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The Arkansas History Commission

The Arkansas History Commission


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The Arkansas History Commission was created by the General Assembly in 1905, by Act 215 which was enacted on April 27, established the Arkansas History Commission, making it one of the oldest state agencies. Members may be appointed for additional terms.When originally formed as a state board, the office was to identify and collect historic resources that were related to the state and to publish historical journals. John Hugh Reynolds, a University of Arkansas history professor and later the president of Hendrix College in Conway (1913-1945), provided guidance to the board during its early years. He was responsible for initiating the collection and identification of historical resources related to Arkansas.Dallas T. Herndon, the first director, was employed in 1911; Herndon stated that year, "The Commission exists to gather the records of all of Arkansas's local and state activities to the public.", and he served for forty-two years. In 1951, when the Old State House was restored, the History Commission was moved into a part of the west wing of that building.The first permanent home of the agency was in 1912 in the then-new State Capitol Building. During his tenure, Herndon wrote and edited many books on Arkansas history, the best known of which is his 1922 Centennial History of Arkansas.Subsequent years brought changes to the Commission, many of which had a negative impact on its mission. Restoration of the original state capitol building (now the Old State House Museum) in 1951 provided the commission with a new, expansive home.In 1953 Ted R. Worley, a three-story annex was added to the west wing.John L. Under his direction, the History Commission became a part of the Department of Parks and Tourism in 1971, and moved into its present quarters in the One Capitol mall Building in 1979.Dr. Ferguson continued Worley's vision by expanding the collection of books, pamphlets, microfilm and manuscripts. In addition, Ferguson began expanding the archives' holdings of U.S. Census records and proceeded to increase the in-house microfilming program.Dr. Ferguson's arrival and his involvement in improving the commission's collections coincided with an unprecedented increase in interest in Arkansas history and genealogy. A total of 552 patrons used the department's research facilities in 1961. New facilities were authorized in 1974 by the Arkansas General Assembly, allowing Ferguson to work alongside the National Archives to customize the design to fit the archives' specific needs. In 1979 the offices were opened in the Multi-Agency Complex on the Capitol Mall.It formed the first state-run historic preservation program in 1969. Today that agency is known as the Department of Arkansas Heritage.The commission continued to grow and evolve under Dr. Ferguson's tutelage, including playing an integral part in the 1976 American Bicentennial celebration. Also, the Arkansas Black History Advisory Committee was created in 1991 to collect black historical memorabilia for the archives, to encourage Arkansas black history research, and to assist the Arkansas Department of Education in the development of African-American materials for use in public schools. A traveling exhibit program was added in 1997 to provide free displays to museums, libraries, universities and other cultural and/or historical organizations.Dr. In 1979 the offices were opened in the Multi-Agency Complex on the Capitol Mall.Wendy Richter became the agency's fourth director in May 2005. Today, the agency continues the tradition of preserving Arkansas's documentary heritage by collecting and providing access to manuscript materials, maps, books, visuals, family histories, and various county, state, and federal records. The Commission serves thousands of patrons and hosts several million visits to this website each year.The Commission's current mission is to keep and care for the official archives of the state, collecting materials which impact the history of Arkansas from the earliest times, copy official records and other historical data, and encourage historical research.


Arkansas State Archives and Libraries

Arkansas Genealogy - DistantCousin.com has online databases of military records, obituaries, cemeteries, school yearbooks, and more.

Arkansas Genealogy Queries - free public exchange where you can find other genealogists researching the same family lines as yours.

Arkansas Cemeteries - Look up burial records of veterans and families interred at national cemeteries across the country.

Arkansas Public Records - Access to Arkansas births, marriages, deaths and divorces.

Arkansas History Commission and Archives

The History Commission and Archives provides an excellent library of genealogy records including: United States census records, Manuscripts, Newspapers, State government records, County records, Photographs, Military records, Maps Books and pamphlets, Church and cemetery records, and more.

Arkansas History Commission and Archives
1 Capitol Mall
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201

Phone: (501) 682-6900

Visit Website: http://www.ark-ives.com/

Arkansas State Library

The Arkansas State Library has a genealogy collection, which includes online databases such as the Biography and Genealogy Master Index, and the Biography Resource Center, and includes some excellent books such as the Arkansas Township Atlas, Black Family Research, Arkansas Prior Birth Index, Arkansas Families, Union Soliders Buried in Arkansas, and others.

