Andrew Jackson Porter, adventurer, veteran, pioneer and family man, came to Dallas County in 1876 and settled with his extended family in the Mesquite area. Porter was born in Fayette County, Indiana, on 25 December 1820, one of seven children born to Silas, 1781-1852, and Nancy (Buchanan) Porter, born 1786. The elder Porters were married in Kentucky on 27 June 1804.
A.J. married Sarah Ann “Sally” Smith in Hancock County, Indiana on 5 September 1847. Shortly thereafter the Porters settled in Keokuk County, Iowa, where they owned and farmed several large tracts of land.
Catching the California gold fever, Porter joined a wagon train and headed west in 1850. A poem written in his later life of this adventure records the travails of the two-thousand-mile trek. The experience of the overland journey along the Platte River details encountering its cliffs, along with large
herds of buffalo, elk and antelope on the prairie. The deprivations and hardships the “pilgrim band” suffered were starvation, cholera and hundreds of deaths. His venture ended at the gold boomtown of Columbia, California.
In 1862, at forty-two years of age, Porter joined Company A of the Seventh Regiment, Iowa Cavalry Volunteers. This regiment was organized for duty on the frontier to protect emigrant trains, guard roads and telegraph lines, and scout for hostile Indians in Nebraska and Dakota Territories. His company was involved in an engagement with five hundred Cheyenne on the Little Blue River during the Indian Wars of 1864. While on the forced march that summer, he contracted heart disease, then chronic hepatitis. He was stationed at Fort Kearney and was issued a medical discharge in 1865 at Fort Alkali, Nebraska Territory.
Porter’s wife, Sarah Ann, was the eleventh of fourteen children. She was born on 27 July 1821 in Abingdon, Virginia. Her parents were Daniel, 1783-1848, and Isabel (Gibson) Smith, 1783-1864. A.J. and Sarah Ann had nine children:
Cinderella was born in 1845 in Hancock County, Indiana. She married George Henry Smith in 1866, and they lived in Kansas City, Missouri.
Mary Melissa, 1848-1926, married Ambrose C. New, 1844-1907, in 1866 in Keokuk, Iowa. The News came to Mesquite in 1879. New continued his teaching career in Mesquite and was an original member of the school board in 1901. The News had eight children. Mary and A.C. were buried in Mesquite City Cemetery.
William Perry, 1850-1907, married and had one child. He was buried in Long Creek Cemetery.
LeRoy, 1854-1891, married Elizabeth Crowner, 1856-1908. of Keokuk in 1874. They had four children. He was buried at Long Creek Cemetery; she was buried at Mesquite City Cemetery.
Olive was born and died in 1855. Leona I. was born in 1856 and died in 1858. Henderson was born and died in 1860. These babies were buried at Rockcreek Cemetery, Keokuk County, Iowa.
Elzora “Ella”, 1859-1913, married Robert “Bob” Pennington Curtis, 1856-1923, on 1 January 1879. He and his family were settlers in the New Hope community. Bob and Ella had seven children. They were buried with the Curtis families at Pleasant Ridge Cemetery.
Louisa, 1861-1891, married Stephen Decatur Lawrence, 1853-1934, in Mesquite and they had six children. Their son, John, was long-time mayor of Mesquite.
When the Porters settled in the small railroad town of Mesquite in 1876, they built a simple frame house south of town. It later was the home of their daughter and son-in-law, Mary and A.C. New. Twenty-five children were born in the house before it was razed.
Andrew Jackson Porter died on 16 March 1888 and Sarah Ann died on 21 September 1907. They were buried with others in their family at the Long Creek Cemetery.
By Julie S. Morris for Dallas County Pioneer Association‘s Proud Heritage, Volume III.
Photo: A. J. Porter Family