County: Lafayette

Angelou, Maya

aka: Marguerite Annie Johnson
Maya Angelou was an internationally renowned bestselling author, poet, actor, and performer, as well as a pioneering activist for the rights of African Americans and of women. Her first published book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), was an autobiographical account of her childhood, including the ten years she lived in Stamps (Lafayette County) with her grandmother. The popular and critical success of the book was the foundation of her career as an author and public figure, as well as the basis of her identification as an Arkansas author. She was in the first group of inductees into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1993. She held over fifty honorary university degrees, along with many other awards recognizing her accomplishments in the …

Austin, Stephen Fuller

Stephen Fuller Austin, most widely known as the “Father of Texas,” spent a short period of his life in Arkansas after leaving Missouri and before heading south to establish the Lone Star Republic now known as Texas. Austin spent only a brief time in Arkansas, but there are various partnerships cited and references to his presence in historical notes regarding the settling of southwestern Arkansas. Stephen Austin was born on November 3, 1793, near a lead mining area in Austinville in Wythe County, southwest Virginia, to Moses Austin and Mary Brown Austin. He was the second of five children. His father, Moses, was the pioneer who originally obtained the land grant from Mexico for an American colony in Texas. Moses …

Battle Mound Site

The Battle Mound site is a Caddo site located along the Red River in Lafayette County. The Red River landscape is an ecologically diverse region with numerous channel scars, oxbow lakes, and back swamps. With agriculturally productive soil deposits and a web of linked navigable waterways, the region has numerous prehistoric and historic archaeological sites, many being sites left by the ancestors of the Caddo Indians who lived in this area from at least as early as circa AD 900 and as late as the early nineteenth century. The most prominent feature at Battle Mound is a large north-south-aligned earthen mound with at least three platforms. The mound is the largest in the Caddo area and one of the largest …

Battle, Burrill Bunn

Burrill Bunn Battle was a prominent Arkansas attorney and jurist in the latter decades of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century. Although he was born in Mississippi, his family moved to Arkansas when he was a child, and it was there that he embarked on a legal career that culminated in a twenty-five-year tenure on the Arkansas Supreme Court. Burrill B. Battle was born on October 24, 1838, in Hinds County in Mississippi. His parents, Joseph Battle and Nancy Stricklin Battle, were native North Carolinians, but when Battle was six, the family relocated to Arkansas, settling in Lafayette County, where he received his early education. From there, Battle attended Arkansas College in Fayetteville (Washington County), …

Bradley (Lafayette County)

The city of Bradley, located near Conway Cemetery State Park in Lafayette County, has been a center for agriculture and recreation since its establishment by the Southwestern Improvement Association in the southern part of the county late in the nineteenth century. The Conway plantation, which became the town of Walnut Hill (Lafayette County), was an early center of political power in the state of Arkansas when James Conway was elected the state’s first governor in 1836. Traffic on the Red River and on the Military Road carried many people through the area, including eastern tribal groups who were relocated to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). Southern Lafayette County remained sparsely settled, though, until after the Civil War. Railroad lines connecting Lewisville …

Buckner (Lafayette County)

Buckner is a town in northern Lafayette County, a few miles east of Stamps (Lafayette County) on U.S. Highway 82. Established by the Cotton Belt Railroad, Buckner was a lumber center early in its history, but the economy of the town in the twenty-first century is shaped more by its proximity to oil and gas fields and to poultry farms. What would become northern Lafayette County was heavily forested when Arkansas became a state in 1836. Caddo, who lived along the Red River valley, moved through the area regularly. Gradually, white settlers began to claim and clear land in the region. Because the area remained sparsely populated, the Civil War had little effect upon the area. John Colvin was farming …

Canfield Race War of 1896

On Saturday, December 12, 1896, African American workers at the Canfield Lumber Company in the small lumber town of Canfield (Lafayette County) were fired on by a mob of whites and forced to leave the area. This was part of a widespread pattern of intimidation of Black laborers in southern Arkansas in the 1890s, a practice that seems to have reached a peak in 1896. There were incidents involving railroad workers in Polk County in August and on the Cotton Belt Railway line in Ouachita County in early December. Later in December, there was a similar incident at a sawmill in McNeil (Columbia County). These incidents were part of a larger pattern evident in southern Arkansas throughout the 1890s in …

Conway Cemetery State Park

Conway Cemetery State Park, near Walnut Hill (Lafayette County) in southwest Arkansas, preserves a half-acre cemetery containing the grave of the state’s first governor, James Sevier Conway. It is the second-smallest Arkansas state park. Conway was governor of Arkansas from 1836 to 1840 and a member of “The Family,” a powerful dynasty that dominated early Arkansas politics. During his tenure in office, he was responsible for a budget surplus and many of the state’s initial institutions, including roads, a prison system, and a state bank. An advocate of education, he unsuccessfully requested that the Arkansas General Assembly use the budget surplus to create a public school system and state university. The economic depression of 1837 collapsed the banking system and …

Conway, James Sevier

James Sevier Conway was the first governor for the state of Arkansas, elected in 1836 through strong family ties to both prominent Arkansans and President Andrew Jackson’s administration. His tenure as governor was best known for economic issues, surplus funds in the state treasury, legislation creating the state’s first banks, and a national depression, which consumed the surplus and contributed to a collapse in the banking system. James Conway was born on December 4, 1796, in Greene County, Tennessee, the son of Thomas Conway and Anne Rector. Wealthy by frontier standards, the Conway family grew corn and cotton and raised livestock on their Tennessee plantation. Conway’s father employed private tutors to teach his seven sons and three daughters. In 1818, …

Conway, Polly

aka: Mary Jane Bradley Conway
Mary Jane “Polly” Bradley Conway, the wife of Arkansas’s first governor, was a stable mother, supportive spouse, and respected prominent citizen. She was also a pioneer in what was then a primitive corner of the state. Polly Bradley was born on August 31, 1809, at or near Lebanon in Wilson County, Tennessee, to John Bradley and Jane Barton. Bradley’s father died the year she was born. After the War of 1812, her uncles Captain Hugh Bradley and Fleetwood Herndon moved to Arkansas. Bradley, her mother, her sisters, and her stepfather also migrated to Arkansas Territory, settling on the “Long Prairie” of the future Lafayette County. On December 21, 1826, Bradley married James Sevier Conway, presumably on Long Prairie, where he …

Crenshaw, George (Lynching of)

On September 2 or 3, 1885, an African American man named George Crenshaw was taken from jail and hanged by a mob near Lewisville (Lafayette County) for allegedly murdering a young salesman named Harry W. Paup. According to the September 1 edition of the Arkansas Gazette, at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, August 28 (another report says August 29), a young salesman and “highly respected young gentleman” named Harry W. Paup was walking through a cotton field near the home of an elderly black man named George Crenshaw. Crenshaw’s dogs began to bark and alerted Crenshaw, described as a “blood-thirsty old demon.” Crenshaw grabbed his gun, and though another man, Mike Ross, tried to stop him, ran to the field, spotted …

Flowers, Beulah Lee Sampson

Beulah Lee Sampson Flowers was an African-American educator, community leader, political activist, and businesswoman who was also a mentor to Maya Angelou. Beulah Sampson was born on January 10, 1883, in Hempstead County, Arkansas. Her parents, John Sampson Sr. and Frances Johnson Sampson, were ex-slaves and farmers who lived in the Ozan and Mine Creek townships of Hempstead County. According to the Sampson-Flowers oral tradition, Beulah was the youngest child of approximately twenty-three full and half siblings. Family members debate the exact number of her siblings. She received a public school education in Hempstead County and attended Bowen Seminary in Clow (Hempstead County). Sampson completed her education at Williams Industrial College, a vocational training school for African Americans, in Little …

