John S. Ficklin (1804-1846) was a merchant, politician, and soldier from Lawrence County, Arkansas who is considered by many to be the founder of Powhatan. Research into his life and activities is ongoing. What follows is a general narrative.
John S. Ficklin was born in 1804 near Buffalo Springs in Scott County, Kentucky to Rev. John Herndon Ficklin and Anna Herndon. Elements of the Ficklin family had been moving west out of Virginia since the 1780s. Several members are listed as recipients of land grants for service during the Revolutionary War, and some are even mentioned by name in proposals to the Virginia General Assembly (James Robertson, Petitions of the Early Inhabitants of Kentucky, 1914, 1998). In 1821, John's uncle Joseph was the postmaster in Lexington, Kentucky. An obituary states that John himself was licensed as a printer, although no record of him exists to confirm if he practiced. It is unknown whether he learned the trade from his uncle, or if he lived with him. If he did, he would have shared a home with the young Jefferson Davis, future President of the Confederate States of America, who was attending Transylvania University.
Arkansas - Jackson & Smithville
Ficklin was a tax-payer in Lawrence County, Arkansas Territory by 1830.  In 1831, he and his brother Thompson became partners in a mercantile firm at Jackson (Lawrence Co. tax records 1829-1838. Deed Book D, Lawrence Co Courthouse, Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. Loose probate at NEARA). For the next few years, John pursued many ventures, including an appointment as Jackson's postmaster (1832), livestock and land improvements at Crowley's Ridge (1834), and other business relations. Thompson died in 1835 and his widow, Mariah, married Archibald Yell (who would be elected governor in 1840) a year later on July 7. Four years later, in 1840, both are elected to government positions; Yell as Governor and Ficklin as State Senator. One of his appointments as Senator was to sit on the Committee on Public Buildings and the Committee on Internal Improvements. Being a member of the Internal Improvements committee allowed John Ficklin to develop land on the western bank of the Black River into what becomes the Town of Powhatan.
1832: June 20 - appointed Postmaster at Jackson, Arkansas. [7a]
1836: the Second Creek War broke out in Alabama. "Major" John Ficklin hosted a barbecue for the Randolph Company of Volunteers at Jackson. [7b] This group of fifty-one men had bee raised to protect Arkansas' western border with Indian Territory, as many feared the uprising in Alabama would inspire other recently-removed tribes to violence. Why Ficklin was called "Major" is unknown.
Powhatan and Legislative Service
In 1837, John S. Ficklin established a “New Orleans House;” a brokerage or commission business targeting trade with New Orleans along the banks of the Black River, directly south of the present-day Powhatan town boundary. This begins to draw other commerce to Powhatan because Ficklin received steamboat shipments from supply companies in New Orleans to distribute wholesale to local merchants and to sell retail to local citizens. Receipts dated July 24, 1837 and August 19, 1837 lists items Joseph B. Rickman and Company, a mercantile business from outside Black River Township and Powhatan, bought from John S. Ficklin including multiple bolts of cotton and linen fabrics, five bolts of calico, cotton hoes, neck stocks, boots, knives, household items, and spools of thread.
December 26, 1837, Ficklin appointed as Quartermaster General for the entire militia of Arkansas by Governor James S. Conway via General Order No. 9 issued from Little Rock Headquarters. 
Within a year his nephew, John A. Lindsay, moved to the town.
In 1839, the Ficklin Ferry began operation connecting the developing farm lands of the east Lawrence County Mississippi Delta to the transportation port of Powhatan. W. E. McCleod described the Ficklin Ferry as, “the most accessible point at all seasons of the year from Jacksonport to Pocahontas.” The ferry was needed because the Powhatan – Smithville Road, built in 1836, connected the Military Road spur in Smithville to Greene County in the east. This also brought travelers and commerce through Powhatan; at this time the County seat was located in Smithville and the Smithville – Powhatan Road was its connection to the river traffic and commerce on the Black River. In the late 1830s, a public road was constructed connecting Pocahontas, through Powhatan, to Jacksonport, Arkansas, a town located at the confluence of the Black River and White River. The overland route connected other river port towns along the Black River.
