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

Palmer, Edward

Edward Palmer conducted most of the fieldwork for the first major study of Indian mounds in Arkansas. His research helped dispel myths about who built the mounds. Edward Palmer was born in England, near Hockwold-cum-Wilton in southwestern County Norfolk, into a family of gardeners. The year of his birth is uncertain, but it was probably 1830; the date was definitely January 12. His father’s name is listed variously as William or Robert, and his mother’s maiden name was Mary Ann Armiger; Palmer’s own middle name is unknown. Little is known about Palmer’s early life. He came to America in 1849 and moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he was strongly influenced by the eminent naturalist Jared Kirtland. He worked as a …

Panic of 1893

In 1893, a national financial crisis led to the closing of businesses and banks in Arkansas. The crisis in banking ended with the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act late in 1893. The depression continued until 1897. During this period, agricultural prices declined steeply in the state. Even before the panic, financial markets were not sound, and the state’s economy was moribund. In 1891, the legislature voted to postpone funding of the state’s representation at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago and never returned to the issue. Arkansas’s participation was instead privately funded by the Little Rock Board of Trade. On January 18, 1893, the Arkansas Gazette reported “a financial flurry” in response to a run on First National Bank …

Paragould Race Riots

Paragould (Greene County), which incorporated in 1883, experienced a series of incidents of racial violence and intimidation from 1888 to 1908. (In this context, a race riot is defined as any prolonged form of mob-related civil disorder in which race plays a key role.) The outmigration of African Americans that followed these various incidents helped to cement its reputation as a “sundown town.” On April 21, 1888, the Arkansas Gazette published a letter sent by a member of the black community and addressed to the country’s first elected African-American municipal judge, Mifflin Wistar Gibbs. The writer sought Gibbs’s help, telling him that “I am disgusted the way I am served, and also my friends. We are but a few colored …

Parker, Isaac Charles

Isaac Charles Parker served as federal judge for the Federal Court of the Western District of Arkansas in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). He tried 13,490 cases, with 9,454 of them resulting in guilty pleas or convictions. His court was unique in the fact that he had jurisdiction over all of Indian Territory, covering over 74,000 square miles. He sentenced 160 people to death, including four women. Of those sentenced to death under Parker, seventy-nine men were executed on the gallows. Born on October 15, 1838, in Barnesville, Ohio, Isaac Parker was the son of Joseph and Jane Parker. Joseph was a farmer, and Jane was known for her strong mental qualities and business habits. She was active in the Methodist …

Passenger Pigeons

aka: Ectopistes migratorius
The passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) was a North American bird species in the order Columbiformes (pigeons and doves) that became extinct in the early twentieth century. The fate of the passenger pigeon serves as a graphic lesson in the misuse of natural resources, as the species went from an almost indescribable abundance to extinction in only a few decades. The decline came primarily as a result of relentless persecution of its breeding colonies by market hunters, largely for meat, with no (or ineffectual) regulation that might have maintained a stable population. The passenger pigeon had the same general body shape as the common and familiar mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) but was larger and somewhat more colorful, with areas of slate-blue …

Pea Ridge Academy

aka: Mount Vernon Normal College
aka: Mount Vernon Masonic College
aka: Pea Ridge Normal College
The Pea Ridge Academy, organized in 1874, was one of the earliest enduring institutions of higher education in the developing northwest Arkansas area following the Civil War. Contemporary with what is now the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and the older Cane Hill College, the Pea Ridge Academy played a significant role in advancing education in Benton County. Organized as a private (or subscription) school, the academy soon entered a cooperative venture with the newly developing public school system, providing space for the public elementary and high school grades, while continuing to operate as a private trustee-governed academy offering college-level courses. Though never a large school, it sent out numerous graduates as business leaders and teachers for …

Pearl Rush

The rivers of northeast Arkansas once teemed with freshwater mollusks capable of producing pearls, which led to a huge “pearl rush” in the region in the late 1800s. The mussels had not been harvested on a large scale since Native Americans dwelled along these rivers, giving the animals—and the pearls within—time to grow. In an era before cultured pearls, these gems only occurred naturally, growing inside a freshwater mollusk or saltwater oyster, and the rarity of this occurrence made them precious. Native Americans used pearls to indicate elite status through adornment and burial practices. Burial sites in Campbell, Missouri, and Spiro, Oklahoma, revealed large quantities of freshwater pearls heaped in baskets or large shell vessels. A grave near present-day Helena-West …

