November, 2007 OPHGR "Window to the Past" Newsletter Volume1#2
P.O. Box 1551, Canton, Texas


Opening of Civil War Centennial Recalls
Original Account of Red River

by Alma G. Stuckey
(Taken from the Sheridan Headlight
Newpaper - Dated January 8, 1961)

Article submitted by Mary Ganey
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Rhodes place in Grant County, 113 years old, has many ties with Civil War era.

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TODAY, January 8, 1961, President Eisenhower will officially open the Civil War Centennial, marking 100 years since on January 9, 1861, cadets on Morris Island, just off the coast of South Carolina, scored a direct cannon hit on the battleship, Star of the West, loaded with reinforcements for the United States garrison of Ft. Sumter, thereby touching off the four-year Civil War.

In Grant County, residents will recount phases of the four-year struggle as they affect not only this country, but others in Southern Arkansas. This will not be hard to do – you have to travel only a short distance from Sheridan to find still visible evidence of the war fought a century ago. This includes the site of the battle of Jenkins Ferry, an old two-story building built in the 1840's, and used as headquarters for Confederate soldiers passing through, and stories of the war, both legendary and factual.

Miss Alma Rogers of Sheridan, county historian, and retired abstract and records expert, probably has the most authentic record of the Battle of Jenkins Ferry – and the entire Red River Expedition, ever written. In the faded manuscript, her father, the late R. M. Rogers, recounts from his own experiences and observations the campain which ended with the Battle of Jenkins Ferry. He fought with the Confederates throughout the campaign, and lost an arm in the fighting at Jenkins Ferry.

THE HOUSE, known as the Rhodes place, was begun in 1847. It is a two-story building, and although in need of repairs and restoration, it is in good condition as far as materials go. The timber used was all hand-cut, and the cypress shingles have never decayed. The owner, Cramer Rhodes, a grandson of the builder, would like to restore the house to its original state, but ill health and needed funds have prevented him from doing so. He lives in another house close by, but relatives still occupy the old house, now 113 years old.

The only visible remainders of the Jenkins Ferry battle today are a large monument standing just off the highway, erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy, an occasional minie ball picked up at the site, and Saline River which is said to hold two cannons left by the retreating Union Army which crossed the River and headed for Little Rock after the battle fought April 30, 1864. But there are bitter reminders in its history.

R. M. Rogers, author of the "Red River Expedition", was only 16 years old when the Civil War began. One by one his five brothers were killed in the fighting. When the last, James Rogers, was killed, young Rogers persuaded his general to let him take his place. He fought with the 26th Arkansas Regiment, Company B, until he lost his arm at Jenkins Ferry.

Rogers began his account of the Red River Campaign with plans of both Confederate and Union armies which took part. General Banks, he wrote, was to ascend the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Red River, then up that River to a planned point where he was to join General Steele's men who were moving south from Little Rock. The Northern armies were then to invade Texas.

THE CONFEDERATES, led by Gen. Kirby Smith, leading general of the Trans-Mississippi Department, in order to repel the invasion, were ordered to join Gen. Richard Taylor's troops and hold the Northern armies in check until Arkansas and Missouri men could reinforce them.

For a time it looked as if General Taylor's men would be unable to hold out while waiting for assistance, Rogers wrote. General Banks' army kept advancing, Taylor's men falling back. The Confederates lost two skirmishes. Then the tide began to change. The Confederate soldiers won an encounter at Mansfield, La., and still another at Pleasant Hill. They were then ordered back into Arkansas and near Camden they met General Steele's troops moving south.

At Camden a skirmish ensued, and Steele's men turned north again. The Confederates engaged them at Mark's Mill near Camden, winning that skirmish, and another at Poison Springs. By that time General Steele's men had been ordered back to Little Rock. The pursuit continued, and on Saturday morning, April 30, the Confederate soldiers reached an area near what was later to become Jenkins Ferry. They found Steele's army waiting.

It was here in the muddy Saline River bottom that the Battle of Jenkins Ferry was fought. It has been described as one of the bloodiest skirmishes of the Civil War. For six hours weary men on both sides fought in mud and water "shoe-mouth" deep and when it was finally over, more than a thousand men, both Confederates and Union soldiers, were killed or wounded, Rogers wrote in his history.

HE DESCRIBED the plan of the Confederates for the battle, and how the outcome affected both armies. Confederate troops under General Fagan were to attack in front, while the rest of the men were to strike from the rear. The Union army had taken a position just north of a field along Cox's Creek, behind logs and timber in such a manner that Confederate solders could not reach them without exposure to crossfire. Men on both sides fell rapidly.

The fighting grew more intense, with scores falling by this time. Troops were taken, given up, and retaken. Near noon it became evident that General Steele would cross the river, and move toward Little Rock. Wagons trains were cut down, cannons spiked and thrown into Saline River, and much ammunition lost, or disposed of. The Union army crossed the river, but without pontoons the Confederates could not pursue. The battle had ended.

And for R. M. Rogers, the war was over. He had lost an arm, and with other solders who had been wounded, he lay on the battleground three days before being carried to a field station in Tulip. His arm, almost completely severed, was amputated at the site of battle, and several more days lapsed before a change of clothes was available at the Tulip hospital.

Bearing out Rogers' account of the Federal troops discarding their war materials at Jenkins Ferry, Grant County residents for years found weapons which had been used by the Northern soldiers. And only two years ago, two Sheridan men, Chester Meek and W. H. Lindsey, took a metal detector to Jenkins Ferry and located and unearthed 1,500 pounds of grapeshot shot balls, other small ammunition, and a large quantity of decaying cloth. They believe they have located one of the cannons, but the depth of the water in Saline River at the spot has made recovery attempts impossible.

