Entries - Entry Type: Event - Starting with B

B-17 Flying Fortress Explosion of 1943

On March 12, 1943, the nine-man crew of a B-17F Flying Fortress perished after one of the plane’s engines caught fire and exploded mid-air during a flight from Smoky Hill Air Field in Salina, Kansas, to Morrison Field in West Palm Beach, Florida. The plane crashed in a wooded area five miles northwest of Sheridan (Grant County). In 2015, the crash site became home to a memorial park honoring the nine airmen; it also honors Union and Confederate Civil War soldiers who fought in the Engagement at Jenkins’ Ferry, along with the soldiers from Grant County who have been killed in action since World War I. The nine-man crew consisted of Second Lieutenant George Davis of Dubuque, Iowa (pilot); Second Lt. Robert …

B-47 Bomber Crash of 1960

On March 31, 1960, aircraft number 52-1414A was set to take off from the Little Rock Air Force Base (LRAFB) in Jacksonville (Pulaski County). This B-47E was part of the 384th Bombardment Wing, which was established at the LRAFB on August 1955. The aircraft was destined for Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana. The typical B-47 crew consisted of three crew members: pilot, co-pilot, and navigator. However, this flight was carrying four crew members on the morning of March 31: Captain Herbert J. Aldridge (pilot, Air Force Reserve), First Lieutenant Thomas G. Smoak (co-pilot, Air Force Reserve), Lieutenant Colonel Reynolds S. Watson (navigator, Air Force Reserve), and Kenneth E. Brose (civil engineer, Regular Air Force.) With pre-flight checks complete, …

Back-to-Africa Movement

The Back-to-Africa Movement mobilized thousands of African-American Arkansans who wished to leave the state for the Republic of Liberia in the late 1800s. Approximately 650 emigrants left from Arkansas, more than from any other American state, in the 1880s and 1890s, the last phase of organized group migration of black Americans to Liberia. As early as 1820, black Americans had begun to return to their ancestral homeland through the auspices of the American Colonization Society (ACS), an organization headquartered in Washington DC, which arranged transportation and settlement. The ACS founded the Republic of Liberia in 1847, with its flag and constitution emulating American models, and nearly 13,000 redeemed slaves and free blacks had settled there before the Civil War. With …

Bailey, George (Lynching of)

Sometime during the night of December 19–20, 1909, an African-American man named George Bailey was shot to death by a mob while he was housed in the jail at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County). Although whites outnumbered blacks approximately two to one in Prairie County at that time, there was already racial animus in the area because a few days earlier an unknown African-American man had reportedly attacked a white man who was sleeping in a boxcar nearby. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the attack was an attempted robbery, and the attacker almost cut the victim’s throat: “At the time a party was organized to lynch the negro, but cooler counsel prevailed and the would-be lynchers were dissuaded from their purpose.” …

Bailey, James (Lynching of)

On July 9, 1891, James Bailey was hanged from a railroad crossing sign in Beebe (White County) for allegedly attacking a white woman. There is very little information available on Bailey. The only African American named James Bailey in White County at the time of the 1880 census was five years old. He was living in West Point Township with his mother, Fannie, and five siblings. If this is the correct James Bailey, he would have been only sixteen years old at the time of the lynching. The alleged victim was a Mrs. Folsom. There was still a Folsom family in Beebe at the time of the 1900 census. Henry Folsom, a forty-five-year-old day laborer, was living with his wife …

Bailey’s, Affair at

aka: Affair at Crooked Creek
A brief encounter between a Union scouting party and a band of Confederate guerrillas, this skirmish was one of many used by Federal forces to disrupt enemy efforts in northwestern Arkansas during the Civil War. Colonel John E. Phelps of the Second Arkansas Cavalry (US) received orders from Brigadier General John Sanborn to move from Cassville, Missouri, into Arkansas in an effort to interrupt Confederate efforts to launch a raid into Missouri. On January 17, 1864, Phelps led two companies of his regiment into Arkansas and arrived at Berryville (Carroll County) the next day, joining three more companies already in the town. Due to a large number of sick and absent men, Phelps remained at Berryville until January 20, when …

Baker, Eugene (Lynching of)

