First Sheriff of Logan County

Curtis Varnell
Paris Express

A jungle of brush and saw briars surround an isolated cemetery plot at Anderson, the now-deserted former county seat for Sarber (Logan) county. Once beautiful tombstones and fences are now in disrepair, the stones so old and marked they can scarcely be read.

One of the foremost pioneers of the region, James L. Garner, is buried in the southeast corner of the small cemetery. The stone is damaged beyond repair and the once-famous resident primarily forgotten. Garner led a life comparable to Crocket, Boone and other famous pioneers found in our history books.

Born in Alabama in 1828, he moved to the Dardanelle area in 1845 and started a family there. He enlisted in the military during the Mexican War. He fought in several battles, including the battle at Palo Alto, where former Arkansas Governor Archibald Yell was killed by being run through with a pike. After returning from the War, he married Emily Barnes and began a family. Not content with farming, he joined a wagon train and traveled to California during the gold rush. Unlike many others, Garner struck gold and brought back a copper pot containing nearly fourteen pounds of gold dust. It is said he returned by ship around the tip of South America.

Garner later bought land near Revilee just south of what is now Paris on Red Bench Road. At some point, he also owned the Grist Mill located on Cutter Creek.

When the Civil War began, he enlisted in the Union Army as part of the 4th Arkansas Cavalry. Letters and stories abound from the Civil War days and the atrocities committed by bushwhackers representing both sides during the War. James would return home for leave but was afraid to remain in his home for fear of attack by the bushwhackers. Instead, he remained in a cave above the family farm until his wife signaled with a sheet that things were safe. While he was absent fighting, his home was raided and his gold and other valuables stolen.

Possibly, he was home during the Haguewood Prairie skirmish in September of 1863. Regardless, his brother-in-law Benjamin Wilkins was killed in the battle and James and Emily raised their three kids. He became ill in 1864 and was mustered out of service.

After the War, those fighting in the Confederacy lost the right to vote for ten years, so all political power fell into the hands of the former Union supporters. With the population expanding, the state began to carve out new counties. Garner became involved in politics and was J.P. for the mountain district and then assisted in forming Sarber (later Logan) County and served as State Representative. He was very colorful and wore a rattlesnake belt and vest made from snakes caught on the bluffs above his house. He and two other men established the first county seat at Revilee (Anderson) and a courthouse and jail were built. The county seat remained there for less than two years.

From 1871-1874 he served as the first Sheriff of Logan County. After his death, he was buried near the old home place.

In recent months, Sherriff Massey and others have worked to clean the cemetery and site. The eventual goal is to make the cemetery more public and to place a suitable gravestone at the site to honor Garner. Donations can be made directly to Mr. Massey, Curtis Varnell, or left at Castle Graphics in Paris.