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

Sager, Simon

Simon Sager and his family are believed to have been the first white settlers in Hico (now Siloam Springs in Benton County)—part of a massive influx of skilled German immigrants into the United States and northwest Arkansas that began in the 1830s. Simon Sager was born in 1802 in Wurttemberg, Germany. He married Wilhemina Charlotte Meyers of Baden, Germany, around 1825. The couple had eleven children. Sager followed his father in working as a cabinetmaker and builder. In 1836, Sager, his wife and five children, two brothers, and a cousin left Prussia, a large state in northern Germany, because of economic hardship and the political climate of the country. They arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 1, 1837, and, from …

Sarah Bird Northrup Ridge House

The Sarah Bird Northrup Ridge House is the oldest house still standing in Fayetteville (Washington County), dating back to 1836. Its original pine flooring and field stone fireplaces have endured to the present. It was built with the latest methods of the time, including mortised construction, shake shingles, and square-headed nails. The original cabin style was called “dog-trot” or “dog-run” and consisted of two single rooms separated by an open passage called a breezeway. A common roof covered the two rooms and the breezeway. In later years, the house was made into two stories and converted to “salt box” style, and the breezeway was converted into a central hallway. The Ridge House, at 230 West Center, is now owned and …

Sarasin

aka: Saracen
aka: Sarrasin
aka: Sarasen
Sarasin was a Quapaw leader who became a legend among Arkansas settlers for rescuing white children captured by Indians raiding in the territory. Many versions of this story in Arkansas folklore indicate the high regard in which Sarasin was held by his white neighbors. Not remembered as well were Sarasin’s struggles to help his people, the Quapaw, who lived in three villages along the Arkansas River below Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). During the era of Indian removal in the early nineteenth century, Sarasin and other Quapaw leaders attempted to prevent removal. The basic legend about Sarasin concerns the late eighteenth-century capture of two children, taken from their home by a Chickasaw raiding party. Sarasin went to the children’s mother and …

Sawyer, Sophia

Sophia Sawyer, an educator whose calling was to teach the Cherokee, founded the Fayetteville Female Seminary in 1839. This tireless educator was associated with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions of the Congregational Church. Sophia Sawyer was born May 4 or 5, 1792, in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Little is known of her parents, save for the fact that they were extremely poor farmers who eventually bought a farm in New Hampshire. She never married. Dr. Seth Payson, a Congregational clergyman from Rindge, New Hampshire, took Sawyer into his home as a housemaid after her parents died and sent her to school. Sawyer gained teaching experience in the Payson household, teaching basic education during the summer at Rindge but needed …

Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft published the first written description of the Arkansas Ozarks’ geography, vegetation, wildlife, and inhabitants. His Journal of a Tour into the Interior of Missouri and Arkansaw, published in London, England, in 1821, is an account of a three-month exploration by Schoolcraft and one companion, Levi Pettibone. From November 1818 to February 1819, Schoolcraft explored land from Potosi, Missouri, southwest to the White River, northwest to near Springfield, Missouri, then south by canoe on the White River to present-day Batesville (Independence County), and finally northeast again to Missouri. Schoolcraft’s great-grandfather was a British soldier in New York in the early 1700s who settled with a German wife in Schoharie County, New York. His son John served in the …

Scott County Lynching of 1843

In the spring of 1843, authorities in Scott County jailed a Native American man and an African-American boy for murdering a local family. The former was hanged, while the latter was burned alive. Only one published account was given regarding the incident and, as a result, limited information is available. The incident was reported in the June 2, 1843, edition of the Rochester Republican, but only in brief, with the whole report reading as follows: “The family of a Mr. Cox was recently murdered in Scott county, Arkansas, near the Choctaw lines, by an Indian and a negro, who were put in jail, and confessed the crime. The population afterwards took the negro out and burned him!” Norman Goodner’s 1941 book …

