Washington County Arkansas Genealogical Society
It is the objective of the Washington County Arkansas Genealogical Society to collect and preserve genealogical and historical information with a focus on Washington County, Arkansas. We wish to encourage and provide training to those interested. We champion ethical and accurate research and publication of genealogical and historical information.
“Ma! The Census Taker Is at the Door!”
Article 1 Section 2 of the United States’ Constitution calls for a census of all persons for the purpose of apportioning seats in the House of Representatives. The first US Census, taken in 1790 by US Marshals, counted 3.9 million Americans – less than half the population of New York City today.
On April 9th, WCAGS members, Marcia Connors and Jeanne Tackett, presented a program on researching and using census records. Almost everyone has used census records in their research, but sometimes the records are not used to their fullest extent. “One census does not a family make,” said Jeanne Tackett. “That was one of the first axioms that I learned about the censuses. You should trace the family through as many census decades as possible to get an accurate picture of the family dynamic. It will also help to clear up errors and mistakes made by the census taker.”
“Look at the neighbors in each record also because many times they will either be or become part of the family you are researching,” stated Marcia Connors. “Neighbors married, and families lived close together.”
From 1790 to 1840, the population census listed the names of heads of households only and tallied the family members by age and sex and, alternately, by race and employment. It also tallied the number of slaves held. Beginning in 1850, every person in the family was listed by name, age, sex, employment and place of birth. In 1880, and with all subsequent enumerations, the birthplace of the parents of each individual was given.
Principal questions and categories for the censuses:
• Age and sex: 1790-present, but only free whites until 1820. “Others” and slaves were a single tally until the 1820 census.
• Slaves: 1790-1860
• Color or race: 1790-present, color or race has never denoted any scientific definition of biological origin. “ Black” and “white” have been identified as such since 1790. American Indians were first identified as a separate group in 1870; however, until 1890, those in the Indian Territory or on reservations were not included in the population count for congressional apportionment. In the early censuses, Indians not taxed were not counted, and those that were showed up as “Others”. It was left to the Marshall or the enumerator to determine a race of a person often using only his own opinion or visual conception.
• Citizenship: 1820-1830, 1870, 1890-present
• Physical or mental handicap: 1830-1930, 1970 – present
• Education or literacy: 1840 – present
• Marital status (and relationships): 1880 – present
• Occupation: 1850 – present
• Industry: 1820, 1840, 1910 – present
• Employment Status: 1880 – present except 1920
Censuses are opened to the public after a period of 72 years, which, when the law was made, was considered a lifespan; therefore, there would be only a few, actually living persons who could be located on the census once the records became public. The last census available is the 1930 Census that was released in 2002. The 1940 records will be released in 2012. It is not commonly known, but you can search censuses after 1930 for persons who are deceased. You must document that the person is no longer living, and the National Archives will retrieve requested data for you from the census records. Contact the N.A.R.A. for the specifics. There is a fee.
Over the last 200 years, many records have been lost. In 1790 the jurisdictions of the thirteen original states stretched over an area of seventeen present-day states. Census schedules survive for only two-thirds of those states. The population schedules are available for Connecticut, Maine (then part of Massachusetts), Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Vermont. The schedules for Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Virginia were burned during the War of 1812. Population schedules of the 1800 census survive for 13 states. Lost schedules include those for Georgia, Indiana Territory, Kentucky, Mississippi Territory, New Jersey, Northwest Territory, Virginia, Tennessee, and Alexandria County, District of Columbia. The 1810 schedules exist for 17 states and Georgia territory, Mississippi territory, Louisiana territory (Orleans), Michigan territory, and Illinois territory. There was, however, a district wide loss for the District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana Territory, Mississippi Territory, Louisiana Territory (Missouri), New Jersey and Tennessee. Partial losses included Illinois Territory, which had only two counties (Randolph is extant, St. Clair is lost.), and Ohio (all were lost except Washington County). In 1820, there was a district wide loss for Arkansas Territory, Missouri Territory and New Jersey. Partial losses included half the counties in Alabama, and roughly 20 eastern Tennessee counties supervised by the Federal Court District outside of Knoxville. The only census losses for 1830 include some countywide losses in Massachusetts, Maryland, and Mississippi. There were no substantial state or district wide losses in 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870 or 1880, but in 1880, the “Indian Territory” (now Oklahoma) was not enumerated for non-Indians. Most of the original 1890 population schedules were destroyed in a fire at the Commerce Department in 1921. Less than 1% of the schedules, records enumerating only 6,160 individuals, survived. The surviving fragments consists of 1,233 pages or pieces, including enumerations for Alabama, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas. Unfortunately, no complete schedules for a state, county, or community survived. The 1890 Veterans schedule did survive and is one of the resources used to reconstruct the burned census. [Editors note: The veteran schedules were for Union veterans of the Civil War. Depending on the location, the enumerator may not have listed the confederate veteran. In the Southern states the question seemed to be “veteran?” In others it was specified “Union Veteran?”]
State censuses are available for many states. State censuses were often taken between federal census years, such as 1855, 1865, 1875, 1885, 1895, etc. Some states with the most valuable state censuses include Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Wisconsin. A major reference source is “State Census Records,” by Ann S. Lainhart (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992). Censuses for Canada and the UK are taken on the “ones” year (i.e. 1901, 1891,1881). Unlike the US records, these records are released after 100 years. The 1901 record is now available for both countries.
1911 Census of Confederate Veterans of Arkansas
By Cheri Coley
In 1911, the Public Acts of Arkansas No. 353 provided that an enumeration of Confederate veterans residing in Arkansas be made by the tax assessors of each county. 1,757 questionnaires (out of the estimated 10,000 veterans at the time) were completed. The originals are on file at the Arkansas History Commission. There are 44 counties represented: Arkansas, Ashley, Benton, Boone, Bradley, Carroll, Chicot, Cleburne, Cleveland, Columbia, Conway, Crawford, Desha, Drew, Faulkner, Franklin, Fulton, Hempstead, Howard, Independence, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lee, Little River, Logan, Marion, Miller, Newton, Ouachita, Perry, Phillips, Pope, Prairie, Saline, Scott, Searcy, Sebastian, Sevier, Sharp, Union, Van Buren, Washington, White, Yell.
The compensation for making this enumeration was 10 cents for each name enrolled under the provisions of the Act. There are 31 counties for which no names were recorded.
The questionnaires on file provide a great deal of information. They list the full name of the veteran, his post office address, the date and place of his birth, the date, State and county of enlistment, the name of the subject’s parents and their birthplaces, and “all facts possible in reference to his parents, grandparents” which included information such as where they lived, Revolutionary and other war service, what country the family came from and where they first settled. The form requested information concerning the education, profession or occupation, civil and military offices held, political party, and church connection of the veteran. In addition, it asked for the maiden name in full of the subject’s wife with date and place of marriage, the names of her parents as well as a full list of the children by the subject of the sketch.
A word of caution – you should consider the age and possible senility of some of the respondents. You may find answers such as “don’t remember, don’t know, or don’t recollect.” Below are two examples of the records. [Editors note: grammatical errors have not been corrected]
Seay, Columbus of Summers, Ark. Was born Apr. 14, 1833 at Cane Hill, Washington Co., Ark the son of Obediah Seay of Ga. and his wife, Sallie Rice. He was educated at Cane Hill, Ark, was a Justice of the peace, Democrat, Presbyterian and a Mason for 50 years. Served in Co. B, Capt. Earle’s Co., Brooks Regt for 3 years, blacksmith for Army. Married Sarah White Edmiston, dau of Crawford and Rebekah (Thornton) Edmiston of Cane Hill, Ark on February 17, 1857. Children:
1. J.H. Seay, deceased
2. J.A. Seay, Electra, Tex.
3. Sallie Seay Cabe, Rhea, Tex.
4. Idah A. Smith, Summers, Ark.
5. Viola Seay Farley, Siloam Springs, Ark.
6. Emmett Seay, Westville, Okla.
7. Ella C. Blankenship, Siloam Springs, Ark.
8. Bessie Seay Marshall, Westville, Okla.
9. Ruby Alice Seay Wright, Summers, Ark.
Certified by Walter Shreve, Assessor of Washington Co., Ark, July 10, 1912
Blackburn, Silvanius Joshua, of Goshen, was born July 1, 1839 at War Eagle (Mills), Benton Co., Ark. The son of Wm. Halbert Blackburn, born at Nashville, Maury Co., Tenn. Who was the son of Joseph Blackburn. Maiden name of subject’s mother was Susan Faris Doyle of Maury Co., Tenn. Subject’s father was in Mexican War. Blackburn was educated in Fayetteville, Ark. College, Robt. Graham, Pres. He was a Democrat and a Methodist. Enlisted in Co., I, 14th Ark. Inf., 2nd Brigade, 1st Div. Price’s Army, 3 yrs. 10 mos. Service. Married Amanda Jane Counts, dau of Geo. and Matilda Johnson Counts of Wesley, Madison Co., Ark., on 11-3-1868.