On July 30, 1892, Eugene Baker (sometimes referred to as Dan Baker), who allegedly murdered a white man in Ashley County, was taken from the jail in Monticello (Drew County) by a mob and lynched just outside of town. According to the 1880 census, seven-year-old Eugene Baker was living at that time in White Township, Ashley County, with his parents, Henry and Mary Baker. This would have made him nineteen at the time of the lynching. Baker had five siblings, and both of his parents worked on a farm. Neither could read or write. According to newspaper reports, Baker, an African American, was abused by whitecappers in Ashley County. Whitecappers, also called nightriders, were vigilante bands, usually consisting of poor …

Banks, Isadore (Murder of)

Isadore Banks, a fifty-nine-year-old prominent African-American landowner, disappeared on June 4, 1954. Banks’s wife, Alice, last saw him as he left the house with the intention of paying his farmhands. On or about June 8, 1954, Banks’s truck was discovered in a wooded property just outside of Marion (Crittenden County) by Carl Croom, a neighboring landowner. Banks’s loaded shotgun and coat were still inside. Authorities found Banks’s body tied to a tree, mutilated, and burned beyond recognition. Banks had been drenched with fuel and burned from the knees up. A can of gasoline was found close to the body. The coroner, T. H. McGough, found no sign of robbery or struggle at the scene, indicating that the killing may have …

Baptist Health v. Murphy

Baptist Health v. Murphy was an extended legal battle culminating in a 2010 ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court. Addressing the issue of economic credentialing, and resolving a dispute that had first entered the judicial system in February 2004, the court eventually ruled in favor of a group of doctors whose part ownership in competing hospitals had been deemed a violation of the contracting hospital’s conflict of interest policy, which had resulted in the severance of their association and employment. In its ruling, the court upheld a previously issued permanent injunction, and Baptist Health was permanently prevented from implementing the policy. The genesis of the case was the adoption in May 2003 of the Economic Conflict of Interest Policy by …

Barham, Ella (Murder of)

The 1912 murder of eighteen-year-old Ella Barham in Boone County was one of the most gruesome events to occur in northwestern Arkansas in the early twentieth century. The incident has intrigued people for decades, and some believe the wrong man was sent to the gallows for the crime. Much of the story has evolved into folklore. On the morning of Thursday, November 21, 1912, Ella Barham walked from her home south of Crooked Creek to the post office and store in Pleasant Ridge (Boone County), a community once located about eighteen miles east of Harrison (Boone County) near the Marion County line, to buy cloth for a hat. After returning home at about 9:00 a.m., she saddled her brother’s horse …

Barnett, John (Lynching of)

On April 17, 1905, an African-American levee worker named John Barnett was hanged by a black mob near Askew (Lee County) for allegedly murdering a fellow worker. Barnett may have been the same John Barnett who, at the time of the 1900 census, was living in Independence Township (Lee County). He was a forty-nine-year-old widower and was working on a rented farm and raising six children between the ages of six and eighteen. Barnett’s alleged victim was Albert Wakefield. The only man by that name in the region was another African American living in Tunica County, Mississippi, just across the Mississippi River. He was also a widower and was working as a day laborer. According to newspaper accounts, in late …

Batesville Expedition

While escorting a treasury agent to Batesville (Independence County), a detachment of the Second Arkansas Cavalry (US) commanded by Captain William F. Orr defeated various Confederate units around the area of Independence County in late March and early April 1864. Accomplishing their mission, known as the Batesville Expedition, the unit returned to its base at Rolling Prairie (Boone County) with no reported losses. Surprising Confederate forces in Batesville on Christmas Day 1863, Union colonel Robert R. Livingston occupied the town with no real resistance, reestablishing the Union presence there. An outstanding victory for Livingston, the Federals soon discovered that yet again they lacked the strength to occupy Batesville continually due to supply issues. The necessity to maintain a strong link …

Batesville, Skirmish at (February 4, 1863)

On December 31, 1862, General John S. Marmaduke and 8,000 cavalry launched a raid into Missouri from near Lewisburg (Conway County) in the Arkansas River Valley, only to meet defeat at Hartsville, Missouri. The Confederate retreat back into Arkansas took them to Independence County, retracing the steps of Brigadier General Samuel Curtis’s army eight months earlier. Gen. Marmaduke established his troops at Oil Trough (Independence County), and Colonel Joseph O. Shelby set up camp at the farm of Franklin Desha. Both bivouacs were south of the White River, but Marmaduke’s headquarters were at the Cox house in Batesville (Independence County). Union forces in Missouri gathered at West Plains, Missouri, on January 29, 1863. The next day, Brigadier General John Davidson …

