Entries - Time Period: Louisiana Purchase through Early Statehood (1803 - 1860) - Starting with J

J. Wilson [Steamboat]

The J. Wilson was a steamboat that was destroyed when two of its boilers exploded as it left Columbia (Chicot County) on January 6, 1853, resulting in dozens of deaths. Captain John Rotan and J. M. Craig had the J. Wilson built in 1852 with plans to use the vessel to transport freight and cotton along the Mississippi River. Rotan served as the vessel’s captain. The steamboat had just taken a load of freight owned by A. H. Davies and Johnson Chapman aboard at the landing at Columbia on January 6, 1853, when two of its boilers exploded, completely destroying the vessel’s forecastle and a third of its hurricane deck roof. A report in the Washington Telegraph stated that “all …

Jacob Wolf House

The two-story log structure known as the Jacob Wolf House stands on a hillside overlooking the juncture of the White and North Fork Rivers in the present-day town of Norfork (Baxter County). It was constructed in 1829 as the first permanent courthouse for Izard County in Arkansas Territory and is the oldest public structure in Arkansas. Before permanent Anglo-American settlement occurred, the juncture of the White and North Fork rivers was the site of early fur-trading activities. From 1819 to 1828, numerous villages of Shawnee and Delaware Indians were located nearby. Trade with these Indian tribes prompted Jacob Wolf to establish his homestead at the mouth of the North Fork River in 1824. In 1825, he was granted a license …

James C. Tappan House

aka: Tappan-Pillow House
The James C. Tappan House, with a present-day address of 717 Poplar Street, in Helena-West Helena (Phillips County) was completed in 1859 by James C. Tappan, a highly regarded Confederate general and successful attorney and politician. Tappan purchased the house in 1858 while it was still under construction, and he directed its completion. It was built on a high brick foundation on a hill overlooking the Mississippi River and the levee. At the time of its construction, it was the only home for a radius of several city blocks. Originally enclosed by a picket fence, the home was the focal point of a compound that included a kitchen building, a smokehouse, slave quarters, and other outbuildings. The two-story house is …

James E. M. Barkman House

The James E. M. Barkman House, constructed in Arkadelphia (Clark County) in about 1860, is an example of a transitional Greek and Gothic Revival–style house. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, the building is now owned by Henderson State University. James Barkman was the son of Jacob Barkman and Rebecca Davis Barkman, who settled along the Caddo River in 1811. One of the earliest settlers in what became Clark County, Jacob Barkman owned a variety of businesses and worked as a planter. James Barkman was born in 1819 and followed his father into farming. The younger Barkman was successful and quickly accumulated wealth. In the 1860 census, the family of James Barkman included his wife, Harriet; …

Jean Laffite’s Espionage Mission

Jean Laffite was a well-known smuggler and privateer (considered a pirate by some) who operated in the Gulf of Mexico. A hero of the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, Laffite undertook a secret espionage expedition in 1816 that traversed the Missouri Territory (later the Arkansas Territory) on behalf of the Spanish. Lafitte was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in November 1815 at the same time that his friend, architect Arsene Latour, was in town to supervise the proofing and printing of Historical Memoir of the War in West Florida and Louisiana in 1814–1815. As a Spanish agent interested in Spain’s territory north and west of the Louisiana Purchase, Latour may have been instrumental in convincing the impoverished Lafitte to join him …

Jeffery Cemetery

The Jeffery Cemetery is located about seventeen miles southwest of Melbourne (Izard County), one mile off Mount Olive Road, near the unincorporated community of Mount Olive (Izard County). It is the most noteworthy remaining site associated with Izard County’s earliest permanent settlers, Jehoiada Jeffery and his family. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 5, 1999. The Jefferys, who moved to the area about 1816, are believed to be the first permanent settlers in Izard County. Jehoiada Jeffery—a surveyor, War of 1812 veteran, territorial legislator, and local politician—developed a prosperous farm that supported several of his family members. The family’s farm structures, including a two-story dog trot cabin, disappeared long ago. All that remains of …

Jeffery, Jehoiada

Jehoiada Jeffery and his family are believed to have been the first permanent settlers in Izard County. Jeffery was a prosperous farmer who was a war veteran and served as justice of the peace, county judge, and territorial legislator. While in the legislature, he introduced the bill that created Izard County.  Jehoiada Jeffery was born in Rutherford County, North Carolina, on August 10, 1790, to James Jeffery and Jane Mason Jeffery. He was the oldest of their four sons and two daughters. About 1800, his family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, and a short time later to Christian County, Kentucky. In 1808, the family moved once again to Union County, Illinois, where they remained for about eight years.  Little is known of Jeffery’s educational training, which was likely very limited due to the family’s regular moves. However, his mother was educated and served as a teacher for the entire family. He married Mary Weir on February 12, 1811. The couple had …

John, Mary

Mary John was born a slave under French colonial occupation, and after obtaining her freedom in 1840, she opened a hotel at Arkansas Post and became a prominent local figure. Mary John was born around the latter part of the 1780s. She may have been Marie Jeanne, whom Etienne de Vaugine bequeathed to his granddaughter, Pelagie, in his will dated September 1, 1794, at New Orleans, Louisiana (although the 1850 federal census lists her as having been born in Arkansas). Little is known about her early life. A bill of sale written in French by notary Andre Fagot at Arkansas Post on July 30, 1806, records that Marie Languedoc transferred ownership of a “creole negress” named Marie Jeanne to Jean …

Johnson, Benjamin

Benjamin Johnson was a judge of the Superior Court of the Arkansas Territory and later the first federal district judge for the state of Arkansas. He was a part of the early Arkansas political dynasty known as “The Family.” Johnson County in northwest Arkansas is named for him. Benjamin Johnson was born on January 22, 1784, in Scott County, Kentucky, to Robert and Jemima Johnson. The Johnsons were leaders in political, educational, and religious affairs in early Kentucky and one of the most prominent families in the state. Five of Johnson’s eight brothers served in the War of 1812, and one, Richard Mentor Johnson, gained fame as the man who killed the great Shawnee leader Tecumseh at the Battle of …

Johnson, Lycurgus Leonidas

Lycurgus Leonidas Johnson was one of the largest cotton planters and slaveowners in antebellum Arkansas. Around 1860, he built an imposing, seventeen-room Greek Revival mansion along the banks of the Mississippi River at his Lakeport Plantation in Chicot County. Lycurgus Johnson was born on March 22, 1818, the eldest of nine children born to Joel Johnson and Verlinda Offutt Johnson of Scott County, Kentucky. The Johnsons were among the most prominent families in early Kentucky. Johnson’s paternal grandfather, Robert Johnson, was a political, educational, and religious leader in the Bluegrass State; he had been instrumental in establishing Transylvania Seminary (later Transylvania University) at Lexington, the Rittenhouse Academy in Scott County, and the Kentucky Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge. One of …

Johnson, Robert Ward

Robert Ward Johnson was an Arkansas political leader who represented the state in both chambers of the U.S. Congress and as a congressman and senator in the Confederate Congress. Born in Scott County, Kentucky, to Benjamin and Matilda Williams Johnson, he belonged to a powerful political family, as two of his uncles represented Kentucky in the U.S. House of Representatives, and another uncle, Richard Mentor Johnson, eventually became vice president of the United States. His father was appointed Superior Judge for Arkansas Territory in 1821, and President Andrew Jackson later appointed him in 1836 as the first Federal District Judge for the new state of Arkansas. One of his daughters married Ambrose H. Sevier, head of the state Democratic Party …

Jolly, John

aka: Ah ludi ski
aka: Ooluntuskee
John Jolly, president of the Arkansas Cherokee, was a key figure in Cherokee affairs during and after their residence along the Arkansas River in west-central Arkansas. Born in Tennessee into an influential mixed-race family, he had a successful trading post on Hiwassee Island in eastern Tennessee, at the confluence of the Hiwassee River and the Tennessee River. Jolly’s brother Tahlonteskee was one of several Cherokee chiefs who voluntarily moved a group of Cherokee from their lands into the area that would become Arkansas shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Following an 1817 treaty that promised an exchange of their lands east of the Mississippi River for an equivalent area in Arkansas, Tolontuskee and his followers moved gradually from northeast …