Little Rock Site Report, Page 1
Carolyn Yancey Kent, independent researcher
Note: The Site Reports of the ANPA are intended for use by the general public. Permission to reprint them in their entirety is required by the authors.
Little Rock, Arkansas, sits on the south bank of the Arkansas River in the central part of Arkansas. The name Little Rock comes from a rock formation that jets out into the river and from early times was know as the “little rock.” Little Rock sits on land that once belonged to the Quapaws. In 1818 the Quapaws relinquished their title to the land south of the river and west of a line, called the Quapaw line, which closely follows the course of Rock Street. The land east of the Quapaw line was not relinquished until 1824.1
William Lewis, a hunter, came down the Arkansas River in a canoe in July 1812. Lewis and all his family were sick. The Quapaw allowed Lewis to stay on the Quapaw land, south of the river, until they had recovered. Lewis built a crude shelter and later claimed a preemption right to the land where he had stayed. Lewis’s claim to the land was eventually transferred to land speculators.2
Edmond Hogan lived on the north side of the river and had a ferry as early as 1814. On January 28, 1820, Hogan sold his claim to the land north of the Arkansas River to William Russell. The deed described the land as being at a place called “the little rock ferry… in the northwest fractional quarter of section number two in Township One North, Range Twelve West, that lies north of the Arkansas River.”3
Wright Daniel, or Daniels as some time written, was another early resident of the area. Daniel lived, prior to 1814, on the north side of the river at the foot of Big Rock Mountain. Records indicate that his dwelling place was called, “Danielsville, on Big Rock.” Daniel built a grist mill in 1815 on the south side of the river. In 1816, Daniel traded his mill to Francis Imbeau for land on the north side of the river four miles down stream from the “little rock.”4 Thomas Nuttall visited Daniel in 1819. Nuttall described Daniel as living on the leading road from St. Louis on the right and to the Mount Prairie settlement and Natchitoches on the left.5 The road leading to the Daniel place became know as Daniel’s Ferry Road.
In March of 1819, the Territory of Arkansas was established as a separate Territory. Arkansas Post had been designated the territorial capital up to this time. Desiring a more centrally located capital, members of the territorial legislature voted to name Little Rock the territorial capital late in 1820.6
As soon as Arkansas Territory was established land speculators began laying claims to the land in Little Rock. When the territorial capital was established in Little Rock the land west of the Quapaw line was claimed by two groups of land speculators. The land dispute was settled November 21, 1821, by the two groups splitting the land and issuing a bill of assurances for the town site. The bill of assurances allowed for an exclusive right to a public ferry across the Arkansas River and tied lot one, in block one of the Little Rock town site to the ferry. The settlement gave the ferry rights and title to lot one, block one to Robert Crittenden, Territorial Secretary, and William Trimble, Superior Court Judge. In 1824 Crittenden, Trimble, and their wives transferred title to the ferry rights and the lot in Little Rock to Joseph Paxton. Paxton later defaulted on the terms, the transfer was rescinded in 1828, and the land titled ended up in Crittenden’s name.7
In 1826, construction began on a road connecting Memphis to Little Rock. The road passed through the swamps west of Memphis. After the road crossed the St. Francis River, the road went southwesterly to Mouth of Cache (present day Clarendon), crossed the Grand Prairie, proceeded south by Samson Gray’s (present day Jacksonville), and came to the Arkansas River east of Crittenden’s ferry.8 The Memphis to Little Rock road was the east west transportation route into Arkansas and with Crittenden having exclusive right to the ferry site he was assured of a locative business.
Steamboats began steaming to Little Rock as early as 1822.9 The “little rock” branched out like five finger and formed a natural dock for steam boats.10 William F. Pope reported that in 1832, the steamboat landing was not within the corporate limits of Little Rock but was “at the foot of what was called First street (now Commerce street).” Pope further reported that on the east side of First or Commerce Street near the river Emzy Wilson owned two large log warehouses used by Wilson and son for storage.11
Hiram Whittington arrived in Little Rock in December 1826 to work for William E. Woodruff, the publisher of the Arkansas Gazette newspaper. On April 21, 1827 Whittington wrote to his brother describing his trip to Arkansas. Whittington reported a “rascally time” getting from the mouth of the White River to Little Rock. He spent five days traveling one hundred fifty miles and said he had to get along the best way he could. He reported that Little Rock was situated on the south bank of the Arkansas and contained about sixty buildings, six brick, eight frame and the balance log cabins.12
Letters from two other early residents, give insight into the travel conditions getting to Little Rock in 1829. The letters provide further glimpses of the town of Little Rock. Newly appointed Secretary of Arkansas Territory, William S. Fulton, wrote to his father, David Fulton, on May 25, 1829. In the letter William wrote that he had arrived safely at Little Rock but was constantly in “dread of miring or being overturned, from the bad roads.” William further reported that Little Rock was a pretty town. William also reported that his brother, John, had arrived worn out and exhausted because John had had to travel all day and night from the Post of Arkansas due to prairie fires. William also reported that he had made a contract with Mr. Henderson to board his family for $10 per week and that “house rent and hire were high but drygoods and groceries were cheaper than in Florence” (Alabama).13
On June 2, 1829, John T. Fulton wrote to his father that he had felt the county adjacent to the “Rock” was settled by wealthy planters. Instead, “I find but few settlers and many of them scarcely able to furnish subsistence to their families.” “The town contains from two hundred fifty to three hundred inhabitants.”14 The letters of the Fulton brothers give a description of the transportation difficulties and the financial situation that existed in Arkansas Territory just before Indian Removal was to begin.
1. F. Hampton Roy Sr., Charles Witsell Jr., Cheryl Griffith Nichols, How We Lived: Little Rock As An American City (Little Rock: August House, 1984), 14
2. Margaret Smith Ross, “Squatters Rights: Some Pulaski County Settlers Prior to 1814,” Pulaski County Historical Review, Vol. 47 (Summer 1999), 60-61, Roy, et all, How We Lived, 14
3. Ross, “Squatters Rights,” 61-62
4. Ibid., 62
5. Thomas Nuttall, A Journal of Travels into the Arkansas Territory during the Year 1819, ed. Savoie Lottinville (Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1999), 114
6. Roy, et all, How We Lived, 14
7. http://arcourts.ualr.edu/ Joseph Paxton vs. Robert Crittenden & William Trimble, retrieved May 1, 2006
8. Amanda L Paige, Fuller L. Bumpers, and Daniel F. Littlefield Jr., The North Little Rock Site on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail: Historical Contexts Report, (Little Rock: American Native Press Archives, 2004), 3
9. Ibid., 17, 12n
10. Ibid., 2
11. William F Pope, Early Days in Arkansas, (Little Rock, 1895), 100
12. Hiram Abiff Whittington, Observations of Arkansas, The 1824-1863 Letters of Hiram Abiff Whittington, (Hot Springs: Garland County Historical Society, 1997), 20-21
13. John Hallium, Biographical and Pictorial History of Arkansas (Albany: Weed, Parsons and Company, 1887) I:191-192
14. Ibid., 193