County: Columbia

Atkinson, James Harris (J. H.)

James Harris (J. H.) Atkinson was an educator, author, and historian who, through his leadership in state and local historical organizations, significantly advanced the preservation and awareness of Arkansas’s history, earning him the nickname “Mr. Arkansas History.” He helped organize and subsequently served as president of both the Arkansas Historical Association (AHA) and the Pulaski County Historical Society (PCHS), wrote numerous articles for each of their publications, served as chairman of the Arkansas History Commission (now called the Arkansas State Archives), and co-authored Historic Arkansas, a text for teaching Arkansas history. J. H. Atkinson was born on June 7, 1888, in a farmhouse near the community of College Hill in northern Columbia County, the son of Gracie Ella Finley and …

Atkinson, Willie Emmett

W. Emmett Atkinson was a farmer and teacher working in Arkansas in the later part of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. An active Democrat and local office holder, he became embroiled in controversy concerning his support for the American effort in World War I. Willie Emmett Atkinson was born on February 4, 1874, to Robert Atkinson and Eliza Ramsey Gordon Atkinson on the family’s farm near McNeil (Columbia County). He grew up in the Harrison Township of Columbia County; his father had been heavily involved with the development of the township. Atkinson taught school in Columbia, Lafayette, and Nevada counties from 1897 to 1916. Atkinson was often the only teacher in a school that might enroll …

Bailey, James Clayton (Jim)

James Clayton (Jim) Bailey, Arkansas’s most celebrated sportswriter, chronicled a century of growth in the state’s most successful cultural phenomenon—amateur and professional athletics. With his friend and sometime boss at the Arkansas Gazette, Orville Henry, Bailey became inextricably intertwined with the rise to national glory of the athletic program at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County)—the Razorbacks—and with the public’s growing ardor for other school and professional sports. He was an unusually gifted writer whose toils happened to be in athletics. Bailey was voted by his colleagues as the Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year eighteen times and was one of the first sportswriters to be inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. Jim Bailey was born …

Camp Magnolia

Camp Magnolia, also known as Civilian Public Service Camp No. 7, was the only World War II–era work camp in Arkansas established for religious conscientious objectors (COs). There, COs engaged in much the same work as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and took part in government-controlled medical experiments. The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 contained a provision that allowed those who objected to military service on grounds of religious or personal beliefs to render public service for the nation in alternative settings. This provision had been the result of intense lobbying by historic peace churches, such as the Society of Friends (Quakers), the Mennonites, and the Church of the Brethren. When conscription for the anticipated war began on …

Capus, Henry (Lynching of)

Henry Capus, an African-American man, was lynched in late June 1894 in Columbia County. The reports regarding his killing are brief and lacking details, but his murder follows the pattern of many other lynchings of the era. The exact identity of Henry Capus is unknown, as there are no exact census matches for that name (especially given that the enumeration sheets for the 1890 census were lost to fire), and national reports offered variations on his last name, rendering it Cabus or Cahns. There is a Henry Cabos or Cabus listed on the 1880 census residing in Shreveport, Louisiana, but he would have been sixty-four at the time of the lynching. That same census finds a Henry Capus in Alabama; …

Columbia County

Natural resources have been the mainstay of the Columbia County economy, from cotton in the nineteenth century; timber, oil, and gas in the mid-twentieth century; and later bromine. The county’s fortunes have also been closely tied to the evolution of Southern Arkansas University (SAU). Columbia County, named after the female personification of America, wielded significant political influence in Arkansas during the first half of the twentieth century, with family and business ties to governors Thomas McRae, Sidney McMath, and Ben T. Laney, Lieutenant Governor Lawrence E. Wilson, State Auditor T. C. Monroe, U.S. representatives Robert Minor Wallace and Wade Kitchens, and businessman Harvey Couch. Columbia County is typified geographically by low, rolling hills and is heavily forested. Pre-European Exploration through …

Columbia County Courthouse

The Columbia County Courthouse, an early twentieth-century building designed by W. W. Hall, is a classic example of the Second Renaissance Revival style. Located at 1 Courthouse Square in Magnolia (Columbia County), the current Columbia County Courthouse was finished in 1906 and is the third courthouse to be located on these grounds. The first was a temporary log courthouse built immediately after the county formed in 1852. In 1856, a more permanent courthouse was built. In 1903, a tax levy was created to provide funds for construction of the current courthouse. While the courthouse was originally only two stories, the courthouse rotunda—which centers the building and once served as the courtroom—has been divided to form two floors, giving the building …

