Vol. IX, No. 4, 1996


The Michael Looney House

by Donald R. Holliday



The Michael Looney house sits on the bank of the Eleven Point River, just south of the Missouri-Arkansas border, in Randolph County, Arkansas. It's an unassuming house, little by today's standards. In the time of its construction, near 1850, it might have been considered large, even imposing, especially considering it was built facing and overlooking the river, the major thoroughfare of the time.

The center of the house was constructed after the traditional pattern of a two-story double-pen log house, each pen being sixteen feet square, the two pens connected by a roofed "dog-trot" or "turkey-trot" eight feet wide. Fireplaces, constructed of cut limestone, are externally attached to opposite ends of the main pens. This, except tor variations in dimensions, was the way a prosperous farmer or merchant built his house.

At the back of the house--the front since streets replaced the river as thoroughfare, a "lean-to" kitchen, fourteen by thirty-two feet, was built of sawed lumber, some time after the main house was built. Still later, after the lean-to kitchen became the front of the house, a screened porch twelve feet wide was constructed across the entire length, on the side facing the river, and one end of the house.

Except for the screened porch, the floor plan of the central structure and the kitchen and the placement of fireplaces are identical to those in the plantation home of John Quarles, Mark Twain's uncle, as Twain described it in his Autobiography. In addition, the Looney house follows patterns described by.

The seat of the Looney clan of the Missouri-Arkansas border lies on the banks of the Eleven Point River just south of the Missouri state line. The name itself has passed through many forms. According to genealogist David Craine, it is an ancient name in the Isle of Man (thus Manxman or Mansker) and "comes from MacGillowney, the Manx form of the early Gaelic name MacGiolla Dhomhnaigh .... [which was] worn down to MacGillowney, and then to Lowney, Lewney, and Looney." A common form of the name in American records is Luna.

Craine also reports that in A.D. 1030, "Gilchrist O'Lunigh was Lord of the Conel Moen" in the Isle of Man, and Looney descendant Elsie Stroud cites the name in tax rolls of the Isle of Man in 1050. Craine further reports that "In early times [the name] was found in the Parish of Lonan, and in 1500 a Patrick MacGillony or MacGillewney owned land in a part of the Parish called Amogary.'' land that was "long known as Ballalooney or Ballalewney" [balla means village]. During or near 1731, the first forebear of the Missouri-Arkansas border Looneys immigrated to the British colony of Pennsylvania with his wife and seven sons, entering through the port of Philadelphia. Their eighth son was born in 1734; six more sons and probably one daughter would follow.

In 1739-40, Robert Looney joined some seventy other families of Friends in moving southward through the Shenandoah Valley to settle a 100,000 acre grant of land on the Opeckan River. Robert's will, dated September 14th, 1769, was recorded in Botetourt County; it was probated November 13th, 1770 (copy of will in Worrell, Over the Mountain Men; Robert Southat Stoner, Seedbed ol' the Republic: A History of Botetourt county, Virginia contains much of the material on Robert Looney).

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Absalom, fifth son of Robert and Elizabeth, born about 1729 in the Isle of Man, discovered in 1770 what is yet called Abb's Valley while on a hunting and scouting expedition in southwest Virginia, in what is now Tazewell County. Ab, Captain James Moore and his family, and Robert Poage and his family settled in the valley, but during the early part of the Revolution, with Indian attacks continuing and the militia called to the Continental Army, the Poages abandoned the valley: Ab and his family, at his father's insistance, returned to Fort Looney; and the Shawnee raided the valley and killed or carried off the remaining Moore family (James Moore Brown, The Captives of Ab's Valley, published by the Presbytarian Board of Education, Philadelphia, 1854). In his will, dated September 28, 1791 and probated at the June 1796 County Court, Absalom left five shillings each to eleven children and the remainder of his estate to his youngest, Benjamin (Botetourt County Will Book "A").

Ab's son Michael moved west to Hawkins County, Tennessee, where he and his wife, Temperence Cross, had ten children between 1781 and 1799 and "where the 1,500 farm he acquired at a half-shilling an acre is still held by his heirs" (Ed Sayre, NAMA). Michael and Tempy's youngest son, John, inherited the home place. "[John] and wife, Elizabeth Johnson, are buried in the old Looney graveyard there on the south side of Michael. There are about 120 graves and a row of slaves" (from a family list compiled from cemetery records in 1905 by W.G. Looney, a grandson of Absalom David, Michael and Tempy's sixth child).

