Southern hospitality founded Randolph County’s seat Pocahontas; where its name comes from is still a mystery

by George Jared (gjared@talkbusiness.net) 174 views 

A bend in the Black River in Pocahontas.

It took booze, barbeque, and Cinderella’s husband to establish modern-day Pocahontas as the county seat in Randolph County.

The city will celebrate its 11th annual Founder’s Day Festival on May 6-7. The Arkansas Arts Center’s GoGallery Artmobile will be deployed at the festival. The mobile unit will be in Randolph County’s seat from May 7-9, Festival Arts Coordinator Graycen Bigger told Talk Business & Politics. It delivers a museum-like atmosphere to each place it visits, according to information released.

“You don’t want to miss it,” she said.

In 1815, a man named Ransom S. Bettis migrated from southern Missouri to the area that is now Pocahontas. He built a house overlooking the Black River, and at the time the county was part of Lawrence County, the “Mother of all counties” in Arkansas. His daughter, Cinderella, married Thomas Drew around 1826, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

When Randolph County was carved out of Lawrence County in 1835 it needed a county seat. Drew, who would later serve as Arkansas’s governor (1844-48) and his father-in-law hatched a plan. Present-day Pocahontas near the Bettis’ homestead had become an import river port along the Black River. Randolph County is renowned as the only place in Arkansas that has five navigable rivers, and it has been claimed it’s the only county in the U.S. that has five such rivers.

A group of residents wanted to locate the county seat eight miles north near a place known as the Columbia settlement. Residents could vote for or in either place, according to historians. Drew and Bettis lured county residents to the Bettis’ homestead with offers of free barbeque and alcohol. The rouse worked. The town was originally named Bettis Bluff, but a few years later the name was mysteriously changed to Pocahontas. Historians have never been able to verify how or why the name change occurred.

Pocahontas has since become a cultural and educational center in northern Arkansas.

A free city movie, ghost tour, a night at the museum, parade, the Great Rubber Duck Race, and other events will be held during the Festival. Food, including barbeque, and a beer garden, through the Bella Piazza Restaurant will be available, among other attractions.

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