History of Dallas County, Arkansas

The following history was taken from a manuscript written by Mrs. Laura Winfield Scott Butter on April 29, 1908. This manuscript is on file at the Arkansas History Commission.

The pioneer history of Dallas County is parallel with the medieval I history of Clark County of which Dallas formed a part until its separation in 1845, when it began its existence as an independent commonwealth.

In the presidential campaign of1844 George M. Dallas was running mate with James K. Polk and Arkansas cast her vote for Polk for President. When the time for the naming of the county came, Presley Wafts suggested that it be named Dallas for the Vice President.

At Its formation Dallas was much larger than at present but during reconstruction days a large slice was cut off the northwest corner of Manchester Township and added to Clark County for political purposes. Manchester Township voted an almost solid Democratic ticket until the close of the war. The Republican Party found that a heavy Negro vote could be polled in the northwestern part of Manchester Township, and despairing of carrying Dallas County on the Republican ticket, cut off a portion of Manchester-and added it to Clark in 1868.

The separation of Dallas from Clark County was effected on January 20, 1845 and plans for' the establishment of a county seat and building of a courthouse and jail was laid.

Mr. Hudson, Senator from Clark County used his Influence In having the bill for the separation of Dallas County from Clark passed by the Legislature of 1845. A meeting was called at the home of Presley Watts and with Mr. Hudson presiding the county was organized with William Owen, Judge; Presley Watts, Clerk; P. S. Bethel, Sheriff; J. M. Wyatt. Treasurer; John T. Craig, Coroner; W. R. McCoy, Surveyor. There was no assessor in the beginning. The sheriff did the duties of that officer until W. H. Smith was elected the first assessor in1869. The first court met October 20, 1845 at the home of Presley Watts. A. Ramsey, Ephram Russell, Albert Phillips, Hawes Coleman and Thomas Hudson were appointed commissioners to locate the county seat. Joe Gray, the first surveyor to arrive in Dallas County, laid off the plot of ground upon which the county seat was to be established.

The building committee for the construction of the courthouse and jail was Peyton Bethel, Ed Harris, A. C. Dawdy, Dave Hall, Sr. and Thomas Hudson.

Regardless of the center of population the committee on location, who had the true spirit of the colonist, located it remote from their own homes, but in the geographical center of the county which proved to be within one and one-half miles of the center of the county. Even though seven- eighths of the population of the county lived north and west of the location, there were rich lands to be settled in the future on the south and east.

The first court met October 20, 1845 at the home of Presley Watts. On the first grand jury were John Hasty, Henry Kellum, M. Moore, Pleasant May, Samuel Wyatt, R. J. Wilcox, Alex Dortch, William Overman, John Jester, Sam Shaddock, Joe Bird, and Joe Gray.

On the first petit jury were William Owen, Henry Gray, F. M. Harris, R. K. Barnum, B. B. Lyle, E. Dickinson, S. M. Cain, W. B. Langley, Isaac O'Brian, W. K. Frasier, B. R. Lawrence and Joseph Speer.

The first Constitutional Convention in which Dallas County took an interest was the Secession Convention of 1861.  Robert W. Fuller was delegate to that convention. R. W. Stanfield and A. J. Eden to the Constitutional Convention of 1864, G.K. Kyle in 1868 and W. D. Leiper In 1874.

The first Methodist Church was organized at Princeton in 1842.  Rev. Hayes, its first pastor, traveled a circuit in which the settlers lived great distances apart and wolves; panthers, wild cats and deer infested the forests.

The first Baptist preacher was Rev. Bayles who had charge of Tulip Church and taught there as late as 1860. These ministers preached in the homes of the of the settlers until 1845 when the Methodist built a church and offered the other ministers the use of their building. In 1847 the Baptist built a, church at Princeton.

Col. William Holmes bought the Watt's Hotel, and ran it until his- death about 1865, when his widow took charge of it and succeeded well for many years.

Mr. Hall, living on Cypress Creek raised the first wheat ever grown in the county. Flour from this wheat was ground at Mr. Barnum's mill. Mrs. Hall made -cake of this: flour -and invited her neighbors to dine with her. Capt. Albert Russell, now eighty-one years old, who told me this, ate of the cake. He said it was dark and looked like cake made from graham flour, but it was excellent.

The first attempt to build a railroad in the county was made by a Mr. Tankersley a carpetbagger of reconstruction days. The Legislature appropriated money for the aid of this road and laborers were hired and a dump running from Arkadelphia through Manchester Township in Clark and Dallas counties was thrown up. The money was appropriated by Mr. Tankersley who disappeared and the road abandoned. Only the dump stands as a monument to this great fraud. This road was to have been known as the Ouachita Valley Railroad.

Mr. Wash on Tulip Creek and Dr. Barnum on Cypress Creek built the first gristmills in the county of waterpower. The rocks for these mills were procured from a quarry near Little Rock and are of a blue color. The patrons of Dr. Barnum's mill lived in a radius of 28 miles. Later Joe Key built a gristmill lower down on Cypress Creek, which is now (1918) known as Cain and Patterson's mill.

Captain M. M. Duffle's home at Princeton was an old landmark. It was elegant in its hospitable proportions. Capt. Duffle organized a company of volunteers during the Civil War and served honorably to its close. He was also minister to Canada, receiving his appointment from President Cleveland. He was also a Judge of The Supreme Court of Arkansas.

Dallas County at one time had a poor farm. It was located near the Nix community.

The town of Kingsland in Cleveland County was originally named Cohassett, after an Indian chief whose tribe hunted in this section. 

There was a racetrack located in the Providence community near Princeton before the Civil War. 

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