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County Seat Spolight: Augusta

County Seat Spotlight: Augusta, located on the east bank of the White River, has been the county seat of two counties, first Jackson and then Woodruff, and is the oldest settlement in Woodruff County. The town’s placement at a natural river landing brought prosperity during the era of steamboats. Boats from Memphis hauling a wide variety of goods landed weekly at Augusta year round, and boats from New Orleans made regular stops. Augusta is still a part of the river trade. 

Local tradition holds that, long before the first European men set foot in what is now Arkansas, Chickasaw Indians built a settlement on a high bluff overlooking the White River and the site as a river crossing, which marked an important trail between the tribes. The site has long been called “Chickasaw Crossing.” In 1820, a man known only as Hamilton landed there and took up residence, but about two years later, he sold his holdings to Rolla Gray, who settled there with his family. Other settlers quickly followed. In 1847, John R. Elliott of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and his partner, William Polite, opened the settlement’s first store at the west end of what is now Main Street. Elliott soon retired, and Polite built a new store on an adjacent plot. Thomas Hough (pronounced “Huff”) then moved into the Elliott-Polite building, and the settlement was on its way to becoming a town. In 1848, Hough had the town surveyed and laid out, and he named it in honor of his niece, Augusta Cald of Virginia. Incorporation followed on July 9, 1860. At that time, Augusta was in Jackson County. It became part of Woodruff County when the county was formed in the 1860s. By 1861, its population had grown to about 600. In 2010, the population tallied 2,199 people. Learn more about Augusta and Woodruff County at the Encyclopedia of Arkansas [Photographs: Courthouse by Robert Weston; Welcome to Augusta courtesy city of Augusta; downtown scene and American Legion Post by Mike Keckhaver; and church by Jimmy Emerson.]