Entries - Entry Type: Event - Starting with P

Palarm, Battle of (Reconstruction)

The Battle of Palarm was a skirmish in the Reconstruction-era Brooks-Baxter War in which supporters of Joseph Brooks attacked the steamboat Hallie (a light-draught fast packet) on the Arkansas River near present-day Mayflower (Faulkner County), killing several militiamen loyal to Elisha Baxter. The election of 1872 was rife with irregularities but resulted in Elisha Baxter assuming the governorship of Arkansas. However, following a series of legislative and legal maneuvers, losing candidate Joseph Brooks won a legal ruling declaring him the winner. On April 15, 1874, Brooks and a group of armed followers confronted Baxter at the Old State House and threw him out, leading to several weeks of armed confrontations in what became known as the Brooks-Baxter War. The Hallie …

Panic of 1893

In 1893, a national financial crisis led to the closing of businesses and banks in Arkansas. The crisis in banking ended with the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act late in 1893. The depression continued until 1897. During this period, agricultural prices declined steeply in the state. Even before the panic, financial markets were not sound, and the state’s economy was moribund. In 1891, the legislature voted to postpone funding of the state’s representation at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago and never returned to the issue. Arkansas’s participation was instead privately funded by the Little Rock Board of Trade. On January 18, 1893, the Arkansas Gazette reported “a financial flurry” in response to a run on First National Bank …

Paragould Race Riots

Paragould (Greene County), which incorporated in 1883, experienced a series of incidents of racial violence and intimidation from 1888 to 1908. (In this context, a race riot is defined as any prolonged form of mob-related civil disorder in which race plays a key role.) The outmigration of African Americans that followed these various incidents helped to cement its reputation as a “sundown town.” On April 21, 1888, the Arkansas Gazette published a letter sent by a member of the black community and addressed to the country’s first elected African-American municipal judge, Mifflin Wistar Gibbs. The writer sought Gibbs’s help, telling him that “I am disgusted the way I am served, and also my friends. We are but a few colored …

Patrick, William (Lynching of)

On December 3, 1915, an African-American man named William Patrick was lynched in St. Francis County for allegedly killing a young white man named Bard Nichols in October of that year. There is very little information available about William Patrick. In 1900, there was an eighteen-year-old African American by that name boarding in Franks Township in St. Francis County and working on a farm. He could both read and write. In 1910, there was an African American named W. D. Patrick living in Franks Township; his age is listed as thirty-six at the time, making him a slightly more likely candidate. He was a farmer living with his wife and four small children. If Patrick was fifty-five years old as …

Paul Ruiz and Earl Van Denton (Crime Spree)

Paul Ruiz and Earl Van Denton escaped from an Oklahoma prison and embarked on a crime spree that took them across multiple states, including Arkansas. The men were convicted in Arkansas of killing town marshal Marvin Ritchie and park ranger Opal James in Logan County. They were executed along with a third man at the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction on January 8, 1997. At the time of their escape, Ruiz was serving a life sentence for armed robbery, while Van Denton was serving a life sentence for murder. Working as part of a twenty-member crew tasked with tearing down a brick factory near the prison in McAlester, Oklahoma, the pair escaped on June 23, 1977. They …

Pea Ridge Campaign

The Pea Ridge campaign was arguably the most significant campaign of the Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi region. The Union Army of the Southwest under Brigadier General Samuel Ryan Curtis defeated the Confederate Army of the West led by Major General Earl Van Dorn in the Battle of Pea Ridge on March 7–8, 1862, and played a pivotal role in claiming Missouri for the Union and opening Arkansas to Union occupation. Missouri was high on the wish lists of both the Federal and Confederate governments in 1861. Federal Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon drove pro-secession elements out of St. Louis, Missouri, then chased Major General Sterling Price’s Missouri State Guard to the southwest corner of Missouri and fought the Battle of …

