Archeologists to Lead Excavation at Historic Washington State Park

Zoie Clift
Patricia Thomas of Historic
Washington State Park just sent some news that archeology aficionados might find interesting.  Since its inception as a park in 1973, Historic Washington has worked
closely with the Arkansas Archeological Society, which is celebrating its 50th
anniversary this year. Restoration of the outbuildings of the Simon T. Sanders
home and period restoration of the Abraham Block home (Block-Catts House)  are a result of this teamwork.
week (March 21-27) Dr. Jamie Brandon and David Markus will lead a small
excavation at the Block-Catts House, which was home to influential merchant
Abraham Block and his family. The Block-Catts House (c. 1832) was built by Block
and is one of the few Federal style structures remaining in southwest Arkansas.
It is also the oldest two-story, wooden-framed building standing in the state.
In 1959, it was the first restoration project undertaken by the Pioneer
Washington Restoration Foundation.
Block was born in Bohemia
in 1780 and immigrated to the U.S. at an early age. He fought in the War of
1812 and with his wife, Fannie, he journeyed to Arkansas in the early 1820’s,
traveling along the old Southwest Trial to claim the bounty land he was
entitled to as a veteran. The Blocks arrived in Washington in 1823 and soon
established the mercantile business that was to become one of the most
prosperous in the state. Block was the first Jewish settler in the state.
Thomas said visitors are
welcome to come and observe the excavation or volunteer if they might
want.  If there is an interest, she
said to contact Dr. Brandon at 870-235-4229.
Following the same note, on
Saturday night (March 27 at 6:30 p.m.) there will be a presentation by the
State Archeologist, Dr. Ann Early and Dr. Brandon. Attendees will hear about
the interesting finds recently uncovered over the past year and the importance
of continuing archeological study at the park. The evening will begin with a
dinner at the 1914 Schoolhouse. Cost for the event is $15/person and
reservations are required. For more information call the Visitor Center at
870-983-2684 or shoot an email to
On another note, the park
will be hosting its annual Jonquil Festival this weekend (March 19-21), which
is said to herald the coming of spring to southwest Arkansas. 
As to a bit of history, the
town of Washington was founded in 1824 on the Southwest Trail just 15 miles
from the Red River, which then separated American lands from the Mexican
territory known as Texas. Because of its border proximity, Washington played a
role in Texas’ 1835-36 war for independence. Evidence suggests that Sam Houston
and others discussed plans for the revolt while Houston resided in one of the
town’s taverns in 1834.
The town also served as Arkansas’s Confederate capital
after Union forces captured Little Rock in 1863 during the Civil War. The park
(which is conserved and interpreted by Arkansas State Parks and the Pioneer Washington
Restoration Foundation) preserves and showcases the town’s architecture,
history and pioneer culture. Visitors can get a sense of 19th-century life in
Arkansas by visiting such attractions as the 1836 courthouse that served as the
Confederate capitol; the Edwards Weapons Museum, which includes numerous
pioneer-era rifles and pistols; a print museum featuring 19th-century printing
equipment; a re-creation of a period blacksmith shop; and the Pioneer Cemetery.
Historic and antebellum houses dating from the mid-1830s to the 1850s can also be
found throughout the park.



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