Little Rock Look Back: Mayoral Election of 1871

For the two years leading up to the November 1871 election for Little Rock mayor, the political scene had been chaotic. A. K. Hartman, who represented one faction of the Republican Party, was so disliked by the LR City Council that they repeatedly tried to have him removed from office.

After being rebuffed by the courts, the aldermen proceeded to simply appoint another mayor of Little Rock.  Thus from January 1871 to November 1871, Little Rock had two mayors: A. K. Hartman, and J. G. Botsford.

After having been elected first in January 1869 and re-elected, Hartman (whom the Gazette disliked and derogatorily nicknamed “Count Von Bismark” on account of his Germanic heritage and his corpulence) was seeking another term in November 1871. Thomas C Scott announced, in October 1871, that he would seek the office as an independent, but withdrew a few weeks later.  The only person who stood between Hartman and re-election was Dr. Robert Francis Catterson.

Dr. Catterson as a physician from Indiana who had served in the Union Army during the Civil War. He moved to Arkansas in 1866 first to work in cotton commodities, and then to serve in the militia fighting the Ku Klux Klan. He became affiliated with Joseph Brooks and his Brindletail faction of the Republican Party, which stood in opposition to the Minstrels faction, with which Hartman was associated. (This rivalry would play out in 1873 with the Brooks-Baxter War, in which Catterson was Brook’s chief lieutenant.)

A few nights before the election, approximately 500 of Catterson’s supporters paraded through Little Rock with signs bearing anti-Hartman slogans and caricatures.  They stopped off to hear an address by Mr. Brooks.

On election day, Catterson and his allies swept most of the City offices.  He bested Hartman by a vote of 710 to 374 and carried three of the city’s four wards.  He served in office until November 1873.

 

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Little Rock Look Back: Gov. Baxter returns after end of Brooks-Baxter War

On the morning of May 19, 1874, Joseph Brooks cleaned out his belongings from the gubernatorial office in the 1842 Arkansas State Capitol (now the Old State House) and disappeared to points unknown.

The beginning of the end of his stint claiming to be Arkansas Governor came on May 15 when President US Grant accepted the recommendation of his Attorney General that found Elisha Baxter was the duly elected Governor of Arkansas.

Following Brooks’s departure, the grounds and building were in shambles.  A Gazette reporter noted that barricades had been built on the lawn of the building.  The front and back doors remained, but their facings had been removed to make it easier to roll big weapons and equipment in and out of the building.

Inside, furniture was in disarray and broken.  The bookcases in the state library had been turned on their sides to serve as tables.  The reporter described the smell as composed of “a mixed perfume of sour bacon and human beings.”

In preparation for the return of Gov. Baxter, crews were busy trying to restore order in the building. The Senate Chambers were nearly put back in order that day, but the House Chambers needed more attention.

As another illustration of the disarray in state government between April 15 and May 19, the state treasurer, Henry Page, told the newspaper that he had not cut a single check at the request of the Brooks administration.  He stated that he had not denied the request, he just delayed responding to it.

Finally that day, Governor Baxter arrived at the head of a ceremonial parade of carriages.  Among those who accompanied the governor was Arkansas Gazette founder William Woodruff.  In the next carriage, future US Senator and Attorney General Augustus Garland sat with reporters from the New York Times and Arkansas Gazette.

Upon arriving at the Capitol grounds, Baxter delivered a speech.  101 guns were fired in salute to him.  The cannon on the capitol grounds (nicknamed Old Lady Baxter) was shot off several times.  A retinue of Little Rock’s ladies pulled the lanyard to detonate the cannon.

As part of President Grant’s order to end the Brooks-Baxter War, the ground was laid for a new Arkansas Constitution, the end of Reconstruction, and the re-enfranchisement of Democratic voters.  In short order, the 1874 constitution, under which Arkansas still operates, was adopted.  Many of the Republicans and African American office holders soon found themselves out of power. And African Americans were completely disenfranchised.

