Historians and Historic Organizations

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Entry Category: Historians and Historic Organizations

Ferguson, Jim, Sr.

aka: James Garland Ferguson Sr.
The Marshall (Searcy County) library owes its existence to James Garland Ferguson Sr., a man with roots in the Ozark Plateau. This son of homesteaders who valued education above all else, having worked hard to secure an excellent education and great wealth for himself, had previously made generous contributions to several local schools and churches, Arkansas Baptist Hospital and St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock (Pulaski County), and several colleges, including scholarships to the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville (Washington County) and Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County). But to the people of his home county, he gave a library and, with it, an educational opportunity in a rural environment. Jim Ferguson was born on February 26, …

Ferguson, John Lewis

John Lewis Ferguson—historian, minister, author, archival administer, and historic preservationist—served as Arkansas state historian and the director of the Arkansas State Archives (previous called the Arkansas History Commission) from 1960 to 2005, only the third person to hold that position since 1905. His forty-five-year tenure was the longest in the agency’s history. John Ferguson was born on March 1, 1926, on a farm near Nashville (Howard County) to farmer and World War I veteran Clarence Walter Ferguson and his wife, Nannye N. McCrary Ferguson. As a child attending the rural York’s Chapel School, he read every history book he could find. Early on, he decided to pursue a career in history. He graduated from Nashville High School in 1944. In 1951, he was …

Fernandez, Josie

Josie Fernandez was superintendent of Hot Springs National Park from 2004 to 2018—the first woman to lead the park. Fernandez served a total of twenty-five years in the National Park Service, with fourteen being spent in Hot Springs (Garland County). Under Fernandez’s leadership, Hot Springs National Park rehabilitated its historic bathhouses and founded community engagement programs such as the Artist in Residence Program. Josie Fernandez was born in Cuba in 1957; she has one younger brother. Her family eventually fled Cuba for political reasons and immigrated to the United States when she was twelve, settling in Hialeah, Florida, in 1969. She became an American citizen on July 4, 1976. She spent one year at Miami Dade Junior College and then …

Fordyce, John Rison

The son of Hot Springs (Garland County) entrepreneur and Cotton Belt Railroad president Samuel Wesley Fordyce, John Rison Fordyce forged his own way into Arkansas history. He was educated as a mining engineer but was also an inventor, manufacturer, leader in commerce, public servant, and amateur archaeologist. John R. Fordyce was born in Huntsville, Alabama, on November 7, 1869. He moved to the health resort of Hot Springs at age five with his father and mother, Susan Chadick, after his father, suffering from malaria contracted during the Civil War, found renewed health in the local thermal springs. The third of five children, Fordyce—along with his three surviving siblings—was educated in Hot Springs schools. His father was instrumental in Hot Springs’ …

Fort Smith Historical Society

The express purpose of the Fort Smith Historical Society (FSHS) is to locate, identify, collect, and preserve historical data; to record oral history; and to publish source materials and historical articles relating to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and the surrounding area. The society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, staffed by volunteers and funded entirely by memberships and contributions. A small group of people concerned with preserving the written and oral history of Fort Smith held the organizational meeting of the Fort Smith Historical Society on April 15, 1977. The first issue of The Journal of the Fort Smith Historical Society, Inc., was published in September 1977, with Amelia Martin and state Representative Carolyn Pollan serving as co-editors. The FSHS publishes …

Garland County Historical Society

The Garland County Historical Society (GCHS) was organized on April 19, 1960, to preserve and encourage interest in the history of Garland County. The first officers were John Connelly, president; Mary D. Hudgins, vice president; Capitola Glazner, secretary; Dr. Francis J. Scully, treasurer; and Sam Sargo, Nathan Schoenfeld, and Katherine Creason, who formed the board of governors. The same year it was founded, the society published the first volume of its journal, The Record. Originally a quarterly, The Record is now a yearly publication that has won numerous awards from the Arkansas Historical Association. Inez Cline served as the editor of The Record from 1963 to 1986 and as associate editor from 1987 to 1988. The historical material she gathered …

Gatewood, Willard Badgett, Jr.