Scott-Selden Duel

aka: Selden-Scott Duel
The Scott-Selden Duel was fought on May 26, 1824, between Andrew Horatio Scott and Joseph Selden, both judges of the territorial Superior Court of the Arkansas Territory. Judges Scott and Selden worked together on the Superior Court from 1821 until the duel, which resulted in Selden’s death. Arkansas was created as a separate territory from Missouri in 1819. Congress vested the judicial power of the territorial government in a Superior Court, consisting of three judges appointed by the president for four-year terms, and in such other inferior courts as the territorial legislature might create. In 1819, Andrew Scott, Charles Jouett of Michigan, and Robert Letcher of Kentucky were appointed to be the first judges of the Superior Court. Jouett and …

Scott, Andrew Horatio

Andrew Horatio Scott was one of the first Superior Court judges of Arkansas Territory by virtue of appointment by President James Monroe. He was the first governmental official to report for duty at the village of Arkansas Post (Arkansas County) on July 4, 1819, and assisted in putting into operation the laws of the territory. He served as Circuit Court Judge for the first District and was the first County Judge of Pope County. The county of Scott, created in 1833, was named in his honor. Andrew Scott was born on August 6, 1789, to Andrew Scott, a Scottish emigrant weaver and Elizabeth Ferguson in Hanover, County, Virginia. In 1808, he arrived with his parents, two brothers, and three sisters …

Scott, Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus Scott was appointed to the Arkansas Supreme Court after the resignation of Williamson Simpson Oldham Sr. in 1848. He was elected to the position in 1850 and reelected in 1858. He served on the Arkansas Supreme Court until his death in 1859, the longest tenure of any justice in the antebellum period. Christopher C. Scott was born in Scottsburg, Virginia, on April 22, 1807. He was the son of General John Baytop Scott, who was a prominent lawyer and Revolutionary War soldier, and Martha “Patsy” Thompson, an accomplished daughter of a wealthy planter. John Baytop Scott was friends with many of the nation’s founding fathers, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. He was a graduate of …

Scott, George Washington

George Washington Scott was Arkansas Territory’s first U.S. marshal, serving from 1820 to 1831, as well as the state’s first auditor and the first clerk of the Territorial General Assembly. However, his volatile personality negated many of his early accomplishments, and he died a violent death in almost total obscurity. George Washington Scott was born in June 1798 in Virginia. He was one of six children of Andrew and Elizabeth Scott; his older brother, Andrew Horatio Scott, was later appointed as one of the first judges of the Arkansas Territory Superior Court. The family was living near St. Louis in the new Louisiana Territory as early as 1805. In 1808, they moved to Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. By 1815, they were …

Searcy, Richard

Richard Searcy is an often-overlooked figure of Arkansas’s territorial period who helped in the founding and organization of the first county seats in Lawrence and Independence counties. He worked in various positions and professions to serve the people and the Territory of Arkansas, such as secretary for the Arkansas territorial legislature in 1820, county clerk to Lawrence and Independence counties, judge in the First Judicial District (which included Lawrence, Independence, Phillips, and Arkansas counties), postmaster at Davidsonville (Lawrence County), and lawyer based in Batesville (Independence County). Richard Searcy was born on September 1, 1794, in Sumner County, Tennessee, to Reuben Searcy and his second wife, Elizabeth Jett. He was his father’s sixteenth of seventeen living children and his mother’s seventh of eight children. Little …

Sebastian, William King

William Sebastian represented Arkansas in the U.S. Senate from 1848 until 1861. Also a farmer, lawyer, and judge, Sebastian served his state until the Civil War ended his career. Sebastian County, formed on January 6, 1851, was named for him. William King Sebastian was born in Centerville, Tennessee, in 1812 to Samuel Sebastian and his wife. Records do not include the name of his mother or any siblings (he appears to be one of at least three children in the household in 1830.) or the exact date of his birth. Sebastian moved to Arkansas in 1835, living briefly in Monroe County before making his home in Helena (Phillips County). While in Tennessee, Sebastian attended Columbia College, graduating in 1834. He …

