On the day after Christmas of 1819, a keelboat arrived at Arkansas Post, bearing General James Miller, who had been appointed Governor of the new Arkansas territory on March 3rd of that year.
Official business and travel delays had slowed Miller’s progress from his New Hampshire home toward Arkansas but in his absence Kentuckian Robert Crittenden, the Territorial Secretary, had moved to set up the new territory’s government.
As acting governor, Crittenden convened Arkansas’s first “legislature”—composed of himself and the three justices of the territory’s superior court—which met for five days in late summer. Their meeting place was likely Jacob Montgomery’s tavern, which occupied almost a full block along Arkansas Post’s main road.
That first legislature scheduled elections for the territory’s legislative council and House of Representatives. Crittenden almost certainly exceeded his authority in scheduling elections but when the new legislature met in rented rooms at Montgomery’s tavern in February 1820, they voted to uphold Crittenden’s actions as acting governor, including calling the elections that had selected them.
Governor Miller was not thrilled by what he found in the old colonial town turned territorial capitol.
In a February 11 letter to the Secretary of War, Miller asked about his old position: “I cannot suppose that the vacancy still exists, but I should not have resigned, if I had known as much about this country as I now do.”
Capitol Snapshots is presented by Capitol Historian David Ware and the Secretary of State's Office.