January 14, 2015 Edition

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LawCo. reaches 200th anniversary

John Bland

Thursday (Jan. 15) marks the 200th anniversary of Lawrence County. The rich and detailed history of "the Mother of Counties" will be presented in a symposium set for Thursday and hosted by the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives (NEARA) and the Arkansas History Commission.

Monday was the deadline to register for the event, and some 87 people had registered for the symposium as of early Monday afternoon. The event will be held from 10 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. at the Powhatan Courthouse and at the Male and Female Academy on the grounds of the Powhatan Historic State Park.

Lunch will be provided for registered attendees, but extra seating should be available for others who would like to attend.

Walter E. McLeod writes of the official founding of the county in his book, "Centennial Memorial History of Lawrence County," first published in 1936.

McLeod writes, "By act of the legislature of Missouri Territory, January 15, 1815, Lawrence County was formed as a county in that territory from New Madrid County. It was the second county formed in what is now this state, Arkansas County being the first. It embraced about two-thirds of the territory now in Arkansas north of the Arkansas River and a strip off the southern part of Missouri, which was afterward given back to that state."

Of course, the history of the region dates back much farther. Jerry D. Gibbens wrote an in-depth history of Lawrence County that was published in the 2001 " Mother of Counties: History and Families, Lawrence County 1815–2001."

Gibbens writes, "Although settled by Bluff Dwellers and Mound Builders (Native American Indians) perhaps ten thousand years ago, Arkansas was not described, in writing, until Hernando de Soto explored the region in 1542-1543. Prior to the Spanish arrival, the Osage, Quapaw and Caddo had settled on the land. ..."

"The Spanish and the French both claimed possession of the land of the Arkansas before the United States received permanent title during Thomas Jefferson's Lousiana Purchase in 1803..."

As Gibbens further writes, "Travel to Arkansas was difficult, entailing weeks of discomfort on board a steamboat, or an even more hazardous journey over a primitive wilderness road." The most important of the roads, the "Military Road," ran from St. Louis down to Little Rock and from there to the Red River.

According to McLeod, the old Military Road ran through parts of what is now Lawrence County, passing Denton and Lynn and crossing the Strawberry River about a mile and a half below what was (in 1936) the Lynn-Strawberry bridge.

The history of Lawrence County is rich and detailed, and those attending Thursday's symposium will learn much more through a variety of speakers.

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