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Desha County, Arkansas
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About Desha County

Arkansas City is the county seat of Desha County, which is located in southeastern Arkansas, bordered on the east by the Mississippi River, and was formed December 12, 1838 and a portion was attached to Drew County by an act passed January 21, 1861. A portion of Chicot County was joined to Desha on February 10, 1879, and a part of Lincoln was attached the following month. County records which should contain the record of county and early township organization is missing.

The county's records were stored in Texas during the Civil War, and portions of them were mutilated, causing some important books and papers to now be lost or destroyed, so records are imperfect.

Captain Ben Desha descended from an illustrious line of Frenchmen, his brother being Joseph Desha, a general in the U. S. Army and governor of Kentucky. He was appointed in 1822 by President Monroe receiver of public moneys in the territory of Arkansas, a position he performed honorably and well for many years. He died in 1835, and in 1838 when a new county was formed in the area where he lived, it was named in his honor.
Contributed by: Louis Reitzammer
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Townships of Desha County

Boundaries were re-established by the County Court on June 7, 1870 for the following townships: Chester(now in Arkansas County)
Island(now absorbed by other townships)
Red Fork

Other townships were created as follows:

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Towns and Cities of Desha County
Arkansas CityDumasMcGehee


The town of McGehee had it's beginning as a plantation, as did many other Delta towns. The plantation owner was Colonel Abner McGehee. Between 1870-1878, a commissary, blacksmith shop, and church services built up around a plantation's needs, and in a few years, the commissary was replaced by regular plantation store and a hotel was built for what had now become a small village.

Useful Addresses for Desha County

Desha County Historical Society
506 Henry Drive
Dumas, AR 76139

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Native Americans

The Arkansaw Indians lived on the west bank of the Mississippi river, adjacent to the White River in the townships of Mississippi and Franklin, and along the Arkansas River in the townships of Red Fork, Silver Lake and Randolph. These Indians could not read or write any alphabet or language, and left no written records. Their history and activities were passed orally from one generation to another.

When LaSalle opened the Mississippi River to commerce, traders, hunters, trappers, and adventurers came into the area of the Indians, and between the years 1690 and 1700 the life style of the Indians began to change, and they were never the same again. They began to carry knives , guns, and swords, and acquired whiskey and diseases.

Marriage was an honorable estate among the Indians, and it was founded on bonds of mutual esteem and reciprocal friendship of the parties. The marriage ceremony was not an elaborate ceremony, and as a part of the event, the husband gave the wife a leg of a deer and she gave him an ear of corn, symbolic of necessity and provision for the new family.

After years of drought in the lower Mississippi River valley, and floods on the Mississippi in 1782, 1783, and 1785, the source of food for the Indians was severly affected and the Indians along the Mississippi were forced to move inland in the vicinity of Arkansas Post. They were reduced to living on roots, barks and vegetation found in the forest. When, on april 17, 1783, a census of the Indians was taken by Captain Jacob Dubreuil Saint-Cyr, Spanish Commandant at Arkansas Post, the Indians only numbered 708 persons, down from the 3,000 estimated in 1690.

When this area was transferred from Spain to France, the name Quapaw was used to describe all of the "down stream people" along the Arkansas River from the vicinity of Little Rock to the mouth of the river and along the west bank of the Mississippi River from the Saint Francis to the Arkansas.

Thirteen of the chiefs within the Quapaw Nation recognized by the United States as having authority to bargain for the Indians were:Headapaa (Eagle's Bill)
Tehonka (Tame Buffalo)
Krakatan (Dry Man)
Mahroka (Buck Wheat)
Hradaskamonmini (Pipe Bird)
Patongde (Approaching Summer)
Hammonminini (Night Walker)
Washingteteton (Mockingbird's Bill)
Tataonsa (Whistling Wind)
and four others without titles or nicknames.
These were present at the signing of the Treaty of 1818 at St. Louis.

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