200 years since the birth of Little Rock’s 23rd Mayor, early settler Gordon Neill Peay

On December 12, 1819, future Little Rock Mayor Gordon Neill Peay was born.  The Peay family arrived in Arkansas from Kentucky in 1825.  They quickly became one of Little Rock’s leading families.

Mayor Peay’s father, Nicholas Peay served on the Little Rock Board of Trustees (which existed before the town was incorporated) and later served on the City Council and was acting mayor.

It is Nicholas Peay’s Egg Nog recipe which inspired the Historic Arkansas Museum Nog Off! (2019 edition is Friday night!)

Godon N. Peay served as mayor of Little Rock from 1859 to 1861.  During the Civil War, Peay served as Captain and later Colonel of the Capital Guard.  He later received a pardon from the federal government.  In the days leading up to the Civil War and during it, Mayor Peay was one of a group of civic leaders who corresponded with Union leaders. It has been said that this conciliatory tone is a reason that Little Rock fared better during Federal occupation and Reconstruction than did many other Confederate cities.

The Peay family owned the Peay Hotel, Little Rock’s first hotel, and were also co-founders of what became Worthen Bank.  They were also a founding family of Christ Episcopal Church. Mayor Peay later served as Pulaski County Chancery Clerk.

He died on December 14, 1876, and is buried at Mount Holly Cemetery along with many members of his family.  A nephew of his, Ashley Peay, served on the City Council in the 1920s.  Mayor Peay’s great-grandson Joseph Barber Hurst, Sr. served on the Little Rock City Board of Directors from 1967-1971. One of Mr. Hurst’s sons, Howard, was born on Mayor Peay’s birthday.

Janette Fishell organ concert tonight at 8pm at Christ Church

The Central Arkansas Chapter of the American Guild of Organists presents Janette Fishell in concert tonight. The program will begin at 8pm at Christ Episcopal Church.

Janette Fishell holds degrees with honors in organ performance from Indiana University and Northwestern University, and is Professor of Organ and Chair of the Organ Department at the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University, where she has taught applied organ and Organ Pedagogy since 2008. A recitalist with a wide repertoire and interest in music of all periods, she has an especially keen interest in the organ works of J.S. Bach and Petr Eben, both of whose organ works she has performed in their entirety. Her collegiate studies included work with Wilma Jensen and Wolfgang Rübsam; sabbatical study with Ludger Lohmann focused on performance practices of the German Baroque and Romantic periods, as well an exploration of historic European instruments.

Named Young Organist of the Year by Keyboard Arts, Inc. while still an undergraduate, Dr. Fishell is a recitalist and teacher of international standing. She regularly performs in many of the greatest concert venues throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. Her numerous compact disc recordings include performances of the music of Marcel Dupré, Petr Eben and J.S. Bach. Pas de Dieu: Music Sublime and Spirited, a recording of French Romantic repertoire released by Loft Recordings in July, 2006, is the premiere recording on the C.B. Fisk Opus 126. She has been featured in live radio broadcasts worldwide, including recital broadcasts for BBC London, NHK Tokyo, and Czech Radio, and is a frequent lecturer and adjudicator. The author of numerous articles, a book on service playing published by Abingdon Press, and composer of several works for choir and solo organ, she is widely recognized as a leading authority on the organ music of Czech composer Petr Eben.

Her two solo recitals on the C.B. Fisk Opus 55 organ of historic Old West Church, Boston at the 2014 National Convention of the AGO were hailed as convention highlights, “a precious jewel … the perfect match between performer, organ and music. Fishell has emerged as one of the best Bach performers on the planet.”

Hear the Arkansas Chamber Singers in Revelry, Reflection, Revelation! today at 3pm

Image result for arkansas chamber singersThe Arkansas Chamber Singers are performing at 3pm today (October 13) at Christ Episcopal Church.  (They also presented this concert on Friday, October 11 at St. Mark’s Episcopal.) This concert kicks off their 40th season.  The Arkansas Chamber Singers are under the direction of John Erwin.

This concert invites audiences to experience the ever popular and exciting Dello Joio composition “A Jubilant Song.”  This ecstatic work with a virtuosic piano accompaniment is set to text adapted from Walt Whitman.

