Goodspeed's  Biographical and Historical
Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas
U through W

William Usery  (CHART), blacksmith and farmer, Harrisburg, Ark. Tennessee has furnished to this county a number of representative men, and among them might be mentioned William Usery, who was born in Bedford County, of that State, in 1832. He is the son of Allen and F. Elizabeth (Johnson) Usery, both natives of North Carolina, and early settlers of Tennessee, to which State they emigrated in pioneer times. They were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. William Usery was brought up as an agriculturist, and it was but natural that he should permanently adopt that calling, as his life occupation; and this he has always followed. He received his education in the common schools of Tennessee, and at the age of eighteen years learned the blacksmith's trade, which he followed in connection with farming. In 1849 he came to St. Francis County, Ark., and worked at his trade for two years. He was first married in 1851, to Mrs. G. (Stephens) Fisher, and one child was born to this union, Frances, who is now the wife of William A. Garvey, and resides in Poinsett County, Ark. Mrs. Usery died in 1856, and in 1859 Mr. Usery selected his second wife in the person of Mrs. Roxy (Franks) Casbeer, widow of Joseph Casbeer, who was a native of Tennessee, and a farmer by occupation. By her first marriage Mrs. Usery became the mother of three children: Jerusha A., widow of Frank Thiville, a farmer of St. Francis County, who died in 1886, leaving his widow and two children; Thomas and Chessley. Mrs. Usery is the daughter of Chessley and Jerusha (May) Franks, the former a local Methodist Episcopal preacher of Tennessee. Elder Franks came to Arkansas at a very early date, and here married Miss May, a member of one of the oldest families of Northeast Arkansas. Mrs. Usery is the fourth of eight children born to her parents, her birth occurring in St. Francis County, Ark., in 1829. She spent her school days in that county, and after her marriage to Mr. Usery, in 1859, they resided in St. Francis County for thirteen years. Mr. Usery engaged in blacksmithing and farming. In 1872 he moved to Harrisburg and bought 460 acres of land, but has since sold some of this, and is now the owner of 300 acres adjoining the city, with about fifty acres under cultivation. He lives in the center of this, just across the corporation line. He has the best buildings, the largest orchard, bearing all kinds of fruit, and is considered one of the substantial men of the county. By his marriage were born two children: Florence, wife of a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and residing in Texas, and Annis, wife of George Garvey, a merchant at Harrisburg. Mr. Usery and family are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and he is a Royal Arch Mason. He is also a member of the I. O. O. F. He and his excellent wife can relate some very interesting reminiscences of early times, how lumber was made with a whipsaw, how the clothing and boots and shoes were made by the old settlers, and how Bolivar was at one time the county seat.

Jasper M. Vanhoozer,  (CHART) farmer and stock raiser, Harrisburg, Ark. Located in the midst of one of the finest agricultural centers of poinsett County, the farm which Mr. Vanhoozer owns and occupies [p.616] is conceded to be among the best in the vicinity; and this is saying not a little, for on every hand may be seen superior farms. whose ownership denotes thrift and prosperity. Mr. Vanhoozer first saw the light of day in Lincoln County, Tenn., where his birth occurred on the 7th of September, 1845. His parents, Jacob and Mary (Ketchum) Vanhoozer, were natives of Tennessee, and the father was one of the pioneers of Middle Tennessee. He was a participant of one of the Indian Wars, and died in the year 1846, on the 26th of September. They were members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and much respected citizens. The mother, after surviving the death of her husband for about twenty-seven years, died in 1873. They were the parents of four children, two sisters and Jasper N. now living. One sister, Gestin, married Joseph Birdwell, and now resides in the Lone Star State. The other sister, Fenton, is the wife