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

Walker, David

David Walker, a lawyer, a jurist, and an early settler of Fayetteville (Washington County), was the leading Whig in the state’s “great northwest” region for nearly fifty years. He began his career as a member of the convention that wrote the state’s first constitution in 1836. He chaired the 1861 convention, and remained active in politics and law until shortly before his death. David Walker was born on February 19, 1806, near Elkton, Kentucky, to Jacob Wythe Walker and Nancy Hawkins Walker. The Walkers were a prolific and politically prominent family in Arkansas, Kentucky, and Virginia. In 1808, his father moved to Logan County, Kentucky, where in 1811 Walker first attended school. In two years, he memorized the grammatical rules …

War of 1812

The War of 1812 was the first conflict that the involved the United States after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. While it did not have a direct impact within the state’s current borders, the war did influence events that would continue to shape Arkansas for decades. Modern-day Arkansas was at that time part of the Missouri Territory, which was renamed from the Louisiana Territory on June 4, 1812, when the new state of Louisiana joined the Union. The population in Arkansas was recorded at just over 1,000 in 1810, and the area did not have any major towns or cities. The territorial government in Missouri created the first county in the future state in 1813 with the establishment of Arkansas …

Warren, Edward Allen

Edward Allen Warren was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented the Second District of Arkansas in the Thirty-Third and the Thirty-Fifth Congresses, serving from 1853 to 1855 and then again from 1857 to 1859. Edward A. Warren was born near Eutaw, Alabama, on May 2, 1818, to Robert H. Warren and Lydia A. Minter Warren. He received his early education in the area’s local schools, and he then studied law on his own. He married in October 1838, and he and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Warren, went on to have two children. He was admitted to the state bar in 1843, after which he began to practice law in Clinton, Mississippi. Like many young lawyers, …

Warren, Nathan

Nathan Warren was one of the few free black businessmen in antebellum Arkansas, as well as a noted musician and the founder of the state’s first African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) congregation. Nathan Warren was born into slavery in 1812 in Versailles, Kentucky, on the Crittenden Plantation. John Crittenden, brother of Robert Crittenden (and later Kentucky governor, U.S. congressman, and U.S. attorney general), was likely Warren’s father. Robert Crittenden brought Warren to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1819, around the time Crittenden was appointed by President James Monroe as the first secretary of the Arkansas Territory. Crittenden and Warren lived at the present-day site of the Albert Pike Hotel on 7th Street, between Scott and Cumberland streets, in a large …

Washbourne, Edward Payson

Of the many artists who lived and worked in antebellum Arkansas, none gained greater acclaim than Edward Payson Washbourne, creator of one of the Western frontier’s most memorable and humorous genre scenes, The Arkansas Traveler. Noted not only for his allegorical works, Washbourne was also widely sought for portraiture. Examples of his work can be seen in the collections of the Historic Arkansas Museum and the Arkansas State Archives in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Edward Washbourne was born on November 16, 1831, at Dwight Mission, then located in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma); the 1850 census lists him as being born in Arkansas, but the western border of Arkansas was in flux at the time of his birth. He was the son of …

Washburn, Cephas

Cephas Washburn was a Presbyterian missionary who helped found Dwight Mission to serve the Cherokee. Washburn, who struggled along with his colleagues to bring Christianity to Native Americans on the territorial Arkansas frontier, served as an educator and minister for four decades. Cephas Washburn was born on July 25, 1793, in Randolph, Vermont, to Josiah Washburn and Phebe Cushman Washburn, who were farmers. Washburn turned from farming to education when he feared he might be disabled permanently from a broken leg. While teaching in Groton, Massachusetts, in the winter of 1814–1815 to raise money for further education, he became a Congregationalist and soon decided he wanted to be a missionary to the Indians. After graduating from Vermont University in 1817, …

Washington County Lynching of 1856

A mob of white citizens lynched two enslaved black men, Aaron and Anthony, outside the city limits of Fayetteville (Washington County) on July 7, 1856. Racial terror lynching was a reality across the state, including northwestern Arkansas, during the antebellum period. On the night of May 29, 1856, according to hearsay evidence, Aaron and Anthony attempted to rob and then attacked their enslaver, James Boone, at the door of his home in Richland Township. A third black man, Randall, enslaved by Peter Mankins and the minor children of David Wilson Williams, was also reported to be involved. By the next morning, enslaved housekeepers were said to have found Boone injured near the entry of his home. Despite the lack of …

