The Life of John Ray

The Ouachita Telegraph

Saturday, August 25, 1888

Page 1, Column 1

RECOLLECTIONS OF THE EARLY

SETTLERS OF OUACHITA PARISH.

Sketch of the Life of Hon. John Ray.

            John Ray was born October 14, 1816, at “The Old Mines” in Washington county, Mo.  His father (James Swarengin Ray, a native of Maryland,) was raised on Big Barre River,near Bowling Green, Ky., where his parents had settled with the early immigrants to that country.  His mother (Mary Adams) was born in the State of Tennessee. James Swarengin Ray and Mary Adams were married in St. Francois county, Mo., on the 17th of January, 1816.

            The grand parents of John Ray emigrated from Kentucky to Missouri in 1811, where the grand-father (John Ray) became a friend and companion of Daniel Boone, and was a leading spirit in the legislation of the State at that early day, having been a member of the first constitutional convention there, and a member of the legislature, Ray county was named for him.

            James Swarengin Ray (father of the subject of this sketch) came to Missouri with his parents and settled in Washington county, after a few years, removing to the county of St. Francois, on Big River,near Big River Mills.  He was employed by Moses Austin, a citizen of the county, to superintend some lead-mining operations at Potosi, where Austin lived. He raised a large family of sons and daughters, and died in 1841.

            John Ray, the eldest child, was brought up on his father’s farm.  His early education was obtained in the common country schools of that day, and from his good parent she received the impress, in these tender years, of those christian virtues which shone so luminous in his after life.

            At the age of twelve years he was sent to school at Potosi, Mo., where he remained two years ; after which he attended the Manual Labor School at Hanover, Ind.,and several sessions at the Augusta College and Transylvania University, Ky. Finishing his education at the latter Institute, in 1835, he returned to his home in Missouri.

            He did not remain idle, but, his father being absent in Louisiana on a prolonged trade expedition to the northern part of that State,he at once assumed charge of the farm, and began work behind the plow-an occupation he had often followed, at intervals, during the progress of his education.

            His father becoming pleased with the Louisiana country purchased a tract of land in the Prairie Jefferson (then Ouachita, now Morehouse Parish), and concluded to move his family to Louisiana. With this view he set about improving his property, and began planting a crop preparatory to his permanent settlement upon it.  Carrying out these operations he wrote to his son John to join him ; and in obedience to this summon of his father John Ray made his first visit to the State of his adoption.

            In the month of June, then scarce 19 years of age, he set out on this horseback journey of over 600 miles to Louisiana-a lone but intrepid traveller.

.  He met his father in Claiborne parish, La., returning to Missouri sick with the fever he had contracted in Prairie Jefferson, and with him retraced his long journey home.

            The elder Ray, conceiving the climate of his proposed residence in Louisiana to be unhealthy, abandoned his idea of emigrating, and sent his son to dispose of his plantation and to sell the crop.

            On this trip young Ray came down the Mississippi River from St. Louis to Lake Providence in Louisiana,and journeyed to his destination across the Mississippi swamps and cane breaks,undergoing many hardships and risks in the then wild and unsettled condition of the country.

            After fulfilling the commission entrusted to him he pushed on to Monroe, and visited Alexandria and New Orleans before returning to St. Louis.  He was in New Orleans in November, 1835, – his first visit to that city.

            When in Monroe, on this visit to Louisiana, he became acquainted with the venerable Louis F. Lamy, Judge of Ouachita Parish, and with Robert F. McGuire, a practising [sic] lawyer and one of the leading men in that part of the state.  Mr. Ray made arrangements by which he was to return to Monroe and enter the office of Judge Lamy as clerk, and study law under the tutorship of these eminent jurists.

            Accordingly, on the 31st day of December,1835, he left his Missouri home to take up his permanent residence in Louisiana.  He arrived in Monroe on the 19th of January,1836, after a long and eventful overland trip.

