November is known for being the month in which Election Day is found, and throughout Arkansas history there have been many pivotal elections and important events that have happened in November. Here are just a few.
First Territorial Elections
On Nov. 20, 1819, the first territorial election was held to establish a General Assembly in Arkansas Territory.
The election was called for by Robert Crittenden, a 21-year-old from Kentucky who was the secretary of the territory, and took place even though the territory’s governor, James Miller, had not yet arrived in the territory, because his appointment papers were sent to Arkansas instead of his home in New Hampshire. (He wouldn’t make it to the territory until Dec. 26.)
James Woodson Bates was elected over Stephen F. Austin (yes, that Stephen F. Austin) as Arkansas’ delegate to Congress. He was the sole representative of the territory in Washington and therefore considered to be the most powerful elected official in the territory.
Arkansas Gazette Founded
Photo courtesy of Historic Arkansas Museum
That same day the first issue of the Arkansas Gazette was published. William E. Woodruff, who was originally from New York, worked for newspapers in Louisville, Ky., and Nashville, Tenn., before moving to Arkansas with a used press that arrived at Arkansas Post on Halloween of 1819.
The Gazette was appointed as the public printer for the federal government in the territory, but Woodruff clashed with Crittenden over editorial content of the paper, and he tried to give printing jobs to a competitor.
After the seat of government moved from Arkansas Post to Little Rock, Woodruff moved the paper there, publishing the first issue from Little Rock on Dec. 29, 1821.
The paper played a major role in Arkansas history through the years, winning two Pulitzer Prizes in 1957 for its coverage of the desegregation of Central High School. A long-fought newspaper war eventually led to the paper’s purchase by its cross-town rival Arkansas Democrat, and the paper was published for the last time Oct. 18, 1991, ending a run of almost 172 years of publication.
The State Gets a Second Song
“The Arkansas Traveler” was named the second official state song on Nov. 10, 1947, by a state committee, which called for submissions from the public for lyrics.
The State Song Commission published lyrics for the tune in 1949, without crediting the author. While this version was never officially ratified by the legislature, it stood as the de facto state song from 1949 until 1963, but was never very popular. Orval Faubus reinstated the original state song, “Arkansas” by Eva Ware Barnett, who assigned her copyright to the secretary of state’s office.
“The Arkansas Traveler” is a classic fiddle tune first published in 1847, and was apparently inspired by an actual Arkansas traveler, Sanford Faulkner, who played the tune when visiting a remote log cabin in the state.
A Brief History of Judson University
Judson University, a short-lived Baptist college founded in present-day Judsonia in White County, has bookends of its history in the month of November.
The school was the dream of Martin R. Forey, a professor at Chicago University who also founded Chowan Female Institute in Murfressboro, Tenn. He wanted to start a Baptist college in the south and, after facing hostility to his idea in Prairie County, settled on White County instead.
Forey and a group of about 40 followers moved to Prospect Bluff (which would eventually become part of the town of Judsonia) in early 1871, and he purchased 250 acres of land for the school in November of that year. The board designated the spot for the first building on Nov. 2, and the school was open before the end of the year.
The school, named for the first foreign American missionary, Adoniram Judson, was ambitious but never had much money. At its peak it had more than 100 students and a faculty of five. The board of trustees established Evergreen Cemetery as a source of income for the school in 1874, and while things went well for a few years, the land the school sat on was foreclosed on in 1883.
The school opened again in 1888 but was open less than a full term, and on Nov. 28, 1901, the final asset of the university, the cemetery, was transferred to the cemetery board. The steeple bell is all that remains of the school, and it is still in use at Judsonia’s First Baptist Church.
Births and Deaths
On Nov. 9, 1827, Henry Wharton Conway, then the territorial representative in Congress, died from injuries sustained in a duel with the above-mentioned Robert Crittenden (the duel took place Oct. 29).
Nov. 22, 1828, George Izard, second territorial governor, died in office from complications of gout. He was 52 years old. Originally buried near the Peabody School, he was reinterred after Mount Holly Cemetery was established, in 1843. Izard County was named after him.
Arkansas’ seventh governor, Harris Flanagin, was born Nov. 3, 1817, in New Jersey. Our 17th governor, William Meade Fishback, was born Nov. 5, 1821, in Virginia; Benjamin Travis Laney Jr., the 23rd governor, was born Nov. 25, 1896 in the Jones Chapel Community, more commonly called Cooterneck (you can’t make this stuff up).
Photo courtesy of the Butler Center for Arkansas History
William Read Miller, the 12th governor, was born Nov. 23, 1823, near Batesville, being the first native-born person to serve as governor. He served two terms, from 1877 to 1881, that were marked by his “reputation for personal probity and sound financial management,” according to The Governors of Arkansas. He died Nov. 29, 1887, and is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock.