Little Rock Look Back: John Wassell

Future Little Rock Mayor John Wassell was born on February 15, 1813 in Kidderminster, England.

In 1829, he came to the United States.  He learned carpentry and construction in Ohio and ended up in Little Rock.  One of his jobs was as the finishing contractor on the State Capitol building, now known as the Old State House.

He later gave up carpentry and became an attorney.  (It is said that he did so after becoming embroiled in a legal dispute arising from one of his construction jobs.) Wassell also served as a judge.

In 1868, he was appointed Mayor of Little Rock by President Andrew Johnson.  He is Little Rock’s only Mayor to have served through a military appointment.  Mayor Wassell died in January 1881 and is buried at Mount Holly Cemetery along with his wife and other family members.  One of his grandsons, Samuel M. Wassell also served as Mayor of Little Rock. Another one, Dr. Corydon Wassell, was the subject of the Hollywood film The Story of Dr. Wassell.

Advertisements

Little Rock Look Back: John Herndon Hollis

On February 5, 1870, future Little Rock alderman and acting mayor John Herndon Hollis was born shortly before his family moved to what is now Cleveland County. His parents were originally from Georgia and came from prosperous and longtime families there.

The Hollis family came to Arkansas after the Civil War and settled in Union County. A portion of that county was carved off and became Dorsey County (named after a Republican US Senator from Arkansas) but was renamed Cleveland County after Grover Cleveland was elected President. Cleveland was the first Democrat to be elected President in over 20 years. This name change also reflected the political shift in Arkansas from the Reconstruction-led Republican politics to the Democratic Party politics which would dominate for the next century.

John Herndon Hollis was one of six children, and the only one with a middle name. Herndon had been his mother’s maiden name. As one of his brothers described their childhood in Cleveland County, “they all went to country schools in their home neighborhood, worked hard on the farm in the summertime, and were inside their little Methodist Church every time the doors were open.”

Around 1900, Hollis and his new wife Malinda M. “Linda” Taliaferro Hollis (formerly of Rison) moved to Little Rock.  Together the couple had six children. In Little Rock, Hollis worked in the banking industry. For years he worked for People’s Building and Loan Association.

Hollis was first elected to the Little Rock City Council in April 1904. He would serve as one of the Aldermen from the city’s Fourth Ward until April 1918.  This was on the western border of Little Rock at the time. The family lived at 1510 S. Schiller, which is one block east of Central High, though at the time neither the school nor its predecessor (West End Park) existed.  From 1907 until 1913 he also served on the Little Rock School Board.

In April 1908, at the first City Council meeting in the new City Hall, Mayor W. E. Lenon announced his resignation. Because the resignation was effective immediately, there was a vacancy in the office of mayor.  Hollis was selected by his colleagues to serve as acting mayor until a successor could be elected. So from April 1908 through June 1908, Hollis was the City’s chief political and executive leader.

Though he was never formally mayor (and did not resign his position as alderman), since 1908, Hollis’ name has appeared on the list of mayors of Little Rock. The reason seems to be as a sign of respect since there was a vacancy.

There previously had been acting mayors when the mayor would be absent on business or due to illness. But in those instances, the mayor had not resigned. This is the only instance in Little Rock history when a mayor resigned immediately with no successor in place. So John Herndon Hollis holds a unique role in Little Rock history.

After leaving the City Council, Hollis remained active in civic affairs.  He co-chaired a successful campaign in 1929, to raise a tax for a variety of civic issues.

Hollis’ wife died in 1920.  He later married Ann Jewell of Little Rock (who was a cousin of his first wife). They were married until his death on October 23, 1941.  Ann Hollis lived in Little Rock until her death in 1980.  The Hollis family is entombed in the mausoleum at Mount Holly Cemetery.

Both of John Herndon Hollis’ wives are distant cousins of the Culture Vulture, so he is particularly fond of John Herndon Hollis.

Little Rock Look Back: Elijah A. More

On January 20, 1799, Elijah A. More was born in Kentucky.  By the early 1830s, he was residing in Hempstead County and practicing law. Because of the court system being based in Little Rock, he spent a great deal of time in Pulaski County.

By January 1834, he had obviously established a permanent residence in Little Rock, because he was chosen as the third mayor.  He served from January 1834 until January 1835.

