Rediscovering Davidsonville, Arkansas's First County Seat Town, 1815-1830 by ProQuest


[...] the town boasted the first postal stop and postmaster in Arkansas, a federal land office, several inns, private residences, a cotton gin, and a public ferry.3 Population estimates vary widely, from a few hundred to two thousand.4 The town was situated at the confluence of the Black, Eleven Point, and Spring Rivers near the crest of an alluvial terrace at the eastern edge of the Ozark Mountains. Archaeologists have made a number of attempts to locate nineteenth-century county seat towns in Arkansas, meeting with varying degrees of success.13 Searches for Greensboro (Craighead County), the historic riverport at Jacksonport (Jackson County), and Litchfield (Jackson County) were unsuccessful due to poor locational data, lack of plat maps, and modern disturbances such as erosion, farming, and highway construction.14 By contrast, archaeological excavations at the town of Cadron (originally in Pulaski County) located undisturbed remains dating from the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries.15 The Arkansas Archeological Survey has conducted a highly successful series of excavations over the past twenty years in Washington, Arkansas, county seat for Hempstead County and Confederate Arkansas's state capital after the fall of Little Rock to Union forces in 1863.

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									   Rediscovering Davidsonville,
Arkansas’s First County Seat Town,
                                  KATHLEEN H. CANDE

ON JANUARY 24, 1819, THE TRAVELER, mineralogist, and ethnologist
Henry Rowe Schoolcraft observed that “Davidsonville, the seat of justice
of Lawrence county . . . is a place of little note or importance at present.”
Schoolcraft, who with a companion was traveling by foot through southern
Missouri and northeastern Arkansas, ostensibly to determine the potential
for mining in the Ozarks, might be excused for this disparaging comment.
He had badly twisted an ankle in the preceding days.1 In fact, for a time,
Davidsonville was an important place, as one of the first towns established
after the Louisiana Purchase had incorporated the region into the United
    Founded in 1815, when northeastern Arkansas was still part of Mis-
souri Territory, Davidsonville served as the seat for Lawrence County,
which once included most of the northern third of modern-day Arkansas.2
The earliest planned community in Arkansas, the town was laid out in a
grid pattern: nine blocks of land, with the central unplatted block desig-
nated as the public (or courthouse) square, and four interior streets. This

      Milton D. Rafferty, Rude Pursuits and Rugged Peaks: Schoolcraft’s Ozark Journal,
1818-1819 (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1996), 117.
      “An Act Establishing the County of Lawrence,” in Acts Passed by the General
Assembly of the Territory of Missouri; in December and January, One Thousand Eight
Hundred and Fourteen and Fifteen (St. Louis: Joseph Charles, Printer to the Territory,
1815), 63-70.

Kathleen H. Cande, M.A., is senior project archaeologist with the Arkansas Archeological Survey in

The region surrounding Davidsonville. Courtesy Kathleen H. Cande.

design had been used frequently elsewhere in frontier America. Although
predated by Arkansas Post, Davidsonville was the first county seat town in
Arkansas to build a courthouse. In addition, the town boasted the first
postal stop and postmaster in Arkansas, a federal land office, several inns,
private residences, a cotton gin, 
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