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Below is a family biography included in Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Jefferson County, Arkansas published by Goodspeed Publishing Company in 1889.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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Hon. Theodoric F. Sorrells was born in Beach Grove, Bedford County, Tenn., August 18, 1821, being a son of Walter B. Sorrells, of North Carolina. The father was a planter, and also well known in politics in Tennessee and Mississippi. He moved from his native State when very young, and settled in Bedford County, Tenn., where he was educated, married, and resided for thirty years. He then moved to Fayette County, in the same State, but shortly afterward went to Marshall County, Miss., where he remained for twenty years. In 1858 he came to Arkansas County, Ark., and made that his home until his death, in 1864, at the age of seventy years. For twenty years he held the office of surveyor of Marshall County, Miss., an office that his intelligence and ability made it almost impossible to fill with a successor his equal. He was a man of moral character and integrity, and was never known to touch intoxicating drinks, this perhaps accounting for his great success in life. Judge Sorrells’ grandfather, David Sorrells, was also a native of North Carolina, and was married in that State, but afterward moved to Bedford County, Tenn., where he resided for thirty-five years. He then located in Henderson County, of the same State, where his death occurred in 1851, at the age of eighty years. He took no part in the earlier wars of this country, but his father was a soldier in the Revolution and fought at King’s Mountain, and he also had a brother under Gen. Jackson at the battle of New Orleans. The Sorrellses of the United States are descendants of three brothers, who came from England at an early period and settled in North Carolina. All of the family in America derive their origin from them, and have all been chiefly farmers of good standing, in the middle ranks of society. A few have been ministers of the gospel and merchants, but none have ever figured prominently in public life except the Judge. Judge Sorrells’ mother was Martha Boswell, who was reared on the Potomac River, a short distance below Alexandria, Va., and was one of the Old Dominion’s fairest daughters. She died when her son Theodoric was only eighteen months old, after a life of model motherhood. Theodoric F. Sorrells was reared and instructed in farm life until his twenty-first year, when his father paid him a salary, so that he might procure an education. From 1841 to 1843 he attended school at Memphis, Tenn., where he obtained a good English education as well as a knowledge of the higher branches and classics, and a course in the sciences. His academical career was interrupted by the war between Texas and Mexico, and at the call of Gen. Sam Houston for volunteers, he left his books and proceeded to Texas, to take up arms in defense of that State. He landed at Galveston, and was mustered into service on April 7, 1842, in Kit Williams’ company, from Memphis, and remained in camp at Corpus Christi for three months. On July 7, 1842, he took part in the battle of Lapanticlan, between the Texans under Gen. James Davis, and the Mexicans under Gen. Canales. On August 23, of the same year, he was honorably discharged, under the signature of Col. George W. Hockley, Texas secretary of war, and approved by Sam Houston, president of the Republic. When ten years old he joined the Methodist Church, and has been a member in good standing ever since. He has never sowed any wild oats, consequently has none to reap. His habits have been uniform all his life. He has never played a game of cards, nor any other game of chance, nor has he ever danced a reel; neither has he ever been drunk or sued for debt in his life, as he always paid every debt he owed. Judge Sorrells is a man of turbulent passions when aroused, but has a wonderful amount of self-control. Up to within ten years ago the tobacco habit was almost second nature to him, but since that time he has not touched a morsel of the weed, nor has he ever used profane language. From early childhood the desire possessed him to be a lawyer, and after attaining manhood, he diligently applied himself to that study, being licensed to practice on March 26, 1846, by Alexander M. Clayton, then supreme judge of Mississippi. Immediately afterward he went to Texas, the scene of his former exploits, and begun to practice his profession, and while at LaGrange, enlisted in Col. Jack Hayes’ regiment of mounted riflemen. He then was transferred to Mexico, and took part in the Mexican War until the expiration of his term of service, and after that event, left that country and returned to Marshall County, Miss. In the fall of 1847 he came to Arkansas and settled at Princeton, Dallas County, the following year, where he commenced to practice his profession. He soon established himself in the confidence of his neighbors, and built up a large practice, and his popularity attained such a height that in February, 1849, he was elected prosecuting attorney, and re-elected in February, 1851. In August, 1854, he was elected circuit judge, and held that office until 1858, and in 1860 was elector for the State at large, on the Breckenridge and Lane ticket, and delegate to the Baltimore convention in 1860. In 1888 he was delegate to the Deep Water Harbor convention, held at Denver, Col., and is now a member of the standing Deep Water Harbor committee; he also was a delegate to the Topeka convention, in 1889, and is now chairman of the executive committee in Arkansas, and is a strong advocate of that great commercial movement, which has for its object the construction