Second Seminole War

In 1835, the United States was engaged in the second of a series of three wars known as the Seminole Wars, fought against a group of Native Americans and blacks in Florida. While these military operations were conducted far from the borders of Arkansas Territory, they did have an effect upon the territory. When the federal government requested that the territorial governor of Arkansas provide troops, Arkansas citizens became engaged, for the first time, in organized military actions to defend the United States. By late 1835, it appeared that the first war with the Seminole of Florida was about to be concluded by treaty. When the well-known leader Osceola and other Seminole leaders repudiated this treaty, war broke out anew. …

Selden, Joseph

Joseph Selden was one of the earliest judges of the Superior Court of the Arkansas Territory, the territory’s highest court. Selden was appointed by President James Monroe in 1820 to replace Robert Letcher, who left the territory abruptly after less than one year in office. Judge Selden served on the court until May 26, 1824, when he was killed in a duel with fellow jurist Judge Andrew H. Scott. Joseph Selden was born in Henrico County, Virginia, on May 7, 1787, to Colonel Miles Cary Selden and Elizabeth Armistead Selden. He was born on the family estate, Tree Hill, on the James River; he had eleven siblings. One of his younger brothers was William Selden, born in 1791, who became …

Sequoyah

aka: George Guess
aka: George Gist
Sequoyah, also known as George Guess and George Gist, is best known for his development of the Cherokee syllabary, a notational system that transcribed the sounds of spoken Cherokee into a written form. But during his long life, Sequoyah played many roles in Cherokee society. Sequoyah was born circa 1770 to a Cherokee mother and an Anglo-European father. There is no record of his having a formal education. He made a living at various periods as a blacksmith and a silversmith, trades that developed as a result of Cherokee contact with European culture, although he was a traditionalist in supporting Cherokee cultural and territorial integrity. When the first large group of Cherokee prepared to move from the Cherokee heartland of …

Sevier, Ambrose Hundley

Ambrose Hundley Sevier was a territorial delegate and one of the first U.S. senators from the state of Arkansas. Sevier was also one of the founders of a political dynasty which ruled antebellum Arkansas politics from the 1820s until the Civil War. His cousin Henry Wharton Conway founded the Arkansas Democratic Party, and his other cousin, James Sevier Conway, served as Arkansas’s first state governor, while yet another cousin, Elias Nelson Conway, was the state’s fifth chief executive. He also married into the powerful Johnson family, and his brother-in-law Robert W. Johnson rose to prominence in antebellum Arkansas politics. Born on November 10, 1801, in Greene County, Tennessee, to John Sevier and Susannah Conway, he was the grandnephew of John …

Sharp, Ephraim

Ephraim Sharp, for whom Sharp County was named, was an early pioneer in Arkansas. He also served in the state legislature during the fifteenth and seventeenth sessions of the Arkansas General Assembly. Ephraim Sharp was born on July 30, 1815, in Hamilton County, Ohio, the ninth of ten children born to farmers John Sharp and Elizabeth Elston Sharp. His mother died when he was three. When he was twelve years old, his father moved the family from Ohio to Decatur County, Indiana. On October 29, 1833, Sharp married his first wife, Margaret Stevens; they had five children. In 1837, Sharp and his younger brother, William, moved their families to Arkansas. They settled as farmers in Sugar Loaf Township, near the …

Shawnee

Among the immigrant Native Americans who lived in territorial Arkansas were several Shawnee communities. They came from Indiana and Missouri at the invitation of the Cherokee after the Treaty of 1817 created the Cherokee Nation on land in the Ozarks between the White and Arkansas rivers. The Shawnee, who built settlements on Crooked Creek and White River, departed after more than a decade of life in Arkansas. The Shawnee were a large Algonkian-speaking tribe, widely scattered across the eastern woodlands. By the middle of the eighteenth century, the majority of them were living in the area both north and south of the Ohio River. Euro-American settlers from the east brought on years of violence. In a peace treaty in 1774, …

Shoppach House

aka: John F. Shoppach House
aka: Sadie Praytor Home
The Shoppach House, located at 508 North Main Street in Benton (Saline County), is the oldest surviving brick structure in Saline County. During the Civil War, the small brick house was home to Confederate private James H. Shoppach of Company E, First Arkansas Infantry. However, it was used to house occupying Union forces under Lieutenant Henry C. Caldwell in the fall of 1863. The Shoppach House was built by German immigrant John William Shoppach in 1852. The bricks used to build the house, and its well, were made on site. Shoppach was born in Hessen, Germany, and immigrated to the United States in 1834, eventually making his way to present-day Saline County, where he built his family homestead in the …

Shreve, Henry Miller

Henry Miller Shreve was a steamboat captain and inventor who is noted for performing much-needed clearance work on America’s major river systems during the first half of the nineteenth century. This work included using his own specially designed snag boat to clear large obstructions from the Arkansas River between Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and Little Rock (Pulaski County), greatly aiding steamboat travel and trade in the state of Arkansas. Henry Shreve was born on October 21, 1785, in Burlington County, New Jersey, to Isaiah Shreve and his second wife, Mary Cokely. He had four half-siblings from his father’s first marriage to Grace Curtis. Henry, the fifth child born to Isaiah and Mary, was barely three when, in 1788, his father …

Shryock, Gideon

Gideon Shryock is responsible for one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture west of the Mississippi River—the Old State House in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Shryock’s other recognizable architectural achievements include Kentucky’s Old State House and Old Morrison Hall at Transylvania College in Lexington, Kentucky. These structures still stand and still represent freedom, power, wealth, and limitless possibilities. Gideon Shryock was born on November 15, 1802, to Mathias Shryock and Elizabeth Gaugh Shryock in Lexington, Kentucky. Mathias Shryock was once described in a newspaper article as a “practical builder” but not a professionally trained architect. The family found prosperity and popularity in Lexington. Shryock’s father held slaves as early as 1810 and served as captain of the Lexington …

Slave Codes

Slave codes were the legal codification of rules regulating slavery. These official parameters for slavery were enacted in every colony or state that condoned the institution. Even before Arkansas was a recognized territory, slave codes existed in the region. Adopted by the French in 1724, the Code Noir, or Black Code, set the legal structure of slavery in Louisiana during the French and Spanish periods. The Code Noir was a comprehensive and detailed policy that set forth guidelines for almost every facet of slavery. The initial laws were partly designed to set limits upon slave owners and convey certain responsibilities to the masters regarding their slaves, including setting minimal standards for food, clothing and shelter, long-term care of sick or …

Slave Literacy

The ability of enslaved people in Arkansas to read and/or write presented one of the significant power struggles within the system of slavery because it concerned access to information, communication among enslaved people, and the opportunity for interpretation of texts like the Bible (considered a subversive activity). For antebellum Arkansans, literacy also signified personal improvement—something that slavery was understood to deny African Americans. While a fortunate few became literate, most enslaved people could not read or write. Literacy, however, was among the most important goals that freed people pursued upon emancipation. Although Arkansas law never specifically prohibited it, slaveholders generally prevented enslaved people from learning to read or write. Those who did learn had plenty of incentive to conceal their …

Slave Resistance

Enslaved people in Arkansas resisted dehumanization, demands on their labor, and limits on their activity in a variety of ways, ranging from indirect (often referred to as “passive”) to direct, even violent. Many factors—such as gender, age, location, and personality—determined slaves’ resistance strategies. Enslaved people also met with varying levels of circumscription within the system of slavery, causing them to push back against that regime in very different ways. While there is not enough evidence to determine for certain exactly how resistance strategies may have varied between slaves on Arkansas’s smaller holdings and those who resided on the state’s large plantations, it is reasonable to assume that the size of the slave-holding had some effect on resistance. For example, farm …

Slavery

American chattel slavery was a unique institution that emerged in the English colonies in America in the seventeenth century. Enslaved peoples were held involuntarily as property by slave owners who controlled their labor and freedom. By the eighteenth century, slavery had assumed racial tones as white colonists had come to consider only Africans who had been brought to the Americas as peoples who could be enslaved. Invariably, the earliest white settlers who moved into Arkansas brought slave property with them to work the area’s rich lands, and slavery became an integral part of local life. Slaves played a major role in the economic growth of the territory and state. Their presence contributed to the peculiar formation of local culture and …

Smith, Willis S.

