Little Rock Look Back: Founding of Rose Law Firm

On November 1, 1820, Robert Crittenden and Chester Ashley signed an agreement to form a “Partnership in the Practice of Law.”  This document is the genesis for what is now known as the Rose Law Firm, the oldest law firm west of the Mississippi River.

Crittenden and Ashley were both political leaders.  At the age of 22, Crittenden was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas Territory by President James Monroe.  Ashley would serve as a U.S. Senator from Arkansas from 1844 to 1848.  His son William E. Ashley was the first Little Rock mayor to be born in Little Rock.

Both Crittenden and Ashley have counties in Arkansas named in their memory.  In addition both Chester and Ashley streets in Little Rock are named for the latter.

In 1832, Crittenden and Ashley dissolved their partnership, though each continued practicing law.  George Watkins joined Mr. Ashley in 1837.  By 1865, U.M. Rose joined partnership. The name Rose has been in the firm’s name ever since.

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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.

Little Rock Look Back: Roswell Beebe Gets the Deed to Little Rock in 1839

Map showing boundaries of original City of Little Rock

On September 25, 1839, businessman Roswell Beebe received title to all of the land in Little Rock.

Starting in the 1810s, there had been much dissension as to who had title to land in what would become Little Rock.  As the settlement developed into a town and city, these disagreements became greater. Often land speculators would sell land to settlers without having the right to do so.

Coming to Little Rock in 1835, Beebe was a witness to the continued uncertainty over land ownership.  In early 1839, he acquired 240 acres which had the only incontestable title in town. This acreage comprised most of Little Rock. He went to Washington DC in 1839 and, on September 25, received the original patent for the town of Little Rock, signed by President Martin Van Buren. It is recorded in the Pulaski County recorder’s office Book L, page 312.

Upon his return, Beebe gave all the people who had bought lots from a certain real estate developer, whom he considered to be fair and honest, title to their land for a dollar. In December 1839, he drew up a plan for Little Rock, laying off blocks and streets. He deeded the streets and alleys to the city for a dollar.

He gave the state the title for the land on Markham Street, where the new capitol building (now the Old State House Museum) was located.  He also donated part of the land for Mount Holly Cemetery, the other portion came from his brother-in-law Chester Ashley.

Birth of William E. Ashley in 1823 – first LR Mayor to have been born in LR

On August 6, 1823, future Little Rock Mayor William Eliot Ashley was born in Little Rock.  He would go on to become the first Little Rock Mayor to be born in Little Rock.  Ashley was the son of Mary and Chester Ashley; his father would later serve as a U. S. Senator from Arkansas.  He was the second of the couple’s seven children.

Though he was raised in Little Rock, he did receive some schooling out of state. The State History Commission has correspondence between eleven year old William, studying in New York, and his father. Part of the letter is a request for money.

On October 26, 1846, he married Frances Eliza Grafton at Christ Episcopal Church.  They were the first Little Rock residents to be married in that church.  The couple had five children, including triplets.  Only one of the children, Frances (who was one of the triplets) survived to adulthood.

Ashley was first elected Mayor of Little Rock in 1857. After completing a two year term, he was succeeded by Gordon N. Peay (another scion of a prominent Little Rock family).  In 1861, Ashley returned to the office of Mayor.  He was reelected to a third term in 1863.  In September 1863, following the defeat of Confederate troops by the Union forces at the Battle of Little Rock, the City of Little Rock ceased operations.  On September 21, 1863, Little Rock municipal government closed its doors, stopped collection of taxes and disbanded.  Thus Ashley’s third term ended.

In addition to his interest in local government, Ashley was a member of St. John’s College Board and a director of the newly-formed Little Rock Gas Company.

William Eliot Ashley died on August 16, 1868, at the age of 45.  He was buried in Mount Holly Cemetery (which sat partially on land that had once belonged to his family). His parents, wife and children are all buried in Mt. Holly as well.

Interestingly, for someone who grew up in a prominent family, there does not appear to be a surviving likeness of Mayor Ashley – either in painting or photograph.  Several exist of his parents, but none of him.

175 years of Mount Holly Cemetery

2018 marks the 175th year of Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock.

The land was donated by Roswell Beebe and Chester Ashley in February 1843.  From March through October 1843, the Little Rock City Council would pass a variety of ordinances and resolutions governing the cemetery and making other provisions for it.

