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.

 

Advertisements

Little Rock Look Back: Mayoral Election of 1866

Following the cessation of Little Rock municipal government in September 1863, there was no mayor of Little Rock for the remainder of the Civil War.

In the late summer of 1865, plans were announced for the resumption of local government, and elections were set for October 16, 1865.  Former mayor William E. Ashley (the first mayor of Little Rock to be born in Little Rock) had expressed his intention to run for the office.  W. S. Oliver had also announced his candidacy. On that day, however, the elections were suspended by military leadership over Arkansas. There were issues related to the governance of Arkansas under Reconstruction.

Details in the Arkansas Gazette were vague. However whatever the actual issues were seem to have been resolved. A new election date was set for January 1, 1866.

On November 4, 1865, William E. Ashley issued a notice that he was withdrawing from the race. He had apparently been in ill health for a period of two months. As he was recovering, he found himself needing to devote his time to his business affairs he had neglected during the illness.

A week later, Ashley was the lead signatory on a letter sent to Dr. J. J. McAlmont (a local physician and pharmacist) asking him to be a candidate for mayor. There were a total of twenty-nine men who signed the letter including several former members of the City Council.  Dr. McAlmont sent a letter accepting the offer and announcing he would be a candidate.  Both letters were printed in the Arkansas Gazette.

On January 1, 1866, the election took place.  The Gazette reported approximately 600 people voted and that Dr. McAlmont won.  It did not give a vote total for him or any opponents.   He would serve in office for a year.

LR Culture Vulture turns 7

The Little Rock Culture Vulture debuted on Saturday, October 1, 2011, to kick off Arts & Humanities Month.

The first feature was on the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, which was kicking off its 2011-2012 season that evening.  The program consisted of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90, Rossini’s, Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers, Puccini’s Chrysanthemums and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.  In addition to the orchestra musicians, there was an organ on stage for this concert.

Since then, there have been 10,107 persons/places/things “tagged” in the blog.  This is the 3,773rd entry. (The symmetry to the number is purely coincidental–or is it?)  It has been viewed over 288,600 times, and over 400 readers have made comments.  It is apparently also a reference on Wikipedia.

The most popular pieces have been about Little Rock history and about people in Little Rock.

155 years ago today: the “Battle” of Little Rock

The Civil War came to an end for Little Rock 155 years ago today (September 10) as Federal troops took control of the city.  Unlike some other Southern capitols, there was no long siege or bloody battle.

On September 10, 1863, Confederate forces under General Sterling Price evacuated Little Rock in advance of Federal forces, thus ending the Little Rock Campaign. By 5:00pm, his forces had left the city and at 7:00pm, civil authorities formally surrendered. Little Rock became the fourth Southern capital to come under Federal control.

The battle was the culmination of a campaign launched by Maj. Gen. Fred Steele, on August 1, 1863 to capture Little Rock. The campaign includes engagements at Westport, on 14 August, Harrison’s Landing, on 16 August, Brownsville on 25 August, the Reed’s Bridge, on 27 August, and Ashley’s Mills on 7 September 1863. After the Union army affected a river crossing east of Little Rock, effectively flanking the Confederate defenses north of the river, the Confederates staged a brief delaying action at Bayou Fourche to allow for evacuation of Little Rock.

As local historian Dr. Bobby Roberts has noted, “It was really more of a ‘skirmish’ than an actual ‘battle.’”

City of Little Rock leaders must have been anticipating the result of the battle.  In August 1861, they took the City’s treasury to an undisclosed location and started scaling back on City government.

The Battle of Little Rock is also known as the Battle of Bayou Fourche.

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.

Arkansas at 182

Today is the 182nd birthday of the State of Arkansas.  Congress approved it as the 25th state on June 15, 1836.  (On June 22, 1868, Arkansas was readmitted to the union following the Civil War – but it is the first statehood date that is celebrated.)

On January 30, 1836, a convention was held in the Arkansas Territory for the purpose of adopting a constitution which would be submitted as part of a request for statehood.

The law granting statehood also established the state as a judicial district known as the Arkansas District.  The judge for that district would be paid $2,000 a year.  (The equivalent of $52,230 today.)  An attorney for the US was also created. That position would be paid $200 in addition to his stated fees. (The equivalent of $5,223 today)

 

LR Look Back: Thomas D. Merrick – who nearly started the Civil War 2 months early

Thomas D. Merrick was born on 23 May, 1814, in Hampden County, Massachusetts. He later moved to Indianapolis IN and Louisville KY before ending up in Little Rock.

On January 17, 1841, he married Anna M. Adams of Kentucky at Christ Episcopal Church in Little Rock. They had seven children: George, Annie, Ellie, Mollie, Lillian, Dwight, and Thomas. Thomas died at age ten.

Merrick became a prominent member of the Little Rock business community, as a merchant and cotton broker. He was involved in Freemasonry, holding the position of Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas in 1845.

In 1855 Merrick entered into a business partnership with future LR Mayor John Wassell. Merrick was also involved in city politics, serving on the city council and also as mayor from January 1854 to January 1855.

He saw active service during the Civil War. On February 6, 1861, Merrick delivered an ultimatum to Captain James Totten of the United States Arsenal at Little Rock, demanding the surrender of the federal troops.  This was more than two months before Fort Sumter was attached,.

Merrick also raised a regiment of Confederate Arkansas Militia, holding the rank of Colonel of Infantry at Camp Conway, near Springfield, Arkansas.  Following the Battle of Shiloh (April 1862), Merrick resigned his commission and returned to Little Rock.

Merrick died in his home in Little Rock on March 18, 1866.  He is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery.