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County Data for Randolph County, Arkansas

Randolph County is a county located in the U. S. state of Arkansas. As of 2000, the population was 18,195. The county seat is Pocahontas. Randolph County is Arkansas's 32nd county, formed on October 29, 1835, and named for John Randolph, a U. S. senator from Virginia, who was influential in obtaining congressional approval of the Louisiana Purchase, of which Randolph County is a part.

Randolph County is currently an alcohol prohibition or dry county.

William Jasper Blackburn, a Reconstruction U. S. Representative from Louisiana, was born on the Fourche de Mau in Randolph County in 1820.

Former U. S. Representative Edwin R. Bethune of Arkansas is originally from Randolph County.


Pre-European Exploration

Prehistoric details of Native American life in Randolph County remain elusive. Archaeologists unearthed both Archaic and Mississippian materials in the Old Davidsonville State Park area. The Michigameans, an Algonquian-speaking people from the Illinois Confederation, settled in the late seventeenth century near modern-day Pocahontas. After the first European contact, the Cherokee, Delaware, Illinois, Osage, and Shawnee settled near the county.

European Exploration and Settlement

European explorers laid claim to vast areas encompassing Randolph County. Possession first shifted from the Spanish under Hernando de Soto (1541) to the French with Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet (1673). The Spanish retook it as per the Treaty of Paris of 1763 before transferring it back to the French in 1800.

Louisiana Purchase through Early Statehood

Part of the Louisiana Purchase, the area became part of the District of Louisiana in 1804 before becoming the Louisiana Territory in 1805. The new territory subdivided, with the District of New Madrid containing the region. It became part of the District of Arkansas the next year. In 1812, the name of the governing territory changed to Missouri Territory, and the District of Arkansas converted to New Madrid County. In 1813, it became Arkansas County, with the upper part of the county separating as Lawrence County in 1815.

Before the Louisiana Purchase, a few Frenchmen had settled the region. American settlers quickly followed, entering through Hix’s Ferry. Established by William Hix around 1803, it became the major entry point to northeast Arkansas on the Southwest Trail (also known as Old Military Road, Congress Road, or the Natchitoches Trace). In 1815, Davidsonville, near three rivers and the Southwest Trail, became the Lawrence County seat. This settlement produced Arkansas’s first post office in 1817, a land office in 1820, and a brick courthouse in 1822, as well as a cotton gin, a jewelry store, and a drill site for the Third Regiment of Territorial Militia. In the late 1820s, the town of Davidsonville waned as the Southwest Trail shifted westward, and the county seat changed to Jackson.

Coinciding with the founding of Davidsonville, Ransom Bettis established the Bettis Bluff settlement on the Black River. In the late 1820s, Thomas Stephenson Drew, future governor, arrived and began shipping pork and stock down the river, reinvesting the profits in trade items and gaining sizable landholdings by marrying Bettis’s daughter, Cinderella. Once the first steamboat arrived at Bettis Bluff in 1829, the town economically coalesced. In 1835, Randolph County separated from Lawrence, and Bettis Bluff, renamed Pocahontas, became the Randolph County seat. By 1839, a new county courthouse opened.

Cherokee removed from their eastern lands under the Andrew Jackson administration and guided by John Benge crossed the Current River into Randolph County in 1838 and moved through Jackson toward Smithville (Lawrence County). The economic benefits of the land route and the rivers continued to draw people to the region, increasing the population to more than 6,000 by 1860.

Civil War through Reconstruction

The importance of Pitman’s Ferry, the old Hix’s Ferry site purchased by the Peyton R. Pitman family, made Randolph County an early Civil War assembly area, drawing soldiers into the region to outnumber the civilian population of the county at the time. Confederate General William Joseph Hardee took command at Pitman’s Ferry, transferring the state volunteers to Confederate service before shifting them east of the Mississippi River in the fall of 1861. The avenues of entry remained weakly defended, and small skirmishes and guerrilla activity ensued.