Though the opening day sale of lots and picnic would not take place until May 1843, the first burial appears to have been on April 8, 1843.  William Cummins was buried will full Masonic orders on that day.  The service was conducted by Little Rock’s second mayor, Rev. W. W. Stevenson.

On May 1, 1843, it became illegal to bury persons in Little Rock any where other than Mount Holly.  This ordinance had been adopted on March 7, 1843.

The prior cemetery had been at Capitol and Gaines Streets (on which a portion of the Federal Courthouse now stands). Skeletal remains have also been found at Seventh and Rock Streets, in what was probably a family burial plot.  Other small plots were in existence until action in 1834 by the Little Rock Town Council which prohibited private cemeteries.

During the Civil War and years following it, the City would establish other cemeteries and allow additional cemeteries to be created.  But the creation of Mount Holly marked another step in Little Rock’s development as a city.

From 1843 until 1877, Mount Holly was governed by a City Council Committee.  Upset by the lack of attention given to the cemetery, a group of civic leaders asked the City Council to create a separate Commission to govern the cemetery. This was done on March 20, 1877.  It was possibly the first City Board or Commission composed of non-elected officials.

By 1914, the cemetery was once again being neglected.  This time a group of Little Rock’s leading women decided it was time to band together to address it.  In June 1915, the Little Rock City Council disbanded the Cemetery Commission for Mount Holly and designated the Mount Holly Cemetery Association as the governing body.  103 years later, the ladies of the Mount Holly Cemetery Association continue this outstanding work.

Little Rock Look Back: Founding of what is now Rose Law Firm

Rose Law FoundersOn November 1, 1820, Robert Crittenden and Chester Ashley signed an agreement to form a “Partnership in the Practice of Law.”  This document is the genesis for what is now known as the Rose Law Firm, the oldest law firm west of the Mississippi River.

Crittenden and Ashley were both political leaders.  At the age of 22, Crittenden was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas Territory by President James Monroe.  Ashley would serve as a U.S. Senator from Arkansas from 1844 to 1848.  His son William E. Ashley was the first Little Rock mayor to be born in Little Rock.

Both Crittenden and Ashley have counties in Arkansas named in their memory.  In addition both Chester and Ashley streets in Little Rock are named for the latter.

In 1832, Crittenden and Ashley dissolved their partnership, though each continued practicing law.  George Watkins joined Mr. Ashley in 1837.  By 1865, U.M. Rose joined partnership. The name Rose has been in the firm’s name ever since.

Little Rock Look Back: Roswell Beebe

Roswell Beebe, Little Rock's 16th Mayor

Roswell Beebe, Little Rock’s 16th Mayor

On December 22, 1795, future Little Rock Mayor Roswell Beebe was born in Hinsdale, New York.  His family were wealthy English immigrants.  At seventeen, Beebe went to New Orleans and fought with Andrew Jackson in the 1815 Battle of New Orleans.  He stayed in the Crescent City for the next two decades building successful lumber and brick businesses.

Due to health concerns, he moved north to a drier climate in 1834.  After first stopping in Fulton, Arkansas, he settled in Little Rock in 1835 at the age of forty.  He stayed at the home of Chester Ashley and married Ashley’s sister-in-law, Clarissa Elliott.  He and Clarissa had two children, Roswell and Cora.

For nearly 30 years, Little Rock had a complicated history of deeds, titles and land ownership.  In 1839, Beebe went to Washington DC and received the original patent from President Martin Van Buren.  He then set about clearing up the land and title issues, as well as drawing up a plan for the city and laying off blocks and streets.  Beebe deeded the streets and alleys to the City for a dollar.  He also donated the land on Markham Street for a new State Capitol building (now home of the Old State House Museum).  Along with his brother-in-law Chester Ashley, he donated the land for the establishment of Mount Holly Cemetery.

In 1848, Beebe was elected to the Little Rock City Council.  The following year, he was elected Mayor.  He served as Mayor of Little Rock from April 1849 to February 1850.

While his primary business focus in the 1840s had been real estate, in the 1850s he focused on railroads.  Beebe was named president of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad Company in 1853.

While on a visit to New York, Beebe died on September 27, 1856.  His body was returned to Little Rock, and Roswell Beebe was buried at Mount Holly Cemetery.  The town of Beebe, Arkansas, is named in his honor.