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

Ramsey, Dave (Lynching of)

A young Black man named Dave Ramsey was lynched in Marianna (Lee County) on January 9, 1881, for allegedly having attempted to rape a white girl. This was the first recorded lynching in Lee County, where the death toll by lynching would eventually reach seventeen documented cases by 1919. At the time Ramsey was killed, the Black population of Lee County was more than double the white population, a disparity that would only increase in the coming years.   The first report of this event appeared in the Arkansas Gazette on January 13, 1881, under the headline, “A Raper Roped,” with the subtitle, “The Pine Bluff Code Works to Perfection.” This report consists of reprinting a letter, dated January 10 and …

Randolph, John (Lynching of)

On July 22, 1875, an African American man named John Randolph was shot by unknown men at Cowell’s Landing (Mississippi County). Randolph and another man were accused of the robbery and murder of Frank Williams, a German man who worked on a plantation named Dickenson’s Mills, which was owned by A. K. Hancock and located on Frenchman’s Bayou forty miles above Memphis, Tennessee. While the Arkansas Gazette published a story datelined Memphis on July 26, a July 31 story in the Osceola Times contained more complete and presumably more accurate information. According to the Times, on Monday, July 19, Williams was paid and then started out for the Shawnee Village landing, located on a plantation of that name owned by …

Rector v. United States

Rector v. United States is a series of court cases initiated by Henry Massie Rector, who was governor of Arkansas from 1860 to 1862, to lay claim to the hot springs now located in Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs (Garland County). Rector’s claim to the property dated to his father Elias Rector’s survey of the land completed in 1819. In 1819, Samuel Hammond—a veteran of the American Revolution, former deputy governor of the District of Louisiana, and receiver of public monies of the Land Office of Missouri and Illinois—purchased New Madrid Certificate 467 for $640. Created by the U.S. Congress in 1815, these certificates were awarded to landowners who lost property in the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811–1812. …

Reeves-Melson House

The Reeves-Melson House is a dogtrot-style wooden home located in eastern Montgomery County. With two pens constructed in 1882 and 1888, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 5, 1986. The first pen was built by William Reeves in 1882. After service as a sergeant in the First Arkansas Infantry (Union) during the Civil War, Reeves appears as a sheriff in Montgomery County in the 1870 census. He subsequently was listed as both a farmer and merchant in other censuses. Information in the National Register nomination for the property states that Reeves homesteaded eighty acres at that time. Reeves lived and farmed the land until the winter of 1887–88, when Larkin Melson purchased the …

Reeves, Willis (Execution of)

Willis Reeves was hanged on July 15, 1881, in Van Buren (Crawford County) in a botched but ultimately successful execution for the slaying of an African American youth the previous year. Willis Reeves, who a newspaper wrote was “chunky, muscular, dark-brown and had a malignant countenance,” became involved “in a dispute” with a Black youth named John Drake in Van Buren on June 6, 1880. Reeves ending up pulling a pistol and shooting Drake in the head, killing him. Though no accounts appear to chronicle Reeves’s trial for murder, he was found guilty and sentenced to hang on July 15, 1881. Reeves would later try to escape in hopes of being shot and said he “bet a thousand dollars he …

Reported Lynching of July 1894

The July 24, 1894, issue of the Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tennessee, reported on “the hanging of two unknown negroes” near Lake Cormorant in northern Mississippi, not far south of Memphis. According to the rumors that reached the newspaper, the two men were from Arkansas and had been lynched by a mob consisting of Arkansans. The news came to the newspaper from Miles Maples, an African American man who lived at the Lake Cormorant place of Memphis resident William O. Mason. On Sunday, July 15, “two negroes were found hanging to a tree near Lake Cormorant, a few miles from the village of that name.” The bodies appeared to have been there for some time, being “badly decomposed, and birds …

Reported Smallpox Lynching of 1894

Early in May 1894, newspapers across the country began to publish sensational articles, based on a report to Little Rock (Pulaski County) from Ouachita County, on the lynching of a man with smallpox near Miles Switch. As is often the case with false lynching reports, the news continued to circulate even after the Arkansas Gazette published a clarification on May 7. Smallpox was common in the United States during the spring of 1894, with cases appearing in most states. Arkansas was one of the states affected; even though a vaccine had been developed in the late eighteenth century, the state did not require vaccination until 1897. According to an article published by the Gazette on May 2, 1894, twenty-nine smallpox …