Arkansas State Library
One Capitol Mall
Little Rock, AR 72201

Phone: (501) 682-2053

Visit Website: http://www.asl.lib.ar.us/

Arkansas Land Patents

The pre-1908 Arkansas Land Records documents the transfer of land ownership from the federal government to individuals. This data can help genealogists associate an individual with a specific location, date and time to authenticate the title transfer and find clues to their family line. Individuals described in this set would be patentees, assignees, warrantees, widows or heirs of the transfer. The legal land description location is given, along with the issue date of the title transfer.

Visit Website: http://www.worldvitalrecords.com/indexinfo.aspx?ix=blmar&kbid=1067

Selected LDS Family History Centers

The following family history centers in Arkansas offer the most comprehensive genealogy resources, including census records, death records, family history records, obituaries, marriage records, vital records, court records, and various other public records.:


The Arkansas History Commission - History

The Arkansas Black History Advisory Committee, created by Act 1233 of 1991, is composed of seven (7) persons appointed by the Governor with the approval of the Senate. Quarterly meetings are held in the conference room of the Arkansas History Commission, One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, Arkansas 72201. The contact person is Dr. John L. Ferguson, State Historian.

The mission of the Arkansas Black History Advisory Committee is to collect black historical materials for the Arkansas History Commission, which is the state archives to encourage research in Arkansas black history and to cooperate with the Arkansas Department of Education in the development of African American historical materials for use in public schools.

We are interested in letters, diaries, journals, business records, photographs, church and lodge records, personal memoirs and anything else of a documentary nature that is related to African American history in Arkansas. Please contact us if you have such materials that you are willing to donate or lend for copying. The address is Arkansas History Commission, One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201.

Links

  • Are you interested in African American history? Visit Resources for African American Studies by the Black History Task Force, Arkansas Department of Education.
  • Search for African American newspapers available on microfilm at the Arkansas History Commission.


Copyright © 1999 Arkansas History Commission. All rights reserved.


Arkansas History Commission Photos Available Online.

YOU'RE SITTING IN YOUR office staring at the wall, and it comes to you, "Why not put a picture of the company's founder there. Or maybe a picture of the company's original building before it moved." But no one can find one.

It just may be possible to find that special picture on the Web. Thanks to one of the largest projects of its kind in the country, the Arkansas History Commission has digitally archived some 13,000 historical images, said Lynn Ewbank, photo archivist.

Now available online at www.arkives.com, the massive project has been two years in the making.

You're not going to be able to take a picture off the Internet and put it in a frame on the wall. But the History Commission will sell you a copy of any of the more than 500,000 negatives and photos has it stored.

The beauty of the Web site, Ewbank said, is that "if you're in New York or China, you can sit in your office and research a portion of our historical image" without having to come to Little Rock.

The History Commission received a $255,976 grant from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council, a division of the state Department of Heritage, in May 1999 to digitize some of its photographs and portraits.

Putting those 13,000 images online was the first step of what Ewbank hopes will be an ongoing project to make much more of what the commission has available to more people.

The grant funded the equipment necessary for the project, digital scanning, hiring of some part-time workers and outsourcing of the digitization.

It also funded hiring a consultant, Raymond Clark of the Denver Public Library, to help oversee the project.

Ewbank pushed the project after she attended a library conference, "Planning for Digitization," that showed various digitization ventures by public and private groups.

A few months later, when the History Commission's director, Dr. John Ferguson, was approached by Richard Davies, director of the state Parks and Tourism Department, about applying for a Natural and Cultural Resources Council grant, Ewbank knew what she wanted. The grant application was written in a week. And the rest, one might say, is history.

Genealogists, historians and publishers are the primary users of the History Commission's archives.

That will likely continue even with the placement of so many images on the Internet.

"Genealogy is one of the biggest pastimes in the U.S. now," Ewbank said. But, until now, a person had to drive to Little Rock to search the archives. "This gives everyone much greater access" to the archives, she said.

