Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

D. P. Upham, Woodruff County Carpetbagger

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

D. P. Upham, Woodruff County Carpetbagger

Article excerpt

DANIEL P. UPHAM (he preferred to be called D. P.) is one of the more neglected figures in Arkansas history. Many have never heard of him and little has been written about him.1 Yet Upham held several important positions during Reconstruction and performed valuable services for the state. A leader of the Republican party in eastern Arkansas, he served in the Reconstruction legislature representing Woodruff, St. Francis, and Crittenden Counties. And, as a key figure in the struggle against the Ku Klux Klan sometimes called the "Militia War," but perhaps better termed a police action, Upham distinguished himself by his. stern tactics in what may well have been the most successful counter-terrorism campaign waged by a southern state during Reconstruction.2

D. P. Upham was a native of Massachusetts. Obituaries suggest he was born in 1825, 1826, or 1827, but little information has survived as to his early life. Even his whereabouts remain uncertain. In 1850, there was a Daniel Upham living in Oxford Township, Worcester County, Massachusetts, where the family of the Arkansas Upham later maintained a home. But the age of this Daniel Upham (seventeen) does not correspond with the age Arkansas's Upham would have been, provided the obituaries were correct.3 At any rate, it is clear that D. P. Upham came to Arkansas in April 1865 in the company of Brigadier General Alexander Shaler, a commander of Federal troops assigned to DeVall's Bluff. Upham had apparently been one of General Shaler's business associates in New York City, and may have bought the general's bluestone business at the outset of the Civil War.4 But by 1865, his business was heavily in debt, and he needed funds. Upham arrived in Arkansas with no more than $10.5

Like many so-called "carpetbaggers," then, Upham came south looking for economic opportunity-well before black enfranchisement created the prospect of building a political career based on AfricanAmerican votes.6 In 1865, Arkansas, particularly cotton-rich eastern Arkansas, presented numerous opportunities for entrepreneurs like Upham. There was a general shortage of cotton on the market, and thus, cotton prices both in the North and in Europe were high by antebellum standards. Many plantations lay deserted and the pro-Confederate populace had hidden away a great deal of cotton. All it would take was the right connections to make a fortune. Upham had General Shaler, and he was determined to make full use of him.7

Local military commanders controlled many economic matters, including the lucrative cotton trade. They alone could grant the necessary licenses to engage in business or to lease abandoned plantation land. Upham used his influence with General Shaler to obtain licenses and leases for businessmen who put up capital. In return, Upham received shares in the new enterprises. He quickly acquired a half interest in a saloon in DeVall's Bluff with a steady clientele of Federal soldiers, a half interest in the only saloon located near a Federal cavalry post two miles away, a quarter-interest in a two-thousand-acre cotton plantation worked by former slaves, and a half interest in a concern that chartered two steamboats to trade along the White, Cache, and Little Red Rivers. During this time, Upham reaped sufficient profits from these ventures to become the sole owner of a saloon at Jacksonport and a general merchandise store at Augusta that had stock worth $6,000. Only three months after his arrival, Upham was able to travel to New York City, close his bluestone business, retire its debts, and return to Arkansas with his wife, Lizzie.8

In July 1865, D. P. and Lizzie N. Upham settled in Augusta, the seat of Woodruff County. Although General Shaler had by the next month been mustered out of the army and returned to New York, Upham was able to keep the licenses that he had acquired through Shaler's influence. As peace was more fully established, however, the value of those licenses diminished. …

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