Early Day Officials of Shelby County

Good afternoon, I hope everyone is enjoying good health as the 2021year has begun. This week’s article is taken from book written by Bennie Nix prior to his death in 1965.

Bennie Nix taught school for many years in Shelby County and he was serving his second term as County School Superintendent in Shelby County when he died. He was president of the Shelby County Historical Society in 1963-1964. He loved history. He spent many enjoyable hours gathering data and doing research to write the book.

Among a list of letters remaining in the post office at Nacogdoches, Texas on January 1, 1846, were two letters, “which if not taken out by the first day of April next, will be sent to the general post office as dead letters.”

The letters were addressed to T.H. Lister and Wm. McClelland. Both men lived in present-day McClelland Community. Thomas H. Lister settled here in 1831, and William McClelland settled there between 1833 to 1840.

Quote from James W. Truit’s long-hand script narrative, The Pioneer Days of Shelby County: “John Latham was the first white man to bring his family into present-day Shelby County. He was originally from Kentucky; served in War of 1812 with General Jackson. After the war he and his family moved from Louisiana into the wilds of what is now called Shelby County. They came into this Spanish province in 1815 and settled in the Hamilton area. There were no other human inhabitants but the Indians, whose primitive villages were scattered over the country. The vast forests were full of bears, wolves, panthers, deer, wild turkey, and other varmints. William English and family settled on the Patroon Creek in 1818. Soon other settlers from the Southern States came, but there was no semblance of law for many years. In 1826, a Mexican office rode from Nacogdoches to set up a district for purposes of government and appointed some officers from among the settlers.”

Early day officials of Shelby County
Members of the Congress of the Republic of Texas

CONVENTION of 1832 – San Felipe de Austin – October 1-6, 1832
Delegates from District of Tenaha: John M. Bradley, George Butler, William English, Frederick Foy, and Jonas Harrison

CONVENTION of 1833 – San Felipe de Austin – April 1-13, 1833
Delegates from District of Tenaha: John English and William English

CONSULTATION of 1835 – Columbia- Oct. 16, 17, 1835; San Felipe de Austin  -  Nov. 1-14, 1835
Delegates – Martin Parmer, Dist. of Tenaha

CONVENTION of 1836 – Washington (Texas) May 1-17, 1836. Delegates – District of Shelby County: William Carroll Crawford and Sydney O. Penington

FIRST CONGRESS - Columbia – October 3, 1836 – December 22, 1836; Houston – May 1, 1837 – June 13, 1837

SENATE - Willis H. Landrum for the District of Shelby and Sabine

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES – Richard Hooper for County of Shelby and Sydney O. Penington for County of Shelby

SECOND CONGRESS – Houston Sept 25, 1837 to Nov 4, 1837 - called session; Nov. 6, 1837 to Dec. 19, 1837; Regular Session April 9, 1838 to May 24, 1838 – Adjourned Session

SENATE – Emory Rains for Dist. of Shelby and Sabine County

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES – John English for County of Shelby, William Pierpont for County of Shelby
Some of the other Senators and House of Representatives to represent Shelby County during the early years of independence were: John M. Hansford (also Speaker of the House in THIRD CONGRESS), Alvey R. Johnson, James Taylor Gaines, John S. Bell, Moses Fisk Roberts, Leonard Randal, John Dial, William M. Hewitt, David Spangler Kaufman, Lilburn U. Edwards, James Truit, David Spangler Kaufman, Middleton Tate Johnson.