According to Lawrence Dalton, History of Randolph County, Arkansas [published by Dalton], 1940) and Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas (Goodspeed Publishing, 1889), William Looney settled the site of Elm Store, Arkansas, near Pocahontas, the first white man to settle on the Eleven Points, as he came here as early as 1802, and entered 1,500 acres of land. He brought three negroes with him, and for a number of years was obliged to go to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, 135 miles distant, and be gone for about two weeks, to buy groceries and other necessary articles. Their meat was.., bears, deer, turkeys, etc. He could not raise hogs on account of bears. Very little farming was done in those days, as from six to ten acres was considered a good crop, and the horses and cattle lived on the cane. A number of years elapsed before there were any settlers besides himself and two brothers named Stubblefield, on this stream, and it was fifteen to twenty miles to the nearest neighbor. He had a fine orchard, and made brandy in great quantities, about 1,500 gallons per year. He married Rhoda Stubblefield, and they had ten children. William, "being an educated man, taught his children at home and thus they became fairly educated" (Memoirs...). His will is dated March 10th, 1846 and "proved" April 25, 1846. Rhoda died a year later, on April 18, 1847 (Probate Report, James Logan Morgan, Wills and Administrations of Randolph County Arkansas, 1845-1852).

Nine of William and Rhoda's ten children married and had children. Families in north Arkansas and south Missouri connected to the Looneys through these marriages are Pittman, Wells, Stubblefield, Ferrell, Fine, White, Garrett, Canard (or Cinard or Kinknard), Bailey, and Davis, names common throughout the Missouri-Arkansas Ozarks.

...

Block in backyard reputed to be the "whipping block."

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The fortunes of their children varied. William Stubblefield (W.S.), Epps, and Michael apparently did better than the rest. W.S., who along with most members of the family continued to farm, evidently prospered as had his fathers in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Virginia. He left to his widow his "two horse wagon, also four negroes to-wit: Hyram, aged about forty seven years, a girl called Temmer, aged seventeen years, and her child now an infant, Mary Elizabeth, and a woman called Charity, aged about sixty years...and his "homestead place, known as the William Looney Old Farm and Homestead" (presumably his father's). To his only son, Erasmus D., he left "two feather beds and clothing to furnish them, one bedstead and one large ox wagon and my library" as well as "all my real estate except my homestead" and "three negroes to-wit: Frank aged about twenty eight years, Jane aged about thirty years and Issac aged about thirteen years" (William S. Looney will dated and signed April 20, 1865, Probate Record, Randolph County, Arkansas).

Michael, listed in the 1860 census as a merchant, evidently also prospered. On New Year Day, 1855, he sold to W.S. Looney a thirty-nine year old male slave for $1,000 (the same slave W.S. left to his wife in 1865) and a twenty-three year old female slave and one girl aged five, one boy aged about five, and one boy aged two for $2,000 (Randolph County, Arkansas Records of Deeds, Book 3, pp. 435-436). Although he died intestate "oil or about the 24 day of February, 1858," W.S. Looney as principal and Solomon Davis and Absalom Looney as sureties bonded themselves for $7,000 "for making inventory, paying debts, and making settlement of the estate" (Bond dated April 5, 1858, Probate Record, Bond Record No. 1, Randolph County, Arkansas).

Randolph County Record of Deeds through book five in 1858 show brother Epps Looney's occasional acquisition of property, such as 888.63 acres in Randolph and Clay Counties in March, 1857. Those records show brother W.S.'s constant acquisition of property and brother Absalom's constant sale or loss of it.

To William and Rhoda Stubblefield Looney's nine married children, numerous children were born, and to their children, and to their children. If Robert the Manxman little knew that his descendants would be recorded as frontiersmen and patriots, even less could he have known that they would be recorded, and recorded, and recorded--as one line descended from William and Rhoda will illustrate. One of William and Rhoda's children, Michael, married first Nancy Canard; they had two children--William Clinton and

Alexander Hamilton (Bud). Widowed, Michael married Artie Bailey; they had five children--John C., Arlena, Laura, Jack, and Ky. Michael and Nancy's son William Clinton married Caldonia Adliza Simmons. They had eight children--Robert, Carli (Carley), Mima, Charley Clinton, Laura, Virginia, Ella, and Elgan. Of that generation, Mima married Charles Naylor Drane. To that union was born nine children, who had thirty-seven children, who have sixty-eight (give or take one or two) children.

If the children of Robert the Manx Friend exercised their liberty to multiply and people the continent, so did they exercise their freedom to believe. Robert's Quaker heritage was either lost or cast aside somewhere between Virginia and Arkansas, if William's bringing slaves to Arkansas or his annual production of 1500 gallons of brandy per year in Arkansas is any indication. From Tennessee to Arkansas and Missouri, the Looneys have belonged to religious orders almost without generational pattern--Baptist, Freewill Baptist, World Wide Church of God, Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of God in Phroffic, Southern Baptist.

The Looneys have continued also to give men in defense of their country. Of the descendants of William Clinton and Caldonia Adliza Simmons Looney, almost every male has served at least one term in some branch of the American military. The last who fell, a great-, great-, great-, great-, great-, great-grandson of Robert the Manxman, was Jerry Wayne Looney, a native of Hartford, California, who according to the Department of Defense died in action, June l 1, 1966, in South Viet-Nam. He was survived by, among others, one brother, U.S. Army, Fort Ord.

Note: Most of the information contained in this sketch was gathered over a fifty-year period by Miss Mary Elizabeth Looney of Washington, D.C. Most of the remainder was collected by Christine Moyer Lacey.

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