26 Aug Markers and monuments in the 501
Story and photos
by Linda Henderson
Have you ever seen a historical marker sign and wondered what it says, who or what does it honor? Well, me too. So, I went looking for a way to locate them and found The Historical Marker Database.
The online database, at HMdb.org, catalogs historical markers and monuments by county, city and state. The website is searchable and is very easy to use. The online collection can be filtered by roadside monument, outdoor marker or plaque. Each marker has a page that contains photographs of the marker, inscription transcription, the marker’s GPS location, the physical address and other landmarks in the surrounding area. It can be viewed either on a computer or on a smart phone. The smart phone version of the web site has a very useful feature that links to Google maps to pinpoint the location of markers near your location.
Markers can be added to The Historical Marker Database if you find one that has not been identified. It is very easy to submit your finds online. You will need to take a picture of the monument and a wide shot of the marker and surroundings. Location of the marker will also need to be documented.
Contained in the database are approximately 65 for the 501. There are 15 in Saline County, 12 in Pulaski, seven in Lonoke, six in Faulkner, one in Conway County and 24 in Garland County.
So what is a historical marker or historical monument? They commemorate an event, building or person who is associated with a specific locale. They are little pieces of information about what has happened or who lived in the area. They tell the story and point out historical facts about sites. Some markers indicate battlegrounds, notable buildings, forts, settlements, waterways, bridges, roads, men or women that had a noteworthy impact on a region, war heroes, locations of important events, and natural and man-made wonders.
As Jim and I travel the 501, we started “collecting” markers by photographing them. Some markers are in out of the way places, others on busy highways or city streets, in old cemeteries, and some are on the outside of buildings. Many are found on the grounds of the State Capital, on historical buildings and at county courthouses.
One of my favorites is “The Little Rock 1722,” located next to the Junction Bridge Pedestrian Walkway on the Arkansas River in Little Rock. The Little Rock marker was placed by the Civitan Club in 1932. For 100 years before the founding of Little Rock, this rock marked the river crossing of the north and south trail taken by many of the early settlers to Arkansas. It is also known as the first rock seen by the French explorer Bernard De La Harpe on his voyage from the mouth of the Mississippi up the Arkansas River in 1722.
Another very interesting marker, found in Downtown Little Rock, recognizes “Gilbert Maxwell Aronson, the first Cowboy-Western Movie Star.” Max Aronson was born at 713 Center St. in 1880. He was a “super-star” during the days of silent movies and later became a movie producer. He was awarded an Oscar for his contributions to cinema. The marker is on Center Street directly across from the First United Methodist Church. Others in the area are the first site of the Arkansas College of Medicine, Freedom Riders in Little Rock, Tuf-Nut Lofts and the Geyer & Adams Building.
In Saline County, not far from Bryant, is the Geographical Center of Arkansas marker. It was erected in 1936 by The Arkansas Society, Daughters of American Colonists. The marker is located on Old Stagecoach Road or State Highway 5.
Right outside of Bryant is a marker erected in 1976 by the Benton-Saline County Bicentennial Committee. The plaque tells the story of the Civil War Battle of Hurricane Creek. It is on Reynolds Road or State Highway 183, in front of the Bryant Cemetery.
Saline County honors its war heroes of the Revolutionary War through Iraqi War at the Everlasting Tribute on the grounds of the Saline County Courthouse. The marker is located at Main and Sevier streets. Also on the courthouse grounds are markers for the Saline County Record, Saline County in the Civil War and Fallen Firefighters.
Other interesting markers in the Benton area are the Old Southwest Trail which marks the location of the first permanent road across Arkansas. Thousands of settlers followed this route into Arkansas and Texas.
The marker we had the hardest time finding was for the De Soto Trail. The marker is “hidden” next to a service station at the intersection of State Highway 35 and Military Road. It is fairly small and if you didn’t know what you were looking for, you might pass it several times, as we did. The marker denotes that the De Soto expedition which marched through the area in 1541. This marker was erected in 1935 by citizens of Saline County.
Lonoke County has several located on the grounds of the Lonoke County Courthouse. One honors Sen. Joe T. Robinson, who served Arkansas as a congressman, governor and a U.S. senator. The marker was erected in 1936 by the Arkansas History Commission. Several other markers and monuments are located on the grounds and communicate how Lonoke has been impacted by war.
Conway County only has one marker listed in the database. It is located in Plumerville within the Plumerville Cemetery. The marker is two-sided, with one side telling the history of Conway County in the Civil War and the other side the murder of John Clayton, a state representative and senator. He ran for U.S. Congress in 1888 but lost the election. He was murdered in 1889 while investigating the theft of a ballot box. His murderer was never identified. The marker was erected in 2015 by the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, Plumerville Cemetery, Arkansas Humanities Council and Department of Arkansas Heritage Arkansas Historic Preservation program.
All of the Faulkner County markers listed in the database are found at Cadron Settlement Park on the banks of the Arkansas River. There are six markers and monuments within the park.
The first marker in the park is the 450 Commemoration De Soto Expedition 1541 – 1991. This marker says that it is believed that the De Soto Expedition passed near Cadron en route to points west. Another marker conveys the life of an army officer, Lt. Joseph W. Harris, who was assigned to accompany a group of 750 Cherokees aboard a steamboat that was on the Arkansas River. They were forced to land at Cadron in 1834 because of low water. He and many of the Cherokees became ill with cholera and died.
The Blockhouse Monument at the park gives the history of how the house is a replica of a structure that was built on this site in the late 18th century. The building was a multiple use structure, but constructed originally for defense purposes. It was used as a trading post, as a residence and as a public gathering place. When the French trappers and other early settlers were in this area, the Osage Indians occupied the land north of the Arkansas River. When the Osage were on the warpath, the settlers used the blockhouse as a place for refuge. The blockhouse is referred to in some of the French and Spanish journals and other early records. In the early 1800s the John Mc Elmurry Family owned the property and occupied the blockhouse as a residence.
The reconstruction of the Blockhouse and placing of the marker were a joint venture of the Conway Chamber of Commerce and the Faulkner County Historical Society in cooperation with the U.S. Corps of Engineers. Other markers at the park are the Trail of Tears, Cherokee Memorial and Cadron in the Civil War.
There are thousands of markers across the United States and many hundreds in Arkansas. Some markers are unexciting and obscure while many are patriotic, some telling a heart-wrenching story. Others may be just a little weird but all tell the story of who we are and where we came from. So hit the road and keep an eye out for these little pieces of history.