Dr. Willis S. Smith was a regionally significant teacher, sheriff, farmer, doctor, and writer in early southwestern Arkansas. Willis Smith was born on August 10, 1810, in Todd County, Kentucky, a frontier community. He was the fifth of twelve children of Millington Smith and Barbara Barton Smith. He was the grandson and namesake of Revolutionary War soldier Willis S. Smith, who was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Smith had little opportunity for an education, and he could barely read or write even at twenty years of age. He left his home in Johnson County, Illinois, for Rock Springs Theological Seminary in Rock Springs, Illinois, where he received sufficient education to become a teacher at the school himself. One …

Snag Boats

As American settlers pushed westward following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, their goals of settlement, civilization, and trade were hindered by the hazardous nature of the western rivers. The pioneers found the Mississippi River and its tributaries, such as the Arkansas and Red rivers, filled with obstacles and debris. Snag boats, tasked with the removal of sunken trees and the clearing of the rivers, were one of the first answers to the growing loss of life and property. The navigability of the rivers became a priority to settlers, who believed the future prosperity of the Lower Mississippi Valley and the western frontier, including Arkansas, was acutely tied to the safety of river trade. As western river trade became more important …

Soulesbury Institute

aka: Soulesbury College
The Arkansas Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was organized in 1836 and held its first meeting in Batesville (Independence County) that fall. The Methodist Church had a longstanding interest in education, and by 1860 it was sponsoring Ouachita Conference Female College in Tulip (Dallas County), Wallace Institute in Van Buren (Crawford County), Arkadelphia Female College in Arkadelphia (Clark County), the Washington Male and Female Seminary in Washington (Hempstead County), the Elm Springs Academy at Elm Springs (Hempstead County), and the Soulesbury Institute in Batesville. The Soulesbury Institute was established in 1849, and classes began in January 1850. The name Soulesbury was chosen to honor Bishop Joshua Soule, a leader in organizing the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and Francis …

Southwest Trail

The Southwest Trail is a general term referring to a network of routes connecting the mid-Mississippi River Valley (the St. Louis-St. Genevieve area of Missouri) to the Red River valley (northeast Texas) in the nineteenth century. Most of the trail crossed Arkansas from northeast to southwest, entering at Hix’s Ferry (later Pitman’s Ferry) across the Current River in Randolph County and exiting at several crossings of the Red River south and west of Washington (Hempstead County). It followed the edge of the eastern terminus of the Ozark Plateau in northeast Arkansas and of the Ouachita Mountains in central and southwest Arkansas. The trail avoided the swamps, which covered much of eastern Arkansas, while skirting the foothills of the Ozarks and …

Springfield to Fayetteville Road

The Springfield to Fayetteville Road was built upon elaborate networks of horse trails that were likely established by the Osage. The trails extended into northwestern Arkansas and as Springfield, Missouri, was being established in southwestern Missouri in the late 1820s, settlers co-opted the established trails for their own use. The trail from Springfield to Fayetteville (Washington County) came to be called by that name and was established in 1835, totaling 146 miles. It was the major road prior to the 1838 establishment of what later became known as the Wire Road or Telegraph Road by the United States military. Also called Pioneer Road, the Springfield to Fayetteville Road was employed by the U.S. Army in 1838 to remove Native Americans …

St. Andrew’s College

St. Andrew’s College, located near Fort Smith (Sebastian County), was the first attempt to found a Roman Catholic college in Arkansas. It was established in 1849 by Irish native Andrew Byrne, the first bishop of the Diocese of Little Rock. Byrne never had more than ten priests in Arkansas, and he maintained the Church with funds from the Austrian-based Leopoldine society and the French-based Society for the Propagation of the Faith. With this support, Byrne purchased land near Fort Smith to found the first Catholic college in Arkansas. When later incorporated into Fort Smith, the area was known as the “Catholic mile.” It was bordered on the north by Grand Avenue, on the south by Dodson Avenue, and on the east …

