Entry Type: Event

Whitney’s Lane, Action at

aka: Skirmish at Searcy Landing
The Action at Whitney’s Lane was the first major contact between Federal and Confederate forces in Arkansas after the Battle of Pea Ridge on March 6–7, 1862. This action and subsequent events led the Union army to give up its objective to capture Little Rock (Pulaski County) in May 1862. Little Rock did not fall under Federal control until September 1863. Union Major General Samuel R. Curtis’s defeat of the Confederate forces under Major General Earl Van Dorn at the Battle of Pea Ridge had not been altogether decisive, but he could claim victory. Consequently, Confederate command staff in the east conceded much of the western region of the Confederacy known as the Trans-Mississippi and ordered Van Dorn to take …

Wiederkehr Weinfest

Wiederkehr Wine Cellar’s Weinfest is one of the oldest and best-attended festivals in western Arkansas. The first Wiederkehr Weinfest was in 1963, and the event continues to be an annual attraction for locals and tourists. Weinfest celebrates the heritage of the Swiss-German immigrants who settled in Wiederkehr Village atop St. Mary’s Mountain near the city of Altus (Franklin County) during the 1880s. Al Wiederkehr, the winery founder’s grandson, initiated the festival after he returned from an oenological (relating to the study of wine and winemaking) research trip to Europe. During his expedition, he traveled to wine- and grape-producing countries, including France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, and attended a variety of local festivals. When he came home, he realized that having a …

Wild Haws Expedition

aka: Strawberry Creek Expedition
Ordered to screen the movements of Colonel W. D. Wood of the Eleventh Regiment of Missouri Cavalry through the Izard County area, Captain Edward Lawler of Company K, First Nebraska Cavalry Volunteers, moved through Wild Haws (Izard County) to the Strawberry River (named “Strawberry Creek” in the reports) before returning to Batesville (Independence County) from March 10 to March 12, 1864. While completing this assignment, no enemy contact was made. On March 10, 1864, Capt. Lawler received orders to move with a detachment toward Wild Haws, which was renamed LaCrosse (Izard County) in 1869. Lawler’s detachment, whose strength was not identified in official reports, was to aid in the movement of six squadrons from the Eleventh Regiment of Missouri Cavalry under …

Williwaw War

The “Williwaw War” has become the common term for the World War II conflict between American and Japanese troops in the Arctic Aleutian Islands. The term “williwaw” apparently dates to the nineteenth century, though its origin is uncertain; it describes sudden violent gusts of wind, often accompanied by rain, snow, and fog. The Aleutian theater in the war held particular interest for Arkansans: according to a story widely believed at the time (and which may actually be true), the loss of a coin toss in July of 1941 resulted in assignment of the 206th Coast Artillery Regiment of the recently federalized Arkansas National Guard to Aleutian duty. The winners (as they then thought), New Mexico’s 200th, were dispatched to the tropical …

Wilson-Anthony Duel

The only recorded violent death on the floor of the Arkansas General Assembly occurred on December 4, 1837, in a knife brawl leaving state Representative Major Joseph J. Anthony of Randolph County dead at the hands of Speaker of the House Colonel John Wilson of Clark County, who was subsequently expelled and tried for murder. The Arkansas Gazette cited it as “another example of the barbarity of life in Arkansas,” lamenting how it “stained the history of the state.” The events have long been obscured by variants of the narrative. Speaker Wilson, who was presiding over an extraordinary session of the Arkansas General Assembly called by Governor James Conway to deal with a predicted tax surplus, was debating a wolf-scalp bill, sent …

Wilson, Alexander (Lynching of)

On October 20, 1919, an African-American man named Alexander (Alex) Wilson was lynched near Marianna (Lee County) for allegedly murdering Ruth Murrah (identified in many newspaper articles as Rosa or Rose), who was about nineteen years old. Wilson had attacked Ruth, who was killed, and a relative named Estelle, who escaped. There was a Murrah family in Lee County as early as 1880. Charles Murrah was working as a farm laborer in Bear Creek Township and living with his wife, Celia, and their one-year-old daughter, Mary. A family member (probably a daughter) named Clara Belle, age fourteen, married thirty-one-year-old William Clifton in August 1893. By 1900 Murrah, age fifty-four, owned his own farm in Bear Creek Township. Also in the …

Wilson, Tom (Lynching of)

In late February 1884, Tom (sometimes referred to as Thomas) Wilson, an African-American man, was lynched near Conway (Faulkner County) for allegedly attempting to assault a woman identified only as Mrs. Griffy. Several other newspaper accounts identify her husband as William Griffy. No further information is available on either Wilson or the Griffy family in Faulkner County. According to a report published in the Arkansas Gazette on February 21, the lynching had occurred “several days since.” According to the Gazette and several other national newspapers, including the Little Falls Transcript, William Griffy was away from his farm overnight when Wilson entered the house and attempted to assault Mrs. Griffy. She screamed and attacked him with a fire shovel, whereupon he …

Woodward, William (Lynching of)

