Benton County
Tennessee
Biographies

ELIJAH "Doc" ALSUP

Elijah Alsup was born March 27, 1860 in Benton County, Tennessee, near the town of Big Sandy. He was the third of seven children born to James Nolin Alsup and Martha "Patsy" Cole. Other siblings of Elijah were Benjamin Franklin, born 1855, Elizabeth Jane "Molly", born 1857, David Cole, born 1863, John Burwell, born 1865, William Riley, born 1867 and Joseph Monroe, born 1869, Elijah also had an older half sister Susan, born 1852, from his mother's first marriage to Wade Busby. Elijah grew up in Benton County, where his father before him had been born and raised. He was only a few years old when he contracted rheumatic fever, which left him with a weak right eye. He always referred to it as his lazy eye. The Alsup's were neighbors of the Medlock family in Benton County, Tennessee. It was from this family that he and his older brother Ben chose wives. Elijah married Sidney Louella Medlock who was born May 12, 1864, also near Big Sandy, the daughter of John Stephen "Tobe" Medlock and Louisa Mariah Powell. Elijah and Sidney attended the same school and church and were childhood sweethearts. The Alsup and Medlock families felt a big setback when Elijah's older brother Ben died. Ben had a job working on a barge on the Tennessee River when he fell into the river and drown. Elijah was only 18 years old when this tragic accident occurred. Throughout the rest of his life Elijah was haunted by this occurrence. For he reasoned, had it not been for his frail health, he would have been there with Ben and may have been able to save him. Elijah and Sidney were married on December 24, 1883, in Benton County. Sidney had wanted a Christmas wedding. Elijah's father gave them 40 acres of land as a wedding gift. Their first child, Martha Louisa was born on November 10, 1885 and was named in honor of her two grandmothers. Next came Sally Donna, born October 25, 1887, then John Nolin, born March 16, 1889. He was named to honor the two grandfathers. Three more children were born in Benton County, Nettie Jane, born February 26, 1891, Ivy Mae, born February 10, 1893 and Jesse Howard, born November 7, 1895.

The next major setback came to Elijah when his beloved mother Patsy died in 1893. At about the same time Elijah's younger brother John lost his wife Sally when she was struck by lightening while taking clothes down from a metal clothes line in a small rain storm. Reports reached Elijah and others in Benton County of the opportunities for cheap land in Missouri. These reports came from other Benton County residents who had already relocated to Pemiscot County, Missouri. Finally Elijah was convinced to move, as were other family members including his cousin Nancy E. Alsup and her husband William N. Pierce and several other families whose names have been lost in time. Plans had to be made and land sold. It was finally decided the move would be made in the fall of the year after the crops were harvested. By spring planting time the move would be complete, the land bought and new crops would be planted.

In the fall of the year 1896, the rains came unusually early and the fields were soft and muddy. The moving families were helped to the main road by using extra teams of horses and oxen. James Medlock, brother of Sidney, and his sons were some of the others helping. The son of James Medlock, Pinkney, recalled in 1972 that he was a small boy less than 10 years of age when these families left Benton County, but he could remember it well. Finally all the covered wagons were lined up on the main road to start the journey. By the end of the first day, the caravan had made it just out of Benton County camping near Paris in Henry County. From Henry County they journeyed northwest to Fulton, Kentucky. One night they camped on a hillside near Fulton where there were roving bands of wild goats. Traveling with the Alsup family was a family in which the husband had only one leg. He had only a wooden peg for a leg. The wives all had hidden the family's money and other treasurers in their clothes, bedding or in the pillows. One night some wild goats came into camp and one of the goats got the pillowcase that contained the entire amount of money the poor peg-legged man owned. His wife began to scream and all the men began to chase the goat with the pillowcase. After much screaming and chasing, the scared goat gave up and dropped his loot.

From Fulton, the group continued on to Hickman, Kentucky where they took a steamboat down the Mississippi River to Gayoso, Pemiscot County, Missouri, where they settled in the countryside nearby. Gayoso was later flooded and damages so badly that the town was moved inland and renamed Hayti. Some of the families continued down the Mississippi River to Ashley County, Arkansas and others traveled overland to Washington County, Arkansas. At the time the Alsups moved to Pemiscot County, the land had not been drained and was mostly swamps with huge cypress trees growing in them. Elijah bought his land for 50ยข per acre. Today this rich farmland has been dredged and drained and sells for well over a thousand dollars per acre.

After Elijah and Sidney reached Pemiscot County, Missouri, four more sons were added to the family; William Elijah, born March 3, 1898, Levi Jackson "Jack", born February 6, 1901, Albert Sterling, born May 28, 1904 and Joseph Franklin, born September 23, 1906. One of the few times that Elijah returned to Benton County, Tennessee was in 1909 when his father died. His yearning for his homeland in Benton county seemed to increase as the years went by and he often talked and daydreamed of the days of his youth in Tennessee.

One day near the end of his life around age 80 this yearning overwhelmed him and he ran away from home telling no one where he was going. After about five frantic days of searching, he was discovered back at Big Sandy in Benton County. No one seemed to know exactly how he got there. Two of his sons, Jack and Joe, crossed the Mississippi River on a ferry at Cottonwood Point, Missouri, went to Benton County and brought Elijah home. He returned home grinning like a little boy who had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He said, "I finally got to take my last journey home." Elijah Alsup was a tenderhearted man whose greatest love in life were his children and grandchildren. He could often be seen with one or two of the grandchildren on his lap, sitting in his rocking chair. Often he would tell them stories about his childhood in Tennessee, their move to Missouri and the peg-legged man who had his money stolen, not by bandits, but by wild goats.

Elijah's wife Sidney was a no nonsense kind of woman. She had to be, raising ten children and helping to raise some of the grandchildren. She was tall and erect, spoke perfect English, with an English accent that would make you think she had just departed England. Elijah's voice contained the soft lilt of his Irish ancestors. He would say that he was just "a regular flannel mouthed Irishman." Elijah Alsup walked to the Post Office at Hayti, Missouri each morning to get his mail. One day he received letters from his grandsons, Wilber and Warren Alsup, who were serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps in Pierce, Idaho. He went outside the post office and was reading one of his letters, when stepping from the curb into the street he was struck by a car. A few days later on September 9, 1941, he died from his injuries. He was buried in the east Woodlawn Cemetery at Hayti. Survivors were his wife Sidney, nine children, 49 grandchildren and 51 great grandchildren. Sidney died on June 26, 1952, at Hayti and was buried beside her husband.

Contributed by Reba Alsup

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