Batesville, Skirmish at (May 3, 1862)

On March 6–8, 1862, one of the most important Civil War battles west of the Mississippi River was fought at Pea Ridge (Benton County) in northwest Arkansas. The Army of the Southwest under Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis defeated the Confederate army of Major General Earl Van Dorn, with the result that Missouri remained in the Union and the path into Arkansas was open to the Union army, hampered only by Confederate units who were trying to block the paths south and east of Pea Ridge. Gen. Curtis was following his orders to take his large army of more than 20,000 and seize Little Rock (Pulaski County), thus securing Arkansas for the Union. His Army of the Southwest contained regiments from …

Battle of the Ravine

The Battle of the Ravine is the name most frequently used for the annual football game at Arkadelphia (Clark County) between Henderson State University (HSU) and Ouachita Baptist University (OBU). The cross-town rivalry has received widespread national media coverage through the years due to the fact that the football stadiums of the two schools are just across U.S. Highway 67 from each other. The game is promoted as the only college football rivalry in the country for which the visiting team walks rather than flies or buses to a road contest. The first game in the series was played in 1895, with Ouachita winning by a score of 8–0 on Thanksgiving Day. (At the time, Henderson was known as Arkadelphia …

Bayou Fourche, Engagement at

aka: Battle of Little Rock
The Engagement at Bayou Fourche, also known as the Battle of Little Rock, was a Civil War battle fought on September 10, 1863, as Confederate troops sought to stop Major General Frederick Steele’s Union army from capturing Little Rock (Pulaski County). Steele had advanced steadily across eastern Arkansas during August with a combined force of infantry from Helena (Phillips County) and cavalry that had come down Crowley’s Ridge from Missouri. With the exception of the short Action at Bayou Meto (or Reed’s Bridge) on August 27, the Union approach to Little Rock had seen relatively light resistance. As the Union army prepared for its final assault on the Arkansas capital, Steele had some 10,477 men present for duty and fifty-seven …

Bayou Meto, Action at

aka: Action at Reed's Bridge
The Action at Bayou Meto, also known as the Action at Reed’s Bridge, was a Civil War battle fought on August 27, 1863, as Confederate troops sought to hinder the advance of Major General Frederick Steele’s Union army toward Little Rock (Pulaski County). Steele had advanced steadily across eastern Arkansas during August with a combined force of infantry from Helena (Phillips County) and cavalry that had come down Crowley’s Ridge from Missouri. Though they were harassed by Confederate cavalry and partisans, the Union troops had encountered little opposition, with the exception of a sharp clash around Brownsville (north of present-day Lonoke) on August 25. A Union probe toward the Confederate works on Bayou Meto (at present-day Jacksonville) was turned back …

Bayou Meto, Skirmish at (February 24, 1865)

By 1863, guerrilla activity had become so prevalent in the territory surrounding Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) that local citizens requested that Federal forces move into the area to reduce the threat of violence. Later that year, forces under the command of Colonel Powell Clayton were ordered to Jefferson County. The city remained occupied for the remainder of the war. To secure the area, scouting patrols were regularly sent out to assess enemy activity. On February 22, 1865, Captain George W. Suesberry took a detachment of eighty troopers of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry Volunteers to the north side of the Arkansas River to monitor enemy movements. Only sixty-five troopers crossed the river but were shortly joined by twenty-five additional men. As …

Bayou Meto, Skirmish near (February 17, 1865)

  On February 16, 1865, a seventy-five-man scout detachment of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry (US) was sent out from its headquarters at Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). The scout detachment, commanded by Captain John H. Norris (US), was sent to search for Confederate troops along Bayou Meto. Early in the morning of February 17, the scout detachment, fifty miles downriver from Pine Bluff, began crossing Bayou Meto. After one platoon had successfully crossed the bayou, Capt. Norris ordered Lieutenant Z. P. Curlee to take the platoon and search an area two miles surrounding the bayou. Lt. Curlee was instructed to engage any Confederate force he encountered and report to Norris no later than noon. During the scout detachment’s search of the …

