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

Sanders, Jim (Lynching of)

On the night of May 28, 1882, a mob removed a young African American named Jim Sanders from the custody of authorities and killed him, using “enough buckshot to kill a score of men,” according to one account. The previous day, he had allegedly attacked Nancie (sometimes referred to as Nannie) Carr as she was cleaning the schoolhouse in the Parker community of Union Township in Pulaski County. There is very little information about Jim Sanders, whom the Arkansas Gazette refers to as a “youth.” There were two African Americans named James Sanders in Pulaski County in 1880; the most likely match is James Sanders, born around 1872, who was living in Badgett Township with his parents, Charlie and Julia …

Scruggs, David (Lynching of)

In late July 1885, an African-American man named David Scruggs was lynched by a mob of black citizens near Redfield (Jefferson County) for allegedly committing incest with his daughter. In 1880, farmer David Scruggs was living in Victoria (Jefferson County) with his wife, Nancy; an eleven-year-old daughter named Julia; and a ten-year-old grandchild. His wife was working as a laborer. Although some sources say that the lynching occurred on July 24, an Arkansas Gazette article datelined Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), July 24, gives the date as “one night this week.” As July 24 was a Friday, it is probable that the lynching occurred earlier in the week. The Alexandria Gazette says that it happened on Thursday night, which would make …

Searcy County Courthouse

The Searcy County Courthouse is in the historic commercial district of Marshall (Searcy County). Built in 1889, this two-story building, made of stone native to the area, stands as one of the oldest courthouses in Arkansas. The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program recognizes the courthouse as architecturally and historically significant as an outstanding example of an Arkansas Adamesque building. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 12, 1976. Since Searcy County turned eleven acres into its county seat in 1856, three courthouses have managed local affairs. The first was a log cabin, one of the few structures in town at that time along with a two-story hotel, a mercantile store, and a collection of houses. At …

Separate Coach Law of 1891

The Separate Coach Law of 1891 (Act 17) was a Jim Crow law requiring separate coaches on railway trains for white and black passengers. The law arose out of the political upheavals of the era, in which the Democratic Party sought to stave off challenges to their dominance by distracting voters with racist concerns, and it further relegated African Americans to the margins of social and economic life. By the late 1880s, large numbers of angry white farmers threatened to leave the Democratic Party and join new agrarian parties, such as the Union Labor and Populist organizations. Democratic chieftains and established elites tried to allay defections and distract attention from economic and class issues that were beginning to divide the …

Sevier County Lynching of 1881

In late May 1881, three African-American men were lynched in Sevier County for allegedly attacking a man who requested their help in crossing Rolling Fork Creek. The descriptions of the victim are confusing. The Arkansas Gazette described him as “an old man named Holly.” The St. Paul Globe reported that he was a prominent Sevier County farmer named R. F. Hall; the Memphis Daily Appeal concurred, adding that he was eccentric. The Nebraska Advertiser gave his name as A. F. Hall. In his “Early Days in Sevier County,” W. S. Ray wrote that he was a “simple-minded man named Hall” who was passing through the county. Public records do nothing to clarify his identity. His alleged attackers were not identified …

Sharp, Ephraim [of Fulton County]

Ephraim Sharp, nephew of the Ephraim Sharp after whom Sharp County was named, was an important early settler and mercantilist in neighboring Fulton County. He established a mill, and the community of Sharp’s Mill, now Saddle (Fulton County), grew up around it. His mercantile establishment helped to provide the goods that sustained the growth of the Mammoth Spring (Fulton County) area. Ephraim Sharp was born in Sandtown Township, Decatur County, Indiana, on June 23, 1833, to John Elston Sharp (called Jackson) and Susannah Armstrong Sharp. He was the fifth child and third son of this family of seven children. His mother died in 1841 when he was eight years old. His father married Sarah Armstrong, his mother’s sister. When Sarah …

Shepperson, Carrie Lena Fambro Still

Carrie Lena Fambro Still Shepperson was an African-American teacher and education advocate in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and the mother of composer and musician William Grant Still Jr. Carrie Fambro was born in 1872, near Milledgeville Georgia to Anne Fambro, a freedwoman. Little is known about her family. Her exact birth date, father’s name, and number of siblings are unknown. Encouraged by her mother to pursue her education, she graduated from Atlanta University in 1886. In 1893, while teaching at Alabama State Agricultural and Mechanical College, she met William Grant Still, a colleague who taught bookkeeping, instrumental music, and vocal music. Still was an 1892 graduate of Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College at Lorman, Mississippi. The couple married and settled …

