John H. Smith came to Hempstead County in 1824 when he was seven years old. In 1831, when he was 14 years old, John H. Smith carried the mail 180 miles on horseback from Washington, Arkansas to Natchitoches, Louisiana. It required ten days for the roundtrip and he made two trips each month. On his mail route, he stopped at a catalpa tree hedge growing along the Red River. He filled his pocket with the winged seed from this tree and when he got to Washington, he scattered the seed over the land where the 1836 Courthouse was built. As “Johnny Catalpa-seed”, he introduced the Southern Catalpa to the area. He told his story to the Southwest Press in 1883 when he was 66 years old. He also gathered Bois d‟arc fruit when he as 26 years old to disperse.
This particular tree was estimated to 173 years old in 2004. It is on the east side of the Boyette House (c. 1927) property which is the land directly west of the 1836 Hempstead County Courthouse (also known as the Confederate Capitol of Arkansas following the capture of Little Rock in 1863). This Catalpa tree species has a broad and spreading form and very picturesque. This tree is shown on the cover of the AFHTP Brochure and is adjacent to the 1836 Hempstead County Courthouse, also known as the Confederate Capitol Courthouse.
Location: Historic Washington State Park
Registration: August 6, 2004
Species: Southern Catalpa