One of the United States of America, bounded on the north by the State of Missouri, on the south by the States of Louisiana and Texas, on the east by the States of Mississippi and Tennessee, and on the west by the State of Texas and by Indian Territory, between latitude 33° and 37° N. and longitude 89° and 95° W., has an area of 53,335 square miles. The boundaries are set forth with considerable particularity in the state constitution, with which may be compared the Act of Congress, 15 June, 1836, admitting Arkansas as a state. The motto of the State is Regnant populi. The name was that of a tribe of Indians, formerly inhabitants of the region, a tribe also known as Quapaws or Osarks, and called also Alkansas by Illinois Indians and other Algonquins (Charlevoix). A resolution passed in 1881 by the General Assembly of the State refers to confusion which had arisen "in the pronunciation of the name of our State" and resolves "that it should be pronounced in three syllables with the final 's' silent, the 'a' in each syllable with the Italian sound, and the accent on the first and last syllables."
The region now included in Arkansas was a portion of the Louisiana purchase from France and ceded by the treaty of 1803. A census of the "province de la Louisiane," made in 1788, states the population of Arkansas to be 119. An Act of Congress, 26 March 1804, provided that so much of the ceded territory as was north of 33° of north latitude should be named the district of Louisiana and governed by the governor of the Indiana Territory. By Act of 3 March 1805, the name was changed to "Territory of Louisiana" and a territorial government established. This name was changed to "Missouri" by Act of 4 June, 1812, and a temporary government established. By Act of 2 March, 1819, all of the territory south of a line beginning on the Mississippi River at 36° north latitude, running thence west to the river St. François, thence up the same to 36° 30 min. north latitude and thence west to the western territorial boundary line, was established as a new Territory to be known as "the Arkansaw Territory."
Concerning weather conditions, the report of the chief of the Weather Bureau states the highest temperature observed at any weather station in Arkansas during the year 1903 to have been 105°, observed at two stations, the lowest -12 deg. also observed at two stations. The smallest rainfall recorded for the year is 34.48 inches, the greatest 65 inches. So early as November, 1903, there were snowfalls at three of the stations, in December at all the stations except one, in January, 1904, at all the stations except three, in February, at all except four, no snow is reported in March, and in April a trace is reported at two stations. The greatest fall of the season was 11.5 inches, the least, 0.5 of an inch. The reports of temperature are from sixty-one stations, of rainfall from sixty-six stations, and of snowfall from thirteen stations.
The Territory was visited during 1819 by the distinguished botanist, Thomas Nuttall. Of the district watered by the "Arkansa" river which in a generally southeasterly course flows through Arkansas, he states that it is scarcely less fertile than Kentucky and favourable "to productions more valuable and saleable," while "the want of good roads is scarcely felt in a level country meandered by rivers." And he remarks upon the "lucrative employment" to be found "in a country which produces cotton." Some of the settlers were of French Canadian origin, among them descendants probably of ten settlers who came with the Chevalier de Tonti, when, in 1685, he proceeded up the river to the village of the Arkansas. In the settlement on the banks of the "Arkansa" river "a few miles below the bayou which communicates with White river," Nuttall found "the sum of general industry. . .insufficient" and "the love of amusements. . .as in most of the French colonies. . .carried to extravagance." Indeed this traveller comments unfavourably upon "the generality of those who, till lately, inhabited the banks of the Arkansa." And "at the Cadron" he found that "every reasonable and rational amusement appeared. . .to be swallowed up in dram-drinking, jockeying and gambling," while at "the Pecannerie now the most considerable settlement in the territory except Arkansas," and settled by about sixty families, the more industrious and honest suffered from the dishonest practices of their indolent neighbours, "renegadoes from justice, who had fled from honest society." In contrast to a portion of this indictment against early territorial conditions may be mentioned the prohibitory liquor laws of the modern State, and their rigorous enforcement (Digest of the Statutes, Sect. 5093-5148; The United States in Our Own Time, 765). Arkansas became a State by Act of Congress, 15 June, 1836. The State long continued to be sparsely settled. Colonel R. B. Marcy, who seems to have visited some portions of Arkansas so late as 1854, refers in "Army Life" to the "sparsely scattered forest habitations" on the borders of Arkansas and Texas "far removed from towns and villages and seldom visited by travellers," where, he tells us, "the ideas, habits and language of the population. . .are eminently peculiar and very different from those of any other people I have ever before met with in my travels." These borderers seem to have been generally illiterate. And Colonel Marcy describes also the interior settlements of Arkansas and those of Texas and southwestern Missouri as regions where "the traveller rarely sees a church or school-house" (Army Life, 386). While yet "rude and thinly settled" (Schouler, Hist. of U.S. of Am., VI, 92), Arkansas by ordinance of its Convention on 6 May, 1861, joined its fortunes with those of the other States of the attempted Southern Confederacy. As in Missouri so in Northern Arkansas, guerilla warfare followed during more than a year. Afterwards warfare in Arkansas became of a more important character. In 1863 Arkansas Post was captured by the Federal forces; there was a small engagement at Arkadelphia, and engagements at Fayetteville and sixteen miles from Fort Smith. The Federal garrison of Helena and that of Pine Bluffs were unsuccessfully attacked by the Confederate forces during this year. At the battle of Chickamauga, the First Arkansas regiment lost forty-five per cent of its men. "And these losses" it is said "included very few prisoners." (Campfire and Battlefield, 484.) In June, 1868, the State was restored to the Union and to representation in Congress, with an agreement to perpetuate universal suffrage. During the reconstruction period, Arkansas was not exempt from sad experiences similar to those of other Southern States. A contested election in 1872 for Governor caused much confusion until 1875.
