Lovely County

Created and abolished because of treaties, Lovely County in Arkansas Territory existed for only a year. While hostilities played a part in the county’s creation, an 1828 change in the western boundary of Arkansas Territory led to its quick demise.

Many Native American tribes inhabited the land that became Lovely County. The Osage hunted the hills and fished in the streams and rivers until 1808, when their claims were given up in the Treaty of Fort Clark. The Cherokee traded their land east of the Mississippi River for land in the west in 1809. President Thomas Jefferson offered the Cherokee the former Osage hunting ground in the area between the Arkansas and White rivers in exchange for their land in the East.

Major William Lewis Lovely, an assistant agent to the Cherokee in Tennessee, was named Indian agent to the Arkansas Cherokee in 1813. He moved to the area with his wife, Persis. They settled in an abandoned Osage village far from what he considered civilization. In a September 1815 letter addressed to President James Madison, Lovely described the isolation and his neighbors as Indians and “the worst of White settlers.” Conflicts developed. With no help from the government, Lovely bought land from the Osage to serve as a buffer between the tribes in 1816. The Osage and the Cherokee considered the purchase valid, although the United States did not recognize it. Lovely died in 1817.

Lovely’s intended buffer zone failed. In 1817, a large Cherokee war party attacked an Osage village while the warriors were hunting. Peace between the two tribes finally occurred as a result of the arrival of soldiers at Belle Point who began building Fort Smith (Sebastian County), and the arrival from the east of Cherokee leader John Jolly. Jolly met with Major William Bradford at Fort Smith to discuss peace with the Osage. The Treaty of 1818 ended the disagreement. The treaty, orchestrated by William Clark, the territory’s superintendent of Indian affairs and governor of Missouri Territory, gave the Cherokee the land known as Lovely’s Purchase. The name became official as it honored the first buyer of the land.

Lovely’s Purchase included part of the northwest corner of Arkansas Territory and extended to the Verdigris River in Indian Territory. The area was intended to give the Cherokee the opening to the West that President James Monroe had promised. White settlers were ordered out of the area. Persis Lovely, “who is to remain where she lives during life,” according to the Treaty of 1817, was the only white settler allowed to stay.

While Lovely’s Purchase separated the Osage and the Cherokee, white settlers resented Indian ownership of land that was rich and timbered and contained salt springs. Difficulties with the Cherokee and the Osage reached a point that the legislature asked for U.S. military protection. Because the boundary never had been surveyed, Governor James Miller requested a survey in 1822. The new boundary left the Cherokee with mountainous land but restricted them from the rich land around the Arkansas River.

Unhappy with the white settlement on the land they had been promised, the Cherokee protested. Secretary of War John C. Calhoun worked out a compromise. A new survey was ordered. It cut off a triangular section that consisted of about 200 square miles and would result in Arkansas Territory’s loss of a large part of Lovely’s Purchase. White settlers would be restricted from settling the land.

White settlers, newspapers, and politicians protested. The dispute over boundaries and white settlement continued into the term of Governor George Izard. Determined to keep all of Lovely County open to white settlement, Governor Izard sent a letter to the secretary of war on January 28, 1826. Izard suggested the removal of the Cherokee to land not appropriated by the government. The area would provide the Cherokee with the outlet to the West that Monroe had promised. Izard mentioned the possibility of opposition but suggested it would be by the “Whites and half-casts of the Tribe” because many of the Indians had left.

On October 13, 1827, the legislature created Lovely County. It included all of Lovely’s Purchase, except for a part in Crawford County, and ended at the northern and western boundaries for Arkansas Territory set in 1824. The population grew as settlers moved in. Nicks, Hope, and Prospect townships were established. Justices of the peace were commissioned. A clerk, a sheriff, and a coroner were named.

In 1828, a Cherokee delegation went to Washington DC. The result was the Treaty of 1828, made on May 6 and proclaimed on May 28. The treaty, negotiated by Secretary of War James Barbour, gave both sides part of Lovely’s Purchase. The Cherokee gained a permanent home, as the document stipulated that no state or territory would overtake their land. An acknowledgement was made that the Cherokee were “relinquishing valuable saline.” They were to be compensated for improvements they had made and agreed to be off the land in fourteen months. Each Cherokee would be given a good rifle, a blanket, a kettle, and five pounds of tobacco when he signed up to move. The treaty also established the western boundary of Arkansas Territory from the corner of Missouri to Fort Smith. Another agreement said white settlers would be removed from the land, leading to protests from many settlers. A meeting was held to discuss the loss of most of Lovely County to the Cherokee. Attendees decided to send a letter of protest to the president and ask other counties for help in fighting the loss of homes, salt springs, and other minerals believed to be in the area. Newspapers editorialized, echoing the concerns of the citizens regarding the loss of Lovely’s Purchase.

The eviction of white settlers began with Governor Izard’s September 27, 1828, proclamation that residents west of the new boundary had ninety days after the completion of the survey to leave. An act of Congress granted donation lands to those displaced by the change in the boundary. Each head of household over twenty-one years of age received 320 acres of public domain land in Arkansas Territory.

Persis Lovely wrote to Congress in December 1829, claiming that she had been forgotten in the new treaty. The improvements her husband made and the land she had continued to farm were appraised as if she were Cherokee. She claimed the government had not protected her. She was a tenant on her own land, had not received the money for improvements as promised, and would not be able to support herself in her advanced age on the $500 if she did receive it. She asked that Congress help make arrangements for her. In addition, in January 1830, she wrote to President Andrew Jackson, who had been one of the commissioners negotiating the 1817 treaty that gave her a place to live for life. The letters were written two years after Superintendent of Indian Affairs Thomas McKenney instructed Cherokee Agent Edward DuVal to pay her “a proper value” for her land. Persis Lovely died on January 18, 1841, in Pope County, which had been part of the land ceded by the Osage.

The October 14, 1828, issue of the Arkansas Gazette reported that a bill had been passed abolishing Lovely County. The county was abolished since the final boundary change placed most of the county in Indian Territory, leaving only a small portion in Arkansas Territory. The largest part of what remained of the county was included in the creation of Washington County. The completion of the survey of the new Cherokee line was announced on January 13, 1829. Acting Governor Robert Crittenden ordered settlers to move. An announcement was made that any of the territory’s land offices would accept documentation, so emigrants packed up and left. Many streamed into Washington and Crawford counties. Extensions for providing documentation were made a year at a time until a final extension of five years was granted, ending all legal claims to Lovely County.

For additional information:
Bolton, S. Charles. Arkansas 1800–1860: Remote and Restless. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1998.

———. Territorial Ambition: Land and Society in Arkansas 1800–1840. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1993.

Crawford, Melinda Blanchard, and Crawford, Don L., compilers. The Settlers of Lovely County and Miller County Arkansas Territory 1820–1830. Rockport, ME: Picton Press, 2002.

Gabler, Ina. “Lovely’s Purchase and Lovely County.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 19 (Spring 1960): 31–45.

 C. J. Miller
Springdale, Arkansas


    My great-grandfather, Edmund Lovely, and grandfather, Eddie Lovely, were of a direct lineage to Major William Lewis Lovely. Many of my Cherokee relatives took a part of Major William Lewis Lovely’s name to acknowledge who they are. Sad but true. I really would like more information about the list of Cherokee names Major Lovely was responsible for.

    There is an interpretation of the Christian names, translated into Cherokee language. I found the translation of my name, Betty Jean, is Kakawanga Cocheta (meaning Bitter Stranger). I am the descendant of Cherokee medicine women, who prescribe bitter teas as their treatment of illness: yellow root!

    Ms. Betty Lovely Smith