Reynolds, Dan (Lynching of)

In late December 1888, Dan Reynolds, an African American, was beaten and left for dead near Coffee Creek (Phillips County) by nine other African-American men who apparently disapproved of his relationship with a local black woman. The Arkansas Gazette referred to this incident as “one of the most atrocious crimes ever committed in this or any other country.” Coffee Creek is located in Big Creek Township, and Dan Reynolds had been living there for almost twenty years. He is listed in the 1870 census as a farm laborer, living with his wife, Vester (or Vesta) who was thirty-nine. By 1880, they had a ten-year-old daughter named Eliza. According to a report published in the Arkansas Gazette on January 15, 1889, …

Rice, William (Lynching of)

On November 7, 1891, an African American named William Rice was murdered in Conway County for unknown reasons. News of the event appeared in the Indianapolis Journal on November 9. Citing a report received from Little Rock (Pulaski County) on November 8, the Journal stated that Rice’s body was found hanging from a tree near Plumerville (Conway County) on the morning of November 7. Appearances indicated that Rice had been killed first, and then his body was suspended from the tree. The November 18 edition of the Pilot of Morrilton (Conway County) reported that Rice’s body had been found suspended on a bridle rein on the Springfield and Dover Road near Solgohachia (Conway County) “last Thursday morning.” This would have …

Richard Allen Institute

The Richard Allen Institute in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) was founded in 1886 by the Reverend Lewis Johnston and his wife, Mercy. By 1887, they were being assisted by Anna E. Grenage. Rev. Johnston remained in charge of the school until his death in 1903. It was named in honor of Richard Allen, secretary of the Board of Missions for Freedmen of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA). The institute was one of the earliest Presbyterian schools for African Americans founded in Arkansas. While the Board of Missions for Freedmen began opening schools for freed slaves in the South as early as the 1860s, work in Arkansas did not begin in earnest until the 1880s, when a new presbytery …

Ricks, G. W. and Moses (Lynching of)

In June 1898, prosperous African-American farmer G. W. Ricks and his son, Rev. Moses Ricks, were lynched in southern Monroe County for the alleged assault of a white farmer’s wife. According to historian Terence Finegan, whose A Deed so Accursed is a study of lynching in South Carolina and Mississippi, prosperous African Americans were occasionally lynched because their success threatened the notion of white superiority. Census information both illuminates and confuses the story. In 1870, there was a black farmer named Jim Ricks living in Monroe County’s Duncan Township. He was twenty-seven years old, and living with him were his wife, Miriam, and several other family members, all of them too old to be the Rickses’ children. Ricks was a …

Riddick, James E.

James E. Riddick, the son of a Tennessee farmer, obtained a law degree from the University of Michigan, moved to a town in northeastern Arkansas, and followed the traditional electoral path to the highest judicial office in Arkansas: first state legislator, then prosecuting attorney, trial judge, and finally associate justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Coming after the tumultuous years of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the bitter aftermath, Riddick’s career in public office was unusually free of rancor and controversy. The Supreme Court had struggled for twenty years with a growing backlog of appeals, which even an expansion of the court from three to five justices had not rectified. A few years after he went on the court, the …

Rideout, Conrad Alfred

Conrad Alfred Rideout was an African-American man whose travels and controversial activities stretched from Florida and Arkansas to Seattle, Washington, to Africa and then back to the United States. His identity seemed to balance perilously on the border between activist and con man. With Rideout having left behind a trail of unverifiable claims and a legacy of unfulfilled hopes, the effort to chronicle his life becomes a lesson in separating fact from fiction. Little is known about Rideout’s early years. According to one source, he was born in Ohio, and he apparently stayed in the Midwest through college, as he is alternately reported to be a graduate of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor or the non-existent University of …

Riley, Sallie Irene Robinson-Stanfield

The earliest recorded Arkansas woman to use a hyphenated name after her marriage, Sallie Irene Robinson-Stanfield Riley, owned and edited the Cleveland County Herald in Rison (Cleveland County) during the 1890s and again early in the twentieth century. She exemplified the progressive spirit among Arkansas women. Sallie Irene Robinson was born in Tennessee on January 5, 1873, to William B. Robinson and Laura Pettey Robinson. One of her mother’s sisters, Adah Lee Pettey, married newspaperman Leon Roussan of the Osceola Times. Robinson lived with her aunt and received her early training in that office. In 1892 or 1893, she moved to Rison, where she set type for George H. Tisdale at the Cleveland County Herald and shortly thereafter purchased the …