It would be 92 years before Arkansas would again elect a Republican to be Governor.  The adoption of the new constitution took the term of governor and other constitutional officers from four years to two years.  In 1874, he retired to Batesville and lived there until his death in 1899.  Brooks remained in Little Rock until his death in 1877.

Little Rock Look Back: Brooks-Baxter War Starts

Brooks BaxterOn April 15, 1874, Joseph Brooks, accompanied by armed men, including the Pulaski County Sheriff, went into the office of Governor Elisha Baxter demanding he vacate the office.  Alone, save a young son, Governor Baxter departed the Arkansas State Capitol (now the Old State House), and met up with a group of supporters to plan their response.

Thus, the Brooks-Baxter War in Arkansas had begun.

Brooks had faced off against Baxter in the 1872 gubernatorial election.  Both were Republicans, but represented different factions of the party.  Brooks led the Brindletails, which were more aligned with efforts to gradually re-enfranchise former Confederates as well as have a smaller government with limited gubernatorial powers.  Baxter led the Minstrels.  This group was focused on retaining power and control of state government by limiting re-enfranchisement of former Confederates.

Many historians believe that Brooks may have actually won the election, but Baxter’s faction’s control of the state machinery resulted in him being declared the winner.  Brooks’ appeal to the Arkansas General Assembly was unsuccessful.  He took it to the state courts, which was likewise going nowhere.  EXCEPT….

Baxter had changed course on his views toward Democrats and members of his own party. This resulted in him losing support of many Republicans.  He also fought with fellow Republicans regarding a railroad issue.  This led to a meeting of many leading Republicans including Arkansas’ two US Senators.  Not long after that, Pulaski County Circuit Judge John Whytock heard Brooks’ case.  On April 15, 1874, Judge Whytock ruled in favor of Brooks.

Following his ouster from the governor’s office, Baxter telegraphed President Grant, asking for assistance.  In the meantime, both sides recruited supporters.  Baxter and 200 men set up headquarters in the Anthony House, which was near the State Capitol.  Brooks and his supporters used furniture to barricade the capitol building.  Robert Catterson, a former Little Rock mayor, set up artillery pieces on the capitol lawn to defend Brooks.

For the next month, there would be many rumors and skirmishes.  Little Rock, like the rest of the state, was divided. And the conflict was just beginning.

Brown Bag at Old State House today at noon – COURAGE, PROMINENCE, THEN OBSCURITY: THE LIFE OF EDWARD ALLEN FULTON

OSH Brown BagToday (March 10) at noon, Blake Wintory presents the Old State House’s March Brown Bag program on the life of Edward Allen Fulton.
Fulton was an African American leader, politician and newspaper editor in Arkansas during Reconstruction and subsequent years. Born a slave in Kentucky in 1833, Fulton spent his youth as a slave in Missouri before escaping and joining the abolitionist movement in Chicago. During the Civil War he worked as a recruiter for U.S. Colored Troops and arrived in post-war Arkansas in 1866.

In 1870 Drew County elected him to the Arkansas General Assembly as a Republican. Fulton sided with Joseph Brooks’ “Brindletail” or Reform Republicans and often clashed with the Regular Republicans, including Governor Powell Clayton. Throughout his career he championed the rights of African Americans and even led several Drew County families to western Iowa at the height of the Exoduster migration. Despite a colorful life that included an assassination attempt, Fulton died in relative obscurity in St. Louis in 1906.

Blake Wintory received his Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas in 2005. He is the on-site director at the 1859 Lakeport Plantation, an Arkansas State University Heritage Site in Chicot County. He serves on the board of Preserve Arkansas and the Friends of the Arkansas History Commission. In 2015 he published his first book, Images of Chicot County, and has published articles on Arkansas history in the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, the Arkansas Review, and the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture.

