The Bewley Family
Methodist Circuit Riders in the early Southern Frontier
by Susan Moore Teller: firstname.lastname@example.org
Adam Sharkey Peck lived in Arkansas for over a decade, marrying at twenty the seventeen year old Ledora Lee Bewley, daughter of the Rev. Robert Sanders Bewley and his third wife, Elizabeth Jane (Davis) Bewley, the widow of his nephew Mahlon Bewley born in 1830. Ledora Lee, styled "Dora" much of her life, was the granddaughter of Rev. Mahlon Bewley, born in 1775 in Henry, Wythe County, Virginia, who died on the 4th of December, 1831 in Boiling Springs, Pope County, Arkansas and his wife, Jane Reed, daughter of Nelson Reed.
The Bewley's were founders of the region. Many are buried today in the old cemeteries in the hills above Russellville, Arkansas. David Bewley, and his kinswoman, Louise Bewley Almond took me on an unforgettable tour of the region, and there we climbed a tall mountain deep in the Boston Mountains of the Ozarks to view the grave of Rev. Mahlon Bewley. The native stone crypt was exactly like the one I had seen in Georgia near Peck's Chapel, said to cover the body of Adam Peck, Sr. and others who photos I viewed, found in early Ireland and Scotland.
MAHLON BEWLEY - Pioneer from Wythe County, Virginia to Alabama and on to frontier Arkansas about 1830:
Rev. Mahlon Bewley, Methodist Minister came to Pope Co., AR as a founder of the region he located in. He was from Virginia, then removed to Alabama between 1826 and 1830, then to Arkansas. Arkansas, at the time was in need of "regular conference members who could give full time to preaching. Most of these had to be recruited outside the state ... Among them in these years we find ... the Bewleys (Nelson, Mahlon, Robert), from Tennessee." In the fall of 1830 Mahlon Bewley was appointed to serve the Arkansas Circuit; but he became ill (and died) during the year, and his son, Robert a local preacher, was secured to take his place.
Robert is quoted as saying later, "The only church in the place [Little Rock] was a log cabin belonging to the Presbyterians. It was in this house [in 1831] that the first Methodist society was organized, and worshipped for a long time." (source: Methodism in Arkansas, 1816-1976) It is said that during these early years Mahlon Bewley and his sons, Nelson and Robert, pioneered Methodism in the northwestern part of Arkansas. Mahlon and his sons settled in Boiling Springs. "One of the first settlements in Pope County was the Boiling Springs community which was located about a mile west of where the city of Hector now stands. A large camp meeting was held at Boiling Springs in the early 1830's. As an outgrowth of this meeting, the first Methodist church in Pope County was established by Rev. Mahlon Bewley and his four preacher sons: John M., Robert S., George W., and Nelson R. The church was organized and a log building erected in 1832. The church and church records burned. A brush arbor and huts were built in this area for camp meetings but were burned during the Civil War. In 1970 the cemetery had 514 unidentified graves with native stone markers but no names. (Courier Democrat 8/31/1988)
Communities in Pope County, Arkansas, (source: James & Alta Ballard and C.L. & Lina Boyd.)
"The following reference to the pioneer epoch is from the pen of Hon. John R. Homer Scott, of Russellville: ...I look back to the good old days with wonder, astonishment and sadness at the change ...that we might again realize and enjoy the blessings ... which were once very pleasant ... and have with us again ... such grand, congenial noble men for fellowship as ... Benjamin Langford ... Mahlon and John M. Bewley ... fondly remembered, but now no more, whose smiles, presence, company and counsel served to enliven, cheer and gladden our hearts. Peace to their ashes." (Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Western Arkansas, 1891)
Arkansas Gazette February 16, 1836: ADMINISTRATION NOTICE--The undersigned having obtained, on the 22d day of December, A. D. 1835, from the Clerk (in vacation) of the County Court of Pope county, and Territory of Arkansas, Letters of Administration on the estate of Mahlon Bewley, late of said county, deceased, hereby gives notice to all persons having claims against said estate, to present them to him, properly authenticated, according to law, within one year from the date of said Letters, or they may be precluded from deriving any benefit from said estate ; and if said claims be not presented, within five years from the date of said letters, they will be ever barred. Said estate is probably insolvent. All persons indebted to said estate, are requested to make immediate payment to the subscriber. ROBERT S. BEWLEY, Adm'r of the estate of Mahlon Bewley, deceased. Pope county, Feb. 4, 1836. 9-3
Rev. Bewley is also credited with naming Boiling Springs. The name was given because the water seemed to just boil up out of the ground for no apparent reason and created a pretty good size branch. Boiling Springs is also called Boiling Springs Campground and by some simply Campground.
