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The Allen Tharp Antebellum Days in Keachi
A Brief History
By David Tharp
For some, the once vital, vibrant village of Keachi was long ago established as the family home, and remains so today. For others, this now quiet, quaint community, nestled neatly away in the northwest corner of Louisiana, Keachi was but an interlude of innocence just prior to a perilous period when celebrations and Christmas Cotillions were juxtaposed to the country’s Civil conflict. As a young country grew, and colonies became states, the need, or perhaps just the desire and dreams of destinations west, drew early American families to this enchanted land of Indians where wild, black panthers roamed the woods at will. The travels of one such family that passed this way were that of George Allen Tharp. This is their story.
The oral history of the Allentharps alludes to origins off the southern coast of England, due south of Southampton on the Isle of Wight, set in the salty seas of the English Channel. The American roots of the Allentharps are well documented in county records, and church registers of both King George and Stafford Counties of Colonial Virginia. George’s great-grandparents, John A. Allentharp and Ann Sebastian were wed April 16, 1723 in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Overtwharton Parish in King George County. Their first children were christened in the same sanctuary. John and Ann’s youngest son, Jacob Allentharp was baptized on Christmas Eve, 1742 in Aquia Church of Stafford County to the northwest. The historic Aquia church, which stands today, about an hour’s drive south of Washington, D. C. on Hwy 1, is tucked tightly between the Potomac River and Aquia Creek, and gets its name from an American Indian word meaning, “place of the gulls”.
John and Ann had several daughters, and at least three sons, Benjamin, John and Jacob. Before the Revolution, Benjamin moved to South Carolina where he was killed in 1781, while John settled his family in North Carolina. Jacob Allentharp and his wife, Elizabeth, left Virginia in the late 1780’s with their children, and moved first to Bourbon, and then to Scott County, Kentucky, both just a short distance north of present day Lexington. Jacob and Elizabeth’s son, John Allentharp was the father of George, born in Kentucky in 1791.
George married Anna Spencer; started their family around 1815, and are found on the 1820 census of Dykes, Pulaski County, Georgia. It was here that George and Anna had their first children, Ann, Martha and John Allen Tharp. George had by this time, adopted the family custom of signing documents with “A. Tharp” rather than the longer “Allentharp, and assumed the family tradition of giving their children, both male and female, Allen as a middle name. This practice continued through four generations. Even my grandfather, the Reverend Simeon Stanley Allen Tharp of Texas, born 1885, and all five of his brothers had Allen as a middle name.
Around 1820, George, Anna and their three children packed their humble household belongings; hitched the horses to the family’s already well worn wagon, and began a migration west. They made the tedious, treacherous trek through Alabama, where they added a son, William Allen Tharp born in Wilcox, Conecuh County on November 21, 1821.
The family next settled in Copiah County, south of Jackson, Mississippi in the mid 1820’s, before moving north to Madison County in the 1830’s. It was here in Copiah County that the family's next three children were born, Thomas George Allen Tharp on September 15, 1825; Mary Allen Tharp on September 21, 1827 and George W Allen Tharp in 1830. Anna apparently died shortly after the birth of the younger George, as George Senior is recorded as marrying Amanda Martha Bullard in Hinds County, Mississippi in 1832. The three oldest Tharp children married in Madison, Ann to Robert T. Old, March 20; 1835, Martha to Henry Gastor Shrock, July 2, 1838; and John Allen Tharp to Martha Catherine Barnes, daughter of Coleman Barnes, April 30, 1838.
In early 1840 we find that the Tharp’s have moved west yet again. This time they locate in Caddo Parish, Louisiana. One of the last Tharp documents recorded in Mississippi identified George and Amanda Tharp as being “of Caddo Parish, Louisiana”. Several records found in the courthouse in Shreveport document various land transactions for the Tharp family during the early ‘40’s. One such document, dated March 1, 1841, is in the name of Amanda Tharp. In this same deed she is further identified as, “Amanda Bullard, wife of George A. Tharp.”
Sometime in the mid ‘40’s and early ‘50’s we begin to see the Tharps made a move to DeSoto Parish. As early as 1844, William Allen Tharp is an owner of a “tract or parcel of land situated...in Township Number fourteen (14) of Range Number fifteen (15)” in Keachi, the same year the first post office was established with William appointed its first postmaster, May 15th. During the 1850’s we find more documents in the name of George Allen Tharp and his family, which now includes sons, Thomas George A., George W. A., and Vincent S. Allen Tharp, and daughters Mary, Eliza, Elizabeth, Margaret, Amanda and Catherine. Almost of these siblings would marry in either Caddo or DeSoto Parish.
