Entries - Time Period: Louisiana Purchase through Early Statehood (1803 - 1860) - Starting with B

Barkman, Jacob

Jacob Barkman is known as the father of Clark County. An early settler along the Caddo River, Barkman eventually became a prominent landowner and planter. Jacob Barkman was born on December 20, 1784, in Kentucky. Little is known of his early life, but, by 1811, Barkman had married Rebecca Davis. Eventually, the couple had two sons and a daughter. Wishing to move west, the family joined Barkman’s brother John, John’s wife, and their several slaves at Bayou Sara in Louisiana in 1811. Joining another group organized by John Hemphill, the party moved up the Ouachita River. The Barkmans settled along the Caddo River, just a few miles from its merger with the Ouachita. This location was a few miles to …

Barraque, Antoine

Antoine Barraque established the settlement called New Gascony, one of the earliest settlements in what is now Jefferson County. He also served as a government agent with the Quapaw, whom he guided to Louisiana in 1826 after the treaty of 1824, although his efforts to ease their transition to a new land were frustrated by other government officials. Antoine Barraque was born on April 15, 1773, in southwestern France. He was educated in Paris and served in the French army under Napoleon Bonaparte, fighting at the battles of Marengo, Austerlitz, Jena, Lodi, and Moscow. Following the end of Napoleon’s empire, Barraque relocated to Arkansas, arriving in 1816 at the age of forty-three. Living first at Arkansas Post, Barraque formed friendships …

Barron-Craig House

The Barron-Craig House, the oldest structure still standing in northern Saline County, is located at Paron near the intersection of Arkansas Highway 9 and Kanis Road (12th Street). It is one of only a few antebellum homes still found in Saline County. A single-pen log structure, it survived the destruction of the Civil War and the ravages of time. James Barron moved to Saline County from South Carolina circa 1835 and settled in Union Township, later designated Holland Township, near what became Paron. His son, John T. Barron, born in 1828, married Sarah Pelton in 1856 and began a farmstead nearby. In 1857, John Barron built a single-pen log structure with a gabled roof on a foundation of stone piers …

Bates, James Woodson

James Woodson Bates was an early Arkansas settler who was elected as the first Arkansas territorial representative to the U.S. Congress. After leaving that office, he went on to help develop Arkansas’s legal system as a judge and lawyer. Batesville (Independence County) was named after him in 1824. James Bates was born on August 25, 1788, in Belmont, Virginia, to Thomas F. Bates and Caroline Woodson Bates. Little is known of his early life, but he attended Yale College (now Yale University). He eventually graduated from Princeton College (now Princeton University) in 1807 and began practicing law in Virginia. In 1816, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where his brother Frederick Bates had been appointed territorial secretary. In 1819, he, …

Bean’s Rangers

Captain Jesse Bean’s Ranger Company was one of six companies of mounted militia authorized by Congress in 1832. Led by a member of a prominent Arkansas family, the company formed a part of the first mounted battalion in the U.S. Army for seventeen years. Its actions are representative of the militarization of Arkansas’s western border and the area beyond during the territorial period. Influenced in 1815 by a need for economy and a deep-rooted fear of standing armies, Congress had eliminated cavalry, considered by some to be a uniformed elite, from the army. However, the Black Hawk War in Illinois and Wisconsin reminded legislators of the utility of cavalry, and, on June 15, 1832, Congress authorized President Andrew Jackson to raise …

Beebe, Roswell

Roswell Beebe was the first benefactor of the city of Little Rock (Pulaski County); the town of Beebe (White County) was named after him. In the late 1840s and the 1850s, he was one of the most important businessmen and politicians in Little Rock. He donated several pieces of land to the city. Roswell Beebe was born on December 22, 1795, in Hinsdale, New York, to a wealthy English family. When he was seventeen, he talked his father into letting him go to New Orleans, Louisiana. He was behind the cotton bales with Andrew Jackson when the United States turned back the British at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Roswell was successful in several businesses. The 1832 New …

Belle Zane [Steamboat]

The Belle Zane was a sternwheel river packet that struck a snag on the Mississippi River about twelve miles below the mouth of the White River on the night of December 18–19, 1845. As many as fifty passengers and crew members perished in the accident. The Belle Zane was a 128-ton sternwheel steam packet built in Zanesville, Ohio, in 1844, described as a fast-running and light draught steamer, drawing only twenty-three inches. While the vessel normally ran a route between Zanesville, Marietta, and Cincinnati, Ohio, the Belle Zane set out on December 18, 1845, for a run to New Orleans, Louisiana, carrying a cargo of flour, corn, oats, beans, and potatoes and around 125 passengers and crew. The vessel, commanded …