Besides the obvious advantages for users, the project also offers some benefits to the History Commission.

"Because there's less handling by patrons, preservation of the materials is enhanced," Ewbank said.

Unlike resources at a library, the archives of the History Commission are one-of-a-kind, original documents or photos that are not lent out. Until the advent of online archives, a genealogist had to do his research at the commission's offices at One Capitol Mall behind the state Capitol. Then when he found what he wanted, a copy was made.

Ewbank said that one of the commission team's biggest concerns was over shipping the material to JJT Inc. of Austin, Texas, the company hired to do the scanning work. That part of the project cost $90,000. All the items were documented beforehand and, much to her relife, all were returned, Ewbank said.

The Arkansas State Library, in the same building, has been a large part of the project. It sponsored Ewbank's trip to the Denver conference and allowed the History Commission to share with WebCat the the library's high-end public access catalog software that allows patrons to search the library's holdings via the Internet. The History Commission/State Library consortia agreement saved the project some $28,000 in software costs, Ewbank said.

So how do you decide which photographs to put on the Internet when you have such a large collection?

Most of the images came from four main collections, Ewbank said, which were chosen because of their formats, size and likelihood to be used by historians and genealogists:

* 2,748 photos of barbers who were licensed in the state from 1937-1997. These were from the state Barber Examiners Board.

* 7,077 images that have been created from negatives taken by the late Ernie Deane, a longtime Arkansas Gazette writer and photographer from the 1930s through the 1980s.

* 1,413 images of Arkansas legislators, taken from 1935-1967 by the Shrader studio in Little Rock.

* 560 images from the "Persistence of the Spirit" exhibit on African-Americans.

Now that the project is up and running, Ewbank hopes to soon offer online payment for people wanting to order a usable photo. All History Commission images are available for use in books, exhibits, films, CD-ROMs and Web sites as long as the commission is credited.

While online patrons can make prints from low-resolution JPG files using their own equipment, photographic prints and high-resolution JPGS are available. A4X5 black and white photo is $10 a 5X7 is $12.50.

Ewbank said she would like to continue digitizing the commission's collection of maps, manuscripts, books and other print materials such as newspapers, but that will depend on getting additional funding, she said.


The Arkansas History Commission - History

This collection contains a history of the Arkansas History Commission and its members around 1920.

Biographical/Historical Note

One of the oldest existing state agencies, the Arkansas History Commission was created by the General Assembly in 1905. Inspired and guided during its early years by John Hugh Reynolds, the Commission is the official archives of the state, responsible for collecting and preserving the source materials of the history of Arkansas. Dallas T. Herndon, the first director, was employed in 1911 and served for forty-two years. During most of his tenure the offices and archives were located in the present State Capitol. In 1951, when the Old State House was restored, the History Commission was moved into a part of the west wing of that building. Under Herndon's successor, Ted R. Worley, a three-story annex was added to the west wing. Dr. John L. Ferguson became director of the History Commission in 1960 and served through April 2005. Dr. Wendy Richter became director in May 2005. The agency continues the tradition of organizing and maintaining the state and local history of Arkansas by collecting manuscript materials, census records, military records, family histories, and various county, state and federal records. The History Commission, which in 1971 became part of the Department of Parks and Tourism, moved into its present quarters in the One Capitol Mall Building in 1979.


Arkansas State Archives

The Arkansas State Archives, located in Little Rock (Pulaski County), is the official state archives of Arkansas and houses the state’s largest collection of documents, publications, photographs, and other material relating to Arkansas history.

The Arkansas History Commission, as the institution was originally named, was established by the Arkansas General Assembly in 1905 as part of the burgeoning state archives movement that swept the South shortly after 1900. It was created largely through the efforts of John Hugh Reynolds, a history professor at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). “The Commission exists,” Dallas T. Herndon, the first executive secretary and director wrote in 1911, the year the legislature finally appropriated funding for the commission, “to gather the records of all [of Arkansas’s] local and state activities, past, present, and future to preserve and classify these records [and] make them accessible to the public.” The commission obtained its first permanent quarters in the then new State Capitol building in 1915. Over the next several decades, Herndon crowded into his small offices a remarkable collection of museum objects, historical manuscripts, public documents, books, and pamphlets.

