Shelby County Historical Society
January-February, 2019 Newsletter
January Meeting Meeting
|Maggie Casto||Barbara McClelland||Gail Sholar|
January 15, 2019
Republic of Texas presented by the William Carroll
Crawford Chapter of the DRT.
It was a brief 10-year history between 1836 and 1846. It was its own country. Do you know about the everyday settlers of this time period? The farmers, blacksmiths, preachers. Everyone knows about Houston, Crockett, and Fannin but letís talk about the everyday people.
Barbara McClellan shared with the group that for years the strip of land from Louisiana to Mexico was our East Texas land. The Spanish didn't claim this strip of land and the American government didn't help with any problems. The area was just ďdo what you wanted to doĒ. In an attempt to control the problems, a group was formed called the Regulators. Their job was to bring some law and order to the area, but they were so extreme they were killing people who hadnít done anything wrong. This group was in fact vigilantes. Another group of men formed what became known as the Moderators. Their job was controlling the Regulators. The trouble all begin in 1840 with a man by the name of Mr. George, first name is unknown. It could have been Alfred George who was the Shelby County sheriff at that time.
Things continued like this for some time. President Sam Houston had previously said, ďI think it is advisable to declare Shelby County, Tenaha, and Terrapin Creek free and independent governments, and let them fight it out.Ē But finally, in 1844 Sam Houston had enough. He and a militia went to San Augustine. Houston sent 600 of the men to Shelby County to arrest the leader of each group and bring them back to him. He spoke with each one and had them sign a declaration. It was a peace treaty and a cease fire treaty. M. T. Johnson and John McNairy signed for the Regulators. James Truitt and John Dial signed for the Moderators.
February 19, 2019
Vicky Martinís presentation
by Terri Lacher
This is what the original territory of Texas looked like when it was a Republic. It went all the way up into Wyoming, and actually the Daughters of the Republic recently marked that northern border during the latter part of 2018. The United States claimed eastern Texas, and the Spanish claimed the western part of Louisiana up to the Sabine River. The area known as the Louisiana Purchase, you can see in here that Shelbyville in Shelby County is in this one little area right in here. You can tell that it is not claimed by either one of them. It soon became known as the neutral ground. It was notoriously known that there were no laws to be enforced. Outlaws came in great numbers and as it was said, a lot of my ancestors came. It said in some of those newspaper articles that I read, they were called ďdesperados.Ē
Across the Sabine River, East Texas was part of the overflow, and soon became known as No Mansí Land. Because of that there was no law and order. This is what the original district of Tenaha or the Tenehaw municipality looked like in 1836. You can see Shelby County is included in there and it all includes Panola County, Harrison County, Gregg County, Upshur County, and a little bit of Dekalb County. It covered a big area.
Also, where Nacogdoches is, it originally started this area was part of the Nacogdoches district. There are records in Nacogdoches district that go back to the 1790 census. I found some of my ancestors listed on that census.
The town of Shelbyville is part of the James English Survey, who was going to be one of the earliest settlers, the rivers as well as the creeks of Patroon, yíall know where that is, Tenaha, at the bottom of the hill, Bayou Siep, because thatís where some of my family was at; Bayou Blue, in the Gooberville area. The fish included perch, catfish, bream; there were were deer, squirrel, wild turkeys and other game were plentiful. You can see because of this, this encouraged travelers to stay in this area because they had plenty of wood, food and a good supply of water. People came to the area for many reasons. Some came because they were in debt. Others came because they were in some kind of trouble or another. A lot of people came and changed their names. Thatís why when we are doing research and the history is sometimes very difficult, especially in Shelby County. Itís not just because the Courthouse burned, but because when they changed their names. They were running away from something.
I found this just recently from an article by David Swanzy. It said that this area, what I always thought was called the District of Tenaha or a municipality, according to a map that was done, it was not called Shelbyville, but was called Tenaha. This is not Tenaha where itís located now. This is exactly where it is located, talking about Shelbyville. I found when I as researching these, there was a lot more information than I thought was out there.