1. James Henry Blackburn
2. Millie Faris Blackburn
3. Moore Allen Blackburn
4. Margarett Ann Blackburn
5. Lelia Blackburn
Certified by Walter Shreve, Assessor of Washington Co., Ark 6-5-1912
Copies of the information contained in the questionnaires are bound in three volumes with an index. These books are in the military section of the genealogy/ reference section of the Fayetteville Public Library. Our thanks to Mickey Clements for passing on information about these wonderful books.
“Git in th’cellar! Storm’s a-comin’!”
I grew up in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, Texas. On April 2, 1957 around 4:30 in the afternoon, a tornado ripped through Oak Cliff about 12 blocks from my home. I remember the top of the cloud rotating as it moved through the city. Occasionally, the cloud would rise, and the hook-shaped tip would be visible. Then the swirling mass would lower, and the tip would drop out of sight. Its size made it seem much closer than it was. Twenty two years later, on April 10, 1979, I spent a sleepless night watching meteorologist Harold Taft of WBAP-TV in Ft Worth explain why 2/3 of the State of Texas and most of the State of Oklahoma was bright red on the weather map as multiple twisters touched down across both states. My daughters were in Nocona, Texas with their grandparents, and all phone lines were down or clogged with calls. Nocona is on the Red River, 40 miles east of Wichita Falls. Earlier that evening Wichita Falls, along with Vernon, Texas and Lawton, Oklahoma, was hit by a category F-4 tornado over ¾ of a mile wide. The next day, we learned that my children and their grandparents had spent much of the night in the storm cellar. On April 21, 1996, at 10 pm, a tornado cut a 7-mile wide swath of damage through Ft Smith and Van Buren, Arkansas, damaging or destroying much of the Ft Smith business district and killing two people.
It’s springtime. Along with bright days and warm weather, young leaves and colorful flowers, freshly plowed fields and early garden vegetables comes swirling dark storm clouds. Here are the worst tornados on record in the state of Arkansas.
JAN 11, 1898 11:15 pm – 55 dead, 113 injured: The sleeping town of Fort Smith was devastated; 16 died in a single residential block.
MAR 8, 1909 7:00 pm – 49 dead, 600 injured: About 260 homes were destroyed and entire families were killed at Brinkley.
JUN 5, 1916 4:00 pm – 25 dead, 150 injured: Fifty homes were destroyed on the west and north sides of Heber Springs.
APR 15, 1921 2:10 pm – 51 dead, 300 injured: A family of multiple-vortex tornadoes devastated rural Miller and Hempstead Counties.
APR 16, 1939 2:40 pm – 27 dead, 62 injured: Near Center Point, Drew Co. eleven people were killed in a church; others died on plantations.
OCT 29, 1942 10:30 pm – 29 dead, 100 injured: The northern half of Berryville, Carroll County, was destroyed; deaths were in 13 homes.
JUN 1, 1947 3:20 pm – 35 dead, 300 injured: Near Pine Bluff, 11 teenagers died at a meeting hall on Hwy #15; eight deaths were in rural homes.
JAN 3, 1949 4:15 pm – 55 dead, 435 injured: More than 700 homes were damaged or destroyed at Warren, Bradley County.
MAR 21, 1952 4:50 pm – 50 dead, 325 injured: At least 30 people died with 1000 homes destroyed or damaged at Judsonia; others died in rural areas.
MAR 21, 1952 5:00 pm – 40 dead, 274 injured: Nine people died on the northwest side of England; 29 died on the northwest side of Cotton Plant.
APR 10, 1965 6:26 pm – 6 dead, 250 injured: The southeast and east part of Conway, Faulkner County were destroyed.
APR 19, 1968 3:12 pm – 14 dead, 270 injured: Much of Greenwood, Sebastian County “was reduced to matchsticks, kindling and a sea of rubble.”
