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The Sieber Family of
Hunter, Woodruff County, Arkansas

by Gary Telford

Part 1

Johannes Karl Sieber was born October 20, 1752 in Ruppurr, Baden, Germany and married Regina Magdalena Kiefer about 1775. Regina was born April 10, 1757 In Ruppurr, Baden, Germany and died March 3, 1804. Johannes died April 27, 1819. Both died in Ruppurr, Baden, Germany. They were the parents of Karl Friedrich Sieber who was born September 1779 in Ruppurr, Baden, Germany and married May 22, 1810 Katharina Margaretha Kiefer who was born 1790 in Ruppurr, Baden, Germany and died before 1817. Karl then married, February 9, 1817, Jakobine Speck who was born 1783 and died January 13, 1851.

They were the parents of three children all born in Ruppurr, Baden, Germany; (1) Jakob Friedrich Sieber, born September 17, 1818 and married Christina Schochle on January 16, 1849; (2) Johann (John) Sieber, born March 25, 1825 and married Minna Helena Schelly on March 12, 1857 in Memphis, Tennessee; (3) Kristina (Christian) H. Sieber, born August 30, 1827 and died June 26, 1882 in Boston, Mass.

Members of the migrating Sieber family of Germany reached America near the middle of the previous century -- to make their future home in this more sparsely settled land. As did many other Europeans -- these Old World citizens felt the urge to spread their wings in new and challenging surroundings.

One member of the family, (III) Kristian (Christian) Sieber, born August 30, 1827, upon disembarking from the ship, chose to remain in the east. Having settled in Boston, he married there in the 1860's. One brother, (1) Jakob K. Sieber, born September 17, 1818, in Ruppurr, Baden, Germany, refused to leave his native land. He had married in Germany, and is known to have fathered one son and four daughters. Jakob was extremely opposed to his brothers' move to America.

The branch of Siebers (SEE-BER) eventually locating in and near Hunter owe their lineal descent to (II) Johann (John) Sieber, who first settled in Memphis, Tennessee. John had paid his patriotic obligation to his native country by serving six years in the German army before 1846. John served an adoptive obligation to this country by seeing service in the Civil War of America. He enlisted March 12, 1862 in Memphis, Tennessee and served with the 3rd. Battalion, Co. G, Tennessee Infantry, CSA. He was dismissed from service June 12, 1863.

(II) John (Johann) Sieber married, March 12, 1857, a German girl, Minna Helena Schelly of Memphis, Shelby Co., TN. Helena was born August 7, 1838 in Urloffen, Offenburg, Baden, Germany. She was traveling with a sister, Franciska Schelly. Helena Schelly was 16 years of age when she arrived in the Port of New Orleans in April of 1854 aboard the ship "Chimborazo." The Sieber family numbers increased through the birth of six children while living in Memphis. Three more children were born to this couple after their move to Arkansas. Each child was given a German name which was later Americanized.

Arriving in Arkansas, the John Sieber family located near the spot where Fargo now stands in north Monroe County, between Brinkley and Hunter. They settled on Caney Creek, a stream also bounding the west side of Hunter. The latter town, however, was little more than a wilderness at the time. John and Minna Sieber were the parents of nine children;

(1) Carolina (Karolina) Sieber, born February 14, 1858, in Memphis, TN, first-born of John and Helena's children, had become a young lady, employed in Brinkley. There she met and married Joe V. Vanneta, December 23, 1900, of Italian heritage, who had arrived from Indiana to also accept employment in Brinkley. Joe V. Vanetta was born May 5, 1862 and died before 1910. Carolina died January 28, 1925 in Brinkley, Monroe Co., AR and is buried in the Hunter Cemetery, Woodruff Co., AR.