Willard Badgett Gatewood Jr. was a nationally recognized scholar and longtime professor of history at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). He also served briefly as chancellor of the university. Gatewood was the author of numerous books, most dealing with African-American and southern history. Willard B. Gatewood was born on February 23, 1931, on a farm on the Park Springs Road in Caswell County, North Carolina. His parents were Willard B. Gatewood, who was a tobacco farmer, and Bessie Pryor Gatewood. He received his BA, MA, and PhD in history at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He began his college teaching career at East Tennessee State University in 1957, and it was there that he met …

Gerstäcker, Friedrich Wilhelm Christian

aka: Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Gerstaecker
aka: Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Gerstacker
Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Gerstäcker was a nineteenth-century author who wrote about social conditions in backwoods Arkansas before the Civil War. He visited the state from 1838 to 1842 for periods of up to eighteen months at a time. His writings—in the form of essays, short stories, and novels—provide insights into folkways, social conditions, popular religion, gender roles, and a host of other topics relating to backwoods life in Arkansas. Gerstäcker was born in Hamburg, Germany, on May 10, 1816. He and his younger sister moved frequently as children because their parents, Karl Friedrich Gerstäcker and Luise Frederike Gerstäcker, were opera singers who moved as their roles demanded. His father died in 1825 of tuberculosis. Overwhelmed with the twin burdens of …

Grand Prairie Historical Society

The Grand Prairie Historical Society (GPHS) was founded in 1953 to preserve the Grand Prairie area’s rich abundant history and make others aware of this heritage. Among the founders were Reverend Lawrence Maus, J. E. Howard, John M. Henderson, Lillian C. Young, Ballard Deane, Dr. Harold V. Glenn, Garner Allen, Grover C. Carnes, and Arthur Macom. The group adopted a constitution stating the society’s purpose as promoting the history and historical records of the Grand Prairie, marking historical sites, encouraging tours, and informing the public of the society’s work. Publication of the Grand Prairie Historical Bulletin has played a major role in achieving the society’s objective of collecting and preserving data on the early history of Arkansas County and the …

Gulley, Louis Corneil

Louis Corneil Gulley was a civil servant and avid collector whose efforts helped the Arkansas History Commission (now the Arkansas State Archives) amass significant collections of territorial and early state documents, as well as artifacts of World War I. Born in Jacksonport (Jackson County) on April 1, 1871, Louis C. Gulley was the eldest of eleven children of Ransom and Louanna Gulley. Gulley’s father was a prominent public figure in late nineteenth-century Arkansas. In 1898, he graduated with a law degree from Arkansas Industrial University in Fayetteville (Washington County), now the University of Arkansas (UA). He served briefly as boys’ supervisor at the Arkansas School for the Blind in 1899. That same year, Gulley opened a bookstore with a partner …

Hallum, John

John Hallum was a prominent nineteenth-century Arkansas lawyer and historian. His efforts to record and illuminate the territory and state’s early history provided a highly readable introduction to the state’s heritage, while laying a solid foundation for future historians. John Hallum was born on January 16, 1833, in Sumner County, Tennessee, the oldest of eleven children of Bluford Hallum and Minerva Davis Hallum. Shortly after he was born, the family moved, and Hallum spent his early years on a farm near Memphis, Tennessee. He reportedly learned how to read from the local newspaper, the Memphis Appeal, and was a voracious reader from an early age. When the family moved back to Sumner County, he received sporadic schooling in a log …

Herndon, Dallas Tabor

Dallas Tabor Herndon, father of the archival movement in Arkansas, was the first director of the Arkansas State Archives (previously called the Arkansas History Commission). From 1911 until his death in 1953, he labored tirelessly to preserve manuscripts and other material relating to Arkansas history and culture. Dallas Herndon was born on August 28, 1878, the son of John Alpheus and Mary Mildred Brown Herndon, farmers who lived in Elberton, Georgia. He received his BS and MS degrees in history and political science from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) in 1902 and 1903, respectively. After four years of teaching at Mobile and Auburn, Alabama, he entered the University of Chicago, where he worked toward a PhD in history and English …

Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas

aka: Preserve Arkansas
The Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas (also known as Preserve Arkansas) is a statewide nonprofit organization focused on protecting Arkansas’s architectural and cultural resources. The alliance is a 501(c)(3) charitable membership organization based in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Through educational programs centered on preserving architectural heritage, advocating for preservation legislation, and assisting owners of historic properties by offering the means and expertise to preserve and restore historic structures, the alliance seeks to create a culture of preservation in Arkansas. The Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas was incorporated in 1981 by Carl H. Miller Jr., Bobby Roberts, Kirby Smith, Parker Westbrook (founding president), and Charles Witsell with a founding board of individuals from across Arkansas. The alliance is a member of …

Hot Spring County Historical Society

Since the late 1960s, the Hot Spring County Historical Society has worked to preserve the county’s history and culture through writing, publishing, and teaching. It also publishes an annual journal and hosts activities. The organization incorporated in 1968 with seventy-six charter members and two corporate members. As of 2012, the organization has a membership roster of more than 400. When the organization established its articles of incorporation in January 1968, it did not have a physical home. Its main office was listed in care of the first president, William C. Gilliam, at his office on West 2nd Street in Malvern (Hot Spring County). Since its inception, the organization has stored some items in a portable storage building and has held its …

Hudgins, Mary Dengler

Mary Dengler Hudgins was a prolific writer of regional history in Arkansas. Her research and writing led her to amass an exceptional collection of publications and historical materials that document the history of Garland County, its county seat of Hot Springs, and the state of Arkansas. Mary Hudgins was born in Hot Springs on November 24, 1901. She was the only child of Jackson Wharton and Ida Dengler Hudgins. Her father worked in the real estate business, and her mother was a teacher. She attended public schools in Hot Springs and then attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington Couny), where she majored in English and served as a reporter for the Arkansas Traveler, UA’s student newspaper. After graduating with …

Independence County Historical Society

The Independence County Historical Society was founded in June 1959 by a small group of people interested in researching, preserving, and telling the history of Independence County, its seat Batesville, and the other small communities in the area. There had been an earlier attempt at organizing, led by John Quincy Wolf Jr., but the society got its real start after A. C. McGinnis, John P. Morrow Jr., and Paul Wayland, all of Batesville, attended the Arkansas Historical Association annual meeting in Monticello (Drew County) in 1959. There, James Harris Atkinson, then chairman of the Arkansas History Commission (now called the Arkansas State Archives), told them the way to start a county society was for three interested citizens to get together, declare …

Izard County Historical and Genealogical Society

Discussions concerning the formation of a historical society for Izard County began in the summer of 1969 after interested individuals Margaret Ghelfi, Audrey Brooks, and Helen Lindley began to promote such a group to preserve the history of the local area. An organizational meeting was held at the Trimble Campground Church in Dolph (Izard County) on the last Sunday in November, with about thirty-three people in attendance. A second organizational meeting was held in Melbourne (Izard County), where the Izard County Historical Society was formed. Its major goal was publishing a quarterly magazine, and the first issue of the Izard County Historian was published in January 1970 with Helen Lindley as editor. Eighty-three charter members elected Tom Simpson president. Quarterly …

Jackson County Historical Society

The Jackson County Historical Society (JCHS) was created primarily in response to the planned destruction of the county’s old courthouse at Jacksonport (Jackson County). In late 1961, an organizational meeting for a historical society was called. At this meeting, it was announced that the former courthouse at Jacksonport would be razed for the bricks. Lady Elizabeth Luker, whose ancestors were among the founders of that old river town, became the face of the fledgling historical society and led the way for the restoration of the old courthouse for use as a museum. The Jackson County Historical Society was formally chartered in April 1962 at Newport (Jackson County), with Luker as the first president. While the JCHS was interested in preserving …