MAY 15, 1968 8:36 pm – 7 dead, 24 injured: More than half of the town of Oil Trough, Independence County was destroyed.
MAY 15, 1968 8:45 pm – 35 dead, 361 injured: At Jonesboro, 160 homes were destroyed; occupied cars were wrapped around trees.
MAR 28, 1975 6:52 pm – 7 dead, 51 injured: Nearly 400 homes, about a quarter of the town, were damaged or destroyed at Warren.
DEC 14, 1987 9:40 pm – 6 dead, 121 injured: Six died at West Memphis. The funnel just missed a dog-racing track with 7,000 spectators.
MAR 1, 1997 2:20 pm – 6 dead, 30 injured: Hundreds of homes were destroyed in a swath across Nevada, Clark (Arkadelphia), and Hot Spring Counties.
MAR 1, 1997 3:25 pm – 14 dead, 50 injured: Dozens of homes were destroyed in and near Shannon Hills, Sardis, Vimy Ridge in Saline County.
Washington County has had its share of storms throughout the years. In 1881, the top floor of the Tremont Hotel, located on the southwest corner of the Fayetteville Square, was heavily damaged, and the wife of owner, H. L. Glass, was killed. [Flashback, October 1964, page 11*] Seventeen years later, devastation visited again on May 19, 1898,
“The cyclone which swept through the southwestern section of the county Friday evening was much more extensive and destructive than was first suspected. As far as can be ascertained only four lives were lost, but many more were wounded, and the damage to property was immense. The storm arose at Summers’ store and blew northeast in a belt varying from a half a mile and a mile in width. It made a clean sweep of everything in its path. The trees that were not blown down were not only stripped of leaves, but are in many instances barked, the bare trunks alone standing. Savoy caught the full force of the storm.” [The Democrat, May 26, 1898] The storm destroyed homes, barns, schools, and even the Savoy Masonic Lodge. It wiped out orchards, pastures and livestock before it’s fury was spent. On May 7, 1918, a storm centered in the valley between Greenland and West Fork and east of Prairie Grove destroyed a house and several barns. An eyewitness, William Robert Phelan, shared his memories of the storm in a Flashback article in 1989. “ At that time much of the country was covered with large oak timber. The storm was taking these big trees up by the roots, twisting off limbs and breaking hardwood trees as if they were matchsticks. [Flashback, February 1989, p.4*]
Most of us have probably seen or survived a storm in our lifetime. We have also heard of the of precautions that should be taken when a storm is approaching. Local television stations usually offer storm tips at this time of year. Here are some that you may not have heard before. [Thanks to KOLR, Springfield MO]
• A tornado has no significant sound at a distance. If you can hear it (the roaring freight train sound), it is very close, and you have only seconds to take cover.
• There is not always a calm before the storm hits.
• Large, damaging hail is indicative of an approaching, powerful storm capable of producing a tornado.
• The clouds that look like an upside down pan of biscuits are not tornados but do indicate that conditions are right for such a storm to form.
• There is no geographic protection offered by the Ozarkian Plateau. It is too small to determine where a tornado will go. THERE ARE NO TORNADO FREE ZONES IN THE OZARKS.
• Do NOT waste valuable time opening windows in your house to prevent imploding. This is a myth and could be deadly. STAY AWAY FROM ALL WINDOWS.
• The safest place in your home is a storm cellar, but if you do not have a storm cellar, the CENTER of your basement (the southwest corner has been discouraged in the last few years, since many storms actually move the structure off the foundation causing exterior walls to collapse). If you do not have a basement, a small bathroom or closet in the center of your home way from windows and exterior walls offers the most protection. If you live in a trailer home, GET OUT OF IT. You are safer in a ditch or culvert than you are in a trailer home, even one that is tied down. DO NOT SEEK SHELTER IN AUTOMOBILES.
It Does Become Personal
It all started with a research request from J.R. Smith of Tacoma, Washington. Our Board Member and past president, Cheri Coley responded. Mr. Smith, an experienced family historian, was looking for the burial place of his great-grandmother, Elizabeth Rosetta Bowdle, who died in Springdale, Arkansas. Mr. Smith sent a lot of information and was specific on what he was looking for. In fact, his request could be used as an example of how to write requests for information from a researcher or research group.
