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Below is a family biography included in The History of Washington 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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James Oates, proprietor of the Oates’ Wagon Factory, was born in Halifax, Yorkshire, England, January 6, 1836, the son of John and Rachel (Armatage) Oates, both also natives of Halifax, Yorkshire, England, where nine generations are buried in one grave-yard. The father was a blacksmith and edge-tool maker. He was the first mechanic in his father’s family, though three or his four sons were tradesmen. Both parents died in England. Their family consisted of fourteen children, seven sons and seven daughters. James Oates received very little education, owing to the fact that at the age of about eleven he left England, was on the sea for three or four years, and reached this country in 1852. For one year he followed his trade at Key West, Fla., being in the Government’s employ, and he here mounted the first guns in that fort. In 1860 he went to Honduras, Central America, with Gen. William Walker, and was with him until the close of his campaign. He assisted in storming Truxillo, and was in every engagement during that campaign, and was captured when Gen. Walker surrendered, and held a prisoner for several weeks. When Louisiana seceded he was offered a commission in the Confederate service, but refused, and because of his Union sentiments was obliged to leave. In April, 1861, he enlisted in Company G, Seventh Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and served three months, and then enlisted in Company K, Ninth Illinois Infantry, for three years. In December, 1861, he was commissioned second lieutenant, and in June,1862, he was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant. He participated in the battles of Shiloh, Corinth, Resaca, Peach Tree Creek, Fort Donelson, Nashville and others. During his service he was in sixty-seven engagements, and at Fort Donelson was wounded by four balls, three taking effect in his left shoulder and breast. He was discharged at Springfield, Ill., in 1864, and afterward went to Nashville, Tenn., entered the railroad service of the Government, and although a civilian took part in the battle of Nashville. He receives a pension as a partial compensation. In his wanderings he learned the blacksmith and wagon-maker’s trade, and opened a shop at Sedalia, Mo., working about thirty hands. In 1866 he married Miss Ellen Severs, a native of Washington County, Ark., and the daughter of an old settler, Charles J. Severs. One child was the result of this union, Ruth. In 1868 Mr. Oates moved to Cincinnati, Ark., where he built a large factory, with a capacity of about 400 wagons yearly, and besides this he deals in agricultural implements. The year previous to this his wife died, and five years later Mr. Oates married Mrs. Martha J. Maurice, nee Spence, a native of Rochester, N. Y. The first Mrs. Oates was reared by Methodist parents, but was not a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the present wife is a member of the Catholic Church. In 1886 Mr. Oates was the Republican nominee for representative of Washington County to the State Legislature, and in 1888 he was chairman of the Republican Mass Convention. He is a member of the G. A. R., and although a Democrat before the war, since that time he has been a Republican. He has one of the largest wagon factories in this section of the State.

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This family biography is one of 300 biographies included in The History of Washington County, Arkansas published in 1889.  For the complete description, click here: Washington County, Arkansas History, Genealogy, and Maps

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