ARKANSAS, one of the South Central states of the United States of America, situated between 89° 40′ N. and 94° 42′ W., bounded N. by Missouri, E. by the Mississippi river, separating it from Tennessee and Mississippi, and W. by Texas and Oklahoma. Its area is 53,335 sq. m., of which 810 are water surface.
Arkansas lies in the drainage basin of the lower Mississippi, and has a remarkable river system. The Arkansas bisects the state from W. to E.; along its valley lie the oldest and largest settlements of the state. Nine other considerable streams drain the state; of these, the Red, the Ouachita, the White and the St Francis are the most important. There are a number of swamps and bayous in the eastern part.
Physical Features.—The surface of Arkansas is the most diversified of that of any state in the central Mississippi valley. It rises, sloping upward toward the N.W., from an average elevation of less than 300 ft. in the south-east to heights of 2000 ft. and more in the north-western quarter. There are four physiographic regions: two of highlands; one of river valley plain separating the two highland areas; while the fourth is a region of hills, lowlands and scanty prairie. The last covers the E. half of the state, and is part of the Gulf or coastal plain province of the United States. If a line be drawn from the point where the Red river cuts the western boundary to where the Black cuts the northern, E. of it is the Gulf plain and W. of it are the highlands (over 500 ft.) and the mineral regions of the state. They are divided by the valley of the Arkansas river into two regions, which are also structurally different. South of the river are the Ouachita Mountains, and north of it are the Boston Mountains. The Ouachita Mountains are characterized by close folding and faulting. Their southern edge is covered with cretaceous deposits, and their eastern edge is covered as well with the tertiary deposits of the Gulf plains. The Arkansas valley is marked by wide and open folding. The Boston Mountains are substantially a continuation of the Ozark dome of Missouri. Their northern border is marked by an escarpment of 500 to 700 ft. in height. The trend is from E. to W. between Batesville and Wagoner, Oklahoma. In structure they are monoclinical, their rocks—sandstones and shales—being laid southward and blending on that side with the Arkansas valley region. The entire region is very much dissected by streams, and the topography is characteristically of a terrace and escarpment type. In the highlands N. of the Arkansas the country is very irregularly broken; S. of the river the hills lie less capriciously in short, high ranges, with low, fertile valleys between them. The Ouachitas extend 200 m., from within Oklahoma (near Atoka) to central Arkansas, near Little Rock. They are characterized by long, low ridges bearing generally W.-E., with wide, flat valleys. Near the western boundary of the state they attain a maximum altitude of 2900 ft. above the sea, and 2000 ft. above the valleys of the Arkansas and Red river; falling in elevation eastward (as westward) to 500-700 ft. at their eastern end. Five peaks rise above 2000 ft. Magazine Mountain, 2833 ft. above the sea-level and 2350 ft. above the surrounding country, is the highest point between the Alleghanies and the Rockies. Altitudes of 2250 ft. are attained in the Boston Mountains, which are the highest portion of the Ozark uplift, and the most picturesque. The streams are vigorous, and in their lower courses flow in deep-cut gorges, 500 to 1000 ft. deep, almost deserving the name of canyons. The main streams are tortuous, and their dendritic tributaries have cut the region into ridges. The mountains do not fill the N.W. quarter of the state, and are separated from a lower, greatly eroded highland region on their N. by a bold escarpment 500 to 1000 ft. in height. Along the upper course of the White river in the Bostons and in the country about Hot Springs in the Ouachitas is found the most beautiful scenery of the highlands; few regions are more beautiful. The valley region embraces the bottom-lands along the Mississippi, and up the Arkansas as far as Pine Bluff, and the cypress swamp country of the St Francis.
