Tidbits of Shelby County History
Shelby County-Part of Her Early Story

The next few weeks I will be taking information for “Tidbits of Shelby County History” from a booklet written by Bennie E. Nix. The booklet covers multiply subjects that I think will be of interest. The first article will cover Texans who served in Congress of the Republic of Texas or in Texas Legislature with a brief biographical sketch.

JOHN S. BELL – Congress of Texas - came to Texas in 1830’s, and while in Texas Congress served on following Committees:  Indian Affairs, and Education. He lived at Shelbyville.

JOHN M. BRADLEY – served in 1832 as a delegate from Tenaha District, or Shelby County; was one of Stephen Austin’s original “Three Hundred”; lead a company of soldiers in 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 when Watt Moorman, the Regulator chief, killed him as he walked out of a church in San Augustine. He 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.

NICHOLAS HENRY DARNELL – Congressman and soldier, was born in Tennessee, April 20, 1807. He was as a member of Tennessee Legislature before coming to Texas in 1830’s. A prominent Mason, he held all the offices of the Grand Lodge of Texas, being Most Worshipful Grand Master of Texas from Shelbyville Lodge in 1844. He lived in many places. The 1850 Federal Census of Shelby County shows him living in Shelby County, age 43, and a merchant. He was a member of both the Congress of the Republic of Texas, and the Texas Legislature more than once. In 1858 he moved to Dallas, where he continued to be a prominent man. In 1861, Darnell joined an artillery unit in the Confederate Army. He was then 54 years of age, and past the age of most men going to war. He enlisted as a private, in command of a Texas Cavalry unit. Darnell’s Ferry on Sabine River in Shelby County is said to have been named for him.  He died in Ft. Worth, Texas and was buried with Masonic honors in Dallas.

JOHN DIAL – came to Texas about 1837 and was granted a land certificate in Shelby County in 1838. He furnished supplies to Captain L.W. Mabbitt’s company in Shelby County in 1844 and in that same year, he represented the Moderators in a Moderator-Regulator peace parley, which was designed to end the war. John Dial died between 1844 and 1849. He was not on Shelby County Federal census for 1850, but some of his folks were. It is 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 he was a native of Tennessee. He was a veteran of 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. Besides serving Shelby County in the Congress of the Republic of Texas, he once carried the express mail from Shelbyville to Clarksville, some say he was still in Shelby County in 1850, but the Federal Census of 1850 for Shelby County shows two “Johns”, but neither is he. Some records indicate he moved from Shelby County, died December 30, 1868, and was buried in the Hicks Cemetery near Crockett. The writer has not seen this cemetery and cannot verify this source.

WILLIAM ENGLISH – delegate to Convention of 1832 and 1833 from District of Teneha or Shelby County. It is believed that like several of the English men, he was born in Tennessee. Land office records indicates he came to Texas in 1825. He was once elected to the Coahuila Legislature from San Augustine. He served as secretary of the Masonic Lodge there in 1841, although he was living in Shelby County at the time. Land office records quote him as living in Shelbyville February 20, 1838.

JOHN M. HANSFORD – member of the Congress of the Republic of Texas from Shelby County. He came to Texas from Kentucky about 1836-37. He was Speaker of the House in Third Texas Congress. Judge Hansford was an able lawyer and often resided over the district court. As such judge, he was forced to leave a case in court that was trying to punish a Regulator for murder. Sometimes later Judge Hansford was shot and killed by a mob of men who had gathered there.

JOHN HARRISON – was a delegate to the convention of 1832; came to present day Shelby County and settled at Patroon. From 1828 to 1831. He was Alcalde of Teneha, 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. (This was 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/near present-day Detroit. He held many important government jobs in this area. 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 appears on the First Census of Texas 1820-1836. His age is given as 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 layer”, 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, 183. He was dressed in homespun ants dyed with walnut bark, a slouch at, and coarse boots. He died one month later in August on his 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 Truitt Cemetery and some of the Harrisons living today in Shelby County have given names which indicate they are his descendants.

MARTIN PARMER – born June 4, 1778, in Virginia. He moved in his early life to Missouri where he served as Senator in the legislature. He came to Texas in an early day and joined Haden Edwards in 1826 in leading the rebellion at Nacogdoches and setting up the Republic of Fredonia. After this movement failed, he fled to Louisiana, but later returned to present-day Shelby County in 1833.  In 1835, he was a delegate from district of Teneha, or later Shelby County to the Consultation of 1835. In 1836 he moved to San Agustine and represented that place in the Constitutional Convention. He was later a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence.

SIDNEY O. PENINGTON – 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 time same year he represented Shelby County in the House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas. He refused other offices and returned to Shelby County. He died at a young age on October 28, 1827, and is buried in the old Shelbyville Cemetery in a grave marked by the state of Texas. (Note: There is additional information about the life of Penington at www.findagrave.com/memorial/58700901/sydney-oswald-penington  His name is spelled Penington but many spell it as Pennington). He was a second lieutenant in Captain John M. Bradley’s Company in the Battle of San Antonio.

EMORY RAINS – was born in Warren County, Tennessee, May 4, 1800. H came to Texas about 1822 to 1826. In the early days, he was one of the judges of Shelby County. The other being James English and George V. Lusk being Chief Justice of Shelby County. Emory Rains, as Senator, represented Shelby County and Sabine Counties in the Second and Third Congresses of the Republic of Texas. In the Convention of 1845, he was one of the Delegates from Shelby County. After annexation, he served in the Texas Legislature four times. He represented Shelby County in the House of the Second Texas Legislature; in the Fourth and Fifth Texas Legislature in addition to representing at other times San Augustine, Panola, Wood and Upshur counties. Rains County is named for him, as well as the town of Emory. He died in that county March 4, 1878. His grave is marked and some of his descendants still life there.

(Note: I thought sharing some of the first representatives and senators of Shelby County during the Republic of Texas period was very appropriate today as it is “Texas Independence Day” celebrating 186 years.  Also, as a reminder, the enrollment period for membership to the Shelby County Historical Society is still in progress. Please be sure to help keep the museum open by becoming a member. The annual dues are $25 for individual/families. For additional information contact the Shelby County Museum at 936-598-3613, email shelbymuseum@sbcglobal.net or come visit us at 230 Pecan Street, Center, Texas Monday – Friday from 1:00 pm– 4:00pm.)