Lawrence County Historical Society Journal
Volume 1 Number 4
LeMieux and Janis Families
W. E. McLeod
The history of the families who make the history of a country makes interesting reading. Therefore, I am here giving an account of two of the very first families who made the early history of Lawrence County.
The early history of Lawrence County is also part of the history of a large part of North Arkansas during the first quarter of the last century. This fact gives its early history a place of more than ordinary interests in the history of counties. For this reason I have sought and am seeking to discover and record as much of its early history as possible.
In my writings heretofore of the early history of Lawrence, I have mentioned the Pierre Le Mieux (Peter LeMew) and Antoine (Anthony) Janis families and other Frenchmen as the first white settlers of the county, along Black River, and stated that no one here knew whence they
came. That was true then, but I have since learned much more about them, which as a matter of history of the county and the state I think should be recorded and preserved.
In the early part of this year, I wrote and had published in the Arkansas Historical Quarterly an article on the early history of Lawrence county. The article was read by Miss Caroline Dunn, librarian in the William Henry Smith Memorial Library, Indianapolis, Ind., and she was prompted thereby to write me, giving a long list of references about the Le Mieux and Janis families. By the aid of these references and others from Missouri sources, I have been able to learn much about the families that previously has not been known here.
The Le Miuexes and Janises were French Canadians who migrated to the region of Kaskaskia, Illinois, prior to the Revolutionary War. They definitely were living there as early as 1750. They had part with General George Rogers Clark in freeing that part of the country from British
influence at the close of the Revolution.
Pierre Le Mieux (Peter Le Mew of Lawrence county) belonged to the prominent Le Mieux family of Canada. Rudolphe Le Mieux was a great statesman of that country who died in recent years. However, the relationship of Peter Le Mew to him is not known.
Three Le Mieuxes were prominent in the early settlement of Illinois. their names were Claude, Louis and Francois. From data at hand it is impossible to determine definitely the relationship of these but it appears that Claude was the father of the other two. The names are mentioned in
the early records of Illinois.
It appears that sometime during the last quarter of the l7th century, the Le Mieuxes with several others migrated to the new settlement of Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. None of the references mention Pierre Le Mieux, who was of the several families who continued their migration to what is now Lawrence County, Arkansas, about 1800. He married into one of
those families. Other Le Mieuxes remained in the St. Louis Ste. Genevieve country. Peter's name is not mentioned there because he was here.
Pierre Le Mieus (Peter Le Mew) the records of this country show made the first known settlement in what was later to become Lawrence County, at a place on Black river about fifteen miles above the mouth of Current River, called by the French "Petit Barrell" and by the
Americans "Peach Orchard", in 1800. The place is near the present town of Peach Orchard in Clay County. He is also credited with having made the first settlement in the same year. He lived the rest of his life at Clover Bend and died there about 1840.
The history of the movements of the Janis family is about the same as that of the Le Mieux family. It was French Canadian and migrated to Kaskaskia and Ste. Genevieve in the latter part of the l7th century. Nicholas Janis, the founder of the family in this country, was born in France and migrated to Kaskaskia, Illinois, by way of Canada, as early as 1750. He was married at Kaskaskia in 1751 to Marie Thaumure, and they became the parents of four sons and three daughters. The names of the sons were Jean Baptiste, Francois, Antoine and Micholas, who later
became heads of families in Southeast Missouri and Arkansas.
The son, Jean Baptiste, at the age of twenty, distinguished himself as an ensign in the expedition of Gen. George Rogers Clark against the British in what is now Illinois, 1779 He soon after migrated to. Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. He died at Ste. Genevieve in 1836. Another of his sons, Francois, was the ancestor of Le Clere Janis who at this time is proprietor of the newspaper, THE FAIR PLAY, at Ste. Genevieve. He has furnished some of the data on which this article is based.
The Janises migrated from Kaskaskia to the new settlement of Ste. Genevieve soon after the Revolutionary War. Antoine (Anthony) Janis connected with the first settlement of Lawrence county was one of those Ste Genevieve immigrants. There is no certain reference to him in the
records of Missouri, due probably to the fact that he and his family migrated while he was still a young man to Arkansas, when they settled on a Spanish grant at or near the site of old Lauratown. He had a largefamily. The names of his children are still preserved in the old records at Powhatan. It is not known who his wife was. Both she and he died before 1816, and their dust is mingled with the coil of Lawrence county, but no knows exactly where.
After the United States had confirmed the claim of Janis to the grant at Lauratown in 1816, his heirs sold their inherited rights in I818 to William Russell of St. Louis. There is no knowledge of them here afterthat date. What became of fherri is uncertain; but there are many Janises
in Southeast Missouri, and it is conjectured that they returnedtothat country when they left here.
The Le Mieux and Janis families were connected in several instances by marriage. The wife of Peter Le Mew was the daughter of Anthony Janis, and the families were previously connected.
There are several mentions of Le Mieuxes and Janises in the early records of Illinois and Missouri, which put together form the basis of this article. Its importance is it sheds light on the early history of Lawrence county and this part of Arkansas not heretofor recorded, and for that
reason I think should be preserved.
(The material ot the late W. E, McLeod is used by permission of his daughter, Mrs. Ray Cunningham of Imboden. )
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