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Biography of Dr. John S. Stephenson

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DR. JOHN S. STEPHENSON. The value to any community of a professional man is not marked merely by his learning and skill, his proficiency in medical and surgical practice, but also by his character, both private and professional, his honorable adherence to medical ethics, and his personal integrity and benevolence of purpose. When a physician combines these characteristics it is with pleasure that we record his life-work, and such a man do we find in Dr. John S. Stephenson. He owes his nativity to Polk County, Tennessee, where he was born in 1839.

His parents were Dr. Andrew R. and Anna (Watson) Stephenson, born in North Carolina in 1797, and South Carolina in 1799 respectively. They were early settlers of East Tennessee, and in January, 1852, landed in Searcy County, Arkansas, the journey thither being made with ox teams and horse teams, occupying nearly four months. They were among the pioneers of Wiley’s Cove, and there improved a good farm, and spent the rest of their lives, the father’s death occurring in January, 1864, and the mother’s in 1868. They were members of the Missionary Baptist Church for many years, and the father was long a very successful practicing physician of his section of the county. He was a stanch Union man during the great Civil War, but took no active part in the struggle. His father, Joseph Stephenson, was born in Ireland, but came to this country about the time of the Revolutionary War, and located first in North Carolina and then in Monroe County, Tennessee, where he followed farming and teaching; he died in 1853, when quite advanced in years. His wife’s death occurred in Monroe County, Tennessee, several years before his own; both were earnest members of the Baptist Church at the time of their death. Dr. John S. Stephenson was the youngest child born to his parents, the other members being: Joseph, who was not a soldier in the Federal Army, was killed by bushwhackers in Searcy County, during the war; William, who died in 1893, in California; James Wilson, who was a soldier in the Third Arkansas Cavalry, United States Army, for eighteen months during the war, is now a successful farmer of Wiley’s Cove; Alex. Clark was also a soldier in the Third Arkansas Cavalry, and died in Searcy County in 1884; and Mary, widow of Berry Matthis, resides on the old home farm at Wiley’s Cove.

From the time he was thirteen years old until he reached manhood, Dr. John S. Stephenson spent his time on a farm, and as the schools of that day were very poor the most of his literary education was obtained at home, under the instruction of his mother. Soon after he had learned to read, he began the perusal of such medical books as he could obtain in his father’s library, and under the latter’s able instruction. His first practice was done in the army in Company 1, Third Arkansas Cavalry, which he joined in January, 1863, as a private. His command operated mostly on the Arkansas River against the guerrillas, and he served until the war closed, receiving his discharge at Louisburg, Arkansas, January 30, 1865. He acted as duty sergeant for about eighteen months, and during his entire service was neither wounded nor taken prisoner. After the war he practiced at Marshall, Arkansas, until about 1885, then two years at Western Grove, and since that time has been very successfully engaged in the practice of his profession at St. Joe. He is one of the oldest medical practitioners of Searcy County, and was at one time Secretary of the Searcy County Medical Society. From 1865 until 1867 he was county and circuit clerk, and in 1872 was chosen as a fitting man to represent the county in the State Legislature, and while discharging the duties of this responsible position, showed himself to be able, faithful and incorruptible. His conduct in every way pleased his Republican constituents. He was reared a Democrat and voted for Douglas in 1860, but since the war has given his support at all times to the Republican party. Socially he is a member of the A. F. & A. M., St. Joe Lodge No. 317, was worthy master of his lodge for four years, and was its representative to the Grand Lodge in 1890 and 1892.

The Doctor was married July 11, 1858, to Mary, daughter of Benjamin and Jane Potter, who came from Tennessee to Searcy County, Arkansas, in 1850. Mrs. Potter died here during the war, after which Mr. Potter unfortunately became demented, disappeared, and is supposed to be dead. Mrs. Stephenson was born in Perry County, Tennessee, and by the Doctor has become the mother of five children: Alex. C.; Martha, wife of A. J. King; Julius L.; Brunetta and Naomi A. The Doctor and Mrs. Stephenson have long been worthy members of the Christian Church.


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