In 1935, due to the expansion of state government, Herndon was forced to give up much of the commission’s already limited office space. Many of its irreplaceable manuscript collections and other items were placed in the dark, dank basement of the capitol. Here, they were not only inaccessible to the public but were in real danger of being damaged or destroyed by damp, dangerous storage conditions. For the next fifteen years, the commission and its small staff spent much of their time fighting for the agency’s very survival.

After World War II, a successful preservation movement, led by various women’s groups across the state, rescued the Old State House in Little Rock from the wrecker’s ball. The commission was able to obtain the promise of new, larger quarters in this building if restoration plans went through. In April of 1951, Herndon supervised the move of the fruits of his forty years of archival labor into the west wing of refurbished building.

In 1953, Herndon was succeeded as director by Ted R. Worley, a college professor from what is now the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway (Faulkner County). Under his short but progressive tenure, several much-needed improvements were made to the commission’s facilities. Perhaps the most important were the addition of a three-story archival storage annex to the north side of the Old State House and the establishment of an agency microfilming program.

As a result, Worley was able to encourage visits by researchers to the commission’s facilities for the first time in many years. His new storage space allowed him to set aside an area for the use of a modest but growing number of historical and genealogical researchers. To meet their needs, he purchased a small collection of U.S. Census records for Arkansas and a few microfilm rolls of the early files of the Arkansas Gazette and obtained the commission’s first microfilm reader.

In 1960, chronic ill health forced Worley to resign, and the Arkansas History Commission chose John L. Ferguson as his successor. Early in his tenure, Ferguson expanded Worley’s work by acquiring additional manuscript collections and other research materials. With funds from the state Civil War Centennial Commission, he obtained a large microfilm collection of materials relating to the Civil War in Arkansas and additional holdings of U. S. Census records from the National Archives in Washington DC. He also made a major commitment to support the commission’s in-house microfilming program.

Ferguson’s arrival at the commission coincided with an unprecedented public increase in interest in Arkansas history and genealogy. In 1961, the first year for which records are available, 552 patrons used the commission’s research facilities. Within the next two years, the total had more than doubled. To meet this increase, the commission added two new microfilm readers and additional research collections. By 1966, the commission had a total of ten microfilm readers and a large collection of microfilm storage cabinets. Soon afterwards, due to expanding demand, Ferguson extended the commission’s hours of operation from five to six days per week. In 1971, due a general reorganization of state government, the commission became a part of the Department of Parks and Tourism.

By the late 1960s, it was evident that the commission’s current quarters were inadequate. In 1974, the General Assembly included new facilities for the Arkansas History Commission in the soon-to-be-constructed One Capitol Mall Building. Work began in 1976, and the commission moved into its new facilities of almost 30,000 square feet. in the spring of 1979. Since then, over 600,000 patrons have used the commission’s facilities. In April 2005, Ferguson announced his retirement after forty-five years of public service. He was replaced as director by Wendy Richter from Ouachita Baptist University (OBU). She continued in the position for over seven years, leaving in late 2012, and was replaced by Lisa K. Speer of Southeast Missouri State University in April 2013.

The Black History Commission of Arkansas was created by the Arkansas General Assembly in 1991 for purposes of collecting materials pertaining to black history for the Arkansas History Commission, as well as encouraging research into African-American history. The Black History Commission also oversees the Curtis H. Sykes Memorial Grant Program, which funds projects related to black history in the state. The seven members of the commission are appointed by the governor.

In 2016, during a special session of the Arkansas General Assembly, legislation promoted by Governor Asa Hutchinson transferred the Arkansas History Commission from the Department of Parks and Tourism to the Department of Arkansas Heritage (DAH), renaming it the Arkansas State Archives. The powers of commission members, who originally administered the agency, were reduced to a largely advisory function, with the director of the institution now serving at the pleasure of the head of DAH. On February 6, 2018, Speer resigned her position as head of the archives. She was replaced by her predecessor, Richter, the following month. Richter retired in August 2019, and that December, David Ware was chosen to be the new director.

For additional information:
Arkansas State Archives. http://archives.arkansas.gov/ArkansasStateArchives/home (accessed November 6, 2020).

