Quilling, 1884-86; John G. Warfield, 1886-90.
William Sexton, 1838-50; C. Stroud, 1850-54; J. R. Chiles, 1854-56, 1880-84; J. L. Martin, 1856-60; B. B. Brett, 1860-62; S. C. Clayton, 1862-64; Thomas Scott, 1864-72; D. McGrath, 1872-74; E. Mills, 1874 to July 10, 1875, when J. R. Chiles was elected; E. K. Eddington, 1876-80; R. W. Smith, 1884-88; J. S. Johnson, 1888-90.
Rufus Mixture, 1838-40; E. Cheatham, 1840-42; L. J. Boyd, 1842-44; W. Wooley, 1844-46; W. Hodges, 1846-48; A. J. Cook, 1848-50; G. W. Knight, 1850-52; J. D. Turner, 1852-54; William Durr, 1854-56; D. F. Eddington, 1856-58; J. Simplins, 1858-60; T, McKallister, 1860-62, 1866-68; J. Hibbard, 1862 to Jan. 1866; P. M. Gilroy, 1868 to May, 1870; D. Alexander, Jr., May 1870-74; A. Jackson, 1874-76; Judge Hole, 1876-78; J. R. Chiles, 1878-80; J. H. Wellington, 1880-82; R. Dedman, 1882-84; J. C. Crenshaw, 1884-86; J. B. Amburn, 1886-90.
G. Cooper, 1838-40; L. B. Dickson, 1840-42; L. V. R. Ryan, 1842-46; G. W. Stokes, 1846-52; D. C. Weire, 1852-54; D. D. Weire, 1854-62; William Gardner, 1862-68; A. K. Moore, 1868-72; W. B. Dumas, 1872-74, 1880-82, 1884-86; W. N. Blockwell, 1874-78; H. E. Drake, 1878-80; Ben McGehee, 1882-84; C. C. Clayton, 1886-90.
J. W. McThuston, 1862-64; J. T. Porter, 1864-66; W. A. Watkins, 1866-68; D. J. Murphy, 1868-72; P. Mitchell, 1872-74; L. Hunter, 1874-76; George Wilson, 1876-78; S. Williams, 1878-82; Acklin Patterson, 1882-84; Ed C. Wiliams, 1884-86; G. W. Grammar, 1886-88; Ed Gardner, 1888-90.
Third State Legislature, Nov. 2 to Dec. 28, 1840 Senate: J. Smith (Arkansas, Jefferson and Desha Cos.) House: S. H. Davis (Desha Co.);
Fourth State Legislature, 1842-43 Senate: J. Yell (Arkansas, Jefferson and Desha Cos.) House: Charles A. Stewart (Desha Co.);
Fifth State Legislature, 1844-45 Senate: J. Yell (Arkansas, Jefferson and Desha Cos.) House: William H. Sutton (Desha Co.);
Sixth State Legislature, 1846 Senate: R. C. Byrd (Arkansas, Jefferson and Desha Cos.) House: Isaiah Halcomb (Desha Co.);
Seventh State Legislature, 1848-49 Senate: R. C. Byrd (Arkansas, Jefferson and Desha Cos.) House: Thompson B. Flournoy (Desha Co.);
Eighth State Legislature, 1850-51 Senate: N. B. Burrow (Arkansas, Jefferson and Desha Cos.) House: Thompson B. Flournoy (Desha Co.);
Ninth State Legislature, 1852-53 Senate: N. B. Burrow (Arkansas, Jefferson and Desha Cos.) House: Shelby W. Wilson (Desha Co.);
Tenth State Legislature, 1854-55 Senate: A. H. Ferguson (Arkansas, Jefferson and Desha Cos.) House: Solon B. Jones (Desha Co.);
Eleventh State Legislature, 1856-57 Senate: A. H. Ferguson (Arkansas, Jefferson and Desha Cos.) House: John Patterson (Desha Co.);
Twelfth State Legislature, 1858-59 Senate: Thomas Fletcher (Arkansas, Jefferson and Desha Cos.) House: J. P. Johnson (Desha Co.);
Thirteenth State Legislature, 1860-61 Senate: Thomas Fletcher (Arkansas, Jefferson and Desha Cos.) House: James P. Clayton;
