Flavius Josephus (Flave) Carpenter was a steamboat captain, U.S. marshal, and businessman. He is credited with selecting sites for two Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L, now Entergy) dams on the upper Ouachita River. Carpenter Dam, which created Lake Hamilton, is named for him.
Flave Carpenter was born on March 24, 1851, in Franklin County, Georgia, to Martin Sims Carpenter and Martha Weeks Carpenter. The family moved to Arkansas in 1857, settling in Clark County. Carpenter’s father owned and operated a steamboat that plied the Ouachita River from Arkadelphia (Clark County) to points south, including New Orleans, Louisiana. As a young man, Carpenter accompanied his father and learned to pilot the boat.
On June 28, 1875, Carpenter married Jane Elizabeth Wallis of Arkadelphia. They had ten children.
After the railroad arrived in Arkadelphia in the 1870s, river transportation declined in importance, and Carpenter went to work as a deputy U.S. marshal. He rode many miles on horseback through the Ouachita Mountains around Arkadelphia, Malvern (Hot Spring County), and Hot Springs (Garland County), searching for illegal stills and arresting moonshiners. While doing this work, he encountered several locations along the Ouachita that he believed would make excellent sites for power-producing dams. Carpenter did not have the financial resources to turn those visions into reality, but he convinced entrepreneur Harvey Couch of the sites’ suitability for hydroelectric dams. Couch’s company, AP&L, eventually built dams on the upper Ouachita at two of Carpenter’s chosen locations. Remmel Dam, completed in 1924, created Lake Catherine. Carpenter Dam was finished in 1931 and formed Lake Hamilton. Today, the two lakes are among Arkansas’s most popular tourist attractions.
Carpenter embarked on several business ventures, including a 1,000-acre farm south of Arkadelphia. He also partnered with Arkadelphia merchant Samuel Ralston “Rush” McNutt in owning a large ranch in Nebraska. Carpenter served as a city and county official, operated an ice plant, and owned multiple properties in Clark County, including several downtown business buildings.
Carpenter died on August 2, 1933, at home in Arkadelphia. He is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Arkadelphia.
For additional information:
Richter, Wendy, ed. Clark County, Arkansas: Past and Present. Arkadelphia, AR: Clark County Historical Association, 1993.
Syler, Allen B., et al., comps. Through the Eyes of Farrar Newberry: Clark County, Arkansas. Arkadelphia, AR: Clark County Historical Association, 2002.
Arkansas History Commission