Pea Ridge Mule Jump and Show

The Pea Ridge Mule Jump is an annual event held each autumn in Pea Ridge (Benton County). Each year on the second Saturday in October, spectators come from Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma to enjoy this unique competition. In 2008, the crowd numbered more than 1,000. Mule jumping events occur mostly in the South. Mule jumping originally began when raccoon hunters taught their mules to jump fences on hunts. The riders dismounted, climbed over the fence, placed a blanket on the fence so the mule could see it, and urged their mules to jump over. The Pea Ridge Mule Jump began when local resident Colonel Negel Hall, along with his friend Don Shockley from Powell, Missouri, set up the event …

Pea Ridge, Battle of

aka: Battle of Elkhorn Tavern
The Battle of Pea Ridge played a pivotal role in securing Missouri for the Union and opened Arkansas to Union occupation. It played a large role in preserving Missouri’s tenuous loyal-state status. After the Battle of Wilson’s Creek in Missouri, August 10, 1861, the command structure on both sides in Missouri underwent major overhauls. Union Major General Henry W. Halleck chose Brigadier General Samuel Ryan Curtis to command the force that fought at Wilson’s Creek, the newly christened Army of the Southwest. The Confederates also had command issues. Major General Sterling Price and Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch feuded bitterly, and President Jefferson Davis chose Major General Earl Van Dorn to revive the Confederacy’s fortunes in the new Military District of …

Pearl Rush

The rivers of northeast Arkansas once teemed with freshwater mollusks capable of producing pearls, which led to a huge “pearl rush” in the region in the late 1800s. The mussels had not been harvested on a large scale since Native Americans dwelled along these rivers, giving the animals—and the pearls within—time to grow. In an era before cultured pearls, these gems only occurred naturally, growing inside a freshwater mollusk or saltwater oyster, and the rarity of this occurrence made them precious. Native Americans used pearls to indicate elite status through adornment and burial practices. Burial sites in Campbell, Missouri, and Spiro, Oklahoma, revealed large quantities of freshwater pearls heaped in baskets or large shell vessels. A grave near present-day Helena-West …

Pemiscot Bayou, Skirmish at

Throughout Mississippi County and the adjacent Missouri counties of Dunklin and Pemiscot, bands of guerillas harassed Union forces, raided farms and communities, and terrorized the citizenry with acts of violence during the Civil War. Composed primarily of Confederate deserters and civilian sympathizers, these combatants hid within the dense swamplands and canebrakes that dominated the landscape, making it difficult for Union forces to pinpoint their exact locations. Determined to disperse these groups and limit their activities, Major John W. Rabb spearheaded an expedition from New Madrid, Missouri, to Mississippi County on April 5, 1864. At 11:00 p.m., with a force of approximately 200 men, he embarked on a steamer and sailed down the Mississippi River to Barfield’s Point (Mississippi County), where …

Perry County War of 1881

The Perry County War is the common name given to a brief period of violence that erupted in Perryville (Perry County) in the summer of 1881. The general lawlessness, including the murder of the local newspaper editor, resulted in the governor sending the militia to calm the situation. In actuality, the 1881 events were a second eruption of an ongoing settling of political differences in Perry County dating back to the Civil War. Like many counties in Arkansas during the Civil War, Perry County was divided by conflicting loyalties. The mountainous western sections of the county aligned with the Union, while whites in the eastern half, where most of the enslaved people lived, held Confederate sympathies. These philosophical differences continued …

Perry County, Skirmish at

The December 3, 1864, Skirmish at Perry County was one of many military events of the Civil War to occur within the Arkansas River Valley, exemplifying the contentious nature of the Union’s occupation of the area around the Arkansas River. The only known surviving document is a report by Colonel Abraham H. Ryan of the Third Arkansas Cavalry, headquartered in Lewisburg (Conway County) at the time. According to this report, Lieutenant Robert W. Wishard conducted a scouting expedition into Perry County (the exact location is not given) and encountered Rebels affiliated with the companies of John A. Conly and a man named Franz. The resulting fight left five Confederates dead, including a lieutenant, and one Union private dead. Wishard pursued …

Petit Jean, Skirmish at

On July 10, 1864, Federal forces of the Third Arkansas Cavalry (Union) engaged Confederate forces of an unidentified unit on the Arkansas River near the mouth of the Petit Jean River. The Union commander reported Confederate casualties. Previously, by the end of 1863, the western half of the Arkansas River in the state was under Union control following the Confederacy’s loss of Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and Little Rock (Pulaski County). Major General Frederick Steele established Federal garrisons at various points along the north side of the river. Steele also authorized raising local Union regiments, and one of these was the Third Arkansas Cavalry, which served for extended periods at the river port of Lewisburg (Conway County), near the present …

