BY MELANIE BUCK
Shirley Manning has a special place in her heart for history, specifically Polk County’s history. Being a member of the Polk County Genealogical Society, Manning has heard stories, researched, and written about some of the County’s most famous incidents and people. Manning is responsible for more than one book on the County’s fascinating history, and currently is writing another.
However, at this time, Manning has a different way to commemorate her latest project – a Civil War Historical Marker. According to the Arkansas Historical Preservation Program, Polk County is the only county in the state to not have a historical marker recognizing its place in United States Civil War history.
Manning explained, “It’s not a monument; it’s a historical marker. This isn’t to say who lived or died, but just to commemorate that something historical happened during the Civil War in Polk County.”
The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP) began a project several years ago when the state recognized the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Since then, they have put several projects in place, including plaques in each county commemorating their place in the Civil War.
Manning said that part of Howard County, Arkansas was once part of Polk County and that Civil War activity occurred in each area. Manning researched and submitted ten key points of interest that occurred in the area for the marker. One of the biggest events was a scrimmage in South County. “A scrimmage happened, in what is now Howard County near Baker Springs, where one officer and several men were killed. One side of the sign will depict what happened in that area and the other side will depict what happened in this area,” said Manning. Other key points include: being the gateway to the Texas & Trans-Mississippi regions; supplying three Confederate units and seventy-three Union soldiers; the hanging of a Confederate soldier by a mob; the courthouse being burned during the war; foraging by soldiers and Choctaw Indians; and other points as well.
The historical marker is being sponsored by the Polk County Genealogical Society and they need help with funding to purchase the marker and have it placed. The marker will cost a total of $2,600, half of which the Genealogical Society will be responsible for. “If we raise more money than we need, it will be used by the Genealogical Society for furthering Civil War history,” explained Manning.
Because the marker is not a monument recognizing soldiers themselves or their units, it will not be placed next to the monuments on the Polk County Courthouse lawn. The marker will be placed on the lawn of Mena’s Historic Depot. Mena Mayor George McKee explained that the City is not responsible for the sign’s cost or upkeep and that the land the marker will sit on will remain City property while the marker will belong to the State.
If you have any questions or would like to donate to the purchase of the marker, contact any Polk County Genealogy member or attend one of their meetings held at the Polk County Library on the second Thursday of each month.