Bertig, Adolph

Adolph Bertig, a Jewish immigrant, was one of the leading merchants and financiers in northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was later known as the “Merchant Prince of Paragould.” Ad Bertig was born on June 21, 1853, in Kraków, Galicia, part of what was then the Austrian Empire. He was the eldest son of Wolff Jozef Bertig and Maryem Cortel Bertig. Bertig was nineteen when he immigrated alone to the United States in 1872, arriving first in New York, then migrating west to Little Rock (Pulaski County). While in Little Rock, he gained employment from one of the town’s most prominent businessmen, Colonel John G. Fletcher, who sent Bertig peddling goods to …

Bethel Cemetery

aka: Old Bethel Cemetery
Bethel Cemetery, named after the nearby extinct Bethel Church, is located in the west-central area of Lawrence County, in the vicinity of the former rural town of Denton (Lawrence County). The cemetery is listed in the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A with local significance for its association with the early exploration and settlement of that community. Denton, a now-defunct town located six miles west of Powhatan (Lawrence County) on State Highway 117, is one of several communities that experienced a slow decline after railroad companies built tracks through eastern Lawrence County. Situated in the Flat Creek valley, Denton sprang up at the crossroads of the Military Road and the Powhatan-Smithville Road. Settlers began arriving about 1850. Some would …

Big Bear of Arkansas, The

“The Big Bear of Arkansas” by Thomas Bangs Thorpe is a prime example of Southwestern humor. The story and its relations (notably Charles Noland’s “Pete Whetstone’s Bear Hunt” of 1837), along with the presence of bears in the region, helped earn Arkansas the sobriquet of the “Bear State,” as well as adding to the young state’s image as an untamed wilderness. Thorpe was born on March 1, 1815, in Westfield, Massachusetts, and raised in New York. He earned a living painting portraits, particularly during his years in Louisiana (1838–1854 and in the 1860s). Thorpe also dabbled in politics and investment, both in New York and in Louisiana. His greatest claim to lasting fame was as a writer, publishing six books …

Black, James

James Black, popularly known as the maker of the bowie knife, was one of the early pioneers of Arkansas and settled in the town of Washington (Hempstead County) in southwest Arkansas. James Black was born on May 1, 1800, in New Jersey; the names of his parents are unknown. His mother died when he was young, and his father remarried. Black did not get along well with his stepmother and ran away from home at the age of eight to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While in Philadelphia, he was taken in as an apprentice to a silverplater named Stephen Henderson. During that time, Black apparently became strongly skilled in the art of silverplating. In 1818, when he was eighteen years old, his …

Blackburn, Sylvanus

Sylvanus Walker Blackburn is noted for building the first gristmill in Benton County, locating his mill on War Eagle River. After selecting a site, Blackburn built a home, followed by a gristmill, blacksmith shop, carpentry shop, sawmill, and school. Today, Blackburn’s two-story home still stands, while a 1973 reproduction of the mill sits on its original spot. War Eagle Mill is Arkansas’s only remaining working mill and is believed to be the only undershot waterwheel now in operation in the United States. This is also the site of the well-known annual Ozark Arts and Crafts Fair, generally known as the War Eagle Fair, established in 1954 and held in October. Born on February 15, 1809, Sylvanus Blackburn was the son …

Blackfish Lake Ferry Site

The Blackfish Lake Ferry Site marks the location where a ferry was established in 1826 to allow travelers on the Memphis to Little Rock Road to cross Blackfish Lake in eastern St. Francis County. Surveyors hired to lay out a route for the proposed Memphis to Little Rock Road noted that Blackfish Lake was among the obstacles to be overcome in rugged eastern Arkansas. When they reported to Secretary of War John C. Calhoun on February 12, 1825, that they had selected the best possible route through eastern Arkansas, they included a description of Blackfish Lake east of Crowley’s Ridge and a recommendation that a ferry be established to cross it: “Blackfish—this stream has been considered the great obstacle in the …

Block, Abraham

aka: Abraham Bloch
Abraham Block was the patriarch of the first documented Jewish family to immigrate to the state of Arkansas. After a period as a businessman in Virginia, Block moved his family to southwest Arkansas in search of new economic opportunities. Along with his sons, he created a regional merchant empire with businesses in Washington (Hempstead County), Fulton (Hempstead County), and Paraclifta (Sevier County) in Arkansas, as well as in New Orleans, Louisiana, and at several stops along the railroad in Texas from Houston to Dallas. The family home in Washington has been restored and is currently a house museum in Historic Washington State Park. Abraham Block (or Bloch) was born on January 30, 1780, or 1781, in Schwihau, Bohemia. The names …

