Pope County, Arkansas
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Pope County, Arkansas

            Pope County was created on November 2, 1829. It was named for John Pope the third governor of the Territory of Arkansas. The temporary county seat was on the Arkansas River near Scotia (near present-day London, Arkansas), west of Russellville, the present county seat.

            The area of Pope County had belonged to the Osage Indians until a treaty was signed by them in 1808. This treaty, negotiated by Gen. William Clark, gave the United States the territory east of a line from Fort Clark at Fire Prairie on the Missouri River, near Kansas City, south to the Arkansas River at the mouth of Frog Bayou, at Alma, Arkansas. The first temporary county seat was at the home of John Ballinger on the Arkansas River near Honorable John R. Scott's farm, known as Scotia. The courts were also held at his place during 1829 and 1830. Another early County seat was held at the old Dwight Mission on the Illinois Bayou. In 1830, the County seat was established at old Norristown and remained there about ten years. But no county buildings were erected. The first court house was built in 1840 when the County seat was moved to Dover. The log structure was used until it burned during the Civil War. Court was then held in churches until the brick courthouse could be built on the town square at Dover. It was later sold to the Town of Dover for $100 to be used as a school.

            The County seat was moved to Russellville on 16 May 1888. The first house in Russellville was built by P.C. Holledger, who settled there on the prairie in 1834. The house was sold the following year to Dr. Thomas Russell for whom the town was named.

            Sometime around 1837 (Arkansas became a state in 1836) the William Henry and Ann (Latimer) Hamilton family left Tennessee and moved to Arkansas. With them were probably all 10 of their living children, and at least three had their spouses along. Their oldest daughter Eupha Hamilton had married James Moffit, and three of their children were born before the move. This gave a total of at least 18 people in their caravan. The 450 mile distance today would only take about 7 hours to drive. In 1837 it probably took them at least two months to make the trip. They most likely used the old Indian trails from the cities of Nashville, Tennessee to Memphis, Tennessee, which were the Lower Harpeth Trail, connecting to the Chickasaw Trail and followed by the Bolivar and Memphis Trail, and then on to Pope County, Arkansas. We have records of William and two of his oldest children, Hugh and Robert paying taxes in 1839 in Pope County. Alfred was living in the next county, Johnson at that time.

            Arriving in that same year, 1837, were the Brigances, and it could be presumed that they traveled with the Hamiltons from Sumner County, Tennessee. They all settled around the area called Gumlog, in the south central portion of the county, northeast of Russellville. The name "Gumlog" came from a large gum tree that had been cut near one side of the creek and it fell across the creek, and was used for a foot log. The community was comprised of a school, the Center Point Church which was owned by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church but used by other denominations who lived there. There was also a general store and a Post Office (established July 7, 1858).

       william hamilton (grave).jpg (96559 bytes)     William Henry Hamilton lived to be 78 years old and both he and Ann were buried in the Baptist Cemetery, Center Valley, Pope County, Arkansas. We are very fortunate to have a copy of an old tintype (c: 1865) of Ann (Latimer) Hamilton who lived to be 97 years old, and judging by her expression, she was not very happy about being that old.  The picture at the left is William Hamilton's grave marker.

    All five of the Hamilton boys and at least three of the girls remained in Pope County for the rest of their lives.

    In Pope County in 1840, just 3 years after the arrival of the family of William and Ann (Latimer) Hamilton, their oldest son, Alfred G. HAMILTON, married Melissa A. BRIGANCE, whose family probably moved with the Hamilton family in 1837.

            There were a number of intermarriages between the Hamilton’s and the Brigance’s in those early years in Pope County. Besides Alfred, his younger brother Thomas Henry Hamilton had already married Fanny D. Brigance in 1838, the sister of Melissa, Albert Caroll Brigance married Elvira Hamilton in 1838, and Melvin Lafayette Brigance married Mary Ann Hamilton in 1857.  During the Civil War, Melvin changed sides and also his name to Brigham and all of their descendants are now Brigham.