Baker, Russell Pierce. “The Arkansas History Commission and its Manuscript Collections.” MA thesis, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, 1985.

Coker, Robert R. “The Origins of the Arkansas History Commission.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 32 (Autumn 1973): 242–254.

Roberts, Jeannie. “State Archives Director Straps in for the Long Haul.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 8, 2019, pp. 1B, 6B.

Towns. W. Stuart. “Delta Sources and Resources: The Arkansas State Archives (Little Rock, Arkansas).” Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies 50 (August 2019): 134–136.

Russell P. Baker
Arkansas History Commission and State Archives


Black History Commission of Arkansas

The Black History Commission of Arkansas (BHCA) was created as the Arkansas Black History Advisory Committee in 1991. Senator Jerry Donal Jewell introduced legislation that passed as Act 1233, establishing the seven-member, governor-appointed committee. In 1995, Act 980 changed the committee’s name to the Black History Commission of Arkansas. The BHCA was charged with preserving and promoting Arkansas’s black history, as well as advising the Arkansas History Commission (which later became the Arkansas State Archives) with respect to gathering, developing, and keeping the history of black Arkansans.

Ronnie A. Nichols, director of the Delta Cultural Center in Helena-West Helena (Phillips County), and North Little Rock (Pulaski County) educator and civic leader Curtis Henry Sykes were elected as the first chairman and vice chairman of the new committee. In January 1993, Nichols resigned the chairman position, and Sykes became chair. Sykes remained chair until his death in 2007. Historical preservationist Carla Coleman, who was appointed to the commission in 2005, became chair in 2008.

In addition to collecting and preserving the history of black Arkansans at the Arkansas State Archives, the commission has worked closely with the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) since its inception. Act 1233 requires that the commission cooperate with the ADE to develop curricular materials on black contributions to Arkansas history. Two additional pieces of legislation further promoted the collaboration between the commission and the ADE. Act 197 of 1993 directed the State Board of Education to cooperate with the commission to develop a program to increase the racial and ethnic sensitivity of teachers and administrators within Arkansas’s public schools. Act 326 of 1997 created a Black History Task Force that would operate within the ADE but whose members were appointed by the chair of the Black History Commission.

In 1997, the commission began funding small grants to support preservation projects and programs on Arkansas’s black history, operating initially through the Arkansas Humanities Council. In 1999, control of the grant program shifted to the commission, with administrative support from the Arkansas State Archives. In 2009, Senator Tracey Steele and Representative Fred Allen introduced legislation to name the grant program in memory of Sykes. The total number and dollar value of grants awarded by the commission are difficult to estimate. Based on commission records, however, it is fair to say that, by 2019, the commission had awarded over half a million dollars to more than 150 organizations for projects including cemetery preservation, historic marker placements, workshops and conferences, publications, oral history compilations, exhibits, and historic building condition assessments.

The commission receives only minimal support for its operations from the Arkansas General Assembly (less than one percent of the budget of the Arkansas State Archives), and from 2009 to 2014, the commission relied largely on sporadic General Improvement Funds to support its grant program. In 2015, through the efforts of Representative Frederick J. Love, the commission began receiving an appropriation for its grant program.

In 1996, the commission garnered attention for the state of Arkansas when its members presented a request to the state legislature (ultimately unsuccessful) for the erection of a monument on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol or in a public park renouncing and apologizing for the institution of slavery.

For additional information:
“Arkansas Considers Apology for Slavery—Memorial Could Change State’s Image Group Says.” Dallas Morning News, August 17, 1996, p. 38A.

Black History Commission of Arkansas. http://archives.arkansas.gov/ArkansasStateArchives/BHCA (accessed November 6, 2020).

