Archive | Arkansas frontier

Hate Speech and Expulsion: Arkansas’ Free People of Color

The legal disadvantages imposed on free African-Americans, beginning in the late 17th century in the wake of Bacon’s Rebellion, spread south and west from Virginia.  As a stable, stratified society put down roots on each new frontier, it brought with it new laws designed to strengthen the division between the races, and to keep free […]

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The South’s Railroad Problem

In 1851, when Albert Pike visited a number of the Northern states, he reported that Ohio at that time had 29 railroads and 830 miles of track in operation;  Pennsylvania, 52 railroads and 1,224 miles; and Michigan, which had entered the Union at the same time as Arkansas, 4 railroads and 447 miles.  In Arkansas, […]

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The Limits of Human Decency

We may never know how Thomas Stevenson Drew lost his fortune, after rising to the position of Governor of Arkansas, but the available sources seem to show that he was a genuinely decent man.  He spent his life in efforts at conciliation and compromise; there is no record of his being involved in any of […]

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The Uses of Dueling

In the society of frontier Arkansas, as in the rest of the South, all respectable white men were expected to conform to a code of honor.  But that code imposed some special requirements for the status of  “gentleman,” qualities that constituted a key part of a person’s social rank. Donald P. McNeilly, the author of […]

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Wolf Scalps, Murder, and the Real Estate Bank

The birth of the Real Estate Bank of Arkansas was marked by a very public murder. The bank, established by the 1836 Arkansas Constitution, was conceived and operated as a mechanism for the wealthy planters of the cotton-growing south and east to plunder the state—and the state’s most powerful politicians were among the plunderers.  It […]

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What were They Reading? Mark Twain Had Some Thoughts.

Albert Pike, a lawyer, journalist, Civil War general and later a major figure in American Masonry, kept a circulating library in the office of the Arkansas Advocate.  We know the titles of some of his books, because borrowers often failed to bring them back, and he had to put ads (and poems) in his paper […]

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Young Men Making Their Way on the Border

How does a young man establish himself in a raw new border community?  In early 19th-century Arkansas, as in many other places, money and family connections were the key.  The men who had already risen to power by the time Thomas Stevenson Drew arrived in the territory in 1827 had come as the heirs of […]

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Talking Ourselves Into Hatred: the Arkansas Cherokees

“What is civilization?” wrote Nu-Tah-E-Tuil, or “No-Killer,” in an April, 1828, letter to the Arkansas Gazette. “Is it a practical knowledge of agriculture? Then I am willing to compare the farms and gardens of this nation with those of the mass of white population in the Territory.   The advantage will be on our side.  Does civilization consist […]

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A Frontier in Flux

Perhaps Middle Tennessee was just too civilized for Newit Drew by the time he, his wife Sally, and their seven children set out down the river in 1816.  Ordinary farmers were wearing knee breeches and red vests, and their wives might own calico petticoats, lace, ribbons,  embroidered aprons and silk parasols.  In Nashville there were […]

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