Fourteenth State Legislature, 1862 Senate: Thomas Fletcher (Arkansas, Jefferson and Desha Cos.) House: Alexander Harding (Desha Co.);
Fifteenth State Legislature, 1864-65 Senate: I. C. Mills (Arkansas, Jefferson and Desha Cos.) House: (not listed);
State Confederate Legislature, Washington, Ark., Sept. and Oct. 1864 Senate: T. Fletcher (Arkansas, Jefferson and Desha Cos.) House: Alexander Harding (Desha Co.);
Sixteenth State Legislature, 1866-67 Senate: W. M. Galloway (Arkansas, Jefferson and Desha Cos.) House: W. C. Weatherford (Desha Co.);
Seventeenth State Legislature, 1868-69 (Representing Ashley, Chicot, Drew and Desha Cos.) Senate: W. Harbison and J. W. Mason House: N. M. Newell, C. F. Simms, R. S. Curry, D. S. Wells and Z. H. Maness;
Eighteenth State Legislature, 1871 (Representing Ashley, Chicot, Drew and Desha Cos.) Senate: J. W. Mason and William Harbison House: A. J. Robinson, C. W. Preddy, H. Marr, E. A. Fulton, J. W. Harris and John Webb;
Nineteenth State Legislature, 1873 (Representing Ashley, Chicot, Drew, Desha and Lincoln Cos.) Senate: S. A. Duke and S. H. Halland House: S. W. McLeod, John C. Kollins, X. J. Pindall, O. F. Parish, J. T. W. Tillar and J. E. Joslyn;
Extraordinary Session of State Legislature, May 1874 (Representing Ashley, Chicot, Drew, Desha and Lincoln Cos.) Senate: S. A. Duke and S. H. Halland (Representing Ashley, Chicot, Drew and Desha Cos.) House: J. T. W. Tillar, L. L. Johnson, A. W. Files and X. J. Pindall;
Twentieth State Legislature, 1874-75 Senate: X. J. Pindall (Chicot and Desha Cos.) House: J. A. Robinson (Desha Co.);
Twenty-First State Legislature, 1877 Senate: X. J. Pindall (Chicot and Desha Cos.) House: S. J. Peoples;
Twenty-Second State Legislature, 1879 Senate: Charles H. Carlton (Chicot and Desha Cos.) House: L. A. Pindall (Desha Co.);
Twenty-Third State Legislature, 1881 Senate: C. H. Carlton (Chicot and Desha Cos.) House: L. A. Pindall (Desha Co.);
Twenty-Fourth State Legislature, 1883 Senate: Henry Thane (Chicot and Desha Cos.) House: W. B. Peterson (Desha Co.);
Twenty-Fifth State Legislature, 1885 Senate: Henry Thane (Chicot and Desha Cos.) House: I. G. Bailey (Desha Co.);
Twenty-Sixth State Legislature, 1887 and in the last session Senate: W. H. Logan (Chicot and Desha Cos.) House: G. H. Joslyn (Desha Co.);
The following named residents of this county hold commissions as notaries public: James Murphy, E. J. Menard, B. F. Merritt, W. F. Johnson, G. H. Harding, J. M. Morris, George H. Joslyn, A. Holmes, G. S. Dickinson, W. M. Watkins and F. D. Granger.
U. S. Representative
Desha County is in the First Congressional District, composed of Randolph, Clay, Greene, Lawrence, Sharp, Independence, Jackson, Craighead, Mississippi, Poinsett, Cross, Crittenden, St. Francis, Lee, Phillips, Desha and Chicot Counties, represented by Hon. L. P. Featherston.
