Nancy's Lawrence County Corner

Please bear in mind that I am aware of some words or names that are misspelled.
I typed in the words as they are in the newspaper clippings.

Chas. B. Lee was the husband of Mary Emily Helms.
She was the daughter of Leaton Helms and Priscella Emmarine Young.

April 26, 1951

From Times Dispatch -
Walnut Ridge, Lawrence, Arkansas By Chas. B. Lee

Early History of Lawrence County

About 65 years ago, there was published a biography of the prominent families of Lawrence County but I was never able to procure a copy. Later, I read a synopsis of this information in a Walnut Ridge newspaper, details of which I remember very well.

Oldest Settlements

The oldest settlement in the county was a Clover Bend in 1797. Old Davidsonville became the first county seat and postoffice in 1818. Uncle James Gray told me a man named Gardner settled the Gray place in about 1798. Uncle Mat Smith told me, as a small boy, he lived with his father at Old Jackson in 1828, which was then a good sized town. It was the county seat. Smithville became the county seat in 1834.

In these brief accounts, I shall endeavor to deal largely with Spring River Township and its early settlers. The river places were first settled before the Civil War. Two Methodist preachers, Thacker and Oaks, entered the lands on the north and south sides of the river near Ravenden. East of them was the Gee place, west was the Stuarts and beyond the Gray place were the Crawfords and Beards. A ford of the river was named after each family, but Mrs. Oaks was drowned at the Oaks ford and it was then renamed the Liza Ann ford in her memory. From the east on line with Opposition, came first the Simmons and Stypes, then the Browns, Gipsons, Balls, Well, Criders, Sharps, Holders, Halsteads, East, Starlings, Hollowell and others.

Flatwoods Area

The Dents, Bradys and Buchanans first came to the flatwoods, then west of them were Barkers, Ellis, Watts, Goings, Holders, Halsteads, Blackwells, Helms, Ratcliffs and Honey. After the war, came the Clements, Picketts, Jenkins, Pettyjohns, Bellamys and others. The lands of Lawrence County were first surveyed in 1828. Much of it was already settled. There were early entries, then came homesteads. A lot of lands were granted the Iron Mountain Railroad in 1870. Later in the century came a lot of homesteads. For me to relate a connected story, I will start in the flatwoods. It is a legend that first settlers found there a prairie, but the nature of the soil and the old timber proves otherwise, but I remember when the area was all open country in large timberlands for miles.

Early Families

Recalled Uncle Josiah Dent, the father of all the Dents, lived on the present Pleasant Grove Church site at the time of the Civil War. He entered most of the lands from Smithville to the Big Lick. His eldest son, Attorney G.G. Dent, built Annieville which was named for his first wife. There were the best buildings in the county. The Buchanans and Bradys were east of the Dents. Grandfather Buchanan is buried in the N.W. corner of the Burns Brady place, at the old crossing of the Powhatan and Smithville roads. There are half dozen old family graveyards north from Smithville. Three are former church sites. The Bradys made up a large family, whose father settled in that community. Farther south is the Uncle Friend Phillips, Goff and Guthrie farms. Barker is the name of a large family reared near the Big Lick. I have names of Wash, Silas, Frank, Andrew, John and Mrs. Jeff Honey. Ellis is a name I connect with the Barkers, Elisha, Thomas and Martha who married Wash Barker. Barker was killed in an accident. Aunt Martha was housekeeper for Uncle Prior Simmons for years. They also kept Henry and Adah Ellis. I know of no Barkers connections left. When my father moved to Jeff Creek in 1887, the old Barker rendezvous remained in a deep hollow with the old camp house and corral.

