Confederate patriots living in Little Rock were alarmed when the Union Army shattered the Confederate forces that attacked Helena on July 4, 1863 and a few weeks later began moving west. As the Federals slowly advanced toward Arkansas’ capital, some of the city’s wealthier families began leaving, many taking their slaves to safe havens further south.
Ann McHenry Reider
Reider opened a mercantile business to sell groceries, dry goods, shoes, liquor, and whatever else consumers might want. Beginning in 1830, he conducted his business at a one-story building on the corner of Main and Market Streets, where he also lived. He prospered, and in the late 1830s, bought his first slaves. The 1840 census showed that he owned six slaves; by 1850 he possessed sixteen and in 1860 he had twelve. In 1860 census Reider was the richest German-speaking immigrant living in Little Rock. The self-assessed value of his real and personal property was over $1.2 million in current dollars. An “unlettered man” not active in local civil affairs, he was a devoted Catholic. In 1830, he attended the first Catholic mass conducted in Little Rock.
Jacob and Ann McHenry had married on April 30, 1833. Born in
Tennessee in 1805, she came with her parents to Arkansas in 1818 “in a canvas
covered wagon.” After the marriage, the couple built Little Rock’s first
two-story building, a house near the corner of 2nd and Louisiana
Streets. The widow and her slaves were
still living there in 1863.
Advertisement for the Return of Charlotte
One day in the middle of August, as General Sterling Price was strengthening Little Rock’s fortifications in preparation for a Union Army attack, Charlotte bumped into Henry Jacobi, a 50-year-old German immigrant who had moved to Little Rock in about 1848. A couple of years later, he had opened a book bindery. In the decade that followed, he had expanded his Markham Street store to sell books and other assorted goods. Charlotte was thoroughly acquainted with Jacobi because, she later explained, “As my mistresses house in town was near his store, I often ran in there [Jacobi’s store] to buy little things before the war and got to know him well.”
Jacobi was an educated man interested in public affairs. A U.S. citizen since 1844, he was active in the “Sag Nicht” movement that in the middle 1850s sought to counteract the anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic Know Nothing party. Jacobi may have been Jewish, but likely was not. In 1845, while living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he had married Sarah Ann Jewel (1826 – 1904), who was not Jewish. After moving to Arkansas, he was not active in Little Rock’s nascent Jewish community in the 1850s or the B’nai B’rith congregation that officially formed after the Civil War. None of his children were raised in the Jewish faith. Perhaps a freethinker, he apparently did not attend any church in Little Rock.
Portrait of Henry Jacobi
Although Jacobi worked hard to build his business from its modest beginning, he had mixed success and sometimes struggled to support his growing family – during the 1850s, he and his wife added five children to their household, including a set of twin girls. When he made extra profits from his business, he invested in real estate, buying large tracts of undeveloped land near the city. At the end of the 1850s, he encountered severe financial difficulties and ended up deeply in debt. To help financially, his wife opened a shop in 1859 next to his bookstore that first sold “hoop shirts” and, later, shoes.
Jacobi closed his store just as the Civil War was arriving. With a partner, he opened a beer garden and grocery store in May 1861 on about twelve acres of unincorporated fenced land he owned by the western edge of the city. He lived in a house on this land, which sat a few blocks south of the state penitentiary (now site of the state capitol) at a location that was 10th and High Streets before High Street was destroyed by Interstate 630. Jacobi initially called his establishment “Jacobi’s Garden,” but it became known as “Jacobi’s Grove.”
During the Civil War, Jacobi was quietly pro-Union, like many ethnic German immigrants living in Pulaski County. He said little publicly about his views but confided in a few close friends and some of the slaves he knew. For example, Shederick Parrish, who was in bondage until the Union Army occupied Little Rock, testified before the U.S. Southern Claims Commission in 1874 that Jacobi “always talked in favor of the Federal government and said the Yankees would lick the rebels at last. He would read the papers to colored men and tell us how things were going on.” Another former slave, Asa Richmond, who served on the Little Rock city council from 1869 to 1872, told the commission, “I have often spoken to him about the war, but he would not have much to say about it, for it was dangerous for a white man like him who was suspicioned and threatened to talk to a negro – he told me he was a union man. I know he dared not to do anything to show he was a loyal man….” A third former slave, Sol Winfrey, testified, “I believe from what I know of old man Jacobi that he is a union man and that he had to keep what he did a secret or he would have been taken out and hung.”
