In reviewing the various professional interests of Newton County, Arkansas, the name of M. T. Brisco cannot be ignored, for he is one of her most successful legal lights. Although it is a known fact that, given the ordinary average education and good judgment, any man may make a success in the avenues of trade, yet in the profession of law he must be endowed with superior intelligence and have gone through years of careful study and training to be able to cope with the brilliant minds which do honor to the bench and bar.
Mr. Brisco is a gentleman of well-known ability, and one who is an ornament to the profession. He owes his nativity to Searcy County, Arkansas, where he was born January 1, 1846, a son of Isham and Rebecca (Parker) Brisco, who were born in North Carolina in 1816 and Tennessee in 1823, respectively. The father was a lad of about twelve years when he became a resident of Washington County, Arkansas, coming thither with some of his elder brothers, and, as wild game was very plentiful in the region at that time, he and his brothers became quite noted hunters. He was a thoroughly self-educated man, was a successful school teacher, and was an exceptionally skillful penman, but the most of his life was devoted to tilling the soil, in which occupation he met with a good degree of success. In 1836 he took a trip to Texas, traveling over that country on horseback, but owing to the unsettled condition of the country he did not locate there, but returned to Arkansas, and for the past forty-two years he made his home in Newton County, with the exception of a short time spent in Benton County, Missouri, during the war. Prior to the great Civil War he was a Democrat in politics, but since that time he has supported the men and measures of the Republican party. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and, although now seventy-eight years of age, is in the enjoyment of good health. His wife was left an orphan when about twelve years old, and was brought to Arkansas by an uncle, and was here reared, educated and married, and for some time thereafter resided on a farm in Searcy County. After a time they purchased property four miles north of Jasper, where they lived a number of years. Mrs. Brisco was almost a lifelong member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and bore her husband the following children: Martin T., the subject of this sketch; William N., a successful merchant of Marble City, Arkansas; John M., who is a farmer in the northern part of the county; E. A., also a farmer in this county; Sarah, who is living near Harrison, in Boone County, the wife of Joseph Hawkins; Martha J., wife of W. M. Keeton, and Susan, who is the wife of Luther Keeton of this county. Angeline, Mary and an infant are deceased.
The immediate subject of this sketch spent his early life in this county about four miles north of Jasper, and his early knowledge of the world of books was acquired in the subscription schools which were then in vogue: When the war came on he was but fifteen years of age, but he became a soldier in the spring of 1864, joining Company L of the Second Arkansas Cavalry, with which he served until the war closed, being a participant in Price’s raid and in a large number of battles in Tennessee and Mississippi. He was quite severely wounded in the left hip at Booneville, Missouri, but he continued to remain with his command until he had recovered. On September 13, 1865, while returning home from the army, and when within four miles of his home, he was halted by two rebels who had covered him with their guns. He was walking and leading his horse, as the ground was rough, and did not see them until within a few feet of them. They ordered him to drop his pistol, which he did by unbuckling his belt. They then took what money he had, together with some clothing he was taking home to his family, and made him sit down by a tree, when they pulled off his boots. He was then ordered to mount his horse and follow one of the men. The man led the way down a steep bank into a ravine, keeping Mr. Brisco covered with his own revolver. Entering some thick woods together a halt was ordered, and the man who carried the prisoner’s revolver raised it to fire at Mr. Brisco, who thought his time had come. He threw up his hands and asked the man to wait a moment, as he had something to say. The man caught the hammer of the pistol and replied: “Well, be d—d quick about it. ” I want you to know,” continued Mr. Brisco, “that I had rather be in my place than yours.” The man asked the reason why, and was told that he was about to commit a cowardly crime in murdering a defenseless boy in the woods like a dog, and would have to answer for the deed. Continuing, he said: “I am not afraid to die, as I know I will find a place with my God, and all will be well with me.” This remark seemed to unnerve the would-be assassin, and he turned pale for a moment, when he called to his companion who had halted some distance away. The two held a whispered conversation, and then, after robbing their prisoner of everything of value he had, hurried away and left him alone in the woods. Mr. Brisco reached the old homestead in the evening, thankful that even his life was spared.
He continued to make his home with his father, whom he assisted in the work of the farm until September 8, 1867, when he was married to Mrs. America C. Wrigt, a native of Tennessee, and a daughter of William and Frances (Cheshire) Cross, the former of whom died in Tennessee. Some years ago the widow and her family removed to Lonoke County, Arkansas, and later settled in Newton County, the mother’s death occurring here in 1887. Mrs. Brisco was born in Tennessee December 15, 1845, and after her marriage she and Mr. Brisco engaged in farming, an occupation which received their attention up to 1890, when they took up their residence in Jasper. In 1879. Mr. Brisco commenced the study of law by his own fireside, and in August, 1882, was admitted to the Newton County bar, and has since practiced in all the counties in his district. Although he has practiced his profession but a short time, he has already become well known as an able criminal attorney, and he has conducted some of the most important cases in the State to a successful issue. He defended William Keith, charged with the murder of John Clark; the Smiths, charged with the murder of Thomas Nichols; and a Mr. Brasfield, in Baxter County, charged with a like offense. He prosecuted James Tennesseeison in this county for the murder of one Cross, also J. E. and Wesley Waite for the murder of Mr. Henderson, and has taken an active part in numerous other important cases. He was first associated in his practice with W. S. Moore, and was later with W. A. Carlton, of Jasper. He is now associated with W. L. McPherson, the firm being known as Brisco & McPherson. In politics Mr. Brisco has always been an active Republican, and in 1882 was elected to represent the county in the State Legislature, was reflected in 1886, and again in 1888, his popularity, intelligence and ability thus being warmly attested.
In 1890 he was nominated by his party as a candidate for the State Senate from his district, but was defeated by 500 votes, the Democratic majority in his district being usually 15,000. In 1892 he was nominated as a Congressman from his district, but refused to make the race. He is a member of the F. & A. M. and R. A. M. of Jasper, is a member of the G. A. R. at that place, Isaac Murphy Post, and was for some time its commander. He and his wife are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in which he is steward and trustee, and he has been class leader in the same for some years. He and his wife are the parents of the following children: James I. resides on the old home farm, is married to Tennesseeie Pillow and has two children, Ethel and Bessie; Frances E. is the wife of Thomas A. Chaffin, a farmer of the county, and has three children, John M. (deceased), Ida B. and James G. B.; Mary J. is the wife of W. L. McPherson, an attorney of Jasper, by whom she has one son, Roscoe C.; John M. and William S. still remain with their father.