Monroe County, Arkansas

Coordinates: 34°42′48″N 91°13′20″W / 34.71333°N 91.22222°W / 34.71333; -91.22222
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Monroe County
Monroe County Courthouse in Clarendon
Map of Arkansas highlighting Monroe County
Location within the U.S. state of Arkansas
Map of the United States highlighting Arkansas
Arkansas's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 34°42′48″N 91°13′20″W / 34.713333333333°N 91.222222222222°W / 34.713333333333; -91.222222222222
Country United States
State Arkansas
FoundedNovember 2, 1829
Named forJames Monroe[1]
Largest cityBrinkley
 • Total621 sq mi (1,610 km2)
 • Land607 sq mi (1,570 km2)
 • Water14 sq mi (40 km2)  2.3%
 • Total6,799
 • Density11/sq mi (4.2/km2)
Time zoneUTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional district1st

Monroe County is located in the Arkansas Delta in the U.S. state of Arkansas. The county is named for James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States. Created as Arkansas's 20th county on November 2, 1829, Monroe County is home to two incorporated towns and three incorporated cities, including Clarendon, the county seat, and Brinkley, the most populous city. The county is also the site of numerous unincorporated communities and ghost towns.

Occupying only 621 square miles (161,000 ha), Monroe County is the 22nd smallest county in Arkansas. As of the 2020 Census, the county's population was 6,799.[2] Based on population, the county is the fifth-smallest county of the 75 in Arkansas.[3] Located in the Arkansas Delta, the county is largely flat with fertile soils. Historically covered in forest, bayous, swamps, and grasslands, the area was cleared for agriculture by early European-American settlers who used enslaved African Americans to do the work and to cultivate cotton. It is drained by the Cache River, Bayou DeView, and the White River. Three large protected areas preserve old growth bald cypress forest, sloughs and wildlife habitat in the county: Cache River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Dagmar Wildlife Management Area and White River NWR and provide places for hunting and fishing.

Interstate 40 is the only Interstate highway in Monroe County, crossing the county from east to west through Brinkley, the largest city. The county also has three United States highways (U.S. Route 49 [US 49], US 70, and US 79) and twelve Arkansas state highways run in the county. A Union Pacific Railroad line crosses the county from southwest to northeast.[4]


Marker to commemorate the point at which a national survey began of lands in this area, in order to allocate lands of the Louisiana Purchase to veterans of the War of 1812.

Shortly after the United States had completed the Louisiana Purchase, officials began to survey the territory at a site near the intersection of Monroe, Phillips, and Lee counties. From forested wetlands in what would become southern Monroe County, approximately 900,000 square miles (2,300,000 km2) of land would be explored after President James Madison commissioned a survey of the purchase area. The point was commemorated in 1961 by the Arkansas General Assembly as part of Louisiana Purchase State Park.

Settlement in Monroe County began when Dedrick Pike settled in 1816 where the Cache River enters the White River.[5] The settlement was named Mouth of the Cache, and a post office by that name was opened years later. The community renamed itself Clarendon in 1824 in honor of the Earl of Clarendon. Monroe County was established under the Arkansas territorial legislature in 1829, and the county seat was established at Lawrenceville, where a jail and courthouse were erected. A ferry across the White River was founded in 1836.

In 1857 the county seat was moved to Clarendon, Arkansas. The new brick courthouse was nearly finished by the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861. The county sent five units into Confederate service. After Union troops captured Clarendon in 1863, they destroyed the small city. The Union had completely dismantled the brick courthouse and shipped the bricks to De Valls Bluff.[6]

After the war, during Reconstruction, there was a high level of violence by insurgent whites seeking to suppress the rights of freedmen and to keep them from voting. After Republican Congressman James M. Hinds was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Monroe County in October, 1868, Governor Powell Clayton established martial law in ten counties, including Monroe County, as the attacks and murders were out of control. Four military districts were operated for four years in an effort to suppress guerrilla insurgency by white paramilitary groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan and others. They continued to challenge enfranchisement of blacks and the increasing power of Republicans in the county. The Monroe County Sun newspaper was established in 1876.[7]

Violence continued after Reconstruction, when Democrats had regained control of the state legislature. Whites struggled to re-establish white supremacy, by violence and intimidation of black Republican voters. At the turn of the century, the state legislature passed measures that effectively disenfranchised most blacks for decades. The Equal Justice Initiative reported in 2015 that the county had 12 lynchings of African Americans from 1877 to 1950,[8] most in the decades near the turn of the 20th century. This was the fourth-highest of any county in the state.[8] To escape the violence, thousands of African Americans left the state in the Great Migration to northern and western cities, especially after 1940.

