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Below is a family biography included in Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi County, Arkansas published by Goodspeed Publishing Company in 1889.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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James B. Craighead, a man of marked character and more than ordinary prominence in the material affairs of Mississippi County, Ark., is the eldest son of David Craighead, one of the pioneers of Arkansas, who was born near Nashville, Tenn., in Davidson County, in 1790, and for some years, after reaching maturity, was a resident of that city, where he practiced law, and at one time represented his county in the State legislature as a senator. About the year 1834 he purchased a large body of land in Mississippi County, Ark., on a point opposite the town of Randolph, in Tipton County, Tenn., and with the help of slave labor opened a large plantation, but continued to make his home in Nashville. As was the custom of planters before the war, he passed a part of each year with his family on his plantation, and became so charmed with life on the banks of the Mississippi river, among his humble retainers, that he would gladly have remained there all the time except for the necessity of educating his children, of whom there were then five. He died at Memphis, Tenn., in 1849, while on his way home from Little Rock, Ark., where he had been on a matter of business. He was a man of fine personal appearance, cultivated and refined, and his views on all subjects were broad and liberal, betokening a studious mind and deep thought. He was an intimate friend of Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk, always a Democrat in his political views, and an advocate of free trade. At this point it will not be inappropriate to give a short history of Mississippi County as it was at the time of Mr. Craighead’s settlement. While but a Territory, the lands of Arkansas comprised within the present boundaries of Mississippi County were surveyed by the United States Government during the years 1824, 1825 and 1826, and were placed for entry in the land office at Helena, Ark., at $1.25 per acre. The land was covered with forests of cottonwood, gum, elm, hickory, walnut, ash and other timber, while the undergrowth consisted of almost impenetrable cane brake, which grew to the height of twenty feet, the stalks being over an inch in diameter. The remainder of the land was covered with water during the overflows, to a depth of from one to ten feet, and is yet to a great degree occupied by fine cypress brakes. Hardy pioneers visited this section soon after it was surveyed, and with infinite trouble and pains examined and located the sections and quarter sections of land best suited for cultivation, which as a general rule lay near the Mississippi River. The knowledge which they had gained they sold for a consideration to capitalists from other States, who entered and purchased the land. Among those who availed themselves of this opportunity may be mentioned Nathan Ross, David Craighead, Thomas B. Craighead, John Harding, Jacob McGavock, William Baird, Charles Bowen, Isaac Lanier, Edwin Jones and many others. These parties were true pioneers, coming to the country when it was a wilderness, inhabited by bears, wolves, wild cats and other wild animals. The reputation which Arkansas had at that date, and has since had, of being a resort for murderers and criminals of every description, was not deserved, for the actual residents of Mississippi County were then, and are now, at least were until the close of the war, a quiet, peaceful and law-abiding people. The region was no place for the concealment of criminals, for the reason that the settlements were on a narrow strip of land running along the Mississippi River, closed in on the west by impenetrable cane-brakes and impassable swamps, and the places for crossing the river were few and far between. The original settlers above mentioned came to Mississippi County and opened farms between the years 1833 and 1840. Osceola, the county seat, was a small village of about fifty inhabitants, and for many years the most important cases on the docket of the court were neighborhood troubles over a hog or a cow, with an occasional indictment of country boys who were caught playing “old sledge” in some out-of-the way rendezvous. There was not then, and has never been, a stillhouse in the county, to our informant’s knowledge, and whisky drinking was a rare vice, the people being perfectly sober, if not remarkably industrious. Wealthy farmers lived quietly at home, raising crops of cotton and corn, and the poorer classes made a comfortable living cutting and selling cord-wood to steamers, until the cord-wood contiguous to the river gave out, when coal began to be used, owing to its cheapness. The plantations along the river were at first far apart, but have been gradually extended until they touch each other, and most of the available high land is now occupied and cleared. As soon as levees are constructed (and they are now partially built), millions of acres of fine alluvial land will be ready for use. James B. Craighead, the gentleman whose name heads this sketch, was born in Nashville, Tenn., in 1825, and generally accompanied his father to his