Silver Mining

The silver in Arkansas is mixed sulfide ores of lead, zinc, copper, and antimony in small, scattered deposits in parts of the southern and eastern Ouachita Mountains. Most of the known mining activity involving silver took place between 1840 and 1927 and rarely resulted in profit to owners and operators. Sale of claims or mines to unsuspecting investors was usually the only route to profit. The mines opened in the 1800s were shallow, reaching maximum depths of less than 200 feet. Most of the deposits where mining was undertaken are clustered in three groups. One is along Kellogg Creek in Pulaski County, north of the Arkansas River. Deposits in another group were clustered along tributaries near the confluence of the north …

Skipper v. Union Central Life Insurance Company

aka: William Franklin Skipper (Murder of)
aka: Monticello Lynching of 1898
  The death of William Franklin Skipper near Baxter (Drew County) in 1896 sparked a series of trials the Arkansas Gazette described as “perhaps the strangest case in the criminal annals of Arkansas.” The only certainty in the case seems to be that Skipper, a merchant and sawmill owner and a partner in the firm of Skipper and Lephiew (sometimes spelled Lephlew), died of a knife wound to the neck beside Bayou Bartholomew sometime on May 13, 1896. During the two criminal trials, much of the argument centered on whether he committed suicide or was murdered by a group of African-American men who worked at his mill. The criminal case dragged on for more than two years. The Arkansas Supreme Court overturned …

Slemons, William Ferguson

William Ferguson Slemons was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented the Second District of Arkansas in the Forty-Fourth through the Forty-Sixth Congresses, serving from 1875 to 1881. William F. Slemons—a descendant of the family of Thomas Slemons, who was born in Perth, Scotland, and came to the United States in 1723, ultimately settling in Pennsylvania—was born on March 15, 1830, near Dresden, Tennessee, to J. B. Slemons and Elizabeth Slemons. After limited early formal education, he attended Bethel College in McKenzie, Tennessee. Slemons moved to Arkansas in 1852. While he briefly taught school in Hamburg (Ashley County), he also began the study of law, including some formal training at Cumberland School of Law in Lebanon, …

Smithee-Adams Duel

What has often been described as “the last duel fought in Arkansas” was an exchange of gunshots in the streets of Little Rock (Pulaski County) between James Newton (J. N.) Smithee and John D. Adams on May 5, 1878. This event was also an early episode in the long newspaper war conducted between the Arkansas Gazette (then the Daily Arkansas Gazette) and the Arkansas Democrat. Adams became owner, with William D. Blocher, of the Gazette on November 11, 1876. They hired James Mitchell to be editor-in-chief of the newspaper; Mitchell had been a professor of English literature at Arkansas Industrial University, now the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). Smithee competed with the Gazette by purchasing the printing …

Smithee, James Newton

James Newton Smithee, the founder of the Arkansas Democrat, was a prominent figure in the history of Arkansas journalism. Smithee was also an important Democrat during the years after Reconstruction and an advocate of the silver movement in Arkansas. J. N. Smithee was born in 1842 in what would become Sharp County into a poor Scottish-Irish farming family; his parents were Samuel Harris Smithee and Edna Elizabeth (Woodrow) Smithee. His formal education consisted of three months in a country school. When he was twelve years old, he became an apprentice to the Des Arc Citizen, where he learned the printing trade. When Smithee was eighteen, he bought into the Prairie County Democrat and used it to support the Southern Democratic …

Southall, James Henry

James Henry Southall was a founding member of the Medical Department of Arkansas Industrial University, the precursor to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Southall was born on November 5, 1841, in Smithville, Virginia, the son and grandson of distinguished Virginia physicians. After the completion of his education and the interruptions of life caused by the Civil War, Southall moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) at a time when the local medical community was beginning to consider forming a medical school in the state. As with many physicians of his era, Southall had begun his medical education by reading medicine under the tutelage of a professional, Dr. Robert Tunstall of Norfolk, Virginia. He attended medical school at the …

Southern Arkansas Race Riots of Late 1896

During November and December 1896, there were three separate racial incidents on job sites in and around El Dorado (Union County). In mid-November 1896, there was a “race war” between white and black workers at Hawthorne Mills, twelve miles southwest of El Dorado. On Tuesday, December 1, 1896, five African-American section men who were working on the line of the Cotton Belt Railroad between Camden (Ouachita County) and Bearden (Ouachita County) were killed by a group of unidentified men. In late December, near McNeil (Columbia County), approximately twenty African Americans were shot when white men raided a sawmill. This was part of a widespread pattern of intimidation of black laborers in southern Arkansas in the 1890s, a practice that seems to …

