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

Walker, James David

James David Walker served as a U.S. senator from Arkansas from 1879 to 1885. Before that, he served as a judge and as a colonel in the Confederate army. Local historian William Campbell later described him as “a man of strong convictions, sturdy honesty, high principles, and the recognized leader of the bar,” adding that his “knowledge and use of the law was profound, and his pleading before juries was always persuasive.” He had little impact in the Senate, however. J. D. Walker was born on December 13, 1830, near Russellville, Kentucky, the fifth and youngest child of James Volney Walker and Susan Howard McLean Walker. On both sides of his family, he was related to politicians, including congressional representatives …

Wallace, John (Reported Lynching of)

Beginning in the 1880s and increasingly as Jim Crow laws were instituted across the South, newspapers across the United States began to expand their coverage of Southern lynchings. In addition, publications like the Chicago Tribune and organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama began to keep annual lists of lynchings. In her 1895 book The Red Record, Ida B. Wells-Barnett also attempted to include a comprehensive list of lynchings. Not all of these lists, upon further analysis, were accurate, and more recent lynching lists often also include certain erroneous accounts. Further examination of newspaper reports shows that subsequent articles, particularly local to the site of the lynchings, later corrected …

Wallace, Sidney

Sidney Wallace was a legendary part of the state’s folklore during Arkansas’s Reconstruction. Some portrayed him as boldly resisting bushwhackers and carpetbaggers, while, to others, Wallace was a symbol of the lawless frontier life that Arkansas needed to transcend. Sid Wallace was born on the Wallace family farm near Clarksville (Johnson County) on August 11, 1851, the fifth of seven children of Vincent Wallace, a Methodist minister, and his wife, Ruth Suggs Wallace. On December 31, 1863, Wallace’s father was murdered in front of his house by three or more men wearing Union army coats. Accounts vary concerning the attackers, whether they were Union soldiers or local bushwhackers in disguise. Some accounts suggest that Wallace was a witness to his …

Ware, Jim and Jack (Lynching of)

On July 14, 1895, brothers Jim and Jack Ware, who allegedly assisted Wiley Bunn in the murder of Allen Martin, were lynched in Hampton (Calhoun County). The Ware family had been living in Calhoun County for some time. In 1870, Moses and Easter Ware were living in Jackson Township. Among their children were two sons, fifteen-year-old James (Jim) Ware and thirteen-year-old Jack. Moses and James Ware were working as laborers. They were still in Jackson Township in 1880. Jack, along with James and James’s wife, Susan, were still living with their parents. Moses was farming, and both James and John were working as laborers. In 1880, fourteen-year-old Willey (Wiley) Bunn was living in Jackson Township with his parents, Drew and …

Warner, Myra Cordelia McAlmont

Myra Cordelia McAlmont Warner was a pioneer and noted educator of Arkansas youth who was integral to the creation and operation of the Arkansas Female College in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Myra McAlmont was born on July 4, 1832, at Hornell, New York, to Daniel McAlmont and Samantha Durham McAlmont. When she was about twenty, she came to Arkansas with her brother, Dr. John J. McAlmont, and his family. They settled first in Benton (Saline County), and she started a small private school. After about two years, her brother moved to Little Rock and opened a drugstore. She returned to New York. While in New York, she attended Albert University and graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She married Truman …

Washington Confederate Monument

The Washington Confederate Monument is a commemorative obelisk financed and erected through the efforts of the citizens of Washington (Hempstead County) to honor the memory of the Confederate soldiers who died there during the Civil War. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 6, 1996. Washington, strategically placed on the Southwest Trail, lay in the path of troop movements to and from Texas and, following the fall of Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Union troops in September 1863, was the seat of Confederate government in the state as well. At least seventy-four Confederate soldiers are believed to be buried in Washington’s Presbyterian Cemetery (now Washington Cemetery); this number includes soldiers in the Nineteenth Texas Infantry …

Watkins, Claibourne

Claibourne Watkins was one of three native Arkansan founders of the Medical Department of the Arkansas Industrial University, now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Watkins was born on March 3, 1844, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the second son of George Claibourne Watkins and Mary Crease Watkins. His father was state attorney general and chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. He had two brothers: Colonel Anderson Watkins, who was killed at Atlanta during the Civil War, and Captain Walton Watkins. Watkins was educated in a number of institutions, both private and public. The Civil War broke out just prior to his completing his undergraduate degree at St. Timothy’s Hall in Cantonsville, Maryland. A Southerner by birth and …

Watson, Hattie Rutherford

aka: Harriet Louise Gertrude Rutherford Watson
Harriet Louise Gertrude (Hattie) Rutherford Watson was an educator, librarian, and prominent member of the social and education communities in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). She and her husband, John Brown Watson, were activists for the African-American community during the early twentieth century. Hattie Rutherford was born November 23, 1885, in Rome, Georgia, as part of the black elite in the post-bellum era. She was the elder daughter of Samuel W. and Mary Anne Lemon Rutherford. Her father founded the National Benefit Life Insurance Company in 1898. Rutherford acquired an elementary education in the public schools of Atlanta and a high school diploma at Spelman Seminary. She completed her college work at Spelman College and was the only graduate from that …

