The Pike County Archives and History Society

Established 1986 Pike County, Arkansas

Pike County History

Early History of Pike County

The following information is taken from Early History of Pike County, Arkansas compiled by the Pike County Heritage Club and is used with their permission.

The Naming of Pike County

Pike County was created November 1, 1833. The creative statute fixed the temporary county seat "at the home of Pascal C. Sorrells." In 1834 the county seat was located at a town then named Zebulon. In 1836 the name of that town was changed to Murfreesborough, and it has remained the county seat to this day.

If a thousand representative citizens of Arkansas were asked to state, off-hand, for whom Pike County was named, probably at least 900 of them would say Albert Pike. Albert Pike lived more than a third of a century as an honored citizen of Little Rock, during which time he practiced law in all the principal courts of Arkansas. He went as an officer with the Arkansas soldiers into the Mexican War, and he was a brigadier general from Arkansas in the Confederacy during the War between the States. He was assistant Secretary of the Council of the Territorial Legislature in the fall of 1833 when Pike County was formed.

Yet, Pike County was not named for him. It was named for a man who never set foot on Arkansas soil, and who had been dead twenty years when Pike County was created. A man who did not live on earth as long as Albert Pike lived in Little Rock had Pike County named for him. The Territorial legislature that met in Little Rock in October, 1833, named Pike County for another Pike who was a distant kinsman of Albert Pike.

Pike County was named for Zebulon Montgomery Pike who was born at Lamberton, New Jersey, January 5, 1779. He was a military man and explorer, being commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the northwest portion of the Louisiana Terri- tory then recently acquired from France. He later moved west and discovered Pike's Peak. He was, as far as history records reveal, the first white man who ever attempted to climb that noted peak and it too is named for him.

Physical Features of Pike County

(Taken from the 1918 Arkansas Centennial Magazine published by the Arkansas Gazette. )

Pike County lies in the southwestern part of Arkansas with a land area of 384,610 acres and an average elevation of 506 feet.

Topography is rolling with level valleys and mountainous terrain in the northern part of the county.

The rivers that run through the area are the Little Missouri and the Caddo.

The soil is alluvial, sandy loam and red clay; the uplands are ideal for fruit growing, with the largest peach orchard in the world in Highland.

The farmers do extensive truck-crop growing. The field crops are corn, cotton, wheat, oats, grasses, sweet potatoes, peanuts, cowpeas and melons.

The forests are still mostly virgin with pine and hardwood.

The minerals of the county are diamonds, kaolin, asphaltrum, lignite, clay, antimony, gypsum, marl and limestone.

The industries are several saw mills, canning factories, the largest being in Highland, and mining.

At Murfreesboro, the county seat, is the Diamond Mine, the only one in North America. "In this limited area is found a greater diversity of geologic conditions than any other portion of the United States, and, consequently, a greater diversity of soils and of agricultural and mineralogic conditions." (Arkansas Geological Survey, Vol. 2).

Population, 15,000; number of farms, 2,200; value of farm property, $3,500,000. The principal towns are Murfreesboro, Highland, Pike City, Delight, Antoine, Kirby, Glenwood, and Daisy.

Pike County Court House

The first county courthouse was a log structure built in 1836. When Pike County was created in 1833 by the State Legislature, the creative statute fixed the temporary "county seat" at the home of Pascal C. Sorrells in the town of Zebulon. In 1836 the town changed its name to Murfreesborough and at that time built a log structure for the courthouse and a small frame building was used as the clerk's office. The first and original courthouse supposedly stood near the spot where the present courthouse now stands.

In the spring of 1855 the original building burned and all the county records to that date were lost. In 1856 the county court ordered the erection of a new courthouse and the contract was given to Moses and Jackson Brock. It was a two-story frame building surmounted by a cupola. The top floor was to be used by the Circuit Court, the downstairs for county offices and jury rooms. In 1895 the courthouse again burned destroying all records up to that date. It was thought by some old timers that the fire was caused by arson but this was never proved. In 1897 a brick building was built in the same location and stood until the county decided to build a new one which was completed March 1933. The contractor was May and Sharp Construction Company and the building cost the county $45,000. This is the courthouse that now stands in Murfreesboro the county seat.

