In 1838, the same year that US President Andrew Jackson sent federal troops to force the Cherokee on a march over the Trail of Tears, an ox drawn wagon party of what must have been a fairly good size left Lawrence County, Tennessee, and headed west into Arkansas.
Among the emigrants were 19 year-old James Littleton Burris and 15 year-old Elizabeth Adeline Ashmore. From their union would come over 400 direct Burris descendants living in Pope and other Arkansas counties, as well as Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.
I’ve never been able to find out why the Burrises and Ashmores (among many others), left Lawrence County to come to Arkansas. The first bank in Tennessee, the Bank of Nashville, failed in 1826, and there were financial scandals involving railroad and school funds, culminating in the the Panic of 1837,
so maybe they felt the going was as good as it was likely to get.
From the original homestead established by James Littleton Burris in Pope County, it’s 381 miles to downtown Lawrenceburg, Lawrence County, Tennessee. Traveling by wagon usually only allowed a party to cover eight to ten miles a day. According to a 1937 letter written by William Andrew Burris (one of James Littleton and Adeline’s sons), the party arrived in Pope County in November, so they must have left Tennessee soon after the crops were harvested, probably in September 1838.The “Who’s Who” of early Lawrence County
From Goodspeed’s Tennessee History and Biographies - Lawrence County
:The first settlements made in the county were on Big Buffalo River, near Pennington’s old mill site, near the crossing of that stream by the Columbia & Wayneboro Turnpike, in 1815. The settlers came chiefly from North Carolina. Among them were Jacob Pennington and sons (Moses, Absalom, William, Isaac and David), Archibald Coulert, Joshua Ashmore, Drury Chambers, John Voorhees, David Matthews, James McMillan, George Kitchen, Phillip Chromister, Absalom Murphy, Daniel Pennington, John and William Voss, Joe Reynolds, Aquila Brown, John Lockhart, Wm. Williams, Miles Parsons, Wm. Leahorn, Wm. Burlesson, John Bromley, C. Hutchinson, John Ray, Adam Chromister, Jesse Hutchinson, Daniel Simms, Daniel Smith, John Garrison, Geo. Isham, Wm. Long, Joseph Teas, James Teas, James Horton, Thomas and James Christy, John McChish, Thomas Mitchell, the Fosters, Steels, Bryants, Duckworths, Hurleys, Williamses, Bennets, Garrets, Pollocks, Perkinses, Cunninghams, Kennedys, and McBrides. At Pennington’s the first watermill in the county was built in 1816 by Moses Pennington: a distillery was also built near the mill--the first in the county. The Primitive Baptists built the first church in 1817, near where Henryville was afterward built, of which church the Rev. John Hunter was the first minister. The first school was taught in the above church in 1817. The pioneers on Beeler Fork were John Beeler, M. Duncan, Robert Hayne, Josephus Irvine, Samuel Thomas and Thomas Paine. On Middle Fork were Bailey Alford, Samuel McLean, William Thomas, John Welch, John Chambers, J.E. Edmiston, Warren Mason, David Crockett, Daniel Levi, Jacob and William Matthews, William and Nehemiah Reynolds, John, William and John (Jr.) McAnnally, Solomon, Wm., and Noble Lucas, Martin Prewett, Aaron Cheat, Moses Holliday, Stephen Holliday, Richard Cheat, George Lucas, Patterson Crockett, Abner and Gabriel Bumpass, Jacob Adair, John Poley, Ebenezer Thompson, James Joseph Halford, W.S. Dalton, John Shirley, Levi Blackard, James Bradstreet, James Birgen, George Rodgers, W., Worten, Stephen Roland, John Smith, John Sullivan, John M. Hughes, Charles, James and Nathan Armstrong, William and O. N. Green, John Henson, John Talby, Samuel Akin and Green Depoint. On Shoal Creek and vicinity were Harlan Paine, John Buchanan, George Lucas, Archibald Morrow, Green D. Priest, Samuel Armstrong, David McIntyre, Wm. Melton, A. McLaren, David Stewart, Jacob Blythe, David Atkison, Benjamin Smith, Beasley Ingraham, John Miller, James Brooks, Wiley Brown, Robert Carr, Edward Denton, John Gest, Barney Gabill, Thomas Dollane, Henry Wellington, James and William Hearlson, Robert Hillhouse, John and Daniel McIntyre, Elisha and Elijah Milton, John Null, Andrew McLaren, Andrew Pickens, Spencer Pearce, William Smith, Nathan Spear, ( Page # 750 )Thomas Spencer, Horence Strawn, Wm. Simmons, Abraham Sizemore, Jacob Turnbow, Elijah Walker, Moses Williams, Wm. Jackson (Sr.), and William Jackson (Jr.). On Sugar Creek and vicinity there settled Jacob Brashers, John Miller, John and William Brashers, George Brenn, Joseph Baldwin, and others. On Chism Fork of Shoal Creek were Wm. Tucker, Jesse Tucker and James Welch. On Knob Creek were Pollard Wisdom, Solomon Azbell, Thomas Ethridge, John Ethridge, and others. In different parts of the county there were the Alexanders, Gaswells, Higgs, Phenixes, Lindseys, McConnells, Kilburns, Cunninghams, Stringhams, McClindens, Davises, Joneses, Grays, Tutnells, Alcorns, Hills, Haynes, Gambells, McCains, Sharps, McKinneys , Mitchells, Walkers, Whartons, Campbells, Fosters, Stricklands, Morgans, Oxfords, Fallses, Allsops, Poteets and Pennicuffs.
