Positioned along the legendary Southwest Trail, the town of Washington in Hempstead County in southwest Arkansas was a thriving center of commerce, business, and county government in the nineteenth century. Historical figures such as Davy Crockett and Sam Houston passed through, and during the Civil War, when the Federal troops occupied Little Rock, the Hempstead County Courthouse in Washington served as the seat of state government.
A prosperous town fully involved in the events and society of the territorial, antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction eras, Washington became in a way frozen in time by a series of events including two fires, a tornado, and being bypassed by the railroad in 1874. Now an Arkansas State Park and National Historic Landmark, Washington has been studied by the Arkansas Archeological Survey over the past twenty-five years.
Digging for History at Old Washington joins the historical record with archaeological findings such as uncovered construction details, evidence of lost buildings, and remnants of everyday objects. Of particular interest are the homes of Abraham Block, a Jewish merchant originally from New Orleans, and Simon Sanders from North Carolina, who became the town’s county clerk. The public and private lives of the Block and Sanders families provide a fascinating look at an antebellum town at the height of its prosperity.