Ephraim Sharp (1815–1898)
Ephraim Sharp, for whom Sharp County was named, was an early pioneer in Arkansas. He also served in the state legislature during the fifteenth and seventeenth sessions of the Arkansas General Assembly.
Ephraim Sharp was born on July 30, 1815, in Hamilton County, Ohio, the ninth of ten children born to farmers John Sharp and Elizabeth Elston Sharp. His mother died when he was three. When he was twelve years old, his father moved the family from Ohio to Decatur County, Indiana. On October 29, 1833, Sharp married his first wife, Margaret Stevens; they had five children.
In 1837, Sharp and his younger brother, William, moved their families to Arkansas. They settled as farmers in Sugar Loaf Township, near the present town of Shirley (Van Buren County). After 1848, Sharp moved to the Evening Shade area in what was then Lawrence County. His wife died in July 1853. His brother had moved to Independence County in 1847, but in 1853 he joined Sharp in Evening Shade, where they began their joint business ventures and lifelong relationship as business partners. They purchased, rebuilt, and expanded an old mill and added a tannery, sawmill, grist mill, and carding machine. Both brothers were prominent in civic and fraternal affairs.
On January 8, 1854, Sharp married Malinda Eliza Murphy; they had one child. In August 1856, he purchased land in Reed’s Creek Township near Strawberry (Lawrence County) from Thomas Cochran and built a double log residence into which he moved his family. His second wife died in 1857, and the following year, on July 19, 1858, he married Elvina Godwin; they had two children.
With the Civil War beginning, Sharp, who was too old to be drafted, tried to remain neutral. He stayed on his Lawrence County land and farmed. Family lore claims that he and his oldest son, Samuel, were very active in the Underground Railroad, hiding slaves in the many caves on family-owned land, though there are no records confirming this. In 1864, Sharp was selected to represent Lawrence County in the Fifteenth Arkansas General Assembly, comprised of individuals willing to serve the Union cause, as opposed to the Confederate state legislature, which held its session in Washington (Hempstead County).
In 1868, Sharp was elected to represent the Second District, which consisted of Lawrence, Randolph, and Greene counties. The state issued him a cap-and-ball single-shot pistol for his protection to and from Little Rock (Pulaski County). During this session, he presented the bill, which he and his brother had drafted, proposing to break off a portion of Lawrence County for a new county, the seat of which would be at Evening Shade. On July 18, 1868, Governor Powell Clayton signed the act and named the new county in honor of “Ephraim Sharp, the gentleman from Lawrence.”
After his service in the legislature, Sharp returned home and finished his days in the home he had built near Strawberry. His third wife died on December 18, 1872, and Sharp married Nancy Croom Smith on April 27, 1873; they had no children.
Sharp died on November 17, 1898, and is buried in Hibarger Cemetery in Lawrence County.
For additional information:
Moore, Caruth Shaver. Early History of Evening Shade and Sharp County. Evening Shade, AR: C. S. Moore, 1979.
Powell, Wilson. “The Sharps of Independence, Izard and Sharp Counties.” Independence County Chronicle 8 (January 1967): 20–44.
Yeager, W. C. “Looking Back 87 Years to the Time Sharp County Was Formed.” Sharp County Record. July 28, 1955, p. 1.
Ira Sharp Dennis
Last Updated: 10/31/2017