Tag Archives: Searcy County

Draft Registration of Charles Alexander Watts

On 16 September 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. The act established the first peacetime draft in United States history and required that men between the ages of 21 to 35 register with local draft boards.

Registration in Search County, Arkansas took place one month later, on 16 October 1940. Charles Alexander Watts submitted the following draft card.

Card Recto

Charles Watts Draft Card Recto.

Charles Watts Draft Card Recto.
(Click to view larger image.)

Block 1 recorded his full name: Charles Alexander Watts.

Block 2, his address: Marshall, Searcy County, Arkansas.

Block 4, his age in years, 24, and his birth date, 9 August 1916.

Block 4, his place of birth: Marshall, Arkansas.

Block 7, Name of Person Who Will Always Know Your Address, and Block 8, Relationship: Mrs. Ruby Watts; wife. She was the former Ruby Pauline Jackson, who married Charles in Searcy County on 21 December 1938.

Block 10, Employer’s Name: Fred Jackson. He was Ruby’s father.

Charles apparently provided his own signature to the bottom of the card (rather than have the registrar sign for him).

Charles' signature.

Charles’ signature.

Card Verso

Charles Watts Draft Card Verso.

Charles Watts Draft Card Verso.
(Click to view larger image.)

The Registrar’s Report recorded a basic description of Charles. Race: white. Height: 5’9”. Weight: 160 pounds. Eyes: hazel. Hair: red. Complexion: ruddy.

Mrs. Nancy Belle Mays was the registrar for Bear Creek Township and completed the card on 16 October 1940.

Graham Connection

Charles is connected to the Grahams via his sister Blanche, who married Daniel Graham.


“Arkansas First Draft Registration Cards, 1940-1945,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1951-25003-55547-16?cc=1875142 : accessed 03 Nov 2014), Watson, Pete – Watts, Johnie Lee > image 803 of 1107; National Archives and Records Administration, Southwest Region, Fort Worth, Texas.

Wikipedia contributors, “Selective Training and Service Act of 1940,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Selective_Training_and_Service_Act_of_1940&oldid=626327274 (accessed November 3, 2014).


Rambo School

Here is a collection of photographs of the old Rambo School, located on Searcy County Highway 8, about half a mile southwest of Rambo Cemetery in Arkansas. The school was established circa 1889, according to the faded sign above its door. Many Grahams and Watts attended class here, including my dad! I don’t presently know when the school originally closed. After sitting unused for some time, it was restored in 1997 and rechristened Rambo Community Center. Since then, it appears that the building was used for religious services for a while (indeed, there are references online calling it Rambo Church) before it fell again into disuse and disrepair. These photographs show its state as of Saturday, 4 June 2011.  Photographs © Ashli B. Graham.

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Graham and the Wild Lands

An allusion has been made to the Homestead Law. I think it worthy of consideration, and that the wild lands of the country should be distributed so that every man should have the means and opportunity of benefitting his condition.

Abraham Lincoln, 12 February 1861

This year will mark the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act. The act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on 20 May 1862 and offered settlers a free title to 160 acres of undeveloped land west of the Mississippi River.  Applicants had to be 21 or older, had never taken up arms against the United States, had to live on the land for five years and show evidence of having made improvements. Upon meeting the conditions they would be granted completed ownership via a land patent from the General Land Office. 270 million acres were claimed and settled under the Act, and of that, 8 million acres were in Arkansas.

Jesse Graham settled his family in the “wild lands” of Searcy County, Arkansas sometime in the 1870s.  Circa 1890, Jesse applied for a tract of land located at the “…east half of the South West-quarter, the North West-quarter of the South West-quarter and the South West-quarter of the North West-quarter of Section four in Township thirteen North of Range sixteen West of the Fifth Principal Meridian in Arkansas containing one hundred and sixty acres and sixteen hundredths of an acre…” On 22 May 1895, with Jesse having satisfied the conditions set forth in the act, the General Land Office granted him a land patent. (Homestead Certificate Number 10164, application 13986.)

Jesse’s son John Henry Graham married Matilda Bohannon on 3 October 1889 and soon thereafter applied for his own tract of land under the Act, located next to his father’s tract, at the “…southwest quarter of the southwest quarter of Section four and the east half of the southeast quarter and the southeast quarter of the northeast quarter of Section five in Township thirteen north of Range sixteen west of the Fifth Principal Meridian, Arkansas, containing one hundred sixty and fifty-four hundredths acres…” The General Land Office granted John’s land patent on 17 August 1907. (Homestead Certificate Number 17932, application 29798.)

