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Home / Browse / Arkansas County
December 13, 1813
19,019 (2010 Census)
988.77 square miles (2010 Census)
Population Characteristics as per the 2010 U.S. Census:
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
Some Other Race
Two or More Races
Hispanic Origin (may be of any race)
19.2 people per square mile
Median Household Income (2009)
Per Capita Income (2005–2009)
Percent of Population below Poverty Line (2009)
Arkansas County, located in southeast Arkansas, has two county seats—DeWitt and Stuttgart. It is one of the state’s original counties and lies in the Delta. Arkansas County is an agricultural county; rice and soybeans are the main crops.
European Exploration and SettlementSpanish explorer Hernando de Soto traveled the Mississippi River from 1541 to 1543. At one point, he and his party reached Anilco, a village on the Arkansas River that may have included the Menard-Hodges Site in the southeast corner of Arkansas County. On the same river were the villages of Cayas and Utiangue.
In 1682, the La Salle expedition reached Kappa, the largest village of the Quapaw Indians; it stood on the west bank of the Mississippi River. The Marquette-Joliet expedition had reached this area nine years earlier but had turned back for fear of the Spanish. In 1686, Henri de Tonti established Arkansas Post at the Quapaw village of Osotouy. It was the first semipermanent French settlement in the lower Mississippi River Valley and the first step in a long struggle between France, Spain, and England over the interior of North America.
Over the years, the post relocated because of flooding from the Arkansas River, but its position was strategic for the French, Spanish, Union, and Confederate military. Spanish soldiers and British partisans clashed at the post in 1783 in Colbert’s Raid, the only Revolutionary War action that occurred in Arkansas.
Louisiana Purchase through Early StatehoodCreated by the Missouri Territory legislature in 1813, Arkansas County comprised about two-thirds of what is now Arkansas and part of eastern Oklahoma. More than half the state’s counties were formed from this original county. In 1819, when Arkansas Territory was created, Arkansas Post became its capital.
On November 20, 1819, at Arkansas Post, native New Yorker William Woodruff printed the first issue of the Arkansas Gazette. On April 1, 1820, the legislature appointed Woodruff public printer. He printed the newspaper at Arkansas Post until November 24, 1821. When the capital was moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1821, Woodruff moved his office there.
As white settlers steadily moved in, Indians slowly moved out. In 1824, the dwindling remnant of Quapaw Indians at last yielded their lands for $4,000 and an annuity of $1,000 a year for the next eleven years. Thus, a good deal of what is now fine cotton land changed hands at a figure estimated at one dollar per 1,000 acres.
In July 1855, the county clerk was ordered to move the records to DeWitt, the new county seat. The removal of the county seat from Arkansas Post to DeWitt, which was more centrally located, necessitated a new layout of land and new roads throughout the county.
Civil War through ReconstructionSt. Charles was the location of a June 17, 1862, Civil War naval and land battle that disabled the Union USS Mound City; the shot that damaged the ship is considered one of the deadliest shots fired in the war.
The most important event in the county during the Civil War was the January 9, 1863, capture of Fort Hindman at Arkansas Post by Union forces under General John McClernand. The number of Union troops in this engagement is unknown. The land force alone, under General William T. Sherman, is said to have been 22,000 men. General Thomas J. Churchill commanded the fort with a small but efficient force of Confederates. The surrender of about 5,000 Confederates at the end of the battle was one of the largest mass surrenders in the state.
After the war, towns and villages sprang up across the prairie. Crockett’s Bluff, Casscoe, and St. Charles are on the White River. On the Arkansas River Railroad are Stuttgart, Gillett, and Almyra. On the Cotton Belt is the community of Humphrey. The county also had many smaller post offices.
Crockett’s Bluff, named after Captain Robert H. Crockett, grandson of Davy Crockett, was a flourishing river port town, and one of the state’s first infantry companies was raised there during the war.
Gilded Age through Early Twentieth CenturyIn 1877, Reverend Adam Buerkle, a Lutheran minister from Woodville, Ohio, and Stuttgart, Germany, started a colony of Germans to fulfill his dream of establishing a synod. He realized he had found the spot when he was told that the pre-Civil War Gum Pond Plantation was for sale. He bought the 7,749-acre farm for about three dollars per acre. In 1889, Stuttgart was incorporated and named after Buerkle’s German birthplace.
In 1882, W. D. Anthony settled a small cotton farm just off the center of the Grand Prairie. Anthony and an African-American trapper known as Humphrey helped survey the railroad; because the trapper was so helpful and kind, Anthony named the town in his honor.
Early Twentieth Century through Modern EraGillett, a small farming community, was incorporated in 1906. Its residents were largely of German origin, including some who came directly from Prussia, some who came by way of Illinois, and some whose ancestors had lived in Russia.
Started in 1921, Riceland Foods is a cooperative that markets and mills rice, soybeans, and wheat grown by its more than 9,000 member-owners in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas. As one of the world’s leading millers of rice, the Stuttgart-based company is a Fortune 500 business that sells long grain, brown, wild, and flavored rice (under the Riceland name, as well as private labels), and oil and shortening products to grocery, food services, and food manufacturing companies throughout the United States and more than seventy-five countries.
In 1942, the army built an airport in Stuttgart for use as a training facility for glider pilots. The airport provided employment for county residents and increased the population of Stuttgart as people from outside the county sought jobs.
Other major employers in Stuttgart include Producers Rice Mill, operated under the guidance of SYSCO Corporation, and Lennox Industries, which produces home heating and cooling units. Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas has branch campuses in Stuttgart and DeWitt.
For additional information:Burkett, Bennie Frownfelter. One Hundred Years on the Grand Prairie. Stuttgart, AR: Standard Printing Company, 1980.
Burton, W. H. Halli. A Topographical Description and History of Arkansas County, Arkansas from 1541 to 1875. Greenville, SC: Southern Historical Press, 1978.
Grand Prairie Historical Society Bulletin. Gillett, AR: Grand Prairie Historical Society (1958–).
Bill ShrumStuttgart, Arkansas
Last Updated 2/7/2014
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