At the chance encounter of Charlotte and Henry Jacobi in August 1863, the German immigrant warned her, as she later related in her own words, that Mrs. Reider “was getting wagons and fixin to send us to Texas” the next day. Jacobi suggested, she said, that “I had better run off if I could, that the Federals would be in town soon….” Jacobi offered to help her.
Knowing that if she were taken to Texas, she would be beyond the reach of the Union army and the freedom it would bring to slaves in Little Rock, Charlotte ran away that night from Mrs. Reider. She was joined in her escape by six other slaves, including her two children, two other females, and two other children. The seven escapees hid in wooded land lying near the borders of Jacobi’s Grove. She later recalled, “[F]or three weeks we laid out in the woods, night and day, wet and dry, and along in the evening every day, Mr. Jacobi sent out a little girl to us with a bucket full of victuals. She would go up the hill like she was going for water and slip round to us in the bushes.”
By helping the escaped slaves, Jacobi put himself and his family in danger. If his actions had been discovered, he would have been arrested, or more likely would have been beaten or worse, and his property destroyed. According to Charlotte, Jacobi “was suspicioned of having us there for one night some rebel soldiers came out to his house. I was only 200 yards in the timber and saw it all as it was bright moon light, the men were on horses and surrounded the house, some them went in and made the old man get up, then they looked through the stable and everywhere – and when they could not find us they got mad and went down in the cellar and brought up all the barrels of wine and liquor, and after they drank all they wanted – they throwed the rest out.”
One night two weeks after that incident, Charlotte was at Jacobi’s house when a “Federal spy” arrived. He told her that the Union Army “would open the ball(?) at Bayou Meto next morning,” and advised her “not to stay in the woods because the rebels would catch us if we were there as they would scatter them all over.” Immediately, the seven escaped slaves moved to conceal themselves “under the colored Methodist Church.” Charlotte described what came next: “Sure enough next morning the cannons begun to fire, and about 10 o’clock the rebels began to leave there and kept it up till three, and about four o’clock I heard the clank of the cavalry sabers, and looked out and seen the men with blue coats, and I knew it must be the yankees.”
After the union army arrived on September 10th, Mr. Jacobi boarded Charlotte and her six companions for two weeks at his house as they began their lives as free people. They had avoided being taken to Texas, where most of the slaves were not freed until many weeks after the war ended in April 1865.
After her emancipation, Charlotte took Edwards as her family name or married a man whose last name was Edwards. Little is known about her life after she was freed. Her voice speaks through time only in her testimony before the Southern Claims Commission, where she told the story of her escape. She likely lived in Little Rock for the rest of her life (she was still living there in 1874 when she gave her testimony). Although it is not certain, she may be buried in Little Rock’s Fraternal Cemetery where more than 2,000 African Americans have graves. Among them are at least fourteen with the last name of Edwards who were buried before 1915. Their burials were recorded in the cemetery record book, but their graves are not marked, either because they have no tombstones or, if they do, any writing on them is illegible. One person listed in the cemetery record book is Lotte Edwards, who was buried on June 29, 1909. Perhaps she was the Charlotte who escaped from Mrs. Reider. If so, she lived the last half of her life as a free woman, reaching her eighties before her death.
|Reider Burial Grounds|
Unlike the post-war life of her former slave, that of Ann McHenry Reider is easy to trace. She resumed her life in Little Rock after the war with some of her wealth remaining. She continued to live at 2nd and Louisiana Streets in her house that was “all enclosed with green shutters” and had “an old-fashioned garden in which flowers bloomed in profusion” until April 1887 when she moved to a large home at 1406 Lincoln Street, which is now Cantrell Road. She occupied the house, later known as the “Packet House,” with the families of her daughters Cassie (1839-1931) and Amanda (1845-1920) who were married, respectively, to brothers Robert C. Newton (1840-1887) and Thomas W. Newton (1843-1908). Mrs. Reider overcame the trauma of losing her slaves to live a long life, dying in 1897 at the age of 93. According to one obituary, she was at the time of her death “the oldest resident of Little Rock.”