Peel Mansion Museum and Heritage Gardens

The Peel Mansion Museum and Heritage Gardens preserve the Colonel Samuel W. Peel House, constructed in 1875 and located at 400 South Walton Boulevard in Bentonville (Benton County). The house remains a remarkably good example of the Italianate style of architecture, in spite of the later covering of the main body of the house with stucco. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 4, 1995. A native of Arkansas, Samuel Peel was a Civil War veteran who, by the conflict’s end, had risen to the rank of colonel in the Fourth Regiment, Arkansas Infantry. Peel was penniless at the close of the war and set on a career in law immediately after his discharge. He was …

Peel, Samuel West

Samuel West Peel’s diversified career in Arkansas included roles as a businessman, politician, county clerk, Confederate soldier, lawyer, prosecuting attorney, congressman, Indian agent, and banker. In Benton County and Arkansas, he is best remembered as the first native-born Arkansan to be elected to the United States Congress. Sam Peel was born in Independence County on September 13, 1831, to John Wilson Peel, a farmer and merchant, and Elizabeth West Peel. He had two sisters. Peel was four years old when his mother died. His father left him with his grandparents and moved to Carrollton (Carroll County), making a home on Crooked Creek and remarrying. John Peel and his second wife, Malinda Wilson, had eleven children. As a youth, Peel worked …

Penzel, Charles Ferdinand

Charles Ferdinand Penzel emigrated from Austria to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1857 and, after the Civil War, became a leading merchant, pioneering banker, and prolific investor who rose to the first rank of capitalists in the city. He was also active, often as an officer, in numerous city economic development, religious, civic, and charitable organizations. At the time of his death, he was perhaps the richest German American in Arkansas. Born on October 8, 1840, to Johann Christof Penzel and Maria Elizabeth Penzel, Charles Penzel was one of twenty-eight emigrants from Asch, a Bohemian city of about 9,000 and a district of about 20,000 people, who settled in Pulaski County between 1848 and 1857. When he arrived in Pulaski …

Perkins, George Napier

George Napier Perkins was an African-American lawyer and newspaper publisher. Born a slave, he went on to become a major civil rights activist in both Arkansas and Oklahoma. George Napier Perkins was born to Moses Perkins and Millie Perkins. However, given the public record of the time, there is some discrepancy as to facts surrounding his birth; U.S. Civil War pension records list his birthday and birthplace as January 1, 1841, in Williamson County, Tennessee, while other sources list him as born on January 1, 1842, in Washington County, Tennessee. He received a limited education in Tennessee before the family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) when he was fifteen. The move was more likely a product of Perkins’s owners …

Perry County Courthouse

The Perry County Courthouse was built in 1888 as a two-story brick building with very little decoration. This architectural look gives it a Plain Traditional style with extremely restrained Colonial Revival influences. The land for the courthouse was donated by John Huston and John Greathouse in 1841, with the stipulation that Perryville must be made the permanent seat of Perry County. A log courthouse was built on the site immediately. This first courthouse lasted approximately seven years, until 1848, when it was burned to the ground during a feud between the McCool and Lively families. (Some sources say it burned in 1850.) Another log courthouse was built on the site; it was known to be standing in 1889. Sometime in the …

Phillips County Lynching of 1889–1890

On December 30–31, 1889, and January 1, 1890, three unidentified African Americans were killed in Phillips County for allegedly robbing and murdering John W. Tate. The lynching victims were not identified by name in any source. In 1880, John W. Tate, a twenty-eight-year-old white farmer, was living alone in Poplar Grove (Phillips County). According to a January 1, 1890, report in the Arkansas Gazette, sometime in the 1880s he was dealing in illegal whiskey, and there were seven indictments pending against him in Phillips County. Just prior to his death, he was running a “blind tiger” (speakeasy) at Palmerton in neighboring Monroe County. Although the Gazette reported that the crime took place on Sunday night, December 29, 1889, other reports, …

Phillips, Henry (Lynching of)

