Jehoiada Jeffery (1790–1846)
Jehoiada Jeffery and his family are believed to have been the first permanent settlers in Izard County. Jeffery was a prosperous farmer who was a war veteran and served as justice of the peace, county judge, and territorial legislator. While in the legislature, he introduced the bill that created Izard County.
Jehoiada Jeffery was born in Rutherford County, North Carolina, on August 10, 1790, to James Jeffery and Jane Mason Jeffery. He was the oldest of their four sons and two daughters. About 1800, his family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, and a short time later to Christian County, Kentucky. In 1808, the family moved once again to Union County, Illinois, where they remained for about eight years.
Little is known of Jeffery’s educational training, which was likely very limited due to the family’s regular moves. However, his mother was educated and served as a teacher for the entire family. He married Mary Weir on February 12, 1811. The couple had thirteen children, all but two born in Arkansas following the family’s move there.
During the War of 1812, Jeffery volunteered, serving as a private under Captain John Shaw and in Captain Peter Craig’s U.S. Army Rangers. He participated in the battles of Horseshoe Bend, Alabama, and New Orleans, Louisiana. He also served in conflicts against Native Americans between the Missouri River and upper Mississippi River. He would later receive a land grant in Arkansas for his service.
About 1816, Jeffery moved his family to the banks of the White River in what was then Independence County to take advantage of his military land grant. At a place known as Pine Bayou, he built a two-story dog–trot log cabin and cleared land to plant his first crops. The Jefferys are believed to have been the first permanent settlers there. Once he and his family were established, his father, mother, and brothers joined them in Arkansas.
Jeffery became well known for welcoming visitors to his home. Among the family’s notable visitors over the years was early Arkansas explorer Henry Schoolcraft, who camped at the Jeffery farm during his trek through northern Arkansas in 1819. Sometime later, Sam Houston stopped at the Jeffery residence on his journey to Texas.
The site Jeffery had chosen for his family’s homestead would eventually become the settlement of Mount Olive, which is believed to have been the first permanent settlement between Batesville (Independence County) and the Missouri state line. He became a founding member of the White River Presbyterian Cumberland Church in 1826.
In 1824, Jeffery was elected to represent Independence County in the upper house of the territorial legislature. During his single term, he introduced the bill for the formation of Izard County. He also served a term from 1842 to 1843 representing Izard County. After leaving the legislature, he served as the Izard County judge from 1833 to 1838 and also served as a justice of the peace for twenty-five years.
A respected surveyor, Jeffery assisted in laying out the streets of Batesville and the well–known important military road passing through northeastern Arkansas.
Sometime in late 1846, Jeffery fell ill. After about six weeks of a lingering illness, he died on October 19, 1846, at his home in Mount Olive. He is buried in the nearby family cemetery. That cemetery, the Jeffery Cemetery, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 5, 1999.
For additional information:
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1889.
Jeffery, A. C. Historical and Biographical Sketches of the Early Settlement of the Valley of White River Together with a History of Izard County. Richmond, VA: Jeffery Historical Society, 1973.
“Obituary.” Weekly Arkansas Gazette, December 5, 1846, p. 3.
Shannon, Karr. A History of Izard County. Little Rock: Democrat Printing and Lithographing Co., 1947.
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas
Last Updated: 07/26/2021