Robinson, J. E. (Reported Lynching of)

Newspapers’ reports of rumors of lynchings have sometimes been recorded as actual lynchings on lists compiled by various organizations, as well as in articles and books. The rumored 1889 lynching of a white man named J. E. Robinson, which created somewhat of a sensation in Texas and Arkansas, is one such instance. Robinson’s name appears on numerous online lynching lists, and in at least one article published in 2001. Terry Anne Scott, however, corrects the record in her 2022 book, Lynching and Leisure. Reports on Robinson’s lynching are also confusing in that it allegedly happened in Arkansas in Texarkana (Miller County), while the alleged crime occurred in Texarkana, Texas. Geography often complicates lynching reports because incidents cross county lines, and …

Rock Island Bridge (Little Rock–North Little Rock)

aka: Choctaw Bridge
aka: Clinton Presidential Park Bridge
The Rock Island Bridge is a lift-span bridge crossing the Arkansas River between downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) and North Little Rock (Pulaski County). One of six bridges linking the two downtowns, the Rock Island Bridge was originally constructed as a railroad bridge in 1899; it was converted to serve as a pedestrian bridge in 2011 to complement the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park. In late 1898, the Choctaw and Memphis Railroad was organized with the goal of establishing a railroad into the Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma). Congress passed legislation authorizing construction of a new bridge across the Arkansas River in January 1899, and the Little Rock Bridge Company formed that May to develop plans for constructing the …

Rogers Academy

The Rogers Academy was organized in 1883 by the American Home Missionary Society (AHMS) of the Congregational Church. During its three decades, the academy trained many of the early educators who taught in the Rogers (Benton County) public schools. A number of local business and civic leaders received their secondary educations there, and musical and dramatic performances by the students and faculty made the academy a cultural center for the community. Rogers, founded in 1881, was named for C. W. Rogers, general manager of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad. Rogers and his wife took a keen interest in the town and are credited with establishing the Congregational Church in Rogers. The only public school serving the new town …

Rogers, John Henry

John Henry Rogers was a Civil War Confederate hero, a lawyer in Fort Smith (Sebastian County), a four-term Congressman, and a United States District Court judge for the Western District of Arkansas. John Rogers was born on October 9, 1845, in Bertie County, North Carolina. His father, Absolom Rogers was a successful planter and slaveholder. In 1861, when Rogers was fifteen years old, he became the drillmaster for a company of home guards, and in March 1862, he was mustered into Company H, Ninth Regiment, Mississippi Volunteers, as a private soldier. Rogers served in the same regiment until it was surrendered at Greensboro, North Carolina, on May 1, 1865. He saw a considerable amount of action and was twice wounded, …

Roots, Logan Holt

Logan Holt Roots settled in Arkansas after serving the Union in the Civil War. He was a congressman, banker, and promoter of the state. Born at Locust Hill, near Tamaroa, Illinois, on March 26, 1841, Roots was the third of four children of Benajah Guernsey Roots, an educator, and Martha Sibley Holt. His early academic interest focused on mathematics, although he worked with an engineering corps engaged in railroad construction at fifteen, acquiring a lifetime interest in railroad development. He enrolled in Illinois State Normal University in 1857, taught for a year then returned and graduated valedictorian in 1862. After graduation, Roots enlisted in the Eighty-first Illinois Infantry, a volunteer regiment, and served in the Union Army until the Civil …

Rose Hill Cemetery

Rose Hill Cemetery is a historic cemetery located in Arkadelphia (Clark County). It was officially opened in 1876, although some graves in the cemetery date to the 1850s. The cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 1, 1999. The first public cemetery in Arkadelphia was established shortly after the town was settled. It was named the Blakely Graveyard for an early name of the settlement. The graveyard was closed by the city board to future interments in 1869. In 1876, the Maddox family donated land for a new cemetery. In 1880, the Maddox Cemetery was renamed Rose Hill, although it is unclear why this change occurred. Several graves from the Blakely Graveyard were moved to …