Century Old Documents Look for New Home

June 1, 2005--Posted at 6:00 pm CDT

Powhatan, AR--They’ve called it home for more than a century, but now residents in Powhatan say the state is saying their legal documents are no longer welcome at the local state park.  The documents in question date back nearly two hundred years.  They are all fromLawrence County, but the county was much larger then than it is now. 


Lawrence County used to stretch from the Mississippi to Oklahoma and became known as the mother county.  Now the county occupies a small area and includes Walnut Ridge as well as Powhatan.


For years the Powhatan Courthouse has been a symbol of pride for the small community of fifty people.  A few years back the state of Arkansas took over the upkeep of the property and created a state park on the grounds.  Last year the state received a large grant designed to renovate the aging courthouse and repair it to its original condition.  During the renovations the state removed the old documents which were held in several vaults in the building.  This month the state informed local residents they needed to find a new place for the documents.


“The genealogy from those documents has brought thousands of people to Lawrence County over the last few years and with the phone calls I have received I know a lot of people are hopping mad over this.” Genealogist Catherine Richey said.


Local officials are searching for a back up plan in order to keep the records safe, but not everyone is giving up.  Lloyd Clark, the President of the Lawrence County Historical Society, says they are trying to gather up a grass roots campaign to open the courthouse back up in housing the documents.  He says anyone who wants to help can e-mail officials with the Arkansas State Parks Department.  He says the main e-mail addresses are rex.friedman@arkansas.gov and greg.butts@arkansas.gov.