Joseph Barton Elam
Early life and education
Elam was born near Hope in Hempstead County in southern Arkansas, to William Jefferson Elam, an educator from Virginia. The family moved to Ayish Bayou, San Augustine, Texas, in 1823 where a brother, Charles Wheaton Elam, was born. In 1826, they relocated to Natchitoches, Louisiana, where a sister, Mary Jane Elam, was born. By 1833, the family moved to Fort Jessup, Louisiana, the westernmost outpost of the United States at that time, where William Jefferson Elam tutored the officers' sons. Another brother, John Waddill Elam, was born there in 1833.
Elam was educated at Fort Jessup. Later, he read law with his cousin John Waddill in Alexandria, Louisiana. Waddill helped the kidnapped freeman Solomon Northup to obtain his freedom in court proceedings in 1853. Elam was admitted to the bar in October, 1843, and began his practice in Alexandria, Louisiana. He moved to Sabine Parish and settled in Many, Louisiana in 1844.
Elam was elected to the Sabine Parish Police Jury in 1845 and in 1846-1847 was its President. Elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives from Sabine, he served two years from this area. Elam also served as the District Attorney of Sabine Parish.
Subsequently, he helped establish the court system in De Soto Parish and made the first court appearance as an attorney in the parish court of DeSoto on August 7, 1843. In 1847, Elam drafted the articles for incorporation for the town of Mansfield and became its first mayor. He served as mayor a second time in 1856. He also was elected an alderman of Mansfield in 1856. Elam was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives from DeSoto Parish, and his brother, John Waddill Elam was DeSoto Parish Sheriff.
Elam was elected a delegate to the Confederate Constitutional convention in 1861. He signed the Louisiana Ordinance of Secession on January 26, 1861. He served two terms in the state legislature during the civil war and was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1864 and 1865. In November 1865, he was elected as a state representative in the post-civil war Reconstruction legislature and served until the passage of the Reconstruction legislation by Congress in 1867.
Elam attended the National Union Convention as a delegate from Louisiana in 1866.
During Reconstruction, the Radical Republicans took control of Louisiana. Elam was disfranchised by the passage of the Louisiana Constitution of 1868 which prevented him from running for office for some period. Elam was unable to retain his house seat through this period. However in 1870, section 99 of this Constitution was repealed, and he was allowed to run for office.
The Radicals passed legislation the same year that created the "returning boards" which allowed them to throw out elections. Elam was denied office in 1870, 1872 and 1874 through this method. In 1870, Elam stopped a riot by speaking to and calming a crowd after an election was taken from him and did the same in 1872. The Wheeler Adjustment passed by the Louisiana legislature in March, 1875 did not allow Elam to take his Louisiana State Senate seat for the 1874 election.
Elam, a Secessionist and ex-Confederate State Legislator was elected to the United States Congress to the Forty-fifth Congress in 1876. A political compromise of that year allowed him and other Democrats to take office and elected Rutherford B. Hayes as President in 1877. Elam was reelected to the Forty-sixth Congress representing the 4th Congressional District. He was severely injured in a stagecoach accident during his reelection campaign of 1878. (Shreveport Times, October 1878)
In 1881, he returned home to practice law in Mansfield. He died on July 4, 1885.
Elam's granddaughter, Margaret Taylor Elam Drew (1919–1977), also a descendant of U.S. President Zachary Taylor, was the first wife of State Representative R. Harmon Drew, Sr., of Minden, the seat of Webster Parish. Her son is Louisiana Court of Appeals Judge Harmon Drew, Jr., also of Minden, but with his court in Shreveport.
- Northup, Solomon, Twelve Years a Slave
- Act No. 128 General Assembly of Louisiana 1847
- Official Journal of the House of Representatives, State of Louisiana, 1861-1867
- The New York Times August 13, 1866
- Biographical history of Northwest Louisiana
- Handbook of Politics for 1876, Edward McPherson, Solomons & Chapman, 1876, p. 200
- Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, pp. 197, 201
- Chambers, Henry E., A History of Louisiana, the American Historical Society, Inc., (1925)
- Fortier, Alcée, Louisiana, Southern Historical Association, (1909)
- Biographical Dictionary of Louisiana, Louisiana Historical Society, (1988)
- Biographical History of Northwest Louisiana, Southern Press, (1889)
- 1850 United States Census, Sabine Parish, Louisiana
- 1860 United States Census, DeSoto Parish
- United States Congressional Record 1877-1881
- Northup, Solomon, Twelve Years a Slave
- La. Acts of the Leg. No. 128, 1847
- DeSoto Parish History Vols. 1 & 2, DeSoto Historical Society, 1995, 2004.
- Journal of the Confederate Congress, Vol. 7, pgs. 14-15,1864.
- DeSoto Parish Clerk of Court records
- Sabine Parish Clerk of Court records
- Tunnell, Ted, Edge of the Sword: The Ordeal of Carpetbagger Marshal H. Twitchell, LSU Press (2004)
- Tunnell, Ted, Crucible of Reconstruction, LSU Press (1984)
|Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives(Confederate)
Simeon Belden (Union)
Duncan S. Cage
|United States House of Representatives|
William Mallory Levy
|United States Representative for the 4th Congressional District of Louisiana
Newton Crain Blanchard