Shelbyville has been incorporated two times. This is from the Texas Telegraph, dated 1835. It is the organization, the municipality listed in the Republic of Texas. It became Shelby County and the District of Tenaha has been included in Nacogdoches, the city of justice to be called the city of Nashville, which we all know which was later renamed Shelbyville.
It was first incorporated by an act of Congress, November 2, 1837, but it as dissolved by an act passed by the congress in 1841. The reason was that although they were incorporated, they never formed any government, of mayor, city council, or other government positions. It was then incorporated again in February 8, 1860, appeared on the records in Shelbyville Vol. 240, Page 154 in the Deed of Records in Shelby County showing the town square and the streets. The main street that ran right through it was Main Street that ran north and south. The other one went east and west was Sabine. You can get a copy of this at the courthouse.
One of the things that Iíve been trying to identify is where the old Masonic Lodge was the first building when you come around the curve from Center. There is another building and then there is the Masonic Building. I know that it was located coming up the hill, Dr. Jack Windhamís building was right there. When I was a kid. There was some other type of building between this and the lodge. But the Lodge is for as long as I can remember is still there. That lodge was built in 1893. It has been sitting there by the Baptist church since then.
If anyone is really good at reading deeds, I would like to be able to take these plats and put things on there. I would be more than happy if anyone would volunteer to help out with the reading of the deeds.
We canít talk much about Shelbyville without talking about the Sidney Pennington and William Crawford. They represented the municipality of Shelby County in Washington in 1836. Crawford was buried in Shelbyville Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Shelby County. Oren B. Roberts was an early governor of Texas. There is a state marker on Hwy 147 that marks where Roberts had a home site.
Now we are getting into some of my ancestors. This is a picture of the old John Latham house on Highway 139, across from P. O. Samples. When John Latham came to this new paradise between 1815 and 1817, he was followed by others. This is a picture of the Latham house in the 1980ís. It was considered by many to be the first permanent establishment in Tenaha Territory or District. It belonged to John and his wife, Susan. They came from Tennessee. It was a sturdy log house and it was built a couple of years after they arrived here in 1819. It was small, but well constructed, made to withstand any assault. This was still Indian territory at that time. One of the newspaper articles that I read had a report about Indians in this area, and there were also buffalo. I never thought about buffalo being in this area.
The information I find is from Newspapers.com, a subscription on line. I love the terminology used in the old newspapers. A lot of times when they had fights, they would call it ďdifficulties.Ē Sometimes they were called ďfatal difficulties.Ē
John moved his family into the state of Louisiana midway between Nachitoches and the Sabine River. He was a volunteer under General Jackson. He was a participant in the Battle of New Orleans from January 8, 1815. He then returned after the battle, moving from Louisiana into the Mexican province of Texas and settled on the west bank of the Sabine River, about midway of the eastern boundary line of what is now Shelby County. He is considered by most people to be the first white family to settle within the borders of Shelby County. I found again, through the internet, an article written by R. E. Brittain, a descendant of John Latham and his wife, at the SFA library. She wrote things about the house. The house had a hidden trap door which let to the large cellar carved from solid rock. Noble men stopped by the Latham cabin in the wilderness. Among those were Sam Houston, Mr. Stern, Alexander Hamilton, who established a trading post at East Hamilton, which was a few miles from the Sabine River. The cellar then became a refuge for many in 1839-1844, during the Moderator/Regulator War. In the museum we have several different copies of the war. These are two different versions. He was a Moderator. The other one that I just read said he was a Regulator. Thereís going to be two different versions of why the killing occurred and who was doing wrong, but itís very interesting.
Latham 's cabin is said to have included loop-holes for guns originally, perhaps for defense against Indians and no doubt used during the Regulator - Moderator War of the early 1840s. As many as 200 persons died in this quarrel. The exact number killed during this time period will never be known.
