Contributed by Patty Smith. 2018

William King Sebastian was born August 1814, in Hickman County, Tennessee to Samuel Sebastian and Elizabeth King. He died in 1865, in Memphis, Tennessee, and is buried in the Dunn/Hornor Cemetery in Phillips County, Arkansas. (Burial information comes from Danny Honnoll, a distant relative of Sebastian.)

Sebastian moved to Monroe County, Arkansas in 1835, lived there briefly, and was settled in Phillips County, Arkansas by 1836. It is said that he came to Monroe County with his brother, John Paul Sebastian. He was a planter, lawyer, judge, and was elected as a prosecuting attorney in Helena in 1837, made a judge of the first circuit court of Arkansas in 1840. In 1843, he was appointed as an associate judge of the Arkansas Supreme Court, and was elected to serve in the Sixth General Assembly of Arkansas in 1846. He represented Arkansas in the United States Senate from 1848, until his expulsion in 1861.

(At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, most Southern senators resigned their seats in Congress, but Sebastian was one of two who did not submit his resignation. He and Andrew Johnson were instead expelled from the Senate on July 11, 1861, along with their fellow Southerners. Sebastian returned to Helena and continued to practice law. In 1863, when much of Arkansas had been captured by the Union army and a new state government was being formed, Sebastian considered returning to the U.S. Senate. President Abraham Lincoln encouraged such a return, but Sebastian eventually chose against the attempt, correctly reasoning that the Senate would not accept his return under those circumstances. After Helena was captured by Union forces, and the death of his wife, Amelia Dunn Sebastian, and daughter, Sarah Amelia Sebastian, Sebastian moved to Memphis, Tennessee, and practiced law there until his death on May 20, 1865.) (Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture)

According to the papers of Lawson B. Dunn, brother-in-law of Sebastian, and executor of his estate, Senator Sebastian’s response to Lincoln’s encouragement to return to the senate was, “The Senate of Arkansas sent me to the U. S. Senate, and after the ordinance of secession was past, the state called me back, I will not return again, until the State of Arkansas sends me back.”

When the war began, and Helenians heard that Union troops were on the way, Amelia Sebastian, wife of Sebastian, directed the slaves to bury the silver and other fineries. Confirmation that she did so comes from a January 23, 1870 article in the Memphis Daily Appeal. “We have been shown a letter from a gentleman of high character in Iowa, which states that he has discovered in the hands of an honest ex-Federal soldier, a quantity of silverware which he supposes to belong to the widow of W. K. Sebastian. The silverware was purchased from a negro, who is supposed to have stolen it, and it is now in this gentleman’s hands, ready to be delivered on the proper measures being taken and proofs made. This is written in the hope it may meet the eye of Sebastian, or his widow, or friends of either. Other papers will do well to give currency to this information.” A similar notice appeared in the March 13, 1870 edition of this same paper.

William King Sebastian married Amelia Dunn, daughter of Joseph Clark Dunn, granddaughter of Phoebe Dunn, in 1837. The 1850 census of L’Anguille, Phillips County, Arkansas show William and Amelia with the following children:

The papers of Lawson B. Dunn state that the first two children of William and Amelia - William King and Samuel/Daniel Joseph - died as toddlers, the second child drowning in a sunken barrel in the yard of the home.

The 1860, Washington D. C., Ward 4 census shows William, Amelia, and children living in the same household with Lawson B. Dunn

The 1870, L’Anguille, Phillips County, Arkansas census shows three surviving children of William and Amelia: Charles, 27; Clara, 20; Elizabeth, 18. We know that William died in 1865, wife, Amelia in 1861, and daughter Sarah Amelia circa 1861 – 63. Son, Edward died at Scanlon’s after he left the Confederate Army. Find a Grave records show that daughter, Elizabeth, married West Harris (1850 – 1926) and had three children: Emmett, Sebastian, and Clarrisa Harris Schoolfield). Elizabeth, West, and children are buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis, Tennessee, along with Lawson B. Dunn and wife, Melinda. Elizabeth Sebastian Harris died of malarial fever in 1901.

Sources: Phillips County Historical Quarterlies Newspapers.com; Ancestry.com; FamilySearch.Org; Family Papers of Lawson B. Dunn; Encyclopedia of Arkansas; Bioguide Congress. Gov; Find A Grave;

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