Archive | Thomas Stevenson Drew

A “Hardboiled Hellhole:” Panamint City, California

For the past 20 months, this blog has been following the journeys of the Drew and Bettis families and their descendants across the continent, paying less attention to the characters themselves than to the unexplored corners of American history through which they traveled.  We’re now getting to California, the farthest point of their journeys.  From […]

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What Chaos Looks Like: Arkansas Civilians in the Civil War

From the beginning of the conflict, Arkansas’ experience in the Civil War was fated to be one of drawn-out agony. Until the moment that Fort Sumter was attacked, the state was roughly evenly divided between those who favored secession and the Unionists or “cooperationists,” most of whom hoped to preserve their slave-based society while remaining […]

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Slave or Free? The Saga of the Beams Family

The declining status of free people of color during the 19th century, and the increasing precariousness of their lives, can be seen in dramatic relief in Indian Territory.  Attitudes towards African-Americans, free or enslaved, varied considerably among the “five civilized tribes”— Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Seminoles and Cherokees—but as the Civil War drew nearer, the attitudes […]

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Rivers and Freedom: A Child’s Escape

When Patsie Bettis was freed in 1837, a year after the death of her father Elijah Bettis III, she was the mother of two young sons, Drew, age 7, and Martin, age 2.  Drew was the son of Thomas Stevenson Drew, who was married to Patsie’s white cousin Cinderella Bettis.  Martin’s father is unknown, although […]

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The Limits of Human Decency

We may never know how Thomas Stevenson Drew lost his fortune, after rising to the position of Governor of Arkansas, but the available sources seem to show that he was a genuinely decent man.  He spent his life in efforts at conciliation and compromise; there is no record of his being involved in any of […]

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A Birthday in Pocahontas

No one in Pocahontas, Arkansas, seems to know why its 150th birthday was celebrated in 2006, when the town, as everyone knows, was given its current name, and chosen as the county seat for Randolph County, in 1835.  Nor does anyone know for sure why it was named “Pocahontas,” although it may be because it […]

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Young Men Making Their Way on the Border

How does a young man establish himself in a raw new border community?  In early 19th-century Arkansas, as in many other places, money and family connections were the key.  The men who had already risen to power by the time Thomas Stevenson Drew arrived in the territory in 1827 had come as the heirs of […]

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