Drew County History

Drew County was formed from Arkansas and Bradley Counties in 1846 and was named for Thomas S. Drew who was State Governor during the years 1844-1849. The county seat is Monticello.


Drew County – First White Settlers –Location of Settlements – some "First Things" –Reminiscences – Formation – Change of Boundaries – Municipal Townships – Post-offices – Railroads and Highways – Matters of Judicial Importance – Court Records – Attorneys – Early Marriages – Civil Proceedings _ Wealth and Population – Distribution of Personal Property – Names of County Officers – Sketch of Monticello—Tillar, Baxter and Collins – Other Stations – Industries – Resources – Position – Physical Features – Military Items – Family History
For numerous blessings yearly show’r’d
And property with plenty crow’d.
Accept our pious praise – Dryden


Occupying a prominent and influential position in the Tenth Judicial Circuit and Third Congressional District of Arkansas, Drew County owes its prosperity and existence to a worthy class of pioneer settlers, whose determined efforts and heroic labors opened the way for civilization and aided greatly in transforming this wilderness into a community of culture and prosperity. Among these early immigrants was one well known to the present generation, John S. Handly, who came here in March, 1839, and to him is accorded the greater majority of facts gleaned regarding the first early settlers of Drew County. At the time of his location, besides his brother, Jack Handly, there was but one other man in the present limits of Clear Creek Township. In 1835, James Ferguson removed from Mississippi, and settled in the same neighborhood, on Handly Creek. South of the Handly settlement, on Hungry Run lived J. W. Ridgell, Bynum Nichols and Fountain Brown, the last named, a Methodist preacher. All of these men came to the county in 1835. Ridgell and Nichols came from Mississippi, and Brown from Tennessee.

Toward the northeastern part of the county lived Jesse Whittacre and Hugh Fannin. These men were Kentuckians, who became citizens of Arkansas in 1835 or 1836. Stephen Gaster and Reece Bowden came from Louisiana about 1832, and settled on Bayou Bartholomew. It is said of Bowden that he is the only man on record who discovered that a gray squirrel could beat a flash of lightning down a black gum tree, and as he was an eyewitness to this strange feat, the statement can not be questioned. He explained it by stating that the lightning had to run round and round the tree, while the squirrel went straight down.

Ezekiel Owens came from Tennessee and settled here between 1836/1839, purchased his first piece of land there in 1843/1884, and settled on the Bayou. In 1836 John Oneal (probably O'Neal) a South Carolinian, settled on Ten Mile creek. In the same neighborhood lived Jesse Hunt, Benjamin Nettles and a man named Arnold, who came from Mississippi with Ridgell. These men and their families embraced the entire numerical strength of the county. Settlements grew slowly, and those new comers who followed made their homes near the older settled habitations until finally the neighborhoods merged one into another. The pioneers were mostly from Tennessee and Mississippi.