Jefferson County Historical Society

The Jefferson County Historical Society officially began on August 20, 1961, when a group of twenty-five people attended an organizational meeting at the Simmons Bank Community Center in downtown Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). At the meeting, David W. Wallis was elected temporary chairman and Hilda Metz was elected temporary secretary. A committee consisting of David Perdue, Bess Jenkins, and Jerry Fuess was appointed to nominate officers of the society. On September 10, the society met again and elected its first group of officers: Sam M. Levine, president; David Wallis, first vice president; Bess Jenkins, second vice president; and Edwin Boles, secretary-treasurer. A constitution and bylaws were also established at this meeting. The first issue of the Jefferson County Historical Quarterly …

Johnson County Historical Society

The Johnson County Historical Society is an organization with a mission “to promote individual and general interest in the history of Johnson County by locating, collecting, and preserving pertinent information, either by written records, photography, or other permanent media.” The society operates the Heritage Center and Museum at 131 West Main Street in Clarksville (Johnson County). Nine people gathered in 1974 to form the Johnson County Historical Society, and Dr. Robert Basham served as the first president (1974–1975). Membership has since grown to approximately 200 members—from Johnson County and around the United States. As of 2011, the president is Mark Hodge, who has served in that role since 2009. Other officers include a vice president, a recording secretary, a corresponding …

LeMaster, Carolyn Gray

Carolyn Gray LeMaster was the leading chronicler of Jewish life in Arkansas, through books, articles, and lectures, especially her book A Corner of the Tapestry: A History of the Jewish Experience in Arkansas, 1820s–1990s. Carolyn Gray was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on December 17, 1927, to Elisha Columbus Gray, who was a railroad engineer and brakeman, and Erma White Gray, a homemaker. She left high school after the tenth grade to help support her family and care for her widowed mother. She married Robert W. LeMaster, a hospital executive in Little Rock. They had four children. After the children were grown, LeMaster enrolled in 1975 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), where she graduated magna …

Lewis, David Levering

David Levering Lewis is a Pulitzer Prize–winning American historian best known for his works on the African-American experience in the twentieth century. He has written biographies of two of the most important figures in the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. and W. E. B. Du Bois, as well as a reader on the Harlem Renaissance. In 1999, Lewis was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.” David Lewis was born on May 25, 1936, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the son of John H. Lewis, an educator and principal of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, and Urnestine (Bell) Lewis, who taught high school math. Lewis attended parochial school in Little Rock and then continued his education in Ohio and …

Loughborough, Louisa Watkins

Louisa Watkins Wright Loughborough was a pioneer in the field of historic preservation in Arkansas. Inspired by her involvement in the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union, she worked to beautify the Old State House and related grounds in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and subsequently founded the Arkansas Territorial Restoration (now the Historic Arkansas Museum), the first state-supported history museum in Arkansas. Louisa Loughborough was born Louisa Wright in Little Rock to Louisa Watkins and William Fulton Wright, a noted Confederate veteran. She could trace her family lineage through state leaders, such as Arkansas Supreme Court Justice George Claiborne Watkins and William Savin Fulton, Arkansas’s last territorial governor and, later, a United States senator. She was educated in Little …

Madison County Genealogical and Historical Society

The Madison County Genealogical and Historical Society (MCGHS) was organized in July 1981 by eight Madison County residents with the goal of establishing an organization to gather, preserve, and disseminate the history of Madison County. In 1982, the MCGHS began publication of a quarterly magazine titled The Madison County Musings. The Musings has been in continuous publication since that time, beginning small but growing to over fifty-five pages of historical and genealogical data and photographs. Articles found in The Madison County Musings contain school history, cemetery enumerations, marriage records, information on historical landmarks, homesteaded land information, historical and Civil War stories, and genealogical information. By the end of 1981, the society’s membership stood at eighty-five people. Membership in the society …

