Dr. John W. Bean of Phillips County

Dr. Whitfield B. Bean of Lee County

Contributed by Judith Graves. 2020

These two men, Dr. John W. Bean and Dr. Whitfield B. Bean, were two of the ten children of John and Elizabeth Williams Bean of Bullock County, Alabama. The family had four sons and six girls. Of the men, three were doctors and one was a Baptist minister. They were born on a hill farm near Union Springs, Bullock County, Alabama; Dr. John was born 4 Jan 1860 and Dr. Whitfield in 1868.

Dr. John attended one year of high school, then studied medicine for two years with his older brother, Dr. James M. Bean in Buckhorn, Alabama. He taught school part time while he was there. In 1887 he enrolled at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, graduating in1889. In the interim, Dr. Whitfield also attended the University of Louisville then Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Dr. John moved to Trenton, Phillips County, Arkansas on April 15, 1889. He had spent a month with relatives in Forrest City, Arkansas just prior to his move. While practicing medicine in Trenton, he took a post-graduate course in medicine at Tulane University.

In June of 1896, Dr. John met and married Miss Ada Mae (Mamie) Nicholson of the North Creek community. This marriage was probably a home wedding, which was customary in those days. The Reverend Wade Preston, pastor of Trenton Baptist Church officiated. On the marriage license, the doctor’s age is listed as 36, and his bride’s as 23.

A biography of Dr. John would not be complete without the inclusion of a short biography of “Miss Mamie” as she was lovingly called by those who knew her. Miss Mamie was left an orphan while she was still quite young and she grew up in the home of her grandmother, Mrs. William Williford (nee Tabitha Shackelford), who was the mother of several girls. Mrs. Bean’s mother, Mrs. T.J. Nicholson had been Ida Williford, the twin sister of Ada Williford. Ada became the grandmother of Mrs. Joel Higgins of Helena. A younger sister, Katie Williford, became the mother of Mrs. Fred W. (Johnnie Porter Stephens) Schatz, also of Helena. Another Williford sister, Dora, became the grandmother of the late Kennedy J. Graves of Marvell. Kennedy went to live with Miss Mamie after the doctor died, and was like a son to her. Having no children of her own, she named Kennedy in her will as sole heir.

Dr. John was a shrewd businessman as well as a good doctor. He owned stock in two companies, his home and the land surrounding it, other property in town and several large farms. Being raised on a farm, he still loved farm life and he knew how to make his farms pay even in those pre-depression years.

The land for the First Baptist Church of Marvell was given by Dr. John. He and Mr. C.F. Thompson made the larger part of the payments on the building, which was erected in 1925. Dr. John Bean and wife Mamie had been very active in the church and its administration beginning in the 1890s when they lived in Trenton. Their high level of involvement continued during their lives in Marvell.

The home that Dr. John and Mamie built in Marvell was a large yellow frame house on Carruth Street. It was a beautiful home, but also a comfortable one. The L-shaped porch held a swing where the doctor liked to relax in the evening. The porch was high off the ground and there was usually a cool breeze passing on a summer evening.

He died at 3 a.m., Sunday morning, December 28, 1930 of a heart attack and was buried at Marvell Eventide Cemetery.

The Helena World of December 29. 1930 had this to say about Dr. Bean:

His whole life was spent in the service of others. He took an active interest in public affairs and was an honored member of the Phillips County Medical Association. In all his dealings he exercised the strictest integrity, and his acquaintance was practically county wide. His long residence in the western part of the county was filled with kindly and generous acts, and his loss will be felt for years to come. Always sincere and honest, he abhorred hypocrisy in every form, and his kindly spirit made him a friend to the unfortunate everywhere. No call upon his services or his pocketbook went unanswered, and news of his death has been received with profound sorrow in very many quarters.

When Dr. John Bean’s brother, Dr. Whitfield Bean graduated from Tulane he located to Latour, near Lexa, since his brother was already in Phillips County. He opened his Lee County practice in LaGrange in 1898.

Allis Helene Wadsworth, a native of Byhalia, Mississippi, came to Phillips County about 1895, where her father, Thomas Ingram Wadsworth, had accepted a job with Coolidge interest, a large farming concern. As fate would have it, Helene and Dr. W. B. Bean met, and later married on January 3. 1899 in Helena. Their love letters have been microfilmed and are on file at the Arkansas History Commission in Little Rock. Mrs. W. B. Bean, Helene, was an accomplished musician and, when only a girl, played the piano at Central Church near Lexa. She continued this talent after coming to Marianna at the First Baptist Church. She also sang in quartets.

Dr. W.B. and Mrs. Bean built a home in Marianna in 1909. It was built on East Main Street and in 1986 was the home of Elma and Martin Chaffin. The structure, built in the neo-classic style, is a duplicate of the Dr. John Bean home in Marvell. Dr. Whitfield’s office, located on the second floor of the McClintock Building, burned in the August 13, 1918 fire of Marianna. He obtained new quarters over Turner’s Drug Store.

Helene Bean died November 30, 1919 after an illness of twenty-four hours. Dr. Bean’s fellow professionals did all they could, to no avail. She was buried in Cedar Heights cemetery in Marianna.

Dr. Whitfield’s sisters, Eula and Frances M. Bean, moved to Marianna to help raise their niece, Frances Elizabeth, after her mother’s death.

Dr. Whitfield married, for the second time, to Catharine Allnut. She had come to Marianna at the encouragement of her friend, Miss Emma Clark. Catharine died 19 Jan 1935 and is buried in Cedar Heights cemetery. Dr. Whitfield B. Bean died 29 April 1940 and is buried in Cedar Heights.

Note from Judith Graves: Dr. John Bean's wife, Ada Mae (Mamie) Nicholson was the grand daughter of Tabitha Shackelford Williford, my great great grandmother. My uncle Kennedy Graves, son of Carrie Mae Hanly Graves, went to live with Mamie when her husband died. He was her sole heir since she had no children.


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