Bays, Glenco (Lynching of)

On February 18, 1904, Glenco Bays was burned at the stake near Crossett (Ashley County) for the murder of J. D. Stephens, a prominent local farmer. The lynch mob was made up of both whites and African Americans. According to the Arkansas Gazette, Bays was employed by Stephens, who found him to be “a quarrelsome negro.” Bays and Stephens apparently had an argument, and Bays allegedly went to Stephens’s house and shot him. According to the Orangeburg Times and Democrat, after he killed Stephens, Bays beat his body with the butt of the shotgun. Stephens was one of the most prosperous and admired farmers in the county. The Arkansas Gazette reported that black residents of the area “showed their esteem …

Bearden Lynching of 1893

On May 9, 1893, three African Americans were lynched in Bearden (Ouachita County) for what was called a “murderous assault” on Jesse Norman, a prosperous young businessman. At midnight on Saturday, May 6, Jesse Norman was hit over the head with an axe and robbed. The victim was probably the Jessie J. Norman listed in the 1880 census, thirteen years before the event. In 1880, he was nine years old and was living with his parents Eleazer (variously spelled Elezer and Elesa) Norman and Panthaia (variously spelled Panttairer and Panthier) Norman in Union Township of Ouachita County; his parents were still living in the county in 1900. According to the Arkansas Gazette, Norman’s skull was crushed with an axe, and …

Beatles, Stopover of the

In 1964, the world’s most popular music group, the Beatles, visited the Lawrence County town of Walnut Ridge. Though brief, their visit left a lasting impact on the community and has recently been the subject of a documentary movie. That year, the popularity of the Beatles was without rival. George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr were mobbed by teenage fans at each public appearance. The Fab Four, as they were dubbed, had five singles in the top five slots on the Billboard charts. Their first film, A Hard Day’s Night, appeared in 500 U.S. theaters. The group’s first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show drew an estimated seventy-three million viewers. In their legendary 1964 concert tour, they …

Beatty’s Mill, Skirmish at

  By 1864, much of Conway County and the surrounding area was routinely overrun by marauding bands of Confederate guerrillas. In April 1864, Colonel Abraham Ryan and the recently formed Third Arkansas Cavalry were dispatched to Conway County to help secure the area. Col. Ryan established his base of operations at Lewisburg (Conway County). The regiment remained on almost constant watch, as it had been engaged in several skirmishes during scouting missions. On September 1, 1864, Colonel David Hamilton and a force of sixty-five troopers were dispatched upon a short scout into Yell County. On that same day, Col. Hamilton engaged an estimated force of 160 Confederates led by John A. Conly. Upon seeing the approaching enemy, Hamilton immediately ordered …

Beavers, William and Henry (Lynchings of)

In 1890 and 1892, brothers William and Henry Beavers—both African American—were lynched near Warren (Bradley County) and Wilmar (Drew County), respectively. William was accused of assaulting Inez Abernathy, whose family he had been living with. Henry was murdered for attacking Chloe Wright, the daughter of a prominent Drew County farmer. In 1880, William Beavers (then two years old) and his brother Junior (presumably Henry, age four) were living in Pennington Township of Bradley County with their parents, Henry and Lorenda Beavers, and several other siblings. Henry Beavers Sr. was thirty years old and was a farmer. If these ages are correct, William Beavers would have been only fourteen years old at the time of his murder, and Henry sixteen. Both …

Benton Road, Skirmish at (July 19, 1864)

aka: Skirmish at Little Rock (July 19, 1864)
  After the Engagement at Jenkins’ Ferry, Federal forces under the command of Major General Frederick Steele retreated to Little Rock (Pulaski County) and rejoined the defenses of that city. Confederate forces, flush with their success in the Camden Expedition, began to probe the Union positions in a prelude to a large-scale offensive. This skirmish was one such action. After returning to Little Rock from the Camden Expedition on May 7, 1864, the Third Missouri Cavalry was stationed about four miles southwest of the city on the road to Benton (Saline County). The unit was tasked with outpost duty, and half of the regiment was on duty every day. This routine continued until July 13, when an eight-man patrol of …