            Moses Austin, an enterprising and adventurous man, had emigrated from Durham, Connecticut, to Potosi, the lead-mines region of Missouri, some time previous to 1811, and was largely engaged in lead-mining.  In 1820, Austin conceived the idea of planting an American colony in the Mexican Province of Texas,and with this view proceeded to San Antonio,where he procured from the Spanish Vice-Roy authority to colonize 300 families on the Colorado River.  He died before any active steps were taken.

            His son (Stephen F. Austin), then the Federal Judge of the Territory of Arkansas, undertook to prosecute the enterprise.  Visiting the City of Mexico,for that purpose, he received at the hands of the Mexican authorities a special confirmation of the grant to his father. He then returned to Missouri to obtain emigrants for his colony.

            The father of John Ray, being a neighbor of the Austins and on terms of intimacy with the family, was naturally applied to by Austin to immigrate to Texas on very liberal propositions of lands to be donated to him.

            At the solicitation of Austin he visited the section of country covered by the Austin grant with other neighbors, solicitous like himself, to satisfy themselves of the genuineness of the claims put forward for that Eldorado, and the good faith of the Mexican Government.

            A view of the country satisfied the prospector, and emigrants were readily obtained from that part of Missouri to swell the little army that Austin was gathering around him for the formation of his colony.

            Shortly after the return of Mr. Ray from this trip to the Mexican Province of Texas, as it was then designated, the Indians became very troublesome ; news reached Missouri of terrible massacres being perpetrated by them in the eastern parts of Texas, and a reign of terror was said to have been inaugurated throughout that country.  This for a time threw a damper over the ardor of the proposed colonizers ; deterred many from joining the enterprise, and,other events transpiring in the country, a rally was not obtained till sometime later.

            Mr. Ray, having a large family of small children, thought it the better part of prudence to abandon, with others similarly situated, his connection with the expedition, – his wife, with womanly foresight and love for her family, adding her entreaties and supplications to that end.  His Missouri lands had been sold, and all his personal effects disposed of at public auction; his wagons and teams had been purchased, and all outfit procured for the journey.

            With this change of front he had to rehabilitate himself at home intending, in more quiet times, to seek a settlement in Texas.  He exchanged his league-and-labor of land,donated to him by Austin in the Mexican province of Texas,for a tract of land in Missouri.  A year later the party with whom this exchange was effected moved to Texas,and was murdered by the Indians on the identical piece of property obtained from Mr. Ray.

            Mr. Ray entertained a high opinion of the Texas country, and when his son grew up wished him to immigrate there believing that, in time, the younger children would follow.  But a kind Providence ordered otherwise, as will be related hereafter.

            The colony of Austin grew and prospered.  History records the struggles of this, the first American colony in Texas ; the gallant conduct of its founder (Stephen F. Austin); his imprisonment in the city of Mexico for his leadership in the movement for local self-government in the Mexican State of Texas, construed by the authorities to be treasonable ; his patriotic services in paving the way for Texan Independence, and final annexation to the United States.  He died on the 27th of December, 1836, honored by all his contemporaries, and recognized as one of the founders of Texan prosperity.  The colony, founded by Stephen F. Austin, is known, now, as the City of Austin, the capital city of the great State of Texas.

            Shortly after immigration began moving towards Texas,assuming large proportions from about the year 1830, a band of robbers,murderers and outlaws of every kind, began preying upon the property and lives of travellers [sic], immigrants and citizens, living in Southern and Western States.  A deep laid scheme had been formed by which all violators of the laws of the United States and Mexico being then in existence.  Such was the condition of the country that laws of that nature had they existed would have ben [sic] set at naught with impunity and considered perfectly harmless.  This order of things continued for several years striking terror into the heart of the Southern country, the moving spirits of the plot dexterously concealing their identities and incognito,defying the laws of the land.

            In 1834, one Virgil A. Stewart, who had been connected with the band, became alarmed or disgusted and publish[ed] a pamphlet professing to divulge the whole plot, and giving the names of many prominent men living in Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana,Arkansas and other States, as being connected with the organization, chief among whom was one John Murrell, who was stated to be the originator of it.  It was thenceforth designated as the”Murrell Gang.”