• Born Sep 11, 1847 in Allen County, Ohio
• Died Jan 11, 1899 in or around Springdale, Arkansas
• Maiden name was Elizabeth Rosetta Shockey
• Married name was Elizabeth Rosetta Bowdle
• Her nickname was Lizzie Bowdle
• She was the Mother of Anna, Jason, and Frank
• She was Living in Malvern, Hot Spring County, Arkansas approx 1897
Nature of Request: Please tell us what you are looking for, and be specific. If you already have some records and documents, please let us know which ones so we won’t replicate what you already have.
“(1) I would like to know the cemetery where Elizabeth Rosetta Bowdle is buried, and a digital photo of the headstone, if possible.
(2) Are there any medical or hospital records showing cause of death?
(3) I would like a copy of the Warranty Deed for 40 acres of land (grantor is Elizabeth R. Bowdle, grantee is Frank L. Bowdle) dated Dec 3, 1898, notarized by C. E. Tewksbury in Washington County, Arkansas”
Cheri responded with an estimate of the time she would need to find the information he was looking for. The first couple of attempts at the usual locations didn’t produce results, so she checked the microfilm copies of the Springdale News on file at the Springdale Public Library and found an obituary. It stated that Mrs. Boudle, a widow lady living east of the railroad, had died of cancer. She had lived in Springdale for about 6 months and had come from Malvern. She had three children, none of which were named in the obituary. It also stated that she was buried in Graham Cemetery. Since there is no Graham Cemetery in Springdale, Cheri checked to see if Shiloh Museum had ever heard of a Graham Cemetery in the area. Carolyn Reno of Shiloh confirmed that the actual name of Graham Cemetery was Wilson Cemetery, located off Monitor Road, which is still an active, local cemetery.
Cheri notified Mr. Smith about her success, and he responded with more information,
“I was told by other family members (who died many years ago) that Elizabeth was in Springdale visiting relatives when she got sick and died. I was told that she was buried in Springdale beside her half sister whose name was possibly Sarah Butler (wife of Henry Butler) or possibly Sarah Henry (wife of Marvin Henry) or possibly Ada Atwood (wife of Robert Atwood)….”
A check of the books for Wilson Cemetery revealed the graves of 2 children of Ada and Robert Atwood, plus another Atwood relative. A trip to the cemetery found an unmarked grave with the Atwood family members. Wilson Cemetery officials confirmed that the unmarked grave was indeed the final resting place of Elizabeth Rosetta Shockley Bowdle.
On Monday, May 1, 2006, Mrs. Bowdle’s great-grandchildren, J. R. Smith of Tacoma, WA, and his sister will place a tombstone on her grave, 107 years after her death. Members of WCAGS will join the family at the cemetery to pay their respects. On his final correspondence with Cheri, Mr. Smith wrote, “ I know from my research in genealogy records and history books that sooner or later the search becomes “personal”. After a certain point in the research when finding out details about a person’s life and death, the researcher feels like they have a connection with that person. Perhaps you feel the same. In case you do, I am sending (attached) a photo of Elizabeth Bowdle.”
Yes, Mr. Smith, we do feel the same. It does become personal.
Arkansas History Commission Workshop on May 6, 2006
The Arkansas History Commission will offer a workshop at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park from 1:00 p. m. until 4:00 p. m. on May 6, 2006. History Commission staff will make presentations on different areas of research at the State Archives including researching in the pamphlet file at the Arkansas History Commission, extracting genealogical information from Arkansas cemetery and death records, Civil War era photographs, and the State Archives Microfilm Program, “Creating a Permanent Arkansas Legacy.”
This seminar will give both beginning and experienced researchers the chance to get acquainted with the resources of the State Archives. Touching on many of the diverse resources that make the Arkansas History Commission a premier destination for genealogists and historians, the seminar will help researchers use these materials more effectively.
The workshop will be held in the Latta Barn at the Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park. Seating is limited, so plan to come early. Attendees to the workshop will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis.
WCAGS May Meeting
Mark your calendars and don’t forget! The May meeting is scheduled for May 7th, the first Sunday of the month, so that we don’t interfere with your Mother’s Day plans. The speaker will be Tom Dillard of the University of Arkansas Special Collections. His topic will be Arkansas Encyclopedia. It is sure to be exciting and interesting.
Happy hunting, y’all!
Jeanne Tackett, editor
* Flashback is a quarterly publication of The Washington County Historical Society