PIONEER SETTLERS of any community are deserving of more than ordinary mention for the important part they occupied in its earliest development. The first settler of the territory embraced within Randolph County was John Janes, a survivor of the Revolutionary War, who was wounded in the battle of Yorktown, and who, about the year 1800, emigrated from Virginia to Missouri, and thence, in 1809, to this county, locating on Janes Creek on the farm now owned by William Bridges. Other very early comers to this creek were the Rickmans, Bakers and Davises. On the other streams the first settlers were as follows: On Spring River, James Campbell, on the farm now owned by John Miller, Sr.; the Stubblefields and Loneys, on Eleven Point River; Samuel McElroy, who was a matter by trade and supplied the country for fifty miles around; Edward Mattix, Robert M. Revvel and Thomas Holderby; On Fourche Dumas River, the Fletchers, Fosters, Swezy, Jarrett and Plott; on Current River, Frank Hix, Peyton R. Pittman (the first county judge), Duckworth, Pyburn and Ingram; on Black River, Caspar Schmick chose a residence two miles below Pocahontas, and in 1828 Gov. Thomas S. Drew and R. S. Bettis located on the site of Pocahontas. James Russell, at whose house the first courts were held, made a home on the uplands eight miles north of Pocahontas on the farm now known as the Foster place. Mathias Mock was an early settler on Mud Creek. In 1815 David Black, formerly of South Carolina, the grandfather of John P., David C., Rufus H. and William A. Black, all of whom are living, settled at Black's Ferry, on Eleven Points River.

The DeMunns, two or three brothers, refugees from the French Revolution, highly respected, intelligent and liberal Frenchmen, became residents on Black River, some two miles below the site of Pocahontas, where they built the first waterpower grist and saw-mill in the county, about the year 1822. Prior to this John Janes had erected a horse-power grist-mill at his residence. All of [p.365] these settlers mentioned, except the DeMunns and, perhaps, one or two others, have left within the county a numerous progeny. The first immigrants were from Virginia, the Carolinas, Kentucky and Tennessee; later they were mostly from the latter State. and for a time before and up to the Civil War there was a large influx from Indiana and Kentucky. Recently the immigration has been from various States, both north and south. It is said that when the war came those individuals from Indiana sympathized with the Southern cause, while the Kentuckians generally remained loyal and refngeed from the county.


The county of Randolph was organized in accordance with an act of the legislature of Arkansas Territory, approved October 29, 1835. As originally constituted, it included all the territory lying west of Cache River, in what is now Clay and Greene Counties. By a subsequent legislative act, approved January 18, 1861, a portion of Lawrence County, about twenty-five square miles, was cut off and attached to Randolph.


Under the act creating the county, commissioners were appointed to select two separate places, either of which would be suitable for the location of the county seat. It was further provided that the people should decide, at an election to be held for the purpose, at which of these points the county seat should be fixed. Accordingly the commissioners selected the site of Pocahontas, and another place at some noted springs in the woods, about eight miles north. At that time Thomas S. Drew (afterward governor) and R. S. Bettis owned the present location of Pocahontas. The larger portion of the settlers had gathered in the northern part of the county, and felt confident that the people would select the place at the springs for the seat of justice. The election was held in the summer or fall of 1836, on which occasion Messrs. Drew and Bettis gave a free barbecue at the site of Pocahontas, and, as men could then vote at any voting place in the county, the barbecue proved a sufficient inducement to draw voters enough to secure a small majority in favor of locating the seat of justice at the latter place. Here it was accordingly placed, and has since remained. The proprietors of the site donated the public square to the county. Soon after a contract was entered into between the county and Thomas O. Marr, for the construction of a two-story brick court-house, 4040 feet in size, with the court room below and the offices above. The contractor agreed to complete the building for $2,400, but it was several years before it was finished and accepted. This house stood until about the year 1870, when on account of its improper construction it fell down. A Mr. McKay secured the contract for the construction of the present court house, for the sum of $45,000, and the material of the old building. Afterward, in 1874, when the local administration changed hands, and before the contractor had received his pay, it was discovered or believed that some fraud had been connected with the contract, which led to litigation, whereupon a compromise was made with the contractor by confessing judgment in his favor for $28,000, which, together with costs and interest, amounted by the time it was all paid to about $35,000. The court-house is a substantial and fairly handsome two-story brick structure, on a rock foundation, with a fire-proof vault for the records attached, and with offices below and courtroom above.


A double-walled, squared-log jail, with stone filling between the walls, and two stories in height, was erected about 1840, and was used until 1870: then a frame jail, with an iron call was erected and used until 1886, when the present one, a frame with an iron cell, metal roof and siding, was constructed at a cost of a little over $4,000. These constitute all the county buildings, there being no poor farm or poor asylum.

The following list includes the names of the officers of this county, together with their terms of service from its organization to the present. Judges: P. R. Pittman, 1835-42; James Martin, 1842-46; B. J. Wiley, 1846-50; James Martin. 1850-52; B. J. Wiley, 1852-54; J. P. Ingram, 1854-60; William Thompson, 1860-62; H. Cookran, 1862-68; C. V. Cory, 1868-72; commissioners, 1872-74; Isham Russell, 1874-76; J. H. Purkins, 1878-78; S. J. Johnson, 1878-82; J. H. Richardson, 1882-86; Daniel Wyatt, 1886-88; [p.366] A. J. Witt, present incumbent, elected in 1888. Clerks: B. J. Wiley, 1835-42; J. H. Imboden, 1842-44; T. O. Marr, 1844-49; Alex. Smith, 1849-50; L. F. Johnson, 1850-52; J. C. Walker, 1852-54; E. L. Urmston, 1854-58; J. B. Kelsey, 1858-64; C. C. Elder, 1864-68; E. Rockwell, 1868-72; J. T. Robinson, 1872-76; J. Schoonover, 1876-82; J. T. Robinson, 1882-86; W. T. Bispham, present incumbent, first elected in 1886. Sheriffs: Wm. Black, 1835-40; J. H. Imboden, 1840-42; J. Spikes, 1842-49; John Chandler, 1849-52; W. G. Murphy, 1852-58; D. C. Black, 1858-62; M. McNabb, 1862-64; S. M. Truly, 1864-65; D. C. Black, 1865-68; G. A. Eaton, 1868-72; J. T. Fisher, 1872-74; J. F. Spikes, 1874-76; D. C. Black, 1876-78; W. Conner, 1878-82; A. J. Witt, 1882-86; B. F. Spikes, present incumbent, first elected in 1886.