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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Sharp County gets its name from Ohio native

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Amanda Powers

Staff Writer

Sharp County is a county that prides itself on its history, and quite a history it has. But, the history of Sharp County is only a portion of the story.

There is also the history of the man who founded Sharp County, Ephraim (EHF-rah-ehm) Sharp. And, as disappointing as it may be to the county's natives, Ephraim was a "Yankee."

He was born in Hamilton County, Ohio, on July 30, 1815. Ephraim was the ninth of 10 children to be born to his parents John Sharp and Elizabeth Elston Sharp, who were farmers.

His mother, Elizabeth, died when he was three, leaving his father with 10 children to care for. When Ephraim was 12, his father moved the family to Decatur County, Ind.

On Oct. 30, 1833, Ephraim married his first wife, Margaret Stevens. The two had five children.

Like many during this era, Ephraim decided to leave his home in search for a better place. In 1837, he and his younger brother, William, moved their families to Arkansas.

Among other things, the 1800s were marked in history for being the pioneer days. Families would load all of their possessions in a wagon and head for an unknown destination. Whether it was in search of gold, inexpensive land or rich soil, they all wanted an opportunity to start a new life.

And that is just what the two brothers did. They settled in the Sugar Loaf Township, in Van Buren County, where they worked as farmers, but it wasn't long before they were entrepreneurs.

In 1847, William moved to Independence County, and the next year Ephraim moved to Evening Shade. Evening Shade at that time was in Lawrence County.

Margaret, Ephraim's wife, died in July, 1853. That same year his brother, William, joined him in Evening Shade where they began their joint business ventures.

Ephraim and William purchased an old mill, and together they rebuilt and expanded it. They added a tannery (a place where the tanning process is applied to hides to produce leather), a sawmill, a grist mill (a place where grain is ground into flour) and a carding machine, which is used to process and brush raw or washed fibers into textiles (cotton and wool)).

Ephraim married Malinda Eliza, Jan. 8, 1854. They had one child before she died in 1857.

He married his third wife, Elvina Godwin, in 1858. They had two children.

In 1856 Ephraim purchased land in Reed's Creek Township where he built a double log residence for him and his family.

Ephraim was selected to represent Lawrence County in the Fifteenth Arkansas General Assembly in 1864. It was made up of those willing to serve the Union cause. At the same time those who were on the Confederate state legislature were in Washington.

He was elected as a representative again in 1868. This time Ephraim represented Lawrence, Randolph and Greene counties, otherwise known as the Second District.

While in Little Rock for the session, Ephraim presented a bill that he and William had drafted. The bill proposed that a portion of Lawrence County be separated and form a new county, in which the seat would be Evening Shade.

Governor Powell Clayton signed the act on July 18, 1868. Clayton named the new county Sharp County in honor of Ephraim.

After returning home from legislature, Ephraim continued living in the log house he had built. His third wife, Elvina, died Dec. 18, 1872. He then married his fourth and final wife, Nancy Croom Smith, on April 30, 1873.

Ephraim died Nov. 17, 1898, at the age of 83. He lays at rest in the Hibarger Cemetery in Lawrence County.

Although Ephraim has been gone for over 100 years, his legacy is still remembered and honored. There are still several of his descendents living in and around Sharp County to tell what they know of his story.

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