plantation in Mississippi County, Ark. In 1843 he graduated from the University of Nashville, and two years later entered Harvard University, being graduated from the law department of that institution in 1847. The same year he settled in New Orleans, where he entered the law office of the late Isaac T. Preston, with the purpose of studying the code of Louisiana, but in January, 1849, his father died leaving a widow and several minor children, and James was compelled to return to Arkansas to wind up the estate, which occupied several years, during which time the family resided in Nashville. In October, 1849, he was married to Miss Erwin, of Nashville, by whom he had two children, both living, a daughter being married to W. Hooper Harris, of Nashville. The other child, Erwin Craighead, received such education as was possible in the disorganized condition of affairs in Nashville during the war, and at the close of hostilities he spent one year at Racine College, Wis., going from there to London, England, where he resided for a short time. He then spent one year in the University of Leipsic, Germany, and after returning home, was married to Miss Harris, of Nashville. Having selected journalism as a profession, he moved to New Orleans, where, in conjunction with another gentleman, he established a daily paper, which still exists, called “The States.” A year or two later he sold his interest in that paper and removed to Mobile, Ala., where he was employed as a reporter on the staff of the Mobile Register, from which position he was promoted to the city editorship, and then to managing editor, which position he now holds. James B. Craighead, after his marriage, while continuing his interests in Arkansas, opened a hardware store in Nashville, which he managed successfully until it was closed by the Federals in 1862, who required an iron-bound oath, which Mr. Craighead could not take. In 1873, Mr. Craighead’s wife died, and in 1876, he took for his second wife, Miss Alethea Allison, also of Nashville, and soon after moved to his plantation, “Stonewall,” in Mississippi County, Ark., where he has resided ever since, being the only member of his family who makes that State his home. He does not farm his lands in the usual sense of farming, but rents out his place in small farms of twenty and thirty acres, to tenants, of whom he has about forty families, among whom he lives in a quiet and patriarchal manner. His views on the labor question are as follows: “One great draw back to the prosperity of this section of the country is the greed for land which possesses many men who hold hundreds and thousands of acres more than they can possibly use, and still hunger for more. There is, however, a wiser feeling on the subject, and many are dividing, or contemplate dividing, up their surplus lands and selling them out on long time to permanent settlers. As a large portion of the residents and workers of Mississippi County are negroes, who are nomadic, restless and irresponsible, it has been found that the best way to make this people staid and respectable is to make them land owners. As soon as one of this people settles as the owner of a bit of land, he gives up his nomadic habits and becomes a law-respecting citizen. The writer thinks (after more than sixty years of association with colored people, as the owner of slaves and the employer of freedmen) that the safety of the South depends upon civilizing these people, not simply by educating the children, but mainly by giving the people interest in the country as land owners — as an experiment it is perfectly safe. If a man owns 10,000 acres of uncultivated land, and sells out one-half of it to small buyers, say in forty or eighty-acre tracts, giving long time for payment, he cannot possibly lose anything. If the land is paid for, well and good; if it is not paid for, it reverts to him or his heirs, in an improved condition, partly cleared, with houses, fences, etc., upon it, and in condition to yield revenue, which it had never done before under the creation. As a mere hireling or laborer, African or white, a man is the enemy of, or at least antagonistic to, the landlord, and hostile to law, which he presumes is made for the benefit of the latter, but the moment he buys land, he becomes a landlord himself, and ranges himself on the side of law and order. It would be well, not only for Mississippi County, but for the State at large, if two-thirds at least, if not all the men living therein, owned lands of their own and cultivated them.” Mr. Craighead is quite literary in his tastes, and subscribes for a large number of papers, magazines and journals, of literary, religious and scientific character, and is passing his old age in contentment and peace, esteemed and respected by all who know him.

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This family biography is one of 162 biographies included in Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi County, Arkansas published in 1889.  View the complete description here: Mississippi County, Arkansas History, Genealogy, and Maps

View additional Mississippi County, Arkansas family biographies here: Mississippi County, Arkansas Biographies

View a map of 1889 Mississippi County, Arkansas here: Mississippi County, Arkansas Map

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