William Woodward, a white farmer, was lynched by a mob in Searcy County in June 1900 for killing his step-daughter, Lurena Thomas, after she apparently charged him with sexually assaulting her. At the time of the 1900 census, William Woodward, age thirty-five, was living in Richland Township with his wife, Margaret J. Woodward (thirty-nine), two daughters and four sons ranging from two to eleven, and step-daughter Lurena, then eighteen. (The census rendered the family name as Woodard, but all news reports give the name as Woodward.) According to the Marshall Republican, in a report reprinted in the Arkansas Democrat, Woodward was a farmer known for the ill treatment he afforded his wife and step-daughter, having reportedly whipped both on several …

World Championship Quartz Crystal Dig

The World Championship Quartz Crystal Dig is held annually the second week of October in the Mount Ida (Montgomery County) area. According to Montgomery County: Our Heritage, “The Quartz Crystal Festival held October 24, 25 and 26, 1986, was attended by some two thousand residents and tourists from coast to coast.” The event was the idea of Paul G. Griffiths Sr. of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce and Sonny Stanley. The dig is a two-day event with two divisions: crystal points and clusters. The winners keep the crystal they mine and share in $1,500 in prize money. Contestants pay a $75 registration fee and compete in both divisions. On each of the three days of the dig, the …

World War I

aka: The Great War
World War I had less impact on the state of Arkansas than the Civil War or World War II. Still, World War I did deplete the young male population of the state for a time, brought new institutions into the state that continue to the present time, and gave many Arkansans a new view of the world and of Arkansas’s place in an increasingly connected world community. World War I was the result of many complex factors, including a network of alliances linking the larger powers in Europe and the growing power of nationalism in some regions of the world. The Balkan region of southeastern Europe—which had been part of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and …

World War II

During World War II, Arkansas underwent fundamental social and economic changes that affected all parts of the state. From the creation of ordnance plants to the presence of prisoners of war (POWs) and Japanese-American internees, the impact of the war meant that the Arkansas of 1945 was vastly different from the Arkansas of 1941. In some ways, this reflected issues particular to Arkansas, while in other ways it reflected the profound changes that the United States as a whole underwent during the war. Along with the lingering effects of the Great Depression, the transformations that were brought about by World War II were to form a clear break between prewar and postwar Arkansas. Industrialization, urbanization, and migration all dramatically transformed …

World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest

The World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest is held every Thanksgiving weekend in Stuttgart (Arkansas County). The winner is named the World Champion Duck Caller. To qualify for the contest, a contestant must win a preliminary state or regional duck-calling contest sanctioned by the Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce and held in one of thirty-eight states. A preliminary contest is also held in Canada for Canadian residents. The first National Duck Calling Contest was held on Main Street in Stuttgart on November 24, 1936, in connection with the annual Arkansas Rice Carnival. It was sponsored by American Legion Post No. 48. The contest was originated by Thad McCollum of Stuttgart after a dispute broke out among local duck hunters as to who …

World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade

The World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which is held in Hot Springs (Garland County), began in 2004 when a group of Hot Springs residents gathered in a pub on the city’s Bridge Street and began musing about ways to capitalize on the fact that the street had been named in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! during the 1950s and 1960s as the world’s shortest street in everyday use. The idea of holding a celebration on the ninety-eight-foot street in the heart of the historic city’s downtown area arose, and the approaching St. Patrick’s Day holiday emerged as an appropriate time to capitalize on Bridge Street’s reputation. The First Ever First Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held …

Wright v. Arkansas

Wright v. Arkansas was a case involving same-sex marriage in Arkansas. Beginning with a May 2014 decision by a state district court judge, which overturned Arkansas’s ban on gay marriage, the case was stalled in the courts for the next fourteen months. In response to the original decision, one that came amidst the turmoil that surrounded the issue of gay marriage nationwide, the state attorney general secured a temporary stay of the ruling from the Arkansas Supreme Court. Subsequently, additional efforts were undertaken to get a full review by the state’s highest court and then, alternatively, in a special court. A change in the occupants of the offices of both governor and state attorney general contributed to delays, however, and …

Yancey, William (Lynching of)

William Yancey, accused of being a horse thief, was attacked by a mob and hanged in western Bradley County while being transported from the jail in Hampton (Calhoun County) in 1879. William Yancey, a white man described as “a somewhat notorious and disreputable character,” was arrested in May 1879 in Calhoun County on charges of stealing horses. On May 17, lawmen removed him from the jail in Hampton, with sources varying regarding whether he was to be taken to Princeton (Dallas County) to face other charges or to a jail in Bradley County because the Hampton lockup was not secure. Whatever the case, he was taken to the Lagle Creek bottoms in Bradley County and hanged. The Goodspeed history of …

Yocum Creek, Skirmish at

aka: Skirmish at Duncan Springs
  Part of the First Arkansas Cavalry (US) was stationed at Elkhorn Tavern, near Bentonville (Benton County), in late October 1862 to help control part of southwest Missouri until the army could enter Arkansas. On November 15, 1862, Company G under the command of Captain Rowman E. M. Mack and Company K under Captain Theodorick Youngblood, along with elements of an additional unidentified company, arrived in the area of Yocum Creek in Arkansas to evacuate loyal Union families to Elkhorn Tavern. While at the Jeremiah Youngblood farm, local Confederates attacked the Unionists and then withdrew to the south and west along Yocum Creek, with the Federals in pursuit. The fight continued southward, down the valley to Duncan Springs. At this junction, …