County: Prairie

Agricultural Wheel

The Agricultural Wheel was a state farmers’ union, founded in the Arkansas Delta, which expanded into ten other states, mostly in the South but reaching as far north as Wisconsin. Although the Agricultural Wheel was short-lived as an independent farmers’ union, it influenced the future formation of other such unions in Arkansas and led, in part, to the rise of the Populist movement in the state. After the Civil War, Arkansas (and Southern) farmers returned to growing primarily cotton, in part because bankers had insisted on farmers raising a cash crop as a condition for providing them with financing. Cotton acreage therefore increased, but prices fell due to overproduction, leading farmers to compensate by planting yet more cotton, which led …

American Legion Hut (Des Arc)

aka: Burson-Bethel Post 119 American Legion Hut
The American Legion Hut in Des Arc (Prairie County), located at 206 Erwin Street, is a Rustic-style structure erected in 1934 with assistance from the Civil Works Administration (CWA), a Depression-era federal relief program. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 9, 1995. Des Arc’s American Legion Post was named for two fallen soldiers during World War I: Edward Burson and Bedford B. Bethel of Des Arc. Burson, twenty-one, was killed in action in France on October 6, 1918, and Bethel, twenty-nine, died of pneumonia on October 30, 1918. As with several other American Legion posts around the state in the early 1930s, Burson-Bethel Post 119 decided to seek funding from the CWA to finance …

Ashley’s Station, Action at

aka: Action at Jones' Station
aka: Action at DeValls Bluff
The Action at Ashley’s Station was Confederate Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby’s attack on Union hay-cutting operations west of DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) and the final action of a summer of Confederate raiding against Union targets in northeast Arkansas. In the summer of 1864, DeValls Bluff was a major depot for Federal cavalry stationed along the White River. Union authorities contracted with civilian hay cutters to operate in the Grand Prairie west of the White River stronghold and supply fodder for its thousands of horses and mules. On August 20, 1864, Shelby set out from camps around Searcy (White County) with 2,000 to 2,500 men to strike the railroad from Memphis, Tennessee, to Little Rock (Pulaski County), believing he would …

Bailey, George (Lynching of)

Sometime during the night of December 19–20, 1909, an African-American man named George Bailey was shot to death by a mob while he was housed in the jail at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County). Although whites outnumbered blacks approximately two to one in Prairie County at that time, there was already racial animus in the area because a few days earlier an unknown African-American man had reportedly attacked a white man who was sleeping in a boxcar nearby. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the attack was an attempted robbery, and the attacker almost cut the victim’s throat: “At the time a party was organized to lynch the negro, but cooler counsel prevailed and the would-be lynchers were dissuaded from their purpose.” …

Biscoe (Prairie County)

aka: Fredonia (Prairie County)
Biscoe, also known as Fredonia, is located on Surrounded Hill between the White River and the Cache River in eastern Prairie County. It is on U.S. Highway 70 a few miles east of DeValls Bluff (Prairie County). Surrounded Hill was surveyed by the federal government in 1849. Edwin Burr was the first settler to claim title to the land, registering his deed in Batesville (Independence County) in 1853. The area remained relatively unpopulated through the Civil War but gained significance with construction of the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad, which was completed through the Surrounded Hill area in 1871. A depot was built on flat land near the hill, and a post office was established in 1872 with the name …

Czech National Cemetery

Located about three miles south of Hazen (Prairie County) is a unique Arkansas cemetery. The Czech National Cemetery was established in the mid-1890s to serve as the last resting place for the many Czech immigrants who had moved to the Prairie County area in the later years of the nineteenth century. The still active cemetery is just one of a number of the same name located throughout the United States. By the late nineteenth century, Prairie County, which had been created in 1846, began to experience an influx of immigrants, especially from Eastern Europe. Many immigration organizations, such as the National Slovak Society, distributed literature promoting the varied opportunities in Arkansas. In 1894, the Slovak Colonization Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, …

Des Arc (Prairie County)

Des Arc is one of two county seats serving Prairie County. It was one of the earliest settlements in eastern Arkansas as well as an important shipping point for lumber and agricultural goods. Louisiana Purchase through Early Statehood Des Arc was the earliest settlement in Prairie County, taking its name from the Bayou des Arc two miles north of city; the bayou’s name is derived from a French term meaning “bow” or “curve.” Francis Francure, a Frenchman, was reportedly one of the first settlers in the area, testifying, upon receipt of a Spanish land grant, that he had lived on the land since 1789. Goodspeed’s history of the area credits as the first residents two Creoles named Watts and East, …

Des Arc and DeValls Bluff, Capture of

aka: Capture of DeValls Bluff and Des Arc
Des Arc (Prairie County) and DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) became two important Union military outposts between Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Helena (Phillips County). The capture and protection of these towns was a high priority for Federal commanders from 1863 until the end of the war. The towns were first captured by Federal troops in January 1863. An expedition was launched up the White River on January 13, 1863, after the capture of Arkansas Post (Arkansas County). Under the command of Brigadier General Willis Gorman, troops captured St. Charles (Arkansas County) on the first day of the expedition. Leaving the USS Cincinnati and several units behind, Gorman continued up the White River, and on January 18, the Federals captured DeValls …

Des Arc Bayou, Action at

The Action at Des Arc Bayou was fought in the early morning hours of July 14, 1864, as a detachment of Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby’s Missouri cavalry attacked the camp of a detachment from the Tenth Illinois Cavalry that had set out to confront and harass Shelby’s troops in northeastern Arkansas. Shelby had taken control of all Confederate forces in northeast Arkansas in May 1864, and his troops had been raiding throughout the region, destroying a Union garrison at Dardanelle (Yell County), sinking the U.S. gunboat Queen City as it lay at anchor at Clarendon (Monroe County), and attacking trains on the Memphis to Little Rock Railroad that ran troops and supplies between the Arkansas capital and the large Federal base …

Des Arc Schools, Desegregation of

The 1966 desegregation of schools at Des Arc (Prairie County) was accomplished under the leadership of Arkansas native James (Jim) “Doc” H. Ford, who later went on to work with school districts across Arkansas and into northern Louisiana, implementing desegregation in those districts as well. James Ford was born on September 25, 1933, in Prairie County to Howard G. Ford, who was a store owner and later a soybean and rice farmer, and Mary Lodean Guess Ford. After graduating from Des Arc High School in 1951, he attended Arkansas A&M College in Monticello (now the University of Arkansas at Monticello), earning his BS in 1955, after which he taught science and biology, coached senior boys’ basketball, and drove a school …

DeValls Bluff (Prairie County)

DeValls Bluff, in east-central Prairie County, is located on the White River and Highway 70. It is the county seat for the southern district of Prairie County. Excluding Helena (Phillips County), no other town in eastern Arkansas held such strategic importance to the Union army during the Civil War as did DeValls Bluff. Jacob M. DeVall and his son, Chappel S., were apparently the first white settlers in the area. They first appear on Prairie County tax records in 1851. Post office department records indicate the town was named for Jacob. Chappel S. DeVall had a mercantile operation with a warehouse and home on the White River (now White River basin) in 1849. At the beginning of the Civil War, …