Block, Frances Isaiah Isaacs (Fanny)

Frances (Fanny) Block was the matriarch of the first documented Jewish family to immigrate to what became the state of Arkansas. After courtship and the start of a family in Virginia and New York, Block and her family moved to southwestern Arkansas in search of new economic opportunities. Her willingness to forgo the stability of a religious community on the East Coast and move her family west allowed the family to establish a regional mercantile empire that included businesses in places such as Washington (Hempstead County), Fulton (Hempstead County), and Paraclifta (Sevier County) in Arkansas, as well as in New Orleans, Louisiana, and at several stops along the railroad in Texas from Houston to Dallas. Fanny Block and her family …

Borland, Solon

Solon Borland was a physician, editor, United States senator, diplomat, and military officer. He was the first Arkansas politician to be given a major diplomatic assignment, which eventually resulted in the destruction of a town in Central America, one of the earliest examples of U.S. gunboat diplomacy. According to an article in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Solon Borland was born in Suffolk, Nansemond County, Virginia, the youngest of three sons born to Thomas Wood Borland, a physician, and Harriet Godwin. Additional sources have his date of birth as August 8, 1811. His family moved to North Carolina by 1823. In 1831, he married Hildah (or Huldah) Wright of Virginia; they had two sons, Harold and Thomas. He …

Bowie Knife

The bowie knife, made popular in the 1830s, has evolved into a specific form in current use. The bowie knife was worn for defensive purposes; its primary function was for personal combat. It was designed to be part of a gentleman’s attire, and the key difference between the bowie knife and a hunting knife, a dagger, or a dirk was, initially, the quality of finish of the bowie. Bowie knives came in a variety of forms—with or without guards, with differently shaped blades—and often were adorned with silver and other decoration, sometimes including etching and/or engraving on their metal surfaces. The knife got its name from a pioneer family who settled in early Arkansas and Louisiana. Jim Bowie, the best …

Bowie, Jim

aka: James Bowie
Jim Bowie, the man who popularized the bowie knife and who served as the co-commander of the Texan forces at the Alamo, was also an adventurer and land speculator who achieved notoriety for a number of fraudulent land claims he made in Arkansas. Little is known about Bowie’s birth. His father was Rezin Bowie and his mother Alvina Jones (Elve) Bowie. Their son Jim was most likely born in Logan County, Kentucky, although some accounts place his birth in Tennessee or Georgia. Bowie had numerous brothers and sisters, and two of his brothers, Rezin P. and John, each owned property in Arkansas in Chicot County and Helena (Phillips County) during their lives. It is believed that John Bowie is buried …

Bozeman House

The Bozeman House is a wood-frame Greek Revival house in Clark County constructed around 1847. The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The original owner of the house, Michael Bozeman, was a native of Georgia. Born in 1808, he moved to the new state of Alabama in 1819. He married Lucy Ann Browning in 1827, and the couple moved to the Arkansas Territory in 1835. The couple eventually had nine children. The family lived on a tract of land about six miles west of Arkadelphia (Clark County). Bozeman farmed a number of crops but focused on cotton. The family lived in a log cabin when they first arrived in Arkansas. Construction on a new …

Bradford, William

William Bradford was a major in the U.S. Army, a veteran of the War of 1812, an explorer, a Kentucky legislator, and one of the first brigadier generals in the Arkansas militia. He was the builder and the first commander of Camp Smith, later named Fort Smith, located at Belle Point at the confluence of the Arkansas and Poteau rivers located in present-day Sebastian County. The old fort’s foundation can be visited today and is a part of the Fort Smith National Historic Site. Not much is known about Bradford’s early life. He was born in Virginia in 1771 and later moved to Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, where he held many county offices, including deputy sheriff. He was commissioned a captain …

Brazeale Homestead

The Brazeale Homestead is a collection of eleven buildings located near the Pine Grove community in southwestern Dallas County. With the earliest dating to the 1850s and the most recent to the beginning of the twentieth century, the complex includes a variety of living quarters and agricultural buildings. Benjamin Franklin Brazeale moved to the area in the mid-1840s. He began farming and constructed several buildings and other structures to support the farm, although the exact dates of construction for many of the buildings are not known. He officially acquired 160 acres of land from the federal government on June 1, 1859. Brazeale acquired forty more nearby in 1880. By 1860, Brazeale lived on the property with his family, including wife …

