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Monroe County, Arkansas facts for kids

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Monroe County
Monroe County Courthouse in Clarendon
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.
Country  United States
State  Arkansas
Founded November 2, 1829
Named for James Monroe
Seat Clarendon
Largest city Brinkley
 • Total 621 sq mi (1,610 km2)
 • Land 607 sq mi (1,570 km2)
 • Water 14 sq mi (40 km2)  2.3%%
 • Estimate 
 • Density 13/sq mi (5/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional district 1st

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 town 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 2010 Census, the county's population is 8,149 people in 4,455 households. Based on population, the county is the fifth-smallest county of the 75 in Arkansas. 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 settlers. 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.

Interstate 40 is the only Interstate highway in Monroe County, crossing the county from east to west through Brinkley. 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 also crosses the county from southwest to northeast.


Settlement in Monroe County began when Dedrick Pike settled where the Cache River enters the White River in 1816. 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 came in 1836, and in 1857 the county seat was moved to Clarendon, Arkansas, with the new brick courthouse nearly finished at the outbreak of the American Civil War. The county sent five units into Confederate service, and the Union captured Clarendon in 1863 and destroyed the city. Martial law was established for four years after the war as guerilla warfare continued and the county struggled to rebuild. The Union had completely dismandled the brick courthouse and shipped the bricks to De Valls Bluff. The Monroe County Sun was established in 1876.

Louisiana Purchase State Park 008
Marker at the point of beginning commemorating the start of surveying the Louisiana Purchase from the county tripoint

It was at a site near the intersection of Monroe, Phillips, and Lee counties that surveys began shortly after the United States had completed the Louisiana Purchase. From 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.


See also: Geography of Arkansas and Arkansas Delta

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.

Louisiana Purchase State Park 2015 3
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. 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. 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. 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, when Native American tribes such as the Quapaw constructed burial mounds at Indian Bay in extreme southern Monroe County (today preserved as Baytown Site). The White River brought early prosperity to the county during white settlement due to its use as a navigable river. 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 lead to the creation of federal and state protected areas around the Cache and White beginning in 1935 and continuing to expand to this day.

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.

National protected areas


Historical population
Census Pop.
1830 461
1840 936 103.0%
1850 2,049 118.9%
1860 5,657 176.1%
1870 8,336 47.4%
1880 9,574 14.9%
1890 15,336 60.2%
1900 16,816 9.7%
1910 19,907 18.4%
1920 21,601 8.5%
1930 20,651 −4.4%
1940 21,133 2.3%
1950 19,540 −7.5%
1960 17,327 −11.3%
1970 15,657 −9.6%
1980 14,052 −10.3%
1990 11,333 −19.3%
2000 10,254 −9.5%
2010 8,149 −20.5%
Est. 2015 7,399 −9.2%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2015
USA Monroe County, Arkansas age pyramid
Age pyramid Monroe County

As of the 2000 United States Census, 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 (7/km²). There were 5,067 housing units at an average density of 8 per square mile (3/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.



Brinkley, AR 003
Streetside in downtown Brinkley



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.

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