Lawrence County, Arkansas

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Lawrence County is a county located in the U.S. state of Arkansas. As of 2000, the population was 17,774. The county seat is Walnut Ridge.[1] Lawrence County is Arkansas's second county, formed on January 15, 1815, and named for Captain James Lawrence who fought in the War of 1812. It is an alcohol prohibition or dry county.



The “Mother of Counties,” Lawrence County once covered a majority of north Arkansas, an enormous stretch of land ultimately forming thirty-one counties. Present-day Lawrence County straddles the Black River, a natural boundary separating the lowlands of the Arkansas Delta from the foothills of the Ozark Plateau. Long dominated by cotton production, this agricultural county now produces rice, soybeans, corn, and sorghum.

Early History

Once inhabited by Osage Indians, Lawrence County was first explored in 1542–43 by Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto and became U.S. territory with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Named for War of 1812 naval hero Captain James Lawrence, the county was created in 1815 as part of Missouri Territory and was the second of five large counties in what became Arkansas Territory in 1819, preceding the creation of Arkansas Territory by four years.

White settlers first inhabited the county’s western regions, traveling on the Black River or, after 1811, over the Military Road. This route, along with the swampy conditions of the east, explains the early settlement concentration in the county’s hilly western half.

The earliest important settlement was at Davidsonville along the Black River. Named for territorial legislator John Davidson, the town served as the first county seat in 1816. Exaggerated tradition claims 3,000 Davidsonville residents before yellow fever ended the settlement. In 1829, the county seat moved to Jackson on the Military Road, and Davidsonville as a community ceased to exist.

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