Phillips County Lynching of 1889–1890

On December 30–31, 1889, and January 1, 1890, three unidentified African Americans were killed in Phillips County for allegedly robbing and murdering John W. Tate. The lynching victims were not identified by name in any source. In 1880, John W. Tate, a twenty-eight-year-old white farmer, was living alone in Poplar Grove (Phillips County). According to a January 1, 1890, report in the Arkansas Gazette, sometime in the 1880s he was dealing in illegal whiskey, and there were seven indictments pending against him in Phillips County. Just prior to his death, he was running a “blind tiger” (speakeasy) at Palmerton in neighboring Monroe County. Although the Gazette reported that the crime took place on Sunday night, December 29, 1889, other reports, …

Phillips, et al. v. Weeks, et al.

Phillips, et al. v. Weeks, et al. was a sweeping lawsuit in federal district court at Little Rock (Pulaski County) alleging that the municipal police engaged in systematic discrimination against African Americans, including illegal detention, physical brutality, verbal abuse, and segregation in jail. The class-action suit was filed in January 1972, and the trial lasted two and a half months in 1974–1975. The case languished in the court for another eight years before all the issues were finally settled, with only a partial victory for the class of people for whom the suit was filed. U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Eisele eventually ordered an end to jail segregation and to the illegal detention of blacks, an infamous system in which …

Phillips, Henry (Lynching of)

On November 13, 1897, Henry Phillips was lynched in Osceola (Mississippi County) for the alleged murder of storekeeper Tom McClanahan. Editor Leon Roussan’s coverage of the incident in the Osceola Times sparked a feud with Sheriff Charles Bowen. Bowen, a former captain in the Confederate army and a local Ku Klux Klan (KKK) leader, was prominently involved in the Black Hawk War of 1872. According to the Osceola Times, on November 6, Tom McClanahan was brutally murdered in his store. McClanahan had come from Tennessee three years earlier to work in a local sawmill. When the mill was sold, he remained in Mississippi County to settle up outstanding claims. At the same time, he operated a small grocery store in …

Pike-Roane Duel

aka: Roane-Pike Duel
The Pike-Roane Duel was fought in 1847 between Albert Pike and John Selden Roane. Albert Pike was originally a Bostonian who left the Northeast to explore the West and eventually ended up in Arkansas on an expedition. He decided to stay, practicing law and becoming a prominent Arkansan. John Selden Roane, born in Tennessee, moved to Arkansas to study law and eventually was elected governor. Both Pike and Roane fought in the Mexican War in the 1840s. Pike was so disappointed with the Arkansas regiment’s performance in the Battle of Buena Vista (including events leading to the battlefield death of former Arkansas governor and congressman Archibald Yell) that he wrote a letter on March 8, 1847, to the editor of …

Pine Bluff Expedition (February 26–28, 1865)

aka: Skirmish at McMilley's Farm
  Following the fall of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) to Union forces in October 1863, Union commanders at the Pine Bluff garrison began expeditions aimed at scouting and securing areas around the city to remove remaining Confederate forces. Ordered to command an expeditionary force to scout the area north of the Arkansas River between Pine Bluff and a farm near the Wabbaseka (Jefferson County) area, Captain George Suesberry moved a force of sixty men from Pine Bluff to that area. During the movement, there was a brief engagement with Confederate forces. Late in the evening of February 26, 1865, Capt. Suesberry moved his force of sixty men across the Arkansas River to the northern bank with the intent to continue …

Pine Bluff Expedition (January 15–18, 1865)

  Ordered to lead an expedition to repair downed telegraph lines from the Union-held city of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), Lieutenant Charles Temple of Company M, Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry, moved his Union forces along the roads and farms around Pine Bluff from January 15 to January 18, 1865, returning to the Thirteenth Illinois Headquarters in Pine Bluff. During the expedition, there was no hostile contact with Confederate forces. On Sunday, January 15, 1865, Lt. Temple, along with an escort of thirty soldiers from the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry and a telegraph repair crew, began a movement along the Little Rock Road to repair telegraph lines that had been cut. The party advanced some twelve miles, at which point it discovered a …

