Logan Holt Roots (1841–1893)
Born at Locust Hill, near Tamaroa, Illinois, on March 26, 1841, Roots was the third of four children of Benajah Guernsey Roots, an educator, and Martha Sibley Holt.
His early academic interest focused on mathematics, although he worked with an engineering corps engaged in railroad construction at fifteen, acquiring a lifetime interest in railroad development. He enrolled in Illinois State Normal University in 1857, taught for a year then returned and graduated valedictorian in 1862.
After graduation, Roots enlisted in the Eighty-first Illinois Infantry, a volunteer regiment, and served in the Union Army until the Civil War ended in 1865. Roots was commissioned a first lieutenant, and because of his sharp business sense, he was assigned to the Quartermaster Corps. He was on General William Sherman’s staff on the campaign in Georgia, had charge of all supplies and the title of captain and commissary of subsistence, U.S. Volunteers. In 1865, Roots was designated brevet lieutenant colonel in recognition of his meritorious wartime service. He came west with Sherman, formed a military attachment in Arkansas where he remained, and left the military in 1866.
Roots acquired a plantation near DeValls Bluff (Prairie County), where he planted and traded. He and his brother, Philander Keep Roots, usually called P. K., also invested in Nevada mining interests. Roots was actively involved in politics as a Republican and campaigned for the state constitution of 1868. On June 22, 1868, he was elected to the United States Congress for the First Congressional District. He was reelected that year, ran unsuccessfully in 1870, and served until his term ended on March 3, 1871.
Roots was joined in Arkansas by P. K., who assisted him on the plantation and in Roots’s 1870 effort for reelection to congress. Although Roots lost that election, in 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him marshal for the United States Court for the Western District of Arkansas. Political rivalry and charges of scandal led to Roots’s removal as marshal in 1872, although before his removal, he helped found the First National Bank of Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in 1872.
On August 9, 1871, Roots married Emily Margaret Blakeslee, a native of New York who grew up in Illinois. The couple had seven children, although all four sons died in infancy.
After Roots’s removal as marshal, he and Emily settled in Little Rock (Pulaski County) where he became president of Merchant’s National Bank in 1872, later named the First National Bank of Little Rock. He remained associated with the bank for most of his life and, in 1891, was elected the first president of the Arkansas Bankers Association. In Little Rock, Roots continued to participate in Republican Party activities and was a member of the Episcopal Church.
He and P. K. became two of the three stockholders of the Southwestern Telegraph and Telephone Company. Logan Roots was the major stockholder and president of the telephone company, and because of his role in telephone development, some considered Roots to be the father of the telephone system of the southwest.
An avid Arkansas booster, Roots promoted the state to investors and immigrants and was the first president of the state board of immigration. He attended several national expositions, where his speeches received wide press coverage. In 1892, he negotiated a property trade that involved the federal government, the state, and the city of Little Rock. As a result of these transactions, the federal government transferred the arsenal grounds on Ninth Street in Little Rock, property since named MacArthur Park, to the city. In return, the state legislature ceded 1,000 acres on the north side of the Arkansas River in Pulaski County to the federal government. The military barracks moved from the arsenal to the north side of the river (located on Big Rock in present-day North Little Rock ) in 1893, and in 1897, the United States government named the location of the new barracks Fort Logan H. Roots in recognition of Roots’s work in the negotiations.
Roots died in Little Rock on May 30, 1893, after a brief illness. He was buried in the Roots family plot in Oakland Cemetery.
For additional information:
“Logan H. Roots.” Arkansas Gazette, May 31, 1893, p. 1.
Logan Roots Collection, 1842–1907. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Logan Holt Roots Letters. Center for Arkansas History and Culture. University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Treese, Joel D., ed., Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774–1996: The Continental Congress, September 5, 1774, to October 21, 1778, and the Congress of the United States, from the First through the 104th Congress, March 4, 1789, to January 3, 1997. Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, Inc., 1997.
Frances Mitchell Ross
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
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