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Stephen W. Dorsey

Stephen W. Dorsey, who died at his home in Los Angeles, Cal., on Monday, was the last of the United States senators who represented Arkansas during thereconstruction period. He came to Arkansas from Oberlin, Ohio, in the summer of 1870, with no thought of engaging in politics, but to promote and build a railroad in Arkansas. This in part, he succeeded in doing. He was a lawyer and a business man who interested himself in the promotion of large enterprises.

With his manager, a man named Gregg, he organized a company for the construction of the Arkansas Central railroad from Helena to Little Rock. He built and operated the road from Helena to Clarendon, where it still is being operated as the Midland, now owned by the Iron Mountain. When the road was completed to Clarendon, Dorsey had assembled the material on the banks of the White River for the construction of abridge across the stream.

Railroad aid bonds had been authorized to assist the promoter in the construction of the road. Blocks of the bonds were issued and sold at times when a certain number of miles of road were completed and in operation. When the road was completed to Clarendon, Dorsey needed more funds to continue the work.

A case involving the constitutionality of the issuance of the bonds was pending before the Supreme County, and it was justabout the time the road had been completed to Clarendon that the Supreme Court rendered the decision declaring the act authorizing the bond issue unconstitutional. Further work on the construction of the road ceased.

Mr. Dorsey came to Little Rock with the view of making his home here. He built on Lincoln avenue what was then considered the most magnificent home in Little Rock. It was the building formerly occupied by the College of Physicians and Surgeons. It was handsomely furnished and there Mr. and Mrs. Dorsey dispensed hospitality with lavish hands.

In 1873 friends of Mr. Dorsey urged him to enter the race for United States senator to succeed B. F. Rice. Dorsey's opponent was Thomas M. Bowen, who was president of the Constitutional convention of 1868,and an associate justice of the Supreme Court. Senator Powell Clayton espoused the candidacy of Bowen. A joint caucus of the two houses of the legislature was called to meet in the Odd Fellows building, then at the corner of Markham and Scott streets. When the Bowen forces discovered that a majority of the Republicans in the house favored Dorsey's candidacy, they refused to attend the caucus.

The legislature in joint session balloted for senator for five days before a result was reached. Then Dorsey was given the votes of Democrats who had been voting solidly for Augustus H. Garland. When the Democrats commenced voting for Dorsey, nearly all the Bowen men went to his support.

For four years Dorsey controlled the federal patronage in Arkansas. He displaced Powell Clayton's influence both with his party at home and with the Republican administration at Washington.

After completing his term in the United States Senate Dorsey purchased a tract of land in New Mexico, upon which he established a sheep ranch. He built a residence of logs which cost more than $100,000. In the cellars he placed $10,000 worth of the choicest wines and liquors, it was said. Here he entertained his friends and had offices in New York and Denver. Later he went to Los Angeles, where he lived up to the time of his death.


Source: Arkansas Gazette, March 22, 1916, Page 5, cols 1 and 2.