John Henry


                        Wallaceburg, May 12, 1885

There once lived a man not far distant who came to Arkansas when it was a
territory - a preacher. He was a most devoted one too. He traveled from
South Arkansas and in the territory of Missouri. This man feared God and
worked righteousness daily. His circuit was more than 200 miles long. His
appointments from 75 to 100 miles apart. He rode on horseback and carried
his camp equipage with him. His covering was the sturdy oak and deep blue
sky. Ravenous beasts were numerous in those days and the scream of the
panther, the growling of the bear, the howling of the wolf, the scream of
the night hawk, and hooting of the owl, was his music of the night.

The servant of God laid himself down, not under a juniper tree, but under
some towering pine with his Bible and hymn book under his head for a
pillow. When the lark announced the coming day, he was ready to mount his
steed and climb the lofty mountains of North Arkansas and cross the deep
chasms between; to carry forward the gospel of peace to dying men; and no
ravenous beast dared touch him. That same man once strong physically as
well as spiritually, after the lapse of four score years, began to wane.
The frost of many winters, the heat and burden of thirty thousand days,
lost his hearing and sight, but after a few years of this trouble, on one
sabbath morning in May while resting in his arm chair, meditating and
looking back of things passed and contemplating the great future in solemn
devotion, petitioning the great head of the church to bless him with sight
to read God's word and to view the works of the Divine hand, and hearing,
that he might relish the voice of the warbling songsters which often
perched upon the trees around ... and white as the pure wool, he saw in
the distance, the dove so long looked for. Why was this? Was it a mere
circumstance or was it in answer to prayer? We conceive the latter. He
called to his wife then old and feeble to come and see the dove and hear
its voice. The wife, elated with the hope that the lost faculties had been
restored, was not disappointed ... An incident and I am done.

The writer with wife and child passed by that Godly man's house and he was
upon his bed of death for he soon went home and after singing and prayer,
was happy, and my wife shouted. He called for our baby little girl but a
few months old and had her pressed to his lips and kissed her and put his
hands on her little head and blessed her. We left this Godly man, he passed
away, and also our little girl to join the company and church of the first
born. His name was John Henry. Peace to his ashes.

                               R.F. Roberson

Newspaper (unidentified), November 21, 1885, article by Robert Fletcher
Roberson. Washington Arkansas Regional Archives, Washington, Arkansas. Copy
provided by Nora Garrett, Newkirk, Oklahoma 27 May 1993.

Lawson M. Ellis, of Fannin county, Texas, who came to Hempstead county at
an early day, and resided there until 1854, writes as follows, in answer
to a request for some old pioneer history: "John Henry was born and raised
in South Carolina, and married there. He then moved to Missouri, and thence
to Hempstead county in 1817 or 1818. He was a minister of the Gospel,
served in the war of 1812, preached to the soldiers, and was one of the
first to preach the Gospel in Hempstead county. When I last saw Father
Henry it was at Centre Point, now Howard County. He was then in his 88th
year, and was walking one mile to preaching. He lived to the good old age
of 93 and fell asleep in the arms of his Master."

                               S.H. Williams

271 Franklin St., Chicago

Samuel Hardin Williams, Memorabilia, No. XXXVI excerpt, Washington Press,
Washington, Arkansas 1886. Sam Williams: Printer's Devil, Memorabilia, Mary
Medearis, Editor, 1979, page 217.

                                John Henry

Rev. John Henry emigrated from South Carolina to Missouri, and thence to
Arkansas, arriving in Hempstead county in 1817. He was among the first, if
indeed he was not the very first, to preach the word of God in that section
of the country. He passed away since the (Civil) war, at a very advanced

                               S.H. Williams

271 Franklin St., Chicago

Samuel Hardin Williams, Memorabilia, No. LII excerpt, Washington Press,
Washington, Arkansas 1887. Sam Williams: Printer's Devil, Memorabilia, Mary
Medearis, Editor, 1979, page 299.

                        Pioneer Methodist Preacher

John Henry was born ... in the fall of 1779 in the Smokey Mountains on the
French Broad River near Ashville, Buncombe County, North Carolina ... His
father ... married ... when he was about twenty years old ... (his wife)
from Virginia ... and they settled in North Carolina. Both ... came from
pious Presbyterian families and raised their children in a strict and moral

The family moved to Tennessee ... (when John was around ten years old) ...
settling on the Duck River near Columbia in Maury County. While there Mr.
Henry made a trip to Missouri and scouted out the area around Ironton in
what was then Spanish Territory. Americans had settled in this place ...
worked in the lead mines around Ironton and farmed the beautiful St.
Francis River valley called Bellevue.

Mr. Henry returned to Tennessee but never forgot what he had seen in
Missouri. Ten years later he moved ... to Bellevue and worked in the lead
mines. In 1804 they were there to see the Lewis and Clark Expedition take
off up the Missouri River.

No record has been found ... of the marriage of John Henry and Ann ...
maiden name ... (Alexander). While a young father, John Henry was
converted. Whether this was in Tennessee, Kentucky or Missouri we do not
know, nor do we know when he was licensed to preach.

John and Ann (Henry) ... were in Harrodsburg, Kentucky when Mary Caroline
(a daughter) was born, May 18, 1809 ... (and) in Bellevue, Missouri ...
when their son James was born ... (1810). In the fall of 1811 they
witnessed the devasting New Madrid earthquake which changed the course of
rivers and rearranged the face of the land. The following year ... John
Henry was ... a private in the Missouri Militia under Captain Phelps in
the War of 1812.

In Bellevue there existed a strong Methodist congregation made up largely
of members who had come there from congregations in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Rev. William Stevenson, a Methodist Circuit Rider, made several trips from
Bellevue to Hempstead County, Arkansas with the view of establishing a
Methodist society there. In 1817 ... around thirty families formed a long
train of wagons in Bellevue, complete with household and farming equipment.
Under the leadership of Stevenson, they moved to Arkansas. They passed
through Batesville and Little Rock and ... (continued) to just south of
Ozan and established a congregation at Mound Prairie.

While in Little Rock (just a village) on the trip from Bellevue, John Henry
preached to a gathering of people, according to Dr. James A. Anderson - who
labels this the first Protestant preaching in that city. In 1817, the
congregation at Mound Prairie established and built the first Protestant
Church south of the Arkansas River and named it Mt. Moriah. A dispute
arose over the land title and a year later the building was dismantled
(and) moved a mile north and renamed Henry's Chapel in honer of the Rev.
John Henry. The church remained there for fifty years and today a monument
... (stands) erected by the Methodist's on the site.

John Henry helped establish churches at Pine Bluff and at Rockport by 1837
when a group from Henry's Chapel built the Ebenezer Campground in Center
Point. The next year this group established Prop's Chapel in Center Point.

John Henry's wife Ann died November 30, 1823 leaving six possibly eight
children. A year later John (Henry) married Elizabeth Ward daughter of John
Ward ... John and Elizabeth had eight ... children. The youngest Sarah
Zenoba was born January 1843 in Center Point, John having moved there in

John Henry was finally ordained in 1840 at a schoolhouse in Columbus. He
had waited for years for a proper person to ordain him. He lived near
Center Point for the remainder of his days. He died at his home September
17, 1872 at the age of 93. He was unable to get to church for the final
six to eight years of his life, but his heart was there ... (He was) known
affectionately as Father Henry ...

Submitted by Lt. Col. Francis Edwards, Rtd.

Howard County Heritage, Howard County (Arkansas) Heritage Club, 1988, page
277, revised & edited.

Update 03.28.01              David Kelley 1997                 BIO-0023.HTM