199 years ago, 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: 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: Little Rock becomes the Capital of Arkansas

Arkansas TerritoryOn 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 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 $408,000 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: Mayor John E. Knight

Jno E Knight sigOn September 20, 1816, future Little Rock Mayor John Elliott Knight was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts. In 1843 he married Hannah Donnell in New York, and came to Little Rock that same year.

Knight was editor of the Arkansas Democrat from 1846 to 1850. He was also associated with the Arkansas Gazette and published the short-lived Chronicle. In 1851, Knight served as Mayor of Little Rock. In 1855, he served as a member of the City Council.

In 1858 a song was published entitled “I Am Near to Thee” which featured music by Arkansan Benjamin Scull and lyrics by Knight.  The song was dedicated to Mary Woodruff.

During the Civil War, he served as a Colonel.  During the 1850, 1860 and 1880 census, he was listed as an attorney.

He had one daughter, Elizabeth Knight, who married James S. Pollock, a banker in Little Rock. Knight died in Little Rock, Arkansas, on October 28, 1901, and was buried in Mount Holly Cemetery. Elizabeth Knight Pollock died in 1910.

As an attorney and newspaper editor, John E. Knight collected documents about the settlement of Little Rock. Those papers are now part of a collection at the Arkansas History Commission.  The majority of these papers are from William Russell to Chester Ashley, pertaining to pre-emption claims in and around Little Rock. Other material concerns the 1819-1822 dispute related to the the New Madrid Certificate and pre-emption claims of James Bryant, Stephen F. Austin, and William M. O’Hara.

Little Rock Look Back: Little Rock becomes Capital of Arkansas

Arkansas TerritoryOn 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.

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 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 $408,000 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: John Elliott Knight, LR’s 18th Mayor

Jno E Knight sigOn September 20, 1816, future Little Rock Mayor John Elliott Knight was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts. In 1843 he married Hannah Donnell in New York, and came to Little Rock that same year.

Knight was editor of the Arkansas Democrat from 1846 to 1850. He was also associated with the Arkansas Gazette and published the short-lived Chronicle. In 1851, Knight served as Mayor of Little Rock. In 1855, he served as a member of the City Council.

In 1858 a song was published entitled “I Am Near to Thee” which featured music by Arkansan Benjamin Scull and lyrics by Knight.  The song was dedicated to Mary Woodruff.

During the Civil War, he served as a Colonel.  During the 1850, 1860 and 1880 census, he was listed as an attorney.

He had one daughter, Elizabeth Knight, who married James S. Pollock, a banker in Little Rock. Knight died in Little Rock, Arkansas, on October 28, 1901, and was buried in Mount Holly Cemetery. Elizabeth Knight Pollock died in 1910.

As an attorney and newspaper editor, John E. Knight collected documents about the settlement of Little Rock. Those papers are now part of a collection at the Arkansas History Commission.  The majority of these papers are from William Russell to Chester Ashley, pertaining to pre-emption claims in and around Little Rock. Other material concerns the 1819-1822 dispute related to the the New Madrid Certificate and pre-emption claims of James Bryant, Stephen F. Austin, and William M. O’Hara.