The first court for the county was held in March, 1829. The following is a transcript of the record of the first day’s proceedings: At a circuit court in and for the county of Washington and Territory of Arkansas, on Monday, the 2d day of March, 1829, present: The Hon. James Woodson Bates, circuit judge, Lewis Evans, sheriff, returned into court list of grand jurors to serve as a body for the county at this term of the court, viz.: James Buchanan, foreman; James Billingsley, John Billingsley, John Conner, David Conner, James Simpson, Hugh Shannon, William L. Weddington, John Woody, William B. Woody, Benjamin Garvin, Daniel Vaughn, Alexander Buchanan and R. G. Crisp, who were sworn, received their charge and withdrew to deliberate. Lewis Evans, sheriff, was sworn into office and gave bond and security for faithful performance of his duties as sheriff of Washington County, which is approved by the court. Ordered, That Larkin Newton, John Billingsley and Nathan Caughin be appointed a committee to view and work a road leading from the county seat to the southern boundary of the county at or near Cove Creek. Ordered, That all that part of the county south of a line commencing at a point where the western boundary of the county crosses Matthew’s Mountain, thence easterly with the boundary of said county until it strikes the Barren Fork, thence up the same to the forks, thence eastwardly through the prairie, so as to leave John Ish to the south of said line 100 yards, thence direct to a [p.164] point 100 yards north of Coleman Cook’s, thence due east to the eastern boundary line of the county, be established as a separate and distinct township, to be known as Vineyard Township. Ordered, That that part of the county north of Vineyard Township and south of a line commencing where the western boundary of the county crosses Illinois River, thence up said river to the mouth of Marrs’ Creek, thence up said creek to the forks near the Widow Edwards’, thence up the left hand fork of said creek to its source, thence due south until it strikes Vineyard Township, be established a separate and distinct township, to be known and called by the name of Cane Hill Township. Ordered, That all that part of the county lying north of Vineyard and Cane Hill Townships, and west of a line commencing where White River leaves the county, thence up said river to the mouth of Friend’s Fork, thence with the dividing ridge between Friend’s Fork and the middle fork of said river until it strikes Vineyard Township, be established a separate township, to be known and called Prairie Township. Ordered, That all that part of the county north of Vineyard Township and east of Prairie Township be established a separate and distinct township, to be known and called by the name of Richland Township. It is ordered by the court that John Woody, James Simpson and James Buchanan be appointed as commissioners to view and blaze out a road leading from the town of Franklin to George McInturff’s mill, thence to the south boundary of the county toward Damon’s Lick on Lee’s Creek. On motion, ordered that Thomas Wilson be appointed constable of Prairie Township, and that the clerk take bond and security of said Wilson in the sum of $400. James Simpson is appointed constable of Cane Hill Township with the same bond. Benjamin Garvin is appointed constable of Cane Hill Township. Samuel Vaughn is appointed constable of Richland Township, bond and security $400. John Wilson is appointed county surveyor of Washington County. Ordered, That court now adjourn until 9 o’clock to-morrow morning. On the following day the grand jury returned an indictment against Hiram Johnson for larceny, and reported their business completed. They were discharged, and court adjourned until court in course. At the July term following Judge Benjamin Johnson presided. Thomas Garvin acted as foreman of the grand jury, which body, after one day’s investigation, reported no business before it. Up to this time the courts were held in the dwelling house of John McGarrah. McGarrah had built two log cabins, one of which had a floor of puncheons, while the other was without a floor. The courts were held in the former; the latter was used as a dining room. At this term of the court the sum of $49.75 was appropriated for the purpose of building a court-house. [p.165] The contract was awarded to Samuel Marrs, and was completed before the next term. The building was made of logs, and a fire-place occupied an entire end of the house. At the July term, 1829, a new township, called Illinois, was formed, with the following boundaries: “Beginning on the western boundary of the county, and running eastwardly with the north boundary of Vine Township to the forks of Barren Fork Creek, a little west of John Ish’s; thence up the left hand fork near Pyeatt’s mill, so as to leave all the present settlers on said creek east of said line; thence northwardly to the top of the dividing ridge between the Barren Fork and May’s Creek; thence on said ridge with its meanders to Marrs’ Creek; thence due north to the northern