Collections Blog

Collections Blog

Within an Inch of His Life: The Story of Maj. F.R. Earle

Old State House Museum - Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Collections Department spotlight for July highlights Major F.R. Earle, who served in the 34th Regiment of the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

Fontaine Richard Earle was born January 9, 1813, in Pond River, Kentucky. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in arts and divinity from Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee, in 1858, Earle moved to Boonsboro (now Cane Hill) to become president of Cane Hill College and a Cumberland Presbyterian minister.

Earle closed Cane Hill College in 1861 and eventually led a company of men that later formed Company B of the 34th Arkansas Infantry. He was elected Captain and in December of 1863, was promoted to Major. At the Battle of Jenkin’s Ferry on April 30, 1864, command of the 34th Infantry fell to Earle and remained under his leadership until the conclusion of the war.

Our collection hosts some very interesting artifacts from Major F.R. Earle’s time in the military.

During the Battle of Prairie Grove on December 7th, 1862, Earle’s scalp was scraped by a Minie ball that pierced his kepi in the thick of battle in the orchard behind Archibald Borden’s home. While inspecting the damage to his kepi, Earle reportedly remarked, “That was a pretty close clipping.” When told that if the bullet had been an inch closer, he would have been killed, Earle replied that if it had been an inch the other direction, it would have missed him entirely.

After the war, Earle married Amanda Buchanan and was elected to Arkansas’s state legislature from Washington County in 1866. He highly supported the state’s first bill for free public schooling and was elected the state’s first secretary of education. He went on to publish a grammar book in 1867, and rebuilt Cane Hill College where he served as its president until its closing in 1892. Earle devoted the rest of his life to preaching and died at his home in Cane Hill on September 8, 1908.