Mechanization of farming and industrial-scale agriculture have decreased the need for workers. The rural county has continued to lose population because of the lack of work opportunities. There has been a decrease in population every decade since 1940.


The county is located in the Arkansas Delta, one of the six primary geographic regions of Arkansas. The Arkansas Delta is a subregion of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, which is a flat area consisting of rich, fertile sediment deposits from the Mississippi River between Louisiana and Illinois. Large portions of Monroe County are also within the Grand Prairie, a subdivision of the Arkansas Delta known today for rice farming and aquaculture. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 621 square miles (1,610 km2), of which 607 square miles (1,570 km2) is land and 14 square miles (36 km2) (2.3%) is water.[9]

Headwater swamp at the entrance to Louisiana Purchase State Park, southern Monroe County

Prior to settlement, Monroe County was densely forested, with bayous, sloughs, and swamps crossing the land. Seeking to take advantage of the area's fertile soils, settlers cleared the land to better suit row crops.[10] Although some swampland has been preserved in the conservation areas like the Cache River NWR and White River NWR, and some former farmland has undergone reforestation, the majority (52 percent) of the county remains in cultivation.[Note 1] Another large land use in Monroe County is the Cache River NWR and White River NWR, owned by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

The county is located approximately 73 miles (117 km) east of Little Rock and 88 miles (142 km) west-southwest of Memphis, Tennessee.[Note 2] Monroe County is surrounded by six other Delta counties: Woodruff County to the north, St. Francis County to the northeast, Lee County and Phillips County to the east, Arkansas County to the southwest, and Prairie County to the west.


Water is an extremely important part of Monroe County's geography, history, economy, and culture. The many rivers, streams, ditches, sloughs and bayous crossing the county have featured prominently since prehistoric times. Native American tribes settled near them and peoples such as the Quapaw constructed burial mounds at Indian Bay in extreme southern Monroe County (today preserved as Baytown Site).[10]

Europeans who settled in the county also used the White River to navigate through the area and trade. Control of the White River lead to military action in the county during the Civil War, including a gunboat battle at Clarendon in 1864. The Flood of 1927 damaged much of the county's settlements along the White, and inundated Clarendon when the levees protecting the city failed on April 20. Conservation efforts by leaders in the county resulted in the creation of federal and state protected areas around the Cache and White rivers, to protect wetlands that could absorb flooding, beginning in 1935. These have been expanded to the current day, as engineers understand more about the positive role of wetlands in floodplain ecology.

The White River, one of Arkansas's most important rivers, is the county's major hydrologic features. The White forms the southwestern boundary of the county with Arkansas County. The Cache River runs on the west side of Monroe County, partially forming its border with Prairie County. Both the Cache River and Roc Roe Bayou empty into the White near Clarendon. Bayou De View runs through the north part of the county and meets the Cache north of Dobbs Landing.[4]

National protected areas[edit]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[13]
1790–1960[14] 1900–1990[15]
1990–2000[16] 2010[17]
Age pyramid Monroe County[18]

2020 census[edit]

Monroe County Racial Composition[19]
Race Num. Perc.
White 3,538 52.04%
Black or African American 2,751 40.46%
Native American 30 0.44%
Asian 28 0.41%
Pacific Islander 7 0.1%
Other/Mixed 259 3.81%
Hispanic or Latino 186 2.74%

As of the 2020 United States Census, there were 6,799 people, 3,333 households, and 1,974 families residing in the county.

2000 census[edit]

As of the 2000 United States Census,[20] there were 10,254 people, 4,105 households, and 2,733 families residing in the county. The population density was 17 people per square mile (6.6 people/km2). There were 5,067 housing units at an average density of 8 per square mile (3.1/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 59.37% White, 38.79% Black or African American, 0.26% Native American, 0.13% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.26% from other races, and 1.14% from two or more races. 1.29% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 4,105 households, out of which 29.30% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.10% were married couples living together, 16.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.40% were non-families. 30.10% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 3.07.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 27.90% under the age of 18, 7.60% from 18 to 24, 23.70% from 25 to 44, 23.40% from 45 to 64, and 17.30% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 88.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.30 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $22,632, and the median income for a family was $28,915. Males had a median income of $25,299 versus $17,117 for females. The per capita income for the county was $13,096. About 21.00% of families and 27.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 37.40% of those under age 18 and 22.40% of those age 65 or over.


The Monroe County Courthouse in Clarendon is the seat of county government

The county government is a constitutional body granted specific powers by the Constitution of Arkansas and the Arkansas Code. The quorum court is the legislative branch of the county government and controls all spending and revenue collection. Representatives are called justices of the peace and are elected from county districts every even-numbered year. The number of districts in a county vary from nine to fifteen, and district boundaries are drawn by the county election commission. The Monroe County Quorum Court has nine members. Presiding over quorum court meetings is the county judge, who serves as the chief operating officer of the county. The county judge is elected at-large and does not vote in quorum court business, although capable of vetoing quorum court decisions.[21][22]


A portion of Monroe County is represented in the Arkansas State Senate by the Republican Ronald R. Caldwell, a real estate businessman from Wynne in Cross County. The state representative from Monroe County is a Democrat, Marshall Wright, a lawyer from Forrest City in St. Francis County.

Prior to 2000, Monroe was considered an "ancestral" Democratic county, with exceptions for the 1972 and 1984 landslides of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, respectively. Former Governor Bill Clinton won this county twice in his presidential runs: 1992 and 1996. John Kerry won the county in 2004, the most recent Democrat to do so.

Over the past few election cycles Monroe has trended a bit more to the Republican Party, albeit with less fervor than its neighboring counties. Barack Obama lost the county by only two votes in his 2012 run, and former Arkansas First Lady Hillary Clinton lost it by more than six points, 51%-45%, in her 2016 race.

United States presidential election results for Monroe County, Arkansas[23]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 1,545 54.87% 1,147 40.73% 124 4.40%
2016 1,489 51.63% 1,312 45.49% 83 2.88%
2012 1,585 49.07% 1,583 49.01% 62 1.92%
2008 1,754 50.86% 1,615 46.83% 80 2.32%
2004 1,586 43.25% 2,049 55.88% 32 0.87%
2000 1,329 40.36% 1,910 58.00% 54 1.64%
1996 973 28.14% 2,247 64.98% 238 6.88%
1992 1,324 30.99% 2,578 60.35% 370 8.66%
1988 1,862 46.88% 2,052 51.66% 58 1.46%
1984 2,508 50.45% 2,413 48.54% 50 1.01%
1980 2,027 41.98% 2,686 55.62% 116 2.40%
1976 1,285 26.51% 3,556 73.35% 7 0.14%
1972 2,897 63.45% 1,578 34.56% 91 1.99%
1968 804 16.10% 1,783 35.71% 2,406 48.19%
1964 1,968 46.45% 2,258 53.29% 11 0.26%
1960 833 27.15% 1,856 60.50% 379 12.35%
1956 1,099 41.72% 1,460 55.43% 75 2.85%
1952 947 34.05% 1,834 65.95% 0 0.00%
1948 299 12.72% 1,431 60.89% 620 26.38%
1944 291 18.12% 1,311 81.63% 4 0.25%
1940 128 7.88% 1,494 92.00% 2 0.12%
1936 82 6.91% 1,102 92.84% 3 0.25%
1932 170 8.79% 1,753 90.59% 12 0.62%
1928 411 32.54% 851 67.38% 1 0.08%
1924 330 26.00% 838 66.04% 101 7.96%
1920 912 51.35% 834 46.96% 30 1.69%
1916 508 40.67% 741 59.33% 0 0.00%
1912 400 32.95% 537 44.23% 277 22.82%
1908 1,022 51.56% 912 46.01% 48 2.42%
1904 555 41.86% 757 57.09% 14 1.06%
1900 403 36.27% 708 63.73% 0 0.00%
1896 436 27.39% 1,019 64.01% 137 8.61%



Streetside in downtown Brinkley


Census-designated places[edit]


Townships in Arkansas are the divisions of a county. Each township includes unincorporated areas; some may have incorporated cities or towns within part of their boundaries. Arkansas townships have limited purposes in modern times. However, the United States census does list Arkansas population based on townships (sometimes referred to as "county subdivisions" or "minor civil divisions"). Townships are also of value for historical purposes in terms of genealogical research. Each town or city is within one or more townships in an Arkansas county based on census maps and publications. The townships of Monroe County are listed below; listed in parentheses are the cities, towns, and/or census-designated places that are fully or partially inside the township. [24][25]



