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James Sevier Conway (December 9, 1796 – March 3, 1855) was an American politician who served as the first Governor of Arkansas from 1836 to 1840.

James Sevier Conway
AR Conway James Sevier.jpg
1st Governor of Arkansas
In office
September 13, 1836 – November 4, 1840
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Archibald Yell
Personal details
Born (1796-12-04)December 4, 1796
Greene County, Tennessee
Died March 3, 1855(1855-03-03) (aged 58)
Lafayette County, Arkansas
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary Jane Bradley
Profession Surveyor, planter


Early lifeEdit

Conway was born in Greene County, Tennessee and was educated by private tutors and attended public schools. In 1820, he moved to Arkansas where he worked as a surveyor. Conway formed a surveying business with two of his brothers. Conway's company took over the land that would later become the city of Little Rock, Arkansas and he is known as the founder of that city. Conway purchased a large cotton plantation named Walnut Hill in what is now Lafayette County (then part of Hempstead County).

Political careerEdit

In 1832, Conway became the surveyor-general of the Arkansas Territory and served in that position until 1836. Conway became the first elected Governor of Arkansas when it became a state in 1836. His administration focused on developing schools and roads. He established a state military to patrol the western frontier and worked to have a federal arsenal built in Little Rock. He worked to get funding for a state penitentiary. He pushed for the establishment of a state library and university but was unsuccessful. Conway left office in 1840 and returned to his plantation. He continued to be active in public affairs.

Personal lifeEdit

While living in Lafayette County, Arkansas, Conway met Mary Jane Bradley, who had also migrated with her family from Tennessee. They were married December 21, 1825. They had ten children, five of whom died in infancy or early childhood.[1] Conway was the brother of Arkansas Governor Elias Nelson Conway, brother of Congressman Henry Wharton Conway, first cousin of Senator Ambrose Hundley Sevier and Governor Henry Massey Rector. He was third cousin of Confederate General and Virginia Governor James Lawson Kemper.

Death and legacyEdit

Conway died from the complications of pneumonia on March 3, 1855. He is buried at the Conway Cemetery Historic State Park, at the site of the old Walnut Hill plantation, near Bradley, Arkansas. Conway helped establish Lafayette Academy in Greene County, Tennessee.[2] The city of Conway, Arkansas is named after him.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "James Sevier Conway (1796–1855)". The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. Retrieved August 11, 2012.
  2. ^ "James Sevier Conway (1796–1855)". The Central Arkansas Library System. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
  3. ^ "Profile for Conway, Arkansas, AR". ePodunk. Retrieved August 11, 2012.

External linksEdit