Tombstone Tuesday: Isaac Lafayette and Arabazena Ottalee (Turney) Castleberry

TombstoneTuesday   The subjects of today’s Tombstone Tuesday article, husband and wife, were both children of Civil War veterans whose stories are of interest as well.  The state of Arkansas was considered part of the Confederacy, yet after the fall of Little Rock in 1863 to Union forces, several infantry, cavalry and artillery regiments were formed to serve on the Union side.  Some would be forced to serve in the Confederacy against their will, however.

Isaac Lafayette Castleberry

Isaac Lafayette Castleberry was born on July 15, 1861 in Searcy County, Arkansas to parents John Robert and Margaret Ann (Morris) Castleberry.  Less than six months following Isaac’s birth, John was mustered in as a private in Company I of the 18th Arkansas Infantry (Marmaduke’s) on December 18, 1861, under the command of Captain John J. Dawson.  The unit would also be referred to as the 3rd Confederate Infantry.

Companies I and K of the 3rd were also called the “Burrowville Mountain Guards” (Company I) and the “Rector Guards” (Company K) and all haled from Searcy County.  Of particular interest is the fact that these two companies were thought to consist largely of the Arkansas Peace Society members, of which John was a known member.

In November of 1861 Confederate authorities were alerted as to the activities and sympathies of this pro-Union group, located primarily in Searcy, Marion, Carroll, Izard, Fulton and Van Buren counties and comprised of about seventeen hundred members.  According to the Arkansas Historical Quarterly (Spring 1958, p. 83), local units of the Peace Society “were quickly suppressed by extra-legal citizens’ committees or by the state military board at Little Rock.

Some members were tried for treason and acquitted, while many were forced into Confederate service, which appears to be what happened to John.  The Quarterly article also reported that most of the leadership of the society were Southerners, born and bred, including six preachers who appeared to have been quite influential.  The society was composed mostly of mountain folk who didn’t want to take up arms with either side – they just wanted to be left alone.

One month and a week after being mustered into forced Confederate service, John Robert Castleberry died in Warren County, Kentucky (Bowling Green) – not from a mortal battle wound but a measles epidemic that killed several in his regiment.  It is believed that he and about two hundred other Confederate soldiers were buried in a mass grave.

So, Isaac never knew his father.  Census records indicate that Margaret never remarried and the family continued to live in the community of Calf Creek in Searcy County.  In 1880 Isaac was still living with his family, but on March 16, 1884 he married Arabazena Ottalee Turney, he twenty-three years old and she not yet seventeen.  Their children were:

Barney Lillard (18 Dec 1884)
Harmon Hartwell (30 Jan 1887)
Dennis (21 Apr 1889; died 23 Dec 1897, three days after brother John was born)
Vertie Idella (16 Feb 1892)
Elmer Earnest (15 Apr 1894)
John Spurlock (20 Dec 1897)
Paul Taft (07 Feb 1908)

Isaac was a farmer who appears to have lived out his life in peace and minding his own business, in his Searcy County community.  The father he never knew didn’t have that option after being forced to join the Confederacy.  Arabazena preceded him in death on February 28, 1934; Isaac died on May 21, 1939.  They were buried together in the Snowball Cemetery.

Arabazena Ottalee Turney

Arabazena Ottalee Turney was born in Calf Creek, Searcy County, Arkansas on October 7, 1867 to parents Josiah Spurlock and Cynthia Delilah (Strickland) Turney.  Like Isaac’s father, it appears that Josiah may have been a member of the Arkansas Peace Society (there were others of the Turney family who were members), although his name doesn’t appear on the list.  Josiah did enlist (or was forced to do so) with the Confederacy in 1862.

Family historians surmise that at some point he deserted from the CSA (and records seem to reflect that) and joined the Union, signing up as a Private and mustered out as a Sergeant Major, probably in 1865.  He is said to have returned home and became a school teacher.  Sadly, John died on May 22, 1867 and Arabazena never knew her father.  It appears that Cynthia (or Cyntha as she was called) probably died sometime between 1870 and 1880 because in 1880 Arabazena was living with her older brother John and his family.

This was a unique story of two people who married and had a large family, neither one of them knowing their fathers.  I had heard of some Arkansans having Union sympathies – some of my Arkansas ancestors had split loyalties in their families it appears.  My fourth great grandmother, Mary Ann (Story) Hooper was called “Aunt Pop” by her friends and family and known as a charitable person.  She lived in Logan County, and during the Civil War fed hungry soldiers on both sides, treating them all with equal care and consideration.

I hope you enjoyed today’s story – be sure and stop by tomorrow for a ghost town article on Snowball, a.k.a. Calf Creek, Arkansas.

Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!

© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2014.


    • Thanks so much for stopping by!

    • My mom was a Castleberry 🙂 Who do you descend from?

  1. I am a decendant of John Robert Castleberry. His son, William Bruin was my great grandfather (he also was very young when his dad died. Maybe 2 years old. My mom grew up in Snowball and I have been recently. I heard stories all of my life about Snowball and I am so sad that it is nearly dead. I have visited some of the people still living there and seen the old store and Masonic Hall. If I was rich, I’d buy Snowball, Ark, and make it into a retreat for family 🙂 So happy to have found this blog because i will surely hear more stories about my kin from Snowball 🙂 My other great grandfather was John Keeling or as I heard him called by the old timers there, Doc Keeling. 🙂

    • Like mkoowen (Marsha) William Bruin Castleberry was my great grandfather. I know he was married 3 times, possibly 4. Marsha’s great grandmother was a Keeling. My great grandmother was Mary (Molly) McBride Castleberry.

  2. I found this article very interesting. I too am a descendant of John Robert Castleberry. My grandmother was Etta Idora Castleberry Cooper.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by!


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