WASHINGTON, Ark. — Sometimes faces bring us back to days gone by, a look in the eyes or someone's countenance connecting us to history that came before us.
Historic Washington State Park now hosts the "Faces of Washington" exhibit through the end of March from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the 1874 Courthouse Visitor Center.
Founded in 1824, Washington grew to become home for more than 1,000 residents by 1860. From the 19th century onward, many individuals left their mark on the town's history, and a handful of them are included in this exhibit, which features portraits of these important citizens, some of whom were pioneers.
People selected include the first female mayor of Washington, Charlean Moss Williams. There's also Richard Samuels, who served as the first Black state house representative in Hempstead County.
Chris Adams, the park's historian, said selected photographic portraits include Grandison Royston, a prominent lawyer whose 1830 Greek Revival-style home remains one of the park's interesting sites to visit. Then there's John Eakin.
"Judge Eakin, his most prominent role was actually as editor of the Washington Telegraph here during the Civil War, the last half of the Civil War. That's probably what he's known for because the newspaper was basically for southern Arkansas the only newspaper that was left," Adams said.
Also included is Abraham Block, the park historian explained. Block was the first documented Jewish resident of Arkansas.
"He was written about because he embodied the entrepreneurial spirit, basically," Adams said. "He moved from Richmond, Virginia, down when he'd heard about the migration that was heading into Texas at the time. He picked up his family and moved down and then started his business."
Business ventures of Block's included real estate and general goods stores. "There was at least five or six areas of business that he dealt in," Adams said.
Photographs of these important Washington citizens also detail their importance.
"You've got their photograph and then you've got some dialogue and a little bit about them," Adams said, adding, "Every town has its people and their own story, and basically this is some of the stories of prominent people that were here."
He points out that Williams, the first female mayor, helped spearhead the movement to save the first historic building in Washington. "She's kind of the one that got the ball rolling, so to speak this was in 1929 was when that happened," Adams said. Saving and restoring the 1836 Courthouse started the effort to preserve the town's history.
Other Historic Washington State Park exhibits include one exploring African American legislators of Arkansas in the 19th century. Coming up soon is the park's free Christmas & Candlelight celebration on Saturday, Dec. 5, and Saturday, Dec. 12, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. each night.
The park's visitor center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Williams' Tavern Restaurant is open for lunch daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Because of COVID-19 guidelines, masks are required to enter park buildings.
Historic Washington State Park is situated on U.S. Highway 278 about nine miles north of Hope.
(More info: HistoricWashingtonStatePark.com or 870-983-2684.)