Like her husband, Mrs. Reider was a devout Catholic, and both are buried at Little Rock’s Cavalry Cemetery. Their burial places are in a family plot marked by a marble monument more than a dozen feet tall that features the sculpture of a near life-size woman whose arm is draped over a cross. The sculpture stands on a massive base with Jacob Rider’s name and birth/death dates prominently inscribed in the front.
Jacobi stayed in Pulaski County for the rest of his life, sometimes living in the city but mostly residing on a farm about eight miles from Little Rock. After the war, he did not return to his bookbinding business but continued operating Jacobi’s Grove until about 1871. In addition to the hospitality business, Jacobi found government work. When the Union Army occupied Pulaski County, he signed on with its Provost General Office as a detective and a “secret service” member. For a few months after the end of the war, Jacobi served as the city’s appointed police chief. In 1866, he was elected the city’s constable and collector.
In 1868, Jacobi was elected county coroner at the same election at which voters approved a new state constitution. He was re-elected to that office in 1870 as part of the brindletail ticket. Two years later, he ran for circuit and criminal court clerk, an elective county government office, but lost. After Reconstruction ended, he was defeated in his 1874 campaign to be elected a Justice of the Peace (JP) from Big Rock Township. However, he was appointed to fill a vacant JP seat a couple of months later on Dec. 31th. During most of the decade that followed, he was known as ‘Squire Jacobi, and he presided over a JP court, later called a magistrate court, where people accused of breaking county laws were tried. He resigned from the court in December 1883.
The paltry salaries of his elected positions and the meager profits he earned from his beer garden and farm provided too little income to pay off his pre-war debts. In 1872, the Pulaski County Chancery Court forced him to settle the $7,000 debt owed to creditors in New York, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati by selling large amounts of land he had bought in the 1850s, including 320 acres located fifteen miles from Little Rock, 120 acres nine miles from the city, and three city blocks.
In the early 1870s, Jacobi filed a claim with the U.S. Southern Claims Commission for compensation for property (mainly lumber and animals) taken from him by the Union army soon after it occupied Little Rock. (It was as part of the investigation of this claim that Charlotte Edwards was called as a witness in 1874.) His initial claim was rejected, but when he refiled it in 1876 with letters from Gen. Frederick Steele, who led the successful Union army attack on Little Rock, and Sen. Clayton Powell, it was approved. He was awarded $821.50 of the $3,582 he requested. The commission had no doubts about Jacobi’s loyalty but questioned the value of the property taken from him.
‘Squire Jacobi, a respected citizen, died on January 23, 1887, a couple of weeks before his 74th birthday. His wife, Sarah Ann, lived for 78 years, passing away on December 31, 1904 (the year on her tombstone is wrong). They share a marble headstone at Little Rock’s Mt. Holly cemetery. Jacobi was remembered in his obituary as “charitable, kind, and affectionate to everybody….a true and warm friend always ready to help and assist.” Those characteristics, along with compassion, were evident in his good deed nearly twenty-five years earlier when – at some risk to himself and his family – he assisted Charlotte Edwards and six other slaves to gain freedom that would have been delayed at least twenty months without his help.
1. Mark K. Christ. 2010. Civil War Arkansas 1863. University of Oklahoma Press. See chapter 4 “The Battle of Helena” and Chapter 5 “The Campaign to Capture Little Rock.”