of Jesse Hardgrove, and resides near the old homestead, in Tennessee. Jasper M. Vanhoozer received a fair education in the common schools of Tennessee, and at the age of seventeen years, he left the farm of his father and enlisted in the Confederate army, in Company A, Forrest's Cavalry, and participated in the skirmish at Athens and Corinth. After the last named battle, Mr. Vanhoozer re-enlisted in Company E, Thirty-second Tennessee Infantry, under Gen. Hood, and was in the battles of Franklin, Nashville and Murfreesboro. He was wounded at Port Hindman, in 1863, and at Murfreesboro, in 1864. Here his services ended, as he never regained his health sufficiently to return. After cessation of hostilities, he returned to Tennessee, and engaged in tilling the soil, which industry he has since carried on. By his marriage, which occurred in June, 1867, to Miss Susan Darnell, he became the father of four children, two now living: Nancy Ann, wife of Charles Presley, a farmer now living in Tennessee, and Benjamin Lewis, a farmer, unmarried, and residing in Poinsett County. Mrs. Vanhoozer was the daughter of James and Susan (Merrill) Darnell, natives of Tennessee. In 1869, Mr. Vanhoozer and family moved to Poinsett County, Ark., and here purchased forty acres of partially improved land. He has added to this tract from time to time, until he now has 270 acres on Crowley's Ridge, with about sixty-five acres under cultivation. He also has 200 acres in St. Anguille Bottom, and is improving the same; has twenty-seven acres under cultivation. He rents land for cotton. Mr. Vanhoozer votes with the Democratic party, but is conservative in politics. Mrs. Vanhoozer died in 1883, and in the same year Mr. Vanhoozer was married to Miss Sarah  Hall, daughter of Newton G. and Sarah J. E. (Robertson) Hall, natives of Mississippi. By this union Mr. Vanhoozer became the father of the following children: Leana C., James L. and Sarah A. Mr. Vanhoozer is an honored member of the Masonic fraternity, and holds membership in Harrisburg Lodge No. 184, and was treasurer of that lodge for a number of years. He is a member of White Hall Lodge No. 77, I. O. O. F., and is at present treasurer Of that society. He has served as school director a number of years, and has always taken an active interest in and given his support to all enterprises for the good of the community, and is one who believes in progressive farming.

B. F. Webber  (CHART) is one of the successful agriculturists of this region, and as such deserves honorable mention among these pages. He was born on Blue Grass soil in 1839, and was the fifth of nine children born to F. X. Webber, who was a native German. The father came to the United States when young, and was married in Kentucky to Artimissa Ellen Hays, who was a native of that State. In 1851 they removed to St. Francis County, Ark., and from here Mr. Webber enlisted in the Rebel army service, in 1862, and died the following year. B. F. Webber was initiated into the mysteries of farming in early youth, and received a fair English education in the schools of St. Francis County. In 1863 he came to Poinsett County, Ark., and was married here, in 1869, to L. C. Calvert, a native of Phillips County, Ark., who came here with her parents at a very early day. Both her father and mother are now deceased. After his marriage Mr. Webber settled on a farm near where Tyronza is now situated, and here made his home until 1880, when he purchased 160 acres of unimproved land, and now has about fifty acres under cultivation, and has his farm nicely improved, with good residence and out buildings. He has increased his acreage to 200, and this he devotes principally to raising cotton, also giving considerable attention to stock. Mr. Webber is a Democrat, a member of the Agricultural Wheel, and he and wife and children (L. C., Nettie Ann and Laura Rozella) are in communion with the Missionary Baptist Church. The following are their children: Laura Rozella, William Bedford, Nettie Ann, Edna, Charles, Franklin, Katie Nora, Edward Lee, James A., Lonnie, Toney and Thomas. Mr. Webber and his family have enjoyed exceptionally good health since locating here, and they consider it an extremely healthy locality, as well as a fine farming region, never having had to call in a doctor.

