Jackson Stewart (J. S.) Trimble (1815–1897)

Jackson Stewart Trimble was an influential figure in the development of Independence County in Arkansas’s early years. 

J. S. Trimble was born on March 28, 1815, in Smithland, Kentucky, to James Trimble and Elizabeth Stewart Trimble. In 1817, the family left Kentucky and ventured into what would become Arkansas, settling in an area about five miles southwest of Batesville (Independence County). Trimble grew up there and received his early education in the county’s common schools and at Batesville. After his formal schooling ended, Trimble became a farmer. In 1850, he married Catherine P. Hamilton. The couple had a daughter, Elvira. 

That same year, Trimble entered politics, successfully biding to represent Independence County in the lower house of the Arkansas General Assembly. A devotee of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, he ran as a Democrat. In 1856, he was elected to the state Senate. From the outset of his legislative service, the well-regarded legislator and speaker expressed his support of a government of limited powers but one that was also protective of the rights of the political minority. With a powerful speech not long after he joined the House, as well as the introduction of joint resolutions relating to the relationship between the state and the federal government, Trimble quickly established himself as both an effective advocate and debater and a thoughtful, principle-driven legislative leader.  

Trimble supported the secession process started by South Carolina and strongly backed Arkansas’s decision to follow on May 6, 1861. His membership in the state Senate exempted him from military duty, but beyond his legislative responsibilities he supported the cause by serving in the Confederate mail service in Texas. His tenure in the state Senate extended until 1864, culminating in a ten-day session from September 22 to October 2, 1864. That session was held in Washington (Hempstead County) and represented the Arkansas government loyal to the Confederate national government in Richmond, Virginia, although the state at that time was, in fact, divided, with Union forces having gained control of a substantive portion of Arkansas by this point in the war.

Trimble was one of only seven Arkansas Confederates who were indicted for treason. But while the indictment itself seemed excessive to many given his actions, there was no more logic to the pardon he received from President Andrew Johnson, although in fact Johnson issued pardons to all seven. Trimble’s ultimate fate seemed emblematic of the somewhat haphazard manner that marked the process as the nation struggled to regain its footing in the post-war period under the new president. 

Soon after the end of the war, Trimble returned to governmental service, being elected to treasurer of Independence County, filling the vacancy created by the death of R. Lee. He won the election overwhelmingly, but after serving the remaining three years, he declined to seek reelection. Trimble again served in the state legislature in the mid-1870s and was an active member of the state’s Democratic Party, serving as the chairman of both county and state conventions on multiple occasions in the late 1870s and early 1880s. However, it appears that he was also a delegate to the fledgling Prohibition Party’s convention in 1888.  

While he had lived virtually his whole life in Greenbriar Township, at the end of 1886, he and his wife moved to Sulphur Rock (Independence County), where his daughter and grandchildren lived. Not long after his move, he helped get the town of Sulphur Rock incorporated and then served as its first mayor, although he did not seek reelection.  

Trimble died on January 1, 1897, in Sulphur Rock. He is buried in the Sulphur Rock Cemetery. 

For additional information:
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889. Relevant selection online at http://www.mygenealogyhound.com/arkansas-biographies/ar-independence-county-biographies/j-s-trimble-genealogy-independence-county-arkansas-sulphur-rock.html# (accessed June 11, 2021). 

“Civil War Amnesty: Trimble.” Independence County Chronicle 31 (April/July 1990): 42–44. 

William H. Pruden III
Ravenscroft School


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