John’s eldest son, Jessie Cornelius Graham, also benefitted from the Homestead Act. On 11 March 1917, Jessie married Callie Watts, and the couple soon acquired a tract of land located at the “…east half of the southwest quarter and the south half of the northwest quarter of Section eight in Township thirteen north of Range sixteen west of the Fifth Principal Meridian, Arkansas, containing one hundred sixty acres…” The General Land Office granted Jessie’s land patent on 4 October 1921. (Document Number 014226, Patent Number 826903.)

For more information on the Homestead Act, or to look up your own relatives in the General Land Office records, visit the sources below.


Homestead National Monument of America, United States National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/home Retrieved on 18 January 2012.

General Land Office Records, Bureau of Land Management, United States Department of the Interior. http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/default.aspx  Retrieved on 18-19 January 2012.

WikiPedia. “Homestead Act” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homestead_Act. Retrieved on 19 January 2012.

An Account of Searcy County, Arkansas

The following account of Searcy County, Arkansas is quoted from a book with the incredibly long title of  The Province and the States – A History of the Province of Louisiana Under France and Spain, and of the Territories and States of the United States Formed Therefrom, Volume VII, published in 1904.

Searcy county, formerly included in Marion county, came into existence November 5, 1835, and its name was soon changed to Marion county. The present Searcy county was created out of Marion county December 30, 1838. It is bounded, north by Boone and Marion counties, east by Stone, Baxter and Van Buren counties, south by Pope and Van Buren counties, west by Newton county. It was named in honor of Richard Searcy, who came from Tennessee to Lawrence county in 1817 and was prominent in Arkansas affairs as long as he lived.

Searcy county’s population in 1840 was 936; in 1850, 1,979; in 1860, 5,271; in 1870, 5,614; in 1880, 7,278; in 1890, 9,664; in 1900, 11,988. This county is well supplied with public schools and churches. There is also one high school, the Marshall academy, at Marshall, the county seat. Marshall, the largest town in the county, has several churches, high schools, mills, two newspapers, and a diversity of mercantile and mining interests. St. Joe, Leslie, Blanco, Snowball, Witt’s Springs and Tomahawk are other principal points in the county.

William Wood was judge of Searcy county, 1836-38; Joseph Rea, 1838-40; J. Campbell, 1840-42; J. D. Robertson, 1842-44; C. P. Thomas, 1844-48; P. B. Ruff, 1848-50; J. K. Lenna, 1850-52; A. J. Melton, 1852-56; J. S. Wilson, 1856-62; W. H. Jones, 1862-64; J. J. Barnes, 1864-66; Josiah Lane, 1866-72; F. A. Robertson, 1874-76, 1878-80; Jesse Cypert, 1876-78, 1880-84; J. A. McIntire, 1884-86; W. N. Cummings, 1886-90; J. A. Rombo, 1890-92; N. S. Bratton, 1892-94; G. W. Drewery, 1894-98; W. H. Sutterfield, 1898-1902; J. A. Moore, 1902-04.

William Kavanaugh was clerk, 1836-38; William Ruttes, 1838-40; T. H. Boyce, 1840-42; J. M. Hensley, 1842-44; C. J. Bolton, 1844; Alex. Hill, 1844-48, 1852-64; C. A. McCain, 1848-52; J. S. Stevenson, 1864-66; W. M. Hayes, 1866-68; C. A. P. Horn, 1868-74; S. E. Hatchett, 1874-76; J. W. Morris, 1876-78; J. N. Hamilton, 1878-80; J. W. Hensley, 1880-84; M. Dampf, 1884-86; V. C. Bratton, 1886-90; M. A. Sanders, 1890-94; J. R. Aday, 1894-98; J. M. McCall, 1898-1900; W. F. Reeves, 1900-02; J. W. Smith, 1902-04. This official is clerk of the circuit court and ex-officio clerk of the county and probate courts and recorder.

E. M. Hale was sheriff, 1836-38; Joe Brown, 1838-42; Josiah Lane, 1842-44; J. C. Jamerson, 1844-46; Hiram Evans, 1846-47; C. A. McCain, 1847-48; William Thornhill, 1848-50; R. N. Melton, 1850-52; Alex. Gray, 1852-54; P. A. Tyler, 1854-58; W. S. Lindsey, 1858-60; T. M. Alexander, 1860-62; S. L. Redwine, 1862-64; J. W. S. Leslie, 1864-66; L. D. Jameson, 1866-72; B. P. Hensley, 1872-74; C. F. Williams, 1874-76; J. N. Hamilton, 1876-78; A. R. Allen, 1878-80; N. J. McBride, 1880-84; B. F. Snow, 1884-86; C. P. Lawrence, 1886-90; A. H. Luna, 1890-92 (superseded by M. J. Bride); W. P. Hodges, 1892-94; V. C. Bratton, 1894-96; J. N. Bromley, 1896-98, 1902-04; J. A. Melton, 1898-1900; R. A. Watts, 1900-02.

V. Robertson was treasurer, 1838-42; J. D. Shaw, 1842-44, 1858-60; Robert Cagle, 1844-46; William Baker, 1846-50; Joseph Rea, 1850-54; L. Burns, 1854-58; E. Long, 1860-64; W. S. Boyd, 1864-66; F. Thompson, 1866-68; G. Ross, 1868-72; J. W. Hensley, 1872-74; J. W. Morris, 1874-76, 1890-92; T. Thompson, 1876-88; John W. Morris, 1888-90; Matthew Sooter, 1892-94; C. A. Horn, 1894-98; N. M. Bratton, 1898-1900; J. T. Gray, 1900-04.

The Republican, established 1890, is published at Marshall by Albert Garrison. The Mountain Wave, established 1892, is published at Marshall by William A. Wenrick.


Godspeed, Weston Arthur, ed.  The Province and the States, Volume VII, page 145-7. Madison, WI, USA: The Western Historical Association, 1904. Retrieved from Google Books on 20 October 2011.

Signature Move

I recently exchanged a couple of e-mails with Donald Bohannan. He wrote, in part, that he had a copy of Mary Matilda Bohannon’s signature from her marriage document1 and suggested that I correct the spelling of her surname on my journal since it appeared she signed it “Bohannan”.

I do not wish to enter into a debate over the correct spelling of the name. Anyone that has done family research has encountered variations of spellings in the names of people, places and things.JHGmarriagefull In some cases, even the people that we’re researching used different spellings of their own names at different times. And in other cases, names were misspelled by those charged with official duties involving recordkeeping.

Donald is correct that the surname appears to be spelled “Bohannan” on the marriage document. However, I do not believe that is Matilda’s signature on the form. To my eyes, it appears that the entire document was filled out by one man, V. C. Bratton. Mister Bratton served as the Clerk of Searcy County from 1886 to 18902.

Click on the image to the right, and you can see the scan of the document that is available from the FamilySearch web site.

Now we’re going to take a closer look at certain aspects of the form. We’ll start with the two signatures at the top of the Bond for Marriage License section, J. H. Graham and J. N. S. Watts. That’s John Henry Graham and James Newton Siler Watts. Look at the “J” in both names. Very similar bottom loop on the “J”.


(An aside: The “H” kind of looks like a cursive “F”. That’s probably why this form has been indexed under the name “J. F. Graham” at FamilySearch!)

Sure, the “a” in Graham looks a bit different from the “a” in Watts. But let’s look down the sheet to the clerk’s signature. Look specifically at his surname and the “a” and the double “t”. Compare that to the same combination of letters in “Watts” above. A closer match, to be sure.


Matilda’s name appears twice on the form. This is the first instance. Compare the “ha” in Bohannan with the “ha” in Graham above. Also, the “at” in Matilda to the “at” in Watts above.


Matilda’s name appears next in the Marriage License section of the form. Compare the “Ma” in both Marshall and Matilda.


Now look back at the signature block in the Bond for Marriage License. Again, the “J” on both names looks very similar. But also, there is an “x” on both lines surrounded by the words “his mark”. That suggests that John and Siler could not sign their own names!


So, if it appears that John and Siler could not sign their own names, perhaps Matilda did not sign her own. But, before we jump to any conclusions, let us consider another piece of evidence.

The Twelfth Census of the United States3 was enumerated in the summer of 1900, some eleven years after the marriage of John and Matilda. Among the data recorded by that census was the education level of the citizens – whether they had attended school, could read, write, and speak English. For John and Matilda’s entry, the answers were all the same:  the block indicating whether they had attended school was blank, the block for whether they could read was filled in “No”, the block for whether they could write was filled in “No”, and the block for whether they could speak English was filled in “Yes”.


You can view a scan of the census document on Ancestry.com by following the link in the Sources at the end of this article.

It is my opinion that the marriage document of John Henry Graham and Mary Matilda Bohannon was filled out entirely by V. C. Bratton, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Searcy County, and that neither John, Siler, nor Matilda wrote any part of it. Therefore, it cannot be taken as an example of the handwriting of anyone other than Mister Bratton.

This doesn’t settle the “Bohannan” versus “Bohannon” question, though. It’s not my aim to settle it.


1. FamilySearch.org. “Arkansas County Marriages, 1837-1957.” Entry for J. F. Graham and Matilda Bohannan; citing County Records, FHL microfilm 1,031,118; Searcy County Courthouse, Marshall, Arkansas. Retrieved from FamilySearch.org on 20 October 2011

2. Godspeed, Weston Arthur, ed.  The Province and the States, Volume VII, pages 145-7. Madison, WI, USA: The Western Historical Association, 1904. Retrieved from Google Books on 20 October 2011.

3. Ancestry.com. Twelfth Census of the United States. Entry for John H. Graham; Year: 1900; Census Place: Red River, Searcy, Arkansas; Roll: T623_76; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 125. Retrieved from Ancestry.com on 20 October 2011.

Civil War Service Record of William Alexander Watts, Jr.

The Second Regiment, Arkansas Cavalry Volunteers, United States Army, was organized at Helena, Arkansas, and Pilot Knob, Missouri in July of 1862. The unit was assigned to duty at Helena, Arkansas until April 1863, whereupon it relocated to Fayetteville, Arkansas until July 1863, when it again relocated to Cassville, Missouri.

It was on 12 July 1863 there at Cassville when a young farmer from “Cercey Co”, Arkansas, eighteen-years-old William Alexander Watts, Junior, volunteered “to serve as a Soldier in the Army of the United States of America” for the next three years.  The examining surgeon recorded that William had “hasel” eyes, “fare” hair, a “fare” complexion, and was five feet five inches tall. William was granted the rank of Private and assigned to Company E.

Company E’s available muster rolls recorded Private Watts as present for duty on the following dates:

Private Watts appeared on company Returns as absent on detached service for August 1864 and as assigned the extra duty of cook in October 1864.

Private Watts was mustered-out of service on 20 August 1865 in Memphis, Tennessee, having only served two years of his three-year enlistment. The Company Muster-out Roll recorded that he was last paid up to 28 February 1865.

The Company Descriptive Book provided this slightly different physical description of William:

  • Age: 20
  • Height: 5’6″
  • Complexion: Light
  • Eyes: Dark
  • Hair: Dark
  • Where born: “Sercy Co”, Arkansas
  • Occupation: Farmer

On 3 February 1891, forty-four years old William filed for an Invalid class Veterans Pension.

William Alexander Watts, Junior died on 9 May 1930 at the age of 83. He was interred at Rambo Cemetery, Searcy County, Arkansas and his grave marked with a Civil War Service Marker.

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Arkansas Cavalry Volunteers, Second Regiment”, compiled by Edward G. Gerdes from microfilm records at the National Archives. Viewed 28 September 2011.

Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Arkansas”, “Watts, William A.”, from the National Archives, available online at Fold3.com.  Viewed 28 September 2011.

Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900”, from the National Archives, available online at Fold3.com. Viewed 28 September 2011.

Find A Grave: Memorial for William A. Watts, Jr.

Grave marker photographed by Ashli B. Graham on 4 June 2011 at Rambo Cemetery, Searcy County, Arkansas.

Obituary: Daniel Paig Graham

This is the obituary for my grandpa, Daniel Graham, originally published in the Marshall Mountain Wave.


Daniel Paig1 Graham, 73, of Marshall, died March 15 in the Baptist Medical Center in Little Rock.

He was born August 12, 1909 in Searcy County.  He was a retired painter and a member of the Rambo Freewill Baptist Church in Marshall.

Survivors include his wife, Blanche; three sons, Leroy of Marshall, William of Harvey, Illinois, and Jimmy Dale of East Prairie, Illinois2, a daughter, Janice Booker of Halls, Tennessee; a sister, Emma Mainord of Parcel, Oklahoma; 12 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.

Services were March 19 in Coffman Chapel with Rev. Allen Brock officiating.

Burial was in Mainord Cemetery, Marshall, by Coffman Funeral Home.


1. Daniel’s middle name was spelled “Page” according to the John Henry Graham Family Data Sheet by Nellie Collins Allen, as transcribed from the Graham Family Bible.

2. East Prairie is in Missouri, not Illinois.


“Daniel Paig Graham”, Marshall Mountain Wave, 24 March 1983.

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