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The Jackson County Historical Society (JCHS) was created primarily in response to the planned destruction of the county’s old courthouse at Jacksonport (Jackson County). In late 1961, an organizational meeting for a historical society was called. At this meeting, it was announced that the former courthouse at Jacksonport would be razed for the bricks. Lady Elizabeth Luker, whose ancestors were among the founders of that old river town, became the face of the fledgling historical society and led the way for the restoration of the old courthouse for use as a museum.
The Jackson County Historical Society was formally chartered in April 1962 at Newport (Jackson County), with Luker as the first president. While the JCHS was interested in preserving all of the history of the county, the main emphasis in the early years was on saving the old courthouse from destruction. The members were successful in that effort, and they also served as guides, docents, and preservationists for the museum. Local historical artifacts were donated for display, and the JCHS pushed for the building and grounds to be made a state park. Through the efforts of state senator Robert Harvey, the Jacksonport State Park was established in the spring of 1963. The building and grounds were acquired in various stages by the state. In late 1967, the historical society facilitated the acquisition of the Mary Woods No. 2 paddlewheel boat from Potlatch Corporation for display at the park.
The artifacts on display remained the property of the historical society, and its members continued to add to its collection. After a tornado inflicted extensive damage to the courthouse and riverboat in 1997, the JCHS donated the majority of its collection to the state to ensure that the structures would be fully restored with a hope of future additions.
To communicate with its members and to preserve the written history of the county, a newsletter was first published in January 1963; this became the Stream of History historical journal in October 1964. The founding editor was James Logan Morgan Jr., who served until 1980. The society continues to publish the Stream of History, as well as a newsletter.
The JCHS has supported a number of historical events, from educational to recreational, and continues to urge the preservation and restoration of old county structures and acquisition of historical artifacts for the museum. Its members continue to work with state officials and the Jacksonport State Park staff as needed. The JCHS was honored as a Gold Partner by Arkansas State Parks in 2005.
For additional information:“Historical Society Celebrates Its Own History.” Special issue, Stream of History 44 (November 2011).
Robert D. CraigKennett, Missouri
Last Updated 6/8/2012
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