Mississippi County Historical and Genealogical Society

The Mississippi County Historical and Genealogical Society (MCHGS) was chartered in 1988 to promote, preserve, and protect the history of Mississippi County. Since its inception, MCHGS has actively fulfilled its mission through continuing efforts to educate the public and garner community support for historic preservation. The origins of MCHGS go back to 1987, when a group of county citizens led by Dr. Eldon Fairley, an Osceola (Mississippi County) physician, petitioned the Mississippi County Quorum Court to appoint a commission that would be empowered to form a historical society. After several organizational meetings, the appointed commission determined it would launch a historical society as well as provide sponsorship for an associated publication. At the society’s charter meeting on April 13, 1988, members …

National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Arkansas

The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America (NSCDA), founded in 1891, is dedicated to furthering an appreciation of the national heritage of the United States through patriotic service, historic preservation, and educational projects. The Arkansas division, one of forty-four corporate societies, was organized in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on January 26, 1898, and admitted into the National Society on April 21, 1898. Cynthia Martin Polk of Little Rock was the organizing president. Members must be direct descendants from an ancestor who resided in an American colony prior to 1750 and who served his or her country in some official capacity during that period and before July 5, 1776. Membership is by invitation only. Since the Spanish-American War, the …

Newberry, Farrar Claudius

Farrar Claudius Newberry—historian, businessman, philanthropist, and writer—was nationally known for his association with the Woodmen of the World (WOW). He authored several books and dozens of articles on Arkansas history topics. Newberry is also responsible for many markers placed at historical sites throughout Clark County. Farrar Newberry was born on July 30, 1887, in Gurdon (Clark County) to Lawrence Clinton and Mattie Harris Newberry. The family moved to Arkadelphia (Clark County) in 1894. In 1906, Newberry graduated from Arkadelphia Methodist College (which later became Henderson-Brown College) and, in 1908, received a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Newberry married Lila Lee Thomasson on June 19, 1911, in Clark County, and the couple had two sons. Newberry was admitted …

Newton County Historical Society

The Newton County Historical Society was founded in December 1953 by a group that included Walter Lackey, Mandy Hickman, and Albert Raney. In 1954, the society’s first official project was to build a monument near Marble Falls (Newton County) to memorialize a quarried stone from that area that had been used in the construction of the Washington Monument in Washington DC. Sometime after 1961, the society dissolved, but it was later revived and reorganized in 1977 by Columbus Vaughan, Jack McCutcheon, Rhonda Teter, Leland Smith, and others. It was incorporated in 1981 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, with its purpose being to collect, preserve, promote interest in, and disseminate historical and genealogical material relating to Newton County and the surrounding area. …

Nixon, Esther DeWitt

Esther DeWitt Nixon was the founding librarian of the Jacksonville (Pulaski County) public library and served there for nearly three decades. The Jacksonville branch library of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) was named in her honor in 1992. Esther DeWitt, with her twin sister Ruth, was born on November 24, 1916, in Corsicana, Texas, to Marcus Henry DeWitt and Allie Ellis DeWitt. The twins had three brothers and two sisters. Esther married Watson Nixon Jr., on February 22, 1943—a marriage that lasted more than fifty years until his death on April 20, 1993—and they had two sons. The family lived in Jacksonville. Esther Nixon and her children were avid users of the Pulaski County Library’s bookmobile, and, as her …

Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives (NEARA)

The Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives (NEARA) is one of two regional branches of the Arkansas State Archives (previously called the Arkansas History Commission). Located in Powhatan Historic State Park in Lawrence County, NEARA serves a sixteen-county area, including Baxter, Clay, Craighead, Crittenden, Cross, Fulton, Greene, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Lawrence, Mississippi, Poinsett, Randolph, Sharp, and Stone counties. The facility was established to collect, preserve, and make available resources related to this region of northeast Arkansas and its people. Nearly all the original records, and many of the microfilm and published records, originated from these counties, making NEARA a key resource for research about the area. NEARA was created as a collaborative effort between Arkansas State Parks, the Arkansas State Archives, and the …

Orphan Train Heritage Society of America, Inc. (OTHSA)

