Sheriff Leon Mooney
Term: 1907 - 1912

MILTON LEON MOONEY
1876 - 1947

Milton Leon "Doc" Mooney was born on December 12, 1876, the youngest son of Maj. Jesse Mooney and his third wife, Olivia Ann "Livie" Williams. He grew up in a household with two brothers and four sisters: Jesse Jr., Laura Belle, Emma, Eugene Williams, Lorene and Alma. He was closest to his brother Eugene Williams Mooney, who was only two years older than him, and they grew up swimming and fishing in the river, hunting in the Ozark Mountains and doing chores on the farm. One of their favorite chores was running the Mooney Ferry across the river carrying horses and wagons and passengers.

The ferry was normally tied up on the north side of the river across the field at Mooney's Landing. There was a big bell on the south side of the river, opposite the trading post, which travelers wanting to cross the river rang to call for the ferry. One evening about dark in the early 1880s, the bell rang and Milton Leon and Eugene raced each other from the house to the ferry to take it across and pick up the passengers. When they got to the other side, two men on horseback were waiting. They were tall men wearing big hats pulled down over their faces and both carried two pistols strapped around their waists. They rode up onto the ferry, road across without dismounting and never said a word. As they rode off the ferry, the boys caught a glimpse of their faces. Fifty years later, Milton Leon would insist that the mysterious riders were Frank and Jesse James.

In 1898, Milton Leon was working in Harrah, Indian Territory (Oklahoma) in the pharmacy of his older brother, Dr. Jesse Mooney Jr., but by 1902, he had returned to Baxter County. He married Laura Blaine Martin on March 6, 1902 in Mountain Home, AR. She was the daughter of Dr. David P. Martin and Mary Catherine Martin of Gassville, AR. In their wedding photograph, Milton Leon is wearing a coat and tie and Laura a high-necked dress, and both have solemn expressions on their faces. While Laura was pregnant with their first - and only - child, Milton Leon returned to Harrah with her. Their son was born there on December 12, 1902, on his father's birthday and was named Eugene after his father's favorite brother. Laura became gravely ill during childbirth and Milton Leon brought her back to Arkansas. She died two years later in 1904 at the University of Arkansas Medical Hospital in Little Rock, AR. As a result of that experience Milton Leon vowed to become a doctor and try to save women from dying in childbirth.

After Laura died, Milton Leon left his infant son, Eugene, with Dr. Martin and Mary Catherine to raise in their big white house in Gassville. His brother, Eugene Williams Mooney, was elected Sheriff of Baxter County for the 1904-1908 term, but was killed at Holdenville, OK, on October 5, 1907, while returning a prisoner to Baxter County. Milton Leon was appointed sheriff in 1907 to serve out his brother's term, then was elected as sheriff in his own right for 1908-1912. While serving as sheriff, he saved his money for medical school at the Arkansas Medical School in Little Rock, graduating in 1904. From then on he was called "Doc" Mooney.

Doc married Effie Baker on August 9, 1909. They had no children of their own because Effie was barren, but after they married, Effie took over raising Doc's son, Eugene. After Doc graduated from medical school in 1914, he opened a medical practice in Arkana, AR. They moved to Eldorado, AR in the early 1920s because of an oil boom and Doc practiced medicine there briefly, then moved to Pine Bluff, AR where he practiced medicine a few years. Doc and Effie moved back to Baxter County in the mid-1920s and Doc began practicing medicine in Mountain Home, AR.

Doc purchased a two-story brick building on the east side of the square and opened Mooney Drug Co. He practiced medicine from his drug store in Mountain Home for almost 30 years. He also made house calls in town and out in the country, night or day, summer and winter, particularly for childbirths. He would sometimes stay with a laboring mother for several days until the child was born. He made his rural house calls with a horse and buggy until there were roads and automobiles in the early 1930s. Although at one time he owned an automobile agency, Doc never learned how to drive a car, so he was driven on his rural calls by Robert Tipton and Earle Bibbler. Bibbler was a short man who had to sit on a pillow to see over the steering wheel. Doc would ride in the passenger seat with his shotgun sticking out the window so he could take a shot at anything that struck his fancy. Through the Depression, many of his patients could not afford to pay Doc for his services, so he accepted produce and wild game and almost anything in payment, and accrued their debts on his account books. He told Effie to burn them after he died and she did. He often boasted that in delivering hundreds of babies in all manner of circumstances, he never lost a mother in childbirth.

Effie was his faithful companion. She helped raise his son, kept his house, helped mind the drugstore, and accompanied him fishing. Every day, rain or shine, Effie took Doc a plate of food for lunch, carrying it on a covered dish the three blocks from their house to the drugstore. Doc and Effie lived in a big two-storied white frame house with a big yard two blocks south of the square where Highway 5 and 62 intersect.

Doc Mooney was a lifelong Democrat, active in state politics and constantly involved in local affairs. He was particularly fond of talking politics and was personal friends with Arkansas governors and congressmen throughout the Depression and World War II. Doc loved to hunt the mountains for turkey, deer and squirrel, and fish the Norfork, White and Buffalo rivers with Effie's brothers. He was a large, rumpled, gregarious, jocular, avuncular man who loved a joke, and would eat anything. Once on a dare from one of Effie's brothers, Doc had Effie cook him a buzzard, which Doc salted and ate with gusto.

Doc Mooney died on April 1, 1947, after a short illness. Effie lived in their house for another 24 years until she died in 1961. They are buried alongside each other in the Mountain Home Cemetery.


Source: History & Families, Baxter County, Arkansas, published 2003, by Baxter County Historical & Genealogical Society.