Historical Development of Pike County

Pike County was created by Act of the Arkansas Territorial Legislature, the action being approved November 1, 1933. Thus, Pike County was one of the original counties when Arkansas became a State in 1836. On December 9, 1837, by act of the State Legislature, Murfreesboro was made the permanent county seat and the county lines were established. The first clerk's office, which was erected of logs, was burned and all county records were destroyed in the Spring of 1855. A two-story frame courthouse was built in 1856, which was totally destroyed by fire on the night of March 9, 1885, when all the county records were again destroyed.

Tax receipts issued for the year 1893 were recorded and preserved, and are the earliest tax records in existence for Pike County. Many of the deeds were re-recorded.

Pike County lines have been defined by Acts of the Arkansas Legislature as follows:

Between Pike and Sevier -- November 15, 1833
Between Pike and Hempstead -- December 14, 1838
Between Pike and Howard -- April 14, 1875
Between Pike and Clark -- April 25, 1873
Between Pike and Montgomery -- December 16, 1874.
On July 4, 1819, Arkansas began its separate existence under the name of Arkansas Territory. Congress declared that on that date all that part of the Missouri Territory lying south of a line beginning on the Mississippi River to 36 degrees north, running west to St. Francis River, thence to western territorial line of Missouri should be separate territory. This took place March 2, 1819. The seat of government was to be at Arkansas Post. President Monroe appointed General James Miller of New Hampshire as governor. The capitol was moved to Little Rock in 1821.

One of the most important issues of the day was the sale of public lands and this was started in 1815 and two million acres of land was surveyed and set apart for the soldiers of the War of 1812. None of these lands were sold, but each soldier was given a warrant and the land department located it by a lottery process. Thus the new territory of Arkansas from the start was populated with the heroes of the War of 1812--men of courage and ability.

After the Territorial Legislature passed on the organization of Pike County November 1, 1833, Elijah Kelly and Henry Brewer were appointed as commissioners to find a seat of justice for the newly appointed county. Asa Thompson was the only man living in the vicinity at the time and a post office had been set up in his home and given the name of Zebulon. In searching old deeds, it is assumed he had property close to where the Floyd-Pickett house now stands. A log courthouse was quickly built, with a small frame house for the clerk's office. The clerk was D. S. Dickson from 1833-48. Zebulon at that time was no more than a settlement hacked out of the wilderness by a few hardy pioneers looking for a new frontier. In 1836 the name Zebulon was changed to Murfrees- borough (later Murfreesboro) and has remained the county seat until this day. Legend has it that many of the new settlers were from Tennessee and named their town after Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Pike County was originally a part of Hempstead and Clark counties, both formed in 1818 by the legislature of Missouri. On December 31, 1813, two new counties were created, New Madrid and Arkansas. The first included the northwestern angle of Arkansas county, and Pike from these two. Pike was the twenty- sixth county formed in Arkansas out of seventy-five.

In 1833 there were three settlements in Pike County: Wolf Creek, east, which is now Delight; the Brewer settlement on Muddy Fork, west; and a few families living at the place which was selected as the county seat, known later as Zebulon, then changed to Mur- freesborough.

Some of the early families living in Pike County before 1830 were Asa Thompson, Joseph Davis, Jeremiah Davis, John Hughes,

Oliver Brewer Sr., Henry Brewer, Gabrill Oliver, John White, George Hensley, David Dickson, David Huddleston, John Blocker, William Stone, the Kelleys (Elijah and William), Isaac White, and Pascal SorreUs.

The early land entry books were destroyed by fire so it is impossible to give a list of all the earliest settlers.

Some of the earlier towns of Pike County were Stellville {post office, Wolf Creek), Royston, Nathan Village (western part of Muddy Fork Township), Bills Town, Rock Creek, Gentry (near Self Creek Township), New Hope and Star of the West.