Couch-Marshall House

Located in Magnolia (Columbia County), the Couch-Marshall House is an example of what has become known as the Plain Traditional style of architecture, which in this instance took on characteristics of the Queen Anne Revival style. The “high style” of the Queen Anne Revival type of residence had become the preferred style of design and construction in Arkansas by 1880 and was to remain so until the beginning of the twentieth century. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 24, 1992. The house takes part of its name from Thomas G. Couch, who was born in Columbia County on February 28, 1852, not long after his parents had relocated from their ancestral home in …

Couch, Harvey Crowley

Influenced by a teacher’s counsel, Harvey Crowley Couch helped bring Arkansas from an agricultural economy in the early twentieth century to more of a balance between agriculture and industry. His persuasiveness with investors from New York and his ingenuity, initiative, and energy had a positive effect on Arkansas’s national reputation among businessmen. He ultimately owned several railroad lines and a telephone company and was responsible for what became the state’s largest utility, Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L). Harvey Couch was born on August 21, 1877, in Calhoun (Columbia County) to Tom Couch, a farmer turned minister, and Mamie Heard Couch. He had five siblings. Couch attended school in Calhoun two months out of each year, as did many farmers’ children …

Coullet, Rhonda Lee Oglesby

Rhonda Lee Oglesby Coullet was the only Miss Arkansas ever to resign her title. After briefly fulfilling her role as Miss Arkansas 1965, she abruptly gave up her crown and went on to achieve notable successes in show business, including starring on Broadway in The Robber Bridegroom. Rhonda Oglesby was born on September 23, 1945, in Magnolia (Columbia County) to Horace and Cecil Oglesby, both employees of International Paper Company in Spring Hill, Louisiana, but she was raised in Stamps (Lafayette County). She has one brother, Scott. In 1955, the family moved to Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). She attended Sam Taylor Elementary School and Pine Bluff High School, where she was a cheerleader. She was recognized for her beauty and …

Cross and Nelson Hall Historic District

The Cross and Nelson Hall Historic District consists of two former dormitories located at 100 East University on the campus of Southern Arkansas University (SAU) in Magnolia (Columbia County). These were built in 1936 with assistance from the Public Works Administration (PWA), a Depression-era federal relief agency. The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 20, 2010. The Third District Agricultural School, which would evolve into Southern Arkansas University, was one of four such schools created through Act 100 of 1909 of the Arkansas General Assembly, with its first classes meeting in 1911. At the time, the school offered a four-year high school diploma program. By the mid-1920s, the school had received junior college status …

Dockery, Octavia

Octavia Dockery was a writer, socialite, and eventual recluse who became embroiled in the “Goat Castle Murder” case in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1932. The case garnered national and international headlines when she was accused of having murdered her neighbor, Jennie Merrill. Dockery was never tried for the murder, owing to the fact that Merrill’s actual murderer was killed by Arkansas police before Dockery could be brought to trial. Her story, nevertheless, provides an excellent example of Southern Gothic come to life. Octavia Dockery was born at Lamartine Plantation in Columbia County, Arkansas, in 1865, the daughter of Brigadier General Thomas Pleasant Dockery, who commanded the Nineteenth Arkansas Infantry Regiment during the Civil War, and Laura Octavia West Dockery. She was …

Dockery, Thomas Pleasant

Thomas Pleasant Dockery attained the rank of brigadier general in the Confederate army, commanding Arkansas troops in a number of important engagements on both sides of the Mississippi River. He enjoyed a reputation as a gallant and aggressive commander. One private under Dockery’s command recalled, “It was one of Colonel Dockery’s hobbies to volunteer to take some battery or storm some difficult stronghold.” At his death, the Arkansas Gazette observed that Dockery “was a broad-gauged man. He was as brave and gallant a soldier as the Confederacy produced.” Born in North Carolina on December 18, 1833, to Colonel John Dockery and his wife, Ann, Thomas Dockery eventually moved to Arkansas, settling in Columbia County, where his father established a large …

Downing, Margaret Ruth

Margaret Downing was a pioneer in women’s sports, especially basketball, in Arkansas in the second half of the twentieth century. Her coaching accomplishments covered a wide range of sports, and she did much to help Southern Arkansas University (SAU)—where she spent the bulk of her career—transition into the new world of intercollegiate athletics ushered in by the enactment of Title IX. Margaret Ruth Downing was born on August 22, 1931, in Waldo (Columbia County). She grew up in Waldo before pursuing her undergraduate education at Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas), in Conway (Faulkner County) graduating in 1953 with a BSE. She earned a master’s degree from the University of Tennessee in 1960 before earning her …

