Early County History

The territory comprising this county was taken from the counties of Arkansas and Pulaski by the act of November 2, 1829. It was named for Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, and is bounded as follows: On the north by Pulaski and Lonoke counties; on the east by Arkansas and Desha; on the south by Lincoln and Cleveland, and on the west by Grant County. It has an area of 903 square miles of fertile valley and upland, and is one of the leading cotton counties of the state. The Arkansas River flows through the county and affords ample drainage.

Thwaitcs' "Early Western Travels" (vol. xiii, p. 140) says: "It is said that the first white man in Jefferson County was Leon Le Roy, one of Tonti's men, who deserted from the (Arkansas) Post in 1690. He was held in captivity for fourteen years by the Osage, and when he escaped was captured and adopted by the Quapaw, to whom he taught the use of firearms. When the Quapaw treaty of 1818 was made, one of the chiefs gave the commissioners, as an emblem of friendship, a gun said to be the one which Le Roy had a century earlier taught the Quapaw to use. This weapon is preserved in the Smithsonian Institution at Washington."

A few squatters came upon the old hunting grounds of the Quapaw prior to 1819, but the first permanent white settler in the county was Joseph Bonne, a French hunter and trapper, who located on the site of Pine Bluff in 1819. He built a wigwam on the bank of the Arkansas River and lived there with no companion except his dog for several years. The site of this wigwam was washed away by the river. Other pioneers were: John Derresseaux, a man named Prewett, Ambrose Bartholomew, Antoine Duchesson, David Musick, Euclid Johnson, Israel Dodge, Francis Villier, the Dardennis and the Vaugine families, Antoine Barraque and a few others, all of whom settled near the river.

The act creating the county provided that "the temporary seat of justice shall be at the house of Joseph Bone (Bonne) until otherwise provided for by law." Two weeks later another act authorized the election of commissioners to locate a permanent county seat, but as the county records prior to 1837 have not been preserved, it is not known who the commissioners were. In the spring of 1832 the seat of justice was moved to the house of Antoine Barraque, three miles below Pine Bluff on the same side of the river, and by the act of November 1, 1833, Louis Bougy, Samuel Taylor and Etheldred Varsier were named as commissioners to contract for and superintend the erection of a jail. The jail was built at Pine Bluff, which had been selected by popular vote as the permanent county seat at an election held in August, 1832. The first county officers were: W. P. Haekett, judge; J. T. Pullen, clerk; Creed Taylor, sheriff; Peter German, coroner; N. Holland, surveyor.

Jefferson County is divided into the following townships: Barraque, Bogy, Bolivar, Dudley Lake, Dunnington, Jefferson, Melton, Niven, Old River, Pastoria, Plum Bayou, Richland, Roberts, Spring, Talladega, Vaugine, Victoria, Villeraont, Washington and Whiteville.

The legal fraternity of Jefferson County has always been one of prominence. In a list of the members of the bar may be found the names of Samuel C. and John S. Roane, James Yell, J. W. Bocage, R. W. Johnson, A. B. and William P. Grace, Ira McL. Barton, W. E. Hemingway, M. L. Jones and John M. Taylor, all of whom were prominent, both in law and political affairs.

Two lines of the Missouri Pacific railway system and the main line of the St. Louis Southwestern form connections at Pine Bluff and a branch of the latter system runs from Altheimer to Little Rock. These roads supply all parts of the county with transportation facilities. In the early days, when steamboats operated on the Arkansas River, Pine Bluff was an important shipping point.

Pine Bluff is the third city of the state in population. The incorporated Town of Altheimer is situated in Plum Bayou Township, about ten miles northeast from Pine Bluff. It has a bank, a handle factory, general stores, etc., and a population of 450. Redfield, on the Missouri Pacific near the northwest corner, was incorporated on October 29, 1898. It has a sawmill, a canning factory, a population of 296, and is a trading and shipping point for a rich farming district. The principal villages are English, Ladd, Sherrill, Tucker and Wabbaseka. In 1920 the county reported a population of 60,330, an increase of 7,596 in ten years.  (Source - Centennial History of Arkansas 1922; transcribed by Tina Easley.)

Jefferson County was created on 2 November 1829 and was formed from Arkansas and Pulaski Counties. The county was named for Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, and contains very fertile agricultural lands. The French are believed to be the first white settlers of the area and they resided along side the American Indians in the area. The county seat is at Pine Bluff.

Jefferson County is bordered by Pulaski County (northwest), Lonoke County (north), Arkansas County (east), Lincoln County (southeast), Cleveland County (southwest), Grant County (west). Cities, Towns & Communities include Altheimer, Humphrey, Pine Bluff, Redfield, Sherrill, Wabbaseka, White Hall

Parts of Jefferson County was used to form the following counties: Cleveland 1873, Grant 1869, Lincoln 1871. Other county boundary changes occurred when Boundaries defined 3 November 1831 and 29 October 1836, lines changed with Lincoln and Desha 20 March 1879 and with Arkansas 25 February 1889.

© Jamila Sloan Barahona 2015