The Orphan Train Heritage Society of America, Inc. (OTHSA)—founded in 1986 in Springdale (Washington and Benton counties)—preserves the history of the orphan train era, a period when thousands of children were relocated across the country. Many Arkansans can trace their roots to children who were relocated to Arkansas. Between 1854 and 1929, an estimated 200,000 or more homeless and orphaned children were sent west from eastern cities, accompanied by agents. The purpose was to find families that would take in children in a “free-home-placing-out” program instituted by the Children’s Aid Society of New York City, New York. The children were sent in groups of twenty-five to 100 on trains, making stops along the way where they might be chosen by …

Perry County Historical and Genealogical Society

The Perry County Historical and Genealogical Society was organized in December 1997 at the Max Milam Library in Perryville (Perry County) with only two people in attendance. Betty Burke was elected the first president and Jackie Paul Myers the first secretary and treasurer. Meeting times were set for the second Tuesday of each month, and with permission of the librarian, Jan Guffey, the organization met at the library. Six people attended the second meeting in January 1998: Betty Burke, Jackie Myers, Elise Hill, Leroy Williams, John Pennington, and Pearl Bowen Pennington, who was elected vice president. The goals of the society were: 1) to create and foster interest in genealogy; 2) to gather and preserve genealogical and historical data through library …

Pike County Archives and History Society

The Pike County Archives and History Society (PCAHS), located in Murfreesboro (Pike County) in southwestern Arkansas, houses research materials such as census records, manuscripts, maps, and photos. The PCAHS was established in 1986, developing out of the earlier Heritage Genealogy Club. According to its mission statement, the PCAHS “is dedicated to collecting and preserving the unique history of Arkansas and Pike County.” The first board of directors consisted of Marion W. (Dewayne) Gray, Linda Wilson, Jan McGalliard, and Bobbie Hendrix. Meetings were held at the library and municipal building (where archival materials were also stored) until the current location was secured in 2002. The archives house more than 500 Pike County record books dating from 1895, including early tax records, …

Pope County Historical Association

The Pope County Historical Association was established on October 10, 1948, as the Arkansas Valley Historical Society. The society has remained in almost continuous operation since its founding and publishes the Pope County Historical Association Quarterly. James S. Long was elected as the Arkansas Valley Historical Society’s first president. For approximately two years, the society held regular meetings, but interest had dropped by the fall of 1950, and meetings were suspended from August 1950 through April 1952. There was a reemergence of the society in 1952. In April 1954, it began the publication of the Arkansas Valley Historical Papers, a quarterly magazine highlighting local history and genealogical articles. In December 1966, the society changed its name to the Pope County …

Pulaski County Historical Society

Founded in the fall of 1951, the Pulaski County Historical Society (PCHS) is the second oldest county historical society in Arkansas. The PCHS’s founders were James H. Atkinson, a history teacher at Little Rock Junior College (now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock); Claude Rankin, state land commissioner; C. C. Allard, editor of the Arkansas Democrat’s magazine section; and Louise Porter, head of North Little Rock High School’s social science department. Membership increased rapidly due to publicity given the society by the local press. The society originally held its meetings in the Little Rock Public Library at 7th and Louisiana. After it was demolished in 1963, the society met at various places, including the new public library and the …

Quapaw Quarter Association

The Quapaw Quarter Association is a non-profit, membership-based organization dedicated to historic preservation in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Like many historic preservation organizations, the Quapaw Quarter Association grew out of the era of urban renewal and interstate highway construction, when thousands of historic buildings and neighborhoods were bulldozed. But unlike other preservation groups, the Quapaw Quarter Association can trace its roots to an agency that administered urban renewal projects. In 1961, the Little Rock Housing Authority appointed a five-member Significant Structures Technical Advisory Committee to give advice on the historical and architectural significance of buildings in the MacArthur Park neighborhood, then part of a large urban renewal project. The five members—David D. Terry Jr., Peg Newton Smith, Hebe Fry Riddick, …