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Hugh G. Sowle Family History
Augusta's "Mayflower Descendent"

by Gary Telford

Joseph Sowell Although many Americans can find an ancestor's name on the Mayflower passenger list, there are few who can still claim the same family name. A well-remembered Augusta resident in the early years of this century was Hugh G. Sowle, direct descendent of George Soule, whose name was the thirty-fifth on the compact drawn up before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth in December of 1620. Augusta residents remember Hugh G. Sowle as the owner of the H. G. Sowle & Sons Hardware and Lumber Co. in Augusta, AR.

Confirmation of the family history was found in an old trunk which had belonged to the uncle of Jones Montague. Packed away in the truck was a publication of the Crawford County Arkansas Historical Society. "Heritage of Crawford County," Vol. III. It included a list of the Mayflower passengers. In this list the name was given as "George Soule," an old spelling. At various times the name had been spelled as Sole, Solly, Soule, Soulis, and finally Sowle. Information concerning the family was also given in a 1964 Craighead County Historical Society publication in which the writer of the article, Patricia Smith Highland, named two Jonesboro residents as direct descendents. It is said that George had a school on board ship for the children.

Hugh G. Sowle represented the ninth generation of this family to live on American soil. His Mayflower ancestor, George Soule, was born 1597 in England and died January 22, 1680 in Duxbury, Plymouth County, Massachusetts. George Soule was a good friend of Myles Standish, who had accompanied the Pilgrims as their commander, but wasn't a Pilgrim himself in a religious sense. George Soule had married Mary Beckett, sister-in-law of Myles Standish. George Soule was also a good friend of John and Priscilla Alden who were charter members of Plymouth Colony. John Alden was born 1598 in Essex, England and married Priscilla Mullins about 1623 at Plymouth Colony. Their's was the first marriage recorded in Plymouth Colony. Priscilla was born 1602 in Surrey, England and she died in 1685. John Alden died September 12, 1687. George Soule, Myles Standish, John and Priscilla Alden are all buried at the Myles Standish Burial Ground on Chester Street in South Duxbury, Plymouth County, Massachusetts. When George Soule died in 1680, he had survived most of those who had made the historic journey to their new home in this country.

George Soule's son, Nathaniel, born 1637, married Rose Thron, a sister of Standish's first wife. Nathaniel died in 1699 at Dartmouth, Massachusetts. The third generation in the line was represented by Sylvanus, son of Nathaniel, who was born 1684. William, the son of Sylvanus, was born in 1711 and married Keziah Gifford of Swanson, Massachusetts. Joseph, the son of William, was born in Dartmouth in 1740. He and his wife, Charity Tripp, lived in Tiverton, R.I., where he died in August of 1778.

Isaac Soule, son of William Soule, was of the sixth generation and was the first of the family to move westward. He was born at Tiverton, R.I., in 1775. He married Hepzibah Allen, and after a sojourn in Broadalbin, N.Y., moved to Ohio. His son, also named Isaac Soule, was born in New York, October 3, 1810, moved with his family to Ohio, married Victoria, and then went to Ossian, Indiana, where he died in October of 1877. He was a licensed minister of the Methodist Church, and was also a farmer.

It was Joseph Sowle, (note change of spelling), the eighth generation in the line, who established the family in Arkansas. His wife, Nancy Jane Scattergood, was also a native of Ohio, where she was born December 10, 1846. Joseph had a varied career, and many interests. He was a scout in the Civil War, a postmaster, a lumber man, a member of the Methodist Church, and a Freemason.

In 1890 Joseph moved to near Jonesboro, along with seventeen other families from Silver Creek, Michigan, who undoubtedly were attracted by the large timber resources of Arkansas. He petitioned for a post office to be known as "Homer," later changed to Dryden. This post office had an uncertain existence. It was first established in February of 1892, was closed and re-established three times, and was finally discontinued on January 31, 1922. Joseph is listed as postmaster in 1897.

