Friday, February 24, 2017

TOP STORY >> County’s first cotton farmer

Elijah “Eli” Moses was an African American man who came from Marion County, S.C., born in November 1843, and was in Lonoke County paying taxes by 1885.

Prior to W.H. Fuller of Lonoke growing the first considerable size rice crop in this area, Moses believed the bottom land of Crooked Creek (six miles south of Lonoke) would raise rice as well as the bottomland of the Santee River of his native state, where rice was successfully grown on low alluvial lands. He had been raising rice for years.

Jack Noble, a white man living on Crooked Creek, had also been raising rice. Both men only raised small amounts, nothing compared to what Fuller later grew.

Both are mentioned in the book “The Beginnings of the Rice Industry” in Arkansas. Fuller was quoted as saying, “My seed I bought one bushel of Jack Novel (Nobel), who lives south of Seeton. There had been rice raised here in the timber for several years by Eli Moses and Jack Nobel, but not on the Prairie.”

Eli was mentioned in the The Oklahoma Farmer magazine on Oct. 31, 1906.

“Eli Moses, a prosperous negro farmer of Lonoke County, had for several years experimented with rice culture, and had found the soil particularly adaptable to its successful cultivation. His success attracted the attention of W.P. Fletcher, a wealthy planter, whose extensive land holding in Prairie Longue region made him greatly interested in the matter,” the article said.

“Fletcher had enough political influence to obtain a congressional appropriation sufficient to pay for a careful investigation of the subject by the Department of Agriculture. An experiment station was established and, from the results, Arkansas now had a new source of wealth,” according to the article.

According to a local newspaper report on Nov. 21, 1912: “Eli Moses sold $3,000 worth of rice recently. His land is watered from Bayou Meto. He was the first rice grower in this section. He raised the first rice in a small way for his own table, 15 years earlier.

In 1927, Moses owned 183 acres of land in Lonoke County. He is listed on the 1920 census living in the house with his son James. The Arkansas Death Index shows Moses died March 28, 1929.

The Museum Research Center of Lonoke County has tried for years to find relatives to obtain a picture of Moses and to locate his place of burial.

Two local historians, Rusty Eisenhower and R.D. Keever, searched through the overgrown Lemmons Cemetery, where Moses’ wife, Eliza E. Moses, is buried. If he is buried there, his grave is not marked.

Any descendants of Moses’ who have additional information are asked to call the museum at 501-676-6750 or e-mail