1840: elected as a State Senator and brother-in-law Archibald Yell elected Governor. November 1840, obtained seats on the Public Buildings Committee, Internal Improvement Committee, Militia Committee, Committee to research "An act to repeal an act to change the mainner of summoning grand and petit jurors, and to fix the per diem allowance for grand jurors," [14a]
Committee on Memorials: 1. instructed to inquire into the expediency of memorializing Congress for an appropriation for the improvement of St. Francis, White, Black, and Currant rivers, 2. introduced the adopted resolution that the committee be instructed to inquire into the expediency of memorializing Congress for an appropriation to open a road from William String's, in St. Francis county to Jackson in Lawrence County, and also for the appropriation to complete the road from Jackson in Lawrence County, via Fayetteville, in Washington county, to Fort Smith. [14b] 3. instructed to inquire into the expediency of memorializing Congress for an appropriation to complete althe road leading from Fulton, via Little Rock, and Jackson to the State Line. [14c]
Committee on Internal Improvements: examine and report to the Senate what alterations, if any, are necessary to be made in the road law of this State. [14c]
November 24, 1840: Ficklin presented a petition from "a large number of the citizens of Lawrence county praying for the establishment of a new county to be called Warren county." the motion was laid on the table. [14c]
However, the 1840s were not easy times and Ficklin's fortunes changed. The Panic of 1837 had already hurt the national economy. Then, in 1843, the Arkansas State Bank failed, leaving the state deep in debt. Ficklin was sued multiple times between 1840 and 1846. According to records at the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives (NEARA), ten of these cases were related to debt collection. The exact nature of these cases and whether they involved Ficklin's businesses is unknown, but it's clear that even a prosperous port like Powhatan was not immune from hardship.
In 1843, an Act was passed by the Arkansas General Assembly that set aside five hundred thousand acres, “for the benefit of such persons as have settled on, or have made improvement on the public lands in this State, and also for such persons as may hereafter settle on, or improve any of said lands.” The act divided the internal improvement land into three hundred and twenty acres tracts selected by appointed agents, of which John S. Ficklin was one. Land that Ficklin claimed for Powhatan was selected as part of the internal improvement acres. Persons who claimed land under the act paid the state two dollars an acre plus interest for the land. The Act also stated that all proceeds from selling the internal improvement land will be returned to the owners to fund improvements on the lands such as roads, ferries and buildings. Research shows at this time that Ficklin never received an official deed from the Governor of the State showing ownership over the land that became Powhatan.
1843: delegate from Lawrence County to the Democratic State Convention in Little Rock. named as President of the Convention and on the executive committee to fill any vacancies in nominations or appointments [18a]
On February 21, 1846, John S. Ficklin signed a mortgage to William Lindley of New Orleans for five hundred and fifty dollars, regarding a twenty three and three-quarters acres tract of land at “the south end of Ficklin’s location as part of five hundred thousand acre donation to the state.” This land is directly south of Powhatan’s boundary line. Ficklin later mortgages the east half of the northeast quarter of section thirty-one, located on the south side of the land mortgaged to Lindley, to Dr. Andrew Balfour of Smithville for two hundred dollars. (Figure 4) These mortgages and lack of clear title becomes significant after his death as it created uncertainty concerning legal title to the property he claimed.
Mexican War Service and Death
In 1846, the United States declared war on Mexico. Federal troops station at Fort Gibson, Fort Wayne, and Fort Smith within Indian Territory were reassigned southwards. Secretary of War William Marcy wrote to Governor Thomas Drew requesting Arkansas provide a Mounted Rifles regiment for service in Mexico and a battalion of Infantry and Mounted Rifles for defense of the western border. Arkansas responded with 19 companies; Ficklin volunteered as commander of Company C from Lawrence County. On January 18, 1846, Ficklin received his commission from the Governor and began an argument in the Senate on whether he could keep his lawfully-elected seat while serving in the militia. [20a] The Senate Report from November 10, 1846 reported Ficklin's commission and stated that as "no man can serve two masters at the same time," Ficklin would be placed on furlough from the State Senate until the end of his twelve month commission. Two days later, Hans Smith of the Committee on the Judiciary submitted a Minority Report arguing the decision stating that since Ficklin was a member of the militia, not the regular army, he was entitled to hold his Senate seat. The motion to adopt the Minority Report failed by one vote (11-10) sustaining the original November 10th decision. [20b]
They arrived in Little Rock on June 26 and set out for Fort Smith, arriving on July 6 to muster-in for a period of twelve months. [20c] After being furnished with uniforms, weapons, and equipment, they moved on to Fort Gibson. Ficklin appears on the muster rolls from July to September 1846. October 1846: Ficklin released on Furlough for seven days ans relinquished from command on that day. [20c] On furlough to run for State Legislature, won, but contracted measles in Ft. Smith on the way back to service. Ficklin himself succumbed to disease and died on December 17. He was buried at Fort Smith and Andrew Imboden was elected company captain in his place.
Ficklin’s death at Fort Smith, Arkansas on December 17, 1846 adversely impacted many commercial ventures in Powhatan. A deed written from the State of Arkansas to Andrew Balfour on March 4, 1847 gives Balfour all the land that Ficklin claimed through the internal improvement act, including the land that Ficklin mortgaged to Lindley of New Orleans, the land mortgaged to Andrew Balfour, and the land that becomes the Town of Powhatan. It is speculated that William Lindley could have contested this deed, but instead reached a settlement with Balfour. Lindley paid Balfour one hundred and sixty dollars, and a deed is recorded on August 30, 1847 transferring the twenty-three and three-quarter acres Ficklin had originally mortgaged to Lindley. The twenty three and three-quart acre property contained Ficklin’s storehouse. On April 3, 1848, Lindley sells the land to Phillip L. Massey, also of New Orleans, for five hundred dollars, and the contents of Ficklin’s storehouse for an additional two thousand dollars. On January 3, 1849, Andrew Balfour sells other lands in Sections twenty nine and thirty to John Anthony Lindsay, John S. Ficklin’s nephew and executor of his estate, opening the way for the development of the Town of Powhatan. (Figure 5)
 Burton Ray Knotts, Lawrence County, Arkansas Tax Records, 1829-1838 [Conway: Arkansas Research, 1996], 11.
Arkansas Gazette, June 20, 1832; John S. Ficklin Probate File, Lawrence County Records: Loose Probate Records, Names: Dowell (part) – Fetcher (part). Roll MFNE 0309, Arkansas History Commission: Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives, Powhatan, Arkansas.
Thompson H. Ficklin Will, Lawrence County Records: Probate Records: Wills, Book “C” 1834-0858. Roll MFNE 0260, Arkansas History Commission: Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives, Powhatan, Arkansas: 27.
Arkansas Gazette, July 19, 1836; James Logan Morgan, Marriage Records of Lawrence County, Arkansas 1820-1850[Conway: Arkansas Research, 2000], 38; Melinda Meek, “The Life of Archibald Yell,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 26, No. 2 (Summer 1967): 167.
Arkansas General Assembly, Acts Passed by the Fourth Session of the General Assembly of the State of Arkansas, 1843, [Little Rock, 1843], 72; Records of the States: Arkansas Journals: Legislative Council (Senate) and House of Representatives: 1833-1840. Microfilm Roll 2 Arkansas History Commission, Little Rock.
[7a] Volume XIII - No.26 - Whole No. 650, 1832 Post Office - Cadron Mills & Harrisburg
[7b] Morgan, James Logan. Arkansas Volunteers of 1836-1837: History and Roster of the First and Second Regiments of Arkansas Mounted Gunmen 1836-1837 and a Roster of Captain Jesse Bean's Company of Mounted Rangers United States Army 1832-1833. p. 25.
Lawrence County Circuit Clerk, Lawrence County Land Deed Book F: 1845-1849. Lawrence County Courthouse: Circuit Clerk Office, Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, 178.
 John S. Ficklin Probate File, Roll MFNE 0309, Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives, Powhatan, Arkansas.
 Volume XIX, No. 3, Whole No. 1107. 1838 Military - General Order, No. 9.
 Lawrence County Clerk, Lawrence County Court Deed Book C: 1834-1844, Lawrence County Courthouse: County Clerk Office, Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, 141.
Anderson and Story, 9; McCleod, 49.
Anderson and Story, 9.
[14a] Records of the States: Arkansas, Journals: Legislative Council (senate) and House of Representatives, 1833-1840 Roll No.2, Arkansas State Archives, pgs. 5,6, 24
[14b] Records of the States: Arkansas, Journals: Legislative Council (senate) and House of Representatives, 1833-1840 Roll No.2, Arkansas State Archives, pgs. 35, 36
[14c] Records of the States: Arkansas, Journals: Legislative Council (senate) and House of Representatives, 1833-1840 Roll No.2, Arkansas State Archives, pgs. 44
[14d] Records of the States: Arkansas, Journals: Legislative Council (senate) and House of Representatives, 1833-1840 Roll No.2, Arkansas State Archives, pgs. 63
 Arkansas General Assembly, Acts 1843, 42.
Ibid, 43 & 72.
 Ibid, 42; Lawrence County Circuit Clerk, Lawrence County Land Deed Book E: 1839-1845, Lawrence County Courthouse: Circuit Clerk Office, Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, 29.
 Arkansas General Assembly, Act 1843, 44.
[18a] Newspaper article listing the proceedings of the 1843 Democratic State Convention. NEED TO FIND!!! - possibly Arkansas Banner, December 1843; Arkansas Banner. November 25, 1843
Lawrence County Land Deed Book E: 1839-1845, 29.
Lawrence County Land Deed Book F: 1845-1849, 69.
[20a] Records of the States: Arkansas, Senate Journals, 1842-1852, Roll No. 3, Arkansas State Archives, pg 32-33.
[20b] Records of the States: Arkansas, Senate Journals, 1842-1852, Roll No. 3, Arkansas State Archives, pg 42-46.
[20c] U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Ficklin, John S., Company C, Gray’s Battalion Arkansas Volunteers, Military Service Record, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration: Washington D.C.
 Arkansas Democrat, January 1, 1847; U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Ficklin, John S., Company C, Gray’s Battalion Arkansas Volunteers, Military Service Record, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration: Washington D.C.
 Lawrence County Land Deed Book F: 1845-1849, 158-159.
 Ibid, 107.
 Ibid, 177-178.
 Marion Stark Craig, Lawrence County Arkansas Loose Probate Paper 1815-1890 [Conway: Arkansas Research, 1986], 44; Lawrence County Land Deed Book F: 1845-1849, 382.