Benton Road, Skirmish at (March 23–24, 1864)

  In the spring of 1864, Major General Frederick Steele, commander of Federal forces occupying Little Rock (Pulaski County), was ordered to work in conjunction with Major General Nathaniel Banks in Louisiana to capture Shreveport and move into Texas. Steele was reluctant to participate in the scheme and departed Little Rock only after receiving direct orders to support Banks. This action was the first contact between Steele’s forces and the enemy after the march from Little Rock began. The Federal army departed Little Rock on March 23 and marched to the southwest. Cavalry units were placed at the front of the army to warn the following units if the enemy approached. The Third Arkansas Cavalry and the Second Missouri Cavalry …

Benton, Affair at

In this extremely brief exchange, a brigadier general in the Arkansas State Militia was killed, with the Union soldier who killed him earning the Medal of Honor for it. With the failure of the Camden Expedition in the spring of 1864, Union forces retreated to Little Rock (Pulaski County) while Confederate units in southwestern Arkansas began to push northward. Major General Frederick Steele, the Federal commander of Little Rock, watched these movements with trepidation and pushed his troops to patrol the approaches to the city on a regular basis. Located southwest of Little Rock, Benton (Saline County) was the scene of numerous engagements during the war and—with its location along the Saline River—served as a dividing line between the opposing …

Benton, Skirmish at (August 18, 1864)

  After the Camden Expedition, Confederate forces were concentrated in the southern part of the state and lacked the strength to launch a full-scale assault on Union positions in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Rather, Southern units engaged in a campaign of harassment and quick strikes of little military value. The units occupied positions near the Federal lines to engage the enemy when the opportunity arose, and this skirmish is one such action. The Federal position after the Camden Expedition did not extend far outside of the Little Rock city limits. Confederate forces operated outside of the Federal lines, especially south of the city. Benton (Saline County) was an important city for both sides, as it lay near the Saline River …

Benton, Skirmish at (December 1, 1863)

After the fall of Little Rock (Pulaski County) in September 1863, Federal forces established defensive lines around the capital city but sent patrols and forage trains into nearby communities to gather both information and supplies. One city temporarily occupied by the Union troops was Benton (Saline County). A small engagement, the inconsequential Skirmish at Benton was a Confederate attack on one such patrol. On December 1, 1863, Colonel Cyrus Bussey dispatched a patrol of forty men to scout the road between Benton and Hot Springs (Garland County). Departing at 3:00 a.m., the patrol was commanded by Lieutenant Alexander D. Mills of the First Missouri Cavalry (US). Moving out from Benton, the patrol rode about twenty-five miles before beginning its return …

Benton, Skirmish at (July 6, 1864)

  With the conclusion of the Camden Expedition, some Confederate forces in Arkansas became emboldened and began preparations for an invasion of Missouri. Other Confederate units continued to probe Federal lines around Little Rock (Pulaski County), to which Union forces responded by continuing patrols into the nearby countryside to break up possible enemy gatherings. The Skirmish at Benton resulted from one such patrol to disrupt Confederate preparations. The Fourth Arkansas Cavalry (US) was ordered on July 4, 1864, to embark on a scouting mission. Ordered to move from Little Rock to Caddo Gap by Brigadier General Frederick Salomon, the unit moved out at once. Every man in the unit was required to accompany the scout. Moving quickly through the countryside, …

Bentonville, Action at

The Action at Bentonville occurred on February 18, 1862, as Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis sought to maneuver Confederate forces from their winter encampment at Cross Hollows in the Boston Mountains. Curtis had entered Arkansas the previous morning in pursuit of Sterling Price’s Missouri State Guard, troops he had chased from southwest Missouri. Curtis’s Army of the Southwest rolled forward with little opposition until encountering Confederate regulars under Colonel Louis Hebert just south of Little Sugar Creek at a place called Dunagin’s Farm. Hebert’s force of infantry and cavalry, supported by artillery, fought a stubborn rearguard action that halted Curtis’s advance, costing the Federals thirteen dead and around twenty wounded while suffering as many as twenty-six dead on the Rebel …