Opal Sowle Hamilton, a granddaughter, writes: "My grandfather bought large tracts of timber land in 1898 and erected a sawmill near Jonesboro. A new town was growing up, and he said the town would be a 'dry-den'; hence the name of Dryden. Knowing the condition that existed in most sawmill towns, he took steps to prevent this community from becoming like so many others. As the timber was cut off, the mill town gradually changed to a farming community."

From Jonesboro, Joseph moved his family to Howell, Woodruff County, in 1902. Here he had a store and sawmill, but a year later, in 1903, he moved again, this time to Augusta where he built another sawmill. About 1909 or 1910 he moved on to California, leaving the mill to his son, Hugh G. Sowle, who changed the name of the business to the H. G. Sowle & Sons Hardware and Lumber Co.

Hugh G. Sowle, the ninth generation of the American family, was born in Silver Creek, Michigan, on November 2, 1875, and married Orcella Gertrude Thather "in the year of our Lord and in the presence of parents and friends" on July 8, 1896. He was a graduate of Woodland Jonesboro College, an artist, a musician, a member of the Knights of Pythias, and a steward to the Methodist Church. He was known as a strong swimmer, and could cross and recross White River without stopping.

His daughter, Opal Gertrude Sowle Hamilton, writes of him: "As long as daddy had the mill he furnished wood for families, both black and white, who were not able to buy it. He furnished food and paid doctor bills for people who came in houseboats and tied up at the mill. Some of them promised to work in the mill, but never did, and left in the night with bills unpaid. But because he loved people, he never lost faith. Shortly after World War I he bought a grocery store, but business was slow and due to bad health and grief of the death of his dearest friend, Dr. B. A. Fletcher, he felt he could not carry on. He lost his home, the store, and the mill in those bad times, and finally moved to Jonesboro, where he died nine days later, January 24, 1920. His wife, Orcella Gertrude Thather Sowle, was born in Greenville, Illinois on February 11, 1875 and died September 10, 1927 in Jonesboro, AR."

Hugh G. Sowle was also in partnership with Dr. Fletcher on two lumber mills at Lonoke, known as "ground-hog", movable mills. The Augusta mill was located on the river, just below where the Legion Hut now stands.

T. G. Clarke, a black man who worked at the mill, remembers its operations and the family well. He described some of the work of the mill. The men would cut limbs from trees, tie them together and put them on the bank of White River, where they were held in place by rocks. These were called "riff-rafts." Hugh's son, Clyde, said that his father once remarked that if "the lumber mills close down, White River will wash out its banks on the east side." Most of the timber used at the mill was oak and gum. The unseasoned red oak was the favorite. Products of the mill could be used for roofs, wagon beds, sleepers on sills, broad axe-handles, wagon wheel spokes, split rail fences, furniture, barrels, and hundreds of other necessities.

Two of the children of Hugh G. and Orcella Gertrude Thather Sowle were; Opal Gertrude who was born at Dryden November 7, 1899. She married George Hamilton in 1923. George Hamilton was born May 13, 1899 and died October 1973. Opal Gertrude Hamilton died April 19, 1988. Both died at Blytheville, Mississippi Co., AR; Clyde was born May 27, 1902 at Howell, AR and died December 12, 1995 in Walnut Ridge, AR.

Their other children were: Lowell H., born at Dryden, who died in 1953. He and his parents are buried in Oakland Cemetery; Ned was born in Augusta, July 30, 1905. He married Mary Ware February 10, 1929, and died in 1978 in Jonesboro, AR; two other of Hugh and Gertrude Sowle's children died in infancy, a daughter, Mabel Orcella born in 1904 and died in 1905, a son who was born and died in 1919. Both of these children are buried in the Augusta Memorial Park Cemetery in Augusta, Woodruff Co., AR.

Published Woodruff County Monitor
Family Roots
December 3, 2003