187 years since Little Rock was chartered

With the stroke of Territorial Governor John Pope’s pen, Little Rock was officially chartered as a town on November 7, 1831. This followed approval by the Arkansas legislature a few days earlier.

As a chartered, officially recognized municipality, the Town of Little Rock was authorized to create a government and to plan for a Mayor and Aldermen to be elected. That election would take place in January 1832 with the initial council meeting later that month.

There are several earlier and later days which could be used to mark Little Rock’s official birth (La Harpe sighting in 1722, first settler in 1812, permanent settlement in 1820, selection of trustees in 1825, chartered as a City in 1835, chartered as a City of First Class in 1875) — but it is November 7, 1831, which has been the officially recognized and accepted date.

In 1931, Little Rock celebrated her centennial with a series of events.  Likewise, in November 1981, Little Rock Mayor Charles Bussey signed and City Clerk Jane Czech attested Resolution 6,687 which recognized the Little Rock sesquicentennial.

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Little Rock Look Back: Chartering of City of Little Rock

On November 2, 1835, the Town of Little Rock became the City of Little Rock upon the signature of Territorial Governor William S. Fulton.  The Town of Little Rock had been established on November 7, 1831.

The new charter deemed that the election of officers (including a mayor and eight aldermen) would be on November 10 at the Pulaski County Courthouse. To be eligible to serve, candidates had to be free white men who were aged 30 and above.

The charter established a constable and a court system, gave the City the ability to levy fees and fines, and provided the fact that the City would not have responsibility for maintaining county roads.

This transformation cut short David Fulton’s term as mayor of Little Rock by two months. Mayor Fulton was the father of Governor Fulton. So the governor signed legislation which shortened his father’s term as mayor.  James Pitcher would be elected the first mayor of the City of Little Rock.

Little Rock Look Back: Little Rock named Capital of Arkansas

On October 18, 1820, Territorial Governor James Miller signed legislation designating Little Rock as the new capital for Arkansas.  This was a mere 10 months after the first permanent settlement was established in Little Rock.

While Little Rock became the Capital, technically it was not the Capital City, since it would not be incorporated as a City until 1835. It wasn’t even incorporated as a town until 1831.

The Act provided that after June 1, 1821, the sessions of the Legislature and the Superior Court would be held at Little Rock.  This caused Arkansas Post, the first territorial capital, to fade from prominence.

The move was made based on the lobbying of Amos Wheeler, Chester Ashley and William Russell.  These men all owned land in the Little Rock area and would benefit from the move of the Capital to Little Rock. The official reason given was Little Rock’s geographical center to the Arkansas Territory and that it was elevated land less prone to flooding.

But just as important, Messrs. Wheeler, Ashley and Russell promised to donate land for a capitol building and a guarantee of $20,000 for construction of a suitable building. (That would be the equivalent of $432,000 today.)

Around the time the legislation was approved, several members of the Territorial legislature purchased land around Little Rock.  When a subsequent effort to relocate the Capital upstream was launched, it failed due to the financial ties of these legislators to land in Little Rock.

45th Historic Arkansas Museum Territorial Fair today from 10 to 4

hamlogoHistoric Arkansas Museum will host the 45th Annual Territorial Fair on Saturday, May 12, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This popular annual event is a fun and free opportunity for adults and children of all ages to experience what life was like during Arkansas’s Territorial era. Living history performances, blacksmith demonstrations, historical dances and pioneer games will be happening on the museum’s historic grounds, a preserved and meticulously recreated section of an early downtown Little Rock neighborhood.

Pioneer games and crafting
Cooking and blacksmithing demonstrations
Living history with the Early Arkansas Reenactors Association
Animals from Heifer International
Mother’s Day cards in the Old Print Shop with print blocks designed by Neal K Harrington
Performances by the Arkansas Country Dance Society
Live music by Suzanne and Jim
Balloon art with Hanson’s Balloon Twisting
FREE Loblolly Creamery ice cream and Diamond Bear Brewing Company root beer
Heritage food from Cypress Knee Food Truck

The Museum Store will be open for Mother’s Day shopping with a variety of unique Arkansas-made gifts and books.

