Tolbert's Peaches, The Peden Tolbert Story


Seeing the notice in the Times about The Peach Festival planned for
April lst and 2nd in Johnson County, Arkansas brought to mind what I
had read about the planting of possibly the first Elberta
peaches in that county.

James Russel Tolbert and wife Elizabeth L M Peden Tolbert
brought their family to Johnson County from Georgia by train, through
Little Rock and thence to Clarksville .
Their family consisted of seven boys and one girl at that time: Paden,
John, Vernon ,Charles L,Maggie, Harry ,Eugene and David Tolbert.
James Russel Tolbert had spotted an ad in the Georgia Constitution
about The Johnson County Herald Newspaper business for sale in Clarksville,

James was a graduate of the University of Georgia at Athens and of
a law school in Tennessee. He was well off before the Civil War and his
property near Griffin, Georgia became somewhat in ruin. The family lived
in Macon and Atlanta during the war years while he followed the newspaper
trade. He tried farming in Pike County and he was a columnist for the
Atlanta Constitution, but money was short. About 1880 he decided on a
drastic move---the estate was sold and brought just enough funds to make
the move by train to Arkansas.

James Russell Tolbert planted what is thought to be the first Elberta
Peach orchard near Clarksville. It was risky business. James had to learn
the difference in Georgia and Arkansas temperatures and climates. One year
would be a setback and then the next year might bring a bumper crop. The
1891 crop year was a failure.
The peach trees would bud and then a sneaky Arkansas frost would set in
and the crop would be lost. But the trees bore wonderful Elberta peaches
most years and word soon spread of the "peaches of Johnson County".
The Tolberts not only grew peaches, but men worthy of mention in this

The eldest son Paden Tolbert, born 1863, taught school in Johnson County for
awhile. He became a posseman with Sheriffs Powers and Ledbetter about 1883.

In 1886 new gallows were built at Fort Smith for Judge Parker 's
courthouse. Martin Luther Stoufer, a master woodworker and owner of the
Mechanics Planing Mill in Fort Smith contracted to build the gallows. It had
twelve steps leading to the platform instead of the usual thirteen steps.
It had the capacity to hang several men at one time.

James Russel Tolbert, ever the newspaperman that he was, kept abreast
of the Fort Smith news. He had the feeling that his son Peden would be a
marshall for Judge Parker.And in 1891 Peden Tolbert was a Deputy United
States Marshal in the Indian Territory.

James Russel Tolbert's second son, John Tolbert, also became a deputy
marshal for Judge Parker.

Wesley Bowman, son of John Wesley Bowman of Piney, Johnson County,
Arkansas also became a deputy marshall for Judge Parker. He worked closely
with Peden Tolbert and other marshalls and was well respected by many.
Wes was a brother to Narcissus Belle Bowman who married Gaines A Harris,
son of William G Harris and Louisa Anna Robinson. Gaines A Harris was a
half-brother to Rachel Caroline Harris Flood, our great great grandmother.
There were Kinfolks all around.
Wes was a slender, boyish looking man and took lots of teasing about
his youthful appearance. But Peden Tolbert and all who knew Wes, soon
realized what an outstanding marshall he would turn out to be. Wes also had
a sensitive, caring side and one time took on a man much larger than himself
in defense of a dog that had a can tied to its tail.

Deputy Dan Maples who lived at Bentonville,Arkansas was killed while
investigating the selling of whiskey near Tahlequah, Indian Territory.
Ned Christie, Cherokee Indian was suspected of the killing. Ned Christie was
son of Watt Christie, the bodyguard for Principal Cherokee Chief Dennis

Deputy marshalls were called in and surrounded Ned's stockade.
Deputy Marshall Wes Bowman is credited with the killing of Ned Christie.

