European Exploration to Early Statehood

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Entry Category: European Exploration to Early Statehood

Act 151 of 1859

aka: Act to Remove the Free Negroes and Mulattos from the State
aka: Arkansas's Free Negro Expulsion Act of 1859
The Arkansas General Assembly passed a bill in February 1859 that banned the residency of free African-American or mixed-race (“mulatto”) people anywhere within the bounds of the state of Arkansas. In 1846, the Statutes of Arkansas had legally defined mulatto as anyone who had one grandparent who was Negro. Free Negroes were categorized as “black” in the 1850 U.S. Census, so historians have adopted the term “free black” to refer to Negroes or mulattoes who were not enslaved. On February 12, 1859, Governor Elias N. Conway, who had supported removal, signed the bill into law, which required such free black people to leave the state by January 1, 1860, or face sale into slavery for a period of one year. …

Appeal of the Arkansas Exiles to Christians throughout the World

The “Appeal of the Arkansas Exiles to Christians throughout the World” was a plea for assistance written by twelve free African Americans expelled from Arkansas after the passage of Act 151 of 1859 (also known as the Act to Remove the Free Negroes and Mulattos from the State or Arkansas’s Free Negro Expulsion Act of 1859). The authors of the appeal left Arkansas on or about January 1, 1860, and arrived, with several others, in Cincinnati, Ohio, on January 3, 1860. The exodus from Arkansas displaced an estimated 800 free blacks from an approximate population of 1,000 who resided in the state prior to 1860. Of the 800 free blacks who were expelled, as many as 200 were believed to …

Ashley County Lynching of 1857

Prior to the Civil War, most lynchings in Arkansas and across the nation (particularly on the frontier) took the form of vigilante justice, usually to punish white criminals or Southern abolitionists. Although there are newspaper reports of the lynching of four slaves in Saline County, Missouri, in 1859 and reports of a group of slaves accused of fomenting rebellion in North Texas in 1860, slaves were the legal property of their owners. The murder of a slave by someone other than his or her master resulted in a loss of property, which the master presumably wanted to avoid. However, there were instances in which the white community insisted on executing miscreant slaves rather than preserving the owner’s property. There was at least …

Austin v. The State

Slaves in the United States had no legal rights and only limited access to legal protection, so few legal cases in antebellum Arkansas involved African Americans. Even fewer of those cases were ever reviewed by the Arkansas Supreme Court. However, a case in 1854 established a new principle for Arkansas courts that allowed slave owners to testify in criminal cases involving their own slaves. The murder trial of Austin, a slave in Independence County, was appealed to the state’s high court on several procedural issues, one of which was the denial of his owner’s testimony. The court found that such testimony must be permitted, thus throwing out the circuit court’s decision and ordering a new trial. The event that led …

Chicot County Lynching of 1836

aka: Bunch (Lynching of)
According to the Arkansas Gazette, an African American identified only as Bunch was hanged in Chicot County in August 1836. The incident was also reported in a number of newspapers across the United States. According to the Gazette, Bunch, perhaps a member of the free black population in Chicot County, attempted to vote, but the judges turned him back because he was black. Bunch “took umbrage” at this and “resorted to violent measures.” In the midst of the fracas that followed, one Dr. Webb, “a highly respectable citizen,” was stabbed multiple times and was expected to die. Local citizens were so incensed that they promptly hanged Bunch. The Indiana American, quoting the Louisville Journal, reported that Bunch had a copy …

Factory System

aka: Indian Trading Posts
aka: Indian Factory System
The Indian factory system was a system of trading posts created by an act of Congress in 1795 with the express intention of developing and maintaining Native American friendship and allegiance through government control of trade on the frontiers of the new nation. Within the present borders of the state of Arkansas, three factories were established for this purpose: Arkansas Post (1805–1810), Spadra Bayou (1817–1822), and Sulphur Fork (1818–1822). The United States took formal possession of Arkansas Post (Arkansas County) from Spanish authorities on March 23, 1804. An Indian factory (or trading post) was established in October 1805 with James B. Treat as factor (or chief trader). Most of the trade was directed to the local Quapaw. However, prior to the establishment …

Gary v. Stevenson

The Arkansas State Supreme Court adjudicated Gary v. Stevenson, a freedom suit and racial-identity trial, in 1858. It was one of an increasing number of racial-identity suits in the South during the last decade before the Civil War. In this case, Thomas Gary sued slaveholder Remson Stevenson in an attempt to win his freedom from slavery. Gary, aged about sixteen in 1858, whom witnesses described as having sandy-colored hair and blue eyes, appeared to be white. He contended that he was lawfully free because he was the white son of white parents. Stevenson, a slaveholder in Van Buren (Crawford County), countered that Gary was the child of an enslaved mother and therefore not white; this made him a slave for …

Guy v. Daniel

aka: Abby Guy v. William Daniel
Abby Guy v. William Daniel was a freedom suit and racial identity case brought before the Arkansas Supreme Court in January 1861. The case originated in the Ashley County Circuit Court in July 1855 when Abby Guy sued William Daniel, whom she said wrongfully held her and her children in slavery. According to Guy, she and her family were free white people. After a jury decided in favor of Guy, Daniel appealed the case to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which, in the end, declined to overturn the lower court’s verdict. Guy and her children were freed. Racial identity trials, in which the outcome rested on whether or not one party was white, were not unusual in the South. Guy v. …

