William Whitson

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Major William F Whitson, Jr (-1836)

Major William F Whitson was the founder of Whitsontown, Crawford County, Arkansas, a town which no longer exists. William Whitson was living by 1832 in Crawford County where he appears on a tax list. In 1835 he was a representative to the State Assembly. Whitson kept a store, and it's likely that the assets and debts listed in his probate are related to store accounts.

After an exchange of insulting letters published in the newspaper, William Whitson was killed by State Senator John Lasater on 5 Dec 1836 over a dispute as to where the county seat for Crawford should be located. It was then in Whitson's store and Lasater wanted it moved closer to his own property.

At the time of his death, William Whitson was in a business partnership with Charles Whitson. Although Charles was of an age to possibly be his nephew, no firm documentation has yet come-to-light to specify how they were related. The Whitson's, or at least William, had evidently come there recently from Louisiana.

Lasater was charged with murder, but acquited on the grounds of self-defense. William's widow Harriet with her children, moved back to Wayne County, Tennessee, near one of her brothers. William had died intestate, and their children were all minors. At first Charles Whitson, his former partner, was appointed administrator on 4 Jan 1837 in the then-Crawford County. Although the probate documents from Crawford are destroyed, the notice of this appointment was published in the Arkansas Advocate newspaper on 10 Apr 1837. In December 1837, the Western-half of Crawford County was split off to form Franklin County and the probate moved into this new court was one of the first handled in Franklin County.

At the April 1838 term of the Franklin County probate court, that administration was transferred to Jesse Turner who was called to be administrator "de bonis non" on the estate of William Whitson, presumably because neither Charles, nor Harriet, wished to do it. Harriet may have already moved by this time. The new bond in the amount of $800, by Jesse Turner with Jesse Miller and Arthur Hicks as guarentors, was signed 17 Apr 1838 in Franklin County, Arkansas which had just formed a few months earlier out of the Western half of Crawford County.

It seems that at the time of his death, William had not yet acquired clear legal title to his land, as the land document itself is dated 20 Aug 1838 for the "West Half of the South East Quarter of Section Six" and also this document on the same date for the "South Half of the South West quarter of Section Seventeen".. Perhaps his surviving partner Charles Whitson completed the paperwork, as this document for Charles for the North West quarter of the South West quarter of Section seventeen" might seem to indicate, since it was also done on the same day. Also see this document for "John Witherspoon Whitson" for the West half of the NorthEast quarter of Section Six and this one for "the North West quarter of the North East quarter of Section seven and this one for "the East half of the North West quarter of Section eight".

On 10 Oct 1838, John Witherspoon Whitson, came back to Arkansas (or had never left with his mother) and killed Lasater. He was charged with murder and ran, apparently to Tennessee, where he told his family that they'd never be able to see him again. His surviving sister would tell the story that he changed his name to Johnson and she never heard from him again. His trail however has now been traced by Cathleen Sato a descendent of that sister, and she has writen up her research here.

Primary documentation

Secondary sources

  • A Compendium of Arkansas Community Place Names, note 6 : "The probable reason for the removal of the county seat from "Whitson's Place" was the death of William Whitson. On December 15, 1836, "State Representative John Lassiter killed Wm. Whitson in a dispute over the re-location of Crawford Courthouse to Whitson's Store at Whitsontown... Although the court ruled it to be a case of self-defense, John W. Whitson, son of the deceased, killed Lassiter on October 10, 1838, in revenge... Lassiter and his wife Mary, who died in 1840, are buried in the southeast section of Fairview Cemetery in Van Buren." (From:Crawford County Arkansas Notebook: A History in Chronological Form, 1820-1920, By Clovis E. Miller. 1991, Page 96)"
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