Arkadelphia is a city in Clark County, Arkansas, United States. Nestled in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. Two universities, Henderson State University and Ouachita Baptist University, are located there. Arkadelphia was incorporated in 1857.
My great, great, great, great grandfather, John Hemphill settled on the place owned by Charles Henderson on Mill Creek not far from Arkadelphia and soon as he discovered salt near Daleville in salt springs. In the year 1811 or thereabouts John Hemphill established a salt works on Saline Bayou of the Ouachita. This is believed to be the first salt factory established in Arkansas.
Salt was made in this location by Indians long before any whites entered the territory now known as Arkansas. Some historians believe that the Spanish explorer, Hernando DeSoto, made salt at this site during the winter of 1541-1542.
John Hemphill endured the trip to New Orleans with his pirogue. A small quest to acquire a lot of salt kettles. This was no small feat in that day as the trip on today’s highways is 430 miles in length. The perogues were rowed and dragged up and down the river. The largest of these being 200 gallons.
This salt kettle capable of holding 200 gallons was donated to Henderson State Teachers College (now Henderson State University) in Arkadelphia (Clark County) by the descendants of Captain R. W. Hule, an early settler, banker, merchant, and real estate holder. The legend behind the kettle is that it was used by John Hemphill in Arkansas's first salt operation, founded between 1812 and 1814. Courtesy of the Arkansas History Commission
The settlement was known as Blakelytown until 1839, when the settlement adopted the name Arkadelphia. Origin of the name "Arkadelphia" is uncertain. One possibility is that it was formed by combining Ark- from the state's name Arkansas and adelphia from the Greek meaning "brother/place".
Another explanation of the name is a combination of "adelphia" for place and "arc." Arkadelphia was once known as the "City of Rainbows," perhaps because the humid climate often resulted in rain.
For Hemphill it was a great investment and a gamble. For him to be successful in developing a modern salt factory, he would have had to construct a stone and clay furnace large enough to hold ten or twelve iron kettles varying in size from 50 to 200 gallons. The largest kettles are placed directly over the fire, and the smaller ones at the rear of the furnace.
The water from the salt springs is poured into the large kettles, and as it is boiled down it is dipped back and forth from kettle to kettle. In the last and smallest kettles, it will begin to grain until it resembles a thick corn meal mush. The kettles are then emptied into troughs which are elevated at one end. The remaining water is drained off, leaving the salt.
During the Great War these salt works were leased by the Confederate government and soldiers detailed to make and deliver salt to the army of the Trans-Mississippi Department. Wagons with great canoe-shaped beds passed through Arkadelphia during the 60’s hauling salt to Price’s army.
Upon John Hemphill’s death, His Mother In Law, Mary Lawson, created the first Methodist Church and cemetery in Blakely and John was the first person buried there in 1819.
One of Hemphill’s salt kettles rests on the campus of Henderson State University.
In the future, I’ll be sharing more of my own Family legacy with you, as well as recounting some details of my experience researching my past. The roots of my family tree run deep and the branches stretch wide.
I’d love to know and share your ranch and family legacies as well. In time, it would be very nice to compile an anthology of ranching legacies – something we can share with our families and friends, and something we can use to educate non-ranchers about the rich culture and traditions of ranching.
Please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at: 210-275-3551.
What’s your legacy?