John A. Rhea was born in Greene County on September 30, 1854, he came to Lawrence County when he was twelve years old. John received a limited amount of education, he was reared on his father’s (Moses Bolling Rhea) farm. Moses Rhea was very prosperous farmer and he owned hundreds of acres, he gave each of his children a good farm. He played a large role in Walnut Ridge.
On July 3, 1876 John A. Rhea married Miss Elizabeth Cooper, daughter of Thomas and Ibbie (Willis) Cooper who were early settlers to Lawrence County. After John and Lizzie married, he began farming for himself, but shortly afterward gave up that occupation but retained ownership of the farmland. In 1877 he opened a hotel in Walnut Ridge.
In 1882 John Rhea went into the business of buying and selling horses and then started a livery, which he fostered into a complete success. He was the early version of modern car dealerships. The livery stable was the only one in the eastern district of Lawrence County.
John Rhea built the bus line (mule drawn trolley) between Walnut Ridge and Hoxie and he had the mail contract between the two towns.
In politics Mr. Rhea Mr. Rhea is a Democrat and was the first town marshal of Walnut Ridge. He had two children, Harry and Annie Lindsey (Linnie).
The story told over the years is that on February 15, 1893, John A. Rhea was killed when he and his horse were hit by a train near the current location of Stewart Park. You can still see his tombstone in the field across from Stewart Park. It is said that his horse is buried with him.
How do you get hit by a train on a horse?
Was it suicide by train, resulting from depression?