State v. Buzzard

State v. Buzzard (1842) was a case in the first half of the nineteenth century involving the right of an individual to carry a concealed weapon. The case came two decades after an 1822 Kentucky case that struck down a state law that restricted concealed weapons—although the weapon at issue there was a sword concealed in a cane. Ultimately, given the facts in Buzzard, coupled with the language of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the case has come to be recognized as one of the earliest examinations of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The case was heard by the original three members of the Arkansas Supreme Court—Chief Justice Daniel Ringo and Associate Justices Townsend Dickinson and …

Stevenson, William

William Stevenson was a nineteenth-century preacher generally credited with bringing Methodism to Arkansas. A prototypical frontier preacher and circuit rider, he moved from frontier region to frontier region—from the South Carolina frontier to Tennessee, from there to Missouri, and from there to Arkansas—until he finally settled in Louisiana. Swept into the enthusiastic Methodism of the Second Great Awakening, he felt a desire to spread the faith that led him into sparsely settled areas. In doing so, he laid the foundations of the Methodist faith in Arkansas. William Stevenson was born on October 4, 1768, in a frontier area of South Carolina, not far from the line marking Cherokee land. His parents, James Stevenson and Elizabeth Stevenson, were Presbyterian, and he was …

Stout, William C.

The clergyman William Cummins Stout was the master of two large antebellum plantations at the foot of Petit Jean Mountain in Conway County and the “first Arkansas man ordained to the priesthood of the Episcopal Church in Arkansas,” according to church records. William Stout was born in Greene County, Tennessee, on February 18, 1824. His parents, John G. Stout and Mary Kirby Stout, moved with their children to Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1830, where they continued their farming occupation. While a young man working in a store near the Indian Territory line, Stout attended meetings conducted by Bishop Leonidas Polk and discerned a religious calling. With Polk’s encouragement, Stout received his education at Kemper College in Missouri, then Nashotah House …

Strong, Erastus Burton

Arkansas native Erastus Burton Strong was a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point who served in the U.S. Army until his death at the Battle of Molino del Rey during the Mexican War. Erastus Burton Strong was born on December 2, 1823, to William Strong and Mourning Cooper Strong, most likely in the part of Phillips County that would become St. Francis County four years later. His father was a prominent pioneer and politician in the area who helped build the Memphis to Little Rock Road and operated an inn and a ferry at the St. Francis River. William Strong was the first sheriff of St. Francis County, a delegate to the 1836 constitutional convention, and …

Sunken Lands

The term “sunken lands” (also called “sunk lands” or “sunk country”) refers to parts of Craighead, Mississippi, and Poinsett counties that shifted and sank during the New Madrid earthquakes which took place between 1811 and 1812. Because the land was submerged under water, claims to property based on riparian rights by large landowners generated controversy which lasted decades and ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court. When the New Madrid earthquakes began in December 1811, the territory which is today northeastern Arkansas was sparsely populated. An early chronicler described the earthquakes’ effect as the ground moving like waves on the land, when suddenly the earth would burst, sending up huge volumes of water and sand, leaving chasms where the earth had …

Swamp Land Act of 1850

The Swamp Land Act of 1850 gave Arkansas the right to identify and sell millions of acres of overflowed and swamp lands in the public domain and to use the proceeds to finance internal improvements, principally levees and drainage ditches. Arkansas eventually acquired more than 8,600,000 acres of land through the Swamp Land Act. This grant of land was of enormous importance to the state at the time, but it had little permanent impact on the economic development of the state. In the 1830s, planters and land developers began to move into Arkansas, attracted by the rich Mississippi Alluvial Plain bottomlands. The alluvial lands, however, were subject to seasonal overflows. In addition, much of the bottomland was swampland, described by …