Little Rock Look Back: Robert Catterson–Doctor, Soldier, LR Mayor

R_F_Catterson_BGen_ACWOn this date in 1835, future Little Rock Mayor Robert Francis Catterson was born in Indiana, the son of Irish immigrants.  He studied medicine in Ohio and established a medical practice in Indiana upon completion of his studies.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted as a private in the Union Army.  Throughout the war, he was promoted and was eventually mustered out as a brigadier general in 1866.  During his service, he participated in the siege of Vicksburg, the Battle of Chattanooga, the Atlanta Campaign and Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Following his departure from the military, Catterson decided not to return to medical practice.  He moved to Arkansas and worked for a brief time in the cotton commodities field.  He later returned to military service commanding a militia fighting the Ku Klux Klan.  Catterson was appointed US Marshal and would also command the Brooks troops during the Brooks-Baxter War in Little Rock.

In November 1871, he was elected Mayor of Little Rock. His election ended a tumultuous two-year period where the Little Rock City Council tried unsuccessfully to remove Mayor A. K. Hartman.  Mayor Catterson served a relatively quiet two year term in office until November 1873.

Following the completion of his term, Mayor Catterson moved to Minnesota. He later moved to Texas where he died on March 30, 1914 at the age of 79.  He is buried in the San Antonio National Cemetery.

Little Rock Look Back: Gen. R. F. Catterson MD, Little Rock’s 30th Mayor

R_F_Catterson_BGen_ACWOn this date in 1835, future Little Rock Mayor Robert Francis Catterson was born in Indiana, the son of Irish immigrants.  He studied medicine in Ohio and established a medical practice in Indiana upon completion of his studies.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted as a private in the Union Army.  Throughout the war, he was promoted and was eventually mustered out as a brigadier general in 1866.  During his service, he participated in the siege of Vicksburg, the Battle of Chattanooga, the Atlanta Campaign and Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Following his departure from the military, Catterson decided not to return to medical practice.  He moved to Arkansas and worked for a brief time in the cotton commodities field.  He later returned to military service commanding a militia fighting the Ku Klux Klan.  Catterson was appointed US Marshal and would also command the Brooks troops during the Brooks-Baxter War in Little Rock.

In November 1871, he was elected Mayor of Little Rock. His election ended a tumultuous two-year period where the Little Rock City Council tried unsuccessfully to remove Mayor A. K. Hartman.  Mayor Catterson served a relatively quiet two year term in office until November 1873.

Following the completion of his term, Mayor Catterson moved to Minnesota. He later moved to Texas where he died on March 30, 1914 at the age of 79.  He is buried in the San Antonio National Cemetery.

Little Rock Look Back: Mayor Robert Francis Catterson

R_F_Catterson_BGen_ACWOn this date in 1835, future Little Rock Mayor Robert Francis Catterson was born in Indiana, the son of Irish immigrants.  He studied medicine in Ohio and established a medical practice in Indiana upon completion of his studies.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted as a private in the Union Army.  Throughout the war, he was promoted and was eventually mustered out as a brigadier general in 1866.  During his service, he participated in the siege of Vicksburg, the Battle of Chattanooga, the Atlanta Campaign and Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Following his departure from the military, Catterson decided not to return to medical practice.  He moved to Arkansas and worked for a brief time in the cotton commodities field.  He later returned to military service commanding a militia fighting the Ku Klux Klan.  Catterson was appointed US Marshal and would also command the Brooks troops during the Brooks-Baxter War in Little Rock.

In November 1871, he was elected Mayor of Little Rock. His election ended a tumultuous two-year period where the Little Rock City Council tried unsuccessfully to remove Mayor A. K. Hartman.  Mayor Catterson served a relatively quiet two year term in office until November 1873.

Following the completion of his term, Mayor Catterson moved to Minnesota. He later moved to Texas where he died on March 30, 1914 at the age of 79.  He is buried in the San Antonio National Cemetery.