Watson, John Brown

John Brown Watson was president of Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College (AM&N), now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), from 1928 until his death in 1942. Watson was a member of the first generation of black Americans born after the Civil War and representative of that demographic among his cohorts, identified as what Professor Willard B. Gatewood Jr. called “aristocrats of color.” Watson was born near Tyler, Texas, on December 28, 1869, to Crystal and Frank Watson; he was named for the antebellum abolitionist John Brown. Educated near his home, Watson passed the county teacher examination in 1887 and taught  for two years. He entered Bishop College at Marshall, Texas, in 1891 at the seventh grade level and …

Weibel, Eugene John

aka: Johann Eugen Weibel
A Swiss-German Catholic priest and missionary, Father Eugene John Weibel founded so many churches and other ecclesiastical institutions that he has been termed the Catholic “Apostle to northeastern Arkansas.” Eugene Weibel was born on May 27, 1853, in the small town of Eschenbach, Canton Lucerne, Switzerland. (His name appears as Johann Eugen Weibel in some German-language sources.) In Weibel’s autobiography, he failed to mention his birth mother’s name, only that she died at age thirty-three, four weeks after his birth; his father, John Baptist Weibel, remarried when Eugene was two. Although he mentions that there were eleven children in the family, he does not indicate where in that order he arrived. After attending Catholic elementary school in his village and a …

Welch, William Blackwell

In the late nineteenth century, physician William Blackwell Welch was a leader in the movement to modernize medicine in Arkansas. A cofounder and first president of the Arkansas Medical Society (AMS), he later led the effort to establish a city hospital in Fayetteville (Washington County). W. B. Welch was born on December 9, 1828, in Scottsville, Kentucky, to Christopher A. Welch, who was a farmer, and his wife, Elizabeth Lyles Welch. In 1829, his family, which eventually included two brothers and three sisters, moved to Somerville, Alabama. He attended schools in Huntsville, Alabama, and studied medicine under his older brother. After graduating from Tennessee’s University of Nashville medical department (later merged with the Vanderbilt University Medical School) in 1849, he …

West End Park

West End Park was a privately established park in Little Rock (Pulaski County) that opened on May 30, 1885. Created by the Little Rock Street Railway Company, it encompassed a six-block area between 14th and 16th Streets and Park and Jones (formerly Kramer Street). By the late 1920s, much of the land had become the site of what is now Central High School. The park was the last stop for the Ninth Street Line, which took streetcar passengers to 14th Street, where they walked the remainder of the way and entered the park near the spot occupied in the twenty-first century by the Central High School athletic building. The park boasted the largest grandstand in the state, an artificial lake …

Wheeler, Lloyd Garrison

Lloyd Garrison Wheeler was a prominent and trailblazing African-American lawyer, political figure, and businessman in Illinois and Arkansas. Lloyd G. Wheeler was born in Mansfield, Ohio, on May 29, 1848. His father was active in the Underground Railroad, but when Ohio passed a law making the harboring of slaves illegal, the family relocated to Chatham, Canada, where Wheeler received his early education. When his mother died, he returned to the United States, settling in Chicago, Illinois. There, he worked at a variety of jobs, including on the railroad and as a shoe black. Throughout this period, his greatest ambition was a career in law. He became the first black mail carrier in Chicago while studying law in the office of …

Wiley, Bill (Lynching of)

In late August 1897, an African American man was lynched in Cleveland County for allegedly killing one man and wounding another at a picnic near Kendall’s mill. Newspaper accounts from the time are confusing as to his identity. Some identify him as Bill Wiley, others as Bill Wiley Douglass, Wiley Douglass, or Bill/Will/William Wyatt. All of these names have been used in various assembled lists of lynching events; public records provide no confirmation of any of them. For convenience, he will be referred to as “Wiley” in this article. The date of the lynching is also in question. The Arkansas Gazette gave three dates in three different articles:, Sunday, August 22; Monday, August 23; and Tuesday, August 24. The Pine …

William H. Grey Gravesite

The William H. Grey Gravesite is the last remaining physical property associated with one of the state’s most prominent African-American Masonic, religious, and political leaders. The gravesite, which is located in Magnolia Cemetery in Helena-West Helena (Phillips County), was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 27, 2019. William Henry Grey was born free in Washington DC on December 22, 1829. By 1863, he had moved to Helena, Arkansas, and was engaged in the grocery and bakery business. Grey participated in a convention held in Little Rock (Pulaski County) by African Americans in 1865 to discuss the betterment of Black Arkansans. Having gained a reputation as an outstanding speaker at this convention, he was chosen as one …

William L. Terry House

The William L. Terry House (also known as the Terry-Jung House) is an example of the Queen Anne architectural style, notable for its jigsaw decorative trim. It is eclectic in its details, such as the porch posts, which are Dravidian, a style imported from India. Built at 1422 Scott Street, now within the Capitol Zoning District and the MacArthur Park Historic District in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the home received a National Register of Historic Places designation on January 1, 1976. Exterior alterations have been modest. Interior alterations have been less restrained, but many features have been preserved. The house was constructed in the mid-1880s by William Leake Terry as a family home. Terry was born in North Carolina, but …