(2) Frances (Friensie) Sieber, born August 21, 1859 in Memphis, TN, usually referred to as "Fannie", married Franklin Charles Patrick on December 10, 1893 in Woodruff Co., AR. Franklin was born February 22, 1862 in Tennessee and had come to Arkansas and was farming east of Hunter. Their five children, all born at Hunter, Woodruff Co., AR, were; (2-1) James E. "Jim" Patrick, born December 12, 1880 and married Pearl. He died in March 1965 in Woodruff Co., AR; (2-2) Charles Albert Patrick, born February 17, 1895 and died March 21, 1919; (2-3) Margaret " Maggie" Elizabeth Patrick, born May 20, 1897 and died February 20, 1980; (2-4) Willie Wenton Patrick, born June 27, 1900 and died October 14, 1977 in Woodruff Co., AR. All of the children are buried in the Hunter Cemetery.

(3) Louise (Louisa) Sieber, born October 28, 1861 in Memphis, TN and died April 1, 1863 Louise drowned when about sixteen months old.

(4) Helena, called "Lena" Sieber, born March 8, 1864 in Memphis, TN, married first, Horace Coates and later married Carl Frederick Franke, July 11, 1891 and lived in Fort Worth, Texas. Their only child was an adopted daughter, Mamie. Carl died July 11,1891 and Helena died May 7, 1924. Both died in Forth Worth, Tarrant Co., TX. Helena is buried in the Hunter Cemetery, Woodruff Co., AR.

(5) William "Willie" (Mickle Helmd) Sieber, born October 1, 1867 in Memphis, TN, never married. For several years, Willie ran a hotel in the early Hunter settlement until his death January 18, 1905 in Hunter, AR. He is buried in the Hunter Cemetery. John Jr. lived with Willie for some time. Among others living at this hotel in 1900 were a family friend, Bill Stewmon, his wife and baby. Having been close friends in Memphis, the Stewmons had come to Arkansas with the Siebers. Incidentally, Bill Stewmon, in 1930, became chief of police in Helena, Arkansas.

(6) Charles (Carl) Sieber, born February 22, 1871 in Memphis, TN, better known as "Charlie", married Mary Margaret "Maggie" Stewmon. She was born July 17, 1881 in Memphis, TN. Their farm joined the land belonging to Frank and Frances Patrick, east of Hunter. Young Frank and Charlie Sieber lived with the Patricks for some time before they married. Charles (Carl) Sieber died January 26, 1948 in Cotton Plant, Woodruff Co., AR. Mary Margaret "Maggie" Sieber died January 1932. Both are buried in the Hunter Cemetery, Woodruff Co., AR.

Charlie and his wife, while living in Tennessee, became the parents of four children; (6-1) Rufus Foster Sieber, born March 16, 1904 and married Mabel Acton. He died December 1944 and is buried in Hunter Cemetery; (6-2) Harvel Thadus Sieber, born November 12, 1907 and died December 27, 1979 at Hunter and is buried in Hunter Cemetery, (6-3) Dessie Mae Sieber, born December 17, 1909 married and died October 2, 1989 in Dewitt, AR. Dessie Mae was in the dry goods store business for several years in Dewitt, AR. She is buried in the Dewitt Cemetery; (6-4) Albert Sieber, born August 19, 1914 and died October 18, 1985 in Dewitt, AR and is buried in the Dewitt Cemetery.. Rufus Foster Sieber and his wife, the late Mabel Acton Sieber were the parents of Maxine Sieber Nicholson.

(7) Mary Elizabeth Sieber, born December 3, 1873 in Priscilla, Monroe Co., AR married James Francis Freeman on December 11, 1898. He was born March 22, 1875 in Wheatley, St. Francis Co., AR. Mary died June 3, 1947 in Hunter, AR and James died January 11, 1964 in Brinkley, Monroe Co., AR. Both are buried in the Hunter Cemetery, Woodruff Co., AR. They had two sons; (7-1) James Lester Freeman, born August 13, 1902 in Hunter, AR and died February 12, 1978 in Brinkley, AR. He is buried in Hunter Cemetery, Woodruff Co., AR; (7-2) Otis Franklin Freeman, born June 6, 1907 in Hunter, AR and died January 24, 1977 in Hunter, AR. James worked for the railroad and is buried in the Hunter Cemetery.

