The Murder of George Archimedes “Arkie” Pryor

George Arcemedes Pryor

George Arcemedes Pryor

Written by Gene Barron

William Stokes Pryor (November 15, 1811 – February 2, 1898) along with his wife, Talithia Killgore Pryor (April 15, 1823 – August 27, 1869) and ten of their children, nine boys and one girl, came to Union Parish from Selma, Alabama shortly after the Civil War and settled near the Zion Hill Community. One son, John W. Pryor (August 31, 1843 – December 22, 1862) was killed in the Civil War. Another son, Robert Quarles Pryor (1842-1931) had married Martha Maham (November 19, 1846 – October 31, 1891) in Perry County, Alabama in 1864 remained in Alabama. At some point just after 1900 he too moved his family to Union Parish.

George Archimedes Pryor (February 39, 1873 – June 18, 1908), the fourth child of Robert Q and Martha Pryor married Sarah Emily Cole (December 31, 1871 – September 29, 1901) in Union Parish on February 8, 1895 and settled at Litroe. Sarah was the daughter of Harvey Van Buren (August 5, 1840 – October 6, 1872) and Susannah Cobb (July 12, 1842 – January 14, 1909) Cole. They had four children, Lillian (January 6, 1896 – February 24, 1967), Martha Elizabeth (January 6, 1897 – November 22, 1981), Robert C. (April 1898 – August 1899) and Charles Arkie (August 22, 1900 – October 19, 1971). Mr. Arkie Pryor owned and operated the first service station in Spearsville.

After Sarah died and was laid to rest in the Cole Family Cemetery near Marion, George married Sarah Rachel Cole (November 18, 1878 – November 6, 1918), the daughter of Andrew (May 1, 1850 – November 5, 1921) and Rachel Mayfield Cole (November 17, 1855 – January 11, 1928). They had three children; Helen Gertrude (August 9, 1903 – July 14, 1993), Andrew Jackson, Jr. (February 19, 1905 – August 1, 1973) and Errye Aline (February 5, 1908 – May 15, 1997). Helen married Morris Sims and taught Home Economic at Spearsville High School for many years until her retirement.

At some point George became friends with Adolph Felsenthal (December 8, 1862 – April 10, 1943). Adolph incorporated the 25-mile Felsenthal Southern Railroad, running from Lake Landing, Union, Arkansas through Union Parish. The timber town of Felsenthal was laid out and largely owned by Adolph and his brother Ike. Someone was needed by Adolph to clean up the post town of Felsenthal which had become a typical river boat town infested with saloons and bars. George, or “Arkie” as his friends called him, was known to be fearless and good with a gun so Adolph asked him if he would help clean up the town. George agreed and was appointed town Marshall.

One of the saloon owners was the prominent citizen Dr. John M. Perrine (July 18, 1844 – September 20, 1922) who was reaping considerable profits from the illegal liquor trade.

On the faithful morning of June 18, 1908 Arkie had gone to the depot to meet a revenue officer who was arriving on the train. While waiting on the depot platform, Dr. Perrine approached Arkie and accused him of interfering with his business. Dr. Perrine drew a knife and stabbed Arkie.

Bleeding profusely Arkie was immediately taken to Huttig where he could receive proper care, but he bled to death before anything could be done. He was laid to rest in the Cole Family Cemetery near Marion.

Dr. Perrine was arrested and charged with murder and on October 21, 1908 his trial was to begin in El Dorado. Senator Jeff Davis (May 6, 1862 – January 3, 1913), Dr. Perrine’s attorney, filed for a postponement for at the time he was on a speech making trip through the northern states, but the postponement was denied. Senator Davis had to hurry home from Chicago for the trial.

While suffering the ordeal of the trial, Dr. Perrine suffered “a stroke of heart failure”, as stated in the Jonesboro Daily, Jonesboro, Arkansas, October 22, 1908, and the trial was postponed indefinitely.

On April 6, 1909 the trial resumed and a jury selected. Those serving on the jury were M. F. Thurman, J. E. Haney, G. O. Henley, W. E. Jackson, W. A. Dumas, Ed Crawford, J. Lee Crawford, H. Dumas, T. S. Evans, W. R. Willett, J. M. Hamell, and W. T. Fournoy. Testimony began and continued throughout the day as well as the next.

On the next day, April 8th, testimony was completed and the jury retired for deliberations. When the jury returned to the court room the foreman, M. F. Thurman, read the following verdict: “We the jury find the defendant, J. M. Perrine, not guilty as charged in the indictment.”

The judge then ordered: “It is therefore considered, ordered and judged by this court that the defendant, J. M. Perrine, go free without delay; that he and his bondsman be and they are hereby released from all further liability herein and the County of Union pay all costs herein expended.”

Dr. John M. Perrine died on September 20, 1922 and was buried in Harper Springs Cemetery in Union County, Arkansas having cheated the hangman by some thirteen years.

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Gene BarronGene Barron is a native of Spearsville, Union Parish, Louisiana. He has a genealogy database of 182,000 names, who are all connected to his family.

Gene has also written two historical books on Union Parish. I highly recommend both.

The Family of Spearsville

Images of Union Parish

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