            Copies of this pamphlet disappeared in 1836.  It was said they were collected and destroyed to save the credit of families, charged with being members of the gang.

            This publication and expose produced throughout the United States an excitement such as nothing of that sort ever produced before or since.  It was so far-reaching and implicated so many persons ; and the gang had been guilty of so much robbery and bloodshed.

            From the time it became circulated and generally read, in 1834, a reign of terror prevailed throughout the South, and such was the feeling against the gang, aggravated by the mystic influence that surrounded it, that every stranger was suspected of complicity in its existence.  It became unsafe to journey beyond the limits of one’s own neighborhood unless armed with evidences of good character and identification from known officers of the country.  It was the duty of Mr. Ray, as the clerk of Judge Lamy, the Parish Judge of Ouachita, to write out and issue many certificates of this character, for that section of the country.

            Perhaps the excitement, growing out of the Stewart publication, was at its height in 1835-36, for it is related of Mr. Ray that,when coming to Louisiana in June, 1835, though a mere boy, he had often to submit to an examination of his meagre [sic] baggage, an close interrogations about his business.

            At Little Rock, Ark., he paused in his journey, one Saturday evening, for a day’s recuperation and to rest his horse.  Strolling in the suburbs of that village next evening, he encountered three gallows where recent executions had taken place,as the graves of the victims were fresh under the gallows.  This gave him a great shock, and alarmed him for his own safety, being a lone traveller [sic], and having yet a long journey to make through a country sparse in settlements and swarming with brigands,hungry and in wait for the belated traveller [sic].

            Investigation revealed to him the unpleasant fact that these hangings were of persons suspected of belonging to the Murrell gang, and that such summary reckoning was the sure fate of all strangers who failed to give a satisfactory account of themselves. As might naturally be supposed the revelations made to him before leaving Little Rock filled his imagination with every conceivable horror and caused him to picture to his mind a lurking enemy behind every bush; but with undaunted courage and self-reliance he resumed his journey to Louisiana,carrying with him the only comforting assurance, that being a boy he might safely pass unsuspected.

            He reached the confines of Louisiana in safety, and meeting his father, as already related, in Claiborne parish,returned with him to Missouri.  This ended his first over-land trip to Louisiana.

            Mr. Ray’s next visit to Louisiana was by water and without material incident.  It was during the year the gamblers were hung at Vicksburg as part of the Murrell excitement.

            Mr. Ray left his father’s house in Missouri to settle in Louisiana on the 31st of December, 1835. When he arrived at Little Rock the convention to frame a Constitution for the State, preparatory to her admission in the Union, was in session.  Most of the leading men of Arkansas were in this convention.

            A little before he arrived at Little Rock the celebrated Davitt [sic] Crockett had appeared there, with a small company of soldiers, on his way to Texas to take part in the struggle for the independance [sic] of that country.

            Crockett was on the lookout for recruits; he was already a celebrity in the nation, having been several times a member of congress, and had excited great interest as an eccentric Westerner and a man of great energy and daring.  Noticing young Ray he atonce approached him, nor did he waste much argument to inspire in the heart of the young man a spirit of martial ardor ; so Mr. Ray concluded to enlist, and became a soldier in Crockett’s company. Crockett finding out that the young man was the son of one of his early acquaintances in Tennessee (Mr. Ray’s mother and himself having been brought up in the same neighborhood) manifested some interest in him and promised as an inducement to his enlistment in the company, to take special care of him.

            Being then on his way to Louisiana to execute a commission for his father, Mr. Ray parted with Crockett with the understanding between them, that he was to rejoin him at Natchitoches in Louisiana; as the company passed on to Texas.

            On arriving at Monroe, La., on the 10th of January, 1836, he met the noted Jim Bowie to whom he related his adventure with Crockett, and the movements of that leader. Bowie, a man already notorious for his many feats of bravery and spirit for adventure, eagerly seized upon the opportunity to distinguish himself in this military expedition, and concluded to join Crockett also at Natchitoches ; and impatient of delays he set out at once for that point.  Mr. Ray, after disposing of his father’s business, in which more time was consumed than was at first anticipated,started for Natchitoches.