            Alfred G. Hamilton, after less than 10 years of marriage, died in Pope County in 1850, leaving Melissa with one son and two daughters. She then married Ancil B. Vann who was from South Carolina and they had 3 more children

            It was also here in Pope County that the oldest son of Alfred G. Hamilton - Henry Clay HAMILTON met and married Sarah M. MULLINS. Sarah was the last Mullins in my family line. Together they had 4 children: Marietta Hamilton, from whom Norma (Ewing) Young, my fellow researcher is descended, William Washington Hamilton, and Henry Thomas Hamilton, whose picture is on the introduction page of the Hamilton ancestry, and finally Martha Ann Hamilton, who married into my Houston family in Dallas.

            It appears that shortly after the early death of Sarah M. (Mullins) Hamilton in 1894, Henry and other Hamilton’s moved to south Dallas County, Texas.


The Brigances Arrive

            The definitive record of the Brigances in America was written by Albert H. Brigance and published in 1982, and 1995 in a 2 volume set, called simply, Brigance Genealogy. This documentation, while quite thorough in locating and documenting the descendants, includes little about their travels and accomplishments. We have liberally copied from this book the records of the Brigance Genealogy, and greatly appreciate the work of Albert H. Brigance.

            Research findings lead the author, Albert H. Brigance, to conclude that the Brigance Clan, or at least part of the clan, were living in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania from the mid 1700's until the time of the Revolutionary War (1776). That part migrated to North Carolina (Gilford or Orange Counties) by 1777 and then into the Cumberland Settlement (Sumner County, Tennessee) area by the mid 1780's.

            Our earliest know ancestor William BRIGANCE, who apparently served in the Revolutionary War was given a number of Military Land Grants in the area, and he was one of what has been referred to as the "Seven Old Timers". These seven Brigances appeared at about the same time in Sumner County, and most, in later censuses, referred to their birthplace as Pennsylvania.

            Eight of the nine children of William and Elizabeth (nee unknown) were born in Sumner County, with his son William C. BRIGANCE being the eighth of the nine. The author of the Brigances book believes that William C. Brigance, along with his brother and guardian John, moved to Henderson County. Before that, William C. had met and married Sarah A. SPARKS, in Illinois, where her parents William Jefferson SPARKS and Margaret (Traylor) SPARKS had moved from Georgia and before that, North Carolina.

            The Goodspeeds History of Tennessee - Henderson County indicates that John and William built a mill for grinding corn and wheat on Mud Creek in Henderson County in 1821.

            It would appear that by the mid 1820's John and William ceased operating the mill and moved from Henderson County, John to Independence County, Arkansas, and William C. to Carroll County, Tennessee, where he and his family lived for about 10 years. Land records, tax records, and Census records suggest that William C. began selling his property in Carroll County, Tennessee (mostly to his nephew - William Melvin Brigance) in 1835 and that he and his family, consisting of wife and nine children, migrated to Pope County, Arkansas, arriving by 1837. That was the same year that the Hamiltons arrived.

            In 1840 William and Sarah's third born child, Melissa A. BRIGANCE married Alfred G. HAMILTON, which was 2 years after her younger sisters Fanny married Thomas Hamilton, and Elvira married Albert Carroll Brigance.

            William C. Brigance must have died fairly suddenly, as his eldest son Alexander J. Brigance applied for "Letters of Administration on January 26th, 1843, where the Clerk, John R. H. Scott wrote that:

...personally appeared before me ... Alexander J. Brigance and made application for Letters of Administration on the Estate of William C. Brigance, who after being duly sworn deposed and sayeth that there is property to the amount or value of about or near seven hundred dollars and there being ten heirs namely, A. J. Brigance, A. C. Brigance, Melissa A. Hamilton, Fanny D. Brigance, Margaret Ann Brigance, Elizabeth Jane Brigance, Melvin L. Brigance, Jasper N. Brigance, Susan Minerva Brigance all of Pope County, Ark. and John S. Brigance of Johnson County, Arkansas and that I will Administer and make a true and perfect Inventory of all and singular the goods, and chattles, right and credits, of the deceased, and pay his Debts as far as the assets which may come...”

            From this document we learn that Sarah A. Brigance probably died between 1838 and 1843 as Susan Minerva was born in 1838 and Sarah is not mentioned in the settlement of William C. Brigance’s estate.

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