George Washington Scott (1798–1837)
George Washington Scott was Arkansas Territory’s first U.S. marshal, serving from 1820 to 1831, as well as the state’s first auditor and the first clerk of the Territorial General Assembly. However, his volatile personality negated many of his early accomplishments, and he died a violent death in almost total obscurity.
George Washington Scott was born in June 1798 in Virginia. He was one of six children of Andrew and Elizabeth Scott; his older brother, Andrew Horatio Scott, was later appointed as one of the first judges of the Arkansas Territory Superior Court. The family was living near St. Louis in the new Louisiana Territory as early as 1805. In 1808, they moved to Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. By 1815, they were living in southern Missouri at Potosi. Nothing is known of Scott’s educational background except that his lifelong work as a merchant and record keeper indicates an aptitude for facts and figures and a fair formal education.
Scott, an ambitious young man, was already at Arkansas Post (Arkansas County) by 1818, predating its designation as the seat of government of the new territory in 1819. Within a short while, he was joined by his older brother, Judge Andrew H. Scott. Here, the younger Scott operated a mercantile business in partnership with Henry W. Armstrong. When the new territorial government was organized in 1819, he was elected clerk of the new Territorial General Assembly and as territorial auditor. His duties as auditor dealt mostly with keeping track of territorial expenditures and county tax collections.
In 1820, he received a presidential appointment as the territory’s first U.S. marshal, serving until 1831. He was appointed despite being associated with several “affairs of honor”—that is, duels. His duties included policing the lawless Arkansas frontier, preventing illegal trading with the area’s Native Americans, and keeping track of federal prisoners. When he left office, he was replaced by Elias Rector.
He and his business partner moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) with the territorial government late in 1820, and he built one of the area’s first brick homes across the Arkansas River from Little Rock.
Little is known of his personal life. The name of his first wife is not known; they were the parents of at least one child, a daughter who died in 1828. In 1823, he married Nancy Ann Dodge, the daughter of General Henry Dodge, near Ste. Genevieve; they divorced in 1835. They had a son who died shortly after his birth in 1826. After his divorce, Scott moved to western Arkansas, settling in Crawford County. He was killed here in April 1837 following a quarrel with a man named Walker. Little else is known of the affair. His burial place is unknown.
For additional information:
Carter, Clarence E. Territorial Papers of the United States, 1819–1836, vols. 19–21. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1953–54.
Speer, William S. Encyclopedia of the New West. Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press, 1978.
Russell P. Baker
Last Updated: 12/17/2015