The first post-office established in the county was named Montongo, and was in the store of Carney Oneal, situated about three miles west of where Monticello now is. The first election in the county's present territory was while it formed a part of Bradley County. This was in what is now Marion Township, the voting place being the Gaster schoolhouse, or what is called Gaster Hill. At that early days the forest abounded in game and hunting was the chief amusement; encounters with bears were numerous, nor was the danger attending them sufficient to deter these dauntless spirits from engaging in the fascinating sport. For many years the peddling wagon of Ben Martin was the sole dependence of the citizens for dry goods. New Orleans was the distributing point, goods being landed at Pine Bluff. J. W. Ridgell erected the first mill, a gin and gristmill run by horsepower. In 1845 a school and church house was built about six miles north of the site of Monticello. Later on Rough and Ready grew to be the only place of importance in the county, and was after the organization of the county for some time the seat of justice, as well as the place where personal feuds were fought out. It was here that Richard Chance killed the two Courtneys, Dr. Street Hudspeth killed one named Griffith, and Dave McPeters killed Brown, nor were humorous scenes wanting. At a county court held at Grave Hill there were present Judge Wells and the associate justices, Reynolds and Baldy, all were somewhat exhilarated by frequent applications of the ever potent "forty rod", and at peace with mankind, when the subject of dancing came up. Court adjoined that Reynolds and Baldy might settle the question as to which of them could execute a jig with the greater grace. The door was taken from its hinges, placed on the floor, and the two candidates placed facing each other. Judge Wells patted and the others danced. After this novel procedure (the result of which is unknown) court business was resumed. Such an incident will illustrate the spirit and character of the "old timers". A member of one of the first grand juries to meet in Monticello after its selection as the county site, in company with Dr. Bond of Bradley County, having attended a meeting of the Masons at Rough and Ready reached Monticello about 11 o’clock at night. Dismounting at Hyatt’s Hotel for some refreshments, the travelers were seated in the hall, and upon making their order the waiter asked if they were members of the grand jury. Receiving an affirmative reply, he requested to remain in the hall and there he would serve them. Dr. Bond not being on jury however was admitted into a "secret" room, and as the bed-quilt, which served for a door was pushed back, it showed the table lined with card players. About this time Judge Reynolds put in

his appearance, and thought a serenade was in order; so gathering cowbells, tin pans, horns, etc., a jolly company stormed Whitehead’s Tavern, where, after imbibing and pressing in recruits, guests from the hotel, and the occupants of numerous wagons, they made their way to Henry Well’s grocery. At this place three of the grand jury were found deeply interested in a game of draw, also Stakley Heflin and Brad Williams, noted characters of Smith Township. Williams invited the party to remain and hear a young man named Lore sing "Old Uncle Ned" against which infliction they first fortified by taking a drink. The song when finished necessitated another application, and stills another. Some of the part camped where they were for the remainder of the night. Others found a lodging place on convenient stumps, and a very few reached their proper quarters. Of Stoakley T. Heflin, previously mentioned, an incident worthy of note. He was for years a justice of the peace. J. S. Winter, an attorney, had a case to plead before him, and armed with Blackstone and Greenleaf, presented himself in due time at court. During his argument referred to, he read from his authorities. The court ordered the jury to pay no attention to Mr. Winter’s "furren" books, as they ad nothing to do with justice in Arkansas.
Drew County was first formed November 26, 1846, since which time several changes have been made in its boundary lines. November 30, 1848, a large area was attached to Ashley, and part of Chicot was attached December 21, 1840; a portion of Desha became Jointed January 21, 1861 and the line between Drew and Chicot was changed November 30, 1873.

At the time of its organization the county wad divided into six municipal townships, viz.: Marion, Union, White, Osceola, Smith and Bartholomew. In 1850 the population of the county was 3,276. At the present writing ( ) there are eleven municipal townships: Franklin, in the northeast corners south of Franklin, Bartholomew; west of Bartholomew, Collins; west of Collins, Bearhouse; west of Bearhouse, Veasey, west of Veasey, Crook; north of Crook, Saline; north of Saline, Clear Creek: Spring Hill, east of Clear Creek; Marion, south of Spring Hill, and Prairie, east of Marion.

The boundary lines of the municipal townships are independent of those of the Congressional. There are fifty-six schools and 119 road districts.
The mail receives distribution from twenty post offices, located at the following places: Monticello, in Marion Township; Winchester, Tillar, Selma, Reeves and Florence, in Franklin Township; Coleman, in Spring Hill Township; Bodman, Montogo and Planterville, in Clear Creek Township; Wilmar, in Crook Township; Eddy, in Veasey Township; Barkada, in Saline Township; Lacy, Grove and Paradise, in Bearhouse Township; Collins and Troy, in Collins Township and Baxter, in Bartholomew Township. Of these, the offices at Tillar and Winchester are on the main line of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railroad, and Monticello, Baxter, Collins and Wilmar are on the Warren branch of the same road. The remaining offices are on "Star routes".


Last Update Saturday, 16-Feb-2013 17:25:40 MST

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