Clarendon Municipal Airport

Monroe County is home to three public own/public use general aviation (GA) airports. Each airport is used largely for agricultural spraying operations. The Clarendon Municipal Airport located southwest of Clarendon and northwest of Roe along Highway 33. For the twelve-month period ending August 31, 2015, the facility saw 26,000 general aviation operations.[26] Frank Federer Memorial Airport in southeast Brinkley had 22,000 GA operations in the twelve-month period ending August 31, 2015.[27] Holly Grove Municipal Airport located east of Holly Grove on Highway 146 is also a small rural airport. For the twelve-month period ending August 31, 2015, the facility saw 22,000 general aviation operations.[28]

Major highways[edit]

Highway 79 passes through wetlands near the White River on a historic curved concrete bridge


Intercity bus service to the county is provided by Jefferson Lines, which has a stop in Brinkley.[29]


The Arkansas Department of Health is responsible for the regulation and oversight of public water systems throughout the state. Monroe County contains six community water systems: Brinkley Waterworks, Clarendon Waterworks, Holly Grove Waterworks, Roe Waterworks, United Water Association and East Monroe County Water Users. Brinkley Waterworks has the largest retail population (4,281), followed by Clarendon (1,640), and Holly Grove (1,010).[30] All community water systems in Monroe County use groundwater as their source of raw water, except East Monroe County Water Users, who purchases all water from Brinkley.[31]

Notable person[edit]

  • Sheffield Nelson, the Arkansas Republican National Committeeman and his party's gubernatorial nominee in 1990 and 1994, was born in 1940 in Monroe County.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ In 2015, 101.1 thousand acres of soybeans, 46.2 thousand acres of rice, 22.9 thousand acres of sorghum, 16.0 thousand acres of wheat, and 15.3 thousand acres of corn were planted in Monroe County.[11] Total acreage for those two crops is 201,500. Monroe County has 607 square miles of land area, which is 388,480 acres based on 640 acres per square mile. Acreage for the total crops (201,500) divided by acreage for the county (388,480) is 51.9 percent.
  2. ^ Mileages from Monroe County to Little Rock and Memphis are based on highway miles using county seat Clarendon for Monroe County.[12]
  1. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 212.
  2. ^ "Census - Geography Profile: Monroe County, Arkansas". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 20, 2023.
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Transportation Planning & Policy Division (January 7, 2013). General Highway Map, Monroe County, Arkansas (PDF) (Map). 1:62500. Little Rock: Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 22, 2010. Retrieved August 13, 2016. {{cite map}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  5. ^ Bateman p. 1.
  6. ^ Bateman p. 2.
  7. ^ Bateman p. 3.
  8. ^ a b Lynching in America/ Supplement: Lynchings by County: Arkansas - Monroe County[permanent dead link], 3rd Edition, 2015, p. 2
  9. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  10. ^ a b Mitchell, Louise (July 7, 2016). "Monroe County". Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at the Central Arkansas Library System. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  11. ^ "National Agricultural Statistics Service County Level Data". U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  12. ^ "Google Maps (Search for Clarendon, AR)". Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  13. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  14. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  15. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  16. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 27, 2010. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  17. ^ "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on January 28, 2016. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  18. ^ Based on 2000 census data
  19. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved December 9, 2021.
  20. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
  21. ^ Teske, Steven (March 24, 2014). "Quorum Courts". Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at the Central Arkansas Library System. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  22. ^ Goss, Kay C. (August 28, 2015). "Office of County Judge". Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at the Central Arkansas Library System. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  23. ^ "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". Retrieved November 18, 2016.
  24. ^ 2011 Boundary and Annexation Survey (BAS): Monroe County, AR (PDF) (Map). U. S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 19, 2012. Retrieved August 24, 2011.
  25. ^ "Arkansas: 2010 Census Block Maps - County Subdivision". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  26. ^ FAA Airport Form 5010 for 4M8 PDF. Federal Aviation Administration. Accessed August 28, 2016.
  27. ^ FAA Airport Form 5010 for M36 PDF. Federal Aviation Administration. Accessed August 28, 2016.
  28. ^ FAA Airport Form 5010 for 2A6 PDF. Federal Aviation Administration. Accessed August 28, 2016.
  29. ^ "Arkansas Bus Stops". Retrieved July 20, 2023.
  30. ^ "Community Water System Data". Little Rock: Arkansas Department of Health, Engineering Section. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  31. ^ "East Monroe County Water Users Annual Drinking Water Quality Report" (PDF). Consumer Confidence Report. Little Rock: Arkansas Department of Health. 2015. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 11, 2016.
  • Bateman, Alta M. "The History of Clarendon and Monroe County". Monroe County Sun. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

34°42′48″N 91°13′20″W / 34.71333°N 91.22222°W / 34.71333; -91.22222