            Arriving there he found that Crockett had passed on to Texas.  He then concluded to return to Monroe and carry out his original design of studying law a kind Providence having interposed in his behalf; for it is a fact of history that Crockett and Bowie with their whole company were killed by the Mexicans under Santa Anna, at the fall of the Alamo, on March 6th, 1836.

            Jim Bowie will always be remembered in Louisiana and the Southern country as a man of extraordinary prowess, fond of adventures, and anxious for notoriety.  He was the inventor of the bowie-knife[1], a weapon that often after his time was generally carried by the rougher element of the country, and used with deadly effect in many feuds.  Its history grew out of the fact that, in a rencontre, in 1833, on a sand-bar in the Mississippi river, nearly opposite Natchez, he killed Captains Crane and Wright[2]with a knife wrought out of a wrasp ; this wrasp-knife he afterwards took to Philadelphia and had handsomely worked into a shapely knife-blade, well-mounted in silver, and called it the Bowie-Knife ; hence its origin and designation to this day.

            John Ray was licensed to practise [sic] law by the Supreme Court of Louisiana on the 23d of April, 1839.  Judge Martin, so celebrated in the history and early jurisprudence of Louisiana,and Judges Rest and Eustis were then members of the Supreme bench.

            From the start he took rank among the foremost practitioners at the bar, and for fifty years devoted himself to the duties of his profession, and to the services of his adopted State.

            He was associated, as partner, with Robert F. McGuire for twenty-one years and six months, and until his partner died in 1863.  He was a hard student of indefatigable industry, and enjoyed a large practice in the profession.

            In ante-bellum days he had also a large planting interest in North Louisiana with upwards of 100 negroes, being a heavy loser by the war, in the emancipation of his slaves and loss of other property ; he never afterwards resumed his planting operations,and sold his plantation.

            Mr. Ray gave much attention to politics.  In 1841 he was elected to the State house of representatives, and in 1850 to the Senate ; in 1851, and again in 1859, was candidate on the Whig Ticket for Lieut. Governor, by unanimous election by the Whig conventions of those years, but, the Democratic party being in the majority in the State, he was defeated at both elections ; but it was notorious that he ran ahead of his ticket and, it was believed, if he had been the Gubernatorial candidate he would have been elected.       

            In 1865 he was elected to Congress from the 4th congressional district of Louisiana, under the Reconstruction Programme of President Johnson, but was refused his seat in that body with all other representatives elected from seceded States.

            He was elected to the Senate of the United States by the Legislature of 1873, chosen with William Pitt Kellogg as Governor ; his seat was contested by William L. McMillen, who claimed to have been elected by the body organized by McEnery, and set up as the de jure Legislature of Louisiana ; neither contestant was admitted, although Kellogg was maintained as the duly elected and rightfull [sic] governor.

            Mr. Ray was an old-time Whig, and was earnestly opposed to secession.  In 1860 he was on the Bell and Everet presidential electoral ticket, and canvassed the northern portion of the State in opposition to the impending secession. As a Union man, thoroughly patriotic in his opposition to secession, he maintained his position throughout the war advocating, at the close of that fratricidal strife, the plan of Reconstruction adopted by the Republican party.

            He was elected again in 1868, to the State Senate, under the Reconstruction plan, and served until 1873.

            In 1868 he was appointed to revise the Civil Code and Code of Practice and the Statutes of the State. These revisions were made in pursuance to act No. 31 and joint resolution No. 182 of the Acts of the General Assembly of 1868 ; and were approved and adopted by the Legislature of 1870, and enacted into laws, being Acts Nos. 96, 97, and 98 of that year. At this same session of the Legislature (1870) he was appointed and authorized to compile a Digest of the Statutes of the State of a general character, (Act. No. 95).  This Digest was completed and published, in two volumes, at New Orleans in the fall of 1870 and approved by the Legislature of 1871. 

            These revisions and Digest embody all the laws of Louisiana, repealing and annulling all previous laws ;and except where changed by statute are, to this day, the only laws in force in Louisiana.

