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HON. SAMUEL LESLIE. Among the representative and venerable citizens of Searcy County, Arkansas, and one who is a splendid type of the enterprise, industry and self-reliance of the early Arkansas pioneer, it is a pleasure to introduce to the readers of this volume the subject of this sketch. Considerably more than half a century ago he braved the dangers, trials and privations of pioneer life in order to establish a home and competency for his growing family, and where now are waving fields of grain then stood the mighty monarch of the forest. He was born in Barren County, Kentucky, October 25, 1809.
Samuel Leslie is a son of John and Jane (McElwee) Leslie, the latter having been born in South Carolina. It is thought that Mr. Leslie was born while his parents were en route from Pennsylvania to the South, and he and his wife were married in York District, S. C., from which place they removed in 1807 to Kentucky, and when their son Samuel was about two years of age to Tennessee. Here the mother died when he was about eight years of age, but the father survived until 1840, his death occurring in Carroll County. Mr. Leslie was a farmer and mechanic, having served three years at wagon making and seven years as a weaver, and through unflagging efforts lie became possessed of a competency. He was of Irish origin. William McElwee, the maternal grandfather, was of Scotch-Irish origin, was a tiller of the soil by occupation and died in South Carolina.
The subject of this sketch was one of five sons and five daughters: George, who died in Carroll County, Tennessee; William, who died in Cole County, Missouri; John, who died in Humphreys County, Tennessee; Samuel, the subject of this sketch; Andrew J., who died in San Antonio, Tex.; Mary M., who died in Carroll County, Tennessee, the wife of Andrew Simpson; Elizabeth, who died in Searcy County, Arkansas, the wife of Samuel McKeag; Margaret, who died in Cole County, Missouri, the wife of David Van Pool; Jane, who died in Humphreys County, Tennessee, the wife of Zeddock Duncan, and Grace who died in Carroll County, Tennessee, the wife of Joseph Murphy. The educational advantages which Samuel Murphy received were of a limited description, and were confined to the public schools of his day which were neither very good nor very numerous, but he became thoroughly familiar with all things connected with farming. In 1831 he was married to Ruth, the daughter of Edward and Dicey Harris, who removed from North Carolina to Tennessee, the father dying in Carroll County, and the mother in Johnson County, Arkansas Mrs. Leslie was born in North Carolina and died in 1859, having become the mother of ten children: Dicey Jane, the deceased wife of John Boyd; Andrew J., of Searcy County; Dr. John W., a prominent physician of Searcy County, and a member of the State Legislature of the session of 1889; Archibald Y., who was a soldier of the Confederate Army, and was killed in Searcy County; Samuel, who died in Benton County; Mary, the deceased wife of Samuel Redwine; Magaret, the deceased wife of James W. Stephenson; Ruth, widow of Henry Butler, makes her home with her father; Blanche, wife of John Mathis, and Nancy who is unmarried.
In 1838 Mr. Leslie came with his family from Henderson County, Tennessee, to Arkansas, and located at the mouth of Wiley’s Cove, where he was engaged in tilling the soil for four years, at the end of which time he located on his present farm, on which a very small amount of improvement had been made, and on a portion of which the town of Leslie now stands. Here he has made his home for over half a century, and is still the owner of a fine farm of 160 acres. He is one of the oldest residents of Searcy County, for there were but eight or ten families in the Cove when he arrived here, and none of these had been here longer than two years. Searcy County was then a part of Marion County, and Clinton was the nearest post office, mill and trading point. They experienced all the hardships of pioneer life, and were frequently compelled to resort to the mortar and pestle to obtain corn meal for their home consumption. The post office of Wiley’s Cove was afterward changed to the name of Leslie, in honor of one of the sons of Mr. Leslie, and Mr. Leslie served as its postmaster until the opening of the Civil War, and is at the present time again holding that position. At various times he bore the titles of lieutenant, captain, major and colonel of militia in Tennessee, and after he came to Arkansas he became captain of Company F, of Col. Matlock’s regiment of Arkansas Infantry, and was a faithful soldier of the Confederate cause for about two years, being stationed at Little Rock until the fall of that city, and then at Arkadelphia until he was taken sick and compelled to retire from the service.
He has perhaps represented Searcy County in the State Legislature more times than any other one man, being elected to that body in 1840, 1846, 1848, 1850 and 1854, but has held no elective civil office since that time. He made an intelligent and able legislator, was a credit to himself and an honor to his constituents, and no man in the county has more friends or fewer enemies than he. The citizens of the county have the utmost faith in his integrity, and their confidence has never been misplaced. For many years he figured quite prominently in local and State politics, but has left that work to younger and more active men. He cast his first presidential vote for Gen. Jackson in 1828, although not quite twenty-one years old; has voted at every presidential election since that time, save during the war and when he was disfranchised for a few years after that time. He has been an earnest member of the Methodist Church for many years.