Clarendon is located along the White River near the mouth of the Cache River. The area was first settled by French hunters and trappers around 1799 who built cabins near the mouth of the Cache. They used these as a base to hunt and trap the surrounding wetlands and forests.
In the late 1820s, the Military Road was built from Memphis to Little Rock and soon a ferry and post office was established where it crossed the White. The little village became known as Clarendon. It was probably named for the Earl of Clarendon of England. On November 2, 1829, Monroe County was created from parts of Arkansas and Phillips counties and Clarendon was made the county seat. The town was officially incorporated on May 12, 1859. Plantation industry was the main source of income for the county as population grew. Clarendon saw much activity during the Civil War because of it’s location on the White River. In 1864, Union troops burned most of Clarendon after ships were fired on near the town.
After the war, Clarendon was rebuilt and resumed it’s role as seat of government. The Merchant and Planters Bank was established in 1890 and the building still stands and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A railway bridge was constructed in 1883 and a bridge was built across the White River in 1931.
The Flood of 1927 devastated the town when the levee broke. A new and stronger levee was built in 1937 and it protects the town today. The Monroe County Court House was designed by famous Arkansas architect Charles L. Thompson and built in 1911. The court house is the most prominent building in Clarendon and is an example of Italian Renaissance Revival style. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 14, 1976.
Several historical markers and war memorials are found around it and the jail and public buildings are nearby.
The Court House is located near the levee. Like much of the Delta, the town has struggled in recent years. A strong community remains with a school system though. Clarendon perseveres with a business district and a focus on tourism. There is an emphasis on hunting and fishing.
Access for boats on the White River can be found at Clarendon and the town is nearby the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge.
Turn off the highway and visit Clarendon for awhile. The 2010 U.S. census listed the population at about 1,664. Stop and eat at one of the several restaurants, visit the courthouse, and meet some nice people who will shake hands and give you a hearty welcome. I’m looking forward to going back.