Pine Bluff Film Festival

The Pine Bluff Film Festival was inaugurated in 1994 by local residents who wanted to honor the legacy of the silent film era and help revitalize downtown Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Since that time, the annual event screened silent classics (often accompanied by a symphony orchestra), hosted world-famous guest stars, expanded to two theaters, implemented a silent film competition, and encouraged film and theater restoration. It was hosted each year by two world-renowned cultural experts from New York who were with the festival since its inception. The festival was recognized internationally as one of the oldest silent film festivals in the United States and the only one that regularly presented silent films with full orchestral accompaniment. The festival originated with …

Pine Bluff Lynchings of 1892

On February 14, 1892, John Kelley (sometimes spelled Kelly) was lynched in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) for the murder of W. T. McAdams. At the time, Pine Bluff was the second-largest city in Arkansas. The black population in Jefferson County was seventy-three percent, and there were a number of prominent African-American landowners and merchants. The city boasted a black newspaper, as well as the state’s only college for African Americans, Branch Normal School (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff). According to the Arkansas Gazette, on the night of February 9, John Kelley and several accomplices allegedly murdered W. T. McAdams, an agent for the Obest Brewing Company and a highly respected Pine Bluff citizen. At 10:30 p.m., McAdams …

Pine Bluff to DeValls Bluff, Scout from

aka: Skirmish at Pine Bluff (February 11, 1865)
The scouting expedition in February 1865 between Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) was typical of many such operations carried out by the Union army during the duration of the war. Facing minor organized resistance, the Federal troopers easily defeated the small guerrilla bands opposing them. Skirmishes such as this were typical in the last days of the Civil War in Arkansas. Captain John Norris of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry received orders to depart Pine Bluff on February 9 and proceed to DeValls Bluff. Accompanying the captain were seventy-five men, as well as a number of horses deemed unfit for active service. Although the area between the two Union posts was regularly patrolled by Confederate and guerrilla …

Pine Bluff, Action at

The Action at Pine Bluff was fought on October 25, 1863, when Brigadier General John Sappington Marmaduke’s Confederate cavalry division attacked the small Union garrison under Colonel Powell Clayton that had occupied Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) following the capture of Little Rock (Pulaski County) on September 10, 1863. The purpose was to return the strategic initiative to the Confederacy. Marmaduke led a force of some 2,000 Rebels out of Princeton (Dallas County) on October 24 to assault the 1,200 to 1,500 Union troopers of the Fifth Kansas Cavalry and the First Indiana Cavalry, which were posted at Pine Bluff with their six artillery pieces. Marmaduke planned for Colonel Robert C. Newton’s division to approach Pine Bluff from the southeast while …

Pine Bluff, Affair near

  The Federal army expended considerable energy in maintaining control of Jefferson County and the surrounding area after the occupation of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) in late 1863. By 1865, patrols to discourage guerrilla bands who routinely created havoc were dispatched on a regular basis. These patrols, such as the one dispatched on March 4, 1865, were often on a mission to repair vital telegraph lines. At noon on March 4, thirty troopers of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry under the command of Captain John H. Norris left Pine Bluff with orders to repair the area telegraph lines. After being hampered by high water, they discovered that the telegraph wires were intact. Earlier, Norris had received information that Confederate guerrillas were …

Pine Bluff, Seizure of U.S. Subsistence Stores at

The capture of Federal army supplies at Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) marked one of the first military actions in the state during the Civil War. Occurring before Arkansas officially left the Union, this seizure of supplies was not an operation of the Confederate army but rather of volunteer troops. With the secession of South Carolina in late 1860 and other Southern states in early 1861, Arkansas called a secession convention to determine if the state would follow. The Little Rock Arsenal was seized by volunteer forces in February 1861, before the convention could meet. After the convention convened in March, the first session ended with a vote to remain in the Union and a proposal to send the question to …

