Lewis Williamson Cherry (1858–1922)

Lewis Williamson Cherry was an important businessman in Little Rock (Pulaski County) who founded several enterprises and served in a leadership role in various banks, as well as managing a robust real estate business.

Lewis W. Cherry was born on November 22, 1858, in Memphis, Tennessee, to Calvin Washington Cherry and Sarah Blount Williamson Cherry. His father, a banker, was son of Daniel Cherry, a wealthy North Carolina–born land speculator in early nineteenth-century Tennessee who founded Cherryville in Haywood County. After an initial education in Memphis public schools, Lewis W. Cherry was educated at a number of private schools in Tennessee and Kentucky, completing his education at James Byars’s academy in Covington, Tennessee.

Cherry began his career as bookkeeper for Goodbar and Co. of Memphis. In 1884, he moved to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and, with James Lafayette Goodbar, established the first ice factory there. In 1885, Cherry moved to Argenta, present-day North Little Rock (Pulaski County), where he established Crystal Ice Company with Goodbar the following year. In 1888, he formed Little Rock Ice Company, merging the Argenta firm with it.

Cherry became a prominent business leader in Little Rock, assuming the presidency of State National Bank in 1904, a position he held for about seven years. With Charles McKee, he financed construction of the Boyle Building at Main and Capitol, where the bank was housed, in 1910. Cherry was also director of the Bank of Commerce and Bank of Little Rock and had an extensive real estate business, organizing People’s Building and Loan Association and Cherry Coal Co., with his brother Calvin as manager.

In 1885, Cherry married Amelia Williams, daughter of Joseph R. Williams and Jane Wilkins Williams of Memphis. She died on December 7, 1886, in Little Rock, and in 1891, he married Carolina (Lina) Vandegrift Denison, daughter of George Wilson Denison and Olivia Cochrane Vandegrift Denison of Little Rock. Their children were Lewis Williamson (1893–1974, who married Anne Keesee Richardson), George Denison (1895–1981, who married Evelyn Handy), and Carolyn Vandegrift Cherry (1899–1989, who married William Archibald McDonnell).

In 1892, the Cherrys bought a house from Reverend Thomas Welch of First Presbyterian Church. The Italianate house, which Welch had built in 1884, was located at 700 Rock Street in Little Rock. Known after this as the Cherry House, it became “one of the attractive social centers of the city,” according to Dallas Herndon’s Centennial History of Arkansas. It was occupied by the family up to Lina Cherry’s death in 1957.

Cherry was a charter member of Little Rock Country Club and was a member of the city’s Board of Education for sixteen years, twice serving as board president. In 1945, Lina Cherry published Ancestry of My Three Children, which provides an account of the history of the Cherry and Denison families and allied families. Documents she gathered during her research for this project are held by the Arkansas State Archives as the Lina Vandegrift Denison Cherry Collection.

Lewis Williamson Cherry died at his Rock Street residence on June 11, 1922. Lina Cherry died on October 21, 1957, also in Little Rock. They are buried along with their children in a Cherry family mausoleum at Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock.

For additional information:
Cherry, Lina Vandegrift Denison. Ancestry of My Three Children. Privately published, Little Rock, 1945.

Hempstead, Fay. Historical Review of Arkansas. Vol. 2. Chicago: Lewis, 1911.

Herndon, Dallas T. Centennial History of Arkansas. Vol. 2. Chicago: S. J. Clarke, 1922.

“L. W. Cherry Dies at His Home Here.” Arkansas Gazette, June 12, 1922, p. 7.

“L. W. Cherry, Leader in Local Business Circles, Succumbs.” Arkansas Democrat, June 12, 1922, pp. 1, 10.

Lina Vandegrift Denison Cherry Collection, 1894–1957. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Nichols, Cheryl Griffith. Little Rock: Driving Tours of Three Historic Neighborhoods. Little Rock: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 1989.

William D. Lindsey
Little Rock, Arkansas

Last Updated: 01/16/2020