Climate.—The climate of the state is “southern,” owing to the influence of the Gulf of Mexico. The mean temperatures for the different seasons are normally about 41.6°, 61.1°, 78.8° and 61.9° F. for winter, spring, summer and autumn respectively. The normal mean precipitations are about 11.7, 14.5, 10.5 and 10.2 in. for the same seasons. The extreme range of the monthly isotherms crossing the state is from about 35° in winter to 81° F. in summer, and the range of annual isotherms from about 54° to 60° F. That is, the variation of mean annual temperatures for different parts of the state is only 6° F. The variation of the mean annual temperature for the entire state is only 4° (from 59° to 63° F.). The variation of precipitation is as great as 30 in. (from 34 to 64 in.) according to locality. There is little snow, no severe winter cold, and no summer drought. Sheltered valleys in the interior produce spring crops three or four weeks earlier than is usual in Kansas. The climate is generally healthy.
Flora.—Arkansas lies in the humid, or Austroriparian, area of the Lower Austral life-zone, except the highlands of the Ozark uplift and Ouachita Mountains, which belong to the humid, or Carolinian, area of the Upper Austral. The state possesses a rich fauna and flora. From an economic standpoint its forests deserve special mention. The forest lands of the state include four-fifths of its area, and three-fourths are actually covered by standing timber. Valuable trees are of great variety: cottonwood, poplar, catalpa, red cedar, sweet-gum, birch-eye, sassafras, persimmon, ash, elm, sycamore, maple, a variety of pines, pecan, locust, dogwood, hickory, various oaks, beech, walnut and cypress are all abundant. There are one hundred and twenty-nine native species of trees. The yellow pine, the white oak and the cypress are the most valuable growths. The northern woods are mainly hard; the yellow pine is most characteristic of the heavy woods of the south central counties; and magnificent cypress abounds in the north-east. Hard woods grow even on the alluvial lands. “The hard-wood forests of the state are hardly surpassed in variety and richness, and contain inestimable bodies of the finest oak, walnut, hickory and ash timber” (U.S. Census, 1870 and 1900). The growth on the alluvial bottoms and the lower uplands in the E. is extraordinarily vigorous. The leading species of the Appalachian woodland maintain their 552 full vigour of growth nearer to the margin of forest growth in this part of the Mississippi valley than in any other part of the United States; and some species, such as the holly, the osage orange and the pecan, attain their fullest growth in Arkansas (Shaler). There are two Federal forest reserves (4968 sq. m.).
Soil.—The soils of Arkansas are of peculiar variety. That of the highlands is mostly but a thin covering, and their larger portion is relatively poorly fitted for agriculture. The uplands are generally fertile. Their poor soils are distinctively sandy, those of the lowlands clayey; but these elements are usually found combined in rich loams characterized by the predominance of one or the other constituent. Finally the alluvial bottoms are of wonderful richness.
Agriculture.—This variety of soils, a considerable range of moderate altitudes and favourable factors of heat and moisture promote a rich diversity in agriculture. Arkansas is predominantly an agricultural state. The farm area of 1860 was only 28.2% of the whole area of the state, that of 1900 (16,636,719 acres) was 49%; and while only a fifth of this farm area was actually improved in 1860, two-fifths were improved in 1900; thus, the part of the state’s area actually cultivated approximately quadrupled in four decades. The value of products in 1900 (.6 millions) was 44% of the total farm values (1.4 millions). The rise in average value of farm lands since 1870 has not been a fifth of the increase of the aggregate value of all farm property.
The Civil War wrought a havoc from which a full recovery was hardly reached before 1890. The economic evolution of the state since Reconstruction has been in the main that common to all the old slave states developing from the plantation system of ante-bellum days, somewhat diversified and complicated by the special features of a young and border community. The farms of Arkansas increased in number 357.8%, in area 73.7% and in total true (as distinguished from tax) valuation about 53.8% between 1860 and 1900; the decade of most extraordinary growth being that of 1870-1880. Thus Arkansas has shared that fall in the average size of farms common to all sections of the Union (save the north central) since 1850, but especially marked since the Civil War in the “Cotton States,” owing to the subdivision of large holdings with the introduction of the tenant system. The rapidity of the movement has not been exceptional in Arkansas, but the size of its average farm, less in 1850 than that of the other cotton states, was in 1900, 93.1 acres (108.8 for white farmers alone, 49.0 for blacks alone), which was even less than that of the North Atlantic states (96.5 acres, the smallest sectional unit of the Union). The percentage of farms worked by owners fell from 69.1% in 1880 to 54.6% in 1900; the difference of the balances or 14.5% indicates the increase of tenant holdings, two-thirds of these being for shares.
