Our History

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From Arkansas Settlement to Prosperous County

Independence County was the ninth county to be formed in Arkansas and was the fourth after the Arkansas territory was created. The Act creating the county passed by the Territorial legislature was signed by James Miller, governor of the Arkansas territory, on October 23, 1820.

As originally formed, the county included a large area of land extending from the mouth of Little Red River to the Missouri line and included all or parts of Fulton, Baxter, Sharp, Izard, Stone, Cleburne, Van Buren, White, Jackson and Woodruff Counties. The first courthouse was built at Batesville and the county seat has remained in the town of Batesville.

The first post office at Batesville was opened as Poke Creek November 7, 1820, with Charles Kelly, the county's first sheriff, as postmaster. The name of the office was officially changed to Batesville on January 7, 1824.

An early Arkansas settlement was established at the Batesville site. There is a record of a John Read opening a store there in 1812 and there is also an authentic record of John Luttig's store, which had a $5,500 stock of goods at the site in 1815. Poke Bayou was visited by the writer Henry R. Schoolcraft, who described the Arkansas settlement as a village of a dozen houses in 1819.

The county grew steadily in its first forty years of existence and in 1860 had reached a population of 14,307, although the land area had been substantially reduced. Independence County was fourth in population among the state's counties in 1860.

The county has furnished three Arkansas governors, Thomas S. Drew, Elisha Baxter and William R. Miller.

Incorporated towns in the county in addition to Batesville are Southside, Newark, Sulphur Rock, Oil Trough, Moorefield, Pleasant Plains, Magness and Cushman.

The County's educational needs are also served by the University of Arkansas Livestock and Forestry Branch Experiment Station (established in 1937) and, the Gateway Vocational-Technical School known today as university Arkansas Community College of Batesville was completed in the early 1970's, the Batesville Public School System, the Southside Public School System, and the Midland Public School System. The County passed a 1/4 cent Sales Tax to support UACCB in 1998. Arkansas College known today as Lyon College is a four year liberal arts college, founded by the Presbyterian Church in 1872..

The county has been well known for its manganese fields, marble quarries and limestone production plants. Traditionally as an agricultural area, the county has been a producer of row-crops and livestock, including beef, sheep, and goats. The Batesville-Floral area was a pioneer broiler producing section of Arkansas, and, today, the poultry industry in the county is an important source of employment and income. Recently this particular area is also part of the Fayetteville Shale area where gas is being extracted from numerous wells in the southwest part of the county.

Independence County has experienced exceptional industrial growth over the past decade and has maintained an annual payroll in excess of $660 million. This growth has been enhanced by several world class production facilities, including FutureFuel Chemical Company, Peco Foods, Ozark Mountain Poultry, Custom Craft Poultry, BadBoy, Toro owned Spartan mowers, the Independent Stave Company, Atlas Asphalt/White River Materials, Flowers Bakery, Lifeplus International, LaCroix Precision Optics, Arkansas Lime Company, TWH Interprises, and Midwest Lime Company. Additionally, Independence County is home of many non-manufacturing companies such as White River Health, First Community Bank, White River Area on Aging, and many more. Independence County has an airport which is one of the largest in the state of Arkansas; the Batesville Municipal Regional Airport has over 6,000 paved feet of lighted runway.

To accommodate local government growth, Independence County operates a top tier public library that routinely is rated in the top category in the state.

In addition, through local, federal and state efforts, the county has constructed buildings to house auxiliary services, including social services, public health, mental health and cooperative extension service. Also, from 1995 to 2004, a new county jail, a solid waste transfer station, a county recycling center, a new district court building, and a regional juvenile detention center were constructed to enhance the services available to the area. Also during this period, the historic Independence County Courthouse underwent extensive interior and handicapped accessibility renovations. The County supports the various communities throughout the county in parks and recreational programs.

Independence County, Arkansas's estimated 2024 population is 38,386 with a growth rate of 0.17% in the past year according to the most recent United States census data.