Sunday, May 15, 2011

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Or pre-summer vacation if you will.

Our first stop was Hope, Arkansas, not to see the birth place of Former President Clinton, but to try to find something about my great great grandfather, and the story of his murder. We got there late Monday afternoon, and drove on to Washington, Arkansas where the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives is located. We only had one hour before they closed. They had one roll of microfiche for 1895, the year he died. With great anticipation, I loaded the film on the viewer, only to find that there was only one issue for 1895, and it was February. He died in April.

Hubby was a real trooper and looked through the criminal court trial books while I checked the cemetery books and criminal court fee book. There was no index for any of these other than the cemetery books, and the criminal books weren't dated well, so it was time-consuming and frustrating to try to find anything.

The criminal court fee books had the name of the person on trial, but not the victim. It also had the nature of the crime and the verdict in most cases, so I scanned the pages for murders, and Hubby scanned for my great great grandfather's name. I found one murder trial that ended with an execution, but there was no record of it in the trial book. So when they shooed us out of there at 4:30, we hadn't learned anything.

We spent another hour looking around Washington. Established in 1824, the town was the county seat, and in 1836 the first courthouse was built. Washington was an important town at one time. It was on the Southwest Trail which was the main route pioneers took to Texas, and many of the important men who fought at the Alamo stayed there. It was even said that Sam Houston did some of his planning at one of the taverns in town, and it is also reported that a local blacksmith forged the first Bowie knife while Jim Bowie stayed there.

Choctaw Indians were taken through there on the famous Trail of Tears. Men who were going to fight in the Mexican War gathered there. During the Civil War, the Confederate government made it the Capital of Arkansas. It's decline began when the railroad that connected the state to Little Rock was built through Hope, and the county seat was moved to Hope in 1939.

Please excuse the quality of my pictures. It was near sunset and all the buildings have fences around them that make it hard to get a good shot of the building.

A bigger and better courthouse was built in 1874. It served the county until 1939 when the county seat was moved to Hope.
This would probably be the courthouse where the trial was held. Since it was after hours, we didn't get to go in, but there is a court room on the second floor, and I imagine that is where it took place.

From there we went to the old jail. At one time it was a bed and breakfast inn, but now it is a private residence. This would be the place where the man who killed my great great grandfather was jailed and later hanged. It doesn't look at all like a jail, does it? Both it and the old courthouse eventually became residences.

Most of the buildings in town are part of the Washington State Park, and have been restored. They are open on tour, but we didn't get to do that. It's a beautiful little town and gives an ideal look at life in the 1800's. I love the board sidewalks through the town.

We stayed in Hope that night, and next door to the hotel was the Dos Loco Gringos restaurant. For those who aren't familiar with Spanish, that translates to Two Crazy Foreigners (foreigners when in Mexico, not in Hope). The food was fine, and I probably wouldn't have remembered it at all if it weren't for the cake. Chocolate Fudge cake, a huge slice of it, about five layers tall, with thick frosting, whipped cream, and drizzled with chocolate sauce. It was more than two people could eat, and it was to die for. I mean, seriously, it's worth a trip to Hope just for that cake. Remember that the next time it's only an hour out of your way to stop by there.


Vacations, Pix, Genealogy