Pine Bluff, Skirmish at (January 9, 1865)

aka: Pine Bluff Expedition (January 7–9, 1865)
Federal outposts across Arkansas continued, in early 1865, to send out regular patrols to ascertain the movements and intentions of the enemy in an effort to keep organized resistance to a minimum. This engagement took place on January 9, 1865, during a Federal effort to capture a number of mules held by Confederate forces near Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). On January 7, Captain John Toppass of the Seventh Missouri Cavalry (US) received orders from his superiors to launch a scouting expedition to capture mules held nearby by the enemy. Organizing a group of 150 men, including fifty troopers from the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry and 100 from the Seventh Missouri, the patrol departed from Pine Bluff at 7:00 p.m. the same …

Pine Bluff, Skirmish at (July 22, 1864)

With the return of the Union forces to Little Rock (Pulaski County) after the Camden Expedition, Confederate forces took the initiative in southern Arkansas. While Federal units held Little Rock, Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and other settlements along the Arkansas, White, and Mississippi rivers, Confederate units operated with ease between these settlements. Confederate forces took advantage of the relative isolation of Federal outposts to operate unchecked in the countryside between occupied cities. Union commanders responded by sending out patrols to disrupt Confederate organizational efforts. The Ninth Kansas Cavalry served in the District of the Frontier until July 2, 1864, when the unit received orders transferring it to Little Rock. The Kansans did not make a positive impression on their new …

Pine Bluff, Skirmish at (July 30, 1864)

By the summer of 1864, Federal forces held Little Rock (Pulaski County), Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and several other posts along the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers. While most Confederate forces in the state were concentrated south of the Arkansas River, small units operated behind Union lines in an effort to disrupt and harass Federal occupiers. This skirmish is typical of the type of action fought during this period of the war in the state. Communication between Union commanders in Little Rock and the garrison at Pine Bluff relied on a telegraph line stretching between the two cities. On July 29, 1864, Second Lieutenant James Teale of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry led forty men from Pine Bluff to repair the telegraph …

Pine Bluff, Skirmish at (June 17, 1864)

aka: Skirmish at Monticello Road (June 17, 1864)
A brief encounter between forces near Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), this skirmish is typical of the majority of fighting in the state. Two patrols from opposing forces brushed against one another in an effort to gain intelligence, leading to a short fight. Colonel Powell Clayton of the Fifth Kansas Cavalry commanded the Union post of Pine Bluff and regularly sent out patrols to gather information about Confederate movements in the area. Three patrols returned to Pine Bluff on June 16, 1864, one of which reported a Confederate cavalry brigade camped near “Connersville” (probably Cornersville in Lincoln County) and enemy pickets watching the road to Monticello (Drew County). These were the only Confederate forces reportedly in the area. One of the …

Pitman’s Ferry, Skirmish at

On October 27, 1862, Union Colonel William Dewey surprised Confederate Colonel John Q. Burbridge’s Brigade at Pitman’s Ferry (Randolph County). Dewey’s rapid combined-arms attack temporarily won control of the ferry and allowed for the reconnoitering of the Pocahontas (Randolph County) area. This was the last major Civil War engagement in Randolph County. The location of Pitman’s Ferry on the Current River made it an important possession for the antagonists in Arkansas. Settled by William Hix about 1803, the location served as the key entry point from Missouri on the Southwest Trail (also called the Military Road, Congress Road, or the Natchitoches Trace) into northeast Arkansas. Purchased by Dr. Peyton Robinson Pitman before Arkansas statehood, Pitman’s Ferry had a strategic importance …

Plum Bayou Project

The Plum Bayou Project was part of a New Deal plan designed to help rural residents receive federal relief and assistance during the economic crisis of the 1930s. Located approximately seventeen miles north of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), Plum Bayou was one of several similar communities built in the Arkansas Delta. During the Great Depression, the federal Resettlement Administration—later the Farm Security Administration (FSA)—experimented with programs designed to give assistance to rural farm families. Rexford G. Tugwell, head of the Resettlement Administration, believed that sending farmers into the cities with no job prospects was an untenable situation and certainly no answer to the farmers’ desperate plight. Instead, he focused on developing resettlement projects designed to move farmers barely surviving on …

