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AAC F A M I L Y & F R I E N D S


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Small Packages


Van Buren County Courthouse may be smallest in state but it serves a large purpose Story by Mark Christ and


Photography by Holly Hope Arkansas Historic Preservation Program


in north Arkansas, and generations of caretakers have seen that it stayed that way, helped in part by the Arkansas Historic Preserva- tion Program’s County Courthouse Restoration Grant Program, funded through Real Estate Transfer Tax proceeds administered by the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council. Te area that would become Van Buren County was a remote wilderness when Georgia native John Lafferty moved into the “Big Bottoms” where three branches of the Little Red River converged and established a farmstead during the territorial period. Lafferty lobbied hard to have a new seat of local govern- ment created to serve settlers in the area and he was successful on Nov. 11, 1833, when Van Buren County — named for Vice


W 36


hile it may be the smallest county courthouse in Arkansas, the 1934 Van Buren County Court- house remains the centerpiece of a vibrant down- town in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains


President Martin Van Buren — was carved from adjacent coun- ties to serve its rugged area. Te first courthouse for the new county was established in


Obadiah Marsh’s one-room log house in the Bloomington com- munity — better known as Mudtown for the condition of its streets after a hard rain. Local men soon built a new log structure to house county government, which may have been a very popu- lar location in that it was just across from a horse-racing track second only in size to the one at Batesville. In 1842, the county seat was moved to Clinton, the home of


Van Buren County’s first cotton gin in 1840, and another one- room log courthouse was constructed. As settlement increased and prosperity grew, this humble structure was soon replaced by a two-story frame courthouse with a stately, columned front façade. Van Buren County, as was the rest of Arkansas, was deeply divided over secession as Civil War loomed. Some men joined the Confederate army while others joined the Unionist “Peace Society” — many of these were later arrested and given the choice of joining the Confederate army or going to prison. As the war progressed, violence plagued the area as pro-Union “jayhawkers,” pro-Confederate “bushwhackers” and gangs of


COUNTY LINES, FALL 2015


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