George’s wife, Amanda, gave birth to her last child, Catherine A. Tharp in 1846. It is assumed that Amanda died sometime after this birth, and before July 22, 1850 when George is recorded marrying a much younger Sarah Henderson. George and Sarah are found living in Keachi with the younger Tharp children on the October, 1850 census. From his succession documents, we learn that George died in November of 1851 at the age of 60. In the “Bonds of Administrator”, John A. Tharp is named provisional Administrator with Thomas George A. Tharp, Owen C. Powell (husband of Mary A. Tharp) and Alexander M. Haden (husband of Eliza A. Tharp) as additional executors. In the Clerk’s Order it is noted that George left a rather large estate consisting of land, personal property and slaves. The Administrator is ordered to take a full inventory and place a notice of public auction in the “The Mansfield Advertiser” in October of 1853. In addition to the marriages mentioned above, George’s daughter, Elizabeth wed C. C. Henderson, December 11, 1852 at the home of the “widow” Tharp; Margaret married A. A. Enos, July 14, 1854, and Catherine married James Hoss, May 20, 1869. Details of Thalia’s marriage to the Honorable Milton Joseph Cunningham appear later in this article.
There are a number of land transactions recorded in DeSoto Parish where the Tharps are either Grantee or Grantor. Several are specifically for land in the village of Keachi. Most of the deeds are for land described as being bordered by the then busy, bustling byways known as the Shreveport to Logansport Road, Marshall and Texas Street—streets lined with small specialty shops, and dominated by the larger General Store. On December 21, 1852, William Allen Tharp donated three acres and 16 rods of land to the Mount Carmal (as recorded in the deed) Methodist Episcopal Church South where he served as Trustee. In the fall of 1859, William sold more of his land to Thomas P. Hall, Augustus Conway and Thomas Rochelle, the Trustees of the Presbyterian Church, for the use of their church.
By this time, William had married Priscilla D. Atkins and had four children, Phoebe, Martha Minerva “Mattie”, Bryant and Fanny Tharp. Priscilla died July 27, 1860 at their residence near Keachi, according to an article in the “South-Western” printed in Shreveport, August 15, 1860. Toward the end of the War on January 15, 1865, William married Mrs. Emily Elizabeth Dalrymple Dixon in Natchitoches where he spent the remainder of his life. William and Emily had two sons, George Allen Tharp in 1866 and Edgar Allen Tharp, August 31, 1870. He died in Natchitoches November 9, 1871, and is buried in the American Cemetery. The descendants of William began adding an “e” to the spelling of the last name. Tharpe’s are still found in the Shreveport area.
Besides their own land and business records, the Tharp brothers are mentioned in other documents during their days in Keachi. For instance, at noon on Monday, the fifth day of December 1859, a public auction was held at the residence of the late Peyton Stanley. The property had been advertised for sale in the “Columbian”, a weekly newspaper published in Mansfield. Mr. E. G. Betts was the auctioneer on what we can assume was a crisp, clear, winter day. Susan E. Stanley, daughter of the deceased, was the big buyer of the day, re-claiming much of her father’s property. Details of the auction give us an indication of the value of land, slaves, and personal property at this time:
Robert Horn and Susan E. Stanley purchased a number of slaves including, Spencer, a Negro male aged 23 for $1625; Dan, a Negro male aged 35 for $1700; Prims, a Negro male aged 27 for $1504. They also purchased Rachael, a woman aged 36 and her four children, Sally aged 8, Caroline aged 6, Becky aged 5 and Solomon aged 3, all for $3500; Mary aged 24 for $1165; Martha aged 24 and her son, Tom aged 3 for $1550. They also purchased 800 acres of land at $5.00 an acre for a total of $4000.
Susan E. Stanley got a bay horse for $160; a male mule for $30 and 13 stock-hogs for $39; 3 sows and pigs for $25; 10 cows and calves for $140; 4 cows and calves for $40; one wagon for $90; 1 yoke-oxen (No 1) for $50; 1 yoke-oxen (No 2) for $60; 1 yoke-oxen (No 3) for $55; lot of farming utensils for $20; lot of fodder for $52.50; lot of potatoes for $3.50; bedstead and bed- ding for $15; 1 lot bedding for $25; 8 chairs for $2; walnut bedstead for $15; one bureau for $12; 1 bedstead and bedding for $12.50; 1 lot of castings for $2; 1 grindstone for $1.50; 1 table and furniture for $3.
Stanford Stanley, son of the deceased, purchased Rob, a Negro male aged 30 for $2015. He also got a bay horse for $75; a colt for $3.25; a lot of hogs in the woods for $20; 3 head of cattle in the woods for $5.
John A. Tharp purchased seven shoats (baby pigs) for $21.70 and thirty-nine head of cattle for $179.40
Thomas Adams purchased Fanny, a Negro woman aged 22 for $1210.