of a deep water harbor on the coast of Texas, being heartily in favor of an appropriation by Congress, sufficient for that purpose. Elsewhere in this work, Mr. Sorrells’ address in reference to this measure is referred to. During the Civil War his efforts for the Southern cause were untiring, and although not in active battle, his money and prayers were always with the Confederate army. After the war he represented Bradley County in the legislature, but was disfranchised by the military authorities under the re-construction act, until 1874. He was then re-enfranchised by virtue of the constitution of 1874. In August, 1874, he was elected judge of the Tenth judicial circuit, and reelected in 1878, each time for four years at a salary of $2,500 per annum. Like his father, Judge Sorrells is an ardent Democrat, and in a letter from father to son occurs this characteristic expression: ‘‘I pray for the success of the Democratic party and the Christian religion.’’ From such teachings Judge Sorrells has never deviated, and in politics he is as unchanging as the sun. He opposed the Fishback amendment, but favors the insertion of the temperance reform or prohibition plank in the Democratic platform of the State of Arkansas. In regard to the payment of disputed State debts, he is in favor of a settlement on the basis of judicial decisions. During the war he was an ardent secessionist, and is now a warm friend to the fostering of Southern industries, in order to make the South self-sustaining. To effect this he advocates a board of commissioners on emigration, to be established at New Orleans, for the purpose of receiving foreign emigrants, and taking care of them until they can disperse and settle throughout the South, so that her resources may be more fully developed. Judge Sorrells was initiated into the Masonic fraternity at Camden, Ark., in 1851, and has taken all the Council degrees and held the office of high priest. In 1874 he became a member of the Odd Fellows at Pine Bluff. He was married in Bradley County, Ark., on May 27, 1851, to Miss Rebecca M. Marks, a daughter of John H. Marks, a member of the Arkansas legislature in 1842, and at whose place the battle of Marks’ Mill was fought in April, 1864. Her mother was before her marriage Miss Mary Barnett, of Alabama, a daughter of Nathaniel Barnett, one of the most prominent planters in that State during his life. Mrs. Sorrells is a niece of the late Judge Kenyon, a distinguished lawyer and judge of Georgia. She is a noble-hearted, whole-souled woman, loved by everybody, and possesses the domestic virtues to an extraordinary degree. She is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and her kindness and charitable disposition toward the needy and distressed have almost placed her on the pinnacle of worship. She has added greatly to her husband’s success in life, and aided him in building up his fortune before the war. After that event, when so many Southern homes had been made desolate and fortunes swept away, she again encouraged him to put his shoulder to the wheel and buoyed up his drooping spirit by her loving help. They have five children living, all of whom were born in Bradley County: Mary (who graduated from Hocker Female College, at Lexington, Ky., in 1872 with first honors, and married in 1873 to William L. DeWoody, a popular druggist of Pine Bluff), Theodore (a farmer), William (a druggist of Hot Springs, Ark.), Emma (Mrs. T. E. Gillespie), and Walter (still a boy). Judge Sorrells inherited no property, but made it all himself. At the breaking out of the war he was worth $100,000 in lands and slaves, and at the close of that event had lost all but $10,000 in land. He is now worth upward of $50,000, which is all the result of his own energy and business tact, assisted by the good advice of his wife. As an instance of his pluck he came from Memphis, on the deck of a steamboat, for want of money to pay his passage in the cabin, and upon reaching Gaines’ Landing, had not a dollar in the world. From that point he went to Camden, Ark., on foot, and at that point commenced to lay the foundation of his fortune. He made $20,000 by various enterprises, and the balance he has accumulated from his practice. Judge Sorrells has the reputation of being one of the most energetic men in the State, and his success justifies that conviction. On the bench he has given universal satisfaction as an honest, upright judge. As an evidence of this, his majority at his last election was 4,663, in a total vote of 10,000. As a lawyer he has been very successful in criminal practice, never having a client hanged, and only one that was sent to the penitentiary. As a speaker he is valued for his forcible and convincing arguments, rather than for brilliant oratory, dealing in matters of fact, rather than in flowing diction and flights of fancy. Judge Sorrells has probably not spent more than six days out of thirty in the pursuit of pleasure, other than that to be found in the society of his family and intimate friends. He takes an active interest in all public enterprises, and is a leading spirit in anything that tends toward the development of his community. One point that should be brought forward is, that, while never the choice of the bar, he is uniformly the choice of the people, who like him for his nerve and discretion of purpose. It is such men as this who lay the foundation of great States, and whose names and deeds form material for history.

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This family biography is one of 136 biographies included in Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Jefferson County, Arkansas published in 1889.  For the complete description, click here: Jefferson County, Arkansas History, Genealogy, and Maps

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