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Miller County history in the spotlight

Miller County history in the spotlight

June 24th, 2019 by Greg Bischof in Texarkana News

The fact that this year is Arkansas' bicentennial for becoming U.S. territory didn't escape local interest and attention Saturday.

Between 15 and 20 Texarkana area residents and history enthusiasts gathered at PJ Ahern Home Museum to learn more about Miller County's birth as well as about Arkansas' development in general.

Christine Woodrow, top left, New Boston Library director, speaks Saturday to local residents gathered at the PJ Ahern Museum located near the Miller County Courthouse in Texarkana, Ark. Woodrow delivered a lecture focusing on this year marking Arkansas' bicentennial year in becoming part of U.S. territory in 1819.

Christine Woodrow, top left, New Boston Library director,...

Photo by Greg Bischof /Texarkana Gazette.

During a 30-minute presentation, New Boston Library Director Christine Woodrow shared some of her research into the origins of both Miller County and Arkansas.

Starting on April 1, 1820—one year following Arkansas' designation as U.S. territory—Miller County took on its name from Arkansas Gov. James Miller.

Back then, Miller County was many times larger then the 700 square miles it covers today, Woodrow noted

Woodrow explained that the Miller County of nearly 200 years ago actually extended deep into Oklahoma as well as a good portion of northeast Texas and southwestern Arkansas—including overlapping what are now Little River, Sevier and part of Polk counties today. The county also extended well over what is now Bowie and Red River counties.

"I actually had to go research some chronicles in Oklahoma to find this out about Miller County's size back then," she said. "But I still need to research more about Oklahoma."

Woodrow went on to cite the 1820 Census listing 999 residents in Miller County—including 82 slaves.

Woodrow also said the county's original seat was located about seven miles to the east of where the modern day county courthouse now stands.

Starting in about 1824, a former high ranking military officer named Arthur Goodall Wavell, an Englishman by birth, wanted to establish his own colony in what was still athe expansive Miller County area, Woodrow said. By 1825 Wavell receive some land grants and sent about 300 additional people to live in the county.

"Some of those people were actually already living in the Miller County area at the time," Woodrow said.

Woodrow cited the Southwestern Arkansas Regional Archives, headquartered near Old Washington State Historic Park in Hempstead County, as a good place to learn more about both the state and Miller County's development in the Texarkana area.

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