MANY PEOPLE in the county believe the Federal army buried gold along with the ammunition. For years people have tried to locate it. Robert Rhodes, (no kin of Cramer Rhodes), of Leola who lives just two miles from the battle site found a gold dollar in the area several years ago. It bears a date of 1843. He dug to a great depth in the vicinity, but never found other gold pieces. He has muskets, parts of guns, and some Civil War ammunition which his father picked up many years ago.

Here is where the battle ground and the Rhodes place have "ties". Cramer Rhodes says that he remembers hearing his grandfather say that a young Union soldier came to his home soon after the war, and inquired about reaching the battle ground. He also talked about the area, and if high water would keep him from reaching it. Rhodes thought the man recovered the gold, because he never came back as he had promised to do.

The "Graybacks" did come to the Rhodes place, however, after the war was over, and a group one night took the old man out behind the house and hanged him to a large tree because he couldn't produce gold they thought he had. After they left, slaves cut the man down, but he was never well again.

There are reminders of the Civil War at the Rhodes place today. There is a saddlebag which was left there during the war. A young man who brought the mail through the area once a month reached the Rhodes place just in time to join the Confederate army. He just took off his mail bag, and went on. There are other interesting pieces of furniture, hand carved, and relics of a century ago.

Every state across the South will revive memories of the Civil War during the Centennial. Many of them still carry the scars of battle. And, as in Grant County, facts, stories, and legends. But the Centennial will serve a great purpose – that of reminding us of the strength and security which comes with the uniting and building of a great nation such as all sections of our country enjoy. If it took a four-year war to achieve all that we have today, then it must have been worth the price!

Note: Watch for more about the Civil War, Jenkins Ferry and Whitten Mill from The Sheridan Headlight dated July 13, 1972 as we will continue this article in the February and May issues of this Newsletter.

The Free State of Van Zandt

Have you ever wondered why we are called the Free State of Van Zandt? Well, we went to local historian, Annette Plemmons, who told us there were two or three stories but this is the one most likely to be the truth.

Following the end of the Civil War, Van Zandt County was overrun with Federal troops and carpetbaggers all in the name of reconstruction. The Van Zandt citizens became "fed up" with all of these troops and carpetbaggers and formed a committee of citizens to approach the County Commissioners, informing them that they wanted Van Zandt County to secede from the United States and also from the State of Texas!

It was presented and passed and Van Zandt County became the Free State of Van Zandt, totally separated from the United States and the State of Texas.

It wasn't long before the Free State was attacked by Federal soldiers from New Orleans led by Gen. Sheridan. The Van Zandt Free State soldiers won the Free State War which called for a celebration and the group ended up quite drunk. While in this condition, the Federal Troops acted quickly by putting all the Free Staters in leg and wrist irons and locking them up in the stockade, however, the Federal soldiers did not check their pockets. One Free Stater, Dr. Allen, carried a nice file in his pocket. He was able to file the irons off himself and some of the others. Seeing that the stockade had no roof, the men all pushed together to knock down the log wall and escaped. The men scattered to the east, west and to Oklahoma. Dr. Allen went to Oklahoma where he obtained his physician's license and later returned to Van Zandt County. After the escape, the
Federal troops took control of the county again.

No document has ever been found to indicate that the actions leading to the formation of the Free State of Van Zandt were rescinded.

Author Unknown

Early Tales of Life in
Eastern Van Zandt County

Taken from
Van Zandt News
Dated Sunday, July 22, 2007

by Mable Cook of Van, Texas
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Editor's Note: The following article was submitted by Mable Cook, of Van, member of Van Zandt Historical Commission and Van Zandt County Genealogical Society.
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Richard Lawrence Howell, an early pioneer of Van Zandt County, is an ancestor of Lloyd Cook, of Van. Howell served during the Civil War with the 28th Texas Cavalry and lived most of his life in the county.

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Genealogy has been an enjoyable hobby of mine for almost twenty years now. Not only do I find studying my husband's lineage a pleasurable pastime, but a gratifying one. When my research pays off and I come across a new piece of our history I think of it as a bit of a treasure hunt. And, on my husband's side of the family, there are some real gems to discover.

My husband, Lloyd Cook, is a Howell on his mother's side. The Howells are a family who has lived in Van Zandt County for several generations. They are numerous in our community and their past rich with interesting stories. As luck would have it, the Howells and their descendants happen to be great story tellers, so many of these delightful tales have been preserved in their re-telling by various grandparents, aunts and uncles and so on. There are a few family yarns from the 1800s that are particular favorites of mine. The first is about Richard Howell and his wife, Celia Little Howell, my husband's great grandparents.

Richard and Celia Howell were living in Village Creek, where Van City Lake is now, when Richard enlisted in the Confederate Army on the 10 of May 1862 in Marshall. I don't know why he went so far from home to enlist, but that is what he did. Celia did not like the isolation of Village Creek and she wanted to buy the farm of Hugh Berry, a nephew of Celia's, on what is now Texas HW 110. There she would be closer to her half sister, Elizabeth Tunnell Swain and her half brothers, Enoch and James Tunnell. They had the money but Richard was cautious and wanted to wait until after the war. The story was told that the day after Richard left for the war, red haired Celiawent to the pasture and caught a horse, road bare-backed to the Berry's farm and bought the place. She moved her four daughters there and when Richard returned from the war, he had to hunt her as he didn't know where she was living. It makes a good story but that isn't exactly what happened.

Richard enlisted 10 May 1862 and Celia bought the farm 29 Aug 1863, a little over a year after Richard enlisted. Celia moved her four daughters, Viola, Martha Frances, Mary, and or Molly and Rosa into the 16' by 16' log house with a lean to on the back. Nancy Laurence was born 12 Dec. 1864. I was working on this when I noticed Nancy Laurence's birthday. I told Lloyd I didn't know who Nancy Laurence was but she wasn't a Howell as Richard was in the service and I had heard that when Richard came home he had to look for Celia when he got out of the service. Edlo, Lloyd's oldest brother, was there when I told this to Lloyd and Edlo said, "Don't say anything else about this. Just drop it. Just forget it!" "Well, O.K. I said. BUT....! I ordered Richard's military record. Thanks Goodness, Richard received a 45 day furlough at just the right time. So Nancy Laurence was legitimate and Grandma Celia's reputation was saved.

