John Calhoun England (1850–1914)
John Calhoun England was a prominent lawyer, businessman, and real estate developer in central Arkansas during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Due to his involvement in the development of southwestern Lonoke County, the town of England (Lonoke County) was named in his honor.
On January 18, 1850, John C. England was born in Brownsville (Lonoke County) to John William Harrison England and Laurena Boyett England. He received a basic education in the local schools, but the approaching Civil War interrupted his formal education. The death of his father in April 1860 was hard on the family, resulting in the loss of most of their wealth during the next few years.
Sometime during the war, England moved to Huntersville, present-day North Little Rock (Pulaski County), where he worked until the end of the war as a clerk at the business of Smart and Chamberlain. After failing in a business venture with his brother J. E. England, he returned to Brownsville and resumed his education. Deciding upon a legal career, he read law with the local firm of Gantt and Bronaugh, the county’s most respected law firm. After failing to be admitted to the bar on two occasions, he was finally admitted in 1870. He was made a partner in the firm and relocated with it to DeValls Bluff (Prairie County). He soon became a respected lawyer.
During this time, England was also the business manager for a short-lived newspaper called the Devall Liberal. In August 1871, he partnered with George Emack in founding the Prairie County Democrat. After about six months of serving as local editor and business manager of the paper, he bought out Emack and moved the newspaper to Lonoke (Lonoke County), the seat of government for the newly created county. He renamed the paper the Lonoke Democrat. He later sold the paper to his brother J. E.
With the prospects of a lucrative practice, England moved to Lonoke in 1873, becoming the first lawyer to establish an office in the town; he also invested in local real estate. Financially established, England married Eleanor Chapline of Lonoke on January 20, 1875.
By the late 1880s, he was reported to be earning an annual income, independent of his law practice, of almost $8,000. After a brief business partnership with his brother Charles in 1887, he moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where he was employed as an attorney for the Cotton Belt Railroad. Becoming a major stockholder, he was involved in the development of railroads in Arkansas for the rest of his life. When his good friend James P. Eagle was elected governor in 1888, England accepted the appointment as the new governor’s private secretary.
By the late 1800s, England, as a result of his real estate transactions, had acquired large land holdings in the southwestern section of Lonoke County. Railroad construction into the area prompted cotton production and trade near a settlement established in the 1870s and commonly known as Hudgen’s Post Office. England recognized the potential for the development of a more substantial town and began the process for the establishment of the present-day town of England. A Mr. Wright was hired to plat the land he owned into city lots, and by early 1889 a committee had been formed to establish an official town. In recognition of England’s leadership role in developing the area, the committee named the proposed town England.
Some accounts relate that the postal service initially denied the name due to a policy of not naming a post office after a foreign nation. While this may be true, doubts are raised by the fact that a post office had been established in the White County settlement of Denmark in 1872.
England was a major force in the development of the town, and in 1911 he and partner J. E. Hicks founded the Citizens Bank and Trust Company. The town grew quickly, reporting a population of almost 1,200 by 1890. Steady growth led to incorporation on March 1, 1897. By 2010, the town was the fourth largest by population in the county, with 2,825 citizens.
By 1900, England had moved his family to St. Louis, Missouri. On October 29, 1914, while visiting his son in England, he died of suspected heart disease. He is buried in the Lonoke Cemetery.
For additional information:
“Founder of the Town of England Dies.” Arkansas Democrat, October 29, 1914, p. 10.
Gagliano, Ruby. “How England Got Its Name.” Newsletter of the Lonoke County Historical Society (Summer 1989): pp. 9–10.
Hallum, John. Biographical and Pictorial History of Arkansas. Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons, & Co., 1887.
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas
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