2. Reider’s obituary stated that he came to Arkansas “about 40 years ago.” “Obituary.” 1861. Little Rock True Democrat, Aug. 1, p. 2. His presence in Batesville is mentioned in “Early Times in Arkansas by N.” 1858. Weekly Ark. Gazette, Jan 9, p. 2.
Reider’s year of birth is uncertain. The date on his tombstone is 1776, which would have made him 85 years old when he died in 1861. His obituary stated he was 85. However, in the 1860 census, his age is given as 76. In the 1850 census, his age was listed as 53, and the 1840 census indicates that his age was between 40 and 49. According to the 1850 census, he and his wife had a three-year-old child, which means that if he were 85 years old in 1861, he would have been 71 when the child was born.
3. The exact day he arrived is mentioned by Fay Hempstead (p. 773) in Pictorial History of Arkansas from Earliest Times to the Year 1890, published in 1890. Accessed via Google Books.
4. His first advertisement in the Arkansas Gazette, which at that time was published at Arkansas Post, appeared on May 21, 1828. Because of the time needed to set up a store, Hempstead's arrival date (footnote 3) was likely not accurate. “New Goods.” (Adv). Ark. Gazette, May 21, 1828, p. 4.
5. According to the 1860 census, Reider owned real property worth $25,000 and personal property valued at $15,000. In 2020 dollars, the amount was about $758,000 (real property) and $455,000 (personal property). I used the inflation calculator at http://www.in2013dollars.com/ to determine the present values in 2020. The site estimates that a $1 in 1860 had the purchasing power of $30.31 in 2020.
6. “St. Andrews Cathedral, Little Rock.” 1924. The Guardian (Official Organ of the Diocese of Little Rock), December 20, p. 8. Accessed athttp://arc.stparchive.com/Archive/ARC/ARC12201924p08.php
In his obituary, Reider was described as follows: “An unlettered man, he was endowed by nature with remarkable mind and memory, and sound judgment.” “Obituary.” 1861. Little Rock True Democrat, Aug. 1, p. 2.
“Glimpses of Yesterday.” 1934. Ark. Gazette, Mar. 11, p. 30.
Calvin L. Collier. 1961. First In – Last Out: The Capitol Guards, Arkansas Brigade in the Civil War. Pioneer Press (Little Rock), p. 115.
“Jacobi’s Garden.” 1861. Weekly Ark. Gazette, July 6, p. 3. The advertisement stated:
Jacobi gave similar advice to Nelson Douglas, the slave of a Confederate Army officer. According to Brooks, a few days before the occupation, “[Jacobi] told me to remain in Little Rock and not to go south with Col. Brooks and the Confederate Army.” Brooks took the advice. On the day that the Union Army arrived, Brooks went to work for Jacobi, living at his place until June 1865. Testimony of Nelson Douglas in
searches of Ancestry.com, familysearch.org, newspapers.com, newspaperarchives.com, and geneologybank.com.
Oakland and Fraternal Historic Cemetery Records,” accessed on familysearch.org.
“Glimpses of Yesterday.” 1934. Ark. Gazette, Mar. 11, p. 30 and Renton Tunnah. 1929. http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/PU3243.nr.pdf For more on the Packet House, see
tombstone has the date of her death as November 16, 1898. However, her obituaries are dated 1897: “Mrs. Anna Reider’s Death.” 1897. Ark. Gazette, Nov. 16, p. 5 and “The Oldest Resident of Little Rock.” 1897. Forrest City Times, Nov. 19, p. 6. (The likely date of her death was Nov. 14, 1897; the Arkansas Gazette obituary published on Tuesday, Nov. 16, stated that her death was on the preceding Sunday.)
28. Jacobi’s Grove hosted many events, including the city’s first Maifest, held by ethnic Germans in 1867. Also, it was a popular venue for events held by the city’s former slaves. Jacobi sold this property in the early 1870s, but the name and venue remained in use into the 1880s. See
“The Late Henry Jacobi.” 1887. Ark. Gazette, July 5, p. 5 and “Mrs. S. A. Jacobi Dead.” 1905. Ark. Gazette, Jan. 1, p. 7.