Rev. Mahlon Bewley opened the first school in the area. The school was first held in his home and later in the church building. Teachers were Rev. Bewley, his son, Robert, and his son-in-law Benjamin Langford." (History o f Pope County, Arkansas, v.1) It was said that Boiling Springs was actually several small streams that boiled up through pure white sand. The spring provided natural filtration for the water. Boiling Springs Cemetery was not a regular burying place until the Civil War, as in those pioneer times, only a few families resided in this area. (Letter written to Mrs. Ira Sparks, Russellville) Many Bewley descendants still live in the area today. He died circa 1831 and is buried in the Bewley Cemetery in Scottsville, Arkansas. There are "27 graves with sandstone markers, no names or dates. There are 6 pen rocks. The following information is from the memory of Jake Garrigus.." (Cemeteries of the Buck Mountain, Pine Hill and Scottsville Communities in Pope County, Arkansas, by James & Alta Ballard and C.L.& Lina Boyd.) I believe this statement about the site of the grave of Rev. Mahlon Bewley is in error. I suspect it may have been the gravesite of Rev. Mahlon Bewley's newphew, Mahlon Bewley who was born in 1830 and named for his Uncle.
This author traveled to this area in Arkansas doing research on the Bewley family in 1987, and asked my kinswoman Louise Bewley Almond to take me to the Bewley Cemetery. She did so. When I asked to see the gravesite of Rev. Mahlon Bewley, born 1775 in Virginia, she said he was not buried there, but was buried high in the Boston Mountains. She said she would need the help of her first cousin, David Bewley, to travel to the grave. She made an appointment with David, and off we went on a long ride up a paved road, to a steep dirt road, and then to a rutted path snaking further up the mountain that looked to my eye more like a cow path than a road. Narrow and with a spectacular drop down the outer edge of the road, it reminded me of similar old rural roads I had traveled on when exploring in the mountains of North California. Eventually, David parked his pick-up truck as far off the road as he could manage, requiring all three occupants to exit from the passenger side to avoid a fall down a steep cliff, and then set off on a very long hike, first along the road, then on a path climbing high up the steep mountain to the site where the tombstone was located. David had orignally thought of me as a "city girl" from the San Francisco Bay Area of California and was concerned about how I would manage the long, steep hike, especially as the sun rose in the sky and it grew warmer by the hour. David wasn't aware I had been backpacking in the Sierras of Northern Californa, and the cliffs of Yosemite for some years at that point in my life. I was dressed in cotton slacks and a long sleeved shirt, wearing sturdy high leather boots and a wide brim straw hat. I marched along briskly behind him without flagging as we trudged up the mountain bereft of a path toward a site only David knew. He turned around about half way up, looked me straight in the eye and said, "I guess you are a Peck, after all." High praise from a mountain man! When we reached the tombstone, in the photo below, I asked Louise to sit on top of the heavy granite stones while I photographed the tombstone of Rev. Mahlon Bewley, born in 1775 in Virginia, who died in this part of Arkansas and was buried in this monument, which was exactly like the medieval Celtic tombs seen in Ireland. David, quite elderly at that time, apologized for not getting up here to clean up the gravesite as often as he felt he should. He explained it had been more difficult to come up here after he lost the sight in his left eye.
Louise Bewley Almond sits on the tombstone of her ancestor - and mine - the Rev. Mahlon Bewley, who is buried high in the Boston Mountains of Arkansas. She introduced me to her cousin, David Bewley, who drove us in his pick up truck up a winding, very narrow one lane mountain road, where he parked. This was followed by a hike of more than half mile, to the gravesite. David feared a 'city girl" might not be up to hiking up a mountain and wondered if I could manage it. I assured him I could. He didn't know a hobby of mine in those days was backpacking in the Sierra Mountains of California. I hiked up the mountain, keeping up with him all the way. After a time David looked over at me and said, "I guess you are a Peck, after all."