Volume 1, Number 10
Among these expatriates was one Richard Fancher who settled in Connecticut about 1700 and was soon well established. This is indicated by the fact that the Branford town records of 1694-1788 state: that he "entered the earmark of William Fancher which is two nicks or slits crossways of ye right ear on the under side, May ye 8;1724"-referring to his cattle marks or colonial "brands" This William was a brother of Richard, direct ancestor of the Arkansas Fanchers.
Richard moved to Roxbury Township about 1725, and his will-indicating he was of sufficient affluence to have something to leave-was made 29 October, 1764. Richard's sisters and other brothers were Catherine, Hannah, John and David. All of the original Fanchers were of solid, respectable, able yeoman stock.
David Fancher, son of the immigrant Richard, migrated to Virginia, where he received a grant of land from Governor Patrick Henry. David's son Richard lived in Virginia and North Caroline before moving on westward to Tennessee.
This Richard, grandson of the immigrant (1756-1829) served seven years in the American Revolution in Colonel Bowman's Eighth Regiment of Virginia. He was with Sergeant Jasper at Fort Moultrie when the flag pole was shot by a British ball. He retrieved the flag and held it in place until the pole could be spliced... Iwo Jima was no isolated incident in American history! Richard died in Overton County, Tennessee; his wife Sarah, of Spottsylvania County, Virginia, died at Osage, Ark., in 1839.
The course of empire was already taking its westward path and in just three generations the Fanchers (originally spelled Fauchier and still earlier Falchier, of which Fancher is an anglicized spelling) had moved from their ancestral land of France to the Arkansas Ozarks. These were the generations of large families and the history of the Fancher family by William Hoyt Fancher shows a large number of Richard's brothers and cousins serving in the Revolutionary Army and in subsequent Indian wars, as attested by pension departmental records at Washington.
The second Richard's son, James, was born in 1790 in North Carolina. He married in Rock Springs, Tennessee. In 1838 he moved to Carroll County, Arkansas, and lived there until his death in 1866. He served, incidentally, in the War of 1812. He was 70 years old at the outbreak of the Civil War and in 1863 he lost most of his property, as his own written statement still extant details:
"On the 11th day of January 1863, Jarnell Herns brigade camped on my farm-they burned about 6,000 rails, took a good many horses and foraged on my grain-killed hogs, cattle and sheep and other property, damaged me about $2500 and on the last of March, 1863, James Blunt command came to my house on Sunday about one o'clock in the afternoon and robbed me. They went into every room and went upstairs and in the garret loft and broke open every trunk and took my money and they made their headquarters at Carrollton, 8 miles from my house and staid there 8 days and they were at my house every day foraging. They took my horses and cattle & hogs sheep geese poultry and everything that came in their way and when they were going to leave they burned all of my dwelling houses and all of my out houses and a large new frame house that we was selling goods in and burned my barns and wheat fan and some grain and farming utencils and blacksmith shop and all it contained. The damage they did that is both brigades at the least figers $22,500 dollars."
In 1842 James Fancher had served as a representative in the Arkansas state legislature.James' son, Thomas Washington Fancher, was born in Overton County, Tennessee, in 1833. He was brought to Arkansas in 1838 and grew up there. He served as a lieutenant in Howell's Battery in the Confederate Army in the Civil War, and surrendered in 1865. He married in Carroll County in 1857 and, except for his army service, spent the rest of his life farming at Osage.
Thomas' son James was born at Osage, in 1858 and died at Connor in 1929. He was a farmer and
justice of the peace, and his son John Kenner was born at
Connor in 1899. Kenner began farming at the age of 12 with one calf which he
bought for five dollars and one pig given him by his father. He farmed until
he was 27 years old, and during that period he managed to buy some of the original
ancestral lands in Carroll County which James, a slaveowner, had farmed. He
was postmaster at Connor until a few years ago and the Connor Postoffice was
one of few such federal agencies still in operation in the country kept in a
private home. During the 1930s Kenner Fancher taught school at Connor and one
year there were only three pupils in his school who were not Fanchers. He is
president of the Richard Fancher Society and an authority on Fancher family
history. As his lawyer great uncle, James Polk Fancher, had sought redress from
the United States Government years before for the survivors of the victims of
the Mountain Meadows Massacre, so Kenner was most active in the project which
resulted in raising a memorial to the victims at Harrison.
If there were world maps of families, the surnames being shown as rivers, one of the major rivers in Northwest Arkansas would be called Fancher. Rising 263 years ago in France, it has spread its branches all over the United States and it has figured prominently-represented by men of ability respected in their communities-in Ozarks history.
