Jonathan Alexander Ashcraft
Son of Joel and Martha “Patsey” Ferguson

Jonathan, tenth child of Joel and Patsey, was born April 26, 1835 in York County, South Carolina. He was one of the first groups of Ashcrafts to arrive in Cleveland County, Arkansas. At age eighteen, Jonathan, along with his brothers Morten, William, and Uriah, his sister Rebecca and her husband, A. Jackson Chambers, accompanied their uncle Jesse Ashcraft and his sons to ‘The Natural State’.
In 1853, Jonathan arrived in Cleveland County (then part of Bradley County) where he married Sarah Dorcus Isom, daughter of William B. Isom and stepdaughter of Ruth E. Ashcraft Isom. Jonathan and Sarah were the parents of five children – Mary Etta, Calvin Monroe, Margaret Virginia, Joseph Albert and Susan Emily.
By the first of June in 1859, Jonathan had paid for eighty acres located about two miles to the east of Big Creek. He made a home for his family on this land, growing cotton for a living. Their three oldest children were born here before the Civil War disrupted their lives.
In April of 1862 at age 27, Jonathan, along with three of his brothers and a first cousin, enlisted in the Confederate Army with Capt. Halliday’s Co. D of the 26th Arkansas Infantry. A nineteen-year-old neighbor, John W. Hamilton, joined them. Young John and Jonathan would spend the rest of the war as companions and years later would become brothers-in-law.
December of 1862, during the Battle of Prairie Grove, Jonathan was hit in the left foot by a bullet. He recovered at Fort Smith and went on to fight until March 29th of 1864 when the Yankees at Longview captured him and John within forty miles of their homes. They were taken to Pine Bluff via Mount Elba. Many Confederates took the Oath of Amnesty and Allegiance to the United States Government at Pine Bluff during this time, but Jonathan and John would not.
They were then moved to Little Rock on April 4th. From there they were loaded onto a steamboat and transported up the Mississippi River. Jonathan and John would spend nine months at the Federal military prison located on an island in the Mississippi River between Davenport, Iowa and Moline, Illinois.
Rock Island Prison, built in the fall of 1863, was situated on a swampy twelve-acre section on the northern side of the rocky island. The first Confederate prisoners arrived in December in below-zero temperatures before construction was even complete. By the end of the month, over five thousand prisoners were crammed into this dismal penal complex.
Each of the barracks buildings was one hundred feet long, twenty-two feet wide and twelve feet high. The buildings each had two doors, twelve windows and two four-foot roof ventilators. A kitchen for each unit was located at one end of the building separated from the sleeping quarters by a wall eighteen feet from the west end. The remaining eighty-two feet contained sixty double bunk beds. A twelve-foot high fence enclosed the 84-unit compound with a boardwalk constructed four feet from the top on the outside. Guards manned the sentry boxes, which were placed every one hundred feet.
[1] Sanitation was appalling and disease soon became pervasive. Within the first few months alone hundreds of prisoners died during a smallpox epidemic. Others fell victim to dysentery and pneumonia. The dead were hastily buried adjacent to the prison grounds, an unhealthy procedure in itself. Then in February, the bodies of over nine hundred Confederate soldiers were moved away from the compound to improve sanitation. A ‘non-contagious’ hospital was constructed and the fatality rate among the prisoners decreased dramatically.
Jonathan and John arrived at the prison on May 27th, 1864. The following month, the United States Secretary of War, in retaliation to the treatment of Union prisoners held at Andersonville, Georgia, ordered that rations to the prisoners be reduced. The resulting malnutrition contributed the deaths of at least twelve of the Arkansans fellow prisoners from scurvy.

Rock Island Prison
Nothing is left today of the buildings at the prison.

