Charles “Charley” Pless
Son of Peter Pless

Born ca. 1815, Charles Pless is the son of Peter and Elizabeth Boger Pless. Elizabeth is the daughter of Daniel Boger. He owned and operated one of the earliest mills on Rocky River in Cabarrus County NC. Charles was born in either Cabarrus or Montgomery Counties NC where he and family were founding members of Flat Rock Lutheran Church. Found in surviving minutes of Flat Rock Lutheran Church, beside the name of Charley Pless is an (+) indicating he “move away.” A footnote from a Shinn Family History mentions Charles as one of many who left North Carolina in 1838 for Pope County, Arkansas. Looking at the membership roll for the same church, we learn that many of those on the 1837 wagon train were also members of Flat Rock Lutheran Church.

Dated 10 Jul 1844, Charles’s father Peter Pless paid outright for three tracts of land. Two of the tracts were situated in what is now southeastern Russellville. The third tract was situated southeast of Russellville on the banks of the Arkansas River. There is little mention of the Pless family in the 1840’s court records of Pope County. We know from the census that Peter Pless moved back to Stanly County, NC before 1850. His son Charles remained in Arkansas where he is enumerated in 1850 as 31 years of age and apparently single. Just like his grandfather, Charles was by occupation a miller. He owned lands and property valued at $3000. On 14 Nov 1853, for the sum of $1000, Peter and Elizabeth Pless of Stanly County NC sold to Charles Pless of Pope County AR two tracts of land (E-26, Pope County AR). One tract of 94 acres was located on the Illinois Bayou northwest of Russellville near where I-40 crosses today. The second tract of 94 acres was situated nearby.

Written in Stanly County NC on 9 Sep 1854, Peter Pless wrote his last will in testament mentioning lands situated on the Arkansas River. Eighty acres of this land was devised to his daughter Catherine Teeter. And as the oldest son, it appears from the distribution, and the deed a year earlier, that Charles had already received all that his father intended for him. Charles is mentioned once in the following clause:

Item. I give and bequeath to my grand-daughter Sarah the child of Malinda fifty dollars in Money, my will and desire that all the residue of my estate if any after taking out the devises and legacies above mentioned shall be sold and the debts owing to me collected And if there should be and surplus over and above the payment of debts expenses and legacies that such surplus shall be equally divided and paid over to my son Adam and daughter Malinda my will and desire is that my daughter Malinda equal part in this last devise to her bodily heirs equally to be to be divided between them and said legacies to be paid over to the above mentioned within two years from my decease to them and each and every of them their Executors Administrators and asignes absolutely forever this is not to interfere with a deed of gift that I have made heretofore to my son Charley and daughter Elizabeth.
Wordy beyond sensible interpretation, there was a legal struggle between Peter’s son John Adam, the Executor, and one of the mentioned daughters. The case reached the North Carolina Supreme Court where it was not settled until 1858.

Dated 1 Mar 1855, Charles Pless purchased by way of grant 40 more acres adjoining the lands his father sold to him. Then on 14 Mar 1857, George H. Teeter and wife Catherine sold to Charley Pless 160 acres (F-207, Pope County NC) situated east of Russellville just north of Pottsville. Note that Catherine is Charley’s sister. This land was situated in the Cove Creek area near the cemetery where many are buried. At Cove Creek, George and Catherine’s daughter _______ holds the honor of having the oldest recorded tombstone in Pope County. Hugh Taylor and Brice McEver witnessed this transaction. Later that same year, Charles and wife Sarah sold to Hugh Taylor 80 acres of the lands purchased from George and Catherine Teeter (K-375, Pope County NC).

Living then in Gum Log Township, the 1860 Pope County census enumerates the Charles Pless Family as:

45 Charles Pless (Miller) NC
31 Sarah KY
05 Savanah F. ARK
03 Esther ARK
2/12 Martha A. ARK

The above indicates Charles married sometime in the early 1850’s. And then on 1 Mar 1860, Charles paid money again for land granted by the state. But this time, the documentation included wording that led to my greater understanding of the American Indian. On the issuance documentation, Charles received 49 acres in the SE ¼ of Sec. 33 in Twp. 8 North in Range 21 West. Added to this normal Federal Land Grant legal identification, the words read: (West of the Cherokee Reserve.) This land was situated on the north side of the Arkansas River, and west of, and near the mouth of the Illinois Bayou.

