Phillips County, Arkansas Genealogy

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United States Gotoarrow.png Arkansas Gotoarrow.png Phillips County

Guide to Phillips County Arkansas genealogy. Birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, family history, and military records.

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Online Records

Phillips County, Arkansas
Map of Arkansas highlighting Phillips County
Location in the state of Arkansas
Map of the U.S. highlighting Arkansas
Location of Arkansas in the U.S.
Founded May 1, 1820
County Seat Helena
Phillips County Arkansas Courthouse.jpg
Address Phillips County Courthouse
600 Cherry Street
Helena, AR 72342
Phone: 870.338.5505
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County Courthouse

Phillips County Arkansas Courthouse.jpg

Phillips County Courthouse
600 Cherry Street
Helena, AR 72342
Phone: 870.338.5505

County Clerk has marriage records from 1831 and probate records from 1850; Clerk Circuit Court has divorce, court, and land records from 1820[1]


Phillips County, Arkansas was formed from Arkansas County on 1 May 1820 by the territorial legislature. Located in Eastern Arkansas, the county's eastern boundary is the Mississippi River.

The county is said to have been named for Sylvanus Phillips, who became the first settler in 1820. Phillips served from Arkansas County, Phillips County's parent county, in the territorial legislature in 1820. Some sources refer to Phillips, Patterson, and Mooney as having been the earliest settlers at what became Helena. Helena, which was laid out by Sylvanus Phillips and became the county seat in 1830, is said to have been named for his daughter.

An early and influential settler was W.B.R. Horner, a lawyer who arrived in the area in 1811. Horner pushed for the division of Arkansas County into two separate counties, and as a result Phillips County was formed in 1820. Evidently the legislative act to divide Arkansas County passed in Feb 1820, but did not take effect until May 1st. Horner then served as the county's first representative in the second legislature.

Phillips County's original county seat was referred to as St. Francis. By 21 Jun 1821, The Arkansas Gazette was referring to Helena as being Phillips County's seat of government. Although the early history is not clear, it would appear that rather than moving the county seat, its name was changed from St. Francis to Helena.

The earliest Phillips County records appear to date to 1820. The earliest deed in the county was recorded 13 Oct 1820, but also though the land involved was near Helena, it was described as being in Arkansas County. The earliest deed for land recorded as being in Phillips County is dated 19 Nov 1820.

The town of Helena was nearly entirely destroyed by fire in 1852. The town was then hit by a yellow fever epidemic in 1855.

Historically, the county is perhaps best known as the site of the well-known Battle of Helena (Wikipedia), an important Civil War battle. This battle took place at Helena in Phillips County on 4 Jul 1863.

This was after the town became occupied by the Union army under General Samuel Curtis in 1862. During the Battle of Helena, Curtis' troops were attacked by three Confederate generals, Holmes, Marmaduke, and Walker, in an unsuccessful attempt to regain Helena. Helena remained in Union hands from 1862 through the rest of the Civil War.

In 1941, Helena was the scene for the beginning of the now-legendary blues radio program, "King Biscuit Time," over KFFA.

For more, see:

  • Hellmann. Paul T., Historical Gazetteer of the United States. New York: Routledge, 2005, p. 63 (section headed "Helena"). online copy in Google Books 
  • McCabe, James D., Jr. A Comprehensive View of Our Country and its Resources. Philadelphia: Hubbard Brothers, 1876, section headed "Helena," p. 992. online copy in Google Books
  • Shinn, Josiah Hazen. Pioneers and Makers of Arkansas, Vol. 1, Washington: Genealogical and Historical Publishing Co., 1908, especially pp. 117-131. online copy in Google Books
  • Whitaker, Robert. On the Laps of Gods: The Red Summer of 1919 and the Struggle for Justice that Remade a Nation. New York: Random House, 2008 (discusses 20th century racial issues and earlier plantation society in Helena and Phillips County). Google Books preview

Parent County

  • 1820--Phillips County was created 1 May 1820 from Arkansas and Hempstead Counties. County seat: Helena [2]

Boundary Changes

One factor that must be taken into account in conducting research pertaining to Phillips County is that the Mississippi River has, on occasion, changed course.

In addition, parts of Phillips County later became other counties:  Crittenden in 1825, St. Francis in 1827, Monroe in 1829, and Lee in 1873.

See an interactive map of Phillips County boundary changes.

Record Loss

A 1906 report by the Arkansas Historical Association (reprinted by the American Historical Association in Washington in 1908) noted that "Some few of the records have been slightly damaged by being moth-eaten, but have been recopied. The records were removed during the war, but were afterwards returned in good condition. During the time they were gone a record was kept in a volume as 'Irregular D.' No misfortune has ever befallen our records, and they are kept in a fireproof vault." 

The same report also noted that "the records seem to be complete" from the first deed, dated 13 Oct 1820, the first probate record, dated 17 Jan 1821, and the first Court of Common Pleas order, dated 15 Jan 1821.

For more, see:

  • Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1906, Vol. 2. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1908, p. 45. online copy in Google Books
  • John Hugh Reynolds, ed., Publications of the Arkansas Historical Association, Vol. 1. Fayetteville, AR: Arkansas Historical Association, 1906, p. 136. online copy in Google Books


Populated Places

Neighboring Counties




Individual Cemeteries:



1820--Census is missing.




Phillips County deed records from 1886 to 1906 were microfilmed by the Arkansas History Commission in cooperation with the Arkansas History Commission. This was a part of a project which was completed in 2007. The filming project is discussed in an Internet news item in the Arkansas History Commission website.

Local Histories



Revolutionary War
  • Rejected or Suspended Applications for Revolutionary War Pensions. Washington, D.C., 1852. Reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1969, and 1991. Reprints include "an Added Index to States." FHL Collection 973 M24ur; digital version at Ancestry
Civil War
Civil War Battle

The following Civil War battle was fought in Phillips County.

Map showing Civil War battles in Arkansas.




Vital Records

  • Murray, Dorothy L. Phillips County, Arkansas, 1820-1879: Computer Indexed Marriage Records. Hunting for Bears, 1991. Google Books page
  • Phillips County marriage records from 1921 to 1951 were microfilmed by the Arkansas History Commission in cooperation with the Arkansas History Commission. This was a part of a project which was completed in 2007. The filming project is discussed in an Internet news item in the Arkansas History Commission website.

Societies and Libraries

Family History Centers

Web Sites


  1. The Handybook for Genealogists : United States of America, 10th ed., (Draper, UT: Everton Publishers, 2002), p. 69.
  2. The Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America,10th ed. (Draper, UT:Everton Publishers, 2002).
  3. Heritage Preservation Services, Civil War Battle Summaries by State, (accessed 2 August 2012).