First documented theatrical performance in Little Rock on January 8, 1835

On January 8, 1835, the Little Rock Town Council passed an ordinance granting the Society of Thalians a one year franchise to conduct performances in Little Rock.

That same day, the Thalians performed She Stoops to Conquer, Oliver Goldsmith’s 1773 comedy.

The following week, on January 17, they performed the comedy Ways and Means (by George Colman, Jr.) and David Garrick’s farce The Lying Valet.

The cost of the license to perform was $10 for the year. That would be the equivalent of $287 today. The ordinance also instructed the Town Constable to attend, by himself or a deputy, all theatrical performances to keep and preserve order.

There may well have been theatrical troupes come through Little Rock prior to January 1835, but records do not exist to any performances they may have given.  The performances by the Thalians are the first documented theatrical productions in Little Rock.

Happy 188 to Little Rock!

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.

176 years of Mount Holly Cemetery

Mount Holly Cemetery in January 2013.

2019 marks the 176th 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 location 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: First documented theatrical performance in Little Rock

On January 8, 1835, the Little Rock Town Council passed an ordinance granting the Society of Thalians a one year franchise to conduct performances in Little Rock.

That same day, the Thalians performed She Stoops to Conquer, Oliver Goldsmith’s 1773 comedy.

The following week, on January 17, they performed the comedy Ways and Means (by George Colman, Jr.) and David Garrick’s farce The Lying Valet.

The cost of the license to perform was $10 for the year. That would be the equivalent of $287 today. The ordinance also instructed the Town Constable to attend, by himself or a deputy, all theatrical performances to keep and preserve order.

There may well have been theatrical troupes come through Little Rock prior to January 1835, but records do not exist to any performances they may have given.  The performances by the Thalians are the first documented theatrical productions in Little Rock.

Little Rock Look Back: Mayoral Election of 1832

Little Rock’s 73rd Mayor will take office on Tuesday, January 1, 2019.  In the next few weeks, past races for mayor will be featured on Tuesdays.

Up first is the the first race for mayor.  It was between Dr. Matthew Cunningham and Rev. W. W. Stevenson.

  • Dr. Cunningham had been a founding father of Little Rock.  He was the first physician, husband of the first woman to be a permanent settler of Little Rock, and father of the first baby born to a Little Rock resident.
  • Rev. Stevenson was a member of the Presbyterian clergy as well as a geologist.  He had first come to Batesville before settling in Little Rock.

In November 1831, the Town of Little Rock was officially chartered by the Territory of Arkansas.  The first election was set for New Year’s Day, 1832.

On the appointed day, the white men who were eligible to vote gathered at the prescribed location and cast their votes. By a vote of 23 to 15, Dr. Cunningham won the race. There are no media accounts of issues that may have arisen during the campaign, or if there was even much of a campaign.

Dr. Cunningham served as Little Rock’s first mayor during the calendar year of 1832 but did not seek a second term.  His successor was Rev. Stevenson. Records suggest that Rev. Stevenson may have been unopposed in his quest. He, too, served only one year.  Later in the 1830s, some friends tried to recruit him to run for mayor again, but he declined.

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 History: 180 years of Little Rock

Last week (November 2) marked the 1835 incorporation of Little Rock as a City.  However, today marks the 180th anniversary of Little Rock first being incorporated as a town by the Arkansas Territorial Legislature.

The first Mayor of the Town of Little Rock was Dr. Matthew Cunningham; he was elected January 2, 1832.  The first City Council meeting took place at his house.  In 1931, a plaque was installed at that site to mark the historic event. (Though it implies that the first city council meeting took place in 1831 not 1832.)

Bennett’s Military Supply is now located on the spot at what is now 3rd Street and Main Street.

Mayor Cunningham, MD

Prior to serving as the first Mayor, Dr. Cunningham had already made quite a few other “firsts” in Little Rock.  He was the first physician to take up residence in the settlement known as Little Rock arriving in February 1820.  His wife, soon joined and became the first female resident of Little Rock.  She had children from her first marriage, but after arriving in Little Rock, she and Dr. Cunningham had their first child together — Chester Cunningham, who became the first baby born in Little Rock.

Dr. Cunningham, Mrs. Cunningham and Chester Cunningham are buried next to each other in Mount Holly Cemetery.  Interestingly, Dr. Cunningham was involved in a 30 year land ownership dispute with Chester Ashley and Roswell Beebe who also donated the property on which Mount Holly sits.

Graves of Matthew Cunningham, Eliza Cunningham and Chester Cunningham