Bentonville, Skirmish at

  A small engagement in extreme northwestern Arkansas, this skirmish was part of a larger scouting expedition launched from Cassville, Missouri. Gathering intelligence for Union forces in Missouri, this scout also disrupted Confederate operations in the area. On May 21, 1863, Colonel William F. Cloud of the Second Kansas Cavalry embarked from Cassville with his regiment on a movement into Arkansas. Crossing the state line, the expedition approached Bentonville (Benton County). A Confederate unit was in the town, and Cloud led his men in a surprise attack on the enemy. The Confederate soldiers fled in disarray, and the Federals captured fourteen of the enemy and killed one. Cloud was also able to recover three Federal soldiers who had previously been …

Berryman, Peter (Lynching of)

On February 20, 1901, Peter Berryman (regularly referred to as “Nigger Pete” in newspaper articles) was murdered in Mena (Polk County) for the alleged assault of young Essie Osborne. Berryman’s murder and numerous other instances of racially motivated harassment throughout the years in Mena—combined with changing job prospects with the relocation of railroad division shops—apparently convinced many African Americans to leave the area, and Mena slowly became a “sundown town.” There were 152 black residents of Mena in 1900 but only sixteen in 1910. In 1900, Peter Berryman, age forty-five, was living alone in a house in Mena. He could neither read nor write; his occupation is illegible on the census record. According to various newspaper accounts, Berryman was “half-witted” …

Berryville Expedition

aka: Carrollton Expedition
aka: Huntsville Expedition
The Berryville Expedition (a.k.a. the Carrollton Expedition or the Huntsville Expedition) took place November 10–18, 1863. Major Austin A. King Jr. of the Sixth Missouri State Militia Cavalry (US) commanded this expedition from Springfield, Missouri, into northwestern Arkansas. He reported his activities to his commanding officer, Brigadier General John B. Sanborn, who commanded the District of Southwestern Missouri. In compliance with Special Orders No. 231, Headquarters Southwestern District of Missouri, dated November 10, 1863, Major King left Springfield with a command of 200 men. This force was composed of men of the Sixth Missouri State Militia Cavalry (US) and Eleventh Missouri Volunteer Cavalry (US). They marched to Linden, Missouri, and then southeast of Forsyth, where their wagon train was left. …

Big Dam Bridge 100

The Big Dam Bridge 100 (BDB100) is a 100-mile bicycle tour that takes place each fall in central Arkansas, traditionally on the last Saturday in September. The event has been held annually since the inaugural ride on October 1, 2006, and it has become the largest cycling event in the state. In addition to the 100-mile tour, several shorter routes are offered. The additional courses in the 2016 event included 68-mile, 50-mile, 32-mile, and 11-mile distances. The route has varied over the years, but, in 2016, the ride started at Riverfront Drive and Willow in downtown North Little Rock (Pulaski County), headed west toward Perryville (Perry County), and finished on Main Street in North Little Rock’s Argenta Historic District. The …

Big Indian Creek, Skirmish at

aka: Skirmish at Big Creek
aka: Skirmish at Indian Creek
Following victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Major General Samuel R. Curtis (US), commander of the Army of the Southwest, received orders on May 2, 1862, to send a portion of his forces to march from Pea Ridge (Benton County) along the White River into northeastern Arkansas and set up headquarters at Batesville (Independence County) and Jacksonport (Jackson County). His orders were to get supplies and advance on to Little Rock (Pulaski County). Curtis gave the Second Division to Brigadier General Eugene A. Carr (US) and the Third Division to Colonel Peter J. Osterhaus (US), who commanded the Seventeenth Missouri Infantry, made up mostly of German immigrants. The April departure of the defeated Major General Earl Van Dorn (CS) …

Big Lake Expedition

This Civil War expedition took place only two months after the fall of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and constitutes a portion of an ongoing Union effort to assess loyalty in the Mississippi River counties of Arkansas and eliminate Confederate guerrilla activity. On September 7, 1863, Colonel John B. Rogers of the Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry ordered Major Frederick R. Poole to lead 200 troopers and one artillery piece from Camp Lowry in the Missouri bootheel to Big Lake in Mississippi County, Arkansas, and return to camp via Pemiscot County, Missouri. When he reached New Madrid, Missouri, Poole received reinforcements that doubled the size of his command, with the addition of fifty men from the Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry, 100 from …

Big Lake Wars

Competition and contention over an abundant (and unregulated) storehouse of northeastern Arkansas wildlife from the mid-1870s until 1915 led to violence and controversy known as the Big Lake Wars. Big Lake refers to a section of western Mississippi County created by the massive New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811–1812. “War” may be a misleading description of the events because there were no formalities, declarations, truces, or settlements. However, the conflict had a lasting impact on the state and even on the nation. The Big Lake Wars pitted local residents, who were mostly poor, against affluent northerners, chiefly from St. Louis, Missouri. Early Arkansas maps labeled the sparsely populated area between Crowley’s Ridge and the Mississippi River as “the Great Swamp.” After …

Biscoe Family (Lynching of)

In early February 1892, Hamp Biscoe (or Bisco), his pregnant wife, and his thirteen-year-old son were killed in Keo (Lonoke County); their infant escaped with only a minor wound. This murder was apparently the culmination of years of suffering and bitterness on the part of the Biscoe family. It was also one of the numerous incidents occurring in Arkansas at the time that prompted the Reverend Malcolm E. Argyle to write in the March 1892 Christian Recorder (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania): “There is much uneasiness and unrest all over this State among our people, owing to the fact that the people (our race variety) all over the State are being lynched upon the slightest provocation….In the last 30 days there have been …

Black Hawk War of 1872

The Black Hawk War was a Reconstruction-era political and racial conflict in Mississippi County that occurred in 1872—not to be confused with two earlier incidents both called the Black Hawk War, which were clashes between Native Americans and white settlers in other states. Little is known about the event, including the origins of its name. During Reconstruction, the radical wing of the Republican Party controlled most elected offices. Many judges, prosecutors, and registrars were intensely disliked by local residents, who had little say in their own affairs and who resented the granting of civil rights to African Americans, of which Mississippi County had a sizeable population. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was very active in the area, resulting in Mississippi …

Blakely, Joe (Lynching of)

On May 29, 1909, African-American man Sam Blakely—with his brother Joe Blakely as an accessory—allegedly murdered deputy sheriff Walter Cain in Portland (Ashley County). Sam briefly escaped, and Joe was eventually lynched for his role in the murder. The incident was covered by numerous newspapers across the country, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Tribune. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the difficulty started when a white farmer named Bud Harper killed Sam Blakely’s dog. The two Blakely brothers then went to Harper’s home, assaulting him “in his own yard, abusing him while he held Mr. Harper under gun cover, backed up by Joe.” Warrants were sworn out against the African-American brothers for disturbing the peace, and Cain …

Blazes, Albert (Lynching of)

aka: Albert Blades (Lynching of)
In May 1926, an African-American man named Albert Blazes (sometimes referred to as Blades) was taken from authorities in Wilson (Mississippi County) and lynched for allegedly attacking a white girl. The story was covered both nationally and internationally, appearing in Time magazine and meriting a front-page illustration in Le Petit Journal, published in Paris, France. There is no information on the identity of either the girl or the alleged perpetrator. According to the May 27, 1926, Arkansas Gazette, a group of Wilson school children were on an outing when three girls became separated from their classmates. Albert Blazes (whose age is reported in various sources from nineteen to twenty-two) pursued them; two of them ran away, but one girl tripped, …

Blytheville Boycotts of 1970–1971

In the opening months of 1970, a group of African Americans in their mid-twenties sought to bring the social and cultural changes they had seen evolving in other parts of the world to Blytheville (Mississippi County). A graduate of Harrison High School (Blytheville’s black school), Bob Broadwater helped this group establish a chapter of the Black United Youth (BUY). The first public effort of this fledgling civil rights organization occurred soon after a local white grocer, Ernest Ray, beat a nine-year-old black boy with a crowbar for allegedly shoplifting. Ray’s grocery store was a fixture in the Elm Street commercial district. His store had a reputation for selling out-of-date meats and vegetables well past their prime. During a meeting in …

Bogan, West (Trial of)

Bound in slavery on a cotton farm near Helena (Phillips County), West Bogan fought and killed his subjugator, Monroe Bogan, with an ax the morning of December 15, 1863. After many months in jail and a court sentence to hang, Bogan’s case was presented by Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt to President Abraham Lincoln on the fresh legal grounds of the Emancipation Proclamation. Bogan was ultimately seen as having acted in self defense and freed, but the rest of his life remains a mystery. Two weeks after the murder, West Bogan was discovered by plantation neighbors hiding among the thousands of former slaves in the contraband camps around Helena. They handed him over to Union troops. Bogan was held at a Helena …

