Destroyed Courthouses In Arkansas

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The destruction of courthouses greatly affects genealogists in every way. No only are these historic structures torn from our lives, so are the records they housed: marriage, wills, probate, land records, and others. Once destroyed they are lost forever. Even if they have been placed on mircofilm, computers and film burn too. The most heartbreaking side of this is the fact that many of our courthouses are destroyed at the hands of arsonist. However, not all records were lost.

Below is a list of Arkansas Counties and the years the Courthouses were subjected to a disaster. This does NOT mean that ALL RECORDS were lost. Often, folks took their documents again in for recording after a disaster and later deeds will contain long chains of title, etc.

* Ashley County - A courthouse fire in 1921 destroyed most of the county's records.
* Benton County - S.J. Bloucher in 1906 makes no mention of record loss; however, Arkansas History Commission sources say an "1865 courthouse fire destroyed many early records." D.Y. Thomas mentiones a log courthouse built in 1837, a brick structure in 1840, and another brick courthouse built in 1873, but does not mention a fire.
* Carroll County - A fire in December, 1869, destroyed all the county records. Arkansas History Commission information says there was a courthouse fire in 1870.
* Clay County - It is reported "the will and deed records begin in April, 1881, and are complete to date except deed record E from March 1, 1891, to January 31, 1892. This record was burned. The following records are missing: Book E named above, the entire records of Clayton County, and the records of Clay County from December 1875, to February 29 [sic], 1893. The latter records were burned at Piggott when the courthouse was destroyed by fire.
* Cleveland County - It is reported, "the records are incomplete and some are not in good condition. Several tax books, one marriage record, and one or more court records are missing."
* Conway County - Lewisburg, situated on the Arkansas River, was subject to periodic floods - some records were lost; a fire about 1899 destroyed and damaged some records; loose probate packets date from 1899.
* Craighead County - It was reported, "All records were destroyed by a fire in 1869 and again in 1878. The records are therefore incomplete. Since 1886, the records have been kept in a fire-proof vault and no records have been injured or lost since March 28, 1878."
* Crawford County - It was reported, "The records from 1818 to 1820 are on file at Little Rock. On March 23, 1877, the courthouse was destroyed by fire and all records were destroyed except those of the treasurer and a few deeds and mortgages. Since that date, however, the records are complete and are kept in fire-proof vaults."
* Crittenden County - It was reported, "The records of this county are intact except that during the reconstruction period, a few pages of the deed records and of the chancery court records were mutilated, and the taxbooks for the year 1878 are missing. There are deed records much older than the county and the original deed records, A and B, are now hardly legible. Many of these early deeds are in Spanish. The records are in good state of preservation with the exceptions named above."
* Desha County - Information from the Arkansas History Commission indicates record loss from a courthouse fire in the 1860s.
* Faulkner County - It was reported the records complete despite a courthouse fire; the records were stored in a fire-proof vault. Note: I, Desmond Walls Allen, personally climbed into the courthouse Dumpster in the mid-1980s and fished out many of the loose probate packets that had been dumped in with the Kentucky Fried Chicken boxes, etc., from the sheriff's department's lunch. Three of us dried the records in my momma's microwave oven, arranged them in folders, took them to be microfilmed at the Arkansas History Commission, then placed the records in the University of Central Arkansas' Archives in Torreyson Library in Conway. Some of the records are now stored in what used to be the old jail.
* Franklin County - It was reported, "The records of the county, common pleas, probate, and circuit courts are complete from the date of the first court in 1839. The deed and mortgage records are incomplete; the courthouse was burned in 1863, but G.H. Ross, the clerk, saved from the fire all except the deed records. Since that date the deed records are complete. The records of the Charleston district are complete from 1891, they having been burned in that year. For the most part however, they have been rewritten."
* Fulton County - Material from the Arkansas History Commission indicates a fire in 1870 destroyed most county records.
* Garland County - In 1906, C.D. Greaves reported the records "were complete until Feb. 25, 1905, when fire and heat charred, damaged, or destroyed everything except tax books of 1904 then in the hands of the collector. The deed and mortgage records, except two, have been recopied or reproduced as they were left after the fire, edges being badly burned and only portions legible. As records will have considerable value, these consist of books designated by alphabet (26) and about 39 by number, 1 to 39. Circuit court records were totally destroyed, 10 books; chancery records practically destroyed, book I has been recopied, 8 (A to H) being burned. Probate records all except last one destroyed; so also the county court records, the marriage license records were partially destroyed, one will record burned, one partially restored, mechanic's lien judgement record destroyed, probate docket partially restored, pending cases in chancery court partially saved, all law and probate papers destroyed. The county never had vaults. New courthouse just completed... has complete set of vaults." Garland County apparently had another serious fire in 1913.