Historic Arkansas Museum is a historic site museum of Arkansas’s frontier days. Five pre-Civil War houses, on their original block, are restored to antebellum appearances, so you can learn about life pre-Civil War in Arkansas. Guided tours of the historic houses encounter actors portraying original residents, making it easy to step back in time and learn about the history of Arkansas.

Little Rock Look Back: Arkansas Territory Established

Arkansas TerritoryOn March 2, 1819, the Arkansas Territory was authorized by an act of Congress, to take effect  on July 4, 1819.

The Arkansas Territory was created from the portion of the Missouri Territory. It originally encompassed all of what is now Arkansas and much of what is now Oklahoma. The westernmost portion of the territory was removed on November 15, 1824, a second westernmost portion was removed on May 6, 1828, reducing the territory to the extent of the present state of Arkansas.

The Territorial capital was Arkansas Post from July 1819 until June 1821. At that point in time it was moved to Little Rock. In 1819, there was no permanent settlement in Little Rock. It would not be until early February 1820 that a permanent settlement would be established.  On 1818, the Quapaw Treaty had anticipated a future settlement in Little Rock.

Little Rock Look Back: First meeting of Little Rock Board of Trustees

On Monday, January 2, 1826, Little Rock voters elected their first Board of Trustees. This five member governing body was authorized by the Arkansas General Assembly in October 1825.  The five men getting the most votes were Bernard Smith, Isaac Watkins, James C. Collins, Ezra Owens and Sam C. Roane.

The evening of the election, the Board of Trustees held their first meeting.  They chose Mr. Smith (a former US Congressman from New Jersey) as the president.  To serve as the clerk, the men selected Jesse Brown, who was Little Rock’s first school teacher.

In June 1826, Robert Crittenden was appointed to fill out the remainder of Mr. Owens’ term.  The latter had resigned, though media accounts do not indicate why.

Mr. Smith, whose job was as secretary to the governor of Arkansas, would serve on the Board through 1828.  Mr. Watkins served until his murder in December 1827.  Mr. Collins served in 1826 and again in 1828.  Mr. Roane only served in 1826.  Mr. Crittenden served a full term in 1827 and then again in 1830 and 1831.

The Little Rock Board of Trustees was disbanded with the January 1832 election of Little Rock’s first mayor and aldermen.

Little Rock Look Back: First edition of ARKANSAS GAZETTE to be published in Little Rock

First LR ArkGaz front

First LR ArkGaz insideAfter months of planning, on December 29, 1821, the first edition of ARKANSAS GAZETTE to be published in Little Rock came off the press.  Due to a shortage of paper supplies, it was only a two page edition, instead of the four pages which publisher William Woodruff had been customarily printing.

Because the capitol of the Arkansas Territory had moved from Arkansas Post to Little Rock earlier in 1821, Woodruff wanted to relocate as well.  Not only did it make sense for a newspaperman to be close to the seat of government for purposes of stories, there was a financial reason for the move, too.  Woodruff wanted to continue to be the contracted official publisher of government records.  If he stayed in Arkansas Post, someone else would certainly have opened up an operation in Little Rock to do the printing.

The first Little Rock edition featured the usual mix of national news (often culled from other newspapers once they arrived at Woodruff’s establishment), local stories, and advertisements.  One of the stories was a letter from General Andrew Jackson to the citizens of the Florida Territory.  There was also a dispatch from Pernambuco, Brazil.

Because it was the first issue from Little Rock, Woodruff took time to write about Little Rock.  He noted it was located on the south side of the Arkansas River on a “beautiful gravelly bluff” with picturesque views of the river and surrounding areas.  He noted the territorial and federal government offices which were located in Little Rock.

Though the Gazette ceased publication in 1991, the 1821 publication of that paper in Little Rock set the stage for more than just that one newspaper.  It marks a continual presence of newspaper and journal publication in Little Rock for 196 years.