The largest engagement in Randolph County occurred on October 27, 1862, at Pitman’s Ferry. Colonel William Dewey of the Twenty-third Iowa Infantry marched thirteen companies and an artillery section to the ferry by force. Opposed by Confederate Colonel John Q. Burbridge’s estimated 1,500 men, the Union forces carried the position. The number of engaged forces is estimated at more than 2,500. After the surprise and capture of Confederate General M. Jeff Thompson and his staff at Pocahontas in 1863, only skirmishes and guerrilla activity occurred as the county remained deep in Union territory.

After the war, the construction of railroad routes near the county brought travelers and trade. The Hoxie-Pocahontas and Northern Railway Company, part of the St. Louis-San Francisco system, entered the county, expanding markets, encouraging land sales, and bolstering the lumber industry.

Post-Reconstruction through Early Twentieth Century

Postwar prosperity funded construction of a new courthouse in 1875, and easier travel encouraged the development of two nineteenth-century resort communities, Warm Springs and Ravenden Springs, around natural hot springs. The improved transportation allowed for more immigration into the county. A large number of German families began migrating into Randolph County, creating a strong German Catholic presence in Pocahontas and Engelberg by the turn of the century. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the construction of U. S. Highways 62 and 67 coupled with Works Progress Administration (WPA) road construction and Civilian Conservation Corps projects helped Randolph County withstand the Depression. Pocahontas added a library, a waterworks, and a hospital before the construction of the current county courthouse in 1940.

World War II through Modern Era

The entrance of the United States into World War II had mixed results for Randolph County. The economic prosperity brought by war industry drew some citizens to better-paying jobs outside the region; however, some industries entered the county, creating a slight economic boom. An egg-dehydrating plant and a shoe manufacturing facility opened, employing many local citizens. While the financial outlook for the county improved, more than 1,200 young men were called to war, with fifty-nine killed in service.

Today in Randolph County, lowland farmers export rice, soybeans, corn, and other grains, while cattle ranches and poultry houses dominate the uplands. The largest employer, Waterloo Industries, produced toolboxes for export outside the county before abandoning the Pocahontas facility in 2007. The wooded terrain, five rivers, and many smaller streams attract fishermen and hunters of deer, duck, and turkey to the region.

Randolph County contains several points of interest. Old Davidsonville State Park interprets the life and death of Davidsonville, the 1820s-era Rice-Upshaw House still stands near Dalton, and the Maynard Pioneer Museum celebrates the early settlers. Pocahontas houses the restored 1875 courthouse; the Century Wall monument, a celebration of influential twentieth-century Americans; and the Eddie Mae Herron Center, a refurbished African-American school functioning as a community center and interpretative site.


According to the U. S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 656 square miles (1,699 km²), of which, 652 square miles (1,688 km²) of it is land and 4 square miles (11 km²) of it (0. 64%) is water.

Major Highways

  • U. S. Highway 62
  • U. S. Highway 67
  • Highway 90
  • 25px Highway 115
  • Adjacent counties

  • Oregon County, Missouri (northwest)
  • Ripley County, Missouri (northeast)
  • Clay County (east)
  • Greene County (southeast)
  • Lawrence County (south)
  • Sharp County (west)
  • Demographics

    As of the census of 2000, there were 18,195 people, 7,265 households, and 5,245 families residing in the county. The population density was 28 people per square mile (11/km²). There were 8,268 housing units at an average density of 13 per square mile (5/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 96. 99% White, 0. 97% Black or African American, 0. 53% Native American, 0. 07% Asian, 0. 01% Pacific Islander, 0. 27% from other races, and 1. 15% from two or more races. 0. 82% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

    There were 7,265 households out of which 30. 70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58. 40% were married couples living together, 9. 90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27. 80% were non-families. 24. 70% of all households were made up of individuals and 12. 10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2. 46 and the average family size was 2. 93.

    In the county the population was spread out with 24. 60% under the age of 18, 8. 30% from 18 to 24, 25. 70% from 25 to 44, 24. 30% from 45 to 64, and 17. 00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 96. 00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90. 50 males.

    The median income for a household in the county was $27,583, and the median income for a family was $33,535. Males had a median income of $25,006 versus $18,182 for females. The per capita income for the county was $14,502. About 11. 90% of families and 15. 30% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18. 80% of those under age 18 and 15. 20% of those age 65 or over.

    Cities and towns

    Land for sale in Randolph County, Arkansas

    This County information was provided courtesy of Wikipedia