Pike County is situated in the southwestern part of Arkansas. It is bounded on the north by Montgomery, on the east by Clark, on the south by Nevada and Hempstead, and west by Howard counties. It has an area of 620 square miles. The northern and central portions are quite mountainous. Between these hills are beautiful fertile valleys. The southern part is level and has much bottom land as it lies along the larger streams. The largest and most important stream is the Little Missouri River which rises in Polk County, enters Pike in the northwestern corner, flows southeast, and after forming a portion of the southern boundary line leaves the county at its southeastern corner. Antoine Creek is formed by three small streams in the northeastern part of the county and flows south forming a portion of the county's eastern boundary and empties into the Little Missouri River at the south- eastern part of the county. Saline Creek rises near the central part cf the county, flows south about fifteen miles and empties into the Little Missouri. Wolf Creek rises near the central part of the county, flows southeast and empties into the Antoine Creek. Rock Creek rises in the northern part of the county, flows eastward and empties into the Caddo. The Caddo River flows for a short distance through the northeastern part of the county. The Muddy Fork of the Little Missouri River rises in Howard County, flowing east into the Clear Creek which flows into the Little Missouri near u rees- boro. The Woodall Creek rises near the center of the county, flows northeast and empties into Antoine Creek. Prairie Creek runs through Murfreesboro and empties into the Little Missouri River at thee southeastern part of the county.

Pike County is good for farming, though the northern portion is hilly, broken and rough. Other parts of the county have a good sandy soil, running into sandy loam with clay subsoil, called redlands, which is so productive. These lands are easily cultivated and cotton was the principal crop for many years. The average yield for bottom land was 1,400 pounds and the uplands 800 pounds per acre. Almost everything that is needed for the home can be raised here. Timber grows in abundance, with the most valuable of these being the short leaf pine. Timber at first covered about three quarters of the area of Pike County. Other varieties existent besides pine are hickory, oak, walnut, maple, ash, sycamore, and red gum.

Early Pike County Representatives and Senators


 Asa Thompson               1836-38       W.N. Deaton                 1909
 John Wilson                1840          George W. Clingan           1911
 William Bizzell            1842-43       Joel T. Pollard             1913
 Elijah Kelley              1846          Joel T. Pollard             1915
 William Gilmer             1848-51       C.A. Rankin                 1917
 Samuel Kelley              1852-53       F.F. Carter                 1919
 W. B. Gould                1854-55       Grady Alexander             1921
 Elijah Kelley              1856-57       Grady Alexander             1922-23
 Gideon Mason               1858-59       Claude A. Rankin            1925
 Willis Jones               1860-62       M.E. Tolleson               1927-29
 W. B. Gould                1862          F.B. Clement                1931-33
 M. Stennette               1864-65
 W. B. Gould                1865
 J. A. McCollum             1866-67
 J. R. Bush                 1868-69           Senators
 John Wagner                1871
 B. D. Brock                1877          James H. Howard             1871-73
 H. W. Carter               1879          O.D. East                   1874-77
 J. A. Davis                1881-85       J.P. Copeland               1877-90
 J. B. Copeland             1885          E.B. Kingsworthy            1891-93
 J. P. Dunn                 1887-90       J.C. Pennix                 1895-97
   .M.P. Perrin             1891          Thomas N. Wilson            1899-01
 J. C. Pennix               1893          J.C. Pennix                 1903-05
 J. P. Dunn                 1895          Edgar Arnold                1907-09
 John C. Hughes             1897          Wm. N. Deaton               1911-13
 Moses K. Brock             1899          George W. Garrett           1915-17
 Moses K. Brock             1901          R.R. Townsend               1919-21
 Thomas W. Roundtree        1903          D.F. McElhannon             1923-25
 William N. Thompson        1905          Claude A. Rankin            1927-29
 Casabianco A. Kizzia       1907          Fletcher McElhannon         1927-29
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