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Elias Bryan Moore was a Civil War veteran and a local and state Democratic Party leader. He was also a newspaperman for much of his life. In 1884, he was elected to the office of Arkansas’s secretary of state, his only statewide elected office. He served two terms in that position.
Elias Moore was born on January 23, 1842, in Sparta, Tennessee, one of nine children of William Ward Moore and Isabella Bryan Moore. In 1858, the family relocated to Fayetteville (Washington County), where his father, a tailor, operated a store and a sawmill.
As a youth, he attended the schools of Sparta and area private schools. While in Fayetteville in 1859, Moore apprenticed as a compositor (or typesetter) for the Arkansian newspaper. The following year, he was appointed as postmaster of Fayetteville by President James Buchannan; he also served in that position when Arkansas joined the Confederacy. In June 1860, he started the Fayetteville Democrat with his two brothers.
As a staunch Democrat, Moore supported Stephen Douglas for president in 1860. When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted in Gratiot’s Regiment Arkansas State Troops (Third Arkansas State Regiment). In August 1861, during the Battle of Wilson’s Creek in Missouri, he was wounded in the right thigh. He returned to Fayetteville to recover. The wound plagued him for the rest of his life.
By 1863, he returned to military service as a partisan ranger with Captain Palmer’s company and served with that unit for about ten months. He participated in the 1863 Action at Fayetteville. He aggravated his old wound and soon took another leave. After spending about four months with his family in southern Arkansas and Texas, he returned to Arkansas and joined Colonel Gunter’s Cavalry, serving the rest of the war with Cabell’s Brigade. By the time of his surrender at the end of the war in Marshall, Texas, he had attained the rank of colonel.
After the war, he and his family returned to Fayetteville. He soon pursued a business career selling goods in the Choctaw Nation and trading in cattle. In August 1868, he, his brothers, and his father reestablished the Fayetteville Democrat. Moore served as editor of the paper until 1884. As editor, he supported the development of Arkansas Industrial University (now the University of Arkansas) and railroad construction. Moore was also a member of several fraternal groups, including the Odd Fellows, Knights of Honor, and Knights of Pythias. He was chosen the Odd Fellows Grand Master of the State in 1878.
Moore married Emma Jane North in Fayetteville on February 9, 1869. They had two sons and two daughters. She died in 1890.
Moore served in a variety of elected and appointed positions, including as a Fayetteville alderman for three years in the late 1870s. He was a delegate to the Democratic state convention in 1874, 1876, 1878, and 1880. In 1877, Governor William Read Miller commissioned him in the state militia as a captain; he later became a lieutenant colonel. Moore served in the Arkansas General Assembly for three terms, being first elected to the House of Representatives in 1878 from Washington County. As a state legislator, he chaired the Committee on Retrenchment and Reform and drafted a law classifying state printing and opening state contracts to statewide bidding. On several occasions, Moore acted as speaker of the house.
Moore was elected as secretary of state in 1884. His greatest achievement while holding the office came during his first term when he supervised the renovation and enlargement of the deteriorating state capitol, now known as the Old State House. Moore used a state-appropriated $30,000 to remove the north portico and extend the central building north. The buildings on either side of the central building were enclosed as two-story additions. Much of the present appearance of the building came from this renovation. After serving two terms, he once again entered the business world, this time in Little Rock (Pulaski County). He served as president of the Famous Life Association and of the Arkansas Collections Detective and General Intelligence Association.
He was appointed warden of the Arkansas State Penitentiary in 1895. This appointment was brief, finding him returning to Fayetteville in 1896. With a brother, he once again entered the newspaper business, founding the Mountain City Gazette. He continued to work at the paper until his death on May 19, 1897.
Moore is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Fayetteville.
For additional information:Campbell, William Simeon. One Hundred Years of Fayetteville, 1828–1928. Fayetteville, AR: Washington County Historical Society, 1977.
Goodspeed’s Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Central Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1890.
“Our New Secretary of State.” Arkansas Gazette, January 16, 1885, p. 4.
Williams, Nancy, ed. Arkansas Biography: A Collection of Notable Lives. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000.
Last Updated 2/25/2017
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