The county is in the Eleventh Judicial District, composed of Desha, Arkansas, Lincoln and Jefferson Counties. Courts in this county are held as follows: In the Watson District, composed of Old River, Red Fork and Silver Lake Townships, on the third Monday of February and August, and at Arkansas City, for the balance of the county, on the fourth Monday of January and July--two weeks. The judges of this district have been: J. W. Fox, April 26, 1873 - July 24, 1874 H. N. Hutton, July 24, 1874 - October 31, 1874 John A. Williams, October 31, 1874 - October 31, 1878 X. J. Pindall, October 31, 1878 - October 30, 1882 John A. Williams, October 30, 1882 - June 30, 1889 John M. Elliott, since June 30, 1880.
The prosecuting attorneys have been: H. M. McVeigh, commissioned April 26, 1878 Z. L. Wise, commissioned October 31, 1874 T. B. Martin, commissioned October 10, 1878 J. M. Elliott, commissioned October 10, 1880 S. M. Taylor, commissioned June 30, 1889 Henry Thane is clerk of Desha Circuit Court, and A. H. McNeil is his deputy at Watson.
Desha County had not been erected at the time of the Constitutional Convention of 1836. It was represented in the Constitutional Convention of 1861 by J. P. Johnson. It does not appear to have been represented in the convention of 1864. In the Constitutional Convention of 1868 it was represented by Clifford Stanley Simms. Hon. X. J. Pindall, its representative in the convention of 1874, resigned July 20, and J. P. Jones was admitted the following day upon contest for his seat.
The lists of county officers contain some names of early settlers. Among them who came early, in the eastern part of the county, were David Alexander, Jeremiah McLean, William Cumby, William Montgomery, Solomon I. Brandenberg, Thompson B. Flournoy, Jilson P. Johnson, David J. Flournoy, Cephas Knowlton and others of his family, James and William Brown, Marvin W. and Myron W. Ludlow, and the father of Sheriff Warfield. In the central part came George B. Watson, Sr., and Jr., William B. Sexton, Isham and Benjamin Brock, Calvin and William Stroud, Franklin, Hadley and Jack Malpass, Benjamin Bledsoe, Dr. Bryan W. Thomas, Joseph Alston, Josiah Maples and William M. Carder. Among those early in the eastern central part were Elihu Randolph, John Patterson and B. F. Grace. Early settlers in the western part were Thomas Scott, W. H. Burnett, Joseph and James H. Branch, LaFayette J. Carroll and Solomon Hopkins; in the northern part, Samuel Richards, James C. Coose, Samuel Hockenberry, and Julian and Frank Menard. William Geiger came early and took up land now at Arkansas City. At that time and long afterward that part of the county was in Chicot. These were the pioneers, or most of them. In a chapter of the scope of this, it is futile to attempt to trace the details of settlement and development down to the present time.
The county of Desha had no permanent seat of justice in the earlier days of its history. Until its location at Napoleon, the business of the county seems to have been transacted wherever convenience dictated. Early courts were held at "Wellington," a plantation in Red Fork Township. The war broke in upon the regular transaction of the county business, as upon everything else here. The records were sent to Texas for safety, and some of them were returned after the war, but not all of them. In the fall of 1865 the old Marine Hospital building was leased by the county of the United States Government, for county purposes, but some of it, at least, had been so used before. This was a large brick building, whose site is now in the Mississippi River. The city of Napoleon, occupied some of its rooms as municipal offices. A court-house was built later, and in 1869 the wreck of this building was ordered sold. A jail seems to have fared better, and to have remained as a nucleus for a visible seat of justice. December, 1871, E. Randolph, commissioner, was instructed to purchase a lot near the jail, on which to place a building that had been bought, to be used as a court-house. April 19, 1872, the business of the county was removed from the Marine Hospital to the above-mentioned court-house, then in place and ready for occupancy, on Lot 1, Block 12, of the Jones' addition to Napoleon. In 1871 the old jail was found to be too dangerously near the river, and it was torn down and replaced by another, more securely located. By this time not a great deal was left of the once proud town of Napoleon, and it became evident that a new and more permanent seat of justice must be found. A point on the railroad was deemed best, and Watson's Station was centrally located. Mr. L. W. Watson donated five acres of land to the county, and offered to give 10,000 feet of lumber, to be used in the erection of county buildings. The county seat was legally located there October 6, 1874. Mr. Watson erected a building, which was occupied by the county as a court-house. It cost $376, and he gave with it 4,000 feet of lumber, in lieu of the 10,000 feet he had promised without the building. Here the seat of justice remained for five years. As a railroad town, Watson had some promise and an excuse for retaining all the prestige it had gained. But in 1878 the line of the railroad was changed and carried westward to "terra firma," as far as possible, beyone the frequent overflow of the Mississippi, and Watson was left several miles to the eastward. A fatality seemed to have pursued Desha's county seat, up to this time, and the trouble had come with the river, both to Napoleon and to Watson. In September, 1879, an election was held at which it was voted to remove the county seat to Arkansas City, then just coming into prominence as the railway terminus of the county. A court-house was erected in 1880, and December 6, that year, it was ordered that the seat of justice should be removed before January 1, following. The removal was effected late in the month, and the county spent Christmas in its new quarters. The jail and sheriff's office were built in 1881. The court offices are connected with the court-house. As a convenience to the people of a portion of the county, Watson retains a part of its functions as county seat, two circuit courts and four probate courts being held there annually.
The railroad history of the county began about thirty years ago, then a project was set on foot to construct an old-fashioned "strap iron" railway from Gaines Landing to the present site of Collins Station. The success of this plan was prevented by the war. In 1868 the Mississippi River, Ouachita & Red River Railroad was projected, to be constructed substantially on the line proposed for the road first mentioned, except that the Mississippi River terminus was fixed at Eunice instead of at Gaines Landing. This scheme also ended in defeat. A year or two later, the Little Rock, Pine Bluff & New Orleans Railroad Company was organized, and the parties in control also took in hand the Mississippi River, Ouachita & Red River scheme, and let the contract to D. C. Sawin for the construction of both roads. Abandoning Eunice as a terminal point, the Little Rock road was started up the river six miles at Chicot City, and the Mississippi, Ouachita & Red River road was completed to the highlands, stopping at Collins. Mr. Sawin constructed the Little Rock, Pine Bluff & New Orleans Railroad nearly to Pine Bluff before his death in 1873. The company took the work into its own hands, and completed the road to Pine Bluff in the fall of that year. In 1874 high water broke levees and suspended operations on both roads for six months. The roads were temporarily repaired, but traffic was again interrupted by overflows in 1875 and 1876. The bondholders took possession of the roads about this time, and the two lines were consolidated and for a short time were known as the Texas, Mississippi River and Northwestern Railroad, a name soon changed to the Little Rock, Mississippi River & Texas Railroad. It was determined to abandon the road in the overflowed district, and in 1878 the river terminus was removed from Chicot City to Arkansas City, and the main line was deflected at Varner, Lincoln County, west beyond the overflowed limits, down the bank of Crooked Bayou to Trippe, six miles due west of Arkansas City. From there embankments and bridges were built across the swamp to Arkansas City. The lower line was abandoned about the same time at Bowie Station and brought up Crooked Bayou to Trippe Station. The road was extended from Collins to Warren, through Monticello, about the same time. An extension was next made from Pine Bluff to Little Rock. In the fall of 1886, the road was purchased under forclosure by Jay Gould for himself and others. It was sold by Gould to the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railroad Company, February 21, 1887, and has since been a part of the Missouri Pacific system. A branch of the Louisville, New Orleans & Texas Railroad extends from Huntington, Miss., opposite the site of Arkansas City, to Leland, on the main line. This was put in operation about three years ago and a transfer at Arkansas City, connects it with the "Iron Mountain" line, and affords the county a railway outlet south. The Mississippi River & Northwestern Railroad, extends from Arkansas City five miles west, and is operated by the Desha Lumber & Planting Company, its owners, to haul logs and materials to their saw-mills at Arkansas City. This was constructed since any of the others mentioned, and as a local convenience and feeder to the other lines does its part in the gradual work of development. It is probable that this short line will be extended at no distant day, and other railway projects are being agitated which promise much for Desha County's future.
