Batesville HistoryBatesville, lying in the southeastern section of theOzarks, is one of the oldest settlements in Arkansas. It was a major shippingpoint on the White River when Arkansas was still a territory. Years before itbecame a state, it was a "port of entry" into the interior far upstream.Batesville played a commanding part in the early history and development of theOzark region. The town has many tales of pioneer days to unfold regarding itsactual settlement and how "Batesville" became its name.
In historic times, the Osage Nation used the land on which Batesville nowstands as hunting grounds. Under a treaty negotiated in 1808, the NativeAmericans ceded their hereditary tribal lands to the United States. NativeAmericans never again controlled it, although the Cherokee Nation owned theterritory just south and west of the river from 1817 to 1828.
Perhaps the earliest settlement on the present site of Batesville was that ofthe Trimbles and Laffertys in 1810 at the mouth of Poke Bayou. Traveling overthe old Native American trails, a group of white men arrived at the mouth of thePoke Bayou and established the first white settlement. James Trimble,accompanied by John L. Austin, Henderson S. and Lorenzo Dow Lafferty, cameoverland from Kentucky driving a herd of stock cattle before them and stopped atthe mouth of the Poke Bayou. There they found vast canebreaks, providing a finewinter pasture. In the spring of 1811, John Trimble, father of James Trimble,accompanied by his brothers and their families, left Kentucky in keelboats.Traveling down the White River, they landed at the mouth of Polk Bayou and therejoined the settlement.
Other authorities say that by 1812 John Reed had a store at Poke Bayou. Witha store of supplies and whiskey, he traded with the local Native Americans forfurs and other valuables. James McGarrah claimed that he cut the first tree atPoke Bayou in 1814, when he built a house, but thatÕs too late to have been thefirst.
As early as 1818 Joab Hardin was living in a log hut and running a ferryacross the White River. The ferry consisted of nothing but "two small canoes,lashed together with a few split clapboards laid across". Henry Rowe Schoolcraftcame through Batesville a year later and recorded in his journal that the townhad about a dozen houses. Poke Bayou was the name used by Schoolcraft inreferring to Batesville.
During the first fifteen years of settlement, the village existed under threenames: Napoleon, Poke Creek, and Batesville. "Napoleon" was the name CharlesKelly bestowed upon the house he built around 1814 a mile down from thesettlement at the mouth of the Poke Bayou. There was another more importantsettlement on the White River near Arkansas Post by that name, so KellyÕsattempt failed. In 1824, the settlement still called Poke Bayou was officiallynamed Batesville in honor of Judge James Woodson Bates. Judge Bates was thefirst territorial delegate from the Arkansas Territory to Congress. Afterserving in the 16th and 17th Congresses, Judge Bates established his residencein Batesville. His brother, Edward Bates of St. Louis, was Attorney Generalunder President Lincoln. The Bates brothers were originally from Virginia.Although Bates lived in Batesville only three years, he was the most prominentman in Arkansas at that time. One of unusual ability and fidelity to publictrust, as well as a man of personal charm, it was fitting for his fellowtownsmen to give recognition to his standing and attainments by changing thename of the community to Batesville.
The ninth child of Thomas Flaming Bates and Caroline Matilda Woodson, JamesWoodson Bates was born August 25, 1777, at "Belmont" in Goochland county,Virginia. After attending Yale University, he entered Princeton as a sophomorein October 1805. During this period, he attended the trial of Aaron Burr atRichmond. He often spoke of the prominent actors in that celebrated trial,General Jackson and Wilkinson, and particularly of the very pompous manner ofthe latter when on the witness stand.
Soon after leaving Princeton in 1807, Bates began the study of law. In themeantime, his brother, Frederick Bates, was appointed secretary of the Territoryof Missouri and was acting governor in the absence of Gov. Clark. The West wasthen an inviting field for young lawyers, so James followed his brother toMissouri and settled in St. Louis in 1816.
Shortly after Arkansas became a territory in 1819, Bates moved to the Post ofArkansas, the temporary seat of government, and began practicing law. He hadscarcely opened his office for the reception of clients, when, on November 20,1819, he was elected as the first delegate to Congress from the ArkansasTerritory, and was reelected in 1821.
Bates was not a candidate to succeed himself in 1823, and when hisCongressional term ended he moved to Batesville and resumed practicing law.President John Quincy Adams appointed him in 1825 as one of the territorialjudges, but President Andrew Jackson did not renew his commission when itexpired three years later. Bates soon moved to Crawford County in the westernpart of the territory, and after marrying Elizabeth Moore, a wealthy widow,settled on a big farm near Van Buren.
His last important public service occurred in 1835 when he served as adelegate to the state convention and helped draft the first constitution of theState of Arkansas. He died in 1846, and lies in an unmarked grave on the Moorefarm near Van Buren, Arkansas.