E. Brantley got an old mule for $2.00.
F. M. Brantley got 7 first choice steers for $57.75.
R. B. Hollingsworth got 15 hogs for $53.50.
J. Nelson got five meat-hogs for $50.50.
Robert Horn got 793 bushels of corn for $1.10 each ($872.30).
Alison Taylor got one bureau for $17.75.
The total estate sold for $22,656.95; $20,269 for land and slaves, $2,487.95 for personal property.
The Tharp brothers had several business ventures in the country community which was developing into a commercial crossroads between the more cultured cities of Shreveport and Mansfield. One of the Tharp brothers had a partnership with Frank E. Wood known as “Wood and Tharp” which was some kind of two-story storehouse on land, that until January 25, 1857 had belonged to Levi Pressly. On March 23, of that same year “Wood and Tharp” sold the “land, notes and accounts, merchandise and improvements” to John Allen Tharp and Thomas George Allen Tharp who formed a new commercial company called “Tharp and Brothers.” The new firm agreed to pay all the debts, dues, etc., of the old firm, and executed three promisorry (sic) notes of $420 each to be paid on November 1, 1857, February 1, 1858 and March 1, 1858 bearing interest at the rate of eight percent per annum.
In 1858, William Allen Tharp sold land to J. D. Darby, “beginning in the Shreveport and Logansport Road, about one hundred yards NE of the shop known as ‘N. D. Downs Waggon (sic) and Carriage Shop’”. Two years later, on the 31st of May 1860, William sold 1,508 acres, more or less, for $11,374.50, or a little over $7.54 an acre. Documented in this deed is the fact that William placed four reserves on the land sold. Of special interest to this writer are the third and fourth reserves where it states: “third reserve: Three acres and sixteen rods being the lot conveyed by said vendor (William Allen Tharp) for the use & benefit of a Methodist Church near Keachi, being a portion of the said Section 22 now conveyed, and the same upon which a Methodist Church now stands; fourth reserve; One half of an acre square of ground out of the said Section (15) known as the grave yard in which the deceased father (George Allen Tharp) of said vendor is buryed (sic)” This would indicate that the burial site is near the Keachi Cemetery, but no such grave or burial record has been found to substantiate this claim. Proof, one way or the other, is currently being sought.
By this time, the slave issue was beginning to sever the soul of a nation in struggle, state against state. In April 1861, Vincent S. A. Tharp was enlisted as a Private in Company D, 1st Battalion, (Rightors), Louisiana, in New Orleans. “The 1st Infantry Battalion completed its organization at New Orleans during the Spring of 1861 with men from Jackson, Orleans and Caddo parishes. Its six companies moved to Virginia, and for a time served in the Department of the Peninsula. Later the battalion was placed under the command of General Griffith, and in April 1862 totaled 315 effectives. In June it disbanded and the men transferred to other Louisiana Commands. Lieutenant Colonels Charles D. Dreux and Nicholas H. Rightors and Major James H. Beard were its field officers.” It is believed that Vincent died on the field of battle, as no further record of him has been found.
It was at this same time that John Allen Tharp, Sr., William Allen Tharp, Thomas George Allen Tharp
and George W. Allen Tharp began moving their families into East Texas. In early 1863, Colonel Spruce McCoy Baird began gathering and organizing the Texas 4th Calvary Regiment Arizona Brigade. All of the Tharp brothers are found on the rolls of Company E of Baird’s Brigade, with Thomas serving as 1st Lieutenant. After his service, William would return to Louisiana and settle in Natchitoches.
George’s daughter, Thalia married Milton Joseph Cunningham of DeSoto Parish in 1866. She died in 1872 leaving three children: Milton Joseph, Jr., John Hamilton and William Tharp Cunningham. Thalia Tharp Cunningham is buried in the American Cemetery in Natchitoches. Milton Joseph Cunningham, Sr. was educated in Homer, and went on to became a lawyer in his father’s law firm. During the War he served in the Second Louisiana Infantry before beginning his own practice, first in Natchitoches and then in New Orleans, where in 1875 he was appointed district attorney. A staunch Democrat, in 1878 he was elected to the Louisiana General Assembly, and the following year a member of the Constitutional Convention. In 1879 he was elected to the State Senate, and in 1884 became attorney general, adding to a long, distinguished career.
During their final days in Keachi, and before the War brought about a move to Texas, the Tharps were prominent, contributing members of the community. We know that John Allen Tharp, Sr., hosted a Cotillion on Christmas day, 1860 as evidenced by an invitation to the Misses Marshall, daughters of Colonel Henry Marshall of Land’s End Plantation. As land owners, business men, merchants and members of the Methodist Church, the Tharps played a meaningful role in the development of a hamlet history would eventually seem to forget. But for the Tharps, the antebellum days of Keachi would remain fond memories for the family as it continued its westward migration, forming a firm foundation for future generations.
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