From its earliest history, Desha County has enjoyed all the advantages of river traffic, and most of the famous steamers of the ante bellum days, and many that have come into public notice since, have stopped at her landings. On this traffic Montgomery's Point, Napoleon and other important river towns and landings early grew up, and it is a remarkable fact and one significant of the unexpected course of events--those strange surprises of Time--that the river that had made them proved their undoing. Montgomery's Point, in Mississippi Township, disappeared about forty years ago, after a career of some little commercial activity and more than local importance. Napoleon, in Wilkinson Township, had at its best about 2,000 inhabitants; it was the county seat and chief business point for miles up and down the river. The "cut-off" made by the Federal forces, in 1863, as a means of combating harrassing bands of Confederates who gathered near Napoleon and attacked passing craft, changed the course of the Mississippi, and gradually the old town disappeared until most all of its site is in the bed of the river, if some small portion of it is not on the Mississippi side.
In 1860 the population of the county was only 6,459, and when it is stated that Desha raised, armed and equipped three full companies--300 men--for the Confederate service, some idea may be obtained of the devotion of the citizens to the causes they espoused. These organizations were all recruited in 1862. The most important, on some accounts, wasthe artillery company under the command of Capt. Henry C. West. Itserved all through the struggle, preserving its organization, and to this day the valiant deeds of West's artillery aretold throughout the South. Capt. West's first lieutenant was Dan J. Murphy; his second lieutenant was Benjamin B. Brett; his third lieutenant was John J. Brooks. Lieut. Brett resigned in the early part of the war, and Lieut. Brooks succeeded him, the place of the latter being filled by Third Lieutenant Peter Dumas. The second organization was Capt. Porter's, a cavalry company. The third was an infantry company, commanded by Capt. Henry Green. Brandenberg's "ox battery" is referred to as a joke of the war. Solomon I. Brandenberg, who has been mentioned as an early settler of the county, gathered together a following of forty or fifty, and somewhere procured an old cannon which he hauled to and fro by means of oxen. He, too, espoused the Southern cause, but it is not related that he and his men did much to prolong the war. The people in this section were in full sympathy with the Confederacy. Their interests were all Southern, and they were, almost to a man, Southern people. When the war was to be fought, they arrayed themselves in defense of their rooftrees. Now that the war is no more, and their interests are changed, they are earnest, well-wishing and conscientious citizens of the United States, as little devoted to sectionalishm as the people of any part of the Union.
In delving among the county records of thirty years ago, the following interesting relic of the days before the war was brought to light. It is here published verbatim, with the suggestion that it is extremely improbable that many similar documents are in existence.
"Know all men by these presents that I, Henry Warfield, a free man of color of the State of Ohio of the first part, for in consideration of the sum of three hundred dollars lawful money of the United States to me in hand paid by Stokes S. Haynes of the County of Desha and the State of Arkansas of the second part, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, have bargained, granted and sold, and by these presents do bargain, grand and sell unto the said party of the second part his executors, administrators and assigns all the right, title, claim and interest in and to my freedom of person, thereby giving the said party of the second part full power and control over all of my labor and conduct. Granting unto him power to hire me out, collect my wages and appropriate them to his own use and behoof and in fact the said party of the second part to become and be my master and I, the said party of the first part, to become and be his slave in all respects whatever. To have and to hold the same unto the said party of the second part his executors, administrators and assigns forever. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal, this 14th day of May, A. D. 1859."