Growing up in North Carolina, as a child we traveled many times to the mountains where we made yearly vacation pilgrimages through Cherokee. I learned that many of the Indians were removed to Oklahoma and points west creating what we call “the western band of Cherokee.” But learning here that my ancestor’s brother owned land “West of the Cherokee Reserve,” my simple childhood reasoning would no longer pass muster. Wanting to learn more, I walked from the courthouse in Russellville next door to Vance’s Abstracts where I was told to seek out David Vance. He told me that in the earliest days of the 1800’s, the Cherokee on the western flanks of the mountains purchased land in now Pope County from the Spanish. Settling in the hilly areas along the Arkansas River, the Cherokee were in constant disagreement with the Osage to the west. David Vance told me that at some point William Lovely purchased a large tract between the two tribes that served as a buffer. Combined with Crawford County, in 1827, “Lovely’s Purchase” was known briefly as “Lovely County.” In the 1820’s the Presbyterian Church organized Dwight Mission as a means of educating the Cherokee. All this time, white settlers complained of the vicious nature of the Indians and so in 1828 the Cherokee in now Pope County were forced to move west into what is now Oklahoma. William Lovely’s wife owned land and a mill on now Mill Creek that branches off northwest on Illinois Bayou. On the west side of the Bayou, a small “Reserve” of Cherokee was allowed to remain. But sadly, later this too vanished as the Trail of Tears passed through the very same reserve. Moving west, some of our ancestors settled in ghost towns where the Cherokee once lived. The land had been cultivated and cabins already built. It appears Charles purchased land adjoining and just to the west of Dwight Mission and the Cherokee Reserve.

In 1870, Charles Pless is enumerated in Clark Township. This meant he moved a bit west from where he lived earlier in Gum Log. He likely lived along Mill Creek where he operated a gristmill. I understand that for safety reasons, during the Civil War, many moved up into the hills away from the plains that lined the Arkansas River. There are also numerous reports of bushwhackers shooting and randomly killing residents as they went about their daily lives. It was hard times in a land of divided allegiance. From the 1870 census, it appears the Charles had all girls. He did not suffer the loss of a son during the war. But in 1870, living beside the family of Charles Pless, is the African American family of Wesley Pless. I have not worked on this line, but believe at first glance this to be a slave of Charles Pless. Wesley Pless served in the Union Army during the war. Would like to know what happened to him and his.

As per his loose estate, Charles Pless died prior to November 1887. William H. Miller filed letters of administration in order to settle the estate of Charles Pless, deceased. On this document dated 16 Nov 1887, the living heirs are named as follows:

Mrs. Francis Maddux of Madison County Ark, Mrs. Easter Smith of Pope County Ark, and Mrs. Dona Widdle of the Indian Territory.
His burial is unknown. However, J. W. Booher was the agent in handling a portion of the estate. Could Charles Pless be buried at Booher Cemetery near the present day mouth of Mill Creek? And also included in the estate is an affidavit concerning one outstanding note with remainders due to R. A. Walker. The note reads in part: “which the said note was given for the purpose of purchasing meal from plesses mill as I needed it for family use I got ($3) three dollars worth of meal on said note leaving the estate due me ($2) two dollars on said note.” So just as did his father and grandfather, it appears Charles Pless also ran and operated a grist mill. David Vance told me he had located on a map the exact site of this old mill. He could not find it while I was there, but hopefully we will one day be able to locate the remnants of this mill left in decay more than one hundred years ago.

The children of Charles and Sarah Pless are:

A. Savannah Frances Pless

Born ca. 1855, Frances married 18 Jan 1873 Richard C. Maddux. The 1880 Pope County census lists this family as: 29 Richard C. Maddux, 24 Savannah F., 6 Vinnie M, 4 Minnie M, and 1 Mattie D. Maddux. According to the estate papers for Charles Pless, Richard and Frances removed several counties to the north where they resided in Madison County AR.

B. Esther “Easter” Pless

Born 15 Mar 1857, Easter Pless married 13 Oct 1878 Joseph J. Smith. Born 21 Jun 1849 in Ohio, Joseph died 2 Mar 1918. Easter died 15 Jan 1927. Indicating they did not move too far from home, Easter and Joseph are buried at Dwight Cemetery.

C. Martha A. Pless

Born ca. 1860, Martha is enumerated on the 1860 and 1870 census.

D. Susan E. C. Pless

Born ca. 1865, Susie is enumerated in the 1870 census.

E. Fidona “Dona” Pless

Born ca. 1867, Fidona married Whittle and removed to the Indian Territory.

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