Black History Commission of Arkansas Records. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Lisa Speer
Ouachita Baptist University


The first geologic surveys made from State-appropriated funds go back to 1857-60. A second survey was made from 1871-74. In 1881, the Geological Survey of Arkansas was established under the direction of Dr. John C. Branner and lasted until 1893. During this period, Herbert Clark Hoover, who later became President of the United States, assisted Dr. Branner. For the next 30 years, the Department of Geology conducted a few geologic surveys at the University of Arkansas. In 1923 the Geological Survey of Arkansas was once again established by Act 573 of 1923 under the direction of George C. Branner, the son of John Branner. In 1945, reorganization changed the agency name to the Arkansas Resources and Development Commission, Division of Geology, under the direction of Harold B. Foxhall. From 1951 to 1995 Norman F. Williams was Director and State Geologist. Reorganization in 1955 established the agency as the Arkansas Geological and Conservation Commission. Act 16 of 1963 changed the name of the organization to the Arkansas Geological Commission. In 1995, William V. Bush became Director and State Geologist. In 2003, Mac B. Woodward was appointed Director and State Geologist. In January 2005 Bekki White was appointed Director and State Geologist. Act 129 of 2007 changed the agency name back to Arkansas Geological Survey.

Enabling Laws
Organization

The first geologic surveys made from State-appropriated funds go back to 1857-60. A second survey was made from 1871-74. In 1881, the Geological Survey of Arkansas was established under the direction of Dr. John C. Branner and lasted until 1893. During this period, Herbert Clark Hoover, who later became President of the United States, assisted Dr. Branner. For the next 30 years, the Department of Geology conducted a few geologic surveys at the University of Arkansas. In 1923 the Geological Survey of Arkansas was once again established by Act 573 of 1923 under the direction of George C. Branner, the son of John Branner. In 1945, reorganization changed the agency name to the Arkansas Resources and Development Commission, Division of Geology, under the direction of Harold B. Foxhall. From 1951 to 1995 Norman F. Williams was Director and State Geologist. Reorganization in 1955 established the agency as the Arkansas Geological and Conservation Commission. Act 16 of 1963 changed the name of the organization to the Arkansas Geological Commission. In 1995, William V. Bush became Director and State Geologist. In 2003, Mac B. Woodward was appointed Director and State Geologist. In January 2005 Bekki White was appointed Director and State Geologist. Act 129 of 2007 changed the agency name back to Arkansas Geological Survey.

The Seal of Arkansas Geological Commission, used until 2007.

The Seal of Arkansas Geological Survey, used from 2007 until 2020.

The Arkansas Geological Survey (AGS) is organized into three sections: Administrative Services, Information Services, and Geological Services, all of which are under the direct supervision of the State Geologist. The mission of the Arkansas Geological Survey is to increase the knowledge of the geology of the State, to stimulate the orderly development and utilization of the State's mineral, water, and fossil fuel resources, while protecting the environment.

The Administrative Services Section consists of fiscal services, human resources and support personnel services. This section provides all the administrative support for the agency.

The Information Services Section's primary function is the distribution of information prepared and maintained by the Geological Services Section. This is accomplished through three offices: Map and Publication Sales, Geological Library, and Network & Computer Services.

  • To search for and provide information on the State's mineral, fossil-fuel (coal, oil and gas), and water resources.
  • To encourage the orderly development of these resources.
  • To maintain current geologic map coverage of the State.
  • To study and report on the geologic factors affecting the State's environment.

Geological Services is divided into six major activities: Fossil Fuels/Energy (oil & gas, lignite & coal) Geohazards (earthquakes, landslides, karst) Minerals (industrial aka non-metallic, metallic) Hydrology/Water Geologic Mapping (surface, subsurface) and Public Outreach/Education. Outreach efforts such as the Geology Learning Center fall under this Section but are not a separate activity.

The Geological Support Group consists of GIS/Cartographic Services, Well Sample Library, and Core Repository.

In addition to the major activities in the Geological Services Section, the Agency has several cooperative projects with the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The AGS has three cooperative programs with the Water Resources Division of the USGS: Groundwater Survey Program, Stream Gauging Program (surface water), and Water Quality Program. Each of these is a cooperative program, with the majority of the work being done by USGS personnel using their equipment and facilities. These programs provide baseline water data to the public and other users of water data needed in management and protection activities.

In May 2008 a donation by the State Farm Insurance Group enabled the formation of an Earthquake Education and Outreach Program which enhances our geohazards section. This program will conduct a series of town hall meetings across the state to present "Earthquake 101" an educational program designed for the citizen/layman.

Mission

Our mission is to serve the people of Arkansas by providing geological information in order to develop and enable effective management of the State’s mineral, fossil fuel and water resources while protecting the environment. We look forward to working with the public, industry and government in accomplishing our mission goals. Please feel free to call on us with your questions and we will do our utmost to assist you.


Arkansas History Commission presents exhibit on 19th century black legislators

Arkansas African American Legislators, 1868-1893, a traveling exhibit produced by the Arkansas History Commission and Black History Commission of Arkansas, will be displayed at the Lakeport Plantation during the month of June.

Green Hill Jones, Courtesy
Arkansas History Commission

Over a dozen black men represented southeast Arkansas and Chicot County during this time. The men included James Mason, the mulatto son of Chicot County planter and slaveholder Elisha Worthington Edward A. Fulton, a noted abolitionist from Illinois George W. Bell, a former slave who worked as a college president and physician and men like, Nathan Edwards, John Webb, and Green Hill Jones, who eked out their living as farm laborers into the early 20th century.


1897 UFO Sightings in Arkansas topic of Old State House Brown Bag Lecture today at noon

On Thursday, October 15, at noon, at the Old State House Museum, Brian Irby of the Arkansas History Commission will tell the story of one of the first waves of UFO hysteria that swept through the nation for a Brown Bag Lunch Lecture.

Between 1896 and 1897, the country was in the grips of what was one of the first major panics created by sightings of strange objects in the sky. Less than a decade before the Wright Brothers would fly the first powered flight, newspapers around the country began reporting on sightings of an airship, spotted in the wild.

In April of that year, the unidentified flying object stories came to Arkansas. In April, railroad conductor Jim Hooton told the Arkansas Gazette that he had seen the airship while hunting and provided a sketch to the paper. Just a few weeks later, mounted deputies near Hot Springs said they “noticed a brilliant light high in the heavens,” and drew their Winchesters on a man they said was traveling in an airship.

Brian Irby has a BA and MA from the University of Central Arkansas. He has been on staff at the Arkansas History Commission since 2008 as an archival assistant where he works on educational programs.

Admission is free, and attendees are welcome to bring a sack lunch. Soft drinks and water are provided.

The Old State House Museum is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

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Historical Documents, Maps & More

The Commissioner of State Lands Office was officially created by Act 20 of 1868, namely, "An Act to Provide for the Appointment of a Commissioner of State Lands and Immigration" and became an elected office with the passage of Amendment 37 of the Arkansas Constitution in 1874. Currently, it is one of only five elected Land Commissioners in the United States along with Washington, South Dakota, Texas & New Mexico. As most Arkansans are aware, its primary responsibility today is the collection of delinquent taxes on real estate. If not collected at the county level, the parcels are certified to the State Land Commissioner for public auction. Since 2003, the Commissioner of State Lands has collected over $123,000,000 for public schools. The Land Commissioners Office also has jurisdiction of mineral leasing on state owned property foremost being the states navigable streams and river beds for the extraction of sand and gravel. Perhaps the least known duty is the housing of the state's original land records.

In the early days of the Arkansas Territory, the Land Office was actually a part of the State Auditor’s Office. Known as the General Land Office, its duties were to administer the Federal Government’s programs moving public land into private ownership and record the transactions. Not surprisingly, many of the state’s first General Land Surveyors would later serve as the State Auditor.

With the passage of Act 20, the new Land Commissioner's Office was to, "…take possession and have charge of all of the books, papers, evidences of titles, plats and maps…" Eventually, as all of the public land was donated, homesteaded or bought, the Land Office evolved more into the tax collection agency that it is today. As Commissioners changed and decades passed, the original land records were essentially forgotten and sat in obscurity in the basement of the State Capitol. Some were lost, donated (Arkansas History Commission and Universities) destroyed, water damaged, and others simply disappeared.

Like the saying, "We knew we had them, but we didn’t know what we had. " in 2009, the Land Commissioner’s Office began piecing these records back together. Although some are missing, records long thought to not exist were found. Many volumes have not been viewed by the public in well over one hundred years or longer. These records represent not only Arkansas history, but also where land title began.


Watch the video: Arkansas History Commission Meets in Hot Springs (October 2022).

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