Marc Wheat Database

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  • ID: I04890
  • Name: Elias Conway
  • Sex: M
  • Title: Gov.
  • Birth: 17 MAY 1812 in Greenville, Greene County, Tennessee
  • Death: 28 FEB 1892 in 3rd & Scott St. , Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas
  • Reference Number: 1L55-MV4
  • Note:
    Willis Miller Kemper, Genealogy of the Fishback Family in America, 1714-1914. p88. Library of Congress. Fifth Governor of Arkansas 1852-1860. See portrait opposite p64.

    Elias N. Conway:
    Born to Rule

    Elias N. Conway was born on May 17, 1812, in Greenville, Tennessee, the ninth of ten children and the youngest son of Thomas and Ann Conway. After the death of his eldest brother Henry, Elias was said to be the true brains of the "Family."

    Elias moved to Little Rock in 1834 and was appointed U. S. Deputy Surveyor. In 1835 Territorial Governor William Fulton appointed him as Territorial Auditor. Conway was then elected the first auditor of the new state by the General Assembly.

    Elias Conway turned 30 in 1842 and was thus eligible to be governor. The politics of the time, however, forced him to withdraw in favor of David Chapman and eventually Thomas Drew. He continued to serve as auditor until 1848, when Christopher Columbus Danley defeated him by only two votes. In their 1850 rematch, Danley won by only one vote.

    When Roane sought not to seek re-election in 1852, Conway decided to run for governor. His opponent was Bryan Smithson, an independent Democrat who had the support of the Whigs. Smithson, a champion of internal improvements, tried to brand Conway as the "dirt roads candidate," but Conway prevailed 15,442 to 12,414.

    Elias N. Conway:
    An Able Governor

    In 1853 Congress granted lands to Arkansas for the development of railroads. The Arkansas Gazette, which was now owned by Conway's rival C. C. Danley, began to advocate for calling a special session of the legislature to dispense the funds. Conway resisted and was supported by his own newspaper, the True Democrat. Conway had two reasons not to hurry. He supported the railroad venture of his friend Roswell Beebe - the Cairo and Fulton Railroad - and the C&FR needed time to gain a competitive advantage over their rival - the Little Rock to Memphis Railroad.

    Solon Borland had also just resigned as U. S. Senator to become Minister to Central America. Conway had appointed his cousin Robert Ward Johnson to fill the seat. Senators were elected by legislatures in those days, however, and Johnson could be ousted by a special session. By resisting a special session, Conway gave Johnson a year-and-a-half to establish himself.

    Despite the state's feeble finances, Conway proved an able governor. One of his most noteworthy accomplishments was the liquidation of the Real Estate Bank. Though it was backed by state bonds, the Real Estate Bank was a quasi-private institution that had successfully fought for decades to block the liquidation of its assets to relieve the state's indebtedness. The money-savvy Conway achieved this in 1855 and was able to pay down $2,341,996.17 of the state's debt. More than $3 million dollars in debt remained, however.

    Other accomplishments of Conway's administration included hiring geologist David Dale Owen to conduct a statewide geological survey. He also administered federal funds that led to reclaiming thousands of acres of swamp land and he presided over creation of a school for the blind. Conway served the then constitutional limit of two four-year terms, making his the longest gubernatorial administration until that of Orval Faubus.

    Father: Thomas Conway b: 25 JUN 1771 in Rectortown , Fauquier, Virginia
    Mother: Nancy "Ann" Rector b: 22 APR 1771 in Rectortown, Fauquier, Virginia

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