Tidbits of Shelby County History
The Truitt Family of Shelby County
The following information on the Truitt family of Shelby County is taken from numerous newspaper articles and books written about this prominent family who played a vital part in the early history of the county. Sometimes one would see the spelling of the family name as Truit or Truitt.
James Truit, oldest son of Levi and Susannah Morgan Truit, was born in Buncombe County, North Carolina (Asheville area, NC), October 23, 1795, and died in Shelby County, Texas June 11, 1870. The Truitt family left North Carolina in the fall of 1838 and entered Texas on March 3, 1839 at Pendleton Ferry. Most of the trip was made by boat as they traveled on the Tennessee River and came down the Mississippi River, then up the Red River to Natchitoches, moving overland with the ox teams they had brought along. They lived in San Augustine County in 1839. Later they moved to the Ashton Community in Shelby County. They lived in the Ashton area until the Fall of 1849 and bought the place surrounding the present Truitt Cemetery from a Mr. Crane. They resided there until both James and Sarah Hall died. James served his country in North Carolina as sheriff for about 10 years. He married Sarah Hall (July 29, 1796-Jun 3, 1848) on the 23rd of January 1817 in Burke County, North Carolina, and was the father of 10 children. In February of 1843 Truitt was elected a justice of the peace in Shelby County. James Truitt was a very distinguished citizen and would be elected to the 1st and 2ndTexas Legislature (1846-1847) as, State Senator in the 4th (1852), 6th (1856), 7th (1858) and the 11th (1866) Legislature;he would also participate in the Mexican War at Monterrey. He brought his son-in-lawwith him to Texas. The young man had deserted the United States Army at Fort Jessup, Louisiana. This report will mainly focus on the oldest son, Alfred Marion Truit.
Alfred Marion Truit was born in 1817 in North Carolina and served in its military forces while moving some Indian tribes west. This was the Cherokee War of 1837-38. He came to Shelby County with his parents and Uncle Isaac Truitt in 1839. His experience with the military is the reason Sheriff Lew Allen put him in command of the Sheriff Forces during the War.
Various reasons have been given as the cause of this tragic feud. When Texas became Republic in 1836 there were many adjustments to be made by a stubborn people who had been ignored too long. to them it seemed unreasonable now to be told what to do by outsiders. Perhaps the greatest cause of all the trouble were land grants that had been issued by the Mexican Government, later by the Government of Texas. They often over-lapped, ensuing much confusion. Mistakes were made, tempers flared, suspicion arose among families who had always trusted each other, as they united for protection.
According to a brief biographical sketch for the Truitt family by C.R. Burrow, Alfred Truitt was involved in the Regulator-Moderator War of Shelby County, Texas.
In 1842, dissensions arose between the settlers of Shelby County, Texas – one faction as the Moderators, and the latter under the leadership of Captain Alfred M. Truitt, who was also deputy sheriff. He was acting under the authority of the local officers. The Regulators were under the leadership of Charles Watson Moorman”. Moorman’s disapproval of the Truitts was deep. When Truitt learned that Moorman planned to return the son-in-law to authorities in Louisiana for the reward, he angrily stated in the presence of several members of the Regulator company that if they were willing to side with Moorman on this issue, they were no better than the Moderators. Moorman attempted to cane Truitt for this utterance, but they were separated by Eph Daggett. Truitt grabbed a four-pound weight and drew back to smash Moorman. However, Daggett stopped him, preventing a continuing fight. Most of the town justified Moorman’s actions.
This was the reason the Truitts left the Regulators joining the Moderators. Moorman strongly disapproved of the Truitts.
Truitt’s role in the War was further clarified by eye-witness account as reported by Joshua Hall Truitt to a grandson, N.P. “Press” Stephens as follows:
“Two men by the name of Jackson and Moorman murdered someone at Brookeland on west side of the Sabine River at Logansport in 1841 and when they were called to trail at Shelbyville (then county seat), they had recruited some friends and outlaws from the Neutral grounds and defied the Court to try them. The Court was helpless ad ha to adjourn but the Judge ordered the Sheriff to muster sufficient force to arrest the mob. Lew Allen, the sheriff, made Alfred M. his chief deputy ad authorized him to deputize every law-abiding citizen in the County to help arrest and bring them to trail; but there were more outlaws (Regulators) than law-abiding citizens (Moderators). During the years of 1843 and 1844, there was a lot of turmoil and no man’s life was safe from the outlaws.”