The Howells had a stage coach stop at their farm. The stage started at Marshall and went to Dallas. When the stage topped the hill at what is now Union Chapel, the driver would start ringing a bell. By the time the coach reached the farm, a fresh team of horses would be ready and waiting. Richard and Celia were kept busy providing food for both horses and passengers. The story told by one of Celia's granddaughters, Minnie Davis, it that when more passengers came in on the stage than Celia was expecting and she was afraid she would run short of food, Celia just put too much salt in the food. The passengers didn't eat so much....but they did drink a lot of cold well water. Celia was pretty sharp.

Sometime in the early 1870s, Richard donated a tract of land for a school. This was the earliest school in this area. It was called Spring Hill School. The school was located north of the Howell home in Van Zandt County. It was consolidated with the Van School about 1915. All of the Howell children attended school at Spring Hill. They got their drinking water from the Spring near the school. If the water looked clear, they thought it was good. They got a bucket of water, put one dipper in the bucket for the whole school and they were in business. It was surprising there were not more outbreaks of illness than there were. Contagious diseases spread like wildfire in these little schools..measles, chicken pox, whooping cough, influenza, and of course the itch.

One amusing story Currey Cook told me about Lucy Rhodes and E. R. Tunnell was pretty typical of the days. Eddie Tunnell rode horseback from Van to the little school at Pruitt to teach school. In bad weather he would stay with Lucy and her family, his cousins. This particular time he planned to spend the night with the Rhodes, Lucy met him at the gate and said "You are welcome to spend the night with us, Eddie, but I want you to know that we have the itch". Eddie climbed off his horse and said, "That's all right, Lucy. I have it, too."

They used the Blue Back Speller in school at Spring Hill. The cover was blue obviously. Then, first, the book had your numbers, then the alphabet and then words to spell. They all studied arithmetic, spelling, reading, history and geography. Each student had to buy his own books. They used slates and sat on homemade benches. There were no desks as such. They were all in one room and there was one teacher for the whole school. When you finished one book, you just went to the next book. You were not divided into grades, you just progressed at your own rate. Russell Howell, Richard's and Celia's grandson, remembers 87 students in this one room, one teacher school that he attended. The teacher was paid $35 a month and school lasted 4 months. Thirty five dollars a month for 87 students figures out to about $1.50 per student per year. Russell said he guessed they had done pretty good considering the education they had received. You only went to school 4 months a year as you waited until crops had been gathered in the fall and dismissed before crop planting time in the spring.

As Tom Howell was growing up, he helped around the stage stop and became acquainted with all the drivers. Occasionally, Tom would catch a stage coach ride to the next stop. Then he'd catch the next coach back home. Sometimes he even rode as far as Dallas. He remembers riding to Dallas, about seventy-miles to the west, when everything was open range. There was not a fence between the Howell farm and Dallas. As Tom got older, he was sent out to check on the cattle. There was little cleared land then, most of it covered with scrub brush..belly-high to a horse. It would take some time to find the cattle in this kind of terrain. There were only three watering holes in about a ten mile radius. One of these was the Neches River. There were no fences, it being open range. The cattle grazed where they pleased. There were only three houses in a twenty mile area, so there didn't seem to be much of a problem with where cattle grazed.

Another story about the way people lived back then was one Rosa Swain Brawner told her cousin, Edlo. When there was a brush arbor revival meeting at Wickerbill or Pruitt, the whole family piled into the wagon and went to the revival. When the little children would get sleepy, the father or mother would take them out and lay them in the wagon on a pallet. The baby or small child would drop off to sleep. Well, Rosa and her teenage friends would take a child from this wagon and swap it for a little one in that wagon. Then they would do the same thing with children from other wagons. There might be several swaps that night. Of course, the child would sleep through the whole thing. Since there was only a lantern, at best, for light, the parents would see a child sleep and off the family would go home. They couldn't see well enough to know they did not have their own child. When they got home and lighted the lamp, they would see this strange child....where was Baby John or Baby Mary? Daddy would saddle up his horse and take this strange child and start riding around to the various farms to see where this child belonged and who had his child. Lots of fathers would be riding around the country that night. No one really scared that night because they knew what had happened. Those teenagers had been up to mischief again.

Another pastime the young people enjoyed in the early days was racing horses. Willie Josephine Tunnell Howell, Tom's wife, was an excellent horse woman, I've been told. She would go with the other young people down to a place on the Neches River called Race Horse Prairie. It is still known as that. Willie rode sidesaddle, but I'm told she was very good and won many races. She told Edlo that she didn't tell her daddy about racing though.

About 1901, Tom Howell and his very good friend, Elisha Fowler, decided they needed a better way to communicate. They like to go fishing but by the time one of them rode a horse to see if the other one could go fishing, the day was half over. They did some figuring and they got the Sears Roebuck catalogue down. They ordered the wire, the insulators and the phone boxes. Tom lived about two miles east of Van and Elisha lived about a quarter mile north of Van. When the material came in, they started stringing the first telephone wires in Van. They started at Elisha' house and went from tree to post to tree to post until they got to Tom's house. In 1985 ninety-one year old A. P. Fowler told me he well remembered as a six year old child, running home from school to see if the phones were working. They were.

People were cotton farmers in the Van area. They had gardens and some small fruit orchards that brought in a little cash. Van had two small grocery stores, a gin, a Methodist Church and a school that went through the tenth grade. The mail was brought from Garden Valley by a Mr. Prater. The kids went into the woods at the right time and picked black haws, red haws, huckleberries, blackberries and hickory nuts. Kids entertained their visitors by taking them to get strips from tickle-tongue trees and gum from sweet gum trees. They would also go to the branches and small creeks and swing on muscadine or grape vines. This is the way people lived back then.

That was before oil came to Van and everything began to change.



Commissioners Book 3 Sept. 1881 Page 60
Transcribed by: Laverne Wyatt

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Mary J. Harperin
The State of Texas
Commissioners Court
Special Term 1881,Van Zandt County Texas, September 1881

Now came on to be heard before the Court the application of Mary J. Harper for a Land Certificate for 1280 acres of Land under act of Legislature of Texas Granting such Certificate to persons who have been permanently disabled by reason of wounds Received while in the Service of this State or of the Confederate States approved April 9th 1881 and it appearing to the Satisfaction of the Court upon the testimony of Jno. R. Martin & J. C. Fancher two credible witnesses that the said Mary J. Harper is now a bonafide Resident of this State and is the widow of J. P. Harper deceased that said JP Harper Enlisted in the Military Service of the Confederate States in the late war between the States of the United States he being a bonafide resident of this State at the time of his said enlistment and while engaged in actual service as such soldier died and that said Mary J. Harper has never married since the death of said husband and that she has not property of the value of one thousand dollars. It is therefore ordered by the Court that a Certificate issue from this Court to said applicant showing that she is entitled to such Certificate.

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Feraby Cooper
The State of Texas
In Commissioners Court
Special Term, Van Zandt County
Texas, September 1881

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Now come on to be heard the application of Feraby Cooper for a Land Certificate for 1280 acres of Land the said application being made under act of the Legislature of Texas approved April 9th 1881 Granting such Certificate to persons who have been permanently disabled by reason of wounds Received while in the Military Service of this State or of the Confederate States and it appearing to the Satisfaction of the Court upon the testimony of J C Cooper & T M Rodgers Two Credible witnesses that the said Feraby Cooper is now a bonafide Resident of this State and is the widow of John P Cooper deceased that said J P Cooper enlisted in the Military Service of the Confederate States in the late war between the States of the United States he being a bonafide resident of this state at the time of his said enlistment and while engaged in actual Service as such soldier died and that said Feraby Cooper has never married since the death of said husband and that she has not property of the value of one Thousand Dollars. It is therefore ordered by the Court that a Certificate issue from this Court to said applicant showing that she is entitled to such Certificate.

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R R Cade
The State of Texas
In Commissioners Court
of Van Zandt County
Texas Special Term Sept. 23, 1881

Book 3 Page 61

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Now came on to be heard before the said Commissioners Court the application of R R Cade for a Land Certificate of 1280 acres of Land under act of the Legislature of Texas passed April 9th 1881 for the benefit of disabled Confederate Soldiers and it appearing to the satisfaction of the Court upon the testimony of F. P. Lybrand, D. C. Cade, J.P. Beaird and N. C. Harris that the said R. R. Cade was a bonafide Resident of the State of Texas at the breaking out of the Late war between the States and as such Citizen entered in the army of the Confederate States and during his said enlistment was seriously wounded and by reason of the wounds Received has been and is now permanently disabled so as to seriously impair his ability to perform bodily Labor or to Earn a Living for himself and family and further that said R. R. Cade is now a bonafide resident of the State of Texas and is not worth one thousand Dollars. It is therefore ordered by the Court that a Certificate issue to said R. R. Cade showing that he is entitled to the aforesaid Certificate from the State of Texas.

What did you do in the war, Mama? Daddy? Siblings? Aunts? Uncles? Grandparents?

Did you ever wonder why so many people left their farms and moved to the cities after the war? One reason could be that they were able to make more money there than on the farms.

Send us your stories about the war time service of your family whether in the fileds planting crops, working in factories or serving our country to:


Henderson & Peacock
by: Lea Peacock
My full name was Ruby Leona Henderson and my husband is Billy Louis Peacock.

My husband was in WWII, also the Korean War and I worked in the Kaiser Ship Yards in Richmond, California; Richmond Tank Depot in Richmond, California; Naval Base in Newport, Rhode Island; Army Engineers in New Orleans and Point Molate in Richmond, California. I followed my husband when I could from January 1943 through December 1945.

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Finley-Conway & Vinson-Werner
by: Patsy Finley Vinson

My mother, Mamie Ruth Conway graduated from Bartley-Woods School in Fannin county in 1942, and she went to work for Austin Bridge on Singleton Boulevard in Dallas, Texas making bombs.

My grandmother "Mamaw" Ola Conway, had never worked outside the home and decided to try her hand at making bombs. Well, she lasted two weeks when she became homesick for her 3 smaller children at home at Hail Center in Fannin County, Texas. She quit and went home. Papaw John Conway worked on the farm raising crops so the troops could have food.

Alvis "Dude" Conway, son of John and OLa, served in the war as a gunner on an airplane. We believe he served in the Army division.

My dad, Willie Joe Finley, was in 121st Calvary Division of the Army. He was stationed in the Philippines and fought at Luzon. He carried a 50 lb. water-cooled machine gun beside his rifle and other gear. His brother, George Marion Finley also served in the Army and in the Philippines.

My father-in-law, Earnest Weldon "Blackie" Vinson served in the U.S. Navy and was blown off of three ships. One of which was an aircraft carrier.

Ouita Garvin Werner worked in Dallas as one of the "Rosie the Riveters". She was the grandmother of Robert Vinson and mother-in-law of Earnest Vinson.

Ancestors of Benjamin Franklin May
By: Novella May Wilson
(Speech made at her 90th birthday party - 3 March 2007)

Benjamin Franklin's great grandfather was William May who was born about 1730 in VA, possibly New Kent County, and died about 1785 in Franklin County, North Carolina. His proven children were: William, Thomas, Reuben, James and Mary Ann. There could have been more. A DNA test was taken by my brother, Alton May, which proves that we are, indeed, descended from this man.