According to records, he apparently continued to alternate between residing near what is now Hope and living in Little Rock.  In 1839, his wife Caroline Owens More died and was buried in Little Rock. Though not originally buried at Mount Holly (it did not open until 1843), she is now buried there.

In 1840, More was the subject of a court case before the Arkansas Supreme Court resulting from actions he had taken as an executor of an estate and subsequently as Pulaski County Probate Judge.

By 1864, More resided in Missouri. There is a record of him swearing a loyalty oath to the Governor of Missouri in that year (presumably in response to actions associated with the Civil War).

He died on April 15, 1878 and is buried in Columbia Cemetery in Columbia, Missouri.

Little Rock Look Back: Post-Civil War government resumes for Little Rock

One hundred and fifty three years ago today (on January 8, 1866), Little Rock City Hall resumed functioning after the Civil War.  The City government had disbanded in September 1863 after the Battle of Little Rock.  From September 1863 through the end of the war (on on through part of Reconstruction), Little Rock was under control of Union forces.

Following the April 1865 conclusion of the Civil War, plans were made to restart local government in Little Rock.  Even though Arkansas would not have Congressional representation in Washington until June 1868 (becoming the second Confederate state after Tennessee), the establishment of local government took place in January 1866.  (It was supposed to have started earlier, but the local elections set for November 1865 were cancelled on the day they were originally set to take place.)

The first City Council meeting took place on Monday, January 8, 1866. The council met again on Tuesday, January 9 and Monday, January 15 as they were trying to establish committees and rules for the new government.

The first post-Civil War mayor was Dr. J. J. McAlmont, who was a physician and pharmacist. Following his service as the city’s chief executive, he would later be a co-founder of what is now UAMS.  The initial aldermen were I.A. Henry (who had been on the City Council when it ceased in 1863), Henry Ashley, M. H. Eastman, Rick Bragg, Dr. P. O. Hooper, G. S. Morrison, John Collins and Alexander George.

Their first action was to approve the bond of Thomas C. Scott as Constable and City Collector.  Vouching for him were S. H. Tucker and future LR mayor John Gould Fletcher.  The Recorder was asked to present his bond and the next meeting.

The Mayor then established several committees of the City Council and named his appointments. Among the committees were Finances, Streets, Ordinances, Mount Holly Cemetery, Fire Department and Police.

That meeting and the following two meetings, the City continued to approve motions, resolutions and ordinances to set up the duties and responsibilities of a government.

Ordinance Number 1 established the rates of Licenses for 1866.  Among those were:

  • $100 for the privilege of selling goods at auction
  • $20 for a one-horse wagon, paid quarterly
  • $35 for a two-horse wagon, paid quarterly
  • $50 for a four-horse wagon, paid quarterly
  • $25 to run a cab or bus (which would have been in some horse drawn conveyance), paid quarterly
  • $40 a month to sell liquor, wine, ale, beer, etc., by the glass or bottle to be consumed in a store, tavern, shop or store
  • $25 each quarter for each billiard table
  • $50 each quarter for each ten pin alley

Little Rock Look Back: John Gould Fletcher, patriarch of Little Rock civic and cultural leaders

Future Little Rock Mayor John Gould Fletcher was born on January 6 in 1831.  He was a mayor and civic leader at a crucial time in Little Rock’s 19th century life. But his lasting legacy is probably more his remarkable children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. (Undoubtedly his great-great-great-grandchildren will be equally remarkable.)

The son of Henry Lewis and Mary Lindsey Fletcher, he later served as a Captain in the Capital Guards during the Civil War. One of his fellow soldiers was Peter Hotze. Following the war, he and Hotze began a general merchandise store in Little Rock. They were so successful that they eventually dropped the retail trade and dealt only in cotton. Peter Hotze had his office in New York, while Fletcher supervised company operations in Little Rock. In 1878 Fletcher married Miss Adolphine Krause, sister-in-law of Hotze.

John Gould Fletcher was elected Mayor of Little Rock from 1875 to 1881. He was the first Mayor under Arkansas’ new constitution which returned all executive powers to the office of the Mayor (they had been split under a reconstruction constitution). Following his service as Mayor, he served one term as Pulaski County Sheriff. Mayor Fletcher also later served as president of the German National Bank in Little Rock.

