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Dallas County Arkansas




Beginnings [1]

Dallas County, established in 1845, is located in south-central Arkansas in the Lower Ouachita River Valley. Settlement in this area was slow before 1840. Many of the pre-Civil War settlers were farmers or planters from the Lower South. These settlers brought slaves to this part of southern Arkansas where the plantation/slave system was most prevalent.

The structures built by the earliest settlers were of log construction. Dwellings ranged from one to two stories in height and had traditional floor plans. Most dwellings were either one pen structures or dog-trots. Later dwellings were of wood frame construction and exhibited Greek Revival influences. Encircling these dwellings were numerous outbuildings including those primarily used for human service such as wells and privies, and others for livestock shelter and food storage. These complexes or homesteads were spread throughout Dallas County by 1860.

Groups of these homesteads located around a central market or commercial area were identified as communities. The two most important early communities were Tulip and Princeton. Tulip was well established by the founding of the county in 1845. Princeton was surveyed and platted in 1845 to serve as the Dallas County seat. Both communities were well known throughout the state for their educational institutions which did not survive the Civil War.

The Civil War brought about the destruction of many resources. This destruction was not by the acts of war but by the associated economic ruin. By 1863, as the war moved to southern Arkansas, many of Dallas county's residents took refuge in Texas and Louisiana, causing the county population to drop over 30%. Little construction took place during and following the Civil War. The economy of the area was revived in the 1880's with the coming of the Railroad Era. Four major railroad lines were constructed in the county beginning in 1881. These lines spurred the development of many new towns such as Fordyce, Manning, Willow and Ouachita, but caused the demise of others such as Princeton. The most important new railroad town was Fordyce, plotted in 1882. By 1890 Fordyce was the largest town in the county and in 1908 it became the Dallas County seat. The county's oldest existing religious properties were constructed during the Railroad Era. Most of these churches are traditional, illustrating a form which existed in earliest settlement. Also during the period, the first major architectural resources constructed of brick were built. These resources represent one resource type, that of commercial structures, and exist mainly in the city of Fordyce.

  1. Brown, Sarah, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Dallas County Multiple Resource Area, Dallas County AR, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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