CONVENTION of 1845 Austin: July 4, 1845 to August 28, 1845. Delegates: 1. Archibald W.O. Hicks of Shelby, 2. Emory Rains for County Shelby. (Note: Nicholas Henry Darnell was a delegate from San Augustine, and it seems he moved to Shelby County this same year, for, as a member of the Shelbyville Masonic Lodge in 1844, he was Most Worshipful Grand Master of Texas, and his and his family are listed on the 1850 Federal Census of Shelby County, Texas)

It is interesting to note that both men serving as Senators in the first three Congresses, Willie H. Landrum and Emory Rains, lived in Shelby County, although both men later moved to other counties and served with honor in various offices. The other Senators representing this district in Congress of the Republic of Texas, lived in other counties in this district, in so far as the writer can determine. All members of the House of Representatives in the Texas Congress, who represented District of Tenaha or Shelby County, lived in the District of Tenaha or Shelby County.

Texans who served in Congress of the Republic of Texas or in Texas Legislature (Biographical sketches)

John S. Bell, Congress of Texas came to Texas in 1830’s and while in Texas Congress served on the following Committees:  Indian Affairs and Education. He lived in Shelbyville.

John M. Bradley served in 1832 as a delegate from Tenaha District or Shelby County. He was one of Stephen Austin’s original “Three Hundred”. He led a company of soldiers in the Battle of Nacogdoches, raised a company, and as their captain, bravely led them in the Battle of San Antonio. He was a leader of the Moderators, which cost him his life for in 1844, Watt Moorman, the Regulator Chief, killed him as he walked out of a church in San Augustine. Hi is buried in the Old Texan Cemetery on Patroon Creek in Shelby County. His grave is covered over with huge stones, but the grave was partially mutilated many years ago. John Bradley lived in Shelby County on the Patroon Creek in present-day McClelland Community.

George Butler was a delegate from District of Tenaha or Shelby County, to the Convention of 1832. He was a native of Georgia, and was elected to two offices in Shelby County, February 4, 1839; Justice of the Peace and Associate Land Commissioner.

William Carroll Crawford was one of two men from District of Tenaha or Shelby County to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence. He was born in North Carolina in 1804. Raised as an orphan, he became a tailor’s apprentice, followed tis trade until 1830, at which time he became a Methodist minister. He preached on a circuit in Alabama. He married Rhoda Jackson Watkins in 1834, she being the daughter of Lewis and Polly Watkins. Crawford and Watkins family and the Rev. Crawford settled near Shelbyville. An election was held in Nashville (Shelbyville) February 1, 1836 to select two delegates to represent Shelby County at the Constitutional Convention. Crawford and Sidney O. Penington were elected.

In 1836 Shelbyville was laid out as a town and the Rev. Crawford moved into this town. He was postmaster at Shelbyville from 1843 to 1846. He was county treasurer of Shelby County on January 30, 1844.

In 1859 the Rev. Crawford moved to Camp County and he later moved to other counties. He died in Erath County in 1895, his body being buried there and later moved to Austin.

John Dial came to Texas about 1837; was granted a land certificate in Shelby County in 1838. He furnished supplies to Captain L.H. Mabbit’s company in Shelby County in 1844 and in that same year he represented the Moderators in a Moderator-Regulator peace treaty which was designed to end that war. John Dial died between 1844 and 1849. He was not on the Shelby County Federal Census of 1850 but some of his folks were. It was assumed that John Dial is buried in an unmarked grave in the old Shelbyville Cemetery.

John English was born in Virginia July 5, 1793 according to a grave marker in a cemetery ten miles east of Crockett, Texas, while the certificate of character he signed February 1, 1838 shows that he was a native of Tennessee. He was a veteran f the War of 1812 and came to Texas in 1825. In 1833 he was a delegate to the convention from Shelby County. He was a Captain under Colonel Phillip Sublett in the Texas Revolution. Beside serving Shelby County in the Congress of the Republic of Texas, he once carried the express from Shelbyville to Clarksville. Some say he was still in Shelby County in 1850. But this 1850 for Shelby County shows two “John English”, but neither is he. Some records indicate he moved from Shelby County and died December 30, 1868. He was buried in the Hicks Cemetery near Crockett.