More Old Families

Watts were pioneers, also about the Big Lick included Wilse, Bennett, Williams, Thomas, George, Mattie and Timmie. the Thomas Watts family is around Opposition. A story of old Grandfather Watts about skinning coons, “It is just that way, when my persimmon pond freezes over, the coons come and sit about eating the persimmons and freeze to the pond. I can prove by Mattie and the children, that I would take my butcher knife and go along, hack them over the head and they would jump out of their hides.” The Big Lick Jeff Honey lived at the Big Lick in the large log building with port holes in the upper story. This establishes proof that it was built at a time when Indians were still in the country. There was another such building on Osburn Creek in Sharp County. These structures were used during the Civil War for storehouses. Honey had several outbuildings which were burned during the early 80’s. I remember an investigation of it by my father’s J.P. Court, but nothing came of it. There should be several Honeys in Lawrence County. The Big Lick is a large, natural salty place, where Deer came. Holders should be next with the Goings and Halsteads. I think they came from Georgia. Pleasant Going and Halstead were pioneer Methodist ministers. Going was the father of my mother-in-law, Mrs. Emerine Helms. He was a circuit rider for many years. Going’s wife died in 1859 and his large family of children were cared for by the Holders, until his death in the war. Eunice, a sister of Pleasant Going, first married James Blackwell, father of Wm. Blackwell who had a store at Ravenden in 1900 and was a drummer for many years. Her second husband was Grandfather Bennett Holder. In her old age, my went on a cold night to the home of her son-in-law, Frank Barker, to marry her to Uncle Charlie Parks. I think one of the Goings has several grandchildren in Lawrence County. I am not sure, but believe that this Bennett Holder was the father of all I will name. They all settled about Friendship, but later moved north to Wells Creek, sowthwest of Opposition. Uncle Henry J. Holder, during the war, lived on the Helms place, south of Friendship. For many years, he was sheriff and deputy in the county. He had two sets of children. first came Berry, Babe and Dow. Berry moved to Boone County. Babe died near Portia years ago. Dow died last year at Imboden. The second group were Frank, George, Whit, Nancy, Linn, Ball, and Toy. The last three are still living. The old Wells place is now known as the Holder Place.

More About the Holders

Uncle Thomas Holder lived on the Creek. I name Jackson, Henry, Bennett, Dutch Billie, Mart, John and Susie. Only John is yet living. He is at Black Rock. Jackson Holder’s first wife was Harriet Davis, a sister to the mother of W.H. Hales and Safronia Davis Stuart McDaniel McBride. She was courted by many of the young men and was about to marry Bud Wells, but later was married to Bud Stuart. My father officiated at the ceremony. Fronia lived with Uncle Thomas Holder in later life, she was married to McBride. Jackson Holder’s second wife was Mrs. Sarah Gilbert Hoffman. She was the mother of Mrs. W.H. Hales and the late George Hoffman. Both the Gilberts and Hoffmans were pioneers of the Smithville territory. Henry Bennett Holder’s wife was the late Aunt Sarah Sharp Holder Smith, mother of Mrs. Katie Hathcoat, Mrs. Mollie Bottoms, Arson, Albert and Bennett Holder. There ware all some of my school mates. Dutch Billie Holder married Vianne Helms. I think there are grandchildren around Black Rock. Mart Holder married Annie Miller and had a large family. They moved to Oklahoma and had several girls. The late Waymon Holder was his son. Uncle Bletch Holder also had a large family. They finally settled west of Opposition. Bill first married Samantha Helms and they had four boys and a girl. James Holder married Luch Washum. Blech Holder married Edith Bottoms. Jane married Rich McIntyre. They had a large family. Martha was married to Wm. T. Sharp. This is also a large family. I’ll mention them later. Mrs. Ben Ragsdale was of the Holder family. John Pony Holder married Emma McBride. Charlie Holder was married to a Gilbert. Uncle Josh Holder moved up in Randolph County. I was not acquainted with him. Aunt Lucy Washum to the older Holders. She was the mother of James H., John and Lucy Washum. I remember Jim Washum as a clerk for Sam Ball at Opposition and later at Ravenden. His first wife was the daughter of Uncle Mat Smith and a sister to the late Jake Smith. Aunt Nancy Halstead was a Holder. James Halstead was father of all the Halsteads in Lawrence County. In this family I have the names of Blech, Alex, Mark, Jane, Mrs. Alex Anderson, Whit and Allie. Jane married Pete Stuart the grandfather of Bates Stuart at Ravenden. I have many memories of the Halsteads. James Halstead was constable in 1887 in a famous rape case which came before my father. Opposition was filled with angry men. Halstead, with six or eight men, stood guard about our house with loaded guns until things quieted down. They left for Powhatan, about midnight, with the prisoner and made the trip successfully.

Prisoner Later Lynched

Some three weeks later, a band of men, mostly from Sharp County, took the prisoner from jail and lynched him. I never knew of any investigation. Although some of the men left the country. It was that year and winter when the typhoid fever epidemic was at the worst. Almost all the Halstead family had the fever. My sister, Mrs. Isaac Crider, died with it. Aunt Lizzie, the wife of George Blackwell, was also of the older Holder generation. There was a boy named Bill and a girl, who married Joe Rogers at Imboden. Afterwards, the Holders, numerous as they were scattered to various places and still constitute a large family.

(To Be Continued)

Nancy Matthews

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