A look at Arkansas at the turn of the 20th century

    11:11 PM, Nov 11, 2010   |    comments
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    • This courtroom was the center of state government during the Civil War.
    • 1847 Hempstead County courthouse
    • One of Washington's old churches.
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  • Historic Washington State Park
  • It was a turbulent time for folks living in Arkansas. The War Between the States brought Northern troops into the Natural State.

    Skirmishes and battles broke out - the North even took Little Rock, forcing the state government to flee south to Hempstead County to the town of Washington.

    The year was 1863. "So from 1863 to 1865 the courthouse became the Arkansas Confederate state capital," explains Park Interpreter Ruth Ann Bickerstaff.

    "The legislature met in this building and passed laws while they were here. The Arkansas Supreme Court heard nine cases while they were here. And I'm sure the Confederate generals also discussed the defense of the town."

    You can feel the history. The room is open, just as it would have been 147 years ago. It's one of several 19th century exhibits at Historic Washington State Park.

    "That's one thing that we try to do is to relate what people did in the 19th century to our lives today." Billy Nations is the Chief Interpreter at Washington State Park.

    It's his job to paint the picture of life in Arkansas before electricity or cars. Nations says, "Even though Washington was a town of merchants and tradesmen and professional people, even they had to do things at home such as go out in the morning and gather the eggs, milk the cow, those things that were everyday routine rituals that most people today don't do."

    It's like stepping back in time. Genuine turn of the century structures were purchased. Some moved to this site, others restored where they sit, all recreating the look and feel of the mid-1800's.

    Then as now - the town sat at a crossroads. A tavern and inn at the intersection was once the last place you could sleep in a bed before you rode into Texas.

    The park's gun museum is home to an impressive collection of fire arms. It was a time when almost everyone carried a gun. Ornate weapons were like jewelry to those who could afford them.

    The park features classes and programs about almost every aspect of frontier life. Randy and Laura Whitaker married here at the park - and made their own period clothing.

    Randy says they took care picking the right material. "On the correct material and correct attire, we try to give off the correct resemblance. You cannot have living history without recreating it."

    Historic Washington State Park - it's a place where you can feel what it's was like to live in the Natural State more than 100 years ago. You'll be Amazed by Arkansas.

    View directions and a list of Historic Washington State Park's programs here.  

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