It is interesting to compare in this matter the whites and the negroes. In actual numbers the white farmers heavily predominate, whether as owners, tenants for cash or tenants on shares; but if we look at the numbers within each race holding by these respective tenures (65.0, 8.7 and 26.3% respectively for whites; 25.6, 33.7 and 40.7% for negroes, in 1900), we see the lesser independence of the negro farmer. The cotton counties, which are the counties of densest coloured habitancy, exemplify this fact with great clearness. The few negroes in the white counties of the uplands are much better off than those in the cotton lowlands; more than three times as large a part of them owners; the poorer element is segregated in the cotton region. In Arkansas, as elsewhere in the south, negro tenants, like white tenants, are more efficient than owners working their own lands. The black farmer is in bondage to cotton; for him still “Cotton is King.” He gives it four-fifths of his land; while his white rival allows it only a quarter of his, less by half than the area he gives to live-stock, dairying, hay and grains. At Sunnyside, on the west bank of the Mississippi, negro tenant farmers have been practically forced out of business by Italians, who produced in 1899-1904 more than twice as much lint cotton per working hand, and 70% more per acre. The general place of the negro in agriculture is shown also by the fact that more than four-fifths of the farm acreage and farm values of the state are in the hands of the whites. The white farmer gives an outlay in labour and fertilizers on his farm greater by 61.4% than the black, gathers a produce greater by 22.5%, and possesses a farm of a value 53.5% greater (Census, 1900).
Cotton is the leading product. It absorbs about a third of the area under crops, and its returns (,000,000 in 1899) are about a half of the value of all crops. A part of the cotton lands of Arkansas are among the richest in the south. Other distinctively southern products (tobacco, &c.) are of no importance in Arkansas. Cereals are given more than twice as much acreage as cotton, but yield only a third as great aggregate returns, Indian corn being much the most remunerative; about three-fourths of the cereal acreage are given to its cultivation, and it ranks after cotton in value of harvest.1 For all the other staple agricultural products of the central states the showing of Arkansas is uniformly good, but not noteworthy. But its rank as a fruitgrowing country is exceptional. Plums, prunes, peaches, pears and grapes are cultivated very generally over the western half of the state (grapes in the east also), but with greatest success in the south-west; apples prosper best in the north-west. Small berries are a very important product. All fruits are of the finest quality. For apples the state makes probably a finer showing than that of any other state except Oregon. About ninety varieties are habitually entered in national competitions. The fruit industry generally has developed with extreme rapidity.
Manufactures.—Although Arkansas is rich in minerals and in forests, in 1900 only 2% of its population were engaged in manufacturing. But the development has been rapid; the value of products multiplied seven times, the wages paid nine, and the capital invested twelve, in the years 1880-1900; and the increase in the same categories from 1900-1905 was 35, 42.8 and 82.4% respectively.2 It must be noted as characteristic of the state that of the total manufactures in 1905, 80.3% were produced in rural districts (83.7 in 1900). About two-thirds of the increase between 1890 and 1900 was in the lumber industry which was of slight importance before the former year; it represented more than half the total value of the manufactures of the state in 1905 (output, 1905, ,065,171 and of mill products ,786,772 additional); in the value of lumber and timber products the state ranked sixth among the states of the United States in 1900, and seventh in 1905. After the lumber and timber industry ranked in 1905 the manufacture of cotton-seed oil and cake (,939,919) and flour and grist milling. Cotton ginning increased 739% from 1890 to 1900.
