Biography of Capt. John C. Rea

CAPT. JOHN C. REA. This gentleman possesses a thorough knowledge of the art of the husbandman and has taken pains to familiarize himself with the latest methods of land cultivation, and the result has not failed to be satisfactory. He was born in Franklin County, Illinois, in 1837, in which State his parents, John K. and Sarah (Arnett) Rea, were born, reared and married, Mrs. Rea died in Franklin County, when John C. was an infant, and Mr. Rea afterward wedded Luticia Dudley, and in 1846 came by wagon to Marion County, Arkansas, locating in the vicinity of Yellville, where he spent the rest of his life, dying in 1857. He was a man of sterling characteristics, acquired a competency through his own efforts, and his death was a source of much regret to all who knew him. He was a Democrat of the Jacksonian type, but never aspired to political preferment. His father, Wilson Rea, was a Kentuckian, but became an early settler of Illinois, becoming a successful tiller of the soil, and a man of considerable prominence in Franklin County, holding the position of judge for some years. He was at one time a member of the Illinois Legislature, and at all times showed himself to be a politician of no mean order, and a man of undoubted intellect and correct principles. It is thought that his father was an Englishman. He died in Franklin County Illinois, in 1854, his wife’s death also occurring there.

The subject of this sketch was the only child born to his father’s first marriage, but he had the following half-brothers and sisters: Melinda, who died in Marion County, the wife of John Gillespie; Tramwell M., of Rea Valley, Marion County, was in the Confederate service throughout the Civil War, and was in the battles of Oak Hill, Pea Ridge Prairie Grove; Frank (deceased), went North prior to the opening of the war, and joined the Federal Army, and died in the service; Carroll, who was a member of Shelby’s command, (Confederate) during the war, was killed at Glasgow, Missouri, while with Price on his raid through Missouri; Leonard D. was in Shelby’s command during the last two years of the war, and is now a resident of Marion County; Amanda is the wife of James Billings, of Fulton County; Lafayette resides in Franklin County, Illinois; Ellen is the wife of John Young, of Sharp County, Arkansas; Margaret died in Marion County, the wife of William Magness, and Eliza, who died in childhood.

John C. Rea was reared on a farm from the time he was nine years old, in the mountains of Marion County, Arkansas, receiving no schooling of any consequence until after he had attained the age of seventeen years, when he attended school for about nine months, and paid his own tuition. He then learned the carpenter’s trade and followed this occupation as a means of livelihood until the opening of the war, when he enlisted in Confederate service (in June, 1861), joining Capt. J. R. Dowd’s company, Col. Dockery’s regiment of Arkansas Infantry, and was in the engagement of Wilson’s Creek, where he was severely wounded in the jaw, and received honorable discharge from the service. He at once returned home, but at the end of six months had sufficiently recovered to again enter the service, this time becoming a member of Company A, Twenty-seventh Arkansas Infantry as lieutenant, and after about one and a half years was promoted to captain, in which capacity he served with ability for one year. At this time the regiment was nearly exhausted, most of its men having been killed or wounded. It was then consolidated with another regiment and he was made recruiting officer and general scout. He operated in Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana, and participated in many skirmishes, the most note-worthy of which was Milliken’s Bend. During the latter part of his service as a scout he was in much danger, but discharged his duties faithfully and bravely. He surrendered at Jacksonport, Arkansas, in April, 1865, and for four years thereafter remained in Jackson County, working at his trade.

He then came to Marion County, and was here married, January 16, 1870, to Catherine P., the daughter of James and Elizabeth Mitchell, natives of Tennessee, from which region they came to Marion County, Arkansas, where they eventually died on the farm which they had purchased and improved. Mrs. Rea was born in Tennessee, and died in 1882, having become the mother of the following children: Omer P.; Robert L.; Hattie E.; Lelar, a child that died in infancy; Lula, who died in infancy; Gussie, who also died in infancy, and Garland, a twin to Gustavus. October 3, 1886, Capt. Rea lead to the altar Miss Susan E. Cantrell, a daughter of Thomas F. and Martha Cantrell, natives of Tennessee, but who early became residents of Madison County, Arkansas Mr. Cantrell died in Jefferson County, Arkansas, a Confederate soldier, but Mrs. Cantrell is still living, and resides in Marion County. Mrs. Rea was born in Madison County, Arkansas Capt. Rea has been a resident of Marion County, Arkansas, since 1869, and in his farming operations has been quite successful. He is now the owner of 330 acres, a part of which is fine river bottom land, of which he has become the owner through his own unaided efforts since the close of the war. He has always been an active worker for the Democratic party, and his first presidential vote was cast for John C. Breckinridge, in 1860. He has held the office of justice of the peace for ten or twelve years, and has always been an earnest advocate of law and order. He is an advocate of free schools, churches and the general upbuilding of the country. For ten years after he came to the county there was not what would now be called a third-rate school in the county, but this has all been changed. Socially he is a member of the A. F. & A. M., Jacksonport Lodge, No. 191, and in his religious views is a Methodist, while his wife is a member of the Missionary Baptist Church. Mr. Rea is a public-spirited and enterprising citizen and has the universal respect of his fellows.


A Reminiscent History of the Ozark Region: comprising a condensed general history, a brief descriptive history of each county, and numerous biographical sketches of prominent citizens of such counties. Chicago: Goodspeed Brothers Publishers. 1894.

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