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  • 1868 Report

  • 1868 Report

  • 1868 Report

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The 1868 Report

Commissioner of Immigration and State Lands, Dr. James M. Lewis…

 

In July of 1868, then Governor Powell Clayton advocated a “liberal and vigorous” program to attract immigrants to Arkansas to the General Assembly. “An Act to provide for the appointment of a commissioner of immigration and state lands, and defining the duties of that officer” was approved and Governor Clayton was authorized to appoint a commissioner whose purpose was to advertise and promote the state as an excellent choice for settlers as they moved westward searching for new homesteads. This new commissioner would also be tasked with travelling, as needed, across the United States and to foreign countries in his promotion efforts. In addition to these promotion efforts, he was to be responsible for the surveying classification and sale of all state owned lands. To achieve the duties set forth, he was allowed to hire a maximum of two clerks for assistance.

 

Governor Clayton chose Dr. James M. Lewis (1827-1907) as the first commissioner. Dr. Lewis was born in Massachusetts and upon graduating from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, he moved to Wisconsin to practice medicine. During the Civil War, he served as a Captain/Surgeon in the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry and as a Colonel in the 28th Wisconsin Infantry. Lewis came to Arkansas after the war and was appointed land commissioner from 1868-1872. After his term ended he practiced medicine in Little Rock briefly before moving to Mount Vernon, Virginia to live out the rest of his life as a farmer.

 

1868 Survey of Counties…

 

Commissioner Lewis immediately began efforts to attract immigrants by sending out surveys to each of Arkansas’s counties. Each survey asked for vital details such as: agricultural yields, transportation methods, type and cost of lands, timber and water prospects, wildlife as well as the general health of the public. These surveys provided a wealth of information as the local officials responded not only with the survey answers, but with newspaper clippings from their area and letters with personal testimonies about the county as well. Commissioner Lewis then compiled the information and created a brochure titled “Natural Resources of the State of Arkansas.” This publication, published in both English and German, was distributed in hopes of educating and attracting the masses to Arkansas. The campaign were not deemed successful by many, only a 5% increase in 1875, but Commissioner Lewis was credited with attracting investors to the state that later led to the establishment of railroads. This act itself prepared Arkansas for its move into the Industrial Age.