Hackett, Nelson

Nelson Hackett was an Arkansas slave whose 1841 escape to Canada (then a colony of Great Britain) led to a campaign by his owner to have him extradited to the United States on charges of theft as a way of getting around the legal sanctuary that Canada provided to fugitive slaves. Hackett’s extradition aroused the ire of abolitionists on both sides of the border and ultimately resulted in a limitation of the 1842 Webster-Ashburton Treaty’s extradition provision. Nelson Hackett enters the historical record in June 1840 when he was acquired by Alfred Wallace, a wealthy Washington County plantation owner, storekeeper, and land speculator. Hackett was described as “a Negro dandy” of about thirty years of age. Slaves in the Arkansas …

Indian Removal

The evolving U.S. policy of Indian Removal shaped Arkansas geographically, economically, and ethnically. Federal removal treaties with the Choctaw in 1825 and the Arkansas Cherokee in 1828 established the state’s western boundary. Throughout the territorial period (1819–1836), Arkansas politicians were obsessed with removing Indians from the land within its shrinking borders, even the few destitute Quapaw for whom the state had been named. Yet, a cash-poor frontier economy profited enormously from government contracts when Southeast tribal groups were transported across Arkansas throughout the 1830s, along routes later collectively labeled “the Trail of Tears.” Still, the state’s political leaders complained loudly that the presence of sovereign tribes in neighboring Indian Territory stifled development in Arkansas and, especially after the United States expanded …

Office of Removal and Subsistence

The United States government opened the federal Office of Removal and Subsistence for territory west of the Mississippi River in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1831. The office oversaw removal and subsistence operations relating to the Native American tribes being expelled from their eastern homes, along with providing subsistence for one year after their relocation to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). During the nine years the office was in operation, almost $4.5 million passed through the hands of the officers charged with the operations of the office. The Choctaw were the first of the five Southeastern tribes to sign a removal treaty. The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed by the Choctaw on September 27, 1830, and ratified by the …

Ridge, Sarah Bird Northrup

Sarah Northrup Ridge, who married Cherokee leader John Ridge, was part of the forced removal of the Cherokee, culminating in the notorious Trail of Tears. Settling in Fayetteville (Washington County) after the murder of her husband, she was instrumental in establishing the town’s reputation as an educational center. Sarah Bird Northrup was born on December 7, 1804, in Cornwall, Connecticut, to Lydia Camp Northrup and John Prout Northrup, steward of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions School in Cornwall, which accepted Cherokee students. The Cherokee, primarily from Georgia, were assimilating in many cases into the white population. By the early 1800s, the Cherokee adopted Christianity, were residing in the same kinds of homes as the whites, raised the …

Slave Codes

Slave codes were the legal codification of rules regulating slavery. These official parameters for slavery were enacted in every colony or state that condoned the institution. Even before Arkansas was a recognized territory, slave codes existed in the region. Adopted by the French in 1724, the Code Noir, or Black Code, set the legal structure of slavery in Louisiana during the French and Spanish periods. The Code Noir was a comprehensive and detailed policy that set forth guidelines for almost every facet of slavery. The initial laws were partly designed to set limits upon slave owners and convey certain responsibilities to the masters regarding their slaves, including setting minimal standards for food, clothing and shelter, long-term care of sick or …

Slavery

American chattel slavery was a unique institution that emerged in the English colonies in America in the seventeenth century. Enslaved peoples were held involuntarily as property by slave owners who controlled their labor and freedom. By the eighteenth century, slavery had assumed racial tones as white colonists had come to consider only Africans who had been brought to the Americas as peoples who could be enslaved. Invariably, the earliest white settlers who moved into Arkansas brought slave property with them to work the area’s rich lands, and slavery became an integral part of local life. Slaves played a major role in the economic growth of the territory and state. Their presence contributed to the peculiar formation of local culture and …

Toll (Lynching of)

The only documented lynching recorded in Saline County occurred on October 23, 1854, when a slave known only as “Toll” was murdered by a mob. He was hanged on a hill near the second Saline County Courthouse in Benton. Recent scholarship has argued that the Toll lynching was not a spontaneous event but was instead an organized act of vengeance. The man known as Toll—spelled “Tol” in the Arkansas Gazette—was a slave owned by Scottish-born Samuel McMorrin, who, at the time, was living in Fourche Township in Pulaski County. Reportedly, in 1853, Toll sneaked up on and shot two white men, Jessup McHenry and John Douglas, who were deer hunting about fifteen miles outside of Little Rock (Pulaski County). Toll …

Trail of Tears

“Trail of Tears” has come to describe the journey of Native Americans forced to leave their ancestral homes in the Southeast and move to the new Indian Territory defined as “west of Arkansas,” in present-day Oklahoma. Through coerced or fraudulent treaties, Indians had been given the choice of submitting to state jurisdiction as individuals or moving west to preserve their sovereign tribal governments. The metaphoric trail is not one distinct road, but a web of routes and rivers traveled in the 1830s by organized tribal groups from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee. All of these trails passed through Arkansas. During the decade after passage of the federal Indian Removal Act in 1830, an estimated 60,000 Indians, African …

Treaty of Council Oaks

On June 24, 1823, Acting Governor Robert Crittenden of Arkansas Territory met with a group of Arkansas Cherokee; the place of their meeting been described in many sources on the south side of the Arkansas River  in the vicinity of modern Dardanelle (Yell County), though this is debatable, as the agent for the Cherokee, Edward W. DuVal, was likely headquartered north of the river, the land south of the river having been reserved for the Choctaw. The leaders present included John Jolly (who was likely the most influential member of the group and would soon be elected principal chief of the Arkansas Cherokee), Black Fox, Wat Webber, Waterminnow, Young Glass, Thomas Graves, and George Morris. Each group came to the meeting with …