* Grant County - It was reported all the records destroyed through Mar. 13, 1877, but complete thereafter and kept in fire-proof vaults.
* Greene County - A courthouse fire in 1876 destroyed most records.
* Hempstead County - It was reported the circuit court records complete from March 15, 1824; deed records complete since Oct. 9, 1820; records prior lost through "carelessness of officials"; first record of county court dated 1837.
* Izard County - It was reported the loss of all records before April 11, 1869; information from the Arkansas History Commission indicates another fire in 1889 destroyed all county records.
* Little River County - It was reported the following records missing: county court records from 1867 to Jan. 1876, destroyed by fire in 1882; marriage record from 1867 to Dec. 1880, cause of destruction unknown; real estate tax books from 1867 to 1882, destroyed by fire in 1882. At that time records were kept in "a temporary courthouse, an unsafe frame building."
* Logan County - It was reported all records from county formation to 1878 destroyed by fire.
* Madison County - It was reported the probate records complete from 1860; county court records complete from 1873; will records complete from 1880; deed records complete from 1843. A fire in 1902 destroyed deed record A and all will records except those recorded on court records.
* Marion County - Arkansas History Commission sources say a courthouse fire in 1888 destroyed many of the records.
* Old Miller County - There was a courthouse fire in 1828. Available records for Old Miller County are in the George T. Wright Collection, Miller County Records, Territory of Arkansas, July 20, 1835 - March 17, 1838, University of Texas, Austin. Probate records have been published - see Old Miller County under books for sale
* Mississippi County - Arkansas History Commission information shows record loss from a courthouse fire in 1865.
* Newton County - It was reported all records destroyed by a fire in 1866 but complete from that time.
* Ouachita County - It was reported all records destroyed by a fire, Dec. 19, 1875; but complete since that time.
* Perry County - It was reported one small chancery volume saved in the 1881 fire and the records complete from that time.
* Phillips County - It was reported most of the records intact though some were "slightly damaged by being moth-eaten"; records were removed during the War but returned in good condition; entries kept in "Irregular D" volume while records were gone.
* Pike County - Arkansas History Commission sources report destruction of most records in an 1895 courthouse fire; an abstract book was saved.
* Poinsett County - It was reported loss of all records in a courthouse fire Sept. 1873, but complete since that time.
* Polk County - It was reported all records prior to 1883 destroyed in a courthouse fire except one probate record dating from Sept. 1876, one county court record dating from July 1876, and one circuit court record dating from Feb. 1877.
* Prairie County - It was reported the records destroyed by an Sept. 16, 1854 fire at Brownsville but complete from 1855 and kept in fire-proof vaults.
* St. Francis County - It was reported a fire in the latter part of 1874 destroyed many of the county records, but many of the deed records were only partially burned. They have since been recopied as far as possible. All the records were destroyed by fire during the War. They are therefore complete since 1874, and almost complete since 1865.
* Scott County - Arkansas History Commission sources show a courthouse fire in 1882 destroyed all records.
* Searcy County - It was reported destruction of the records in Jan. 1864, partial destruction in March 1877, and destruction again in Aug. 1885. "All records prior to 1881 are missing except deed record A, one chancery court record, one probate court record, one circuit court record."
* Sebastian County - It was reported the courthouse at Greenwood burned in 1881 and again in 1882, "but few records being saved. All records since 1882 are in good condition and those prior to that date have been recopied as far as possible."
* Sharp County - It was reported a fire of Jan. 20, 1880, destroyed all the county records, but they are complete from that time, housed in fire-proof vaults at Evening Shade and Hardy. The newspaper editor of the Sharp County Record published marriages prior to the fire. See the books by this publisher.
* Van Buren County - It was reported "Nearly all county records were destroyed by fire in 1863. A few of the old books were hidden by the clerk in a cliff and were thus saved. Records are complete since 1863 and are in a fair state of preservation.
* Washington County - It was reported, "County court records are complete from Aug. 3, 1835; probate records from Oct. 9, 1837; marriage records from 1845, except the record of the period between 1861 and 1864. Probate and will records, A and B, were stolen. During the War, Presley R. Smith, clerk, hid the county records in a dry case in the mountains south of Fayetteville to prevent their falling into the hands of the Federals. Only one record was thus lost. The records are in good condition and are kept in fire-proof vaults."
* Yell County - It was reported records complete since 1865. "In addition for the period prior to 1865, the county has the probate records from May 7, 1858, to Feb. 10, 1862; the marriage records from July 23, 1841, to Mar. 24, 1849; and the deed records from Mar. 2, 1841, to Dec. 4, 1848. The missing records were destroyed by fire during the War."


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