William Strong & Crowley's Ridge

This information was donated by his GGGGG Grandson Charles Lokey .

Thank You !

tina@grnco.net

http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ar/county/greene/

 

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Col. Wm. Strong

William Strong was thought to be a native of Georgia according to Bigrophical Sketches of Pioneers Buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee. He moved to Arkansas County, Missouri, Territory about 1811. This area later became St. Francis County, Arkansas. William along with the rest of his father's family was on a long boat going down the Mississippi River , transporting goods on the night of December 16, 1811 , when the the New Madrid earthquake occurred. The violent quakes and surges of the Great Mississippi forced them back upstream toward the Ohio. This horrific night was told by Col. Wm. Strong many times.

William Stong was listed as a taxpayer for Arkansas county in 1815 and served as a captain in the Fourth Regiment of the Territorial Militia from Arkansas County in 1820.

William Strong had the first store on Crowleys Ridge . This store was situated on the old Crowley homestead, where Walcott is now . Being located at the crossing of the St. Francis river, by the old military road leading from Memphis to Little Rock . Told in the History of Greene County by B.H. Crowley published in the Paragould Soliphone in 1906.

Part of William Strong’s “delta empire” is preserved at Village Creek State Park , located in Cross and St. Francis County covering 6,908. 9 acres along the Crowley's Ridge . The park contains part of Strong’s original Spanish land grants. He built his twenty-room mansion within view of Crowley’s Ridge, near the Military Road on land just east of the park boundary. Strong built much of the historic Military Road also known as the Memphis to Little Rock Road , and helped to bring the route through this area ensuring the growth in population.

The Military Road also known as the Memphis to Little Rock Road , was authorized on January 31, 1824, when the U.S. Congress passed an act for construction of a road opposite from Memphis , Tennessee. The road was to run through the swamps of east Arkansas to the state's capital , Little Rock. Surveyors Joseph Paxton and Thomas Mathers and a contractor from Memphis , Anderson B. Carr were hired to propose the best route for the Military Road . Carr resigned after a disagreement of which route was the best , his choice was to cross the White River. The other surveyors Paxton and Mathers took the layout of their proposed route to Secretary of War John X. Calhoun on February 12, 1825.

Paxton and Mathers , route would go through eastern Arkansas . Crossing Crowly's Ridge through the swamps of east Arkansas along the valley of Villiage Creek , by the hills of St. Francis , through the Military lands to the Languelle River.

Lt. Frederick L. Griffith , was given the job of superintendent on the Memphis to Little Rock Road project on January 27 , 1826 . The road was to be at least twenty four feet wide , with all timber and underbrush removed , swamps and marshes to be filled with poles or split timber for crossing and ditches dug on either side four feet wide and three feet deep for drainage . The hills were to be dug down and curved to make the road passible for carriages or heavy loaded wagons.

Advertisements were sent out by Griffith , looking for skilled contractors for the first section of the road project. Griffith contracted A. Carr , N. Anderson and W. Irwin of Memphis for the first 64 miles of road , starting from where the road left the Mississippi , four miles north of Memphis. The cost of $160 per mile when the first section was complete would open a route nearly to Bayou de View. The work began in September and was completed by the following January . With the first section completed the second section began September 14, 1826 , Lt. Charles Thomas replaced Griffith as superintendent on the Military Road project , October 1826. There were sickness and fatigue , strickened the workers in the swamps of eastern Arkansas. Thomas reported on January 17, 1827 that Carr's road project was making progress but needed some changes in the route . Lt. Thomas complained that the route of Paxton and Mathers was inaccurate in the description of the land through which it would cross. They were informed by the pioneers living in the area of the flooding by the Mississippi and St. Francis Rivers would make the Military road impassible during the rainy seasons . Thomas , requested that a new route was needed to reach the crossing of the White River .

After the approval of the route changed , Thomas contracted William Strong to bridge the Languille River and and construct the road from the 64th mile to the ferry on White River which is now known as Clarendon.

Strong built his home on the eastern side of Crowley's Ridge in 1827 , a house four stories high with 20 rooms and a veranda completing the entire house . It was known as the largest and most expensive building in Arkansas at that time. Strong bid the job at $1,600 to construct the 93 1/2 mile road to the White River ferry , January 1828 . The road being completed June 1, 1828 . A peice of the newly constructed road is known todays as the Henard Cemetery Road in Monroe County.

Henard Cemetery Road is listed with The National Register of Historic Places under the multiple- property listing "Historic and Archeological Resources Associated with the Cherokee Trail of Tears. William Strong is listed as the builder of this historic Military road that lead through the eastern areas in Arkansas.

This piece below is from the Journal of John M. Millard who assisted in the removal of the Chickasaws on March 9, 1837 . The party camped for two days about three miles west of Strong's then headed on to the Languille River where they camped for one night. Millard's journal entry for the 15th reads :

15 July , Camp Upshaw

This day drive has been a good one considering the very bad condition of the roads and the heavy rains which have just fallen . The distance is 11 1/2 miles from cypress , the country is flat and covered with post oak timbers.

The entry above description of the section of the Memphis to Little Rock Road that survives today as the Henard Cemetery Road.

Though the Military Road was finished by the end of August 1828 , the road was left to improvement from the Eastern Arkansas floods left the road impassible several months out of each year. The eastern section of the Military Road continued to be plagued by floods for years to follow . Pioneers continued to travel the road to eastern Arkansas , taking chances of crossing the wilderness and swamps. Arkansians petitioned Congress to repair the road , which would bring settlers and growth to the area and help protect them from attacks by the Indians. On July 3, 1832 , Congress approved $20,000 for repairs to the Military Road. The money was used to improve and repair the road between Little Rock and Strong's . The Arkansas Gazette advertised on May 23, 1837 that a contractor on the Memphis and Little Rock Road (Wm. Strong , Esq. ) advertised for one thousand laborers to go work on the road for purposes of its completion . However the road would later become part of the Cherokee Trail of Tears between Memphis and Little Rock when completed.

Frederich Wilhelm Gerstaeker a journalist that traveled through Arkansas hunting and camping and writting about his exploits. Mentioned William Strong in his journal . It became quite popular in Germany as a travel guide. It gave some insight on what traveling the old Military Trail was like . One thing that I found disturbing was his account of crossing the Military Trail shortly after the passage of large trains of Indians from the removal. He said that the land was littered with their bones. He found it disturbing. He mentioned that during the removal there were clouds of buzzards and packs of wolves following the processions of Indians. The contractors involved in moving the Indians didn't allow them to bury their dead. They were told to place them in the woods wrapped in blankets or whatever was handy and move on.

Strong became one of the largest landowners and leading politicians in the region between 1820 and 1840. He became the first postmaster along the Military Road and served as the first sheriff of St. Francis county . He was a delegate to the Arkansas Constitutional Convention in 1836, the year of the state’s admission into the Union, and a delegate to the Arkansas General Assembly in 1840. He was also a member of the mercantile firm in Memphis , Dixon , Strong & Co. He retired to his home three miles northeast of Memphis , and became th "model farmer " of Shelby County , Tennessee.

His eldest son Erastus was the first graduate from the state of Arkansas at West Point and the only one for over 30
years. He was killed in Mexico at the Battle of Molina Del Ray during the Mexican American War. Erastus Strong's body was brought back from Mexico and reburied in Memphis in the 1870s .

National Society Daughters of the American Revolution organized a William Strong Chapter in Forrest City, Arkansas on April 19, 1930 in honor of William Strong, Revolutionary War Soldier .

He was about 70 years old at the time of his death with interment in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.