(8) John B. Sieber, born December 23, 1876 in Hunter, AR, married April 2, 1925 in Woodruff Co., AR, Helen Atolla Crowe Heddon. She was born September 19, 1888 in Kentucky. They farmed near Hunter. They had two children; (8-1) Bertha Sieber and (8-2) John Benjamin "J. B." Sieber, born October 29, 1927 in Hunter and died April 8, 1980 in Woodruff Co., AR and is buried in Whitehall Cemetery, Woodruff Co., AR. Atolla's two children by a first marriage were also a part of this household. John B. Sieber died January 23, 1941 at Hunter and is buried in the Hunter Cemetery. Helen Atolla Sieber died October 16, 1953 and is buried in Whitehall Cemetery, Woodruff Co., AR.

(9) Frienk (Frank) Sieber, born 1881 at Hunter, married Mattie Bracher Freeman, sister of Frank Freeman. Mattie was born January 26, 1884 in Wheatley, Monroe Co., AR and died July 14, 1969. Frank died July 10, 1955 in Hunter, AR. No children were born to this couple. Frank, a blacksmith by trade, located his home and shop just west of the center of the town. He specialized in the manufacture of wagon wheels, as well as doing repair work on machinery and various other items. Both Frank and Mattie are buried in the Hunter Cemetery.

The Sieber family history will continue next week with the life and times of the family in Woodruff County, the coming of the railroad to Hunter, and other interesting stories.

The Sieber Family History of Hunter, Woodruff Co., AR

Part 2

To complete the story of John and Helena Sieber, requires a return to the place they first settled in Arkansas -- on Caney Creek, near Fargo. Evidently, they were tiring of this location -- perhaps too many neighbors were moving into the areas for a family enjoying its privacy.

Pulling up stakes, this original family of the Arkansas branch of Siebers traveled westward until reaching Bayou DeView. In that early day it was a wise choice to locate near natural sources of water, such as Caney Creek or the continuous chain of lakes composing the Bayou. Heading north and following this latter stream, they eventually reached one of its lakes which particularly appealed to their idea of a home. This lake lies about five miles west of what is now Hunter. Here they lived for the remainder of their lives.

As a result of this settlement by John and Helena, this particular body of water came to be known as "Sieber Lake". Just how long they lived there is not known, but both John and Helena died at this frontier location. Death for Helena came January 26, 1887, and four and one half years later, death overtook John on October 7, 1891.

Both John and Helena, and some in-laws, are buried in the family lot located in the older section of Hunter Cemetery. This cemetery, lying a short distance west of Hunter, is on a rise of ground in sight of Caney Creek. John and Helena would rest again near the rambling waters of the stream a few miles north of their original home in Arkansas. This older section of Hunter Cemetery is currently receiving renewed attention. Headstones have been ordered and will be set in place by family members at some of these first graves, as soon as opportunity arises.

While John and Helena Sieber were still living at Sieber Lake, however, George D. Fisher, president of Southwestern Improvement Association, came into the region where Hunter now stands, to map out towns sites along the route intended for a proposed railroad. The main settlement was situated three miles east of present-date Hunter, along the Old Military Road. The Hunter area was then little more than "Swamp Land", according to records used by land speculators.

This line must necessarily miss the settlement to the east, consequently, future moves by homesteaders leaned toward the locality favored by promoters of the new-fangled rail line dangling in their futuristic vision. Eventually, in the year 1883, the line came to be known as the Cotton Belt Railroad was laid to the site of Hunter. This remained the southern end of the railroad for some time.

Charlie Sieber found a great delight in telling and re-telling the story relating to the arrival of the first train to reach Hunter, on wooden rails. When word got around that the passenger train out of St. Louis would arrive on a certain day, scattered settlers for miles around, and their families, loaded up their wagons and other available conveyances with the necessities for the trip and made their appearence on the scene. Awaiting the exciting moment, they were not, however, exactly expecting the particular type of thrills that would await them.

That day, and for some time to come, there could be no exact time schedule for the train's arrival. The day of arrival was set, rather than the hour. The assembly of onlookers, and all their paraphernalia, including pallets, quilts, and food supplies adequate for the "wait-out" occupied their time by visiting and becoming acquainted. This backwoods settlement, and its environs were seeing history in the making on that memorable day -- and seemingly nothing could mar the element of thrill and expectancy in the atmosphere.

Finally, the first train to invade the forested area was sighted, chugging down the wooden tracks in all its early-day glory. The iron monster nearing the site of the last rail, turned on its whistle full blast, while chugging with all that noisome fury capable from the discordant contraption. The result? The outrageous harshness, along with the cries, whistles and shouts from the eager crowd produced panic. Animals hitched to wagons and buggies tied to saplings, broke loose and headed for the thickets.

During the ensuing me-lee, while people were yelling and running for cover, others were scrambling to just get out of the way of the crazed animals. Owners chased down their horses, bringing back damaged vehicles and snorting steeds.

What a sight met the eyes of passengers and crews as they rolled to a stop with primitive glory amidst the confusion! Wild game hunters from St. Louis, having been told of a hunting paradise in the region, disembarked from this first train in the area, with all their guns and hunting equipment, only to find people upset and frightened, men scampering after horses, and scattered items being retrieved. They faced pandemonium!

Charlie Sieber, long afterward, remembering the incident, would laugh heartily as he told and re-told the story to later generations, "Well, it wasn't funny then," he would remark, "with horses running away and wagons torn up." Sieber declared however, that even so, it was quite a notable and exciting day in the vicinity of this primitive settlement when the surrounding population was introduced to a more modern mode of travel and shipping.

From that notable day, the scattered population and environs began to grow and demanded specific recognition. Overly large Jackson County had released most of the region now recognized as Woodruff County, of which Hunter, in Caney Township, became a part of its southeastern corner.

"Inasmuch as the territory composing this (Woodruff) County was nearly all taken from Jackson, it is proper here to mention the formation of that (Jackson) County . . ." comments Goodspeed Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Eastern Arkansas. This volume was reproduced from the 1890 edition in the O.C. Bailey Library, Hendrix College, Conway, Arkansas.

The dense, primitive forests soon drew the attention of industry. Sawmills located at Hunter and land was being cleared of its virgin timber. The rich, cut-over land was turned into farms furnishing food and a livelihood for many families. Products found a ready market through shipping by rail to northern markets.

The railroad was extending according to original plans to Pine Bluff, and the original wooden rails were replaced with steel rails. Passenger trains out of St. Louis set schedules, stopping at Hunter Depot about 9 a.m., on their run to Pine Bluff. On the daily return to St. Louis, the trains stopped at Hunter about 7 p.m., providing mail deliveries daily from each direction. Sportsmen from the North continued for some time to come into this area, fill their hunting bags with game, then return north that night to feast for several days on their wild harvest.

During its early years, these added advantages contributed greatly toward growth, and prosperity of the town. It was about this time that Willie (Mickle Helmd) Patrick, grandson of John Sieber, opened a hotel and ran it until his death five years after the turn of the century.

The emigrant Sieber family was among the first families of this area, helping to settle this largely unsettled area that became Hunter. The family and its offspring lived here through the remote region's early history-making years, thereby becoming a part of its past. It is recorded that at one time this town had increased to more than 500 adult citizens. Many others lived in the surrounding areas. At one time, this thriving mid-Arkansas area, which had welcomed members of the Sieber and other families, seemed destined for continuous growth. But alas, its promising fortunes faded with the disappearance of its timber resources. The mills, including the big band-mill at the north end of town, faded away for lack of timber. The forested areas had gradually become exclusively farm land in the late 1920's.

Nonetheless, the Siebers and some of their remaining families, helped settle the once unsettled district, lived here during its history making years and became a part of that history.

Today some members of this family have migrated once more to other promising areas and to distant states. But Hunter remains home base for descendants of the Sieber family.

***Taken from Rivers & Roads and Points in Between Fall 1984