They would go and burn houses while one
group was away on a raid. They would
make sure they got all
The Lathams were followed by other families. They included, Andersons, Brittains, Bradleys, Truitts, Buckleys, Louts, Goodwins, Paynes, Englishes, Haleys, Crawfords, Sandersons, Boleses, and others. Those were a lot of those who settled in that area. But of course you canít talk about the Sniders without talking about the Weavers and the Sanfords too. They just happen to be more in the Center area.
The Methodist Church of Shelbyville was organized with Rev. James English as the first pastor in 1825. That church has been there for a long time. There has been a dispute with McMahan, who say that is the oldest organized Methodist Church in the state of Texas. I think that there was preaching going on in Shelbyville but wasnít organized until 1842 or 43.
Although not organized, it was said that the Baptists were having prayer services in their home in Hamilton located about 20 miles away on the Sabine River. That was probably started about 1834 or 35, when Rev. Brittain came.
Elder William Brittain, born 1774, and his wife, Rosa came to the Hamilton area about 1837 from Surry County, North Carolina. They came with numerous slaves, they came with cattle, many horses and mules, pulling wagons loaded with provisions needed for the couple. They came with a group. They didnít come by themselves. They had five married children, their families, five younger children who came with them. Can you imagine what a caravan this was with all the horses and mules and the families who moved here?
Rosa Brittainís father was John Wright, he moved to Surry County where Rosa was born. She married William Martin Brittain in March of 1802. One of my goals for the next year is to find out more about Rosa because her family line has connections with George Washington. I told you a lot of my line has a few desperados, and I wanted to have one good line.
The history of the North Carolina Baptists tell us much about Elder Brittain with records of the following: in August 1809, the Flat Rock Church in Surry County, North Carolina, received by experience a young man of much promise. At the next meeting in September it was unanimously agreed that Brother William Brittain should be 'tolerated'. Remember how I talked about their terminology. Where their definition was to ďtolerateĒ to go on in the exercise of his gifts as a preacher at any time and any place where it may please God to call him." The church gave him their blessings to go and witness to all these people. They left North Carolina in 1824 and lived in Alabama for a while and they lived in Arkansas, and they finally immigrated to the territory of Texas in 1837. This is kind of family history so sometimes you can take it with a grain of salt. Itís not anything you can prove.
When the weary travelers arrived in little town of Hamilton, according to lore, they made a raft on which to cross instead of going down the river to the ferry. We donít think about the Sabine River. Most rivers were deep. There were five special places to cross. They found the place.
All of the children who were old enough found preempted land along the river as did the Reverend. He built his first home where Hamilton cemetery is now located. Because there was already a town called Hamilton, they called it East Hamilton. That was were a post office was established, somewhere around 1843.
Elder Brittain used one room of his structure as a classroom where he taught school and also as a church sanctuary. That was where he preached some of his first sermons in Texas.
This I though was very unique. His grave is located directly under the pulpit. Wasnít one of the Methodist preachers buried under the pulpit? (McMahanís Chapel). It must have been a tradition or something back there. How do they know where the church was? His grave marked where the church was. Heís mentioned in some of the books in early Baptist history.
People continued to flock to the area, even though it was rough and rowdy, and No-Manís Land, constant shootings, and killings, and Indians, but people were still coming. Whatever thoughts people may have had, they still came. You would have to be a very strong person to withstand what they withstood. Can you imagine the life of a woman during that period. Sometimes people say they wish for the good old days, but I donít wish for those.
There was a neighbor of the Brittains called Mrs. Sample, a generous neighbor who helped with those in trouble or want, who took a great pride in the toughness of her family. She often said she hoped all of his six sons would die with their boots on. Five of them were killed. Four of them were shot and killed. One of them died by a horse. One of them, the youngest one, named Cuff, was born in 1880. While he was laying in bed and dying she went and put his boots on him so they could say he died with his boots on. The reason I included that was because I had talked with some of the grandchildren, they only thing they could say about Martha, was that she was a mean woman. I enjoyed hearing that she was thoughtful.
That was about my relatives the Lathams and the Brittains. This is Mr. Brittain (pictures) and his wife, Rosa. In the old pictures they never smiled. They had to be still for the photographer to take their picture.
Sometime between 1835 and 1836, John Sanford and his family began their journey from Kentucky. Of course they came by horse and buggy, mule, oxen. He and his family traveled first to Missouri. They were there, and we have records where they bought and sold land. They had a daughter, Mary Tabitha was born there in 1936. While they were in Missouri, John was appointed as justice of the peace. How many have seen the old class 2 or class 1 records from the Republic of Texas? I have brought some so you can take a look. You can go to the land office, see when they came, what land they got, what type of certificate, head-rights, etc.
The family continued on their journey to Texas and they probably didnít meet many people on the way, because if you can remember, it was sparsely populated. They probably met with buffalo, tribes of Indians. Most people traveled in a group when they came. Never found any research where John and his family traveled in a group. They did settle in the eastern part of the county. They were granted 640 acres of land, on a class 2 certificate. Their job once they got the certificate was to find land that wasnít settled upon. Have the land surveyed, live on the land, make improvements for a period, build a house, clear it out, plant crops, and then after three years, go before the land board and say what they did. The 96 and ĺ acres was all he got proven. I donít know if the rest of that at that time was already selected because he was near the English Survey only 4 miles from Shelbyville. I am pretty sure that the rest of the land had already been claimed. A lot of these people who came here early got a ďleague and a laborĒ of land. Which amounted to about 4,600 acres of land. It was a lot of land. John, in a later period, located his additional land in what was became Harrison County. But you have to remember that at that time it was still part of Shelby County. Itís information I know about but havenít been able to prove it. I tried to find out about it because their was a lawsuit between James Thetford and his mom, Sarah, over the land. I tried to find it, but have been unable to find out more information. I assume it probably has already been forwarded to the archives in Austin.
We have the Sample Cemetery designated a historical in 2006, so as of today, that cemetery has been in the family for 180 years. Itís a private, family cemetery. Most of the cemeteries that were families were lost in later years, and some became known as community cemeteries.
The earliest grave that has been established in Campti is in 1865. There was supposed to have been some kind of grant.
A lot of these records are on line. Some of these records can be found at the general land offices and are not available on line.
I have photo copies. They havenít put everything in their files on line at this point.
I looked up information regarding the lawsuit between James Thetford and his mother. His mother sued him in 1847, James became administrator of the estate. She stood. He had to pay her and another brother, John Henry, ten dollars and 30 cents for the land, to buy back some of the land. I would really like to know what the suit was about.
William Snider was born in 1772 in South Carolina, came to Panola County in about 1850. He was married to Mary Samford, who is related to all the Samfords in Shelby County. So the Sniders and the Samfords are very connected. Mary Samford was the daughter of Thomas Samford and Lavinia Turberville and they had twelve children. When they came with the Weavers, and other families, they had migrated from South Carolina to Tuscaloosa, Alabama by wagon train about 1818. They settled in the Black Warrior River area. They were listed in the 1830 census. All of their children came to Texas except for one, Jacob, who remained in Alabama.
We know William was still in Alabama in 1830, but had moved to Texas in 1839, because he was actually listed on the Shelby County tax roll in 1839. They may have arrived in Texas as early as 1839, because they had received a class 3 head-right for 640 acres. They set up a home site in 1839. Land became his in August of 1843. William is my great, great, great grandfather. He had a son named Griffin, which was my great, great grandfather, and he was born in Tuscaloosa County in 1828, and lived in the home of his son. He died before the census in 1880. The reason I named him is because when you are doing research, never give up. I had never been able to find the county where he had been born. Iíve been doing research for about twenty years and recently came across his muster roll. I had never taken the time to read the whole thing. On the last page there was an affidavit, his name, what company, where he was born, and it said Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1828. My point in saying that is donít ignore things you find. Be persistent. Read through the whole thing.
We are who we are, but how did we get to be who we are? Thatís the interesting part.
W. I. Davis and Inez Davis Foundation Danny Paul & Sally Windham Fannie Watson
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