Mayor and Mrs. Fletcher had five children, three of whom lived into adulthood. Their son was future Pulitzer Prize winning poet John Gould Fletcher (neither father nor son used the Sr. or Jr. designation). Their two daughters who lived to adulthood were Adolphine Fletcher Terry (whose husband David served in Congress) and Mary Fletcher Drennan.

In 1889, Mayor Fletcher purchased the Pike House in downtown Little Rock. The structure later became known as the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House. It was from this house that Adolphine Fletcher Terry organized the Women’s Emergency Committee which worked to reopen the Little Rock public schools during the 1958-1959 school year.

In the 1960s, sisters Adolphine Fletcher Terry and Mary Fletcher Drennan deeded the house to the City of Little Rock for use by the Arkansas Arts Center. For several decades it served as home to the Arts Center’s contemporary craft collection. It now is used for special events and exhibitions.

Mayor Fletcher died in 1906 and is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery along with various members of his family. Several of his descendants still reside in Little Rock.

Little Rock Look Back: David Fulton, LR’s 4th Mayor

On January 2, 1771 in Ireland, future Little Rock Mayor David Fulton was born.

He served as the fourth and final mayor of the Town of Little Rock in 1835. His term was cut short by the transition of Little Rock from town to city status. Once that happened in November 1835, a new election had to be held.

Mayor Fulton was also proprieter of the Tan Yard, a tanning operation in Little Rock.   He later served as a judge and was appointed as  Surveyor General of Public Lands in Arkansas by President Martin Van Buren in 1838.

Mayor Fulton married Elizabeth Savin in June 1795 in Maryland.  She died in November 1829, while they resided in Alabama.  One of their children was William Savin Fulton who served as Territorial Governor of Arkansas in 1835 and 1836 and was one of Arkansas’ first US Senators upon statehood in 1836.  Mayor Fulton was serving as Mayor at the same time his son was Governor.

Mayor Fulton came to Little Rock in 1833.  His daughter Jane Juliet Shall and her four children came to Little Rock as well.  The family made the move to be nearer to the future governor.  The Fultons and Shalls rented the Hinderliter House (now part of Historic Arkansas Museum) in 1834.  One of his descendants, Louise Loughborough was the person who saved the Hinderliter House from destruction and was founder of what is now Historic Arkansas Museum.

In addition to serving as Mayor, he was president of the Anti-Gambling Society and a Pulaski County Justice of the Peace.  From 1836 until 1838, he was County Judge of Pulaski County.

Mayor Fulton died on August 7, 1843 and is buried at Mount Holly Cemetery as are several other members of his family.

Little Rock Look Back: Roswell Beebe born

Roswell Beebe, Little Rock’s 16th Mayor

On December 22, 1795, future Little Rock Mayor Roswell Beebe was born in Hinsdale, New York.  His family were wealthy English immigrants.  At seventeen, Beebe went to New Orleans and fought with Andrew Jackson in the 1815 Battle of New Orleans.  He stayed in the Crescent City for the next two decades building successful lumber and brick businesses.

Due to health concerns, he moved north to a drier climate in 1834.  After first stopping in Fulton, Arkansas, he settled in Little Rock in 1835 at the age of forty.  He stayed at the home of Chester Ashley and married Ashley’s sister-in-law, Clarissa Elliott.  He and Clarissa had two children, Roswell and Cora.

For nearly 30 years, Little Rock had a complicated history of deeds, titles and land ownership.  In 1839, Beebe went to Washington DC and received the original patent from President Martin Van Buren.  He then set about clearing up the land and title issues, as well as drawing up a plan for the city and laying off blocks and streets.  Beebe deeded the streets and alleys to the City for a dollar.  He also donated the land on Markham Street for a new State Capitol building (now home of the Old State House Museum).  Along with his brother-in-law Chester Ashley, he donated the land for the establishment of Mount Holly Cemetery.

In 1848, Beebe was elected to the Little Rock City Council.  The following year, he was elected Mayor.  He served as Mayor of Little Rock from April 1849 to February 1850.

While his primary business focus in the 1840s had been real estate, in the 1850s he focused on railroads.  Beebe was named president of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad Company in 1853.

While on a visit to New York, Beebe died on September 27, 1856.  His body was returned to Little Rock, and Roswell Beebe was buried at Mount Holly Cemetery.  The town of Beebe, Arkansas, is named in his honor.