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John David Stokes Newell, Sr. (1837 - March 5, 1899), was a Louisiana planter and lawyer who founded the Tensas Parish town of Newellton, which he named for his father, Edward D. Newell.


Newell was born in Port Gibson, Mississippi, the eldest child of Edward Newell, who was originally from North Carolina, and the former Celia Ann Dorsey, a Claiborne, MS native and daughter of Dr. Samuel Dorsey a Maryland native. He was educated at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, from which he received his law degree in 1859. A year later, he obtained civil law credentials from Tulane University (then called "University of Louisiana") in New Orleans. He established his law practice in St. Joseph, the seat of Tensas Parish, located along the Mississippi River levee in northeast Louisiana.

During the American Civil War, Newell fought with the Tensas Cavalry at the battles of Shiloh, Boonville, and Tenmark in Tennessee and Corinth and Iuka in Mississippi. Newell rose to the rank of captain of Company F, McNeill's Regiment of the Louisiana Cavalry. He commanded in all engagements along the Red River.

In July 1864, Newell married his first cousin, Nannie Newell, a Tensas Parish native. They had four sons: J.D.S. Newell, Jr., Cecil E. Newell, Caroll Harper Newell, and Edward T. Newell.

After the war, Newell returned to cotton planting at his Cypress Plantation and resumed his law practice. In addition to the establishment of Newellton in northern Tensas Parish, Newell promoted burgeoning public education. He served for many years on the Tensas Parish School Board and was its president in 1866 and again in 1892.

Newell's work led to the establishment of Newellton High School, which closed in 2006 because of declining enrollment. Newellton students are now bused to the former Davidson High School in St. Joseph, the only public secondary school remaining in the parish. Davidson was renamed as "Tensas Parish High School". Tensas Parish is majority African American. A majority of the white students in the parish attend the private Tensas Academy in St. Joseph.

Newell died in St. Joseph and is interred in Vicksburg, the seat of Warren County, Mississippi.


  • "John David Stokes Newell", A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, Vol. 2 (1988), p. 600
  • Newell obit, New Orleans Daily Picayune, March 6, 1899
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