Entries - Time Period: Post-Reconstruction through the Gilded Age (1875 - 1900) - Starting with O

Oats, Presley (Lynching of)

Although many lynchings in Arkansas occurred in connection with serious crimes, real or alleged, there were some people lynched for trivial reasons. On May 13, 1897, an African-American man named Presley Oats was dragged from his home in Pope County and lynched for supposedly stealing a ham. This incident preceded the Atkins Race War, which began approximately two weeks later. It was, however, indicative of the racial animus caused by the recent influx of African Americans into the county. Many of these new arrivals accepted lower wages for farm work and work in the lumber mills, causing resentment among area whites. Although one newspaper account of the incident referred to Presley Oats as an “old negro,” there is an eight-year-old …

Old Folks’ Singing

What became known as Old Folks’ Singing started on May 17, 1885, with the dedication of a new Methodist church and cemetery in Tull (Grant County). The event was multi-denominational, with the entire community participating in the singing and midday dinner. The annual event, which celebrated its 125-year anniversary in 2010, is held in Tull at the Ebenezer United Methodist Church on the third Sunday in May. It is believed to be the oldest continuous singing day held west of the Mississippi River. While the shape-note system of learning music is no longer part of Old Folks’ Singing, the musical heritage of the event can be traced back to the shape-note singing popular in New England and moving to rural …

Old Randolph County Courthouse

The Old Randolph County Courthouse sits in the middle of historic downtown Pocahontas (Randolph County). The second courthouse to serve Randolph County, the Old Courthouse is made of bricks and wood and decorated with wood trimming. A cupola adorns the roof. The building once had a vault, but it was removed sometime in the 1930s. Although the Old Courthouse is no longer home to the court system, it is still an important landmark for the city of Pocahontas. The Randolph County courts moved their offices diagonally across the street from the Old Courthouse to the new courthouse in 1940, after more than sixty years of service for the Old Courthouse. Since that time, the Old Courthouse has had several uses, …

Old River Bridge

The Old River Bridge spans a section of the Saline River at the end of River Street in Benton (Saline County). It is one of the oldest remaining bridges of its kind in the state. The Old River Bridge spans 260 feet and is composed of iron beams, two large trusses, and a wooden platform supported by iron columns. The bridge itself dates back to an act of the Saline County Court, which appropriated $5,000 “for the construction of an iron bridge over the Saline River at the Military Road Crossing” in 1889. Construction was completed in 1891 by Youngstown Bridge Company of Youngstown, Ohio. The land around it is also important, having been the site of William Lockhart’s settlement …

Oliver, Dan (Lynching of)

On July 28, 1884, an African-American man named Dan Oliver was shot by a mob near Roseville (Logan County) for allegedly attempting to assault the daughter of a local white man identified only by his last name, Amos. Amos, whom the Arkansas Gazette called “one of the best citizens of Logan County,” was probably Elisha Amos. According to public records, Elisha Amos was born in Tennessee in 1841, and by 1860, he and his parents were living in Arkansas. He married Malinda Ann Pendergraft in Franklin County in 1862, and served in the Civil War. In 1870, he and Malinda and two children, Jesse (three years old) and Emily (six months), were living in Sebastian County. Elisha Amos was living …

Olyphant Train Robbery

During the nineteenth century, travelers on steam locomotives were at risk for train robberies. In Arkansas, one particularly high-profile train robbery happened in the small town of Olyphant (Jackson County) in 1893. What followed was a sensationalized manhunt and the execution of three bandits involved in the incident. On November 3, 1893, the seven-car Train No. 51 of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway pulled off to a side track so that the Cannonball Express, a much faster train, could pass. It was about 10:00 p.m. on a cold and rainy night; the train had left Poplar Bluff, Missouri, at noon that day and was headed to Little Rock (Pulaski County). Many of the 300 passengers were wealthy …

Orphan Train Heritage Society of America, Inc. (OTHSA)

The Orphan Train Heritage Society of America, Inc. (OTHSA)—founded in 1986 in Springdale (Washington and Benton counties)—preserves the history of the orphan train era, a period when thousands of children were relocated across the country. Many Arkansans can trace their roots to children who were relocated to Arkansas. Between 1854 and 1929, an estimated 200,000 or more homeless and orphaned children were sent west from eastern cities, accompanied by agents. The purpose was to find families that would take in children in a “free-home-placing-out” program instituted by the Children’s Aid Society of New York City, New York. The children were sent in groups of twenty-five to 100 on trains, making stops along the way where they might be chosen by …

Orton, Mat (Lynching of)

On September 8, 1884 (some papers give the date as September 9), a white man named Mat Orton was lynched in Arkansas City (Desha County) for allegedly setting a fire that destroyed many of the town’s businesses. There is some information about Mat Orton in newspaper accounts and public records. In 1880, he was thirty-three years old and was living in Arkansas City and working as a carpenter. He married Margaret McCoy there on March 14, 1882. An article in the Arkansas Gazette on May 16, 1883, indicates that Orton was a deputy sheriff and was sent to retrieve R. H. Costello (sometimes called Castelio, although census records list him as Costelo), who was wanted in Desha County for the …

Ozark Institute [School]

The Ozark Institute was built in 1845 upon the ashes of the Far West Seminary in Mount Comfort (Washington County) and provided education to students for the next quarter century. Cephas Washburn organized the Far West Seminary, and the state chartered it in late 1844. William D. Cunningham contracted to build a brick school building on land donated from the farm of Solomon Tuttle; however, the building was gutted by fire in February 1845, just before the seminary was to open for classes. The Reverend Robert Mecklin, who served on the seminary’s board of visitors, bought out Washburn’s interest after the fire. Rather than pursue a college-level school, he founded the Ozark Institute as a school for boys, a counterpart …