Morrill, Justin Smith), three-elevenths goes to the normal school. The agricultural experiment station of the university dates from 1887. The financial support of the university has been light, about three-fifths coming from the United States government. Besides the university there are about a score of denominational colleges or academies, of which half-a-dozen are for coloured students. Among the large denominational colleges are Philander Smith College, Little Rock (Methodist Episcopal, 1877); Ouachita College, Arkadelphia (Baptist, 1886); Hendrix College, Conway (Methodist Episcopal, South, 1884); and Arkansas College, Batesville (Presbyterian, 1872). There are few libraries in Arkansas. In this matter her showing has long been among the very poorest in the Union relatively to her population. Daily papers are few in number. The state charitable institutions—insane asylum, deaf-mute and blind institutes—and the penitentiary, are at Little Rock.
Local government is of the ordinary southern county type, without noteworthy variations. Municipal corporations rest upon a general state law, not upon individual charters. The liquor question is left by the state to county (i.e. including “local,” or town) option, and prohibition is the most common county law, the alternative being high-licence.
History.—The first settlement by Europeans in Arkansas was made in 1686 by the French at Arkansas Post (later the residence of the French and Spanish governors, important as a trading post in the earlier days of the American occupation, and the first territorial capital, 1819-1820). In 1720 a grant on the Arkansas was made to John Law. In 1762 the territory passed to Spain, in 1780 back to France, and in 1803 to the United States as a part of the “Louisiana Purchase.” Save in the beginnings of western frontier trade, and in a great mass of litigation left to the courts of later years by the curious and uncertain methods of land delimitation that prevailed among the French and Spanish colonists, the pre-American period of occupation has slight connexions with the later period, and scant historical importance.
From 1804 to 1812 what is now Arkansas was part of the district (and then the territory) of Louisiana, and from 1812 to 1819 of the territory of Missouri. Its earliest county organizations date from this time. It was erected successively into a territory of the first and second class by acts of Congress of the 2nd of March 1819 and the 21st of April 1820. By act of the 15th of June 1836 it was admitted into the Union as a slave state.
There is little of general interest in the history of ante-bellum days. Economic life centred in the slave plantation, and there was remarkable development up to the Civil War. The decade 1819-1829 saw the first newspaper (1819), the beginning of steamboating on Arkansas rivers, and the first weekly mail from the east. Trade was largely confined to the rivers and freighting for Sante Fé and Salt Lake before the war, but the first railway entered the state in 1853. Social life was sluggish in some ways and wild in others. An unhappy propensity to duelling, the origin in Arkansas of the bowie-knife,—from an alleged use of which Arkansas received the nickname, which it has always retained, of the “toothpick state,”—and other backwoods associations gave the state a reputation which to some extent has survived in spite of many years of sober history. The questions of the conduct of territorial affairs do not seem to have been contested systematically on national party lines until about 1825. The government of Arkansas before the Civil War was always in the hands of a few families closely intermarried. From the beginning the state has been unswervingly Democratic, save in the Reconstruction years, though often with heavy Whig or Republican minorities.
In February 1861 the people of Arkansas voted to hold a convention to consider the state of public affairs. The convention assembled on the 4th of March. Secession resolutions were defeated, and it was voted to submit to the people the question whether there should be “co-operation” through the Lincoln government, or “secession.” The plan was endorsed of holding a convention of all the states to settle the slavery question, and delegates were chosen to the proposed Border State Convention that was to meet at Frankfort, Kentucky, on the 27th of May. Then came the fall of Fort Sumter and the proclamation of President Lincoln calling for troops to put down rebellion. The governor of Arkansas curtly refused its quota. A quick surge of ill-feeling, all the bitterer on account of the divided sentiments of the people, chilled loyalty to the Union. The convention reassembled on call of the governor, and on the 6th of May, with a single dissentient voice, passed an ordinance of secession. It then repealed its former vote submitting the question of secession 555 to the people. On the 16th of May Arkansas became one of the Confederate States of America.