In 1813, Samuel Miller, grandfather to Gov. William R. Miller, came toBatesville and settled on the creek, which bears their name. Col. Robert Beancame up the White River in a keelboat in 1814 and established himself at themouth of Polk Bayou. In the same year, James Meachum and Samuel Peel came toBatesville. Other pioneers who came to Batesville prior to 1820 were: JamesRinggold, Col. Hartwell Boswell, John Redmond and Henry Eagle. Among the mostprominent of these was John Ringgold, whose home, erected in 1820, is known asthe old Dr. Lawrence place. It stood on West Main Street, the first house westof the railroad. Owned by Ringgold and his son-in-law Charles Fenton Newton, itwas one of the finest houses in Arkansas. (The brick from this home was used tobuild the Chamber of Commerce Building in 1964.)
Some time after 1820, Col. Charles Fenton Mercer Noland came to Batesvillefrom Virginia. He later married John RinggoldÕs daughter. Col. Noland was one ofthe greatest literary celebrities of the early days. Other prominent settlers ofthis time were Judge Townsend Dickinson and Richard Searcy. Mr. Searcy was thefirst county clerk of the courts.
The town of Batesville was partially laid out in 1821, and on May 23, 1821,the land was granted by Richard Searcy, Thomas Curran and Joseph Hardin to MarkBean. The above named grantors, on March 3, 1822, executed and recorded a billof assurance and a plat of the town as it was then laid out. The communityextended from Block number one at the foot of Main Street to Spring Street, thestreet running just above the First National Bank, and from there to the bridgeacross Polk Bayou.
Batesville became the county seat in 1821, and on November 19, 1821, thefirst court of common pleas was held with Judge Richard Peel and William Moorepresiding. This seems to have been the last court of this nature, for in January1822, The Hon. Richard Searcy opened the first circuit court. This was the onlycourt in operation until April 20, 1930, when Judge James Boswell held the firstcounty court.
The first post office was established in Batesville in 1822 with Nathan Cookas post- master. Col. Boswell, later Judge Boswell, was made postmaster in 1827.
The principle trade of the community in its early existence was supplyinggroceries and provisions to the settlers. Hides and furs were taken in exchange.By 1830 Batesville was described as a "busy little village with three brickbuildings, three stores, and a courthouse that would do credit to any part ofthe union." Charles Felton Mercer Noland, in speaking of Batesville, said: "Somuch beef is eaten in this region that, catch a man by the ear, he will bellowlike a calf".
Aaron W. Lyon came to Batesville in 1833 and engaged in teaching the firstschool for some years but entered the mercantile business in 1842. Mr. Lyon wasone of the trustees of the Batesville Academy, the first academy incorporated inthe state. Governor Conway approved the bill for its incorporation on September25, 1836.
Other dates of interest:
1830 - First Methodist Church organized
1831 - First Steamboat arrived at Batesville
1838 - First newspaper established - Batesville News
1842 - First Presbyterian Church and Masonic Lodge organized
1846 - First Baptist Church organized
1872 - Arkansas College (now Lyon College) was first chartered at Batesville
1878 - An estimated 20,000 bales of cotton were shipped from IndependenceCounty by steamboat
1882 - Railroad was built to Batesville
1900 - Lock and Dam #1, first of three dams on the White River, was built and
steamboat traffic ceased shortly after
1928 - White River Bridge was built
1938 - The White River Water Carnival was established. The carnival was shutdown during the war for several years and then resumed again.
1940 - Current Courthouse was dedicated
1942 - Airport began as a grass strip
1960 - Highway 11 became U.S. Highway 167
1970 - Airport expansion with a 6,000' runway and commercial service began
1980 ÐArkansas Eastman opened
ConAgra or Omaha purchased Banquet Foods from RCA
1982 - Mary Stuart ecame the third straight Miss White River to become Miss
1983 - A 5.3 Million dollar expansion of the White River Medical Center began
1984 - Batesville was selected as a Main Street Arkansas pilot city.
Today the principle crops are soybeans, rice, alfalfa, lespedeza, all grains,sorghum, fruit, and vegetables. The livestock enterprises are poultry, beefcattle, hogs, and dairies. At the present time, the cityÕs economic climate isevenly divided between industry, agriculture, and tourism.
Some of the many industries include White Rodgers, GDX (rubber auto gaskets),Eastman Chemical, Townsends of Arkansas, ConAgra, LaCroix Optical, Pro Dentec,Batesville Cold Storage, Atlas Asphalt, Concord Specialty, Ideal Bakery, andMcBride Stone Quarries.
State Highways 14, 25, 69, 106, 233, 394 and 122, and US Highway 167 servethe city. The Missouri Pacific Railroad provides commercial railroad service asit more or less parallels the White River.
