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James N. Marks

James N. Marks is the present efficient surveyor of Cleveland County, Ark., and was born near Montgomery, Ala., December 16, 1825, being a son of Hastings and Sivility (Powell) Marks, who were born in Wilkes County, Ga., April 4, 1795, and February 10, 1803, and died in Cleveland County, Ark., in 1847 and August 15, 1813, respectively.

They were married in the State of Georgia in 1819, and in 1824 moved from that State to Alabama, settling first in Lowndes County, and later in Montgomery County. In the year 1836 they arrived in Arkansas and settled on a farm in what is now known as Red Land Township, Cleveland County, at which time there were very few inhabitants between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean, and only two families besides his own in the county; in a short time this number increased to five.

All these families were wealthy in slave property, and after the county became thickly settled they were accounted among its wealthiest citizens. Hastings Marks was a Democrat in his political views, was treasurer of Bradley County for many years, and was a participant in the War of 1812, and took part in many battles with the Indians, being under the command of Gen. Floyd.

The Marks family are of English and German descent, and three members of this family were commissioned officers in the American army during the Revolution. The paternal grandfather, John Marks, was born in the Old Dominion and was a wealthy planter. He died in Montgomery County, Ala., having been a man of extraordinary genius and ability.

To Hastings Marks and his wife a family of eight children have been born, five of whom are now living: John (a prominent planter of Calhoun County, Ark.), James N. (the immediate subject of this biography), George M. (a farmer residing near New Edinburg), and Evan P. (a well-known merchant of that place). It was in the wilderness, amidst a sparse population, that James N. Marks spent his early life, but prior to coming to this region he had attended school at Lawrenceville, Ga., the famous philosopher and humorist, Bill Arp, being a student there at the same time.

Mr. Marks can not remember the time that he could not read and write, and in early boy- hood he contracted a habit of reading and study which has since followed him through life. After reading ancient history he became interested in Locke's Essays on the Human Understanding, and although he could not comprehend all he read of that philosopher, yet he was a hard and faithful student. The next great author that engaged his attention was George Comb, and he studied his principles of phrenology until he mastered the main facts of the science. The general bent of his mind was toward metaphysics rather than physics, and no abuse or persuasion of his Irish teacher could induce him to forego the studies of the discoveries of Gaul and Sperzium.

Soon after the commencement of the "Rochester Rappers" through the medium of the Fox girls, he became interested in that delusion, and by the study of Andrew Jackson Davis he became a convert, to which conviction he has since adhered despite the opposition of the church and the ridicule of the world. His political career can be briefly told. He voted for Peter Cooper under the conviction that banks of issue were a curse to the productive interests of the country; that none but sovereign power had a right to issue money; that the Government had no right to delegate a sovereign right to corporations, etc. There were only three votes cast for Cooper in the county, but Mr. Marks stood to his convictions in defiance of all opposition. He also voted for Gen. Weaver.

While Cleveland County was still a portion of Bradley County, he was elected on the Democratic ticket to the office of county surveyor, and he has served in this capacity ever since, with the exception of four years although he has never been a political aspirant, and even then he did the most of the surveying for the connty. In 1881 he was the Greenback nominee for the State Legislature, and although the Democrats carried a solid negro vote against him, he was only defeated by one hundred and seven votes, carrying half the townships in the county.

For fear of being beaten the Democrats called Col. Ben. Johnson, one of their best orators, and a candidate for Congress, into the canvass, and this gentleman spoke in every precinct in the county. The sole object of Mr. Marks in this canvass was to popularize his party, and he accomplished his purpose so that Mr. Foster was elected at the next election. In this canvass he won the friendship and confidence of Col. R. K. Garland, who had a great respect for his ability. He has always been a strong advocate of temperance, voting for the suppression of intemperance whenever an opportunity presented itself, and he has also been an unshaken advocate of women's suffrage.

In 1883 he established the Kaleidoscope at Kingsland, and edited the same with success for the short time he occupied the tripod. He became very much dissatisfied with the management of the paper, and sold out to his partner, who never received another subscriber after the dissolution. He has gained a local reputation as a newspaper correspondent.

Mr. Marks joined the Confederate army under Gen. Walker, near Arkansas Post early in January, 1863, and was immediately put under command of Col. Allen, of the Seventeenth Texas Regiment. After the fall of the post the army fell back to Pine Bluff, where he formed the acquaintance of Dr. J. D. Collins, of Kentucky, post surgeon at that point, and by him was put in charge of hospital wards, in which capacity be went from Pine Bluff to New Iberia in Southern Louisiana, thence to Old Opelousas, from which point he was sent to Arkansas for Dr. Collins' family, but instead of returning with them he joined the Second Arkansas Cavalry in the summer of 1863, being captured in September thereafter while on scouting duty near Pine Bluff.

His days from that time until the close of the war were spent in prison, first in Little Rock, next in Rock Island, and then in New Orleans. During the summer of 1863 he acted as guide for Gen. Parsons of Texas, and won the complete confidence of his commander and the brigade. While acting in this capacity it was his duty to visit the various picket posts on the Saline River in company with Parsons, and this period is remembered by him as the pleasantest of his war record.

Owing to the regard he has always entertained for Gen. Parsons, he felt great sympathy for his brother who was hung as an anarchist at Chicago. Mr. Marks was exchanged at the mouth of the Red River on March 25, 1865, and arrived home on May 11 of the same year. He had commenced life for himself at the age of twenty-one years as a farmer, but on returning home from the war found himself without means whatsoever, but being possessed with a determined spirit and a good constitution, he, to use his own words, commenced to scramble for bread, and his success in that direction he attributes to the faithful old slaves who stayed by him in spite of the allurements of freedom.

Although his extreme bashfulness has been quite a barrier to his success he is the owner of 600 acres of fine land, a goodly portion of which is under cultivation. He has the reputation of being a brave and honest gentleman, and he owes no man anything but love. He is now engaged in the study of Christian Science, and says he thinks he may be able to so spiritualize himself as to choose his own time for dying.

He was twice married; by his first wife (a Miss Douglass) he has two living sons: Junius D. (a successful farmer), and Harvie (an invalid). On December 21, 1855, lie was married to Miss Susan, a daughter of William Morgan of Georgia, her birth occurring in that State in 1834.

They have reared a family of ten children: Virginia S. (wife of James M. Raines, editor of the Fordyce Enterprise, Sivility S., Kate M., Zolicoffer, Hastings, Jackson, Susan, Mattie E., James T. and Charly. Mr. Marks in his family government is Republican, each member, male or female, having equal rights. He is a member of long standing of the Masonic fraternity, and in his religious and political views has always been very liberal.


Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas
Copyright 1890
Published by The Goodspeed Publishing Co.; Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis