From the Archives

Article excerpt

Collections of Note at the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

BRIAN ROBERTSON OF THE RICHARD C. BUTLER CENTER for Arkansas Studies in Little Rock has sent along news of some acquisitions of general interest. Separately, these collections span business and industry, agriculture, architecture, politics, and religion. They include Civil War materials and early photographs.

The Couch-Remmel Family Papers document two high-profile families active from the last part of the nineteenth century into the middle of the twentieth. Harvey Couch (1877-1941) was one of Arkansas's giant industrialists, with a rags-to-riches biography. Son of an Arkansas farmer, he dropped out of school to go to work. He ultimately owned several railroad lines and a telephone company but is most noted for founding what became Arkansas Power and Light Company. The collection includes correspondence, scrapbooks, clippings, and a large group of photographs that document Couch's life and career, including his work with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, an agency established during the Hoover administration to bring the nation out of the Great Depression.

In the 1920s, Couch obtained the support of Harmon L. Remmel (1852-1927) for a project to generate hydroelectric power on the Ouachita River. Remmel, a banker and insurance executive, served for more than twenty years as the chairman of the Republican State Committee. He served a term in the state legislature beginning in 1886 and received his party's nomination for governor in 1896 and 1900 and for the United States Senate in 1916. This collection contains numerous items pertaining to Remmel.

A significant part of the collection documents the political career of Harmon Remmel's great-nephew Pratt C. Remmel (1915-1991). Pratt Remmel married Harvey Couch's daughter Catherine, namesake of Lake Catherine. He was elected mayor of Little Rock in 1951, the first Republican to hold the position since the late nineteenth century and one of the few Republican mayors in the South at the time. The collection also includes items relating to his mother, Ellen Lucy "Nell" Gates Remmel (1888-1961), who served as national Republican party committeewoman from Arkansas for thirty-two years. A Little Rock newspaper once referred to her as "Mrs. Republican of Arkansas." The collection comprises twenty-five linear feet and was donated by Cathie Remmel Matthews, Rebecca C. Remmel, and Pratt C. Remmel, Jr.

The Anna Grace Bowers Brown Collection consists of approximately two hundred late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century photographs, nearly all believed to have been made by Dayton Bowers (b. ca. 1857) who worked as a photographer in DeWitt for at least forty years. Perhaps most notable are nearly twenty 188Os tintypes of the town. Photographs of industry, agriculture, and transportation are common, along with many images of structures in the area.

The William Postell Witsell Personal and Family Collection documents the life and ministry of Dr. …