Jonathan and John suffered these desperate conditions until January of 1865 when they were transported to New Orleans. Glad to be back in a warmer climate, they waited in prison almost another two months before being among the Confederate prisoners exchanged for captured Yankees on March 4th at Red River Landing, Louisiana. The young soldiers were paroled and returned home to await the official end of the war.
What they found in Cleveland County was desolation. But, they began picking up the pieces of their lives. Jonathan immediately began work on getting in a spring crop, planting a vegetable garden and repairing the house and outbuildings.
[2] By 1870, Sarah and Jonathan had two more children, Joe and Susan Emily. Their farm, which had been valued in 1860 at $300, was now appraised at $400. However, his personal property had decreased by $50 during the war. The wound Jonathan suffered at Prairie Grove left his foot deformed and it became increasing difficult for him to scratch out a living on his land. Sarah died about 1873 leaving Jonathan to raise their young children. In 1874, Jonathan married Synthia Hannah Hamilton, sister of his wartime comrade John and widow of James Vint.
Synthia had a young son, W. E. Vint, when she was widowed. She and Jonathan raised their children together in Cleveland County until about 1878 or so. By 1880, the family had moved to Rose Creek on the Perry-Conway County line near Divide. Jonathan’s nephews - sons of his brother Joel, his sister Ruth Isom and many of the Hamiltons made the move the same time as Jonathan and Synthia.

By 1905, Jonathan was fifty per cent disabled. In his Civil War pension application he sites that the causes stemmed from his wounded foot and disease, most likely scarlet fever, that he had contracted while in prison. His physical disabilities were complicated by his age, now seventy, and by rheumatism. Richard B. Mason, still living in Cleveland County who had served with Jonathan and his brothers during the war, submitted an affidavit attached to Jonathan’s application attesting to his military service in the Confederate Army.
Jonathan’s pension was granted allowing him $50 per month. In 1908, his benefits were augmented by $25 monthly, but he was denied an increase in 1912. It’s unknown if Synthia’s widow’s pension application was approved.
During his twilight years, Jonathan was unable to do much more than sit in a rocking chair on his front porch whiling away the time. Often he talked for hours with friends and neighbors who would stop by to visit. Watching his grandchildren and great-grandchildren at [3] play was pleasurable entertainment for him. It was always a joy for Jonathan to be introduced to a newborn great-grandchild.
In April of 1922, Dr. F.R. Sweet confirmed that Jonathan was suffering from chronic aortic insufficiency, a damaged heart valve commonly caused by rheumatic fever. On December 11th that year, Jonathan died at the age of 87. The proud old soldier was laid to rest in the Hamilton Cemetery near Rose Creek in Perry County.
-Sharon Spielman Ashcraft
August 2007

Note: Rheumatic fever, an inflammatory disease, was common during the Civil War often developing after the soldier contracted an infectious disease such as scarlet fever.

Reference: Arkansas History Commission; U.S. Census Records; Civil War Pension Application No. 8676; Excerpt from Rock Island Confederate Prison Deaths - Compiled by Clifford W. Stephens (Command Historian of Rock Island Arsenal) and Printed by Blackhawk Genealogical Society of Rock Island, Illinois; National Archives and Records Administration.

Faytha Jane Ashcraft Parsons

December 17, 1897 – February 9, 1975

Oldest Granddaughter of Jonathan Alexander Ashcraft and Sarah Dorcus Isom and Daughter of Calvin Monroe Ashcraft and Mary Jane Hamilton
Faytha Jane Ashcraft and husband, Edward Lesley Parsons
"I certainly loved my grandmother...she was little in stature, with a contagious laugh...I miss her...would love to sit down with her again! She promised her Dad (Calvin) that she would never cut her hair? As far as I know...she kept her promise!
She had long brown hair. Every morning she would sit down in her chair, take the pins out, and comb through it. She would twist it around in her fingers and wrap it into a little bun on top of her head. I loved to watch her do this...(all of her grandkids got a kick out of it) It is one of my most cherished memories.
- Kathy Parsons Morris, January 16, 2007

Memories of Lawrence Ashcraft and Sons
of Conway County, Arkansas
by Cleo Huggins

