Desha

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Entries - Entry Category: Desha

Arkansas City (Desha County)

Arkansas City is a small town with a population of fewer than 400 people, as of the 2010 Census. Located in southeast Arkansas, it is nestled against a levee that protects it from the Mississippi River. However, before the Flood of 1927, Arkansas City was a major trade and cultural center and was one of the most important ports on the Mississippi River. European Exploration and Settlement At the time of the Marquette-Joliet Expedition, there were four Quapaw villages along the lower Arkansas River and the Mississippi River. Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet spent two days in these villages around 1673. They were the first recorded Europeans in the area. In 1682, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle and Henri …

Arkansas Post

Arkansas Post was the first and most significant European establishment in Arkansas. In the colonial and early national periods, from 1686 to 1821, it served as the local governmental, military, and trade headquarters for the French, the Spanish, and finally the United States. In return for serving in René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle’s 1682 expedition, Henri de Tonti, a French officer born of Italian parents, received land and a trading concession at the juncture of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers. In the summer of 1686, he arranged with the local Quapaw for Jean Couture, Jacques Cardinal, and four other Frenchmen to establish a trading post, where they would exchange French goods for beaver furs. They founded this first Arkansas Post …

Dumas (Desha County)

Dumas of Desha County is in the Arkansas Delta, west of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers. Dumas has long been a business and agricultural asset to the state of Arkansas and is a welcome oasis to travelers through the delta region. Reconstruction through Early Twentieth Century In 1870, William B. Dumas, a planter, merchant, and railroad surveyor of French descent, migrated to the area and bought acres of farmland from the Abercrombie Holmes family, which had bought it from the state. The settlement eventually was named for this early planter. The town continued to develop, primarily as a result of the extension of the Missouri Pacific Valley Line Railroad, which not only made possible an influx of settlers from other …

Kelso (Desha County)

Kelso (Desha County) is a historic community fourteen miles northeast of McGehee (Desha County). The community began with the local development of the railroad in the early twentieth century and is known as the site of an experimental agricultural station. The area that would become Kelso was the site of a minor Civil War skirmish that occurred on February 19–20, 1863. The skirmish began at Cypress Bend (Desha County) on the Mississippi River ten miles due east of the area of Kelso. Even today, residents remark of a cannonball embedded in a walnut tree near the Kelso Cemetery. During the war, many people living at Cypress Bend moved to the area of Kelso to escape cannon fire from Union gunboats …

Laconia Circle Levee

The Laconia Circle Levee is situated in the southeast corner of Mississippi Township in Desha County. The levee’s circular construction is so unique that Believe it or Not, a syndicated newspaper publication for the unusual, featured the levee in one of its 1970s publications. The levee encircled Laconia Circle, which consisted of 18,000 acres of Delta land located in Desha County, for protection against potential flooding from the Mississippi and White rivers. It was the first levee in the Arkansas Delta to be affected by the Flood of 1927. Before the Civil War, fourteen plantation homes were protected by the levee. The levee and the township were named after the Laconia Landing, one of the most active steamboat landings on …

McArthur (Desha County)

  McArthur (Desha County) is a historic community five miles north of McGehee (Desha County) on Arkansas Highway 1. It was first named McArthur Station in honor of Zack McArthur, an early settler in the area. A post office operated at McArthur from 1907 to 1918, but the settlement was never incorporated. Because McArthur is located near Macon and Coon bayous, once navigable waterways, it was already somewhat populated when the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad (later called the Missouri Pacific Railroad, then Union Pacific) completed a railroad bridge over the Arkansas River at Yancopin (Desha County) in 1904. The railroad allowed timber to be harvested, processed, and shipped out. Several stores opened, and a one-room school was constructed …

McGehee (Desha County)

McGehee (Desha County) is a small town located in southeast Arkansas. It had its beginnings as a hub of transportation—the railroad branched from it in four directions. Its progress has mirrored that of the railroads, growing during the railroad boom and declining as the railroad declined. Transportation is once again bringing hopes of prosperity, with the Yellow Bend Port on the Mississippi River and the possibility of the Interstate 69 corridor—a highway connector between Quebec, Canada, and Mexico City, Mexico—becoming a reality. Louisiana Purchase through the Gilded Age Benjamin McGehee came from Alabama in 1857 and settled in southeast Arkansas in what was then Chicot County. Benjamin brought with him his wife, Sarah, and his three children. The McGehees, like …

Mitchellville (Desha County)

  Mitchellville, a city in the Arkansas Delta that borders Dumas (Desha County), is the result of experiments in city planning. A church association acquired the land in the 1940s, divided it into lots, and sold the lots to a specific group of buyers, while also planning the placement of roads and electric service. With the highest percentage of African-American citizens of any city in Arkansas, Mitchellville is also one of the poorest cities in the state. The rich soil of the Arkansas Delta drew investors who created plantations and grew cotton. Until the Civil War, work on the plantations was performed almost entirely by slaves. The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery, but many of the former slaves and their …