Peden Tolbert married his sweetheart Lucy Rose Turner after being
sworn in as a deputy marshall. They had a family consisting of Paden Jr,
Mary, Louis and Tom Tolbert.
Peden moved his family to Weleetka, Indian Territory. Peden resigned
his deputy marshall position and became a detective and claim agent for the
Fort Smith and Western Railroad.

He had become ill with congestion of the lungs and went to Hot Springs,
Arkansas for relief at the Springs. He died in April 1904 and a telegram was
sent to his family at Weleetka.
He was buried in the Oakland Cemetery near Clarksville in Johnson
County, Arkansas on 28 April 1904.

Peden's widow Lucy was appointed postmistress of Peden, Indian
Territory, a town named for her husband Peden Tolbert.

John Tolbert, the second son, born in 1865, died in 1942 and is
buried in the Oakland Cemetery near Clarksville,Arkansas (Johnson County).

Charles Luther Tolbert , born 1872, married Bertha Houston in 1882.
He died in 1895 and is buried in the Lamar Cemetery at Lamar, Arkansas
(Johnson County).

Harry Tolbert, born in 1869, died in 1900 with burial in Lamar

Eugene R Tolbert, born in 1878, married Mrs.Mattie Partain in 1904.
Eugene died in 1948. He and his wife are buried in the Oakland Cemetery in
Johnson County,Arkansas.

Bertha Houston Tolbert,born 1875 and wife of Charles ,died in 1943 and
is buried in Oakland Cemetery at Clarksville, Johnson County, Arkansas

Also buried in the Oakland Cemetery are: Carl Vernon Tolbert, born 1893
who died in 1909; Charles Luther
Tolbert JR.,born 1895 and died 1908; I believe Grace was the wife of John Tolbert.

Maggie L Tolbert, born 1875, died in 1905 with burial in Lamar

David O Tolbert, born 1888, died 1907 with burial in Lamar Cemetery.
Believe there was a daughter Stella born after their arrival at

Have record of K L Tolbert marrying Fannie E Nation in 1892.

Also an M B Tolbert married Birdie Hanshaw in 1903.

Marriages were in Johnson County,Arkansas.

James Russell Tolbert is buried in the Lamar Cemetery with no dates
but " Co.D, Legion of Georgia." engraved on his tombstone.

L M Elizabeth Peden Tolbert, born 1840, died in 1901 and is also buried
in the Lamar Cemetery.

Tom Tolbert, born in 1890, son of Peden, died in 1910 and is buried in
the Hartman,Arkansas Cemetery.Also John Lee Tolbert, born 1894, who died in 1910 is
buried there.

Because they seemed to have died at such young ages, wonder if
tuberculosis caused their deaths. Tuberculosis claimed many lives in
this time period.

Little Wes Bowman, the youthful looking deputy marshall, died in 1957
in a rest home in Seminole,Oklahoma.

There is an S F Tolbert,born 1855 with death date of 1932 and a Sampson
G Tolbert, born 1842 with a death date of 1910, buried in Russell Cemetery,
north of Ozone(Johnson County)Arkansas. Their relationship to JR Tolbert is
unknown at this time.

The name of Tolbert became well known in Arkansas. Throughout his years
in Johnson County, James Russell Tolbert persisted with his beloved peach
orchard. Tolbert and other Johnson County orchardists hoped for fruitful
returns for their time and efforts. Some years the early spring warmth would
bring out the buds on the peach trees. Then, an overnight frost would doom
the hopes of a good crop.

In 1899, John Tolbert, the second son had resigned his position as
deputy marshall to help his father with the Elberta peach crop.
By trial and error and knowledge in fruit growing, the Tolberts
increased their yield of peaches.

On 26 October 1958, at Johnson County's First Frontier Celebration, it
was declared Peden Tolbert Day. All male citizens were ordered to begin
growing whiskers in the 1890s fashion.
Peach harvesting is a major industry and Clarksville proudly proclaims
itself the "Peach Capitol of the World".

Evelyn Flood
Copyright(c)5 May 2000
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