Flowers, William Harold

William Harold Flowers was a lawyer, minister, social and political activist, and one of the leading figures in the civil rights movement in Arkansas in the 1940s. He was the first African American special circuit judge in Jefferson County and a president of the African-American National Bar Association. He was also active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the state, serving as president of the Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) branch and as president of the state conference of branches. Born on October 16, 1911, in Stamps (Lafayette County), William Harold Flowers was the son of Alonza (often spelled Alonzo) Williams Flowers Jr., a businessman, and Beulah Lee Sampson, a schoolteacher. He was the eldest …

Lafayette County

Lafayette County has always been important to the history of Arkansas, but it was particularly so from its first four decades as a territory through the Civil War. This was partly because one of its residents, James Sevier Conway, was the state’s first governor. European Exploration and Settlement Before the arrival of Europeans, the area’s inhabitants were mostly of the Caddo tribe, and numerous significant archaeological sites relating to the Caddo, some dating back thousands of years, can be found within Lafayette County. Archaeological sites in the county include Battle Mound. The last Caddo village on the Great Bend of the Red River was abandoned around 1778, twenty-five years before the Louisiana Purchase added this land to the United States. …

Lafayette County Courthouse

The Lafayette County Courthouse is an early 1940s-era Art Deco building built with funds from the Works Progress Administration (WPA). It is known as the first Art Deco building in Lafayette County, though its style also heavily incorporates WPA Moderne. The Lafayette County Courthouse is located at 1 Courthouse Square in Lewisville (Lafayette County). The current Lafayette County Courthouse is the fourth courthouse to be built in Lewisville. Several years after the first courthouse was constructed, the railroad was built south of the town. The city of Lewisville began to build southward toward the railroad, and a second courthouse was constructed in the newer part of town in 1890. Fourteen years later, another courthouse was built to replace it. Finally, from …

Lafayette County Lynching of 1859

On May 23, 1859, an unidentified fugitive slave belonging to David E. Dixon of Lafayette County was hanged in Cass County, Texas, for allegedly murdering Dixon’s farm overseer, Thomas Crabtree. At the time of the 1860 census, Dixon (identified as Dickson) was a prosperous farmer in Roane Township and owned thirty-one slaves. His personal estate was valued at $31,390, and his real estate at $17,680. The sole available account of this lynching appears in the Northern Standard of Clarksville, Texas, on June 25, 1859. According to correspondence of G. W. J. of Boston, Texas, on May 20, Thomas Crabtree and one of the enslaved men got into an argument. The writer had no details of the dispute but asserted that …

Lewisville (Lafayette County)

Lewisville is the county seat of Lafayette County. Settled about the time that Arkansas became a state, but relocated by the building of railroads half a century later, Lewisville has weathered the storms of history with relative calm. Louisiana Purchase through Early Statehood Lafayette County consisted of land occupied by the Caddo prior to European and later American settlement, and numerous significant archaeological sites relating to the Caddo, some dating back thousands of years, can be found within Lafayette County. In the 1810s, the Caddo gave space to tribes from the eastern United States such as the Cherokee, Delaware, and Shawnee (these were not reservations created by the United States government). The 1819 Adams–Onís Treaty clarified the boundary between the …

Norwood, Charles M.

Charles M. Norwood ran for governor in Arkansas in 1888 as the candidate of the Union Labor Party (ULP). Although he lost, he came closer to victory than any other challenger to the gubernatorial candidate of the Democratic Party in Arkansas between 1874 and 1964. Furthermore, recent historical studies have suggested that Norwood would have won his gubernatorial bid had the election not been marred by fraud and violence. Charles M. Norwood was born on February 29, 1840, in Giles County, Tennessee, to Josiah M. Norwood and Sarah A. Norwood, who moved their family to Arkansas around 1847. Norwood’s father became the treasurer of Lafayette County, and Norwood attended private schools in Columbia County. In 1861, Norwood enlisted in the …