Napoleon (Desha County)

The town Napoleon of Desha County was located at the confluence of the Mississippi River and the Arkansas River. Although its founders had hoped that its location would make it a major city comparable to St. Louis, Missouri, or New Orleans, Louisiana, the town was badly damaged during the Civil War and then totally destroyed within ten years of the war by the flooding of the rivers. Jacques Marquette visited the area where these two rivers meet in 1673. The area may also contain the burial location of Pierre Laclede Liguest, the founder of St. Louis, who died and was buried on a trip north from New Orleans in 1778. The town was not established, though, until the time of …

Pendleton (Desha County)

Pendleton (Desha County) is the site of the only highway bridge over the Arkansas River between Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and the Mississippi River forty miles downriver from the bridge. Pendleton is located in the northwestern-most part of Desha County. It was also the site of a major levee break on April 16, 1927, during the Flood of 1927. The Pendleton Post Office was open from 1867 to 1926 in one of the two general stores at the “town” of Pendleton. When much labor was required to farm the fertile land, a large community thrived in the area. The community was named for Dr. Samuel H. Pendleton, who was born in Amherst, Virginia. He moved his family to the area …

Pickens (Desha County)

Pickens (Desha County) is located three miles south of Dumas (Desha County). The unincorporated community was called Walnut Lake until 1932, when the name was changed to “Pickens” in honor of Burton Cecil Pickens, son of Reuben A. Pickens who settled in the area in 1881 along with his brother, William S. Pickens. The Walnut Lake/Pickens area community was established as the result of the relocation of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad from Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) to Napoleon (Desha County) in 1879. Napoleon, once the county seat, was located at the convergence of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers. The relocation of the railroad into the interior of the county sparked the establishment of other communities along the route. A …

Reed (Desha County)

Reed of Desha County is a small community on U.S. Highway 65, six miles north of McGehee (Desha County). It was established as a predominately African-American community in the mid-twentieth century. Much of the impetus for the creation of Reed lay in the emergence of Mitchellville (Desha County), which arose following World War II when the government provided land north of Dumas to returning soldiers. Mitchellville became something of a model black community, its leaders working with white leaders from Dumas to get proper sewer, water, and street improvements. African Americans around McGehee and Tillar (Drew and Desha counties) were thus motivated by a desire to govern themselves and follow Mitchellville’s example. In 1961, they incorporated the town of Reed in an …

Rohwer (Desha County)

Rohwer of Desha County is a historic community ten miles northeast of McGehee (Desha County). It is perhaps best known as the site of the Rohwer Relocation Center, one of two internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War II located in the area. In September 1904, the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad (later acquired by the Missouri Pacific) completed a rail line over the Arkansas River from Helena (Phillips County). The railroad allowed local timber to be harvested, processed, and shipped out. Several stores opened in Rohwer to support the sawmills and the numerous families farming nearby. Prior to the railroad construction, the community was mostly non-existent. The post office, which was first called the Harding Post …

Tillar (Drew and Desha Counties)

  Located on Highway 65 near Bayou Bartholomew, the second-class city of Tillar stands mostly in Drew County, although its southeast corner is in Desha County. Built on the railroad in the 1870s, the small city is a minor agricultural center for neighboring portions of Drew and Desha counties. Evidence of prehistoric residents of the Tillar area was found in an Indian mound excavated by Edward Palmer in 1882. His discoveries included nineteen whole ceramic pots and pieces of other pots, as well as mussel shell pieces, a tortoise shell, and fragments of a deer antler. The original owners of these items are thought to be ancestors of the Tunica, although identification is not certain. At the time of European …

Watson (Desha County)

Watson (Desha County) is a second-class city twenty miles north of McGehee (Desha County) and fourteen miles east of Dumas (Desha County). Its location has always been somewhat isolated by the Arkansas River a few miles to the north and the Mississippi River to the east. The nearest bridge over the Arkansas River is at Pendleton (Desha County) ten miles northwest. The nearest bridge over the Mississippi River is forty miles south at Lake Village (Chicot County). The White River is also nearby. When Watson was first settled, the proximity to the rivers was an advantage. Since Henri de Tonti established what would become Arkansas Post in 1686 across the Arkansas River from present-day Watson, early French trappers plied the …

Yancopin (Desha County)

Yancopin of Desha County is a historic community marked by the only railroad bridge over the Arkansas River between Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and the Mississippi River. The town at its peak had a railroad station, two churches, three stores, a post office, a cotton gin, and a small school for white children. Black students attended school in a church building after 1915 until a school was built for them in Watson (Desha County) around 1950. Yancopin was never incorporated and was never really considered a “town.” It was, however, platted in the late 1800s after the former county seat, Napoleon (Desha County), was washed into the Mississippi River. The platted town was to be called New Napoleon, but lots were never …