Mrs. Dellinger said "He was a gentle man, with a great capacity for love and understanding and I can speak of this with conviction because I had the happy privilege of living in his home. We were living in Little Rock when my father died and my grandfather asked us to make our home with him. We did it gladly. My mother joined the faculty of Galloway Women’s College after we came back to Searcy.
Two of Mrs. Dellinger’s prized heirlooms are a gavel which was presented to her grandfather when he was appointed Commissioner for Arkansas at the World’s Fair in New Orleans in 1886; and a photograph of his close friend, Albert Pike, sent to him after their days of service together in the Confederate Army.
McRae was born in Baldwin County, Alabama, on October 10, 1829, and was the oldest of 11 children born to D.R.W. and Margaret Bracy McRae. The older McRae was a native of Mississippi and his wife of South Carolina. They were married in Alabama in 1828 and owned a large plantation, but McRae was a lawyer by profession. He died in March 1849 and Mrs. McRae moved to White County, Arkansas, the same year and settled in Little Red River Township. In 1859 she moved to Pulaski County and lived near Little Rock until 1861. She died at the home of her son, Dandridge, in Searcy, in 1867.
Dandridge McRae had been educated at home by a private tutor and was later graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1849. He had been trained in plantation management early in life and assisted his mother with her land in White County. He moved to Searcy in 1853 and began reading law. In 1854 he was admitted to the bar and began a practice which lasted for a number of years.
"I remember that Stephen Brundidge read law with my grandfather," Mrs. Dellinger said. "He was a Congressman from Searcy for 16 years. Mr. Joe House and John T. Hicks read law with him, too. He was interested in helping young men who were ambitious and eager to learn."
McRae was elected county and circuit clerk of White County in 1856 and served in this office for six years. In 1861 he was engaged in organizing troops for the state and was sent by the military board to muster Gen. N.P. Pierce, Brigadier of state troops during the time that the Missourians were driven out of the state by Federal Generals Lyon and Seigel.
Gen. Ben McCulloch, in command of the Arkansas and Indian Territory, issued a proclamation for the people of Arkansas to go to the border and repel the invaders. Many companies reported to McRae and at the request of the general he took command and moved into Missouri toward Springfield to make a diversion while McCulloch moved to Carthage to relieve General Parsons of the Missouri State Guards.
Upon is return to Arkansas, McRae organized a regiment under the direction of McCulloch and was made Colonel. This regiment is known as the 21st Arkansas. He served with it until 1862 and was with Gen. McCulloch at Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge and Corinth.
He returned to Arkansas in 1862 and raised another regiment by June. He was assigned by Gen. Thomas Hindman to the command of a brigade. In December of the same year he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and served in that capacity until the end of the war.
McRae was in the Battle of Helena and captured the only fort taken. He also was in the battles of Prairie Grove and Jenkins’ Ferry. In April 1864 he fought a skirmish against Federal troops at the Battle of Fitzhugh’s Woods near Augusta. This is reported to be the only real action in Woodruff County. Augusta was at that time a community of 600 persons. Most of them fled and a number of homes were torn down by Union forces to use the wood for their camps. There were a number of Union sympathizers in this area and McRae, having hunted in this section before the war, took the precaution to place his pickets personally. His camp was particularly vulnerable from the direction of Peach Orchard Bluff and prior to his thrust against a Federal garrison at Jacksonport in late March of 1864 his pickets arrested a spy in this area who was a man he had known all his life. It is characteristic of McRae that although he held the man in custoday he did not reveal publicly his identity.
He returned to Searcy in 1865 and resumed his practice of law until 1881. He then served as Deputy Secretary of State for four years. He was acting Commissioner for Arkansas at the World’s Fair in New Orleans in 1885 and Commissioner in 1886. He was Vice President of the Bureau of Emigration for Arkansas in 1887. On December 26, 1888, he was appointed as expert for gathering information by the U.S. Treasury Department. He was active in Masonic work.
His wife was the former Miss Angie Lewis of Mississippi. They were married January 10, 1855. Mrs. Dellinger said, "Most records state that my grandparents had two children, my mother who was Annie Neeley, and Aunt Minnie, who married J.F. Rives. They also had two sons who died when they were very oung." She continued, "The first house they lived in is the one where Mr. and Mrs. R.G. Deener live now in Searcy. When my grandfather lived there he owned most of the block and it was in trees then. He had fruit trees growing where Mrs. Hicks Deener lives now and the back part of where Stephen Brundidge lived was in trees also. My grandfather wanted more space because the town was building up so he sold this place and moved to one on East Moore Avenue but it was called McRae’s Alley then. His land ran all the way back to Deener Creek. There was a spring on his yard. He kept a bucket with a gourd in it at all times so people passing could get a drink of water.
They had two colored men who helped them. One was Albert Lewis and the other was Talbot McRae. While my grandfather was away with the army they looked after my grandmother and her family. Once when a raiding party was near my grandmother had Talbot to hide the silver-mounted harness that belonged to my grandfather under the floor in the well house. She knew that the raiding party would take it and my grandfather was very proud of it. But Talbot was frightened and when the raiding party arrived he showed them where the harness was.
They took the harness and everything else they could carry with them, including Albert Lewis and Talbot McRae. When night came they camped near Gum Springs and sent Albert with an axe to cut firewood. About this time my grandmother was wondering how she was going to cut her firewood. She looked up and there was Albert. He had laid down his axe and had come home. He said, "Miss Angie, did you think I was going to leave you in a fix like this?"
Talbot did not return and it was a while before we heard anything from him. But when my grandfather was on his death bed Talbot found out about it some way and came home.
When Searcy was laid out as a town, I.M. Moore was the surveyor and my grandfather was the legal advisor. He was on the Board of the Searcy Female and Male Academy and he selected the name of Galloway College. He sat on the stage the day Stephen Brundidge made the opening speech for the college.
"After we came to live with him he petitioned the town to incorporate his land so I could be eligible to go to public school," said Mrs. Dellinger.
"There was some confusion about the town of McRae, which was named for him. For a while people seemed to think that it was named for Thomas McRae, who was governor of Arkansas. What happened was that my grandfather, while he was a representative from White County, got a bill through the legislature requiring the old St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway, now the Missouri Pacific, to establish a station near the site of McRae. The farmers living between Bull Bayou and Cane Creek had a lot of trouble getting across these streams to the station at Garner two or three miles to the north, and to Beebe about four miles south, but the railroad objected because it would put the sation too close to the other two. Finally it was proposed that a station be built on Paxton Hill, about a half mile to the north. Meanwhile a man named James Polk Smith owned a large tract of woodland running about a mile from the present location of McRae. He did some farming but he mostly cut and sold cordwood so the railroad company had built a spur to help him get his wood out. A retired steamboat captain, George Goodrich, owned a big spread of land next to Smith. These two men were really the founders of the town.
When my grandfather’s bill was passed and the railroad company was forced to build a station everyone thought it would be built on the hill named Paxton. When the construction train got there they made a mistake and unloaded right across from the Smith land. Captain Goodrich did not want the town named for him and since the nam Smith had been used so much, it was decided to name it McRae.
When the family home was destroyed by fire many books and records were lost.
General McRae died in 1889 and is buried in Searcy.
For additional information on Gen. Dandridge McRae, see the Heritage Index or contact the White County Historical Society, P.O. Box 537, Searcy, AR 72145