Southland College

Southland College emerged out of a Civil War–era mission by Indiana Quakers who came to Helena (Phillips County) in 1864 to care for lost and abandoned black children. Its founders, Alida and Calvin Clark, were abolitionist members of the Religious Society of Friends who arrived in Arkansas to render temporary relief to displaced orphans. They stayed for the remainder of their working lives, establishing the school that became the first institution of higher education for African Americans west of the Mississippi River. The school survived six decades of economic adversity and social strife. After operating an orphanage and school in Helena for two years, in 1866, the Clarks, with the vital assistance of the officers and men of the Fifty-sixth …

Sovereign, James Richard

A native of Wisconsin, James Richard Sovereign lived in Arkansas only briefly at the end of the nineteenth century. During that time, however, he played a prominent role in politics and the labor movement at the state and national levels. By the early twentieth century, his prominence had faded, and he subsequently moved to the state of Washington, where he spent the remainder of his life. Born on May 30, 1854, in Cassville, Wisconsin, to Thomas Clark Sovereign and Ruby Mitchell Sovereign, James R. Sovereign grew up primarily on his grandparents’ farm near Elgin, Illinois. At age sixteen, he migrated to Kansas and worked as a cattle driver on the Gonzales and Abilene cattle trail, which ran through Kansas and …

Spanish-American War

On April 25, 1898, after months of discussion and negotiations concerning the revolt in Cuba, an island possessed by Spain, the U.S. Congress officially declared war upon Spain. For months, the national media, including Arkansas newspapers, had been filing exaggerated reports concerning the revolt in Cuba, stirring up anti-Spanish sentiment throughout the country. By the time of the unexplained sinking of the battleship USS Maine in Havana Harbor in February 1898, many citizens of Arkansas were ready for war. On the same day as the war declaration, Governor Daniel Webster Jones received a message from the U.S. Department of War requesting that Arkansas provide two regiments of National Guard troops, approximately 2,000 soldiers. This was a difficult task for the …

Springdale College

Civic leaders in Springdale (Washington County) established the Springdale College Company on June 22, 1895, by filing articles of incorporation in Washington County. Forty-eight people committed to purchase two shares each, at $25.00 per share, to create the initial capital for the venture. In November 1895, the corporation purchased a building and land from the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Springdale to provide a college facility. The building had previously housed a common school for six grades, operated initially by the Baptists from 1871 and from 1885 by the Lutherans. After organizational delays, October 4, 1897, was finally set for the opening of the college. However, the educator selected to lead the college—Professor Charles Parsons of Webster, South Dakota—failed to …

Springer, Andrew (Lynching of)

Andrew Springer, a white man, was lynched in Powhatan (Lawrence County) on May 21, 1887. His is the only lynching recorded as happening in Lawrence County and occurred during a decade when whites and African Americans were lynched in relatively equal numbers. That would change the following decade as lynching violence became more exclusively anti-black. The lynching of Springer became the subject of the October “Ghost Walk” held at the Powhatan Historic State Park each year and is a significant component of local folklore. The event was mentioned by newspapers as far away as Perth, Australia. The exact identity of Springer remains a mystery. Some newspapers reported that he was originally from Cook County, Illinois, but the four possible matches …

Springfield Male and Female Collegiate Institute

aka: Springfield College
During the latter part of the nineteenth century, many communities in Arkansas established small institutions of higher learning in an effort to attract and retain young citizens. The small community of Springfield in northeastern Conway County organized the establishment of the Springfield Male and Female Collegiate Institute in the fall of 1887. At the time, Springfield was a thriving community, located at the junction of three important roads. Professor William Beverley Toon, a graduate of Vanderbilt University, was hired as president of the institute. The initial faculty also included Thomas Murphy and a Mr. Trumbul. While the local population composed much of the student population, many “boarding students” came from across the region. While many early schools were affiliated with …

Springfield–Des Arc Bridge

aka: Springfield Cadron Bridge
aka: Springfield Bridge
The Springfield Bridge is the oldest bridge in Arkansas, although it has been moved from its original location. It was erected in 1874 across the North Cadron Creek three miles east of Springfield (Conway County) on the Springfield–Des Arc Road. This early thoroughfare connected Des Arc (Prairie County), a thriving port for steamboat traffic on the White River, with Springfield, the county seat of Conway County from 1850 to 1873. Before the bridge was built, C. A. Simmons operated a ferry at the river crossing, charging five cents for a pedestrian, fifteen cents for a person on horseback, or seventy-five cents for a two-horse spring carriage. On November 8, 1871, Conway County awarded a contract to the King Bridge Company …

St. Bernards Healthcare

St. Bernards Healthcare, based in Jonesboro (Craighead County), was founded by the Olivetan Benedictine sisters at Holy Angels Convent and is the largest employer in northeast Arkansas, with more than 2,200 employees. Its mission remains: “To provide Christ-like care to the community through education, treatment and health services.” Like many contemporary healthcare institutions, St. Bernards was begun in response to a crisis—a malaria fever epidemic that raged throughout northeast Arkansas in 1899. Civic leaders realized that the events of the 1890s had highlighted the need for a hospital, and as the twentieth century dawned, the idea was gaining momentum. A first challenge, and one that would be ongoing throughout the century, was to raise money necessary for a hospital. The …

St. Boniface Colony

aka: New Dixie (Perry County)
The St. Boniface Colony was the informal name for a successful German Catholic immigrant settlement established in 1880 in eastern Perry County. Over time, the colony became known as the community of New Dixie. Beginning in 1880, immigrants from Germany, Switzerland, and other German-speaking countries began arriving in the area near the small village of Dixie, located near the Arkansas River in eastern Perry County. Dixie had been settled in the mid-to-late 1870s and was named after the daughter of Hezekiah Lewis Trundle, a man who owned a large plantation on the banks of the Arkansas River. The Little Rock and Fort Smith Railroad (LR&FS) held large swaths of land in Perry County, and although the railway often utilized its …

St. Johns’ College

St. Johns’ College in Little Rock (Pulaski County), a school created and run by Arkansas Freemasons, was the first institution of higher education chartered in Arkansas (though the third to open its doors). During its short life, it trained some of the most important future leaders in Arkansas. The vision of the people involved set the stage for Arkansas to provide a quality education for its citizens. Grand Master Elbert H. English, at the annual communication of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas in November 1850, announced the desire of state Masons to create a college for the purpose of educating Arkansas’s citizenry: “Several of the Grand Lodges of our sister states have led off in this noble cause by the …

St. Joseph Colony

St. Joseph Colony, covering land throughout Conway, Faulkner, and Pope counties, served Roman Catholics living along the Arkansas River Valley and the German-speaking Catholic immigrants who later settled these lands. Father Joseph Strub of the Holy Ghost Fathers, a Roman Catholic missionary society, founded the colony in 1878. St. Joseph Colony attracted immigrants to Arkansas until the middle of the 1880s, though the presence of the colony is still felt today. Chancellor Otto von Bismarck of Prussian-dominated Germany expelled Strub and other Holy Ghost Fathers in 1873 by means of his anti-Catholic policy, Kulturkampf. The Holy Ghost Fathers fled Germany and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, Strub learned of railroads offering land in Arkansas for settlement. Strub …

St. Scholastica Monastery

St. Scholastica Monastery, a community of Benedictine sisters in Fort Smith (Sebastian County), has been a religious presence in the state of Arkansas since its founding in 1879. Their call is not to any specific work but rather to a life of seeking God through common and private prayer, work, leisure, and extending hospitality in service to the needs of the church and civic community. By living that call, they have impacted the lives of many in the state and beyond in education, healthcare, and social service. The sisters’ contribution includes having staffed three girls’ high schools for boarding and day students; conducting elementary schools; operating four hospitals in rural areas; and caring for children in an orphanage in Pine …

Stanley, Henry Morton

aka: John Rowlands
Sir Henry Morton Stanley, world-renowned explorer of the Belgian Congo, specifically the Congo River, and famous for finding medical missionary Dr. David Livingstone, lived in Arkansas for a few months in 1860–1861, working as a clerk in a country store at Cypress Bend on the Arkansas River near Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Stanley was born on January 28, 1841, in Denbigh, Wales, as John Rowlands. He was placed in the local workhouse at an early age by his grandparents and remained there until he absconded, made his way to Liverpool, and signed on as a cabin boy on an American ship bound for New Orleans, Louisiana. When he arrived in New Orleans in February 1859, he found work on the …

Starr, Belle

aka: Myra Maybelle Shirley
In the late 1800s, Belle Starr was known as a notorious female outlaw in America’s “Old West.” As a resident of Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, she came under the jurisdiction of Judge Isaac C. Parker in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). Her close friends included the legendary American outlaws Cole Younger and Frank and Jesse James. Her reputation as an outlaw, the novelty of being a woman outlaw, and her violent, mysterious death led to her being called “The Bandit Queen.” Belle Starr was born Myra Maybelle Shirley near Carthage, Missouri, on February 5, 1848. Her father was John R. Shirley, a farmer who later owned a local inn. Her mother, twenty years younger than her husband, was Elizabeth (Eliza) Hatfield …

Stephens, Charlotte Andrews (Lottie)

aka: Lottie Stephens
Charlotte Andrews Stephens was the first African-American teacher in the Little Rock (Pulaski County) school district. She worked as a teacher for seventy years, and Stephens Elementary School in Little Rock was named for her in 1910. In addition, she was the first African American to be accredited by the North Central Association and was a charter member of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) federated club in Little Rock. Lottie Andrews was born in 1854 in Little Rock to William Wallace Andrews, a mulatto slave to U.S. Senator Chester Ashley, and Caroline Williams Andrews, a slave to the Noah Badgett family. The system of urban slavery in Arkansas allowed the Andrews family special privileges. Andrews’s parents were both …

Stewart, Charles (Lynching of)

Charles Stewart, a white man, was lynched in Perryville (Perry County) on May 17, 1892, after killing Deputy Sheriff Tom Holmes in a failed attempt to escape jail. This was the only recorded lynching in Perry County. Given the absence of enumeration sheets for the 1890 census, determining the identity of Charles Stewart is difficult. However, there was a Charley Straut living in neighboring Yell County in 1880; his age was given as six years old (making him about eighteen in 1892, when the crime and lyching took place). Reports on the lynching present little biographical information. According to the Arkansas Gazette, Stewart had been jailed in Perryville “for attempted outrage on the 11-year-old daughter of J. W. Guin, and …

Stuttgart Training School

aka: Stuttgart College
aka: Stuttgart Normal School
Stuttgart Training School, an educational facility offering college preparation to students in the Stuttgart (Arkansas County) area, operated under several names from 1889 through 1915. Known alternately as Stuttgart Normal Institute, Stuttgart College, and Stuttgart Training School, it was affiliated at various times with the Presbyterian and Methodist denominations and operated for a time as a non-sectarian academy. It offered unusually well-educated professors for a school of its size and for a town as newly settled as Stuttgart. Many of the school’s students would go on to become the Grand Prairie region’s leading citizens of the early to mid-twentieth century, including Belle McFall and Fred Wilcox. The school occupied ten acres along the south side of 15th Street, between Grand …

Sulphur Rock Male and Female Academy

The Sulphur Rock Male and Female Academy was a leading educational institution in northeast Arkansas. Founded in 1872 in the town of Sulphur Rock (Independence County), the one-building school operated until 1906, when it was incorporated into the local public school system. Sulphur Rock was an early settlement in northeastern Arkansas, located near Batesville (Independence County). In June 1872, a group of townspeople met to discuss the creation of a local academy; forty-four signatories to the founding document pledged a total of $2,261 for the school’s creation. The board of trustees purchased a two-and-one-half-acre plot of land upon which was built a two-story, four-room, white frame building. However, the school was closed by 1875 after John G. Martin, who alleged …

Sulphur Springs Cemetery

The Sulphur Springs Cemetery in Yell County, considered a historical resource, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 21, 2012, under multiple criteria, including Criterion C and Criterion D, for the designation of burial places. Among many unmarked fieldstones, the cemetery holds the remains of Judge John F. Choate, a prominent community member who served as Yell County circuit clerk and Yell County judge. The cemetery is one of the only surviving structures from the region’s days as a medicinal resort destination. In the early to mid-1800s, Sulphur Springs (Yell County) was known throughout the United States for its healing waters, which contained minerals such as white and black sulfur, soda, and chalybeate. Spas were popular …

Sunnyside Plantation

Sunnyside Plantation of Chicot County is synonymous with the immigration of Italian Catholics into the cotton fields of the Arkansas Delta. During the 1890s, Sunnyside Plantation was the largest Catholic colony of new immigrants in the state and the primary factor in attracting Italians to Arkansas. In the later half of the nineteenth century, Austin Corbin of New York bought more than 10,000 acres of Chicot County land on the Mississippi River and established his Sunnyside Plantation. Under the auspices of the Sunnyside Company, Corbin consolidated several plantations and named the property after an area plantation that dated back to the 1830s. When difficulties arose in finding laborers to work these cotton fields, including a stint with convict labor, Corbin …