            After his term of service in the State Senate, in 1872,Mr. Ray removed with his family from Monroe, La., to the city of New Orleans, where he continued in the practice of his profession, and resided up to the time of his death on the 4th day of March, 1888, in the 72d year of his age.

            In the spring of 1873 was appointed Registrar of the State Land Office, which position he occupied until 1877.

            Mr. Ray was twice married.  His first wife was Julia Dewitt – half sister to Judge Lamy – by whom he left no children ; she lived only two years after her marriage.  He afterwards, in 1844,married Catherine Bres, who survives him, the daughter of Jean Baptiste Bres, at the time, a large cotton planter and merchant on the Ouachita river.  He leaves issue by his second wife eight children, one daughter and seven sons ; and also one adopted daughter, whom he reared from childhood and cherished as an own child.

Continued on Second Page.

RECOLLECTION OF THE EARLY

SETTLERS OF OUACHITA PARISH.

By Hon. John Ray.

Continued from First Page.

            The most prominent political characters in Ouachita parish when Mr. Ray settled there,in 1836, were : Solomon W. Downs and Oliver J. Morgan.  Downs was a native of Tennessee,but came to Louisiana upon the finishing of his education at the University of Transylvania.  he lived in Ouachita with his father until about 1827.  In that year he fought a duel with Gen. Ferdinand Morgan on an island in the Mississippi river, near Lake Providence, and was shot through the lungs.  he did not return to Ouachita  parish at that time, but settled in West Feliciana, and practised [sic] law in that part of the State until 1834, when he returned to Ouachita parish in the winter of that year, and resided there until his death in 1850.  He was elected to the State Senate two consecutive terms and served eight years. He was then elected to the Senate of the United States where he served one term ; afterwards he was appointed U.S. District Attorney for Louisiana,and occupied that position until his death.

            Downs was a man of good ability, and occupied a very respectable position in the U.S. Senate, and of good standing at the bar.  He was a Democrat of the strictest school, although he had many friends among the Whigs,prominent among whom was Henry Clay, with whom he served in the U.S. Senate.

            Oliver J. Morgan was a Massachusetts man who had immigrated to Louisiana with his two brothers, Gen. Ferdinand Morgan and Jonathan Morgan, about 1815.  Oliver J. Morgan was one of the early Parish Judges of Ouachita parish, the third, perhaps, after the organization of the State.  He was elected to the State House of representatives in 1840, and served one term, a Whig in politics, and after one term in the Legislature abandoned political life and devoted himself to cotton planting ; he removed to Carroll parish, on the Mississippi river, where he became one of the largest cotton planters in the State, and a very wealthy and estimable citizen.

            Gen. Ferdinand Morgan was killed in a street fight in Monroe in 1833, by Robert J. Sterling.  The trial of Sterling for this homicide was a very exciting and memorable one ; it was afterwards published in pamphlet form, and may be found, now, in many law libraries.  Sterling was acquitted.  This trial partook of the political excitement of the day.  Sterling being a prominent Democrat and Morgan a leading Whig and had fought Downs in a duel growing out of politics.

            Jonathan Morgan was for many years sheriff of Ouachita parish.  He killed Col. Morehouse in a street duel in Monroe in 1833, but was never tried for it as it was considered justifiable – a mutual encounter previously agreed upon.  This was also the outcome of the political excitement of the times, the local feuds in Ouachita, at that time, mostly growing out of politics.

            There were other prominent men in Ouachita parish, when Mr. Ray came there in 1836.  There were:

            Henry Bry, (a Swiss by birth and raising) who had settled in Ouachita parish in 1803 as a merchant ; he was a man of unusual ripe education and of great experience, and had travelled [sic] much, particularly in Europe and the West Indies, before he came to Louisiana ; he first settled in New Orleans, but did not remain there long before he came to Ouachita parish he was the first Parish Judge of Ouachita parish ; was also a member of the convention of 1812 that framed the Constitution preparatory to the State being admitted into the Union.  He did not aspire to political position ; was never a candidate before the people for any office ; he was appointed President of the Board of Public Works for Louisiana by Gov. Roman,when he was the second time Governor of Louisiana.