By the constitution of the State the city of Little Rock is made the State capital. Legislative power is vested in a General Assembly to meet every two years. There is no female suffrage. The Act of Congress of 1805 which has been already mentioned provides that no law of the Territory of Louisiana shall be valid "which shall lay any person under restraint or disability on account of his religious opinions, profession or worship." And the State constitution now in force forbids any religious test as qualification to vote or hold office, and requires that no one shall be incompetent as a witness on account of religious belief, adding "but nothing herein shall be construed to dispense with oaths or affirmations." "All men," declares the constitution, "have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can, of right, be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent. No human authority can, in any case or manner whatsoever, control or interfere with the right of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishment, denomination, or mode of worship above any other." The constitution directs the enactment of suitable laws to protect every religious denomination in the peaceable enjoyment of its own mode of public worship. It also ordains the maintenance by the State of a "general, suitable and efficient system of free schools."
In pursuance of this direction the laws of the State make elaborate provisions for free schools and a "University of Arkansas." (Digest of the Statutes, sect. 7484-7739.) No teacher is to be licensed in the public schools "who does not believe in the existence of a Supreme Being." And no teacher in these schools "shall permit sectarian books to be used as reading or text books in the school under his care." The twelfth United States Census reports a school attendance in 1900 of 230,180 persons, of whom 115,613 were females. Including in the list those who could only read with those who could neither read nor write, 20 per cent of the males of voting age were illiterate.
The population of the state in 1900 was 1,311,564 according to the census. Only 14,289 persons were foreign born. Of negro descent there were 366,856. Of males fifteen years of age and over, 37.6 per cent were single, 56.1 per cent married, and 0.3 per cent divorced, 0.4 per cent being reported unknown. Of females fifteen years of age and over, 26 per cent were single, 60.8 per cent married and 0.6 per cent divorced, 0.1 being reported unknown.
The total assessed valuation of property for 1899 was $189,998,150; the State indebtedness on 1 October, 1900, $1,432,915.95. Arkansas is chiefly an agricultural State. Little Rock with a population of 42,036 was the only city of which the population was estimated in 1903 to exceed 25,000. Three other cities, namely, Fort Smith City, Hot Springs City, and Pine Bluffs City, were the only other cities of which the population exceeded 8,000. Being south of 37° of latitude the State ia within "the cotton belt," and cotton has become its principal crop, as Nuttall seems to have foreseen in 1819. In 1899 the value of the cotton crop was $28,053,813, or 49.4 per cent of the value of all the crops of the State. Of the corn crop the value was $17,572,170. Of potatoes a production is reported of 1,783,969 bushels and of tobacco, 831,700 pounds. Notwithstanding the chief importance of agriculture, the twelfth census reports a steady growth during the period from 1850 to 1900 in manufacturing and mechanical industries. The six leading mechanical industries in 1905 were: (1) cars and general shop construction and repairs by steam railroad companies; (2) flour and grist mill products, (3) lumber and timber products; (4) lumber planing mill products, including sashes, doors, and blinds; (5) oil, cotton seed, and cake; (6) printing and publishing. Of manufacturing establishments there were 1,907, of which 1,344 were devoted to the six leading industries. The amount of capital employed in manufactures was $46,306,116, the value of products $53,864,394. Of all manufacturing establishments 88.3 per cent were, in 1905, in the rural districts. There is a small production of coal, estimated in 1905 to amount to 2,000,000 short tons, one-half of which is classed as semi-anthracite. The railroad mileage in 1904 is reported to be 4,126.44 miles.