William's son, Reuben, was our Benjamin Franklin's grandfather. He was born before 1774 in North Carolina and died in 1833 in Madison County, Tennessee. Reuben May was married twice, having 8 children by his first wife, and 3 by his second wife.

Reuben's son, Benjamin, born in 1797 in North Carolina, was a child of his first wife, Elizabeth. Benjamin married Jennie Hill in North Carolina, and their first 3 children were born in Franklin County, North Carolina, and their other 3 children were born in Madison County, Tennessee.


Descendants of Benjamin Franklin May and Nancy Ann Crump

Our Benjamin Franklin was born 14 April 1836 in Madison County, Tennessee. His mother died shortly before his father moved the family to Lafayette County, Mississippi. His father died at Oxford, Mississippi in 1843, and the court made, the oldest son, Reuben, the oldest son, though not married, guardian of his 10 siblings. Benjamin Franklin was age 7 and his little sister, Emeline, was about 5 years old.

Many things during Benjamin's early years are not known except for family lore and census records. Reuben had married Catherine James, and we always thought that he lived with Reuben, but he doesn't show up on a census with him, so he may have lived here and there. We do find brother, Robert and sister Emeline living with a Daniel family. It is known that all of Ben May's siblings moved to southwest Arkansas except James Martin May, who remained in Lafayette County, Mississippi.

Benjamin Franklin and Nancy Ann Crump were married 18 September 1855, and Robert May married her half sister, Mary Jane Crump. It was always believed by the May family, that these two girls were the only family of John Crump, and that he raised them while he followed his occupation as a hunter for the market, in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. It was said that Ben followed the Crump "family" over into Hunt County, Texas where they were married. I have not found a marriage record for Ben and Nancy in either state.

Regardless of family lore, I am convinced that this John Crump family who were living in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana in 1850, the same family living in Lafayette County, Arkansas in 1860, and back in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana in 1870 are our ancestors. I have spent many hours researching them, and there are many reasons to believe this is Nancy Ann's correct family. However, Ben and Nancy made their home at Stamps, Lafayette County, Arkansas where John Robert, born 1856, William Thomas, born 1858, and Isaac Newton (my grandpa) born 1860 were born.

But, all was not tranquil in this area. Political agitation arose between the north and the south concerning the slaves and other unrest. Abraham Lincoln was elected the new president of the United States on 4th March 1861. Then on 6 May 1861, Arkansas joined the Confederacy. The next year, Ben enlisted at Lewisville, Arkansas on 22 May 1862, as did his brother, Bob, and brother-in-law Nat Hobson and George Daniel. Unfortunately, George was killed in the service, and Bob died of the measles.

We know that Bob fought in some major battles and other skirmishes, Cane Hill, Backbone Mountain (Massard Prairie), Jenkins Ferry, Arkansas and Pleasant Hill, Louisiana. To any of you who are interested to know more of these battles, go to GOOGLE and ask for either of these battles. To understand what these soldiers suffered during those hard years helps us to understand why as long as he lived and Ben was sick with a fever, he was yelling the "Rebel Yell".

Ben and Nancy's 5th child, Mary Jane Elizabeth, was born 29 Mar 1866 at Stamps, Lafayette County, Arkansas where Nancy had managed to protect and take care of their little children through this long ordeal. We can only surmise, but perhaps our family had seen so much unrest, hardships and deprivations that they wanted to make a new start elsewhere. They were accustomed to cornbread and homespun clothing, but had dreams of biscuits and calico from which to make their clothes.

Anyway, in 1867 a wagon train of 30 to 40 people, mostly kin, left Arkansas bound for Texas. According to Hobson records, they left by ox cart 3 days before J. W's 4th birthday, which would have been 6 December 1867. They spent Christmas at Clarksville, Texas, which was the Red River crossing site on their way from Arkansas. The weather was good the whole way and the trip was made in six weeks.

Ben and Nancy first rented some land in southern edge of Hood County, on the Squaw Creek, believed to be the very same land which did not become Somervell County until 18th February 1875 by petition of the Legislature to make this a new county. Ben and John R. May signed this petition containing 406 names. His name was on the first Somervell County tax roll in 1876. He had bought 325 acres of the Jose Hernandez Survey valued at $925.00. By 1881, he owned a wagon valued at $50.00, 5 horses valued at $250.00, and 40 cows valued at $200.00. We might think of this as about the extent of his wealth when the decision to build this large two story rock house was made.Building the Rock House

Quoting from "The May House" that Loma Swaim and I wrote many years ago urged on by my aunt Lela (May) Swaim and her mother-in-law. "It was the year 1882 and there was plenty of excitement in the air around the one-room log house, with side room attached, where the Ben F. May family had lived for the past few years. They had long planned to build a larger house, one made of stone, since they had bought this tract of land in 1874. Ben and Nancy had come to Texas in 1867 with their children, John, William, Newton, Benjamin and Mary. After moving to Glen Rose (Squaw Creek) five more children Parilee, who died as a child, Amanda, Jim, Lou, and Edward had been born to them. The little log house was much too small, even though John had married and lived nearby with his family.

"Now, plans were well underway to build the home they had been dreaming of so long. The land had been sown in grain in the fall, so there would be no row crops to be cultivated that year, as all hands expected to pitch in on the building of the new House."

"Finally, the construction of the house was ready to begin. The rock mason, Bill Trawick, was on the job, and with the help of Benjamin, was checking and rechecking the measurements of the large rectangular cavity mid the freshly dug earth. The site was just at the tip of of the knoll extending out from the hill. At the very tip of the knoll, the digging was several feet deeper as there was to be a roomy storage basement beneath the east end of the house. Nearby, from the top of the hill west of the house, all the rock was obtained. One could hear noises of crowbars, picks, and directions to the team, as the digging crew worked.