Washington Historic District

Citizens established Washington (Hempstead County) in 1824. The city developed due to its location as a stop on the Southwest Trail. Washington became the seat of Confederate state government in 1863, when Union troops seized Little Rock (Pulaski County), and remained so until the conclusion of the Civil War. It also held the title of county seat of Hempstead County until 1939, when voters chose Hope (Hempstead County) for this designation. The National Park Service listed the Washington Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places on June 20, 1972. The district included 149 buildings, but only thirty-nine qualified as contributing or individually listed. The boundaries of Washington reflect the historic district boundaries, which measure one square mile. In …

Washington Monument Marble Quarry

In 1833, the Washington National Monument Society was founded to create a memorial to the United States’ first president, George Washington. A year before a design contest for the memorial was announced, the society laid down guidelines: “Its material is intended to be wholly American, and to be of marble or granite brought from each State, that each State may participate in the glory of contributing in material as well as in funds to its construction.” Arkansas would ultimately donate three stone slabs to the Washington Monument in Washington DC, which was constructed intermittently from 1848 to 1888. The first stone, representing the state of Arkansas, was taken from a mountain in what was then Carroll County (now Newton County) …

Watkins, George Claibourne

George Claibourne Watkins was a prominent attorney in nineteenth-century Arkansas. His partnership with Chester Ashley is one of the roots from which one of the state’s most respected firms, the Rose Law Firm, grew. In addition to his role in the development of the firm, Watkins also served briefly as chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. George C. Watkins was born on November 25, 1815, in Shelbyville, Kentucky, to Isaac Watkins and Marie Toncray Watkins. In late 1820, seeking new opportunities, the family set out for the newly opened territory of Arkansas. They arrived in March 1821, and, settling in what would become Little Rock (Pulaski County), the family quickly earned a place among the town’s most prominent early …

Whig Party

The Whig Party emerged as a national force in the 1830s under the leadership of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, primarily in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson. The party’s emergence and success in Arkansas largely mirrored the national pattern, with Arkansas Whigs opposing the political dynasty known as “The Family,” which dominated the territorial and state Democratic Party until the eve of the Civil War. Echoing the national Whig Party’s platform of federal support for internal improvements such as roads and canals, protective tariffs, and a national bank, Arkansas Whigs championed a stronger national role in regional economic development. This ran counter to the more limited states-rights philosophy of the Democrats. The Whigs, however, were largely unsuccessful …

Whittington, Hiram Abiff

Hiram Abiff Whittington was a businessman, politician, and philanthropist. He established the state’s first lending library, ran several businesses in Hot Springs (Garland County), and served as a state representative. He donated land to both the First Presbyterian Church and St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hot Springs. His letters to his family provide a wealth of information about life in early frontier Arkansas. Hiram Whittington was born January 14, 1805, in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Whittington Jr., a Puritan schoolmaster, and Hepsabeth Lincoln. He had four brothers and five sisters. At age fifteen, Whittington learned the printing trade and found a job with the Nantucket Enquirer, where he stayed three years. He moved to Brooklyn, New York, where …

William Looney Tavern

aka: Looney-French House
The William Looney Tavern stands on the west bank of the Eleven Point River near the rural community of Dalton in northwestern Randolph County. The one-and-a-half-story log structure with a central breezeway, often called “dogtrot” style, was constructed circa 1833 and is one of the finest examples of vernacular architecture in the state. Thought to have been built as a rural tavern or inn, it may have served area settler William Looney’s distillery as well. It is the only surviving structure on the farmstead Looney established prior to 1815 on land that would become Arkansas. In 1816, Looney was appointed to the first of several civil appointments he held over his lifetime. When he died in 1846, he was one …

William Woodruff House

The Woodruff House, located at 1017 East 8th Street in Little Rock (Pulaski County), was built between 1852 and 1853 by William Woodruff, the founder and first publisher of the Arkansas Gazette; the Gazette was the first newspaper in Arkansas and the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi River. The house is significant because of its association with Woodruff and because it is one of only a few extant antebellum homes in Little Rock. The Woodruff House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 21, 1989. The Woodruff House is a two-and-a-half-story home built in the Greek Revival style, using mostly local materials, including cypress and bricks made on site. The original house had ten rooms, …

