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Sebastian County

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January 6, 1851

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Sebastian County is Arkansas's 56th county, formed on January 6, 1851, and named for William Sebastian, United States Senator from Arkansas, county commissioners created the town of Greenwood, located centrally in the county, to serve as the county seat. Three years later, however, Fort Smith became the new county seat. In 1861, the state legislature divided the county into two judicial districts, thus making both cities into county seats, a situation that survives into the present day.
American soldiers were dispatched to the area in 1817 to keep the peace between Cherokee and Osage, who clashed over access to hunting grounds to the west. The fort these soldiers constructed at the confluence of the Poteau and Arkansas rivers, a place known as Belle Point, was named Fort Smith after the military district's commander, General Thomas A. Smith. A settlement quickly grew around the fort, taking its name from the military establishment. Even when the army abandoned the fort, this settlement carried on, with trader John Rogers serving as something of a leader for the community. Aaron Barling, a former soldier, bought land eight miles east of Fort Smith in 1830. A small community known as Spring Hill grew up around his farm, though when the town sought incorporation later in the century, it did so under the name of its founder. Matthew Arbuckle, who served as commander of the troops at the fort, obtained more than 20,000 acres of land in Sebastian County for his service; this land eventually grew into the town of Lavaca. In 1836, the army returned to build its second post at Fort Smith.
On March 3, 1871, the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, which had jurisdiction not only over the western district but also Indian Territory west of the state, was moved from Van Buren to Fort Smith. Judge William Story was the first judge to preside in Fort Smith, but corruption was so prevalent that he eventually resigned. In 1875, Judge Isaac C. Parker was appointed to the bench at Fort Smith. He quickly established a reputation as a hard judge, sentencing numerous people to the gallows and thus acquiring the nickname of "hanging judge." During his tenure, the court employed such legendary lawmen as Bass Reeves and Heck Thomas, who patrolled Indian Territory to serve warrants upon criminals who had taken refuge there.


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Sebastian County Cemetery Listings on Arkansas Gravestone Project

Sebastian County Cemetery Listings on Interment Net

Sebastian 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.
County Clerk - Fort Smith
35 So. 6th St., Room 102
Fort Smith, AR 72901
Phone (479)782-5065
Fax (479)784-1567

Sebastian County Clerk - Greenwood
301 East Center, Room 104
Greenwood, AR 72956
Phone (479) 996-4195
Fax (479)996-4165
Circuit Court
901 S B Street
Fort Smith, AR 72901
Phone: 479-782-1046
Fax: 479-784-1580

Circuit Court
11 Town Square #103
Greenwood, AR 72956
Phone: 479-996-4175
Fax: 479-996-6885
Old Jail Museum
Curator - Donna Goldstein

South Sebastian County Historical Society
P.O. Box 523
Greenwood, AR 72936
Fort Smith Historical Society
P.O. Box 3676
Fort Smith, AR 72913-3676
(479) 646-9140
(479) 484-5502

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Sebastian County Message Board on Genforum

Adjacent Counties

Crawford County | Franklin County | Logan County | Scott County
Le Flore County, Oklahoma | Sequoyah County, Oklahoma

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