This paper was signed with the "mark" of Henry Warfield and witnessed by B. F. Grace. It was thus certified by Daniel J. Murphy, county and circuit clerk:
"State of Arkansas, County of Desha. Be it remembered that on the 14th day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty-nine at the county aforesaid personally appeared before the undersigned Clerk of the Circuit Court in and said County of Desha, aforesaid Henry Warfield, a free man of color, grantor in the foregoing Bill of Sale, to me personally known as the person named in and who executed the same and acknowledged that he executed the foregoing bill of sale voluntarily and of his own feee will for the uses, purposes and considerations therein mentioned and set forth and I do so certify. In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal of said court at the office this this the 14th day of May, 1859."
Formerly there was in this county a lawless element, outlaws and ruffians, who secreted themselves in the fastnesses of the great swamps, and at times sallied forth to murder and to pillage. All the current stories of their depredations, and deeds of danger and of strife, if collected, would make a good-sized, if not a useful, volume. But the past has swallowed up these rascals, some of whom attained the height of their earthly ambition by dying with their boots on, and it is doubtless best to permit it to absorb their traditions also. In the usual sense, Desha County has been as free from assassination and outlawry as any county in any border State. A few men who were thought to deserve such a fate, and likely to escape an always uncertain justice, were lynched in the days gone by. Only a few persons have been put on trial for their lives, and considerable research has failed to discover that more than two or three persons have been hanged in due execution of the sentence of the court under the law.
Arkansas City, since 1870 the county seat of Desha County, was incorporated by the Chicot County Circuit Court September 12, 1873, being then, and for some years later, in Chicot County. An act of the Legislature passed about the time of the incorporation, and of which the court was unaware, so regulated corporations of this kind as to render the incorporation illegal. In view of the fact that the incorporation had been tacitly recognized by the public, the county and the State, and that its anullment would work great harm to many innocent persons and corporations, the incorporation was affirmed and legalized by the Supreme Court of Arkansas at the November term, 1881. The early records of the city were destroyed by fire. The following gentlemen have been mayors since 1877: D. O. Bowles, 1877; Henry Thane, 1878-79; Charles H. Harding,1880; Leland Leatherman,1881; A. W. Robb, 1882-84; J. W. Dickinson, Jr., 1885-90. The members of the city council for 1890 are R. W. Smith, D. O. Poter, W. E. Lambe, J. G. Reitzammer and Charles F. Kroeger. G. S. Dickinson is recorder. Arkansas City has a waterworks system, and many improvements have been made in streets and sidewalks. Under the able management of the present mayor and his advisors, the city has been placed upon a sound financial basis. It has good railway and river communications, making a healthy competition that has reduced freight to a minimum. A turnpike road across the lowlands to Trippe is in prospect, which will put the city at the disposal of planters seeking a good market for their produce. The banking house of T. J. Leslie & Son, known as the Desha County Bank, was opened in 1879, and is a valuable business adjunct. Mr. H. E. Martin is its cashier and manager. There are about forty business houses, large and small; a cotton compress, with a capital of $60,000; the plant of the Desha Lumber & Planing Company, with a capital of $500,000; a planing mill, with a capital of $18,000; an opera house with a seating capacity of 400; an elevator, several cotton gins and two hotels. Some of the business firms do as high as $75,000 per annum; and the total amount of business done by all will reach $500,000 each year. Ten thousand bales of cotton are handled each season, but a reasonable estimate of the number of bales passing through the city can be placed at 100,000. The assessed value of all city property is $150,000, but the actual or market value will put the figures up to half a million of dollars. There is no other incorporated city or village in the county.
Chicot City, three miles from Arkansas City, once bade fair to attain to some promence, but the removal of the railroad, elsewhere referred to, sealed its doom. Watson and Red Fork, in Red Fork Township, are good local trading points, and the same may be said of Walnut Lake in Walnut Lake Township, and Dumas, in Randolph Township. Laconia, in Mississippi Township, is a flourishing village of considerable commercial importance, having the advantage of a good river trade. Besides the places mentioned, there are in the county the following named post offices, at some of which some little business is done in the way of local trade: Beith's Landing, Halley, Henrico, Hopedale, McGehee, Medford, Pendleton, Reedville, Trippe, Waddell, White River.
