The country around the present-day villages of Pitman and Supply in Little Black township, is one of the earliest settlements in north Arkansas. As we also have said about the old Fourche de Thomas (Columbia) settlement, the historian who states that Pitman was the first, or next to the first settlements in Randolph county, would have a lot of evidence to support his claim. At this place the old Natchitoches Trail, later known as the old Military road, crossed Current river. A ferry was established here about 1803. William Hix was the first owner of the old ferry and the place is marked on the first maps and records as Hix ferry. The noted German scientist and physician, Dr. Englemann, made a trip from St. Louis to Little Rock in March, 1837. He states in his report that Dr. Peyton R. Pitman lived here at this time and had been here over twenty-five years at that time. This would make him a resident here in 1812. It is known that William Hix operated the ferry many years, so it must have been opened not later than 1803. Dr. Englemann states in his notes that, “On March 12, a gloomy rainy day, we passed the boundary of Arkansas. The border is marked by scores hewn into the trees. A quarter of a mile south we crossed the Current river, a beautiful clear stream, which, though larger than the Black, which we passed two days before, empties into the latter a short distance from here. On the south bank of the Current is situated a beautiful plantation, with a handsome dwelling surrounded by a veranda, many outhouses and extensive fields on both sides of the river. Dr. Pitman, the owner, has lived here for twenty-five years.”
Jess Cheek and Bernard Rogan laid out a town just south of Pitman in 1820 and called it “Currenton.” It did not last and the residents and owners really became a part of Pitman. At one time the village of Pitman was a hustling trading port. Some of the first settlers here were the Kellys, Daniel Ashabranner, Eli Lindsey, John Pierce, Looneys, Berrys, Bells, Tom and John Gambill, and also William Hix and Dr. Pitman. The Hanover brothers, Jews, were among the first merchants. Michael Looney, Erasmus Pitman and others, were also early merchants.
A plat of the town of Pitman was entered on the deed record of Randolph county in 1853 and showed a town of considerable proportions. It contained twelve blocks. The names of the streets were, Sunny, Second, Third, Center, Mill and First. First street was located 99 feet from the river front. E. D. Pitman and Michael Looney gave a mortgage to Clark, Renfrew and Co. of St. Louis, in 1853, on the following property: “Situated in the town of Pitman, Arkansas, one steam, saw and grist mill, and distillery, with all fixtures, also the ground upon which this is located, bounded on the north and east by Mill and Second streets, on the south and west by Current river, containing nine acres.” Edward McDonald, who represented old Lawrence county in the Territorial (First) Legislature of Arkansas at Arkansas Post in 1820, lived near Pitman. Joseph J. Anthony, who was Randolph county’s first representative in the State Legislature, and who was murdered in this first term by John Wilson from Clark county in 1837, was also a resident near here.
The old town of Pitman was located on the river quite a distance northeast of the present postoffice of Pitman. It was located near the state line and at the edge of what is now Clay county. The first deed record of Lawrence county shows that James Smith sold to William Linn his “improvement on Glaze Kenon creek, a branch of Current river,” for $100, November 15, 1818. A neighbor, Alexander Dunin, was a witness to the deal and stated that he knew that Smith had cultivated the place in 1812. This was near Pitman. The first election in Randolph county which was held in 1836, named Dr. P. R. Pitman as county judge, Jess Driskill, James P. Ingram and Thomas Hinton were the election officials for Little Black township and the election was held at Pitman. The Cockrum and Pierce families have long been represented in this community. James Cockrum and Levina Pierce were married December 19, 1822. Henry Cockrum was county judge from 1862 to 1868. The Randolph county tax book for the year 1854 only listed seven merchants in the county. There were a lot more than this, but they evidently were overlooked by the assessor. Four of these were in Little Black township. They were J. W. Crossen, H. Fredrick, Michael Looney and J. C. Whitesides. Dr. Englemann stated that in 1837 he found several pretty, but old, peach and apple orchards in this section. Henry Schoolcraft, who passed down the old Military road and who stopped for awhile at both Fourche and Pitman, stated that there were many nice improved farms along the road in 1819. William Hix, the first owner of Pitman, evidently invested in the closeby proposed town of Currenton, as the records show that on March 15, 1821, he sold lot 3, in block 1, and lot 38 in block 7 of Currenton, to William Rogers of Tennessee.