William English was a delegate to Conventions of 1832 and 1833 from District of Tenaha or Shelby County. It is believed that like several of the English men he was born in Tennessee. Land office records indicate he came to Texas in 1825. He was once elected to the Coahuila Legislature from San Augustine and e served as secretary of the Masonic Lodge there in 1841 although living in Shelby County. Land office records quote him as living in Shelbyville February 20, 1838.

Jonas Harrison was a delegate to the convention of 1832. He came to present day Shelby County and settled at Patroon. From 1828 to 1831, he was Alcalde of Tenaha or present-day Shelby County. He wrote Stephen F. Austin that this trip cost him a good horse, put him $50 in debt, and that it would take him a year to pay out of debt. (The Convention trip) He was born October 11, 1777 in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey. In 1807 he began practice as a lawyer in the territory of Michigan and in the area of present-day Detroit. He was ruined by the panic of 1819, forced to sell his home to pay his debts, Harrison left Buffalo. His wife stayed on and according to most sources, he married a second time. His name and members of his family appear on the First Census of Texas, 1829-1836. His age is given at 50 and his wife, Nelly at age 35, Jonas Jr. is listed as age 12.

According to his own words, he “came to Texas to bury himself.” He became a “backwoods” lawyer, dressing in buckskin clothes, and was soon recognized as a brilliant lawyer and man. His last public service was to act as chairman of the meeting to honor General Sam Houston on his return from New Orleans, July 4, 1836. He died one month later in August on is own headright near Patroon in Shelby County. There on his farm he was buried in an unmarked grave. Harrison County was named for him. One of his sons is believed to be buried in the old Truit Cemetery and some of the Harrisons living today in Shelby County have given names which indicate they are his descendants.

Richard Hooper was a member of the Texas Congress from Shelby County, arrived in Texas in 1836 and received his headright certificate for land in Shelby County, February 1, 1838. His wife was a niece of President John Adams. Hooper served as a Captain in the Texas Army in 1836. Beside other positions, he held was County Surveyor for Shelby County in the early days. He once lived on a portion of his headright near present-day Waterman, on what was then Hooper Creek, later changed to Sandy Creek.

Sidney O. Penington was one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence who represented Shelby County. He was born February 27, 1809 in Kentucky, educated there, and came to present-day Shelby County in 1834. He was a researcher and surveyor and made many trips into the Indian territory. He fought in the battles of San Antonio and San Jacinto. He represented Shelby County at the Constitutional Convention in 1836 and in that same year he represented Shelby County in the House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas. He refused other offices and returning to Shelby County, he died at a young age on October 28, 1837. He is buried in the old Shelbyville Cemetery in a grave marked by the state of Texas. He was a second lieutenant in Captain John M Bradley’s Company in the Battle of San Antonio.

Moses Fisk Roberts was a soldier and Congressman. He was born July 9, 1803 in Davidson County, Tennessee. He came to Texas February 18, 1836 and joined Captain James Chessher’s Company of Jasper Volunteers. He served in the Texas Army until June 22, 1836 being discharged because of the loss of one of his eyes. He represented Shelby County in the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Congresses of the Republic of Texas. He was a Confederate soldier. He is buried in a marked grave in the Shelbyville Cemetery but the inscription as to the death date is known to be in error. It is known that he was still living in Shelby County on October 3, 1878. He served in county offices.

James Truit was a member of the Congress of the Republic of Texas from Shelby County, and several times member of the Texas State Legislature. He was born in North Carolina in 1796 and was a sheriff in that state. He came to Texas April 9, 1839. He first lived in Shelby County in the Old Ashton Community on land owned by Col. Aston, a wealthy land-owner wo operated the Ashton Ferry and a hotel for immigrants into Texas. James Truit moved his family to the Truit-Latimer area in 1840 and he is buried there in the old Truit Cemetery beside many of his kinsman who played a big part in the history of Shelby County and Texas.

Note: I wanted to let everyone know that it is time to renew annual memberships to the Shelby County Historical Society. This membership drive is the main sources of income for the Museum!!!!