Following the first settlement of the county were the usual pioneer efforts at the establishment of schools and churches. The early schools were of the most primitive kind, being taught irregularly by non-professional teachers, in any place accessible for such use. As villages were planted here and there, more advanced schools were introduced, and better preceptors and more modern methods were brought into use.
According to the last published report of the county examiner, the school statistics of Desha are given thus: White children enumerated 691; colored, 2760; total, 3451. Number of districts, 27; number voting tax, 19; number of teachers employed, 25; number of school houses, 9; value of school houses, $3,025.
The last published statement of the public school funds of the county shows the following figures: Total amount on hand and received from the State school fund, and from poll and district taxes, $13,251.78. Amount expended--For teachers' salaries $6,321.65; for building and repairing, $369.30; for purchasing apparatus, etc., $721.97; for treasurer's commissions, $211.87, for other purposes, 30 cents; total, $7,625.18. Balance in treasuey unexpended--common school fund, $1,156.76; district fund, $4,469.84; total $5,626.60.
The early religious services were held on convenient plantations by traveling preachers, and the erection of the first church houses in different settlements were events in local history of which there is, unfortunately, little written record. The war retarded the progress of religion and education, and the county was slow in recovering from its effect in this respect. At the present time, however, while the church statistics of the county are not compiled as are the educational statistics, church edifices are to be seen everywhere, and the evidences of their material and numerical growth are everywhere visible.
The population of Desha County in 1840 was 1,598; it was 2,911 in 1850; 6,459 in 1860; 6,125 in 1870; and 8,973 in 1880. The decrease from 1860 to 1870 does not truly represent the falling off of population consequent upon the war, but rather shows how successful were the people of the county in the period immediately after the war, during the succeeding five years regaining, within a few hundres, all of its loss in this direction. Following the period of reconstruction came that of agricultural and commercial activity, resulting in the large gain between 1870 and 1880. The census figures for 1890 have not yet been made public, but the population is estimated at nearly 15,000.
The last published report of the Secretary of State places the total valuation of real and personal property in this county at $2,203,200.
The NAPOLEON PLANTER was published at the first county seat by Robert H. Tucker from about 1856 to about 1858, perhaps even later. Another short-lived paper called the SENTINEL was published at Napoleon before the war, by E. Randolph. A short time after the war a paper was issued there by Mose Harris, which was finally sold to Rosedale, Miss., parties. The TIMES, HERALD and POST were published, one after the other, at Chicot City, during the brief supremacy of that place, mostly with the same material, and the latter was removed to Arkansas City. One of the Chicot editors and publishers was C. W. Garland. The POST was the first paper at the present seat of justice. It was Democratic in politics and flourished from 1874 to 1878, or thereabout, when it was bought by George M. Beck and J. C. Smith, who changed its name to the JOURNAL. In 1881 it passed to the proprietorship of J. W. Dickinson, who conducted it as an independent paper until April,1884, when Col. B. F. Grace took it in hand and made it a straightout Democratic paper. It was published from 1886 to 1888, by Gates & Thane, as an independent paper, and since 1888 has been published by Gates & Besselieu, with D. A. Gates as editor and business manager, as a Democratic paper. It is a four-page, seven-column sheet, ably edited and well printed, the only paper now published in the county, and regarded as one of the best local papers in the State. It has a large circulation, principally in Desha, Chicot and Drew Counties, and is the official organ of Desha County and Arkansas City, and has been the official organ of Chicot County. The Arkansas City MAIL was published two or three years from about 1880, by the Lowman Brothers, under the editorial charge of the notorious Mose Harris, who thus made his second advent in Desha County journalism. This paper was called Independent-Democratic politically. In 1886 J. P. Jones published for a short time an Independent-Republican paper called the VINDICATOR. A Democratic paper, also called the VINDICATOR, was published about two months in the fall of 1889, by B. A. McGehee. All of these papers not accredited to Napoleon or Chicot City were published at Arkansas City. Most of them have had more or less influence in molding the destinies of the counties, and in hastening educational, political and material advancement.