Hon. N. J. Willis,  (CHART) farmer, Harrisburg, Ark. The name that heads this sketch is borne by one of the most highly respected and esteemed residents of Poinsett County. Let a man be industriously ambitious, and honorable in his ambitions, and he will rise, whether having the prestige of family or the obscurity of poverty. Mr. Willis was born in Caswell County, N. C., on the 31st of January, 1835, but attained his growth in Tennessee. His parents, John T. and Elizabeth (Ward) Willis, were also natives of North Carolina. The father was a thorough-going, industrious farmer, and an active member of the Masonic fraternity, and held the office of junior warden in that organization several years. He was a Democrat in politics, and he and wife were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Their family consisted of six children: George W., died in the army in 1863, was a farmer of White County, Ark.; Mary, wife of a farmer living in Cross County, Ark.; Flora A., wife of James Maloney, a farmer of Illinois; Nancy, wife of Capt. J. M. LeVesque, county clerk, and the largest farmer in Cross County, Ark.; Sarah, died in 1864, and was the wife of Samuel Allen. N. J. Willis, the fourth child in order of birth, spent his boyhood days in Tennessee, when school opportunities were very limited. During that time his vocation was farming, and at odd times he was busy over his books, of which he was very fond. At the age of twenty he began working for himself, and then spent a year in school to Prof. Phillips, near Somerville, Tenn. The next year, 1856, he came with Capt. LeVesque, to Poinsett (now Cross) County, Ark., and followed agricultural pursuits for two years. In 1857 he married Miss Nancy Shannon, daughter of Archibald and Nancy (Allen) Shannon, the former a native of Tennessee. To Mr. and Mrs. Willis were born five children (two of whom are living): John T. died in infancy; Thomas J. died at the age of seventeen; James M. died at the age of four years; Samuel H., a farmer and miller, now resides with his father, and Ollie A., who is now thirteen years of age, is at home. Judge Willis lived in Poinsett County (now Cross), until 1875, and then moved to Poinsett County proper. In 1874 he was elected justice of the peace, and in 1879 was elected county judge, serving one term. In 1881 he was elected representative, and re-elected to the same position in 1883, thus showing his popularity with the public. In 1886 he engaged in ginning and milling, and the same year moved to Harrisburg, but continued to superintend his farm. He is the owner of 828 acres of land in Poinsett County, besides two lots with good houses on them, and the gin and mill at Harrisburg. In March, 1862, he enlisted in the Confederate army, Capt. Joe Martin's Thirteenth Arkansas Infantry (mounted), and in 1863 was promoted to the rank of lieutenant of Company C, which position he held until the war closed. He was in the battles of Greeneville, Helena, and went with Gen. Price in his raid through Missouri and Arkansas. He left the main army at Fort Smith, and operated on White River until 1864, when he joined the main army at Camden, and continued with the same until the surrender at Wittsburg, Ark., in 1865. He served his county and State in the most acceptable manner during the war, but has rendered it even more valuable service, not only as a reliable public official, but as an industrious farmer and law-abiding citizen. He is now living in comparative retirement. He is a member of the Masonic order, also the K. of H., and in his views affiliates with the Democratic party. He and Mrs. Willis are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in which he has held the office of class leader, has also been superintendent of the Sunday-school, and he is a liberal contributor to all laudable enterprises.

John R. Willis,  (CHART) postmaster of Buffalo Lick, Ark., has held the position he now occupies for the past six years, and has ably discharged the duties incumbent upon the office. He was born in Oldham County, Ky., in 1837, but received his education in Saline County, Mo., and up to the age of eighteen years was an attendant at the district schools, and was engaged in farm labor on the old homestead. After attaining the above mentioned age he entered the employ of Majs. Russell & Wardell, being master of a wagon train leaving Leavenworth for any given point in the far West. After remaining in the Government employ for about seven years he, in 1862, joined the Eighteenth Mississippi Cavalry, commanded by Col. Jenkins, and was in the battles of Franklin, Nashville and Fort Pillow, and in other minor engagements, serving until hostilities ceased, when he was paroled at Memphis, Tenn. He was captured three times, one time being taken prisoner at Holly Springs, Miss., by the Seventh Kansas Regiment, of which W. F. Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, was a member, the latter having been in his employ while he was a teamster in the West. Mr. Willis was engaged in farming in Cross County, Ark., until 1879, when he crossed to Poinsett County, Ark., and here has since made his home, his farm of 200 acres being finely improved, with good buildings, fences, etc., and 100 acres are under cultivation. He also operates a steam cotton-gin, and raises some stock. He is independent in his political views, but usually votes the Democratic ticket. He has held the office of magistrate, and for many years has been an active worker for the cause of temperance. He is a patron of education, is a member of the school board, and also belongs to the board of equalization. He is a Mason, being a member of Arcadian Lodge, at Vanndale, Cross County, and also belongs to the Agricultural Wheel. He was married, in Cross County, Ark., in 1872, to Miss Mary Harvey, a native of Shelby County, Tenn., and to their union six children have been born: Lillian, Lewis, Henry X., Mary, Ethel and Edna. Mr. Willis is the youngest of eleven children born to Lewis and Polly (Ryle) Willis, the former a native of Virginia, and the latter of North Carolina. They settled on a farm in Boone County, Ky., at an early day, and in 1835 moved to Oldham County, where the mother died in 1845. In 1848 Mr. Willis settled in Saline County, Mo., where he farmed and made his home until his death, in 1850.

