Monday, May 16, 2011

Famous File: Samuel West Peel

Located at Bentonville Cemetery in Bentonville, AR.
Entrance to the Peel Plot.

 Sacred to the memory of
Mary E. Peel
Nee Berry
Wife of S.W. Peel
Feb 14, 1835
Dec 23, 1902

Samuel W. Peel
Sept 13, 1831
Dec 18, 1924

Photo from posted by George Seitz

Newspaper: San Antonio Express
Publication: 19 Dec 1924 - San Antonio, Texas

Samuel West Peel (1831–1924)
( by John Spurgeon, May 14, 2011)

Samuel West Peel’s diversified career in Arkansas included roles as a businessman, politician, county clerk, Confederate soldier, lawyer, prosecuting attorney, congressman, Indian agent, and banker. In Benton County and Arkansas, he is best remembered as the first native-born Arkansan to be elected to the United States Congress.

Sam Peel was born in Independence County on September 13, 1831, to John Wilson Peel, a farmer and merchant, and Elizabeth West Peel. He had two sisters. Peel was four years old when his mother died. His father left him with his grandparents and moved to Carrollton (Carroll County), making a home on Crooked Creek and remarrying. John Peel and his second wife, Malinda Wilson, had eleven children.

As a youth, Peel worked as a clerk in his father’s store, as well as serving as deputy court clerk to his father. On January 30, 1853, he married Mary Emaline Berry. They had nine children, of whom eight survived childhood.

In 1858, and again in 1860 and 1862, Peel was elected Carroll County clerk. When the Civil War erupted, Peel hid the county records in a burial vault in the cemetery to protect them from Union soldiers. After Arkansas seceded, Peel enlisted in the Confederate army as a private in Captain James M. Pittman’s company. Fellow soldiers elected him major in the Third Regiment, Arkansas Infantry (State Troops). Peel was in combat in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek and the Battle of Prairie Grove. He then joined the Fourth Arkansas Infantry, Adams Regiment. One historical entry records Peel as being in the Fourth Arkansas Cavalry; National Archives records show that Peel mustered out at the end of the war as a lieutenant colonel in Little Rock (Pulaski County).

At war’s end, Peel returned home to Carrollton, finding his home burned down. Peel retrieved the saved county records, but in 1866, when fire broke out in the new log, courthouse, the records were destroyed.

Studying law under his brother-in-law, Judge James Middleton Pittman, Peel was admitted to the bar in 1865 and moved his family to Hindsville (Madison County), where he opened his law practice. By the spring of 1867, Peel moved his law office to Bentonville (Benton County), and two years later, Peel’s brother-in-law, future governor James Henderson Berry, carried his practice to Bentonville and formed a partnership with Peel that lasted five years.

In 1873, Governor Elisha Baxter appointed Peel as prosecuting attorney for the vacant position in the Fourth Circuit. Peel performed well in the position and was rewarded for this diligence by being elected on April 26, 1873, by popular vote. He continued holding this office until 1876.

In 1875, Peel commissioned the building of his new fourteen-room family home. “The Oaks,” so named for the many surrounding oak trees, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Peels left The Oaks in 1904, moving to 201 West Central Street.

In 1880, Peel was defeated in his first bid for Congress, but two years later, he became the first native-born Arkansan to be elected to the U.S. Congress, serving as a Fourth District representative his first term (1883–1885) and representing the Fifth District for his four succeeding terms (1885–1893). Peel dealt with wide-ranging issues: patronage and spoils of elected officials, railroads and interstate commerce, agricultural experimental stations, and the survey of Indian lands and tribes. His interest in Indian affairs led him to the House Chairmanship of the Committee on Indian Affairs, overseeing the care, education, and management of Indians and their lands as well as dealing with land right-of-way issues and payment of depredation claims. Historians record that tribal councils were often held on the front lawn of the Peel mansion, with tribal leaders camping on the grounds. It was at one such meeting that a treaty was signed with the five civilized tribes (Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole). The final payment to the Delaware Indians was made by Peel and dubbed the “Peel payment.”

In 1892, Peel was defeated for reelection by Hugh Anderson Dinsmore of Fayetteville (Washington County). Leaving Congress, Peel returned to Arkansas and the practice of law while forming a law partnership in Washington DC specializing in Indian cases, having been appointed attorney for all the civilized tribes. By 1890, he retired from law practice and organized the first bank in Bentonville, First State Bank of Arkansas.

On December 18, 1924, Peel died at the age of ninety-three. He is interred in Bentonville Cemetery.


From .

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-2005 about Samuel West Peel
Name: Samuel West Peel
Date of Birth: 13 Sep 1831
Date of Death: 18 Dec 1924
Elected Office(s): Representative
Elected Date(s): 4 Mar 1883
State: Arkansas, Washington
Country: USA
Biography: a Representative from Arkansas; born near Batesville, Independence County, Ark., September 13, 1831; attended the common schools; clerk of the circuit court of Carroll County, Ark., 1858-1860; entered the Confederate service in 1861 as a private; elected major of the Third Regiment, Arkansas Infantry, and later colonel of the Fourth Regiment, Arkansas Infantry; studied law; was admitted to the bar and commenced the practice of his profession in Carrollton, Ark., in 1865; moved to Bentonville, Benton County, in 1867 and continued the practice of law; prosecuting attorney of the fourth judicial circuit of Arkansas 1873-1876; elected as a Democrat to the Forty-eighth and to the four succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1883-March 3, 1893); chairman, Committee on Indian Affairs (Fiftieth and Fifty-second Congresses); unsuccessful candidate for renomination in 1892; resumed the practice of law in Bentonville, Ark., and before the Court of Claims at Washington, D.C., until 1915; died in Bentonville, Ark., December 18, 1924; interment in Bentonville Cemetery.

From .

U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865 about Samuel W. Peel
Name: Samuel W. Peel
Side: Confederate
Regiment State/Origin: Arkansas
Regiment Name: Adam's Reg't., Arkansas Infantry
Regiment Name Expanded: Adams' Regiment, Arkansas Infantry
Rank In: Colonel
Rank In Expanded: Colonel
Rank Out: Lieutenant Colonel
Rank Out Expanded: Lieutenant Colonel
Film Number: M376 roll 18

Obituary for Mary E. Peel
The Springdale News - Springdale, Arkansas - January 2, 1903

Mrs. S. W. Peel died at her home in Bentonville, Arkansas after a long illness Tuesday afternoon at 2:55 o'clock, Mrs. Peel, aged 67 years, 10 months and nine days. Mrs. peel has scores of friends who will mourn her death. She was the wife of ex-Congressman Peel and sister of U. S. Senator Jas. H. Berry. The deceased has scores of friends who will sympathize with Col. Peel and Family in their bereavement. All of her children were with her at the time of her death with the exception of her daughter, Mrs. P. S. Davis, who was unable to get here. Funeral services will be held at the family residence Thursday, December 25, 1902 at 10 o'clock. Burial at Odd Fellows Cemetery.

Note: Odd Fellows Cemetery was Incorporated into what is now the Bentonville Cemetery.

The Peel Mansion
The home was built in 1875 and now houses the Peel Mansion Museum and Heritage Gardens, 400 S Walton Blvd Bentonville, AR  (photo is from

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