Franklin County, Arkansas
Court House by
Linda Haas Davenport
I had the pleasure of visiting the Franklin County, AR courthouse not too long ago and thought I'd pass along what I discovered. My main reason for going to the courthouse was to search for my family that lived in Mulberry, AR from about 1882-1892. During that time frame Mulberry (Mackey Township) was in Franklin county, AR. Mackey Township was transferred to Crawford county in 1893 and although the Crawford county courthouse has duplicates of all land records for Mackey Township they do not have such things as marriage records, court records, etc.
The courthouse is located downtown in Ozark, AR, (Highway 40 exit 37). If you read the information on the Ozark, AR Chamber of Commerce site it will tell you that the original courthouse was built in 1839-1840, a one-story frame building that burned during the Civil War and was replaced about 1869. The information goes on to say that the courthouse was again burned in 1944 and gives the impression that the only things that survived the fire were the block walls and the clock tower. This is misleading because the records in the courthouse date back to the beginning of the county.
Ozark is a pretty little town and sits on the banks of the Arkansas River. Across the street from the courthouse is a donut shop that has the best cinnamon rolls I've ever eaten. No need to say that's where I took my breaks from researching. There is a nice library in town and they have a small genealogy section. One of the things the library has is the abstracted records of the old funeral home in Mulberry AR.
When you enter the courthouse through the front doors there is an office on the left and on the right. The office on the right contains the deed books, while the office on the left contains the marriage records, probate records, etc. I found the ladies in both offices to be pleasant, helpful and most accommodating.
The office on the left has all the records in a small room with a table and a chair. On the table are printed indexes to all of the records in the room. Administration Records 1840-1866; Probate Records 1838-1920; Franklin County Marriage Book A; Franklin County Marriage Books 1850-1881 (A, B, BB) and Franklin County Marriage Books 1882-1916 (books C-I) - a note on the marriage records ... "in 1901 a 2nd courthouse was opened at Charleston, Franklin county, AR. to accommodate the citizens living in the south part of the county. Those marriages are also included in the index for 1901-1918."; Index to Highland Cemetery and Four Abandoned Cemeteries; The History of Franklin County, Reprinted for the Franklin County Historical Association. These indexes make locating documents in the record books very easy.
For anyone researching in Franklin County I'd suggest that you try to get your hands on the History of Franklin County book. I didn't have the time to go through the book page by page but there is a tremendous amount of information and names in this small book.
The ladies in this office have the key to the basement vault and they will sign you in, take you downstairs and leave you with the old records in the vault. The vault is small and there is nowhere to set (I took books outside and sat on the stairs). Although there are shelves around the walls (packed with books) the center of the vault is piled high with books, leaving only a small area to walk around the room in front of the shelves. These records go back to the beginning of the county in 1838. The old property tax books appear to be inclusive for all years. The older books are coming apart, very brittle and the covers and spines are torn and loose on many of the books. The property tax books are set up by year and then divided by township and then by the order the people paid their taxes. There are no indexes and you have to search each book. By the time I got to the vault I was running short on time so I'm not sure what other records (other than the tax books) are in the vault, but there are stacks and stacks of record books.
I was horrified to see a shredder in a corner and stacks of loose papers beside it. The lady who took me to the vault said they are shredding "old voter lists, county receipts and that kind of thing". I hope that the Franklin County Genealogy Society will go and rescue these old documents.
Back to the 1st floor: The office on the right has all the old deed records and these go back to the beginning of the county. The land record books are in a small room and there is no place to set. There is a large table in the center of the room that is a comfortable standing height. I think the Index and Deed books are the largest and heaviest I've ever used. I was so glad my husband was with me because I'm not sure I could have managed to get the books off and back on the top shelves by myself. All of the old deeds have been transferred to new books. Each deed has been placed on a special page that has a plastic strip on the left (where the holes are punched) and the books can be taken apart so a single page can be taken to the copier - which is good thing given the size and weight of the books. You are on the honor system with copies (which you make yourself) and pay for when you leave. Copies are 50 cents each but you get excellent copies from the copier. The copier has one button you punch that reduces the size of the copy so that you get the full page on one legal sheet - what a time and money saver! The indexes are excellent and easy to use.
I did not have time to research the old court records - those must wait for another trip.
For those of you who cannot visit the courthouse the indexes make it easy for the courthouse employees to answer inquiries by mail, unless you are wanting information from the old property tax books or the other old records in the vault, in which case you're going to have to find a researcher in the area.