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Desha County

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December 12, 1838

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    Desha County is Arkansas's 40th county, formed on December 12, 1838, and named for Captain Benjamin Desha who fought in the War of 1812. Desha County was detached from Arkansas and Chicot counties. State representative Stephen Ryan led legislative efforts after south Arkansas County citizens filed petitions declaring their area isolated by the Arkansas and White rivers.
    Justices of the peace met at William Sexton's house, Wellington Landing, to form a county court. On March 4, 1839, they elected county officers, including John Morris as judge, George Watson Jr. as circuit and county clerk, A. C. Jamison as sheriff, Sexton as treasurer, and Gardner Cooper as surveyor. J. Smith was state senator. The Sexton house was the temporary county seat until 1841, when commissioners chose Bellville (later Red Fork). Napoleon was designated county seat in 1843. A federal $55,000 U.S. Marine hospital was built there in 1855.
    During the Civil war, county records were moved by wagon to Richland Township and later to Clarksville, Texas. Some records were never recovered.
    When President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the relocation of Japanese Americans from the West Coast in 1942, a 17,000-acre compound, Rohwer Japanese Interment Camp, was built at Rohwer near McGehee to house more than 8,400 internees. Desha citizens were disgruntled. They distrusted the Japanese because of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and also complained that the U.S. government fed the internees a better diet than locals could afford. Rohwer Relocation Center became the county’s largest city until it was closed in 1945. Rohwer Relocation Center’s cemetery is now a national monument.


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Desha County Cemetery Listings on Arkansas Gravestone Project

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Desha County Cemetery Listing at Find A Grave

Arkansas Dept of Health

Arkansas Dept of Health
Division of Vital Records, Slot 44
4815 West Markham Street
Little Rock, AR 72205
(501) 661-2174
Fax: (501) 663-2832
  • Vital Records is responsible for the collection and issuance of birth and death certificates and marriage and divorce coupons.
  • Birth and death certificates serve two purposes. They are the definitive legal documents of identity and they collect important medical information about the two most important events – birth and death.
  • Marriage and divorce coupons are so called because they are removed from the bottom of marriage and divorce certificates, the original of which is retained in the offices of the county clerk of courts; these coupons contain limited information.

Arkansas State Archives

Arkansas History Commission
One Capitol Mall
Little Rock, AR 72201
The History Commission, the official state archives, is a facility in which those interested in Arkansas history may engage in research. The staff does not undertake research requests from the public. The Research Room is open from 8:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., Monday through Saturday. It is closed on state holidays. If you are traveling long distances, please call to confirm hours/days of operation at 501.682.6900.

Arkansas Genealogical Society

  • The purpose of the society is to promote family history research, to educate persons in genealogical research methods and the use of historical records, to publish articles pertaining to Arkansas ancestors, and to preserve and make accessible historical, genealogical, and biographical sources pertaining to Arkansas.
  • AGS has contributed to the genealogical collection of books and other materials at the Arkansas History Commission and State Archives, the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, and at other libraries and archives with genealogical collections. Books sent to AGS to be reviewed in The Arkansas Family Historian are always donated to a library that does not possess a copy. AGS sometimes purchases and donates special resources, such as the films of the Draper Manuscripts at the Arkansas History Commission.
Court Clerk
604 President St.
Arkansas City, AR 71630
Phone (870)877-2411
Fax (870)877-3407
County Clerk
604 President St.
Arkansas City, AR 71630
Phone (870)877-2323
Fax (870)877-3413
Desha County Historical Society
209 Oak Street
McGehee, AR 71654

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Adjacent Counties

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