Concerning the history of the Catholic Church in the State, from 1793 until 1801 Arkansas with all of the territory included in the Louisiana purchase formed a portion of the Diocese of Louisiana and Florida. On the cession to the United States Bishop Carroll of Baltimore was in 1805 appointed administrator Apostolic. "When the decree of the Propaganda confiding Louisiana to his care reached Bishop Carroll," writes Dr. Shea (Life and Times of the Most Rev. John Carroll), "it was a matter of great and pious satisfaction to him to know that there was one priest in Louisiana whose virtue and ability were known to him. . . ." In upper Louisiana there was scarcely any priest other than a priest whom the historian mentions. Great disorder and relaxation of discipline seems to have existed in various regions of the vast diocese. In 1812 in answer to urgent appeals from Archbishop Carroll, the Rev. Wm. DuBourg, "a brilliant, able and energetic man," remarks Dr. Shea, was appointed administrator Apostolic. In 1815 he was consecrated bishop. In 1824 Right Rev. Joseph Rosati became coadjutor with residence at St. Louis, and to his special care the Territory of Arkansas was confided. In that year missionaries found at Little Rock Catholics who had never seen a priest, and on the Arkansas River there were found sixteen Catholic families "who reported that Mass had twice been offered there." "Arkansas Post was the only place after leaving New Madrid where there were enough Catholics to maintain a priest" (Shea, Hist. Cath. Ch. in the U.S.). The missionaries were perhaps not surprised to find great religious ignorance among the Arkansas Catholics, and that for most of those whom the missionaries met, the celebration of Mass was "a wonderful ceremony" (Shea, op. cit.).
In 1826 the diocese was formally divided, and Bishop Rosati made Bishop of the new Diocese of St. Louis, comprising the portion of the divided diocese north of Louisiana. So late as 1830 the bishop wrote "In Arkansas Territory where there are more than two thousand scattered Catholics, there is not a single priest." But in 1832 one priest had entered the Territory and to his aid a newly ordained priest was sent in that year. Bishop Rosati died in 1843. The State of Arkansas with Indian Territory was erected into the new Diocese of Little Rock, and the Rev. Andrew Byrne of the Diocese of New York was named as its bishop, and was consecrated in 1844. Despite all past efforts Bishop Byrne found that the Catholic population of the whole diocese did not exceed "seven hundred souls. . ." scattered in every county in the state. There was only one priest. There were two churches loaded with debt. Dr. Shea states that "the prevailing ignorance and vice were deplorable and almost insurmountable." We recall what Colonel Marcy wrote concerning the inhabitants of the interior of the State, "these people have but little appreciation of the sanctity and holiness of the principles inculcated by our Christian religion" (Army Life, 387). In the beginning of 1861 the diocese had nine priests and eleven churches. On 10 June, 1862, during the Civil War, Bishop Byrne died and during the war no successor was appointed. In 1866 the Rev. Edward Fitzgerald of Columbus, Ohio, was named as bishop. "He made the sacrifice," says Dr. Shea, "and was consecrated, 3 February, 1867, to find but five priests in the diocese and three houses of Sisters of Mercy."
In 1891, the Indian Territory became a vicariate Apostolic, and in 1905 was erected into the Diocese of Oklahoma, and in 1906, the diocese, presided over by the Right Rev. Bishop Fitzgerald, comprised only the State of Arkansas. In the diocese there are 26 secular priests and 34 priests of religious orders, 41 churches with resident priest, 32 missions with churches, and 67 stations, 1 college for boys with 60 students, 8 academies with 1,006 students, 29 parishes and missions with schools having 1,642 pupils, 2 industrial schools with 360 pupils and 1 orphan asylum with 20 orphans, the total of young people under Catholic care being 3,109. The Catholic population is about 17,000. A law of the state provides that "lands and tenements" not exceeding forty acres "with the improvements and appurtenances" may be held in perpetual succession for the use of any religious society for "a meeting house, burying ground, camp-ground, or residence for their preacher."
United States Statutes at Large (Boston, 1848), Il; (Boston, 1861), III, 493; (Boston, 1848), V, 50; KIRBY, A Digest of the Statutes of Arkansas, including State Constitution (Austin, Texas, 1904) Art. I, Art. II, sect. 24, 25, 26, Art. III, sect. 1, Art. V, sect. 1, 2, 5, Art. XIV, sect. 1, of Statutes, sect. 6851, 7572, 7654; NUTTALL, A Journal of Travels into the Arkansas Territory (Philadelphia, 1821); DE CHARLEVOIX, History and General Description of New France, tr. SHEA (New York, 1900), III, 31; GAYARRE, History of Louisiana (New Orleans, 1903), Appendix; SCHOUELER, History of the United States of America (New York), V; WILSON, A History of the American People (New York, 1902), V, 46; JOHNSON AND OTHERS, Campfire and Battle Field (New York, 1894); ANDREWS, The United States in Our Own Time; MARCY, Thirty Years of Army Life on the Border (New York, 1866); Twelfth Census of the United States (1900), I, II, VI, VIII; Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of the Census, Bulletin No. 20 (Washington, 1905); No. 35 (Washington, 1906); No. 45 (Washington, 1906); SHEA, Life and Times of the Most Rev. John Carroll (New York, 1888); IDEM, Hist. of the Cath. Ch. in the U.S. (New York, 1892); Interstate Commerce Commission Seventeenth Annual Report (Washington, 1905); VAN OSS, American Railroads as Investments, 548; Biennial Report Arkansas State Treasurer, 1890- 1900 (Little Rock); Catholic Directory (1906).
APA citation. (1907). Arkansas. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01724a.htm
MLA citation. "Arkansas." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01724a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by John Fobian. In memory of Francis "Bobby" Gimler.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at newadvent.org. (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.