Brown, Jacob

Jacob Brown was an important but often overlooked figure in Arkansas’s territorial and early statehood period. He served as the chief disbursement agent for the Office of Removal and Subsistence and was the first president of the Arkansas State Bank. After Brown fought and was killed in the Siege of Fort Texas during the Mexican War, Fort Texas was renamed Fort Brown in his honor; the city of Brownsville, Texas, also bears his name, as does Brownsville (Lonoke County). Jacob Brown was born in Charlton, Massachusetts, on July 19, 1789. Brown’s father, also called Jacob, had served during the Revolutionary War against Great Britain, and his mother was Mary Wells Brown, also from Charlton. Brown served with distinction in the …

Brownlee House

The Brownlee House is a one-story brick structure in a historically preserved part of Little Rock (Pulaski County). This Georgian vernacular cottage was built by Scotsman Robert Brownlee for his brother and his brother’s wife, James and Isabelle Brownlee, in 1847. Between 1939 and 1941, Louise Loughborough and Max Mayer renovated the Brownlee House and several other structures on Block 32 in addition to the Brownlee House on Lot 9 to create the Arkansas Territorial Restoration, today’s Historic Arkansas Museum. Chester Ashley and his brother-in-law Roswell Beebe originally owned Lot 9. A deed of warranty dated February 16, 1842, states that Thomas Thorn sold Lot 9 to James McVicar. On July 12 of the same year, McVicar conveyed the property …

Brownlee, Robert

Robert Brownlee was a Scottish stonemason who lived in Little Rock (Pulaski County) from 1837 to 1849. He helped build the first statehouse in Arkansas and several other historic landmarks in Pulaski County. Robert Brownlee was born on April 24, 1813, in Bonkle, Cambusnethan Parish, a tiny community in the Scottish lowlands. He was ninth in a family of seven sons and four daughters born to Margaret and Alexander Brownlee. After a basic education at Murdestoun Estate School near Bonkle, he apprenticed to his older brother, William, a stonecutter. Brownlee was twenty-three when he read about the December 1835 fire that almost destroyed New York City and the need for mechanics to help rebuild the city. That same day, he …

Burton-Aikin Feud

The Burton-Aikin (also spelled “Aiken”) feud between Dr. Phillip Patrick (known as P. P.) Burton and Dr. Trent C. Aikin—who both practiced medicine in Batesville (Independence County )—began on October 21, 1841, with the death of Nicholas E. Burton (son of P. P. Burton) and ended on September 15, 1849, when an Independence County jury found P. P. Burton’s son Phil Burton “not guilty” in the murder of Dr. Aikin. The feud grew out of a medical disagreement between the two doctors. Dr. Aikin was called to treat a “Negro woman” (presumably a slave) belonging to a Mr. Byers of Batesville. Aikin diagnosed the woman with liver disease and began treatment of it. When the woman failed to improve, Byers asked Dr. …

Butler-Matthews Homestead

The Butler-Matthews Homestead is a complex of agricultural structures located near Tulip (Dallas County). Sixteen structures are located in the complex, dating from the 1850s to 1930s. The complex was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 28, 1983. Alexander Butler arrived in Dallas County from North Carolina in the early 1850s and constructed a home on the property. He first obtained forty acres of federal land north of Tulip in 1855, followed by 160 acres in 1857; the second parcel is the location of the homestead. Constructing a house around 1853, Butler built a thriving agricultural enterprise in the area before the Civil War. By 1850, he owned fifteen enslaved workers and also operated a mercantile …

Butterfield’s Overland Mail Company

aka: Overland Mail Company
Butterfield’s Overland Mail Company carried the first successful overland transcontinental mail by stagecoach through Arkansas as it went from the Mississippi River to California. Though only running from 1858 through 1861, it was the longest stagecoach line in world history at approximately 2,812 miles and was a major factor in the settlement and development of Arkansas and the American West before the Civil War. Its two main routes ran through Arkansas, westward from Memphis and south from Missouri, connecting in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). Many sites in Arkansas, such as Butterfield Trails Village in Fayetteville (Washington County), still reflect the era of Butterfield’s Overland Mail Company. Before modern technology, the mail was America’s lifeblood. “Post roads” were created in the …

Byrne, Andrew

Andrew Byrne was the first Roman Catholic bishop of Little Rock (Pulaski County), a diocese which then and now encompasses the boundaries of the state of Arkansas. A prelate on the southern frontier, he had few Catholics in his ecclesiastical domain; nevertheless, he planted the Church so deeply that even his death, the Civil War, and the five-year absence of any bishop could not eradicate the faith. Andrew Byrne was born in Navan, a town about forty miles northwest of Dublin, Ireland, the son of Robert and Margery Moore Byrne. There is no exact date of his birth on parish records, though they record that he was baptized on December 3, 1802; with his name being Andrew, he may have …