Also, on the program will be ‘a capella’ pieces by Felix Mendelssohn, “Kyrie,” “Ehre sei Gott,” and “Heilig,” all of which are written for double choir and are rich in Romantic harmony.

Featured on three concert will be three works for string quartet, piano, and choir that are quite simply stunning!  “The Hope of Loving” by the young American composer, Jake Runestad, is set in six short movements, each by a different poet, extolling the virtues of love as the hope for mankind.  Also by another American composer, Dan Forrest, the choir will sing “i thank you, God,” set to a text by e. e. cummings. This mesmerizing new work is serene and calming as well as powerfully inspirational.  Brought back by popular demand is the stirring, evocative “Dark Night of the Soul,” by the wonderful Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo.

ADVANCE CONCERT TICKETS
$15 Adult
$10 Student
   ($18 Adults, $12 Students at the door)

Birth of Little Rock’s 22nd and 24th mayor – William Eliot Ashley

On August 6, 1823, future Little Rock Mayor William Eliot Ashley was born in Little Rock.  He would go on to become the first Little Rock Mayor to be born in Little Rock.  Ashley was the son of Mary and Chester Ashley; his father would later serve as a U. S. Senator from Arkansas.  He was the second of the couple’s seven children.

Though he was raised in Little Rock, he did receive some schooling out of state. The State History Commission has correspondence between eleven year old William, studying in New York, and his father. Part of the letter is a request for money.

On October 26, 1846, he married Frances Eliza Grafton at Christ Episcopal Church.  They were the first Little Rock residents to be married in that church.  The couple had five children, including triplets.  Only one of the children, Frances (who was one of the triplets) survived to adulthood.

Ashley was first elected Mayor of Little Rock in 1857. After completing a two year term, he was succeeded by Gordon N. Peay (another scion of a prominent Little Rock family).  In 1861, Ashley returned to the office of Mayor.  He was reelected to a third term in 1863.  In September 1863, following the defeat of Confederate troops by the Union forces at the Battle of Little Rock, the City of Little Rock ceased operations.  On September 21, 1863, Little Rock municipal government closed its doors, stopped collection of taxes and disbanded.  Thus Ashley’s third term ended.

In addition to his interest in local government, Ashley was a member of St. John’s College Board and a director of the newly-formed Little Rock Gas Company.

William Eliot Ashley died on August 16, 1868, at the age of 45.  He was buried in Mt. Holly Cemetery (which sat partially on land that had once belonged to his family). His parents, wife and children are all buried in Mt. Holly as well.

Interestingly, for someone who grew up in a prominent family, there does not appear to be a surviving likeness of Mayor Ashley – either in painting or photograph.  Several exist of his parents, but none of him.

Little Rock Mayor T. D. Merrick born on May 23, 1814

_Thomas D. Merrick was born on May 23, 1814, in Hampden County, Massachusetts. He later moved to Indianapolis and Louisville before ending up in Little Rock.

On January 17, 1841, he married Anna M. Adams of Kentucky at Christ Episcopal Church in Little Rock. They had seven children: George, Annie, Ellie, Mollie, Lillian, Dwight, and Thomas.

Merrick became a prominent member of the Little Rock business community, as a merchant and cotton broker. He was involved in Freemasonry, holding the position of Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas in 1845.

In 1855 Merrick entered into a business partnership with future LR Mayor John Wassell. Merrick was also involved in city politics, serving on the city council and also as mayor from January 1854 to January 1855.

He saw active service during the Civil War. On February 6, 1861, Merrick delivered an ultimatum to Captain James Totten of the United States Arsenal at Little Rock, demanding the surrender of the federal troops.  This was more than two months before Fort Sumter was attacked.

Captain Totten ignored the ultimatum. Merrick, however, did not lead an attack on the Arsenal, which would have certainly been viewed as aggression against the federal government.

Merrick also raised a regiment of Confederate Arkansas Militia, holding the rank of Colonel of Infantry at Camp Conway, near Springfield, Arkansas.  Following the Battle of Shiloh (April 1862), Merrick resigned his commission and returned to Little Rock.

Merrick died in his home in Little Rock on March 18, 1866.  He is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery.