Unique History of
Steve Shults ●
The first road in the nation west of the Mississippi River to receive
Federal recognition was the Old Military Road. This was the first real
road in the State to carry settlers traveling overland to the West. It
started as nothing more than an Indian trail known as the Natchitoches
Trail. Since it was such an often used trail, it soon became a true road
and the only road in the County until 1832. It was used as early as 1800
and connected Pittman (Hix Ferry or Currents), Supply, Maynard, Attica,
and Jackson. On March 3, 1831, Congress appropriated $15,000 to build
the highway across Randolph County to Washington Arkansas.
$14.00 per mile was allowed for construction between
Jackson to the Eleven Point River. $18.75 per mile was allowed for
construction between the Eleven Point River and Fourche De Thomas, and
from Fourche De Thomas to the Missouri line, $8.50 per mile was allowed.
The Natchitoches Trail went to Davidsonville, but the Military Road
bypassed Davidsonville thus leading to its demise. Davidsonville was the
first town in Arkansas to be bypassed by a "US Highway".
The first court in Arkansas was established on
April of 1815 at the home of Solomon Hewitt. The home was located on the
east side of Spring River, 2 miles north of the mouth of the Eleven
Point River. The first trial in Arkansas was between Thomas Graves and
James Haddock over the ownership of some hogs. It was held at the Hewitt
The first ferry boat in the State of Arkansas was
the Hix Ferry. The ferry was located in the Northeast comer of Arkansas
and crossed the Current River at a location first known as Currents. It
began around 1800 and was operated by William Hix. It was later
purchased and operated by P. R. Pittman and the area is still known as
Pittman's Ferry near the community of Pittman. Thousands of Confederate
Troops camped and trained at Pittman's Ferry and launched raids in
Missouri from that point under the command of General Sterling Price.
The first Post Office in Arkansas was located at
Davidsonville in 1817.
The first Mail Route in Arkansas was along the Old
Military Road. It first ran about once per month and the mail was
carried on horse back. Houck's History of South East Missouri says that
the mail was first carried from Harrisonville, IL to Potosi, MO and
Fredericktown, MO. From there it came to Pittman, Columbia,
Davidsonville, and on to Batesville. Later the route went from St. Louis
to Monroe, LA via the Old Military Road. The second mail route into
Arkansas was from Memphis.
The first telegraph line in North East Arkansas
was along the Old Military Road.
The first Steam Boat to come up the Black River to
Randolph County was the Laurel in 1829.
The first Baptist Church in Arkansas was built in
Randolph County and was known as the Salem Church. It was located at
Columbia (Fourche De Thomas) in 1818.
The first school in Arkansas was held in a cave at
Ravenden Springs sometime prior to 1820, and the teacher was Caleb
Randolph County produced the only Arkansas
Governor to resign while in office due to low pay. Governor Thomas S.
Drew was the only governor ever to be elected from Randolph County.
While in office Governor Drew proclaimed December 7,1847 as the first
Thanksgiving Day ever celebrated in Arkansas. He died in 1879 in Texas
and in 1923 was moved back to Pocahontas and buried in the Masonic
The first Court House Building in Arkansas was
located at Davidsonville in 1820.
The first Land Office in Arkansas was located at
Davidsonville in 1820.
Pocahontas has the longest continuously operating
barber shop in Arkansas.
De Munn Mill was the first mill built in Arkansas
and was located at the Southern edge of Pocahontas near the mouth of
Mill Creek. It was built in the year 1822.
The first Masonic Lodge in Arkansas was built in
Randolph County and located in the Brakebill Community.
The first news papers in Randolph County started
in 1858. Both were in Pocahontas and were known as the Herald and the
The oldest standing home in the State of Arkansas
remains in Randolph County. The home was built in 1827 or 1828 by the
Upshaw family, and remains in possession today by descendants of the
same Upshaw family. The logs used in the home date back to the 1600's.
The home is located near Dalton.
