The History of Nevada County

Written for Harland McKelvy by Lawyer Thompkins about 1928.

Nevada County was created under Act of the Legislature of the Sate of Arkansas, approved March 20th, 1871. The territory which now comprises the County was taken principally from Hempstead County but part of it was also taken from Columbia and Ouachita Counties.

Hempstead County was one of the five original counties created by the Legislature of the territory of Missouri before the territory of Arkansas was organized. The act creating this county was passed December 18th, 1818, and comprised all of the State of Arkansas West of the Ouachita River and South of the Little Missouri River. As far as it is now known the first settlers in Hempstead County were John Campbell who came from Tennessee in 1812; Benj. Clark, who came from Kentucky and William and George Yates who came from Missouri. They built log cabins and none of them settled in that part of the territory which now comprises Nevada County.

The first court for Hempstead County was held in 1819 at the home of John English, about 8 miles Northeast of Washington. The records of Hempstead County have all been preserved and the first deeds appear to have been recorded in 1819.

As far as is now know the first settlements in Nevada County were made by Polly Vaughan who settled on the Missouri River and ran a hotel at a point then known as Jane's Ferry, the exact location of which is not known. Nick Trammel settled on the Terre Rouge Creek about this time and tradition says that he was a famous robber.

The earliest land patents that we have been able to find were issued to land in Nevada County about 1837 and was to the black land which lies West of Prescott and Emmet. The patent to the place now owned by Mrs. Sid Purtle between Prescott and Emmet was signed by Andrew Jackson, President, and his term of office expired in March 1837.

The Act creating Nevada County authorized the appointment by the Governor of three commissioners to locate the County Seat. A temporary County Seat was fixed at Mt. Moriah and the first term of the County Court was held there in 1871. D.C. Tuttle was County Judge; J.S. Vandergrift was Sheriff, and A.B. Persons, Clerk. These were really temporary officers appointed by the Governor for no election in Nevada County had been held at this time. One term of the Circuit Court was also held in the old church at Mt. Moriah.

The commissioners appointed by the Governor to select the County Seat in Nevada County reported to the October Term, 1871 and fixed the County Seat at Rosston, where it remained until 1877. In this year an election was had seeking to move the County Seat to Prescott. Prescott received 1107 votes and Rosston 392 votes. The order removing the County Seat to Prescott is dated July 2nd, 1877. It was charged that this election was very unfair but the majority was so great that no effort was ever made to contest this election.

No Court House was built at Rosston and the town was named for Henry Ross who was at one time Treasurer of Nevada County. He was killed on the streets of Rosston by a man named Fincher, and Fincher escaped and was never brought to trial for this killing. Rosston had the distinction while the County Seat was there of having four Saloons and no churches.

Hempstead County has furnished many distinguished men whose names are well known in the History of Arkansas. General Grandison D. Royston of Washington was a member of the Constitutional Convention which framed the first Constitution of the State in 1836; but at that time he did not live in Hempstead County but later removed to Washington and was also a member and President of the Constitutional Convention of 1874 which Convention prepared the Constitution under which we now live. Mrs. R.P. Hamby of Prescott is a grand-daughter of General Royston.

Edward Cross, a citizen of Hempstead County was elected to Congress in 1838. Daniel Ringo, John R. Eakin and B.B. Battle were members of the Supreme Court at different times. Augustus H. Garland and Dan W. Jones were Governors of the State and Mr. Garland was also United States Senator and Attorney General of the United States under Cleveland's first administration. James K. Jones was also United States Senator and Chairman of the National Democratic Committee in 1900. All of these gentlemen were residents of Hempstead County.

From Nevada County W.E. Atkinson was elected Attorney General of the State and served from 1888 to 1892, and Thos. C. McRae was elected to Congress in 1885 and served for 18 years and was Governor of the State from 1921 to 1924.

The County of Nevada furnished several candidates for State officers to the Union Labor and Populist Party.

In 1888 Dr. C.M. Norwood of Nevada County was nominated for Governor on this ticket, and Geo. W. Terry of Prescott for Secretary of State. Norwood received 84,213 votes against 99,214 votes for Governor Eagle, who was elected. The Union Labor party reached high tide in this election and has never since been able to poll as many votes as it did in this election. There was considerable agitation in the election in 1889 for a contest of the election by Dr. Norwood for Governor, but a resolution or Act was passed requiring the contestant, which was Dr. Norwood, to give a bond to pay the cost and no contest was ever instituted.

In 1890 the Union Labor Party nominated John M. Pittman of Nevada County for Secretary of State and O.S. Jones of Nevada County for State Auditor. In this year the Republicans declined to nominate a ticket but endorsed the Union Labor Ticket and the result was that Eagle who was Democratic Candidate received a greater vote than he got in 1888.

(Transcription Notes: All grammatical constructions, syntax, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been retained from the original. Jon Chadwell, 2/7/2001)