The father and two oldest sons, William and Newton, continued with the hauling of the rock down the hill for the building."

"At harvest time, all the family stopped to harvest the grain except Benjamin, who kept hauling rock and help the rock mason. In later years, he said that he believed he had handled most of the rock twice, and many of them three times. The lumber hauling was no small item as it had to be hauled from Fort Worth by wagon. Although Fort Worth was only fifty miles away, it took four days to make the trip."Bill Trawick, the rock mason, with the whole family, worked all that year to finish the house. The large, two-story, stone building, had arched windows and front entrance. Downstairs were two very large rooms, each with a fireplace, and a broad hall between, with no porches. Upstairs was all one big room used for sleeping quarters with the stairway in the hall near the front entrance."

"Upon completion of the new house, a community dance was given to celebrate the occasion. Neighbors came from all around in wagons, buggies and on horseback. The dancing took place in the huge upstairs area of the house. Most likely the fiddle music was furnished by Abe Landers, a musician, who did play for many dances about that time."

"For many years, the little log house, which stood nearby in the yard, was stilled used as the kitchen. The mother and the girls must have made many steps back and forth, from house to house to get their housework done. Also, the young men kept their saddles in one end of the sideroom always riding up to the house to saddle and unsaddle their horse."

"As the years passed, Ben and Nancy began to improve their place. To replace the draw well located down the hill in the garden, and walled up with rock, a flowing well was dug beside the rock house. A trough was made for the water to pour into. Their milk was placed in large stone jars and cooled in this trough. Some of the milk was used as sweet milk, the rest allowed to clabber, the cream skimmed, and churned into butter. Then the buttermilk was put back into the trough to cool till mealtime. Later, the well stopped flowing and the windmill was erected."

"Then in about 1900, a wooden porch was added to the rock house, extending almost the full length of the front of the house. A smaller one was built at the back. Some years, later, a large kitchen, built of lumber, was added to the back of the house, extending out from the hallway. A porch was attached to the west side of the kitchen which led right out to the well. This is the way the house remained as long as the May family owned it."

Other land was bought, making this a large 600 acre farm, on which there were two smaller houses. There was plenty of room for the children, as they married off, to live and provide for their young growing families.

From the Glen Rose Herald: Aug. 30, 1906 "Uncle Ben May is having his house newly shingled."

My memory of this house starts after the parents had died, and were buried in nearby Hopewell cemetery, the others had all moved away except Aunt Amanda and Aunt Lou who were living there all alone at ages 51 and 46. Aunt Mandy died in 1921, so I could not have been more than 4 years old when I was there with my parents to visit them. They had their kitchen in the west downstairs room and had one of the biggest cats sleeping by the cook stove that I had ever seen. Aunt Lou married Lee Caldwell in 1922, when she was age 47 and they lived there until 1928, so I was there several times to visit them. They moved to a farm at Paluxy leaving the old home place vacant for the first time.

In January 1929, my Aunt Lela and Uncle Ransom Swain moved there with their young children. Soon, they were teenagers, and in need of entertainment. Once again, parties were held in the huge upstairs room, as it was those many years past, and the place came alive with the laughter and happiness. I have spent many happy hours there playing ring games, which was like square dancing except we danced to singing rather than fiddle music. These are some of the best times of my teenage years.

The place was sold to Dallas Parnell in 1937, the Swaim's lived there for 5 more years, where Uncle Ransom and Hoyt worked for Mr. Parnell. Hoyt and Loma's oldest son, Larry was the last May descendent to be born in the house. Their son, Marlin, was born on the place in a little house especially built for them, while Hoyt remained there to work.

I am so very pleased and grateful that this dear old house is still being used and cared for by TXU ENERGY, and have so graciously allowed it to be used for my 90th birthday party on March 3, 2007 (birthday is March 4).


Benjamin May House in 2007
Glen Rose, Texas

Thomas J. McBride
Pioneer Educator,
Smith County, Texas

Transcribed From Program Sheet by:
Patsy Vinson

Thomas J. McBride was a pioneer educator in Smith County. He attended Add-Ran Male and Female College at Thorp Spring (Texas) and, with George W. Cross, founded in 1881 an outstanding school at Mt. Sylvan: Rosedale Academy.

His philosophy was concisely summed up in a catalog from the old school: "To educate a child well is the best thing a parent can do for it. Riches may vanish in an hour, an education is a lasting benefit."

In 1892 he sold his interest in the Mt. Sylvan school and the program reproduced here intimates his influence on the educational facilities at Garden Valley (like Mt. Sylvan, a small community in northwestern Smith County).

He later moved to and taught at Hopewell where he made his home until his death in 1949 at the age of ninety-four.

Many names on the "programme" also appear in the Rosedale Academy catalogs indicating McBride's popularity as an educator. For example, the "Onion Gold Medal" was originated in 1889 at Rosedale for the best original speech or essay.

The program is one flat sheet, 5 ½" x 8 ½", printed by Burrus and Shockley Steam Printing in Tyler. (Loaned by Mr. And Mrs. Bill Corbin)


The Old Wagon Road

Submitted by: Joan Pappa

Below is a speech by Mr. Kevin Cherry given at the Brown/Fisher Reunion in Salisbury/Rowan County, NC. It deals with lengths of time to travel down the Old Wagon Road.

When the crops were in, they started. Early in the morning-even early for farm people, they'd set out. During the first years, they walked, leading five or six pack animals laden with supplies: tools, seed, fabric. In places, the famous path they trod was only three or four feet wide. The wilderness literally crept right up to their feet and brushed their faces as they walked.

In later years they marched along side oxen as these oversized beasts pulled two-wheeled carts heaped to overflowing, crossing rivers that licked high about their animals' flanks and often soaked every single, individual piece of their worldly possessions.

Finally, when the path had been worn clear by thousands and thousands of previous travelers, they rode in wagons that, themselves, grew as the path grew. Only a few trails cut through the vast forests, which covered the continent between the northern most colonies and Georgia, the southern tip. The settlers, as they moved inland, usually followed the paths over which the Indians had hunted and traded. The Indians, in turn, had followed the pre-historical traces of animals. Who knows why the animals wandered where they did, but some of those early travelers on that road, the Scots-Irish Presbyterians, would have assured us it was certainly predetermined.

Even so, few paths crossed the Appalachians, which formed a barrier between the Atlantic plateau and the unknown interior. In his 1755 map of the British Colonies, Lewis Evans labeled the Appalachians, "Endless Mountains." And so they must have seemed to the daring few who pierced the heart of the wooded unknown. But through this unknown, even then, there was a road.

The Iroquois tribesmen of the North had long used the great warriors' path to come south and trade or make war in Virginia and the Carolinas. This vital link between the native peoples led from the Iroquois Confederacy around the Great Lakes through what later became Lancaster and Bethlehem, Pa through York to Gettysburg and into Western Maryland around what is now Hagerstown. It crossed the Potomac River at Evan Watkins' Ferry, followed the narrow path across the back country to Winchester, through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to Harrisonburg, Staunton, Lexington, and Roanoke. On it went into Salem, NC, and on to Salisbury, where it was joined by the east-west Catawba and Cherokee Indian Trading Path at the Trading Ford across the Yadkin River. On to Charlotte and Rock Hill, SC where it branched to take two routes, one to Augusta and another to Savannah, Georgia. It was some road, but it was just a narrow line through the continuous forest.

Virginia's Gov. Col. Alexander Spotswood first discovered this Great Road in 1716 when his "Knights of the Golden Horseshoe," finally crossed the mountains, drank a toast to King George's health and buried a bottle claiming the vast valley for the King of England. His Knights' motto became "Sic Juvat Transcendere Montes, ~ or "Behold, we cross the mountains." In 1744, a treaty between the English colonists and the Indians gave the white men control of the road for the first time. By 1765 the Great Wagon Road was ox's hoof.

Who were the Wagon Road's Travelers? For 118 years, the English and Dutch settled the New World, lining the harbors and pointing their cities, their eyes, their hearts to the east, across the Atlantic. They were on the fringes of a vast continent but, for the most part, they forever more turned away from it and toward home. They were certainly colonists, even those stem- faced few who came to these shores for religious reasons, and most of the other settlers, you see, had come to expand the business opportunities of home establishments. Their ties to those establishments were strong.

It took a different kind of settler, someone who had cut his ties altogether, someone who didn't really have all that much to lose, to look west at a wilderness and there see something more than raw materials ready for exploitation. It took folks like the Germans and the Scots Irish to put their backs to the ocean and see home in front of them. Escaping devastating wars, religious persecution, economic disasters, and all of those other things that still cause people to come to these shores, the Scots Irish and the Germans had no intention of returning to their native lands. They were here to stay. They didn't look east but to the south and west-toward land. They didn't see wolves and Indians. They saw opportunities. And as different as the Germans and the Scots Irish were, they had what it took to flourish in the backcountry. Not possessions that could be lost in the fording of a river, not personal contacts and the sponsorship of powerful men, but rough and tumble ability and a heavy streak of stubbornness. They knew slash and bum agriculture, they knew pigs, they could hunt and forage, they knew hard work. They built their cabins the exact same way. And eventually, they traveled together in that same stream southward along the Great Pennsylvania Wagon Road.

In 1749, 12,000 Germans reached Pennsylvania. By 1775 , there were 10,000 people of German birth in that colony, one-third of the population. When Philadelphia was a cluster of Inns and Ordinaries: the Blue Anchor, Pewter Platter, Penny-Pot, Seven Stars, Cross Keys, Hornet and Peacock, Benjamin Franklin, one of that era's most open-minded men asked, "Why should the Palatinate Boors be suffered to swan-n into our settlement and by who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us, instead of our Anglicizing them and will never adopt our language or customs any more than they can acquire our complexion."

But the Germans kept coming, thinking like their Scots Irish compatriots who are recorded as noting that!, "It was against the law of God and nature that so much land should be idle while so many Christians wanted it to labor on and raise their bread."

In short,, Pennsylvania was flooded.

Why they Headed South

There is probably no more beautiful land anywhere than that part of Pennsylvania now known as the "Amish Country." It must have appeared to those people fresh off of the boat, truly a land flowing with milk and honey. But it filled rapidly. Land became expensive. The most important reason why the Germans and Scots-Irish put what little they owned on their backs and took the southbound road was the cost of land in Pennsylvania. A fifty- acre farm in Lancaster County, PA would have cost 7 pounds 10 shillings in 1750. In the Granville District of North Carolina, which comprised the upper half of the state, five shillings would buy 100 acres.

The crossing of an ocean was move enough for most of the early immigrants. The generation, which could still feel the waves beneath their feet when elderly, often stayed in Pennsylvania, but their children repeated their parent's adventure. Often, they cast off their lines, raised whatever anchors they had, and ~'sailed" south right after their patriarchs had gone to their reward.

As North Carolina's Secretary of State, William L. Saunders wrote in 1886, "Immigration, in the early days, divested of its glamour and brought down to solid fact, is the history of a continuous search for good bottom land."

In their search for bottom land, English colonists encroached onto territories claimed by France. This pressure became one of the reasons the French and Indians went to war against England and her colonists. The Germans and Scots bore the brunt of the war, a cabin burning, wife-kidnapping, farm ambushing, bloody, horrible guerrilla war. For eleven years mayhem reigned on the frontier. In 1756, three years after the war started, George Washington wrote that the Appalachian frontiersmen were "in a general motion towards the southern colonies" and that Virginia's westernmost counties would soon be emptied. Western North Carolina seemed to those escaping the war to be safer because the Cherokee were on the British side-at least at the beginning. To western North Carolina they came.

This French and Indian War, which started the year Rowan County was created, joined the quest for more and better land as a major factor in sending those Germans and Scots-Irish down the Wagon Road to safer territory. Not only that but, the peace treaty that ended the war stated that no English settlers would go over the Appalachians. Thus, the best unclaimed land in all of the colonies lay along the Yadkin, Catawba and Savannah Rivers between the years 1763 and 1768. When the war ended in 1764, the western settlements of Pennsylvania had suffered a loss of population. Virginia and North Carolina had grown.

What they Found

When those Scots Irish and Germans got here "the country of the upper Yadkin teemed with game. Bears were so numerous it was said that a hunter could ordinary hunter could kill four or five a day; the deerskin trade was an important part of the regional economy. In 1753 more than 30,000 skins were exported from North Carolina, and thousands were used within the colony for the manufacture of leggings, breeches and moccasins."In 1755, NC Gov. Arthur Dobbs wrote to England that the "Yadkin is a large beautiful river. Where there is a ferry it is nearly 300 yards over it, [which] was at this time fordable, scarce coming to the horse's bellies." At six miles distant, he said, "I arrived at Salisbury the county seat of England that more than a thousand wagons passed through Salisbury in the Fall and Winter of 1765. That works out to about six immigrant wagons per day.


In the last sixteen years of the colonial era," wrote historian Carl Bridenbaugh, "Southbound traffic along the Great Philadelphia Wagon Rowan was numbered in tens of thousands. It was the most heavily traveled road in all America and must have had more vehicles jolting along its rough and tortuous way than all the other main roads put together."

When the British captured Philadelphia, the Continental Congress escaped down the Pennsylvania Wagon Road. Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett traveled it. George Washington knew it as an Indian fighter. John Chisholm knew it as an Indian trader. Countless soldiers-Andrew Jackson, Andrew Pickens, Andrew Lewis, Francis Marion, Lighthorse Harry Lee, Daniel Morgan, and George Rogers Clark, among them-fought over it. Both the North and South would use it during the Civil War.

And down this road, this glorified overgrown footpath through the middle of nowhere leading to even greater depths of nowhere, came those people looking for a better life for themselves and their children,, down it came those settlers, those hardworking stubborn Scots Irish and Germans: the preachers, the blacksmiths, and farmers. Down it came the Holshousers and the Barringers, the Alexanders and the Grahams, the Millers and the Earnhardts,, the Catheys and the Knoxes, the Blackwelders and the Halls, and the Cherrys and the Brauns and the Fishers. When the crops were in, on a day like today, they started.


Grand Saline Sun, February 13, 1908
(Vol. #24)

Thrown on Barbed Wire Fence.

Bonham: L. B. Chitwood, a young farmer living six miles southwest of here, met death late Thursday afternoon while riding a mule. The animal ran away, throwing him on a barbed wire fence. His foot hung in the stirrup, and he was dragged along the wire for some distance, the wire cutting his throat and almost severing the head from the body. He was a Mason, and was buried by that fraternity at Ector Saturday.


Child Burned to Death

Snyder, OK: Friday morning the little four-year-old daughter of W. H. Brewer, who lives seven miles north of Snyder, started to the field where her father was burning off the land, when a sudden gust of wind scattered the fire into the pasture, and the child, unable to get out of the path of the flames was burned to death. The father started to head off the fire and found his child with her clothes burned off and dying.

Casualties at Jenkin's Ferry

List of Casualties in the 1st Brigade of Parson's Division, Army of Arkansas in the Battle of Jenkin's Ferry, 30 April 1864.
Submitted by: Mary Ganey

Private H. C. Smith, Co. C, 9th Reg't.
Private Corban Ford, Co. C, 9th Reg't.
Private John Bailey, Co. D, 9th Reg't.
Private J. C. Caliwal, Co. E, 9th Reg't.
Private George E. Kirby, Co. G, 9th Reg't.
Private George W. Calion, Co. H, 9th Reg't.
Private Benjamin Ray, Co. K, 9th Reg't.
Private P. E. Spence, Co. A, 8th Reg't.
Private D. T. Fowler, Co. C, 8th Reg't.
Private Isaac Grimes, Co. C, 8th Reg't.
Private H. K. Thompson, Co. C, 8th Reg't.
Private James L. Boyd, Co. D, 8th Reg't.
Private John R. Brite, Co. G, 9th Reg't.
Private W. W. Rogers, Co. H, 8th Reg't.
Sergeant James Pherson, Co. H, Ruffner's Batt'y.
Private William W. Haggard, Co. H, Ruffner's Batt'y.Private Desaix Redick, Co. H, Ruffner's Batt'y.
Private D. B. Elmore, Co. H, Ruffner's Batt'y.

Note: There may be more which we will list at later date.

Probate Court No. 9786
Certificate of County Judge Where No Inheritance Tax is Due.

State of Texas
County of Wood

IN RE: Estate of: C. C. Sparks

On this 17 day of December, 1954, came on to be seen, heard and considered for final determination the amount of Inheritance Tax due the State of Texas by the Estate of C. C. SPARKS, Deceased, and by the heirs and devisees under the Will of said decedent, and having duly considered the inventory and reports filed herein by the Executors of said Estate as well as the Will of said C. C. SPARKS, Deceased, I find that under the laws of the State of Texas that there is no Inheritance Tax due said State by either the heirs, or devisees of said C. C. SPARKS, Deceased, and that this finding and conclusions be certified to the Comptroller of Public Accounts of the State of Texas as well as entered upon the Minutes of this Court.

Virgil E. Robbins, Jr.
County Judge Wood County, Texas
Approved: Dec 17, 1954
Robert S. Calvert, Comptroller of Public Accounts, Closed File No. 51429



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