boundary of the county.” At this time, also, judges of election were appointed for the various townships, as follows: Illinois, elections to be held at the house of Joseph St. Clair, Richard Price, Job Ratliff and William Bowers; Richland, elections to be held at the house of Robert McCarny, Rial Williams, Stephen Holmesly and Robert Fletcher; Cane Hill, elections to be held at the house of William B. Woody, John Dodson, James Buchanan and Thomas Kiser; Vineyard, elections to be held at the school-house near Hugh Marrs’, Jonathan Allen, Hugh Shannon and John Ish; Prairie, elections to be held at the court-house, Larkin Newton, John Wilson, Jr., and Christopher Harness. In 1830 a county court was established, and Robert McCarny appointed county judge. No record of this court, prior to 1835, could be found. Meantime several new townships were formed, as is indicated by the following list of judges of election appointed for August, 1836: Prairie Township, Solomon Tuttle, James Byrnside, W. S. Wallace; Osage Township, J. B. Dixon, George Wallace and David Woods; Benton Township, Samuel Tiner, John McPhail and John McLaughlin; Clear Creek Township, Joseph Sinclair, William Clary and Isaac Cate; Illinois Township, Thomas Wagner, John Odle and A. Smith; Vineyard Township, Jacob Chandler, William Hunter and Jesse Goddard; Cane Hill Township, Henry E. Campbell, James Mitchell and H. Crawford; Mountain Township, John Ferguson, Samuel Stevenson and William Stirman; Helburn Township, William [p.166] Ake, Ambrose H. Helburn and J. P. Cross; Bowen Township, William Cantwell, John Bowen and Henry McElhany; War Eagle Township, John Long, William Gage and Isaac Crow; Brush Creek Township, Abram Buck, Nathaniel Henderson and John Harp; Richland Township, Ryal Williams, John Slover and Thomas M. Duckworth; Sugar Creek Township, William Reddick, William Ford and Stephen Case. The first Legislature created the counties of Madison and Benton, and the townships of War Eagle, Bowen, Osage, Sugar Creek, Clear Creek, Benton and Helburn, and parts of Richland and Brush Creek were cut off. In January, 1837, the court re-established Brush Creek and Richland Townships, and at the following April term made an order creating White River Township, which included all the territory south of White River, and the northern boundary of Township 15, and west of the range line between Ranges 29 and 30. In 1839 Mountain Township was divided, and the eastern portion was erected into a new township by the name of West Fork. Three years later Mountain Township was again divided, and the part south of the dividing ridge, between the waters of the Illinois River and Cove Creek and Lee’s Creek, was erected into a new township, called Cove Creek. Prior to this time, however, in July, 1841, Clear Creek Township was re-established, and in 1852 it was divided, and Elm Springs Township created. From that time until the close of the war there were no further changes in the municipal townships. The first county court after the organization of the State government was begun and held on January 9, 1837. There were present the following magistrates: John Cureton, John G. Stout, James Owens, Booker Smith, John T. Edmiston, L. C. Blakemore, Thomas Wilson, John Robinson, Lorenzo D. Pollock, Nathaniel Burdire, Samuel Wilson, John Campbell and John D. Moore. John Cureton was elected judge; B. H. Smithson, clerk, and Lucius C. Pleasants, sheriff. At about this time a new court-house was completed by the contractor, William M. Kincaid, at a cost of over $5,000. It was a brick structure, and was a very creditable building for a new county. In October, 1839, the county court made an order for [p.167] the erection of a new jail, and appropriated $5,000 for the purpose. Archibald Yell was appointed to superintend its construction. It was to be built of stone, and was to be 42×22 feet, two stories high. In the lower story were to be the dungeon and the debtors’ room, and in the upper story the jailor’s residence. The walls of the dungeon were to be forty-two inches thick, constructed of rock in two layers, with upright sawed timber or round locust poles, six inches thick, between them. The contract was let to Mathew Leeper for $4,460, and the building was erected in accordance with the above specifications.
In June, 1854, James H. Stirman, Alfred M. Wilson and Jonas M. Tibbetts were appointed to let the contract for a new court-house, which was accordingly done. George D. Baker bid $6,900, and received the contract. He completed the building and turned it over to the county in October, 1855. This building was burned during the late war, and in April, 1868, the county court appointed James H. Van Hoose and Thomas J. Pollard, commissioners to superintend the erection of a new court-house. The contract was let to Alexander Hendry for $22,500, and was completed about two years later.
Back to: Washington County, Arkansas History
Source: History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas. Chicago, IL, USA: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.