THE AMERICAN PIONEER IN WHITE COUNTY
1900 Census Independence Co., AR 1900 Census Clay TWP, White Co., AR
Remembering the geography of White County with its hills and lowlands, it is easy to see why people traveling from the northeast to the southwest would follow the foothills -- high enough to stay out of the mosquito-filled swamps and easier to go over than the ups and downs of the higher hills.
As early as 1763, a famous French fur trader and explorer named La Clede traveled from southwestern Arkansas to St. Genevieve, Missouri, located on the Mississippi River.
Other pioneers followed what was probably an old Indian trail, and eventually the path was known as the Old Southwest Trail. The trail crossed the White River near Batesville, came down to Pleasant Plains, then through the area of Roosevelt, Hickory Flat, Little Red, Dewey, Clay, Mt. Pisgah Center Hill, Floyd, Royal Hill, El Paso, and on to Little Rock.
Many of the pioneer families in Arkansas traveled down this old trail. About 1815, Mr. and Mrs. John Magness moved down the Old Southwest Trail from their former home on the White River below Batesville. They built a log home near the foot of Mt. Pisgah. (Jonathan Magness, also known as John, was born about 1756 in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and is said to have died in 1834 in Independence County, Arkansas. he married about 1779 Patty------, by whom he had several children - David M. Magness, Perry Green Magness, John Magness, William Magness & Morgan Magness) The Magnesses were a true pioneer family. For the first year, their closest white neighbor was 40 miles away. They stayed on friendly terms with the Indians who even offered to trade two papooses for .one of their children. When Mr. Magness was away, Mrs. Magness, with the help of a slave boy, killed a panther that had been bothering the geese.
Mr. Magness hired a teacher to stay at their home, a few years later, to teach his children and the neighbors' children. Then later, when Searcy was started, Mr. Magness built a cabin near Spring Park so that the children could go to school. At that time, Searcy was so small that the people could hear the timber wolves at night.
During President Andrew Jackson's term in office, the Old Southwest Trail was improved and people began calling it the Military Road. A stagecoach route was established between Little Rock and Batesville with the stagecoach taking three days to make the trip. The Magness home became an overnight stagecoach stop. Mr. and Mrs. Magness are buried in the Mt. Pisgah (Old Military Road) Cemetery, which is the oldest cemetery in the county.
From the time that Arkansas became a territory (1819) until 1835, White County did not exist. The northern part of the county was part of Independence County, eastern White County was part of Jackson County, while the southern and western parts were with Pulaski County. By 1831, there were enough people to have a post office. The post office was located on the Southwest Trail where it crossed the Bayou Des Arc in the Harmony community (between Center Hi11 and Floyd). Mr. Lewis Kirkpatrick served as postmaster and the post office was called Des Arc. It only existed for a couple of years before being discontinued. Later, the name was used again for the county seat of Prairie County.
In 1835, there was a movement to establish a county seat town of Peach Orchard Gap, which later became EI Paso. This was near the center of what was then Pulaski County. The movement came to a halt when White County was created.