LAWRENCE COUNTY HISTORY

Arkansas Genealogy Trails

COURTHOUSES

EARLY HISTORY

JUDGES

POST OFFICES--PAST AND PRESENT

SHERIFFS



 The act creating the county provided that the first county court and circuit court to be holden for said county should be held at the house of Solomon Hewit, on Spring River.  Later, at the October term, 1815, Louis De Munn, William Robinson, William Hix, Sr., Morris Moore, Solomon Hewit, Andrew Criswell and Isaac Kelley, commissioners appointed to select the permanent seat of justice for the county, or a majority of them, reported to the county court that they had fixed the permanent seat of justice on Big Black River, near the mouth of Spring River, and purchased the town site from their several owners, for the sum of $255.  Soon after a town was laid out on the site selected, and named Davidsonville.  At this place the county seat remained until 1829, when it was removed to Jackson in what is now Randolph County.  No vestige of Davidsonville at this time can be found.  May 22, 1837, David Orr, Alexander Smith and William Thompson, commissioners previously appointed to select a new site for the seat of justice, reported that they had located the county seat on fifty acres of land in Section 33, Township 17 north, Range 3 west, donated by James H. Benson for the purpose.  To this place, where a town was laid out and named Smithville, the county seat was immediately removed, and remained there until 1868, when in accordance with the act of the legislature creating Sharp County, it was removed to Clover Bend on Black River, six miles south of Powhatan.  Afterward the question of removing the seat of justice to the town of Powhatan, was submitted to the voters of the county, at an election held November 15, 1869 on which occasion 207 votes were cast in favor of the removal, and only six against it.  In accordance with this decision of the people, the records were taken to Powhatan, which became the final and permanent seat of justice.
At all the former county seats, excepting Clover Bend, but ordinary public buildings were used.  In 1873 the first court-house at Powhatan, a large two-story brick structure, with offices below and court-room above, was completed by Thornton & Jones, of Little Rock, at a cost of between $16,000 and $17,000.  It was destroyed by fire in the month of March, 1885, supposed to have been the work of an incendiary.  The records, however, which were in a vault that had been attached to the building after its original construction, were saved in good condition.  The present court-house was constructed in 1888, by the contractors, Boon & McGinnis, at a cost, including the pay of the commissioner, J. P. Coffin, and the removal of the debris of the old building, of about $12,000.  It stand on the site of the former building, and is a handsome modern two-story  brick structure, on a rock foundation, with fine offices and fire-proof vaults below and the court and other rooms above.  The jail, near the court-house is a substantial stone house, containing iron cells.  When the county was divided into judicial districts, a two-story frame court-house, with the clerk's office and two jury rooms on the first floor and the court-room on the second, was erected at Walnut Ridge, at the expense of the citizens of that district.  
Source:  Excerpts from The Goodspeed Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas, c1889, Chicago, p. 768-769.


EARLY COUNTY HISTORY

As created by the act of the Missouri Legislature, approved on January 15, 1815, the boundaries of this county were as follows: "Beginning at the mouth of the Little Red River on the line dividing said (New Madrid) county from the County of Arkansas; thence with said line to the River St. Francois; thence up the River St. Francois to the division line between the counties of Cape Girardeau and New Madrid; thence with the said last mentioned line to the western boundary line of the Osage purchase; thence with the last mentioned line to the northern boundary line of the County of Arkansas; thence with the last mentioned line to the place of beginning."

    These boundaries included more than half of the northern half of the present State of Arkansas and a strip across the southern part of Missouri. New counties have been carved out of this region until Lawrence now contains an area of only 592 square miles, bounded as follows: On the north by the counties of Sharp, Randolph and Greene; on the east by the counties of Greene and Craighead; on the south by the counties of Craighead, Jackson and Independence, and on the west by the County of Sharp. It was named in honor of Capt. James Lawrence, commander of the American vessel Chesapeake in the War of 1812, who was mortally wounded in the engagement with the British ship Shannon, and whose last words were: ''Don't give up the ship," an admonition that spurred his men to greater efforts and finally to victory.

As early as 1804 a few white persons settled along the Black and White rivers, and it is possible that some of them may have located their claims within the present limits of Lawrence County. Between the years 1811 and 1815 there was a steady stream of immigrants from Missouri and the states east of the Mississippi. It was this rapid settlement that influenced the Missouri Legislature to create a new county in 1815. Among the early settlers were: Andrew Criswell, William Hix, Morris Moore, Solomon Hewitt, William Looney, James Hadlock, and John Miller. A settlement was formed at the mouth of the Spring River, beginning about 1811 or 1812. Here Jason Staples and Stephen Chamberlain, John Lewis, Sr., John Lewis, Jr., Jacob Garrett, James Taylor, Benjamin A. Potter, William Cox and a few others located. In the fall of 1815 this settlement was selected as the seat of justice for Lawrence County and was named Davidsonville. Richard Searcy was appointed clerk, and Joseph Hardin, sheriff, in 1819, and were the first county officers.

The first postoffice in what is now the State of Arkansas was established at Davidsonville in June, 1817, with Adam Richie as postmaster. In March, 1821, Reuben Lewis laid out an addition to the town and offered to give 5 per cent of the proceeds arising from the sale of lots for the erection of a church. In August, 1829, the name of the town was changed to Jackson. Three years later the county seat was removed to Smithville, and Davidsonville began to decline. It is now only a memory. Changes in boundary lines made another removal of the county seat necessary, and in 1868 it was located at Clover Bend, near the center of the present county. The following year it was located at Powhatan, and after the completion of the Iron Mountain Railroad, Walnut Ridge was made a county seat, so that the county now has two seats of justice.

   Lawrence is divided into nineteen townships, to wit: Ashland, Black River, Black Rock, Boas, Cache, Campbell, Dent, Duty, Flat Creek, Jesup, Lawrence, Marion, Morgan, Promised Land, Reeds Creek, Richwoods, Spring River, Strawberry and Thacker.

   There are a number of towns and villages in the county. Hoxie and Walnut Ridge are Incorporated Towns. Alicia, on the Missouri Pacific Railroad near the southern boundary, was incorporated on August 19, 1899, and in 1920 had a population of 297. Black Rock, at the point where the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad crosses the Black River, has a population of 835. Imboden, near the northwest corner, was incorporated on April 22, 1899, and has a population of 318. Minturn, on the Missouri Pacific seven miles south of Walnut Ridge, has a population of 278. Portia, on the St. Louis & San Francisco about half way between Hoxie and Black Rock, has a population of 519. Powhatan, the western county seat, was incorporated on January 12, 1853, and is the oldest incorporated town in the county. It is not on a railroad and has never grown to be the town its founders anticipated. The population in 1920 was only 134. The lumber industry is the principal one in most of these towns. Alicia, Black Rock, Imboden and Portia are banking towns. Denton, Lynn, Smithville, Clover Bend and Strawberry are the most important villages. The population of the county in 1920 was 22,098, an increase of 2.097 in ten years.

(Source - Centennial History of Arkansas 1922; contributed by Tina Easley.)






FIRST JUDGES OF THE COUNTY

James Campbell, 1929-32
T. S. Drew, 1832-33
John Hardin, 1833-40
J. C. Floyd, 1840-44
J. Kicklin, 1844-46
A. H. Nunn, 1846-50
John Milligan, 1850-52
G. McGehey, 1852-56
W. C. Smith, 1856-58
George McGehey, 1858-60
C. S. Wainright, 1860-62
G. McGehey, 1862-64
Solomon Yeager, 1864-66
G. McGehey, 1866-68
Josiah Dent, 1868-72
Commissioners, 1872-74
J. N. Hillhouse, 1874-76
Davied Wagster, 1876-78
Alex Jackson, 1878-84
W. A. Townsend, 1884-86
David C. Smith, 1886-88
W. A. Townsend, 1888-

Source:  Excerpts from The Goodspeed Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas, c1889, Chicago, p. 768-769.


POST OFFICES--PAST AND PRESENT

Airport Br.
Alicia (1873-Date)
Annieville (1890-1920)
Bessie (1912/1926)
Black Rock (1884-Date)
Broom (1909-1915)
Buncombe Ridge (1874-1876)
Calamine (1857-1859)
Camanche (1856-1866)
Clamanda (1860/1877)
Clements (1899-1911)
Clover Bend (1848/1919)
Concord (1880-1881)
Crystal Spring (1826-1829)
Cuba (1857-1859)
Denton (1894/1954)
Dosy (1886-1890)
Driftwood (1905/1935)
Eaton (1900/1954)
Evergreen (1885-1886)
Frisbee (1906-1919)
Gum Spring (1860-1866)
Havana (1876-1877)
Houghton (1854/1898)
Hoxie (1884-Date)
Imboden (1883-Date)
Jesup (1894/1954)
Laura Town (1860/1880)
Lauratown (1889/1954)
Lindsay (1886/1900)
Linwood (1855/1873)
Litha (1891-1896)
Lynn (1891-Date)
Minturn (1873-Date)
Mount Silvan (1857-1866)
Muria (1878/1905)
Myatt (1846/1866)
Oasis (1860/1866)
Opposition (1870-1904)
Osborn's Creek (1858-1859)
Parsonville (1888-1893)
Paw Paw (1858-1860)
Poplar Hall (1878-1886)
Portia (1882-Date)
Powhatan (1843-Date)
Progress (1912-1912)
Ravenden (1883-Date)
Rhea (1870-1872)
Richwoods (1903-1913)
Saffel (1901-1905)
Saffell (1912-Date)
Scottsville (1872-1873)
Sedgwick (1883-Date)
Sidney (1858-1866)
Sloan (1905/1921)
Smithville (1837-Date)
Strangers Home (1858/1906)
Strawberry (1854-Date)
Strawberry River (1832-1837)
Sugar Grove (1857-1866)
Surprise (1904-1906)
Taylor (1887-1891)
Uno (1884-1886)
Valley (1911-1912)
Walnut Ridge (1870-Date)
Zincville (1900-1902)

Source: Used with permission from Jim Forte at http://www.postalhistory.com/postoffices.asp




FIRST SHERIFFS OF THE COUNTY

Joseph Hardin, 1819-25
J. M. Kuykendall, 1825-36
T. McCarroll, 1836-44
L. Toney, 1844-46
L. B. Poer, 1846-50
C. C. Straughan, 1850-54
W. J. Hudson, 1854-56
T. C. Steadman, 1856-60
J. D. Wyatt, 1860-62
B. F. Matthews, 1862-66
J. H. W. Campbell, 1866-68
J. B. Judkins, 1868-72
W. G. Wasson, 1872-78
W. A. Townsend, 1878-80
John Darter, 1880-86
C. A. Stuart, 1886-

Source:  Excerpts from The Goodspeed Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas, c1889, Chicago, p. 768-769.

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