Emerson (Columbia County)

Emerson is a town on U.S. Highway 79 in southern Columbia County. It is located six miles north of the Arkansas-Louisiana border. Caddo lived in southern Arkansas when the land was acquired by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. The Caddo eventually were removed from Arkansas Territory by treaty, and white settlers began claiming land. The plats of land on which Emerson would be built were purchased by Josiah Daily and Anthony Younger in 1859 and by Moses Moore in 1860. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Bodcaw Lumber Company built the Louisiana and Arkansas Railroad to move timber to its sawmills. At that time, Reuben Logan Emerson owned land adjacent to land owned by …

Emerson PurpleHull Pea Festival & World Championship Rotary Tiller Race

From 1990 to 2023, Emerson (Columbia County) hosted an annual gathering for fans of purple hull peas. The PurpleHull Pea Festival & World Championship Rotary Tiller Race was held the last Friday and Saturday in June on and near the grounds of Emerson High School. In addition to the tiller race, the festival encompassed numerous activities related to purple hull peas, some of which included the World Cup PurpleHull Pea Shelling Competition, the Great PurpleHull Peas & Cornbread Cook Off, the Senior Walk for World Peas, and the presentation of the Emerson PurpleHull Pea Farmer of the Year award. Both the festival and the tiller race began as the idea of Glen Eades of Brister (Columbia County). In 1990, Eades …

Fess, Don

Don Fess of Magnolia (Columbia County) built and patented a prototype engine that saved energy by using rotating pistons rather than the standard up-and-down pistons. Don Fess was born in Allendale, Illinois, on February 12, 1915. His parents, Ora and Eunice Fess, moved with their four sons to Haynesville, Louisiana, in about 1925. Fess finished high school there at age sixteen (at that time, Louisiana schools had only eleven grades) and began to look for a job. He married Martha Emma Wainwright on June 1, 1934, and built a house across the street from his parents using salvaged lumber. He delivered ice seven days a week for a wage of $1.50 per day. He and his wife had six children. …

Greek Amphitheatre (Magnolia)

The Greek Amphitheatre, located at the junction of East Lane Drive, East University Street, and Crescent Drive at Southern Arkansas University (SAU) in Magnolia (Columbia County), was constructed between 1936 and 1938 with assistance from the National Youth Administration (NYA), a Depression-era federal relief program. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 1, 2005. In 1936, the graduating class at the then two-year Magnolia A&M voted to help build an amphitheater on the campus as their memorial to the school. They acquired support from the NYA, with the federal agency providing labor and the college and the class of 1936 supplying an additional $200 and materials. The stage had progressed sufficiently to host a May …

Green, Roy Calvin

Once described by Sports Illustrated as the most versatile player in professional football, Arkansas native Roy Green became the first person in nearly twenty years to consistently play offense and defense during the same season in the National Football League (NFL). Roy Calvin Green was born on June 30, 1957, in Magnolia (Columbia County) to Anderson and Austene Dockery. He had two younger sisters. Green played basketball and ran track for Magnolia High School but did not join the football team until his junior year in 1973. In what foreshadowed his “two-way” role in the NFL, Green played six different positions for the Panthers, including spending time at kicker. He helped Magnolia win the 1974 AA state championship while earning …

Griffin, John Timothy

John Timothy (Tim) Griffin has been a major figure in Arkansas Republican politics in the first decades of the twenty-first century, serving in a wide variety of positions, both elected and appointed. Starting in 2010, he served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Griffin was elected lieutenant governor in 2014 and served the maximum (due to term limits) two terms in that office before being elected  state attorney general in 2022. Tim Griffin was born on August 21, 1968, in Charlotte, North Carolina, the youngest child of a preacher and a teacher. The family moved back to their hometown of Magnolia (Columbia County) when Griffin was in sixth grade. After graduating from Magnolia High School, he went to …

Harper, John (Execution of)

John Harper was a Black man hanged at Magnolia (Columbia County) on October 12, 1904, for the murder of his wife. On the night of February 26 or 27, 1904, John Harper hit his wife on the head with a fireplace poker or other heavy instrument, and after she fell to the ground, “thinking she was not dead…[he] poured coal oil on her and built a fire around her.” After he “burned the body to a crisp,” he dragged her corpse to their garden and buried her. Harper told neighbors that she had left him, but they were suspicious and contacted local law enforcement officers, who found her corpse in the garden. Harper “confessed his crime after being put in …