Lawrence Ashcraft was a grandson of Jonathan Alexander Ashcraft and Sarah Dorcus Isom and a son of Joseph Albert Ashcraft and Frances Delilah Robertson. Lawrence married Pearl Rankin; the couple had three children: Earl, Herbert Hoover, and Yvonne “Tootsie”.
Cleo Huggins was born 1926 and grew up in Perry County. The following are his unedited stories, solicited and used with permission.
– Sharon Ashcraft
“I grew up with two Ashcraft boys in Perry County named Earl and Herbert Hoover. Their father's name was Lawrence. Their mother was Pearl (Rankin). They had one younger sister we called Yvonne. Later they started calling her Ruby. We also nicknamed her 'Tootsie'.” - Cleo Huggins,
November 6, 2006

“During our growing up years, up to about twenty-one or twenty-two, the boys [Earl and Hoover] and I were pretty close friends. We stole a few watermelons together, skinny dipped, (we just called it going naked back then) in the local swimming hole, turned over a few outhouses at Halloween and even went to church and Sunday School together, ha ha.”
- Cleo Huggins, November 8, 2006

“One thing I remember about Lawrence Ashcraft is he always had one of the two or three automobiles in the community. Sometimes it wasn't much and other times a very nice old car. In later years he had his log truck, of course. At one time I remember him having a very sharp Model A Roadster. Earl was in the Seabees and Hoover was just old enough to drive. Hoover would talk Lawrence out of the car and we would go 'girl huntin'.
The first couple of times we used the car we noticed it just would not run very fast, maybe twenty-five on a flat road. We finally got to checking and found that Lawrence had nailed a wood block under the gas pedal. We got a screwdriver and pried it out but put it back before we got home. This became the routine every time we used the car. I heard Lawrence bragging one day about how he had out smarted the boys to keep them from driving to fast. I doubt if he ever knew the truth.
One late afternoon, an old guy turned in front of us and we had to make a 'donut' in front of a house, first to keep from hitting him, then to keep from going off a steep hill, then to keep from driving into the front door of the house and then to get back on the road without taking out the mail box.
[5] Hoover had very quick reflexes but he was still very hard on cars. Lawrence bought a 1937 Ford with a 60 HP motor. It sure wasn't much for pulling some of those hills. One night Hoover was out in it and blew a head gasket. In trying to get home he was slipping the clutch and floor-boarding the gas pedal to get up the hills. The car caught fire and burned up.
Lawrence later bought a 37 Chevrolet with a standard front end, (not knee-action). It was a very nice car and our girlfriends really liked riding in it. One night when I was not with him, he picked up his girlfriend and another couple and went to Morrilton to the movie. For some reason, he lost his brakes and on the way home as he approached the railroad track in Perry it was blocked by a train. He started gearing down but he was still going to hit the train. He jammed it into reverse. He got stopped but, of course, ruined the transmission.
In that same car we were driving on 60 Hwy north of Bigelow one night after a rain. Three couples jammed in the car this time. The road was mostly red clay and of course it was slick. The car suddenly turned crossways of the road. Hoover accelerated, jumped the ditch, hit the brake and spun the steering wheel, reversed direction, jumped the ditch again and got the car straight with the road again. He did that as if he did things like that everyday. My girlfriend very quietly said, "I think I want to go home." I'm sure if all those girls felt like I did everyone of them needed to go home for some dry underwear.
During the time that Hoover and I were 'pal-ing around with each other I never saw him take a drink. He was as ornery as all getout otherwise. He had a very short fuse. One night a guy who had had a couple of drinks too many yelled at Hoover about something. Hoover yelled back and I doggone near got a whipping. I was on the same side of the car as the drunk was.” - Cleo Huggins, January 5, 2007

"Pearl, Lawrence and 'Tootsie' died living in the crook of the road in the Antioch Community of Perry County." - Cleo Huggins