Several major events taking place in Batesville:
February - Community International Night: A celebration ofthe international residents of Independence County, the evening features acommunity potluck dinner and entertainment by local artists with aninternational flare. Sponsored by Lyon College, University of Arkansas CommunityCollege at Batesville and the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce.
March - Ozark Hawg Barbeque Contest: A sanctioned Barbequecook-off and concert. Winner goes to the Memphis Barbeque Contest. A Fridaynight concert features a major entertainer. Sponsored by the Batesville KiwanisClub.
April - Ozark Scottish Festival: On the campus of LyonCollege. Two days of Scottish games and entertainment. Sponsored by LyonCollege.
May - Batesville Heritage Celebration and Tour of Homes: Aweeklong celebration of Batesville and Independence County Heritage. Activitiessponsored by the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce, Batesville PreservationAssociation, Old Independence Regional Museum, Independence County HistoricalSociety, Main Street of Batesville, and the Independence County GenealogicalSociety, among others.
July - Celebrate America Fireworks Display sponsored byCitizens Bank.
August - White River Water Carnival: Attractions include:Miss White River Water Carnival Beauty Pageant, Golf Tournament, VolleyballTournament, Bass Tournament, KidÕs Fishing Derby, 4 Mile Run, KidÕs _ Mile Run,Water Ski Show, Unmanned Boat Races, Skate Board Championship, BasketballTournament, Hot Air Balloon Races, Live entertainment, Arts and craftscommercial vendors, Food, Carnival rides and other activities. Sponsored by theBatesville Area Chamber of Commerce.
August - Independence County Fair
October - Halloween of Main Street - Batesville childrentrick or treat up and down Historical Main Street Batesville.
November - Downtown Christmas lighting
December - Batesville Christmas Parade on Main Street
Brief History of Independence County:
The Arkansas Territorial Legislature meeting at Arkansas Post, then thecapitol of the Territory created Independence County, October 20, 1820, frompart of Lawrence County. Originally, it included all or part of Jackson, Izard,Sharp and Stone counties. The county was named for the Declaration ofIndependence.
According to the 2000 Census, the population of Independence County is34,233. It is located in the north central part of the state and has elevationsranging from below 250 feet to nearly 1,800 feet. Total land area is 483,200acres or 722 square feet. 307,700 acres of it is farmland.
Seven school districts provide public education to Independence County. LyonCollege, a four-year liberal arts institution, is the oldest private Christianschool in the state founded in 1872 (Began as Arkansas College). U.S. News andWorld Report has ranked Lyon College as one of the 10 best regional liberal artscolleges. The University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville is atwo-year state supported school that offers both academic and technical courses.
The Community School and White River Specialized Industries offer specializedservices and training for developmentally disabled children and adults.
Development of Independence County:
- 1810 - 1830
- Permanent settlement began - 1810
First industrial plant was a powdermill on Cave Creek - prior to 1810
Post Office established as Poke Bayou -1811
First business firm was John ReedÕs Tavern -1810
Ferry across theWhite River operated by Joab Hardin
Independence County established - 1820
First courthouse began construction - 1821
William R. Miller, firstnative-born governor of Arkansas, born at Batesville - 1823
- 1830 - 1850
- Methodist church organized - 1830
First steamboat arrived - 1831
First school established - 1832
First newspaper (Batesville News) -1838
First library established by Sunday School Society - 1839
Presbyterian Church organized - 1842
Masonic Lodge organized - 1842
Baptist Church organized - 1846
- 1850 - 1870
- Batesville occupied by Federal troops - 1862
Occupied by General JoeShelbyÕs troops - 1863
Episcopal Church organized - 1866
- 1870 - 1900
- Arkansas College chartered - 1872
20,000 bales of cotton shipped fromcounty by boat - 1878
Railroad built to Batesville - 1882
Firsttelephone exchange - 1888
First chemical fire engine - 1896
Firstwater and power plant - 1897
- Steam boating cased after 1900
Lock & Dam #1 built on White Riverat Batesville - 1900
Board of Trade formed - 1906
Chamber of Commerceformed - 1919
White River Bridge built - dedicated July 4, 1928
- White River stadium build - 1938
Current Court House Built - 1938
Poultry industry developed - 1947
KBTA Radio Station established -1950
Arkansas College moved to new campus - 1954
New County Librarybuilding built - 1958
Arkansas College Fine Arts building completed - 1958
- 1960 - 1980
- Highway 11 made US Highway 167 -1960
Missouri Pacific passengerservice discontinued - 1960
Gateway Vocational-Technical school opened -1975
White River Medical Center opened - 1975
- 1980 - 2000
- Independence County topped 30,000 in the 1980 Census
United Way ofIndependence County began - 1981
First commercial generation ofelectricity took place at the Independence Steam Electric Station near Newark- 1983
Unit 2 of the Independence Steam Electric Station went on line -1984
Gateway Vocational-Technical School becomes the University ofArkansas Community College at Batesville - 1999
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