All the families had settled in the county previous to 1818. By actual enumerations in 1818 the enrollment shows a voting population of 458. This shows a very rapid immigration when it is considered the first permanent settlers came in 1815. The first settled mainly on the larger streams, which furnished fish for food, power to run mills, cotton gins, and other machinery, but, also, in the absence of roads, they furnished outlets to other parts of the county.
Source: Tennessee History and Biographies - Lawrence County,
Goodspeed Publishing Company (1887) at pp. 1 and 2.
William Burris, father of James Littleton Burris, didn’t make Goodspeed’s “Who’s Who” list. Everything I’ve been able to find about him indicates that he was having financial trouble for quite a while before his sons left for Arkansas, as he appeared on lists of people delinquent on payment of taxes in Lawrence County as late as 1840.
William Burris was probably in Lawrence County before Joshua Ashmore (Elizabeth Adeline’s grandfather). The marriage record index for Lawrence Co., TN shows a marriage bond for William Burriss and Elizabeth Baily on January 2, 1802. (Their names were spelled on the index as I have spelled them in the previous sentence.) Elizabeth (Bailey) Burris died about 1835 in Lawrence County. William Burris also appears on a list of voters in Lawrence County in November 1818. (According to everything I’ve seen, his year of birth was about 1782, so he would have been 36 years old then.)
William Burris remarried to Catherine Davis on November 19, 1835. I lost him after the 1850 census, taken in Hardin Co., TN, in which he said he was 68 years old. In that census, he gave his year of birth as 1782 in North Carolina. I found Catherine Burris in the 1860 census, living in Hardin County, TN with her youngest child, Felix Lonzo Burris, in the home of Henry and Hannah Remp. Most Burris genealogists date William Burris’ death between 1850 and 1860.Who came from Lawrence County to Pope County in 1838?
For the first couple of years of my research, I naively thought that only Burrises and Ashmores were in that 1838 wagon train. I knew that three Burris brothers, John (born 1804), William Carroll (born 1813) and James Littleton (born 1819), and two Ashmore brothers, Andrew Sawyer and Robert Doke Ashmore (along with their wives and children), had made the journey. Joshua Bloomer Ashmore, Sr., father of Andrew and Robert D., was not to be left behind. His pioneering spirit fully intact, at the age of 78, he climbed into a wagon and set out with the others. That would have totaled twenty-five people.
Who knows what must have been going through Cynthia Ann (Ashmore) Burris’ mind as two dozen members of her family readied for the trip. She was the sister of Andrew Sawyer and Robert D Ashmore and was married to John Burris. She was also due to deliver her sixth child, Saba Ann Burris, in February 1839, so she would have been in about her fourth month of pregnancy when the party started out.
According to Goodspeed, “…Andrew S Ashmore came to Arkansas from Tennessee in 1838, and settled in Pope County, where he bought land and made extensive improvements. In 1849 this family removed to Conway County, and settled in Gregory Township.” Source: Conway County, Arkansas - Biographical and Historical Memoirs,
Goodspeed Publishing Company (1889) at page 94.
As I continued to plug people into marriages and families in the family tree software, I noticed siblings from one family marrying siblings from another, and a whole bunch of them were from Lawrence County, Tennessee. Others were from the nearby counties of Maury, Hardin and Hardeman.
The 1830 census for Lawrence, Maury and Hardeman counties in Tennessee lists the following family surnames:
Lawrence County: Ashmore, Bowden, Burris, Chambers, Chronister, McAnally, Price, Strickland
Hardeman County: Chronister, McCarley
Maury County: Austin, Duvall
The 1840 census for Pope and Conway counties in Arkansas lists the following family surnames:
Pope: Ashmore, Burris, McCarley, Price, Strickland
Conway: Austin, McCarley
I think it is reasonable to conclude that the 1838 wagon party was much larger than just the two dozen Ashmores and Burrises. I believe that it is likely a community of families made the journey to begin a new adventure in Arkansas, which had become a state only two years earlier.
And families just kept coming. Later arriving families from Tennessee included more Austins, Bowdens and McAnallys, along with Chambers, Chronisters, and Duvalls. Maybe the newly transplanted Arkansans were sending some glowing letters back to Tennessee.
Goodspeed’s “Pope County, Arkansas - Biographical and Historical Memoirs,” published in 1889, lists the Bowdens as a family who arrived later. Jackson J Bowden “emigrated with his parents to Tennessee, and there remained until 1844, when he moved to Arkansas…After coming to Arkansas Mr. Bowden settled in Gum Log Valley, but afterward purchased eighty acres of land on Crow Mountain, where he resided for six years.” Source: Pope County, Arkansas - Biographical and Historical Memoirs,
Goodspeed Publishing Company (1889) at page 21.
In Hoskins Cemetery in Russellville, the back of the gravestone of William Young and Frances Allen (Pollock) Austin says, “WY and Frankie came to Ark. From Lawrence Co., TN in a train of 90 wagons. Settled on Crow Mountain (Gum Log Twp) 1849 with 6 children - 8 more born here.”The Burris Homestead
Whether the party chose Center Valley as the stopping point, or some other spot in Pope County near Center Valley, all the families immediately began the work of setting up homes and building a community.
The new settlers must have felt as if they had arrived in Eden. As late as 1889, Goodspeed’s publication stated:The valley lands excel in the growth of corn and cotton. The clay loams are unequal for the production of wheat, beans, peas, cabbage, turnips, etc., and fruits of all kinds; the sandy loams in the production of peanuts, rye, oats, sweet and Irish potatoes, strawberries, peaches, melons and perennial pastures…There is no country that nature has done more for. It is as fine an apple, peach and grape country as can be found anywhere. Grapes grow almost spontaneously.
Source: Pope County, Arkansas - Biographical and Historical Memoirs,
Goodspeed Publishing Company (1889) at pages 3 and 4.
The first land patent on the Burris homestead was filed by James Littleton Burris on March 1, 1860, and was for the 40 acres on which my parents built their home seven years ago. On September 1, 1860, James filed a patent on another 80 acres. On August 1, 1861, he filed a patent on another 40 acres, and on August 20, 1884, eleven years before his death, James Littleton Burris filed a patent on 160 acres, for a total of 320 acres. (Dad thinks he may have sold a parcel of that land to one of his brothers.)
James Littleton Burris wasn’t the only family member busily filing his land patents. His father-in-law, Andrew Sawyer Ashmore, filed his first land patent on September 1, 1856 on 49.98 acres in adjacent Conway County. Today, that land may actually be in Pope County, as is illustrated by Goodspeed in an amusing narrative about the drawing and re-drawing of Pope County lines.At the close of the year 1825, the then Territory of Arkansas consisted of the counties of Arkansas, Conway, Chicot, Crawford, Crittenden, Hempstead, Independence, Izard, Lawrence, Miller, Pulaski and Phillips. Conway had been erected as recently as October 25 of that year. Lovely County was erected October 13, 1827, and was abolished October 17, 1828. Five days later part of the Indian purchase was added to Conway County. More than a year after the wiping out of Lovely County, Pope County was formed principally from Conway…Pope County was erected November 2, 1829. In 1840, Yell County was formed out of Pope, by making the Arkansas River the line from the mouth of Petit Jean up to the crossing of Military Road at the Dardanelle Rock; thence to the point of Magazine Mountain; thence with said mountain westward; and not until 1853 did Pope County relinquish to Yell all her lands south of the river. This concession was made under an Act of the Legislature passed January 5, 1853. Part of Conway County was attached to Pope January 6, 1853.
Source: Pope County, Arkansas - Biographical and Historical Memoirs,
Goodspeed Publishing Company (1889) at page 5.
Robert Doke Ashmore (Andrew Sawyer’s brother) filed a land patent for 80 acres in Pope County on September 1, 1846. His name appears on the 1847 tax list for Pope County.
Andrew Sawyer Ashmore filed another land patent (in Conway County) for 120 acres on May 1, 1874. Since that was twenty-one years after his death in 1853, I think his widow, Elizabeth (McCarley) Ashmore, or one of his sons-in-law (James Littleton or Rueben Vaughn), may have filed it in his name. Elizabeth (McCarley) Ashmore died November 3, 1875, and is buried in the McCarley family cemetery not far from Dad’s house.