On November 13, 1897, Henry Phillips was lynched in Osceola (Mississippi County) for the alleged murder of storekeeper Tom McClanahan. Editor Leon Roussan’s coverage of the incident in the Osceola Times sparked a feud with Sheriff Charles Bowen. Bowen, a former captain in the Confederate army and a local Ku Klux Klan (KKK) leader, was prominently involved in the Black Hawk War of 1872. According to the Osceola Times, on November 6, Tom McClanahan was brutally murdered in his store. McClanahan had come from Tennessee three years earlier to work in a local sawmill. When the mill was sold, he remained in Mississippi County to settle up outstanding claims. At the same time, he operated a small grocery store in …

Pickens, William

William Pickens, who was born in South Carolina, spent his formative years in Woodruff County and Argenta, now North Little Rock (Pulaski County). He went on to become a nationally known orator, scholar, journalist, and essayist. William Pickens was born near Pendleton in Anderson County, South Carolina, on January 15, 1881. He was the sixth of ten children born to former slaves Jacob and Fannie Pickens. His father was a tenant farmer, and his mother worked as a cook and washerwoman. In 1888, they were lured to Woodruff County, Arkansas, by an immigration agent who promised them better employment and educational opportunities. At this time, such agents were scouring South Carolina for dissatisfied African Americans willing to work on Arkansas …

Pillow-Thompson House

aka: Jerome Bonaparte Pillow House
The Pillow-Thompson House is a Queen Anne–style house in Helena-West Helena (Phillips County). Constructed in 1896 by Jerome Bonaparte Pillow, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 7, 1973. It is also known as the Jerome Bonaparte Pillow House. Designed by George Barber, the house is the only Victorian home in the state with full-wood construction with the exception of the fireplaces and foundation. The house faces south and has two stories with several towers, turrets, and dormer windows. The house is very ornate with an irregular shape. The front of the house has a veranda that extends around the east side of the home with another small porch located on the west side of …

Pine Bluff Lynchings of 1892

On February 14, 1892, John Kelley (sometimes spelled Kelly) was lynched in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) for the murder of W. T. McAdams. At the time, Pine Bluff was the second-largest city in Arkansas. The black population in Jefferson County was seventy-three percent, and there were a number of prominent African-American landowners and merchants. The city boasted a black newspaper, as well as the state’s only college for African Americans, Branch Normal School (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff). According to the Arkansas Gazette, on the night of February 9, John Kelley and several accomplices allegedly murdered W. T. McAdams, an agent for the Obest Brewing Company and a highly respected Pine Bluff citizen. At 10:30 p.m., McAdams …

Pine Ridge Community Cemetery

There are over 500 graves in the Pine Ridge Community Cemetery (originally Waters Cemetery) on Old Waters Highway in Pine Ridge (Montgomery County). Pine Ridge is between Oden (Montgomery County) and Cherry Hill (Polk County), one and a half miles east of the Montgomery-Polk county line on Arkansas Highway 88. The cemetery remains active in the twenty-first century. Most early settlers in the area were southern farmers and their families, traveling west by wagon train (farm wagons) throughout the 1800s. The valleys and streams fulfilled their needs, and so they stayed, as many descendants continued to do. The Ouachita National Forest constitutes over seventy percent of Montgomery County, so there is little industry other than farming, forestry, and tourism. The …

Pittman, Jennie Carr

Jennie Carr Pittman was one of Arkansas’s most prominent and influential figures in the campaign to secure the prohibition of alcohol in the United States. A major force in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), the nation’s largest temperance organization, she played a substantive role—at both the state and national level—in the group’s ultimately successful effort to help enact the Eighteenth Amendment. Jennie Carr was born on December 26, 1858 (some sources have it as 1856), in Fredonia—later called Biscoe (Prairie County)—to Charles Turner Carr and his second wife, Susan Wesley Capehart Carr. Not much is known about her youth. While she was christened Mildred Jane, she later went by the name Jennie Mildred Carr until her marriage. On her …

Plumerville Conflict of 1886–1892

During the late 1880s, electoral politics in Conway County turned violent, resulting in serious injuries and several deaths. In the Plumerville (Conway County) community, actions such as voter intimidation and the theft of ballot boxes were flagrant and seemingly condoned by public officials. The violence became widely known and was the subject of a federal investigation after the assassination of a congressional candidate, John Clayton. A pattern of local political affiliations and latent hostilities toward other factions developed and remained well into the twentieth century. While the political conflict renewed itself after the 1884 election, the underlying causes date back to the pre–Civil War days. Conway County was a small version of Arkansas in terms of geographic culture and economics. …

