Arkansas Historical Quarterly;Volume 17, Winter 1955, p. 337





Research Assistant, Arkansas History Commission

Hempstead County was organized by the common pleas court, which existed at that time under the laws of Missouri Territory, but that court became extinct when Arkansas Territory was organized. The county business was then transferred to the circuit court of the new territory. The circuit court continued to transact business until the county court was organized in 1829 (2).

The first terms of the courts in Hempstead County were held at the house of John English, approximately eight miles northeast of the present site of Washington, and on the line of the military road, which was later established as a connecting link between Arkansas and the Southwest, the terminus of the latter being Fort Towson. The court stayed at the English home until 1824, when it was moved to the house of Elijah Stuart, (3) said by some to be the first resident of Washington. However, it is also thought that some whites did live it or near what was later to become Washington before Stuart moved here. James W. Ellis in a letter written from Saratoga, Arkansas, March 27, 1913, stated that, in 1860, while visiting Judge Daniel T. Witter on "his big plantations," the judge led him to a grove of trees and pointed to the remains of an old cabin. The judge explained that, when he moved to Hempstead County in 1820, an old man and woman lived here, but had been buried in an unmarked rave. Nothing else is known of the couple but they are assumed to be the county's first white residents. (4)

The county's first courthouse was finished in 1825. "The March, 1825, term of the . . . court was begun and held in the town of Washington, at the court-house in and for the county of Hempstead, and Territory of Arkansas, on Monday, the 21st of March, in the year of our Lord, 1825." (5)
1. Prepared under the direction of Ted R. Worley, Executive Secretary, Arkansas History Commission.
2. Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas (Chicago: Goodspeed, 1890), 380.
3. Ibid.
4. Undated and unidentified newspaper clipping in Arkansas History Commission; the letter was to an
unknown editor.
5. Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas, 380.








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