The Lefler family put down roots in Van Buren County, Arkansas, almost 140 years ago.
Martin Branham Lefler, son of George F. and Nancy Worrell Lefler, was born March 25, 1859, in Cairo, Illinois. His father, George, fought in the Civil War and died at Paducah, Kentucky, on Oct. 30, 1862.
Martin’s education was limited. He worked as a water boy for a railroad and later drifted to Arkansas sometime in 1874 or 1875 with only a dime in his pocket.
George Halbrook from Buttercreek near Scotland in Van Buren County hired Martin to work on his farm and help around his cotton gin. Martin lived and worked there until he married Mary Elizabeth Lindsey on March 26, 1882. They had 10 children: Theodore born in 1883; George Filmore born in 1885; Louisa Isabell born 1886; William Edgar born 1889; Julia born 1892; Thomas born 1895; Martin Bryan born 1897; Roy Dinsmore born 1900; Virgil born 1902; and Bessie born 1905.
Martin B. was one of the earliest businessmen in Van Buren County, operating a general mercantile store in Scotland, Arkansas. He was elected state representative and served several terms from 1900 to 1925. He was also elected state senator from Van Buren County. On Aug. 24, 1901, he was appointed and commissioned by Gov. Jeff Davis as honorary commissioner for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis in 1903. M.B. was one of 53 who signed the Prohibition Bill.
An article in the Van Buren County Democrat dated Jan. 22, 1913, gave an interesting story about a bill that Martin B. introduced. This article further shows M.B.’s integrity and is as follows: “The bill introduced by M.B. Lefler of Van Buren county prohibiting fishing on Sunday likely will be deeply resented by those carrot-topped youths of Arkansas, who are wont during spring time to ‘cut’ Sunday school and hie away to the ‘crick’ to angle for perch. If the bill becomes a law, no more will a truant businessman be seen coming back into Little Rock about nightfall with a $50 fishing outfit and one lone sucker in his basket. Mr. Lefler said yesterday that it is unlawful to hunt game on Sunday and it should be just as unlawful for men to congregate on the banks of sylvan streams and angle for trout.” There is no evidence that the bill ever was enacted into law.
In 1911, Martin B. and his family moved to Clinton and continued to operate a general mercantile store. He was a Methodist who loved his church, serving as chuch school superintendent and teacher from the time he married until his health began to fail. He was asked to conduct many funerals throughout the county. He departed this life March 4, 1932.
Roy Dinsmore Lefler was born March 14, 1900, at Cleveland, Van Buren County, Arkansas, to Martin B. and Mary Elizabeth Lindsey Lefler. He married Mary Susan Thompson in Clinton, Arkansas, Nov. 7, 1920. Mary Susan was the daughter of Benjamin Harrison and Catherine Elivira Stuart Thompson. Roy and Mary had the following children: Roy Lefler Jr. and Frances Louise Lefler.
Roy Jr. married Carolyn Griffith of Russellville, Arkansas, and they operated Lefler’s Store in Clinton, later opening stores in Conway, Searcy, Russellville and Harrison. Their children still have the stores in Conway, Russellville and Harrison. Mary had helped her mother manage the Thompson Hotel, and she and Roy Sr. managed the hotel until Roy and his brother Virgil started Lefler’s Chevrolet. Two granddaughters who were raised by Roy and Mary, Mary Lou Lee and Sallie Parish, still reside in Clinton.
Lefler’s Chevrolet is now Joe Lee Chevrolet. Joe Lee and Mary Lou have continued the business and now their children, Ginger Wood and Joey Lee, have taken over operation of the business.
Sallie Parish taught at Clinton High School for 34 years and is married to Toney Parish, the current Clinton police chief.