Plumerville Conflict of 1886–1892

During the late 1880s, electoral politics in Conway County turned violent, resulting in serious injuries and several deaths. In the Plumerville (Conway County) community, actions such as voter intimidation and the theft of ballot boxes were flagrant and seemingly condoned by public officials. The violence became widely known and was the subject of a federal investigation after the assassination of a congressional candidate, John Clayton. A pattern of local political affiliations and latent hostilities toward other factions developed and remained well into the twentieth century. While the political conflict renewed itself after the 1884 election, the underlying causes date back to the pre–Civil War days. Conway County was a small version of Arkansas in terms of geographic culture and economics. …

Pocahontas Expedition

 The Pocahontas Expedition was an attempt to gather intelligence regarding the location of Confederates in northeastern Arkansas. During the expedition, Union soldiers conducted a raid in Pocahontas (Randolph County) on August 24, 1863, that resulted in the capture of Brigadier General Meriwether “Jeff” Thompson of the Missouri State Guard, thus temporarily hampering Confederate actions in the region. While the Union army struggled to win control of the northern half of Arkansas during the Arkansas Expedition (Little Rock Campaign) from mid-July to August 1863, Confederate regulars and guerrillas continually struck targets and occupied cities in northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri. Consequently, Union forces in Missouri raided Arkansas to disrupt guerrilla activities and challenge invading Confederate commands. In August 1863, Union Brigadier …

Poison Spring, Engagement at

The Engagement at Poison Spring was an April 18, 1864, battle in which Confederate troops ambushed and destroyed a Union foraging expedition. After black Union troops had surrendered, many were killed by the Confederate troops. After capturing Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in September 1863, Federal forces held effective control of the Arkansas River, and both Confederate troops and government were concentrated in the southwestern part of the state. In the spring of 1864, many of the Union troops were involved in the Arkansas leg of a two-pronged attack to gain control of northwest Louisiana and east Texas. Union Major General Frederick Steele moved his troops south from Little Rock on March 23, 1864, for what …

Polio

The poliovirus terrorized the United States for many years, and Arkansas was no exception. Infection with the virus either went unnoticed or caused poliomyelitis, commonly called polio, which resulted in paralysis that sometimes ended in death but more often left its victims permanently handicapped. As the disease often affected children, it was also called infantile paralysis. While the large urban centers of the country dealt with polio epidemics early in the twentieth century, Arkansas had only a few intermittent cases. The Arkansas Gazette, however, reported frequently on the disease, keeping its readers informed of efforts to combat, cure, and curtail its devastating effects in other areas. After the first significant numbers were reported in the state, Arkansans reacted to the …

Polk County Draft War

The Polk County Draft War was the first of five documented episodes of armed resistance to the draft in Arkansas during World War I (four of which were violent). The Selective Service Act of 1917 introduced forced conscription to Arkansas, but efforts to apprehend and/or punish draft evaders did not begin in earnest until the spring of 1918, likely due to a greater demand for military manpower. The ensuing crackdown on draft evasion sparked a series of so-called draft wars, brief episodes of armed defiance by close-knit family groups against authorities. These acts of resistance often occurred in isolated, mountainous regions of the state, where socialism and/or organized labor had found purchase. On May 25, 1918, Sheriff H. W. Finger …

Polk County Possum Club

The Polk County Possum Club (PCPC) began with a challenge issued to local hunters of opossums (commonly called “possums”) in 1913 and henceforth hosted yearly banquets of opossum meat and side dishes until 1947, though it was active again for five years in the 1990s. The PCPC began when attorney J. I. Alley wrote a letter, dated December 11, 1913, to Mena (Polk County) mayor John H. Hamilton that read, in part: “The undersigned has recently seen and heard of much of your boastful conduct and self praise with reference to possum hunting. In fact I learned from reliable sources that you claim great credit to yourself as chief of all such sportsmen in these parts. Therefore believing that others …

Polk County Race War of 1896

In early August 1896, a “race war” broke out between white and black workers who were working on the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railway (later the Kansas City Southern) in both Polk County and near Horatio (Sevier County) to the south. As a result, three African Americans were killed and eight wounded. Although reports place some of the events near Horatio, accounts clearly stated that the purpose of the attack was to keep African Americans out of Polk County, and so it was generally referred to as the Polk County Race War. This was part of a pattern of labor-related racial intimidation that was sweeping Arkansas at the time. Other incidents during that period included unrest at the Hawthorne …

Polk’s Plantation, Skirmish at

  On May 25, 1863, Confederate and Union forces engaged in a skirmish on and near Polk’s plantation, roughly six miles west of Helena (Phillips County). The fighting was part of the Federal army’s ultimately successful campaign to hold Helena for the Union. Union troops had occupied Helena since summer 1862, but Ulysses S. Grant’s need for men in his campaign against Vicksburg, Mississippi, in the spring of 1863 weakened the town’s garrison. Confederates under the command of General Theophilus Holmes, aware of Grant’s actions, wanted to retake Helena. A Federal scouting mission departed from Helena on the morning of May 25 and clashed with Confederate pickets along Little Rock Road. The Union forces consisted of roughly 150 cavalrymen from …

Pope County Militia War

The Pope County Militia War was a conflict between the Reconstruction government of the state and county partisans, some of them former Confederates, who opposed Reconstruction. It entailed the assassination of many local officials and is often seen as a prelude to the Brooks-Baxter War of 1874. Pope County, lacking a large slave economy, had been divided in terms of loyalty during the Civil War, and those divisions ran high even after the formal end of hostilities. In 1865, Governor Isaac Murphy appointed Archibald Dodson Napier, a former Federal officer, as sheriff of Pope County. On October 25, 1865, he and his deputy, Albert M. Parks, were both shot from ambush as they rode horseback along the old Springfield road …

Pope-Noland Duel

The Pope-Noland Duel took place in Arkansas Territory in 1831 between William Fontaine Pope and Charles Fenton Mercer (Fent) Noland. Little is known about Pope other than that he was the nephew and secretary of territorial governor John Pope, who was a member of the Democratic Party during his tenure in Arkansas. Fent Noland originally hailed from Virginia and was the son of politician and plantation owner William Noland, who drafted Virginia’s anti-dueling law. As a young lawyer, Fent Noland was mentored by James Woodson Bates, who was the first Arkansas territorial representative to the U.S. Congress, and went on to become a well-known writer who regularly published in the New York–based Spirit of the Times. The political scene in …

Pott’s Hill, Action at

aka: Skirmish at Big Sugar Creek
The Action at Pott’s Hill, also known as the Skirmish at Big Sugar Creek, on February 16, 1862, was the first engagement between Union and Confederate armies in Arkansas during the Civil War. The action was a precursor to the Battle of Pea Ridge on March 7–8, 1862. As Brigadier General Samuel Curtis’s Union Army of the Southwest marched south toward Arkansas in February, pursuing Major General Sterling Price’s Confederate Army of the West, the Union front met the Confederate rear guard just across the Arkansas border, north of Pea Ridge (Benton County). Curtis, who had sent his men on a forced march south in search of the fleeing Confederates, was determined to engage Price’s army as soon as possible. …

Pounds, Winston (Lynching of)

Winston Pounds, accused of breaking into a white man’s house and assaulting his wife, was hanged by a mob near Wilmot (Ashley County) on August 25, 1927. Census records indicate that Winston Pounds Jr., born around 1906, was the son of farmer Winston Pounds and his wife, Florence Pounds. As sometimes happens, published accounts of the lynching vary significantly, especially between white-owned and African-American-owned newspapers. According to the Arkansas Gazette, Pounds, described as a “Negro farmhand,” entered the J. W. McGarry home while he and his wife were sleeping and assaulted Mrs. McGarry. She screamed, and he fled. Some accounts say that J. W. McGarry was actually in Little Rock (Pulaski County), and that Mrs. McGarry’s sister was staying with …

Powell, Sam (Lynching of)

On July 6, 1910, an African-American man named Sam Powell was lynched near Huttig (Union County) for allegedly robbing A. E. Lucas and setting his house on fire. The Nashville Tennessean reported that Powell was only eighteen years old at the time. He may have been assisted in the crime by another African-American man named Claude Holmes. There is no record of a young African American named Sam Powell living in Arkansas in either 1900 or 1910. However, in 1900, an eight-year-old African American named Sam Powell was living in Lincoln Parish in northern Louisiana with his parents and eight siblings, and news stories about the lynching reported that Powell initially escaped to a lumber town named Rochelle in Grant …