Polk County Race War of 1896

In early August 1896, a “race war” broke out between white and black workers who were working on the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railway (later the Kansas City Southern) in both Polk County and near Horatio (Sevier County) to the south. As a result, three African Americans were killed and eight wounded. Although reports place some of the events near Horatio, accounts clearly stated that the purpose of the attack was to keep African Americans out of Polk County, and so it was generally referred to as the Polk County Race War. This was part of a pattern of labor-related racial intimidation that was sweeping Arkansas at the time. Other incidents during that period included unrest at the Hawthorne …

Poll Tax

A poll tax is a uniform per capita tax levied upon a specified class of people often made a requirement for the right to vote. In Arkansas, use of a poll tax was as old as the state itself. Arkansas’s first state constitution, adopted in 1836, authorized the imposition of a poll tax to be used for county purposes, and a subsequent state statute authorized county courts to collect a poll tax not to exceed one dollar per year from every free male inhabitant between the ages of twenty-one and sixty. Provisions similar to that in the 1836 constitution were included in the subsequent Confederate state constitution of 1861 and Unionist state constitution of 1864 (the Confederate constitution allowed the …

Populist Movement

aka: People's Party
During the last three decades of the nineteenth century, American farmers faced a variety of economic problems including rising business costs, a scarcity of credit, and falling crop prices. Frustrated farmers formed organizations to address such problems and ultimately turned to independent or third-party politics. These efforts coalesced in the 1890s with the founding of the People’s (or Populist) Party, which drew most of its support in the West and the South. In Arkansas, the third-party movement actually peaked between 1888 and 1890 under the guise of the Union Labor Party (ULP), which lasted fewer years than the Populist Party but won more support, unlike in other states. Origins of the Populist MovementThe organized farmers’ movement in Arkansas began in …

Post-Reconstruction through the Gilded Age, 1875 through 1900

In the years that followed Reconstruction, Arkansas experienced changes that paralleled trends taking place elsewhere in the nation. Nationally, the creation of the mass market and the economic growth that followed gave the era its basic character. The economy, and particularly the rise of industry, produced great prosperity for some whose spending habits gave the period its name—the Gilded Age. These developments also encouraged the movement of many people from the countryside to the city, producing a cultural and social transformation. But all of this came at a cost. Changes disrupted traditional economies and society, and many, particularly farmers and workers, failed to share in the bounty of the new world. In a state with an economy still largely agricultural, …

Powhatan Courthouse

The Powhatan Historic Courthouse is located in the Powhatan Historic State Park, a stretch of a nineteenth-century river port town, and represents the rich judicial history and healthy commerce of northeastern Arkansas. It stands on a hill overlooking the Black River, not far from a collection of buildings that Arkansas State Parks also controls: the Powhatan Jail, the Ficklin-Imboden House, a commercial building, and the Powhatan Male and Female Academy. The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program recognizes the courthouse as significant for Lawrence County’s history, while also serving as a good example of historic preservation. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 16, 1970. In 1869, Lawrence County voters approved moving their county seat from the …

Powhatan Methodist Church

The Powhatan Methodist Church is one of the historic buildings found at Powhatan State Park. The church exemplifies the nineteenth-century Greek Revival architectural style in which it was built. Records indicate that the Powhatan Methodist Church was formed in 1858 with a 284-member congregation under the direction of four local pastors. Members included white settlers, probationers, and African-American residents. Before the church building was constructed, church members in Powhatan (Lawrence County) may have gathered at the Black River for worship services. Around 1874, building plans for the Powhatan Methodist Church included one double-door entrance at the front and windows placed on each side of the building. The interior of the church has a large sanctuary with two cloak rooms that …

Pulaski County Lynching of 1894

On March 11, 1894, a group of African Americans discovered the body of a “mulatto” woman hanging from a tree about halfway between Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Marche (Pulaski County). The woman was never identified but was estimated at thirty years old. The body, according to reports, appeared to have been there for several days (the Arkansas Gazette even described the corpse as “decayed”). Around her neck was a placard reading, “If any body cuts this body down, they will share the same fate.” As the Arkansas Gazette reported, “The woman is supposed to have been lynched, but when, by whom and for what reason no one is able to state.” Indeed, although this murder is typically counted among …