1849 Gold Fever
The second blow Woodruff and the opposition faction inflicted on the "dynasty" came
when the General Assembly elected C.C. Danley to be state auditor over Elias Conway. Conway
had served as auditor since before statehood, but Danley's war record brought him a narrow
In a very close election, John S. Roane defeated Whig candidate Cyrus Wilson to fill the
unexpired term of Governor Drew. Although Roane, from his duel with Pike, should have been
disqualified by the state law which precluded a duelist from holding public office, the issue did
not reach the courts and he took office as governor. Richard C. Byrd served as acting governor
until Roane's inauguration.
Gold fever swept across the country this year. The Arkansas Route became one of four
principal avenues to California. Emigrants traveled up the Arkansas River to Fort Smith and Van
Buren and then set out overland to Santa Fe and on to the west coast.
James McVicar, Henry Keatts, Alden Woodruff, James Murphy, George B. King and
W.W. Stevenson were elected officers of the first Little Rock company setting out for the gold
fields. Leaving Fort Smith on April 16 with Captain R.B. Marcy commanding a military escort as
far as Santa Fe, the company reached California in early October. The Arkansas Route overland
proved a long one, but these "argonauts" arrived before other Arkansawyers who took the water
route around South America.
Arkansas stood to benefit as one of the primary jumping-off places to the gold fields.
Estimates made in April suggested that emigrants spent $60,000 for oxen, horses, mules, bacon,
flour, etc., in Van Buren alone and Fort Smith fared equally well in the "boom town" economy.
The tide of emigration touched Little Rock also. Wanting to take advantage of the gold rush, one
Little Rock committee drafted a memorial to Congress requesting a railroad route be surveyed
from Arkansas to Santa Fe to the Pacific Ocean. In October, Arkansas was well represented at
the Memphis Railroad Convention.
| 1850 Sectional Conflicts >
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