Friday, March 28, 2008

The Old Mill

The Old Mill in North Little Rock is the only structure from the 1939 award-winning movie "Gone with the Wind" to survive until now. It was featured in the opening scenes of the movie.

Never used as an actual mill, the Old Mill is part of the T.R. Pugh Memorial Park. Developer Justin Matthews contracted for the construction of a replica of a water-powered grist mill in 1931, and named the park surrounding the area in honor of his friend Pugh in 1933.

The mill, which is not a copy of any particular mill, is intended to appear abandoned as any early 1800s mill would have been in the 1930s. Though the structure was never used, many elements of it are genuine. From a brochure about the mill:

*The grist mill itself on the first floor came from the Cagle family of Pope County and dates back to 1828.

*The large mill rock on the first floor bear dates of 1823 and 1840.

*The two mill rocks on the second floor and the building's corner stone came from the plantation of Tom Knoble, Pugh's grandfather.

*Two milestones on the old road to the mill were moved there from a military road load out in the 1830s by Lt. Jefferson Davis, who later became the President of the Confederacy.

*Three sections of a wrought iron shaft protecting the "Broken Tree Bench" were cut from the stern wheel of a passenger steamboat which traveled the Arkansas River in the 1800s.

It's free to visit this beautiful mill and park area. Our girls thoroughly enjoyed it a few months ago (photo above) and are begging to go back.

Second oldest city in Arkansas

Batesville is the second oldest settlement in Arkansas and the oldest surviving city. Arkansas Post, the first settlement and first capitol of the Arkansas Territory, is no longer inhabited.

The Independence County town along the White River was named for Judge James Woodson Bates, the first delegate to Congress from the Territory of Arkansas.

For centuries a place of importance because of its location on the White River, Batesville and the surrounding area was Native American land until the first few years of the 19th century. Europeans settled along Poke Bayou in the very early 1800s and called their settlement Poke Bayou. Later the name was changed to Batesville. Bates lived there and practiced law for a time after his Congressional service was up. Today the town of a little less than 10,000 is thriving and alive with history.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Arkansas' first state capitol building

The first state capitol of Arkansas and the oldest standing state capitol building west of the Mississippi is now the Old State House Museum in downtown Little Rock.

Some other interesting facts about the building, taken from the self-guided tour tip sheet and brochures at the museum:

* Slaves helped construct the Old State House from 1833-1846 by making bricks on the site.

* The steamship Ozark sank in the Arkansas River with a cargo of limestone intended for use in building the Old State House.

* A state representative was killed in the original House Chamber in 1837 by the Speaker of the House during a legislative session.

* The Union Army utilized the Old State House as its Arkansas headquarters after it occupied Little Rock in 1863.

* The Old State House once had columns on the side facing the Arkansas River just like the columns on the side facing Markham Street.

* The Old State House was the site of the Crossett Experiment that led to the eradication of malaria-bearing mosquitoes and was the first home of the University of Arkansas School of Medicine.

* President Bill Clinton made his election night speeches in 1992 and in 1996 at the Old State House.

* The Old State House was named a National Historic Landmark in 1997.

Even the grounds of the museum are educational. This photo was taken today out on the grounds, which feature monuments to characters of Arkansas history along with this stone marker my kindergarten child attempted to read!

More information about the treasures of history held at Old State House can be found at Admission to the museum is free.

More from the Old State House

The view from the front of the gorgeous Old State House Museum in downtown Little Rock is shown in the top photo, which I took today.

My niece gets a good look at one of the monuments on the grounds of the Old State House. Her sister and two cousins also enjoyed all the markers, including a large monument honoring David Owen Dodd.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Where it all started

Just a short drive from my hometown is a National Historic State Park and monument that preserves a very significant piece of history. It's the Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park that marks the point from which all surveys of the Louisiana Purchase Territory originated.

At first glance it is a natural preserve, a rare headwater swamp punctuated by towering tupelos and all manner of wildlife. A walk down a 950-foot bridge, though, leads you to a stone monument that declares that spot as the base from which the lands of the Louisiana Purchase were surveyed.

The land purchase, made in 1803, more than doubled the size of the United States; these lands were to be distributed among veterans of the War of 1812 as payment. In 1815 the government ordered an initial point for the surveys to be established. The survey party of Prospect K. Robbins set a north-south line and the party of Joseph C. Robbins surveyed an east-west line or baseline. Their paths crossed in what is now Monroe County in Eastern Arkansas on Nov. 10, 1815.

The surveyers marked two trees at their crossing point but until 1927 that was the only record of this important spot. The L'Anguille Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution believed this spot needed to be permanently marked and preserved. In 1927 the women donated the stone monument that sits in the swamp today. Another big day came on April 19, 1993 when this spot was designated as a National Historic Landmark.

The bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase was celebrated in 2003 with much fanfare. My hometown and home county became the focus of the country for a while since Brinkley is the closest town to the park.

A wealth of information about the park can be found at The Encyclopedia of Arkansas or better yet, by making a trip down Highway 49 South to the park. That's the only way to truly appreciate the towering swamp trees, the sounds of the wildlife, and the magnitude of history that took place in this remote area.

My little ones soaked it all up on a trip there in November 2005. In this photo I took, they are dwarfed by the tall trees of this swampy area.

Pictures from Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park

The top photo shows the stone monument marking the initial spot of all surveys of Louisiana Purchase Territory lands.

The second photo shows the path between the tupelos taken by the surveying parties.

I took these photos in November 2005.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The legend lives on

A bust of Louis Jordan, famous entertainer from Brinkley, Arkansas, greets visitors at the Central Delta Historical Museum in Brinkley.

Louis Jordan, one of the top R&B entertainers of all time whose height of fame was in the 1940s, and I share the same hometown of Brinkley in Eastern Arkansas.

His songs, including “Beans and Cornbread,” “Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens,” “Let the Good Times Roll” and many others are much better known than his name and his origin. I never knew of him until several years ago. Until a few years ago there was no trace of him anywhere in Brinkley. Now the Central Delta Historical Museum in downtown Brinkley has a bust of him along with a great display.

I wrote a piece on him just for my writing website Arkansas Profiles. It focuses not only on his career but the way he was received in Brinkley. There is also some great information at The Encyclopedia of Arkansas and at

An update on my story about him is that the house in Brinkley where he spent much of his childhood is in the process of being torn down.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

First settlement in Arkansas

Today it's a beautiful natural area, much as it was before it became the first permanent settlement in Arkansas and the first capital of the Arkansas Territory. It was also one of the first European settlements west of the Mississippi. It's Arkansas Post, located in Arkansas County near Gillett.

The Arkansas River running just below, Arkansas' original permanent settlement is now devoid of life save for the scampering squirrels and other wildlife, and the people who come to see this site. Now the Arkansas Post National Memorial, this place was once bustling with commerce and life. There was even a newspaper there, the "Arkansas Gazette." It was printed by William Woodruff, who took his publication to Little Rock when that city became the new capital.
Here is a photograph I took of a water cistern that is the only remains of the estate of Frederic Notrebe, the town's most prosperous entrepreneur. His residence, store, and warehouse occupied this spot.

Take a few minutes to read the piece I wrote about the Arkansas Post National Memorial for the Stuttgart newspaper a few years ago. It is located at

Origin of the name Arkansas

Many names of places in our state come from the languages of the explorers who discovered and lived in Arkansas. The Native Americans, Spanish, French, and Americans all helped name places in our state. The word ARKANSAS came from the Quapaw Indians, by way of early French explorers.

The explorers met a group of Native Americans, known as the UGAKHPAH, which means PEOPLE WHO LIVE DOWNSTREAM. These Native Americans were later called the QUAPAW, who were also called the ARKANSAW. This name came to be used for the land where these Native Americans lived.

(This information comes from the booklet "Arkansas" published by Secretary of State Charlie Daniels and used in classrooms in the state. My third grade daughter and kindergarten daughter have both studied this book recently.)

Welcome to Historical Happenings!

This is where the introductory post goes, so here goes! ;-) This blog is about history, something I love and something I've wanted to blog about for some time. I love Arkansas history and African-American history in particular, so I will focus on those topics in my blog but that's not to say that other historical tidbits aren't of interest to me and won't be included in my history blog!

These historical treasures will come from many sources — I have a nice collection of them in a paper folder and on my computer — including books, brochures, television programs, and personal visits to museums and other places. From time to time I might include something from the Internet as well. For the most part, though, I want to include bits of information that are not widely available.

The plan is to post a little bit of history every few days so check back often for more!