The last shot fired in the feud was by Charles A. Ludens, slightly wounding Captain Alfred M. Truitt, whose quick dodging behind his horse saved him a more serious injury. At last the laws that had seemed so burdensome to some of the citizens proved an answer to their prayers. In the latter part of August 1844, General Travis C. Broocks arrived in Shelbyville with six hundred troops. He ordered both sides to lay down their arms. The drifters fled, but those who had established homes, for the most part stayed and gamely faced the music.
The troops were followed shortly by President Sam Houston. He ordered all the Regulators and Moderators to meet him under the huge oak tree (from which so many men had been hanged) in the public square. In that historic meeting under the tree, later known as the "peace oak", beloved "Old Sam" scolded both sides like a stern father, then pleaded with them to end the slaughter
Alfred was designated to take charged of the sheriff Forces (the Moderators) and two minor battles. One battle was at Old Cedar Yads (Flat Fork areas between Center and Tenaha) where Andrew Jackson Truit killed one of the first men (Mr. Howell Hudson) buried in Jackson Cemetery. The body was hauled away on a slide to the present Jackson cemetery as his mother lived near the spot where he was buried. Another battle was fought in the canebrakes near Shelbyville.
Much bitterness remained for many years between the factions and it was necessary for Alfred M. Truitt to recruit two separate companies, one of Moderators and other Regulators for the Mexican War in 1846 for the Hayes Regiment. They never mixed although Alfred Truitt commanded both companies as a major.
In April and May of 1847, members of Hayes’ Second Regiment of the Texas Rangers marched to Laredo, thence down the west side of the Rio Grande River to it mouth, then by water to Vera Cruz on the march to Mexico City. The Regiment was in a number of important battles, including Veracruz and Cerro Cordo. A series of daring events rendered Hayes’ Texas Ranger famous.
Colonel George T. Wood, afterwards Governor of Texas, commanded the Regiment in East Texas and he stated the following: “Captain Alfred M. Truitt was in charge of a company of this regiment which was raised in Shelby, San Augustine and adjoining counties. Mr. Holland belonged to Truitt’s Company and they both later served in the Texas legislature.”
After the Mexican war, Major Alfred M. Truitt had mercantile businesses at Willow Grave (located 4 miles west of Joaquin, Texas) and Old Buena Vista, as well as accumulating large tracts of land. In 1856 he was contracted to clean out the Sabine River from Logansport, Louisiana to Orange, Texas and put his brother, J.H., in charge.
The store became a stopping place for pioneers moving west after crossing through Louisiana. As the population grew in the community that developed around Truitt's store, churches, schools, and organizations were established. Truitt Masonic Lodge No. 149 was chartered in 1854. Residents were meeting in homes for worship services by 1856, and the Christian Church that was founded in the Truitt community eventually became the First Christian Church of Center. Oral tradition holds that a school opened in Truitt by 1850, but the first written documentation established the founding of Jim Truitt School in 1884. In 1884-85, the Houston, Texas and Central Railway laid its tracks just north of Truitt, through what became the Joaquin community. Residents, businesses, and institutions began moving to the new railroad town, and the population of Truitt went into a steady decline after 1900. The Masonic Lodge disbanded in 1886, and the Truitt school consolidated with Joaquin schools in 1921. At the dawn of the 21st century, the Willow Grove Community Church and cemetery marked the site of the Truitt community.
On April 12, 1862, Alfred enlisted as a Captain in the A.M. Truitt Company, Randal’s Regiment of the Texas Lancers, Confederate Army. He served in this capacity until promoted to the rank of brigadier in the quartermaster where he served until, he resigned in 1863 on account of health. He had contracted lung problems during the war and died about a year after he resigned.
Alfred M. Truit married Susan E. Todd of Shelbyville and they had four children – two sons and two daughters. The sons were Jack (John H.) and Jim (James W.) and both were attorneys and founders of the Center Champion that was established in 1877. The daughters married Morris and Johnston. A.M. Truit and wife, Susan are buried in the Truitt Cemetery.