            Henry Bry was an estimable friend of Stephen Girard of Philadelphia, so much so that Girard appointed him his agent to purchase land and slaves in Louisiana, and to open a cotton plantation, which agency Bry carried out for Girard, purchasing 400,000 acres of land of the De Maison Rouge grant in Girard’s name, and about 60 negro slaves in his own name to start the Girard plantation.  The purchase of the slaves in Bry’s name was by Girard’s request and wish, as he believed that the knowledge of his ownership of slave property would operate to his injury in Philadelphia.  Girard by his will gave Bry the use of this plantation and negroes for twenty years after his death – then the same to revert to the cities of Philadelphia and New Orleans ; which bequest was carried out, as Bry lived over twenty years after Girard’s death.

            Henry Bry, after he first came to Ouachita parish,settled on the Bayou DeSiard, about three miles from Monroe, on the plantation known as the Batin place.  He often described the difficulties of obtaining goods for his trade when, and for many years after,he settled in Ouachita parish, to the writer. New Orleans was the only place from which he could supply stock.  The communication with that market was by barge, and he annually made trips to that city with a barge, taking his hides and peltries there, (these were the principal articles for which he exchanged his merchandise).  A trip generally took four months, and was attended with great risks and hardships.

            Many years before Bry died he purchased a plantation below Monroe and adjoining that town, on the Ouachita river, where he lived, and devoted himself to his planting interest and private business. He was a man of very liberal fortune; was twice married, and left a family by both marriages.  Two of his children (Mrs. Gordon, a daughter by his first marriage, and Mrs. Layton, a daughter by his second marriage) are still living ; but there are numerous surviving grand and great-grand children living in different parts of the State and elsewhere.  It may be said without doubt, that no man ever lived in Ouachita parish who was more beloved and respected than Judge Henry Bry ; he was well known to all the leading men of the State.

            There were four lawyers living in Monroe and in full practice when Mr. Ray came there in 1836.  The oldest was:

            Ephram K. Wilson, a Kentuckian by birth.  He was appointed Judge of the 8th Judicial District, in 1836, to fill the vacancy occasioned by the resignation of John Overton, who moved to Opelousas, St. Landry parish.

            Robert F. McGuire, the next oldest lawyer, was also a Kentuckian, and had immigrated to Louisiana in 1819 as a practising [sic] physician ; but after practising [sic] medicine a few years he studied law, and became one of the soundest jurists in the State ;he never entered politics.

            Isaiah Garrett, the next oldest lawyer, was a Missourian; of ripe education and scholarly attainments he ranked high on the list of eminent men of Louisiana ; he had studied law with Judge Wilson and was his partner when Wilson went on the bench.  Col. Garrett was an able lawyer ; he was a member of the constitutional convention to revise and frame a new constitution for the State in 1845, and was elected to the secession convention in 1860, and was one of the seven members who refused to sign the Ordinance of Secession.  He lost his life by being thrown out of his buggy in Monroe.

            John M. Faulk was the other lawyer at the bar in Monroe in 1836.  He was a native of Louisiana, and had studied law with Judge Lamy and R.F. McGuire, and had just come to the bar.  He was assassinated in his bed in April 1837; it was never known who perpetrated the cowardly act.  Faulk was a man of good ability and stood well in the parish ; his friends predicted for him a brilliant future, but it was cut off by his untimely death.

            The next lawyer who settled in Monroe, after Mr. Ray came there, was George W. Copeley.  He came to Louisiana from New York and settled in Monroe in June 1836 ; he was a man of extraordinary energy and industry, and of fine talent.  He was taken into partnership by Solomon S.Downs, when he first settled in Ouachita parish; and after Downs quit the practice for politics he entered into partnership with R.W.Richardson, the present District Judge of Ouachita.

            Copeley was appointed to the District bench and remained in that position until he died.  He accumulated a large fortune by his practice and speculations.