Prairie D’Ane, Skirmish at

aka: Battle of Gum Grove
The Skirmish at Prairie D’Ane was an April 1864 battle in which Confederate troops tried to stop a Union advance into southwestern Arkansas. It was the second engagement of the Camden Expedition. After capturing Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in September 1863, Union forces were in control of much of the state. From these two occupied cities, Federal troops could launch an attack into southern Arkansas, northern Louisiana, and eastern Texas. In March 1864, the Union launched an attack on northwest Louisiana and eastern Texas from Arkansas and New Orleans, Louisiana. The attack launched from New Orleans became known as the Red River Campaign, while the invasion launched from Little Rock became known as the Camden …

Prairie Grove Campaign

Spring 1862 was one of despair for Confederate Arkansas following the defeat at Pea Ridge (Benton County) and the capture of Helena (Phillips County) by the victorious Union army under the command of Major General Samuel Ryan Curtis. The arrival of Major General Thomas C. Hindman as commander of the Trans-Mississippi region in May brought a glimmer of hope, as he immediately began rebuilding the army protecting the state, encouraged the use of guerrilla warfare against the Union invaders, and established Confederate factories to provide much-needed supplies. Throughout the summer and fall, the armies in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas jockeyed for position and skirmished with each other, culminating with the Prairie Grove Campaign, which determined the fate of Missouri …

Prairie Grove, Battle of

The Battle of Prairie Grove was the last time two armies of almost equal strength faced each other for control of northwest Arkansas. When the Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi withdrew from the bloody ground on December 7, 1862, the Union forces claimed a strategic victory. It seemed clear that Missouri and northwest Arkansas would remain under Federal protection. Brigadier General James G. Blunt’s Union command remained in the Cane Hill (Washington County) area after the engagement there on November 28. This encouraged Major General Thomas C. Hindman to attack the Federal troops with his Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi at Fort Smith (Sebastian County) thirty miles away. The Southern army crossed the Arkansas River on December 3 and marched …

Pratt, Parley P. (Murder of)

Parley Parker Pratt, an original member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was murdered in Arkansas in 1857 and buried in the state, despite his wishes to be buried in Utah.The Van Buren (Crawford County) newspaper Arkansas Intelligencer, on May 15, 1857, deemed Pratt “a man of note among the Mormons.” While another notable event involving Mormons in Arkansas—the massacre of Arkansas emigrants four months later at Mountain Meadows, Utah—was formerly linked to Pratt’s murder in Arkansas, more recent inquiry suggests other circumstances may have ignited the violence at Mountain Meadows on September 11, 1857. Pratt was one of the key figures in the early Church leadership. Pratt’s writings, which include pamphlets, …

Presidential Visits

Until the second half of the twentieth century, the visit of a president of the United States (or even of a former president) was a historic event in Arkansas. The ease and affordability of travel—and the election of an Arkansas native as president in 1992 and 1996—have made presidential visits less noteworthy. The following chart lists the visits of presidents and former presidents to the state of Arkansas from statehood in 1836 through the year 1990. The occasions when future presidents were in Arkansas, such as Colonel Zachary Taylor’s time in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) from 1841 to 1845, are not listed. President Bill Clinton’s numerous return visits to Arkansas are not included, nor are visits by Presidents George H. …

Presley, Elvis (Arkansas Performances of)

Elvis Presley started his meteoric musical career in 1954 in Memphis, Tennessee, recording for Sam Phillips’s Sun Records. His style of music—combining country (called hillbilly in those days), gospel, blues, pop crooning, and rhythm and blues with his unique singing and dancing talents—can truly be said to have originated a particular brand of rock ‘n’ roll later dubbed rockabilly by music critics and DJs. His music career blossomed a second time in 1968 when he made a comeback after several years in the Hollywood doldrums. His second rise to fame and fortune continued until his death at his Graceland estate in Memphis on August 16, 1977, at the age of forty-two. Elvis’s presence in Arkansas has three general phases. First …