Calvin W. Whitson      


Calvin W. Whitson was born on 20 November 1845 in either Plumerville Arkansas (marriage record) or Tennessee (burial record).  Little is known regarding his parents, however it is believed that was the child of Isaac and Jane (or Ann) Whitson as reported in the Conway County Census of 1860 (at which time Calvin was reported to be 13 years old), and that he had at least one brother West Whitson and two sisters, one of which was named Harriet - all of which outlived him.  Further research has indicated that he may descend from the line of William Whitson Junior and Harriett Witherspoon – who seem to be the first traceable Whitson’s found to to have lived in Arkansas.  Historical records indicate that William Whitson Junior came from Tennessee and was murdered in Crawford County Arkansas by a prominent citizen there and that his son, John took revenge upon the death by killing his father’s murderer.  However, the same record indicates that William Whitson Junior had only one son whose name was James.

Early History

Calvin is believed to have lived in Plumerville Arkansas at the time of the Civil War and that he moved to Bloomer Arkansas with his first wife, at some point after leaving the service.  It is known that he enlisted as a private in the Union Army at the age of 17 (he apparently lied on his application since his age there is stated as being 18, although he was still two months shy of his eighteenth birthday at the time of his enlistment), and that his enlistment occurred in Lewisburg Arkansas, which is just south of Morrilton and west of Plumerville Arkansas – indicating that at that time he was probably living in the Plumerville area.

Civil War

Cal’s enlistment record indicates he joined Company “B” of the 3rd Arkansas Cavalry on 24 October 1863 and was discharged less than a year later, on 15 October  1864, due to wounds received in battle.  His obituary indicated that he received “several” wounds during the conflict.  The one prominent wound he was known to have suffered was to the left side of his face, costing him the use of his left eye.   A Fort Smith Elevator newspaper article dated June 16, 1890 indicates the wound was caused by gunfire and occurred in 1864.  However it is not known at which of the more than a dozen skirmishes and battles his regiment participated in during that period, the eye wound occurred.  The loss of the eye caused Cal to wear his hat down over the eye as can be seen in the existing photos of him. 


Calvin was married 4 times and had 5 children.  First to Ann Dean (note that his mother’s name was also listed as Ann) on 17 September 1865 – one month before his twentieth birthday.  The couple were married in Conway County Arkansas, possibly Plumerville, and had only one child together, William H. Whitson.  William (Billy) Whitson was born sometime in 1869 (in Conway County) and was murdered in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) near Eufaula on Saturday 30 June 1888, at the age of either 18 or 19 years.   Calvin married his second wife, Sarah J. McCallester in Franklin County Arkansas (indicating he had most likely moved to the Fort Smith area by this time) on 14 May 1876.  It is not known what happened to his first wife Ann.  Nor is it known what became of this very short-lived second marriage.  However, on the 18th of April, 1878 (less than two years later) Calvin married his third wife, Julia A Hearn, again in Franklin County Arkansas.  Calvin and Julia had two children together; James Harry Whitson born on the 8th of March 1880 and Estelle B. Whitson born sometime in 1882.  Both appear to have been born in Bloomer.  Calvin married his fourth wife, Lucy Belle Price, on the 27th of December 1885.  Once again, it is not known what happened to Julia Hearn or what circumstances may have caused Calvin to marry for a fourth time, just three years after the birth of his third child.  Lucy Belle’s residence is listed as Fort Smith Arkansas and it is quite likely that Cal moved into Fort Smith from Bloomer around this time.  Calvin and Lucy had two children together; Vannie V. Whitson, born 22 June 1886, and Bennie (Benjamin) Whitson, later known as Jig-dad, born sometime in 1889.  Lucy died in 1917 and is buried in Oak Cemetery in Fort Smith.  Family tradition states that Lucy was died as the result of burns sustained when her starched apron caught fire.  Many rumors also circulated concerning Cal's relationship to a Millie Stroud, who may have been residing with him at the time of his death.

Deputy U.S. Marshal

Calvin may have had some connection with the Marshal’s service and Judge Parkers Court before becoming a U.S. Deputy Marshal in early 1889.  It is believed that Cal and possibly other family members may have worked as lawmen in Greyson County Texas shortly after the Civil War, however no records of such a connection are known to exist.  He is believed to have been primarily a farmer up until moving to Fort Smith and, at some point, becoming a merchant and storekeeper.  However, at the end of June in 1888, Cal’s first born son Billy (who was either 18 or 19 at the time) agreed to go with Marshall John Phillips to serve as posse while Marshal Phillips served arrest warrants on several individuals in Indian Territory.  The role of posse was not what most of us think of today (thanks to Hollywood), but was usually one or two men who went along to assist the officer in whatever way was necessary, normally mundane chores such as keeping the camp and watching over the prisoners.  While attempting to locate several individuals at a dance near Eufaula, Marshal Phillips and Billy encountered one the most dangerous outlaws (Wesley Barnett) in the territory at that time, along with his brother Watie Barnett.  Both Marshall Phillips and Billy were killed as result of the ensuing gunfight and Billy killed Watie, the younger of the two brothers.  It is widely believed that Billy’s death was the motivating force behind Cal’s decision to once again take up arms, this time as a U.S. Deputy Marshal.


Calvin died on Thursday or Friday February 18 or 19, 1926 at the age of 80 years old.  At the time of his death he was survived by his two sons Harry and Ben, his two daughters Estelle (Mrs Albert Walton) and Vannie (Mrs. James Evans), all living in South Fort Smith.  Also living were his brother West (living in Ozark) and two sisters, Harriet Logan (Stigler Okla) and Mrs. E.J. Reynolds (Iron City Tenn).  He had eighteen grandchildren and one great grandchild.

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