Franklin County, Arkansas

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Prior to 1819 there was no place called Arkansas. In the below narrative, when I say "Arkansas" for any time before 1819, I mean that area which was in 1819 created as the Arkansas Territory.

Prior to 1800, Arkansas was owned by Spain. From 1800 to 1803, Arkansas was owned by France. In 1803, by the Louisiana Purchase, Arkansas and much more, was bought by the United States.

In 1804, the part of Arkansas that would become Franklin County was called New Madrid, in the Louisiana District of Indiana Territory. In 1805 the Louisiana District of Indiana Territory became the Louisiana Territory. In 1812, part of the Louisiana Territory was renamed the Missouri Territory. In 1813, Arkansas County was created in the Missouri Territory. In 1815, Arkansas County was divided into two parts, the upper part called Lawrence County and the lower retaining the name Arkansas County. The dividing line was the Arkansas River. So what is today Franklin County straddled both Lawrence and Arkansas, half in each.

In 1817 the Cherokee Reservation, also called the Cherokee Tract was established. It covered part of what is today the Northern part of Franklin County. In 1818, the southern part of what is today Franklin County, was part of Pulaski County. In 1819 Arkansas Territory was created out of part of Missouri Territory. In 1820 Crawford County, including the area which is present-day Franklin County, was created.

The first mention of *anything* in Northwest Arkansas, in the Arkansas Gazette is here on 08/25/1821 where they state : "Benjamin Murphey is elected to the Legislative Council from the County of Pulaski and James Billingsley to the same branch of the General Assembly, from Crawford County. Thomas H. Tindall is elected to the House of Representatives to represent the counties of Pulaski and Crawford."

In 1828 the Cherokee Tract was abolished, the Cherokee being given lands further west in what is today Oklahoma. At this point, everything that is today Franklin County, was within Crawford County.

Franklin County, Arkansas was formed December 1837 by an act of the State Legislature, out of the Eastern half of Crawford County. The boundaries of Franklin County have changed only very slightly from the 1837 boundaries.

Franklin County is cut into two sections, North and South, by the Arkansas River which runs East-West through the approximate center of the county. The earliest settlements were likely along this river.

Settlement Pattern

The Louisiana Purchase and subsequent treaties with Indians to move away, gave to the Federal government all of the land in the state of Arkansas. Before the Federal government is willing to grant land to settlers, they need to do surveys. All the existing surveys are available to view in the BLM database.

From a careful perusal of the BLM records, I below present a table showing every township which is today in Franklin, and the year of its first settlement, and where a surrounding county abuts it. Since Franklin was not formed until Dec 1837, this table shows that it was already well-settled by the time it was formed. The counties surrounding Franklin are Crawford, Madison, Johnson, Sebastian, and Logan.

30W 29W 28W 27W 26W 25W
13N Cr/Md/Wa Madison Madison Joh/Mad
12N Crawford Crawford 1854 1845 1846 Johnson
11N Crawford 1860 1855 1855 1855 Johnson
10N Crawford 1845 1838 1836 1839 Johnson
9N Crawford 1829 1838 1845 1838 Johnson
8N Craw/Sesb 1836 1839 1838 1830 1830
7N Sebastian 1846 1845 Logan Logan
6N Sebastian Sebastian Logan

As this table shows graphically, the first BLM grants in Franklin County were in 29W9N, 25W8N and 26W8N.

First Settlers

Batesville was the central Federal Land Office for Northern Arkansas, and all the early BLM grants were done from this office.

The earliest BLM grants for Township 9N29W were all issued on 1 Apr 1829 for : Bazil Newton and Lunsford Olliver.

The earliest BLM grants for Township 8N26W were all issued on 15 Nov 1830 for: Alexander Barnhill, James Fisher, George Grounds, Adam Hawick, Joseph Jeffries, Aquilla Mitchell, Alexander Ross, Abraham St Clair, Alden Taylor and Bird Williams.

The earliest BLM grants for Township 8N25W were all issued on 15 Nov 1830 for : Alexander Barnhill, James Drake, Eli G Harris, Hugh Logan, James Marrs and William McDonald


Franklin County was formed Dec 1837, but there are no known marriage books that cover the first part of the County's existence. The first marriage book start with a single marriage in 1849, and then several in 1850.

At Arkansas there is a database called Arkansas Marriages, 1779-1992. This is not to be confused with another database they own called Arkansas Marriages, 1850-1900. Or yet a third database called Arkansas Marriages, before 1850. In the first database, they have, among other counties, indexed marriages in Franklin County up to 1882. The description states up to 1976, but this is because some idiot entered an 1876 marriage as 1976 which it clearly isnt'. It also states that the marriages start in 1811, which is equally ridiculous as the county didn't exist until 1837. The marriage indexed in 1811 was really from 1881 as verified by Virginia McPhail's book of marriages. The marriage indexed in 1848 was really from 1868.

So ignoring those discrepancies, here are the years this database covers and how many marriages it shows for each year: 1837-1848 Zero; 1849 1; 1850 60; 1851 93; 1852 70; 1853 118; 1854 98; 1855 106; 1856 78; 1857 94; 1858 100; 1859 150; 1860 172; 1861 114; 1862 70; 1863 6; 1864 10; 1865 20; 1866 178; 1867 191; 1868 196; 1869 275; 1870 266; 1871 244; 1872 254; 1873 246; 1874 220; 1875 194; 1876 286; 1877 248; 1878 296; 1879 372; 1880 382; 1881 396; 1882 376; 1883 22; 1884 4

It seems fairly clear that they used the marriages books going up to the early part of 1883 when a new marriage book was begun, so I suspect that those four indexed in 1884 are probably errors as well.


  • "Franklin", part of "Arkansas" as a Placename search in the Family History Library (LDS) Catalog
  • Franklin County, Arkansas : First County and Probate Court Minutes Book (1838-40), with an every-name index, compiled by Will Johnson. Privately published, copyright 2005. The index to this book is here.
  • Annotated 1840 Census of Franklin County, Arkansas, (ed.) Will Johnson. Privately published, copyright 2005.
  • Franklin County, Arkansas : First Deed Book, compiled by Will Johnson, Privately published, copyright 2007. The index to this book is here
  • Franklin County, Arkansas : Probate Court Minutes Book (1840-1850), with an every-name index, compiled by Will Johnson. Privately published, copyright 2005. The index to this book is here.
  • 1845 Tax List of Franklin County, Arkansas, compiled by Will Johnson. Privately published, copyright 2005. The index to this book is here.
  • Probate Papers of Franklin County Arkansas (1838-1920), Compiled by Virginia McPhail, privately published, Copyright 2001. 286 pages. I have indexed these from 1838 to 1880 and my index is here.
  • Marriages of Franklin County, Arkansas 1850-1916, Copied by Virginia McPhail. [Privately published] [n.d.]. 236 pages plus unnumbered index
  • Arkansas Newspaper Abstracts 1819-1845, by James Logan Morgan, c1981. Reprinted by Arkansas Research of Conway, 1992. Four volumes combined of 98, 73, 73, and 78 pages, includes a seperate index for each volume.
  • First landholders at 10N 29W
  • Franklin County, Arkansas Cemeteries : North of the Arkansas River, Sue Clark and Virginia McPhail, Copyright 1995, privately published. 332 Pages with index.
  • County Formation Map for Arkansas at the MyArkansasGenealogy website
  • Virginia McPhail can be reached at 1502 N. Hills Blvd. Van Buren, AR 92956
  • History of Franklin County, part of the Northwestern Arkansas Histories, by Goodspeed Publishing (1889)

See also

External links

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