Maps showing the connections of
the Little Rock and Fort Smith Railroad and its land grant.
The state of Arkansas was one of several states that were formed after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. In 1804 the territory was divided and in 1819, the Territory of Arkansas was formed.
Little Rock remained a wilderness town until Arkansas became a territory, at which time the capital was moved there. Arkansas gained statehood in 1836, with Little Rock as its capital.
Fort Smith began as a military outpost located at the western border near the confluence of the Arkansas and Poteau Rivers.
The Little Rock & Fort Smith Railroad was begun in the 1850's. Its building was often slowed by economics and then in 1861 by civil war. Little Rock was controlled by the Union army for much of the war. Such delays instilled much vigor in railroad officials to gain an extension of the federal land grant that would soon expire.
In 1870 the railroad gained its needed extension, but only through some shady stock deals and alleged bribes. This gained negative attention, in 1876, for Presidential candidate James Blaine, who reportedly lost the election because of his dealings in the matter. The Little Rock & Fort Smith Railroad Company went bankrupt soon after.
In 1875 Judge Isaac Parker, known as "The Hanging Judge", began to serve the rowdy frontier community of Fort Smith. Over his twenty-one year position on the bench, 160 people were sentenced to hang. Only seventy-nine were actually hanged, but the judge earned a reputation of being quite severe. Parker is rumored to have hung six people in one day. The gallows that were erected at Fort Smith were well designed with an overhang to keep the rain off.
By the late 1800's, Little Rock was a leading commercial and business center, as well as an active railroad hub.
These maps were published in 1873 by G.W. & C.B. Colton & Co. The upper map shows the United States including its railroad system. The lower displays land grants, chartered in 1853 and opened in 1870.