Boggs’ Mills, Skirmish at

  A short engagement in rural Yell County, this skirmish is notable for pitting Arkansas Confederate troops against a combined Federal force consisting of both white and African-American troops from Arkansas. By January 1865, major Confederate offensive operations had ceased in the state. But while most Confederate units remained in southern Arkansas, small units of cavalry continued to operate in Union-held territory alongside guerrilla bands. Without access to regular supplies, these units were forced to forage and otherwise acquire supplies to the best of their abilities. Boggs’ Mills, located about twelve miles from Dardanelle (Yell County), served as both a location for the grinding of corn and a place for Confederate units to gather and organize. Federal forces were well aware of …

Bonanza Race War of 1904

The Bonanza Race War of 1904 was a race riot/labor war that occurred in the coal-mining city of Bonanza (Sebastian County) and resulted in the expulsion of African Americans from the city following several days of violence. The event is indicative of a general antipathy toward black labor in the coal mines of western Arkansas, and, by the end of the decade, African Americans could reportedly be found in only two mining communities, having been driven from the rest. Bonanza was a coal-mining city even before its incorporation in 1898. Central Coal and Coke Company operated the only three mines there, and the St. Louis–San Francisco Railway (Frisco) provided easy transportation, both for coal and other goods and for travelers. …

Boodle Prosecutions

aka: Boodle Scandal of 1905–1908
The Boodle Scandal of 1905–1908 dealt with pervasive bribery (“boodle” is a slang term for bribe money) in the 1905 Arkansas General Assembly uncovered by Lewis Rhoton, prosecuting attorney for the Sixth Judicial District (Pulaski and Perry counties). Rhoton’s unmasking of legislators’ corruption in Arkansas in these years advanced the rise of Progressivism as a political force. When President Theodore Roosevelt visited Little Rock (Pulaski County) on October 25, 1905, he praised Rhoton’s effort to hold public officials to account. The president also decried difficulties in prosecuting the wealthy or influential, including difficulties created by the legal system itself. Problems with Arkansas’s law and judicial procedures were partly at fault for Rhoton’s lack of widespread success in proceeding against boodlers. …

Bowles (Lynching of)

Sometime around August 22, 1892, an African-American man identified only by his surname, which was Bowles, was hanged near Gurdon (Clark County) for allegedly raping sixteen-year-old Nellie Wilkes. Public records reveal no additional information about either Bowles or Wilkes. Although the incident was apparently not covered in Arkansas, several publications across the country reported on it, including a German-language newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland. According to the Hamilton, Ohio, Daily Republican, Bowles, a “burly negro,” “outraged” Wilkes and then fled the scene. This aroused the neighborhood, and a mob was soon in pursuit. He was discovered at a farmhouse, where he had compelled the occupants to give him food. He was brought back to the scene of the crime, where he …

Bracero Program

To ensure that U.S. farmers had sufficient labor, the U.S. State Department and the Mexican Foreign Affairs Department signed a bilateral agreement to create the Bracero Program in August 1942. Preceded by the similar Emergency Farm Labor Program, it aimed to supply landowners with laborers so they could meet increased wartime demand for their crops. Under the terms of the agreement, workers were contracted for a period of no more than ninety days, and they could reenlist in the program each year. The program was administered by the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and hiring agents in cities such as Tijuana, Guadalajara, Chihuahua, Monterrey, and Mexico City. The majority of braceros worked in the West—primarily California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Texas, and …

Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival

The Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival celebrates the pink tomato industry in southeastern Arkansas. Originally a one-day event, it has become a weeklong celebration that attracts approximately 30,000 people each year. In June 1956, the first Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival was held in Warren (Bradley County). Loran Johnson, who was director of the Chamber of Commerce at the time, was one of the founders of the festival. The one-day event included musicians, a carnival, and exhibits. Each year, a chairperson of the festival was chosen. A parade and beauty pageant were added the second year. Another festival event began after Jean Frisby, who was the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service (UACES) home economist for Bradley County, and Loran Johnson, who …