Willow Flycatchers

aka: Empidonax traillii
The willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii) is the only bird species that has been discovered in the geographic area that is now the state of Arkansas. The noted naturalist and painter John James Audubon found the bird in 1822 while he was traveling near the community of Arkansas Post (Arkansas County), in what was then Arkansas Territory. When Audubon described the species in print for science in 1828, he named it Traill’s flycatcher for his friend Dr. Thomas Traill of Edinburgh, Scotland. Ornithologists have since determined that “Traill’s flycatcher” is really two different species, willow and alder flycatchers, which have almost identical appearances but distinctive vocalizations. The form Audubon discovered is of the species that was renamed willow flycatcher in 1973. …

Wilmington [Steamboat]

The Wilmington was a steamboat that burst a boiler while traveling on the Mississippi River near the mouth of the Arkansas River on November 18, 1839, killing several passengers and crew members. Baltimore’s Watchman & Bratt firm built the Wilmington for the Raleigh Rail Road Company, working from a design by shipwright Langley B. Culley and launching the steamboat in early September 1839. The $60,000, 400-ton steamboat was 182 feet long and forty feet wide, with a ten-foot draft. Powered by a 135 horsepower Watchman & Bratt engine, the Wilmington (according to promotional material) “has one of Raub’s patented double self-acting safety valves, the first which has ever been introduced to operate successfully, on board of any boat on our …

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 …

Wolf, Jacob

Jacob Wolf was an Arkansas pioneer, territorial legislator, county official, militia officer, post master, and community leader. In 1825, he established the first permanent courthouse for Izard County, and it still stands as the oldest public structure in Arkansas. Jacob Wolf was born on May 12, 1786, in Rowan County, North Carolina, one of the eleven known children of Michael and Cathrina Wolf of Pennsylvania German descent. Shortly before 1800, the family moved to Hopkins County, Kentucky, where Wolf married his first wife, Mildred Meredith, on March 9, 1809. Before her death in about 1820, they are thought to have had five children. Shortly afterward, Wolf migrated to the Arkansas frontier to join members of his extended family, who had …

Woodruff, William Edward

William Edward Woodruff’s life spanned the years of Arkansas’s territorial days, statehood, Confederacy, and Reconstruction. Although best known today as the founder of the Arkansas Gazette, the state’s first newspaper, Woodruff became one of the state’s most important and colorful historical figures through his other business interests, political connections, and efforts to promote Arkansas. William Woodruff was born on December 24, 1795, on a small farm at Fire Place on Long Island, New York, the oldest of five sons born to Nathaniel Woodruff and Hannah Clarke Woodruff. His father died when Woodruff was twelve; two years later, his mother apprenticed him to Alden Spooner, a Sag Harbor, New York, printer who published the Suffolk Gazette. His original indenture document still …

Woolsey Farmstead Cemetery

The Woolsey Farmstead Cemetery is located in western Fayetteville (Washington County), near the Woolsey Wet Prairie Preserve. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 21, 2020. The small family cemetery, which covers less than one acre, is in the northeastern corner of an open field that was originally part of the farmstead of the Woolsey family, who were early settlers in the area of present-day Farmington (Washington County), arriving in 1830. There is a small grove of trees within the bounds of the cemetery, which causes it to stand out from the surrounding fields. The area around the cemetery that is not cultivated fields is densely wooded. Within the wrought-iron fence, there is a large …

Wynn-Price House

The Wynn-Price House is a historic Greek Revival–style home in Garland (Miller County). It is considered one of the best surviving examples of antebellum plantation homes in the state. William Wynn moved to the Red River area of the Arkansas Territory around 1835. Wynn eventually owned thousands of acres of land on both sides of the Red River, as well as almost 100 slaves. It appears that at least some of this land was purchased for speculation. Garland was at the proposed crossing of the Red River by the Mississippi, Ouachita, and Red River Railroad, which was never constructed, and Wynn placed the house along the major road of the day. The house was constructed circa 1844. The house is …