|Date(s):||April 2, 1879|
|Course:||“Rise And Fall of the Slave South,” University of Virginia|
The letter to Thomas Butler concerning his property holdings in Woodruff County,
Arkansas was sent to him by his lawyer, J. Cole Davis. In the letter, Davis was writing to inform
Butler that he believed that it was possible to receive at least 2,500 cash for his land in
Woodruff County. Butler's land has been leased to tenants through Davis's business for some
period of time and Davis stated that it was making little progress economically for Butler. Davis
made sure that Butler realized that this was the only offer he had received in quite some time for
this piece of land and it was probable that this was going to be the only offer they would receive
anytime soon. Davis told Butler that not only was the land in Woodruff County in very low
demand but that land in the entire state of Arkansas was not selling at all. Davis attributed the
lack of demand for land in Woodruff County and Arkansas to several factors including high
taxes, which are on the account of a Federal Court judgment, no railroad running anywhere near
the county, and finally little capital coming into the state as a whole. This lead to Davis
constantly advising Butler throughout the letter that, in his view, the only sensible move was to
sell this land as soon as possible.
Woodruff County, established by a state act on November 26, 1862, is located in the
northeastern corner of Arkansas. Woodruff was one of two counties to be created under
Arkansas's Confederate government. Cross County, which borders Woodruff to the east, was
formed just 11 days prior. Woodruff County is comprised of roughly 577 square miles of land
which remains mostly fertile as the White River flows on the western border of the county and
the Cache River just to the east. The county was split into 13 townships with the seat of the
county resting in Augusta. It would seem strange that land in this area of the state would not be
considered valuable or easy to sell. The land was good for growing with the Cache and White
Rivers following in the vicinity and the county is not too far removed from a major city in St.
Louis. While its geography would seem to make Woodruff County land valuable, it appeared
that the major factors for the original low demand of land, according to Davis, were the high
taxation rates of Arkansas and the lack of a nearby railroad. Also, as Arkansas was only
admitted to the Union in 1836, the state is a little over 40 years old at the time of these letters.
This was still a young state that lacked the necessary infrastructure. This was most evident in
regards to its tax rate as well as its crime rate. Especially in the western counties of the state,
which still were considered to have pockets of Indian territory, there was relative lawlessness.
These factors contributed to land in Woodruff County, and most counties in Arkansas, as less
desirable to people than land in more established states in the South.