In the years of war that followed, a very large proportion of the able-bodied men of the state served in the armies of the Confederacy; several regiments, some of coloured troops, served the Union. Union sentiment was strongest in the north. In 1862-1863 various victories threw more than half the state, mainly the north and east, under the Federal arms. Accordingly, under a proclamation of the president, citizens within the conquered districts were authorized to renew allegiance to the Union, and a special election was ordered for March 1864, to reorganize the state government. But meanwhile, a convention of delegates chosen mainly at polls opened at the army posts, assembled in January 1864, abolished slavery, repudiated secession and the secession war debt, and revised in minor details the constitution of 1836, restricting the suffrage to whites. This new fundamental law was promptly adopted by the people, i.e. by its friends, who alone voted. But the representatives of Arkansas under this constitution were never admitted to Congress.
The Federal and Confederate forces controlled at this time different parts of the state; there was some ebb and flow of military fortune in 1864, and for a short time two rival governments. Chaotic conditions followed the war. The fifteenth legislature (April 1864 to April 1865) ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, and passed laws against “bush-whacking,” a term used in the Civil War for guerilla warfare, especially as carried on by pretended neutrals. Local militia, protecting none who refused to join in the common defence, and all serving “not as soldiers but as farmers mutually pledged to protect each other from the depredations of outlaws who infest the state,” strove to secure such public order as was necessary to the gathering of crops, so as “to prevent the starvation of the citizens” (governor’s circular, 1865). Struggling in these difficulties, the government of the state was upset by the first Reconstruction Act. The governor in these years (1865-1868) was a Republican, the caster of the single Union vote in the convention of 1861; but the sixteenth legislature (1866-1867) was largely Democratic. It undertook to determine the rights of persons of African descent, and regrettable conflicts followed. The first Reconstruction Act having declared that “no legal state government or adequate protection for life or property” existed in the “rebel states,” Arkansas was included in one of the military districts established by Congress. A registration of voters, predominantly whites, was at once carried through, and delegates were chosen for another constitutional convention, which met at Little Rock in January 1868. The secessionist element was voluntarily or perforce excluded. This convention ratified the Fourteenth Amendment, and framed the third constitution of the state, which was adopted by a small majority at a popular election, marred by various irregularities, in March 1868. By its provisions negroes secured full political rights, and all whites who had been excluded from registration for the election of delegates to the convention were now practically stripped of political privileges. The organization of Arkansas being now acceptable to Congress, a bill admitting it to the Union was passed over President Johnson’s veto, and on the 22nd of June 1868 the admission was consummated.
Arkansas now became for several years Republican, and suffered considerably from the rule of the “carpet-baggers.” The debt of the state was increased about ,375,000 from 1868 to 1874, largely for railroad and levee schemes; much of the money was misappropriated, and in a case involving the payment of railway aid bonds the action of the legislature in pledging the credit of the state was held nugatory by the state supreme court in 1875 on the ground that, contrary to the constitution, the bond issue had never been referred to popular vote. An amendment to the constitution approved by a popular vote in 1884 provided that the General Assembly should “have no power to levy any tax, or make any appropriation, to pay” any of the bonds issued by legislative action in 1868, 1869 and 1871. The current expenses of the state in the years of Reconstruction were also enormously increased. The climax of the Reconstruction period was the so-called Baxter-Brooks war.