J.B. Wilson  (CHART) is possessed of those advanced ideas and progressive principles regarding agricultural life which seem to be among the chief characteristics of native Tennesseeans. He was born in Shelby County. of that State, in 1829, and is the elder of two children born to John B. and Mary Ann (Cowan) Wilson, who were also Tennesseeans. The father followed the trade of cabinet making until his death, which occurred in Middle Tennessee, in 1833, but his widow survived him until 1874, dying in Poinsett County, Ark. The early advantages received by our subject were such as usually fall to the farmer's boy, and at the early age of fourteen years, owing to the death of his father, he was compelled to put his shoulder to the plow, in order to assist in the support of his widowed mother. He was married in Tennessee, in 1857, to Miss Mary Houston, a native of Tennessee, and a niece of Gen. Sam Houston. Her parents, John and Martha (Gillespie) Houston, were Tennesseeans, her grandfathers having been among the earliest settlers of that State from Virginia. J. B. Wilson removed to Poinsett County, Ark., in 1857, and located in Greenfield Township, where he purchased a partially improved farm, consisting of 179 acres, and now has eighty acres under cultivation, which he devotes to cotton and corn. By his wife, who died in 1873, he became the father of seven children, three now living: Mary L. (Mrs. Bennett, residing in Craighead County), David B. and Ida. In 1874 Mr. Wilson married Mrs. Mary Jane (Wilkison) Kelsoe, she having been born in the State of Alabama, but was reared in Poinsett County. Six of their seven children are living: Ellen, Eland, Thomas Payne, Robert Ingersoll,  Joe Voltaire and Andy Bradlaw. In December 1861, Mr. Wilson went to Decatur, Macon County, Ill., and was there engaged in gathering supplies, for the Union Army. The following year he went to Memphis, Tenn., and from that time until 1865 he was on the city police force. In the latter year he returned to Poinsett County, where he has since made his home. Although not a politician, he votes with the Republican party, and has advocated its principles alone and single-handed at all times, and was one of two men of Arkansas who voted for Abraham Lincoln for the Presidency, in 1865. He has always advocated the building and sustaining of good schools, and has for many years been a member of the school board in his district. He has been a Mason since 1850. He is also a member of the Agricultural Wheel. He has ever contributed liberally for the support of every enterprise for the building up of the county, and is considered one of its good citizens.