The oldest standing business in the State of
Arkansas also remains in Randolph County. It was built near 1833 and is
known as the Looney house. It was operated as a tavern or inn. The
building is along the Eleven Point River near Dalton.
There is some evidence that DeSoto was the first
white man to set foot in Randolph County near the year 1541.
There was a French trading post in Pocahontas
between 1760 and 1790.
Randolph County has been owned by Spain, France,
and by Spain again before selling it to the United States (the Louisiana
Randolph County has been part of the District of
Louisiana, District of New Madrid, the County of New Madrid (Missouri),
County of Lawrence (Territory of Missouri), County of Lawrence
(Territory of Arkansas), and finally became Randolph County on October
29, 1835. This was one year prior to Arkansas becoming a state.
One of the early permanent residents of Randolph
County was believed to be John Janes who settled on what is now known as
Janes Creek in the year 1809.
Davidsonville was the county seat from sometime
prior to 1815 until 1829 when it was mover to Jackson. Jackson served as
the county seat from 1829 to 1837. Both towns mysteriously passed from
existence soon after they ceased to serve as county seats.
In 1836, Randolph County had three different ferry
boats operating. They were charged fees in order to operate. Thomas
Black ran a ferry at Blacks Ferry and paid $2.00 per year for that site.
Ransom Bettis operated the ferry at Pocahontas and also paid a $2.00 fee
per year. The Pittman Ferry was such a busy ferry that the fee for that
site was $5.00 per year. This was in all likelihood the first revenue
for Randolph County directly tied to the "tourist trade".
At one time there were 99 school districts in
The first courthouse in Pocahontas was built in
1837. It was a two story structure and measured 40 feet by 40 feet and
built at a cost of $2400. In 1870, the courthouse collapsed and was
replaced by what is today known as the "Old Courthouse" which was
completed in 1875.
Pocahontas was first known as Bettis Bluff and was
chosen as the County Seat over Old Columbia (Fourche De Thomas or
Biggers) only after Ransom Bettis and Thomas Drew threw a free barbecue
with plenty of liquor flowing. The election was held shortly thereafter.
Ransom Bettis is credited as the founder of Pocahontas.
The first train to arrive in Pocahontas was in
1896 and was known as the Hoxie-Pocahontas and Northern Railway Company.
The first train in Randolph County came through O'kean in December of
1872 and was -the Iron Mountain Line.
On August 29,1861, General William J. Hardee took
command of 10,000 Confederate troops which were located southwest of
Pocahontas near the mouth of Mill Creek.
Between 1870 and 1905, there was a 40 room hotel
at Warm Springs. This was a resort used by people coming to bathe in the
healing waters of the warm springs in the area. The mineral water was
touted to have healing properties for those who had stomach problems.
Famous people who came down the Old Military Road
include Sam Houston, David Crockett, General John C. Fremont, Henry R.
Schoolcraft, Nuttall the explorer. General Sterling Price, President
U.S. Grant, Governor James S. Conway, and General Archibald Yell.
Pocahontas is the home of the first All-American
in any sport from the State of Arkansas. Wear Schoonover played football
for the University of Arkansas and set an all time receiving record for
a single game against Baylor in 1929 with 13 receptions. He was elected
to the College Hall of Fame in 1967. The football
stadium at Pocahontas is named after this -great player.
In the late 1800's and early 1900's there was an
African American living at Biggers named Coleman C. Scott. While living
in Randolph County, he became very wealthy, owning as much as 1000 acres
of land. Scotts Ferry was names after him as was Scott Street in Biggers
(which remains today).
Pocahontas has two of the oldest pharmacies in
Arkansas. City Pharmacy began as Skinner Pharmacy in 1886. Futrell
Pharmacy it was first operated by the Black family in 1872 or 1873. It
moved to its present location in 1895 and has remained in that location
ever since, although it was closed for a short time when the two story
structure burned and it became a one story structure afterwards. Futrell
Pharmacy is certainly one of the oldest pharmacies in Arkansas to remain
in the same location.