Elisha Baxter (1827-1899) was the regular Republican candidate for governor in 1872. He was opposed by a disaffected Republican faction known as “brindletails,” or as they called themselves, “reformers,” led by Joseph Brooks (1821-1877), and supported by the Democrats. Baxter was irregularly elected. The election was contested, and his choice was confirmed by the legislature, the court of last resort in such cases. He soon showed a willingness to rule as a non-partisan, and favoured the re-enfranchisement of white citizens. This would have put the Democrats again in power, and they rallied to Baxter, while the Brooks party now assumed the name of “regulars,” and received the support of the “carpet-bag” and negro elements. After Baxter had been a year in office Brooks received a judgment of ouster against him from a state circuit judge, and got possession of the public buildings (April 1874). The state flew to arms. The legislature called for Federal intervention (May 1874), and Federal troops maintained neutrality while investigations were conducted by a committee sent out by Congress. As a result, President Grant pronounced for Baxter, and the Brooks forces disbanded.
The chief result was another convention. In 1873 the article of the constitution which had disfranchised the whites was repealed, and the Democrats thus regained power. By an overwhelming majority the people now voted for another convention, which (July to October 1874) framed the present constitution. It removed all disfranchisement, and embraced equitable amnesty and exemption features. It also took away all patronage from the governor, reduced his term to two years, forbade him to proclaim martial law or suspend the writ of habeas corpus, and abolished all registration laws: all these provisions being reflections of Reconstruction struggles. The people ratified the new constitution on the 13th of October 1874. After Reconstruction the state again became Democratic, and the main interest of its history has been the progress of economic development.
The following is a list of the territorial and state governors of Arkansas:—
Bibliography.—Information regarding the resources, climate, population and industries of Arkansas should be sought in the volumes of the United States Census, United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Geological Survey (for the last two there are various bibliographical guides); consult also the publications of the Arkansas (Agricultural) Experiment Station (at Fayetteville), the reports of the state horticulturist, the biennial reports of the state treasurer, of the auditor, and of the Bureau of Mines, Manufactures and Agriculture (all published at Little Rock).
The constitutional documents may best be consulted in the latest compiled Statutes of the state. See also J.H. Shinn, Education in Arkansas (U.S. Bur. of Education, 1900); W.F. Pope, Early Days in Arkansas (Little Rock, 1895); and F. Hempstead, Pictorial History of Arkansas (St Louis, 1890). Similar to the last in popular character, vast in bulk and loose in method, are a series of Biographical and Pictorial Histories, covering the different sections of the state (1 vol. by J. Hallum, Albany, 1887; four others compiled anonymously, Chicago, 1889-1891). For the Reconstruction period see especially the Poland Report in House Rp. No. 2, 43 Cong. 2 Sess., vol. i. (1874), and John M. Harrell’s The Brooks and Baxter War: A History of the Reconstruction Period in Arkansas (St Louis, Missouri, 1893), which is frankly in favour of Baxter; also a paper by B.S. Johnson in vol. ii. (1908) of the Publications of the Arkansas Historical Association.
1 For 1906 the Yearbook of the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported the following statistics for Arkansas:—Indian corn, 52,802,659 bu., valued at ,817,207; oats 3,783,706 bu., valued at ,589,157; wheat, 1,915,250 bu., valued at ,436,438; rice, 131,440 bu., valued at 1,724; rye, 23,652 bu., valued at ,631; potatoes, 1,666,960 bu., valued at ,116,863; hay, 113,491 tons, valued at ,123,561.
2 The special census of the manufacturing industry for 1905 was concerned only with the establishment conducted under the so-called “factory system”; for purposes of comparison the figures for 1900 have been reduced to the same standard, and this fact should be borne in mind with regard to the percentages of increase given above.
3 During this period Robert Crittenden, the secretary of the territory, was frequently the acting governor.
4 Robert Crittenden was acting governor in 1828-1829.
5 Samuel Adams was acting governor from the 29th of April to the 9th of November 1844.
6 R.C. Byrd was acting governor from the 11th of January to the 19th of April 1849.
7 Thomas Fletcher was acting governor from the 4th to the 15th of November 1862.
8 Confederate governor.
9 Union governor.
10 United States military (sub) governor.
11 Acting governor.
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