J. L. Wright,  (CHART) one of Poinsett County's representative farmers and stockmen, was born on Blue Grass soil in 1836, being the second of four children of Joseph and Sarah (Ford) Wright, who were also natives of that State, to which the paternal grandfather had moved at a very early day. Joseph Wright removed to Arkansas in 1842, and settled in Greenfield Township, where, in 1848, he entered the land on which he had first squatted, comprising 160 acres, and commenced making improvements, and here made his home until his death, which occurred August 19, 1876. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge of Harrisburg, and was a man whom all esteemed and respected. His excellent wife passed from this life in 1852. J. L. Wright in assisting his father in clearing the home farm, became familiar with the duties of agricultural life, and after acquiring a fair education in the old subscription schools of Poinsett County, he, at the age of twenty years, started out to fight the battle of life for himself. He was married in 1857 to Miss Jane Ishmet, a native of St. Francis County, and a daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth (Lane) Ishmet, who were born in Illinois and Tennessee, respectively. They removed from the former State to Poinsett County, Ark., during the early history of this region, and also made their home in Greene County. The father's death occurred many years ago, but the mother is still living and makes her home with her daughter, Mrs. Wright. After his marriage, Mr. Wright settled on the farm where he now lives, and in 1861 enlisted from here for three years in Capt. Hillis' company, and was assigned to the Fifteenth Arkansas regiment, but was honorably discharged a short time after. He then volunteered in Capt. Kitchens' regiment, and was a participant in the battle of Little Rock. At the close of the war he returned to Poinsett County, and has since devoted his energies to putting his farm in good tillable condition. His first purchase of land was in 1858, and consisted of forty acres, but by his own good management and energy he now owns 660 acres, with over 200 acres under cultivation, which constitutes one of the finest farms in the county. He makes a specialty of raising a good grade of Durham cattle and Berkshire and Poland-China hogs, and in all his views he is progressive and enterprising. He is not an active politician, but usually votes the Democrat ticket, and socially is a member of Harrisburg Lodge No. 184, of the A. F. & A. M. He is one of the oldest members of the Christian Church, his wife also belonging to that church; and not in church matters alone has he been active, for he has always been interested in the progress and advancement of schools, and was instrumental in organizing the district in which he resides. His children are as follows: James J., who died in 1858; Harriet Frances (Mrs. Thornton), Eliza Jane, Mary Etta Gertrude (Mrs. Smith), Sarah Ellen, Jennie Kate, Joseph William, Julia, James Charley and Lou Ollie (twins), the latter of whom died in 1879 at the age of ten months; and Ida Lou. Mr. Wright's brothers and sisters are: John J., who was married, served in the late war, and died in 1872; J. L., Jasper, who married, and is a resident of the county; Elizabeth, who was the wife of James Wilson, and died in 1869; Malvina, now Mrs. McBroom, a resident of Harrisburg; and Joseph H., who is married and resides in Bolivar Township.

Jasper Wright.  (CHART) The life of this gentleman has been rather an uneventful one, but clearly demonstrates how much can be accomplished and acquired under the most unfavorable circumstances. He was born in Barren County, Ky., in 1840, and, after assisting his father on the home farm until twenty-seven years of age, he began doing for himself, but dropped his farming implements in 1861 to enlist in the Crittenden Rangers, a cavalry company organized in Crittenden County, Ark.; and was in the battles of Chickamauga, Corinth and Knoxville. He was paroled at Chester, S. C., in 1865, and returned to Poinsett County, which place has since been his home. He was married here, in 1867, to Miss Martha Jane Huston, a Tennesseean by birth, but her death occurred in 1875, she having borne a family of four children; Harriet Jane (Mrs. Albright) and John William are the only ones now living. The following year Mr. Wright wedded Miss Laura Stevens, a Georgian, by whom he became the father of two children –Elizabeth and Bessie –but he was called upon to mourn her death in 1884. His next matrimonial venture was in 1885, his wife's maiden name being Josephine McClellan; she was born in Tennessee, and to them has been given one child, Lloyd D. In 1868 Mr. Wright purchased a timber tract of eighty acres, but sold it in 1879, and purchased another tract consisting of the same number of acres. He has added eighty acres to this, and has fifty acres under cultivation. He has always voted the Democratic ticket, and has served as justice of the peace for some years, and in 1886 was elected county and probate judge, serving two years. Socially, he is a member of the Agricultural Wheel, and also belongs to Harrisburg Lodge of the A. F. & A. M. He and wife are worthy. members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He is one of five children born to Joseph and Sarah (Ford) Wright, natives of Tennessee and Kentucky, respectively. In 1844 they removed to Poinsett County, Ark., and here spent the rest of their lives, the father's death occurring in 1876, and the mother's in 1854.