The present patriarch of the clan is "Uncle Joe" Fancher, who with his wife, Aunt Ida, still actively farms at Osage on part of the land which was originally taken up by James Fancher when he came to Arkansas in 1838. In 1948 the first reunion of the Fancher family was held at the home of Uncle Joe, under the auspices of the Richard Fancher Society-for which Kenner Fancher was and still is the animating force. The reunions continued to be held at Uncle Joe's until he and Aunt Ida became too old to stand the strain, except for the 1951 reunion, which was a pilgrimage to Sinking Cave, Tenn., former home of the first Arkansas Fanchers.
The most dramatic event in the Fancher family history since the ancient French massacres in the late 1600s was the Mountain Meadows Massacre on September 7, 1857. Utah was still a territory then and it was on the direct route of the wagon trains bound for California. The Mormons considered themselves independent of and at war with the United States and they were under orders from Brigham Young not to sell food to non-Mormon travelers. In the summer of 1857 there was great turmoil among the Mormons and by strangely unfortuitous circumstances, the "Arkansas Company," a band of emigrants en route to California started through Utah territory when tension was at its peak.
The band started on its way in May, having organized a 1ong Crooked Creek at Harrison. Mutual antagonisms mounted as contacts between Mormons and emigrants increased. Since only young children survived the massacre and no Mormons except one ever confessed, it is difficult to sift truth and legend. In any event, fanaticism was firmly in the Mormon saddle at the time when Capt. Alexander ("Piney Alex") Fancher led his train into Mountain Meadows to rest before starting across the desert. Mountain Meadows is a narrow valley in the Rockies, easier to attack than to defend. Early in September Brigham Young had removed whatever restrictions he had formerly held over the Indians, whom the Mormons considered "the battle ax of the Lord". For four days the emigrants stood off, the sporadic Indian attacks but on September 11 a party of Mormons, under a flag of truce, came with a plan to relieve the siege. The Arkansas Company was said to be the richest to cross the plains up to that time. The Mormons offered the travelers safe conduct if they would leave all their wagons and goods to the Indians. As this seemed the only way to save the lives of those in his charge, Captain Fancher accepted the terms and led his company out on foot, except for a few small children in a Mormon wagon. About one mile from the protecting circle of their wagons, the slaughter began. Within an hour the party was wiped out except for 17 small children taken by the Mormons. Two years later the children were recovered by the United States Army and returned to relatives in Arkansas. Among the victims were "Piney Alex" himself, his wife, and seven of their nine children. The wealth stolen from the company, amounting to about $70,000 was never recovered.
Kenner Fancher of Connor, Arkansas, and the late Judge Frank Trigg Fancher of West Palm Beach, Fla., were leaders in raising the funds for the monument at Harrison commemorating the tragedy. The unveiling was September 7, 1955. Two little girl descendants of Capt. Alexander Fancher laid wreaths at the base of the monument. The ceremonies were attended by Juanita Brooks, a member of the Board of the Utah Historical Society and herself a Mormon. On the front of the monument is a brief history of the tragedy; on the back the names of the victims.
Kenner Fancher still farms with his son Russell on the old farm. JK Jr, Kenner's oldest son, is a pharmacist at Harrison; his youngest son, Remmel, farms at Denver, Arkansas. They are tobacco planters.
Harley Fancher is in charge of the state Forestry office at Eureka
Springs; Oden Fancher is a justice of the peace and farmer at Berryville. Dr.
Grady Reagan of Little Rock, whose mother was a Fancher, was reared at Uncle
Joe's, as was his brother Tommy Reagan, a Dallas banker.
Kenner, Harley, Oden, the two Reagans, are all first cousins, nephews of Uncle Joe, who although he has retired from fox hunting, still farms his lands and keeps his bees.
The Richard Fancher Society is named, of course, for the original immigrant f r o m France. His descendants, as well as those of his brothers and sisters, are in many occupations-and pretty well all over the country. They are college presidents, bankers, lawyers, doctors, farmers, politicians, men in practically every field of useful activity in their communities.
Step by step with the Fanchers has gone the development of Northwest Arkansas. They have seen the growth of its cities and their schools, courts, churches, industries, and have had a part in it all. Others have continued to cultivate ancestral lands and add to their original holdings. The wild frontier of the Indian Territory has changed into the sophisticated city of Fort Smith, the state's second largest. The Trail of Tears has been pretty well paved and fenced. Even the Ozark Mountains have been thinned out and somewhat domesticated - at least, Albert Bigelow Paine's famous Horatio no longer roams so widely-and become a tourist center. Beaver Dam is transforming the area.
And Uncle Joe still tends bees that are descendants, keeping pace with the Fanchers and their descendants, of those bees which were originally brought onto James Fancher's farm in deerskin bags way over a century ago.
Reprinted with permission from the Arkansas Gazette, Nov. 17, 1963.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly