Historical Development of Pike County
Pike County was created by Act of the Arkansas Territorial Legislature, the action being approved November 1, 1883. Thus, Pike County was one of the original when Arkansas became a State in 1836. On December 9, 1837, by act of the State Legislative, Murfreesboro was made the permanent county seat and the county lines were established. The first clerk’s office, which was erected of logs, was burned and all county records were destroyed in the Spring of 1855. A two-story frame courthouse was built in 1856, which was totally destroyed by fire on the night of March 9, 1885, when all the county records were again destroyed.
The receipts issued for the year 1893 were recorded which was preserved, and are the earliest tax records in existence for Pike County. Many of the deeds were re-recorded.
Pike County lines have been defined by Acts of the Arkansas Legislature as follows:
- Between Pike and Sevier – November 15, 1833
- Between Pike and Hempstead – December 14, 1838
- Between Pike and Howard – April 14, 1875
- Between Pike and Clark – April 25, 1873
- Between Pike and Montgomery – December 16, 1874
On July 4, 1819, Arkansas began its separate existence under the name of Arkansas Territory. Congress declared that on that date all that part of the Missouri Territory lying south of a line beginning on the Mississippi River to 36 degrees north, running west to St. Francis River, thence to western territorial line of Missouri should be separate territory. This took place March 2, 1819. The seat of government was to be at Arkansas Post. President Monroe appointed General James Miller of New Hampshire as governor. The capitol was moved to Little Rock in 1821.
One of the most important issues of the day was the sale of public lands and this was started in 1815 and two million acres of land was surveyed and set apart for the soldiers of the War of 1812. None of these lands were sold, but each soldier was given a warrant and the land department located it by a lottery process. Thus the new territory of Arkansas from the start was populated with the heroes of the War of 1812 – men of courage and ability.
After the Territorial Legislation passed on the organization of Pike County November 1, 1833, Elijah Kelly and Henry Brewer were appointed as commissioners to find a seat of justice for the newly appointed county. Asa Thompson was the only man living in the vicinity at the time and a post office had been set up in his home and given the name of Zebulon. In searching old deeds, it is assumed he had property close to where the Floyd-Pickett house now stands. A log courthouse was quickly built with a small frame house for the clerk’s office. The clerk was D.S. Dickson from 1833-48. Zebulon at that time was no more than a settlement hacked out of the wilderness by a few hardy pioneers looking for a new frontier. In 1836, the name Zebulon was changed to Murfreesborough (later Murfreesboro) and has remained the county seat until this day. Legend has it that many of the new settlers were from Tennessee and named their town after Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Pike County was originally a part of Hempstead and Clark counties, both formed in 1818 by legislature of Missouri. On December 31, 1813, two new counties were created, New Madrid and Arkansas. The first included the north-western angle of Arkansas County and Pike from these two. Pike was the twenty-sixth county formed in Arkansas out of seventy-five.
In 1833, there were three settlements in Pike County: Wolf Creek, east, which is now Delight, Brewer settlement on Muddy Fork, west, and a few families living at the place which was selected as the county seat, known later as Zebulon, then changed to Murfreesborough.
Some of the early families living in Pike County before 1830 were Asa Thompson, Joseph Davis, Jeremiah Davis, John Hughes, Oliver Brewer, Sr., Henry Brewer, Gabrill Oliver, John White, George Hensley, David Dickson, David Huddleston, John Blocker, William Stone, the Kelleys (Elijah and William), Isaac White and Pascal Sorrells.
The early land entry books were destroyed by fire so it is impossible to give a list of all the earliest settlers.
Some of the earlier towns of Pike County were Stellville (post office, Wolf Creek), Royston, Nathan Village (western part of Muddy Fork Township), Bills Town, Rock Creek, Gentry (near Self Creek Township), New Hope and Star of the West.
Pike County is situated in the southwestern part of Arkansas. It is bounded on the north by Montgomery, on the east by Clark, on the south by Nevada and Hempstead, and west by Howard counties. It has an area of 620 square miles. The northern and central portions are quite mountainous. Between these hills are beautiful fertile valleys. The southern part is level and has much bottom land as it lies along the larger streams. The largest and most important stream is the Little Missouri River which rises in Polk County, enters Pike in the northwestern corner, flows southeast, and after forming a portion of the southern boundary line leaves the county at its southeastern corner. Antoine Creek is formed by three small streams in the northeastern part of the county and flows south forming a portion of the county’s eastern boundary and empties into the Little Missouri River at the southeastern part of the county. Saline Creek rises near the central part of the county, flows south about fifteen miles and empties into the Little Missouri. Wolf Creek rises near the central part of the county, flows southeast and empties into the Antoine Creek. Rock Creek rises in the northern part of the county, flows eastward and empties into the Caddo. The Caddo River flows for a short distance through the northeastern part of the county. The Muddy Fork of the Little Missouri River rises in Howard County, flowing east into the clear Creek which flows into the Little Missouri near Murfreesboro. The Woodall Creek rises near the center of the county, flows northeast and empties into Antoine Creek. Prairie Creek runs through Murfreesboro and empties into the Little Missouri River at the southeastern part of the county.
Pike County is good for farming, though the northern portion is hilly, broken and rough. Other parts of the county have a good sandy soil, running into sandy loam with clay subsoil, called Redlands, which is so productive. These lands are easily cultivated and cotton was the principal crop for many years. The average yield for bottom land was 1,400 pounds and the uplands 800 pounds per acre. Almost everything that is needed for home can be raised here. Timber grows in abundance, with the most valuable of these being the short leaf pine. Timber at first covered about three quarters of the area of Pike County. Other varieties existent other than pine are hickory, oak, walnut, maple, ash, sycamore, and red gum.