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MUSEUM MUSINGS: Harrison lawyer was quite the Story

Written by David Holsted, published in the Harrison Daily Times on August 27, 2020

It was always said that Capt. J.W. and Mollie Story would dispense from their home on Vine Street a “refined yet generous hospitality.”

In 1885, Capt. Story moved his law practice from Sherman, Texas, to Harrison. In time, he would come to be recognized as one of the community’s most successful attorneys.

One person’s account said that “Since locating here he has been connected with the most important cases that have come up in the courts of his section and has conducted them with dignity, discretion and ability.”

John Wesley Story was born in 1841 in Fentress County, Tennessee. His father, N.W. Story, was a “successful farmer, a man of pure and exalted character, who enjoyed in a high degree the confidence and esteem of his neighbors.”

In 1861, with the outbreak of the Civil War, Story enlisted in the Confederate Army and served in Company 1, Fourth Tennessee Cavalry. He took part in such battles as Fishing Creek, Stone River, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Resaca, New Hope Church and Bentonville (North Carolina). He served as a private until the closing months of the war when, for distinguished gallantry upon the field of battle, he was promoted to the command of his company.

Major George B. Guild, Adjutant of the 4th Tennessee Cavalry, after the war, wrote a book titled entitled “A Brief Narrative of the Fourth Tennessee Cavalry Regiment.” In it, he mentions Story.

“John W. Story, now a prominent member of the bar at Harrison, Ark., furnishes the casualty list of Company I. He was the sergeant of his company for some time during the war and was one of the best we had. As adjutant of the regiment, I never had trouble with his reports or the many orders made on his company for information; they were always clear, concise, and exactly what was called for. He was made a lieutenant on the field of Bentonville for his bravery and efficiency in every duty as a soldier. He was in every engagement and was wounded twice in battle, on both occasions seriously.”

In 1868, Story graduated from the Law Department of Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. He then began his law career in Lebanon before moving to Sherman, Texas, in 1873.

Story, in 1876, married Mollie Goree, the “highly refined and accomplished daughter” of Dr. J.L. Goree, a prominent physician and planter from Arkansas County, Arkansas. J.W. and Mollie had two sons and a daughter.

After moving to Harrison, it didn’t take long for Story to gain a good reputation.

“This able attorney at law has his office at Harrison, Arkansas,” wrote a colleague, “and in every branch of his profession he is meeting with marked success. He has a decided veneration for the law, and this, combined with the accuracy of his legal knowledge, lucidity of statement and felicity of illustration has given him the confidence of all his patrons.”

Story’s two brothers became prominent lawyers in Sparta, Tennessee.

It was said of Story that “in politics he has always been a staunch Democrat. In religion he is a Cumberland Presbyterian. He is an active and interested worker in the cause of education. In the honorable order of Masonry he is a Knight Templar.”

Story died of pneumonia on March 10, 1916, in Birmingham, Alabama. His obituary in the Harrison Daily Times said that news of his death “was received with general sadness by his host of old friends in Harrison.” His remains were returned to Harrison, where they were buried next to his wife, who had died in 1898.

The Rev. W. T. Nicholson, in his funeral sermon, spoke at length of Story’s high character and the multitude of friends he had made during his residence in Harrison.