Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives

Old Washington Historic State Park
Washington, Arkansas

The Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives (SARA) is dedicated to the purpose  
of collecting and preserving primary source materials that bring together    
the unique history of Southwest Arkansas. These materials include letters,   
journals, maps, scrapbooks, family histories, pictures, pamphlets, newspaper 
files, manuscript collections, sheet music, court records, census records,   
early post office records, Civil War documents and a library of rare books   
relating to the area.                                                        

SARA was founded in 1978 with assistance from the Arkansas History           
Commission, the Old Washington Historic State Park, and the Pioneer          
Washington Restoration Foundation. In 1980 SARA became an independent        
archives governed by a board of directors composed of two representatives    
from each of the eleven counties formed from the original Hempstead County   
in 1819.                                                                     
SARA is located in the restored 1874 courthouse in Old Washington and serves 
as a central clearing house for the preservation of records to be used by    
scholars and researchers of the history of this region of Arkansas. This is  
why we say "The story comes together here!"                                  

About Southwest Arkansas

When the Territory of Arkansas was created in 1819, Hempstead County         
embraced the entire southwest corner of the territory. Until the Great       
Southwest was opened for settlement after the War with Mexico in 1846,       
Southwest Arkansas was the edge of the frontier for the United States. To    
the west was the Indian Territory; south of Red River was the Spanish (later 
Mexican) Province of Texas. Due to its historical and geographical location, 
a culture developed in Southwest Arkansas that differed from the Delta area  
of Southeast Arkansas or the mountain region of the Ozarks to the north.     
Today this same area is divided into these twelve counties: Columbia,        
Howard, Lafayette, Little River, Miller, Nevada, Ouachita, Pike, Polk,       
Sevier, Union and Hempstead.                                                 
This area was historically significant long before the Louisiana Purchase.   
The Great Bend in the Red River was the center of the important Caddo Indian 
culture which disappeared shortly before 1800 and the river was to play a    
decisive role as the white man moved westward. It brought the early          
explorers, settlers and slave traders who led the way for later legends such 
as Stephen Austin, Jim Bowie and Sam Houston. The rich bottoms lands and     
sandy redlands attracted cotton planters and independent farm families from  
Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama. SARA seeks to document this    
little-known chapter of American history.                                    

Who May Use SARA

All serious researchers, including grade school students, are welcome to use 
the collection. Materials cannot leave the archives, but must be used in the 
research room. Copies may be obtained of materials whose condition will      
allow copying.                                                               
How You Can Help

The Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives is a non-profit research center     
dependent upon donations of money as well as historical materials.           
Historical materials may be donated through any member of the Board of       
Directors or by contacting:                                                  

Director, SARA
Old Washington Historic State Park
Washington, Arkansas 71862
(501) 983-2633

Checks may be made payable to:                                               

Friends of SARA
Washington, Arkansas 71862

SARA also copies family records for the archives if the donor wishes to      
retain the originals.                                                        

About Old Washington

In 1824 the town of Washington in Hempstead County was founded as the first  
seat of justice for the Southwest part of the Arkansas Territory. The        
Southwest Trail, the main road through the Territory to Texas led through    
the town. Later this same road became part of the infamous "Trial of Tears"  
during the Indian Removal of the 1830's. Washington served as a way station  
for adventurers on their way to fight in the Texas Revolution in 1836, for   
the gathering of troops for the War with Mexico in 1846, and as the          
Confederate State Capitol of Arkansas in the years 1863-1865 after Federal   
troops had captured Little Rock.                                             

Washington was the center of a cotton planter aristocracy which wielded      
great political power during the early years of Arkansas history. Here, the  
culture of the Old South flourished for a time in a pioneer western setting, 
and Washington became a town where the rough frontiersman shook hands with   
polished gentlemen.                                                          

Today, Washington is being restored as an historic town by the Pioneer       
Washington Restoration Foundation and the Arkansas Department of Parks and   
Tourism. Attractions included furnished antebellum homes of Greek Revival    
architecture and a reconstruction of the blacksmith shop where legend says   
the first Bowie knife was forged. Tours can be taken every day from 9:00     
a.m. to 5 p.m.                                                               

When SARA Is Open

7 days a week                                                                
9 a.m. - 4 p.m.                                                              

SARA is located on the right-hand side of the first floor of the courthouse. 

Information compiled in 1996

David Kelley 2002