Oil Industry

The oil industry in Arkansas, which includes exploration and the production, refinement, and distribution of petroleum-based products, exploded onto the state’s economic scene in the early 1920s, and once-local production expanded into an international business. From 1920 to 2003, more than 1.8 billion barrels of oil were produced in Arkansas. Ten counties in Arkansas produce oil, all in the southern region of the state: Ashley, Bradley, Calhoun, Columbia, Hempstead, Lafayette, Miller, Nevada, Ouachita, and Union. Historically, most of this production has been in Union, Lafayette, Columbia, and Ouachita counties. These four counties have been responsible for more than eighty-five percent of the oil produced in the state. Evidence of oil in the state existed well before the oil boom of …

P. D. Burton House

The 1916 Craftsman-style P. D. Burton House, located at 305 Chestnut Street in Lewisville (Lafayette County), was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. The home exhibits the bulk of its original detailing on the exterior and interior. A rear bedroom addition is the only alteration to the house. Percy Duffield (P. D.) Burton arrived in Lewisville, a major timber town, with his father, Major John Benjamin Burton, after the Civil War. Percy attended college in Fayetteville (Washington County) and then became a contract tie-purchaser with the St. Louis, Arkansas and Texas Railway, commonly called the Cotton Belt, which had constructed lines in the area beginning in 1882. Percy and his brother John began purchasing land around Lewisville …

Parks, Tilman Bacon

Tilman Bacon Parks was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented the Seventh District of Arkansas in the Sixty-Seventh through the Seventy-Fourth Congresses, serving from 1921 to 1937. Tilman B. Parks was born near Lewisville (Lafayette County) on May 14, 1872, to William P. Parks and Mattie Douglass Parks. He received his early education in the local common schools before attending the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. Parks married Fay Newton on March 4, 1897, and they had a son and two daughters. He studied law and was admitted to the state bar in 1900, after which he opened a private practice in Lewisville. While still developing his practice, …

Parks, William Pratt “Buck”

William Pratt “Buck” Parks was a captain of a heavy artillery battery at the Battle of Vicksburg in Mississippi. Following the Civil War, Parks became a prominent leader of agrarian protest in Arkansas. The 1860 Census shows William Pratt Parks living in Little Rock (Pulaski County) at the residence of Joshua and Susan Jones, along with four younger siblings. A newspaper article appearing in the Arkansas Gazette on May 16, 1911, listed Parks as being enrolled at St. Johns’ College when it first opened, in October 1859. Parks served as a private in the Pulaski County Field Artillery Battery (Arkansas state troops). This battery, originally organized in late 1860 as the Totten Light Battery, became the Pulaski County Field Artillery …

Powell, Charles (Lynching of)

On August 11, 1926, an African-American man named Charles Powell was lynched near Lewisville (Lafayette County) for allegedly murdering sheriff’s deputy James Dooley. According to the Shreveport Times, a warrant was issued for railroad worker Charles Powell on charges of beating his wife. On Wednesday morning, August 11, Deputy Dooley was sent to serve a warrant on Powell at the railway car on a side track of the Cotton Belt Railroad where he was living. Dooley was described by the Arkansas Gazette as “one of the most popular officers of the county,” while Powell was referred to as “a powerful negro…known as a bad actor” who had previously resisted arrest. When Dooley approached, Powell drew a pistol and shot Dooley …

Robertson, Frank (Lynching of)

There is much confusion about the lynching of alleged arsonist Frank Robertson, which occurred in late March 1903. Newspapers from the time give a variety of dates for the event, ranging from March 26 to March 28. Many of the reports were datelined Lewisville (Lafayette County), although other newspapers called it New Louisville or New Lewisville; this would be the present-day Lafayette County seat of Lewisville, which was referred to as “New Lewisville” after the town moved closer to the railroad line in the late nineteenth century. Adding to the confusion, when the U.S. Congress issued an apology in 2005 for its historical inaction on lynching, its report said that Robertson’s lynching occurred on March 27 just across the Louisiana–Arkansas …