            Judge Louis F. Lamy was a native of Ouachita parish, of French parentage; born in 1800, and educated at Transylvania University, Ky.,during the Presidency of Dr. Holly.  He studied law, but was appointed Parish Judge soon after he was licensed in 1832,and continued in that position until the office was abolished.  He died at the ripe age of eighty years, one of the most respected men who had ever lived in that parish.

            The next lawyer who came to the bar in Ouachita parish was John Ray, in 1839, as is herein before stated – a Missourian by birth.

            The more prominent men in Ouachita in 1839 were :

            Hypolite Pargoud, who emigrated from France in 1819.  Pargoud acquired great wealth and was much the richest man in Ouachita parish.

            Dr. John M.A. Hamlin, a Virginian, who was then Registrar of the U.S. Land Office at Monroe.

            Ranson Easton, who was receiver of the U.S. Land Office, and a Louisianian.

            Bernhard Hemkin, a German, and a prominent merchant of Monroe.

            Dr. Hardy Holmes, a son-in-law of Judge Henry Bry ; for several years Receiver of the Land Office at Monroe.

            Dr. John L. Lewis, a native of Louisiana, was elected to the State Senate,and served one term.  He was the son of the second Parish Judge of Ouachita Parish, and was raised in that Parish.

            Grammont Filhiol, the son of the Commandant of the Post of Ouachita under the Spanish Government. He was born, raised, and always resided in Ouachita parish.  He was a man of great respectability, and has numerous children and descendants living in that parish.

            W.W. Farmer, a young man in 1836 ; born and raised in Ouachita parish.  He became prominent in politics, and was elected to both branches of the Legislature; finally, being chosen Lieut. Governor of the State.  He died of yellow fever in New Orleans during his incumbency of office.  Had he lived, he would, no doubt, have been elected to the chief magistracy of the State.  He had great personal popularity; was a surveyor by profession.

            John T. Sterling, an old resident of Ouachita parish, and a man of considerable fortune.  He became a leader in politics, and was chosen several times for the Legislature, – an excellent man in all the walks of life, and very highly respected.

            Col. Henry O. McEnery, an immigrant to Ouachita parish in the winter of 1835-6 from Petersburg, Va.  He was first a planter, then a merchant in Monroe-one of the most competent business men in the State ; for several years Registrar of the U.S. Land Office at Monroe.  He was the father of the present Executive of this State (Samuel Douglas McEnery) who was born in Monroe.

            Mr. Ray became acquainted with the Bowie family shortly after his settlement at Monroe.  There were three brothers of them : Reazin, James and Jack.  They were born and raised on Bayou Bushly in Catahoula parish, about two miles from Harrisonburg.[3]

            Jim Bowie was killed with Crockett at the Alamo in San Antonio, and was remarkable for his bravery and recklessness of danger.  He it was who invented the bowie knife.

            Reazin Bowie was an unusually fine looking man of large size like his brother ; had a finely shaped head, and was a remarkable conversationalist – in all an ideal specimen of the genus home.  He was a very mild-mannered man and seldom seen in a passion ; but every one knew that he was a dangerous foe if aroused.  He never killed any one and died in Iberville parish.  He was an extraordinary man for his opportunities, and was several times a member of the Legislature of the State.

            Jack Bowie, a quiet man of the same characteristics as his brothers, moved to Mississippi,where he died.  These men were a type of men which has now entirely disappeared ; they were in their way and in the view of all their acquaintances extraordinary men.

            There were quite a number of other residents of Ouachita Parish at that time, prominent and respectable in their different callings.


[1] Jim’s brother Rezin designed the first Bowie knife.

[2] Maj. Norris Wright was the only person Jim Bowie killed during the famous sandbar fight.

[3] This is incorrect.  The Bowie brothers were most likely born near Gallatin, Sumner County, Tennessee. 

2 thoughts on “The Life of John Ray

  1. Unfortunately the article does not give the history of the original John Raywho Ray Co. Mo. named after that came to Mo. Do you have any information on where he came from or born, his parents?

    Like

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