Thursday, December 31, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday: A Monkey Doll

This little monkey doll belonged to my Dad, who was born in 1939 and passed away last October. We don't know who gave it to him, but his older brothers distinctly remember that it was his toy. Later, the monkey lived for years in my grandmother’s cedar chest; when she died in 1979 it went to my Dad. I brought it home with me when he went to a nursing home in 2008. It’s a good thing I dragged this little monkey down from his shelf, as I see that the paint is quickly peeling off his little composite head. In fact, there is a pile of it laying around where he was sitting. I didn’t notice that going on when I brought him home last year and I'm sure I would have. This gave me a strange feeling this morning, associating the disintegration of this doll with my dad’s death. So, I wrapped him up and put him in a storage box. We’ll see how he’s doing next year …

© 2009, copyright Stephen Mills

Saturday, September 26, 2009

John Lawhon, Texas Preacher and Family Patriarch

This photograph of my great-great grandparents, John and Susan Lawhon, was taken about 1893 at the J. L. Gray Studio in Van Alstyne, Grayson County, Texas. An undated newspaper clipping about John was found tucked away in a family Bible; it was published between 1930 and 1933, probably in the Morton or Muleshoe, Texas newspaper:

"Rev. J. M. Lawhon of Goodland, in Bailey County, was born in Red River County, Texas, before it became a part of the United States. He has lived to see five generations of native Texans in his family.
He was reared in Bastrop County. He was in Austin during the cholera epidemic and when the first train arrived. He joined the Texas Rangers in 1861 and served four years. He married Susan Young in Williamson County in 1865.
Rev. Mr. Lawhon recalls the killing of Sam Bass at Round Rock. He and his father started in the cattle business but gave it up because of cattle thieves. He did some trailing and was a freighter for a while.
While leading a herd of 3,000 cattle one time the herd stampeded. He left his horse and made a run for a cottonwood tree, leaping as high as he could. He could hear the pounding hoofs and snapping horns on every side but thought he was safely above them. When the herd had passed and he opened his eyes he found that he was sitting flat on the ground with his legs and arms locked around the tree trunk."

John Marion Lawhon (1845-1936), son of Hugh and Ann Lawhon, was a farmer, soldier, cattle trailer, freighter, and ordained Missionary Baptist minister. He married Susan Tabitha Young in 1865 at Georgetown, Texas and they had eleven children. In the interview for the article, he mentioned his familiarity with several well-known events in Texas history. According to the Handbook of Texas Online, a cholera epidemic in Austin and other parts of the state occurred in 1866; the first train arrived in Austin in 1871; and the notorious outlaw Sam Bass died at Round Rock in 1878. The Handbook also tells us that cattle trailing was “the principal method of transporting cattle to market in the late nineteenth century,” especially during the years 1867-1886. Overland freighting, generally by oxcart, was necessary to move goods across Texas and was a primary method of transport until the railroads were firmly established in the 1870s.

The article mentions that John was born in Texas “before it became a part of the United States.” He was born August 7, 1845, south of Clarksville in Red River County, Republic of Texas. Texas was admitted to the Union on December 29, 1845, when he was four months old.

John Marion Lawhon enlisted in the service of the Confederacy May 1, 1862 at San Antonio. He was a private in Company D, 5th Regiment Texas Cavalry, under Capt. Stevens. He re-enlisted in January 1864 in Burnet County in the Frontier Regiment, 3rd Frontier District, Texas State Troops, along with his brother, David W. Lawhon. According to John’s Confederate pension application, he enlisted in the spring of 1862, served in the “mounted home guard to fight Indians back off frontier, and held on frontier for that purpose during all the time of my service,” and “the company was disbanded without formal discharge in Burnet County after Lee’s surrender.”

After he became blind in 1915, John Marion Lawhon and his wife Susan lived among their children, residing for a year or two with the different families until their deaths. At the time this article was published, John was living with Edgar Lawhon and family at Goodland, located on the Texas South Plains west of Lubbock. Since the article references that he “has lived to see five generations of native Texans in his family,” it was published after his first great-great grandchild was born in 1930. He was living in Gunter, Texas with his daughter, Sarah Lawhon Bledsoe, by August of 1934 and died at her home on January 10, 1936. He was survived by 9 children, 53 grandchildren, 61 great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild.

According to the recollections of his grandchildren, and as might be expected given his preaching career, John Marion Lawhon was an avid storyteller, regularly spinning yarns and weaving exciting tales of his early life serving in the Civil War and living on the Texas frontier. He was a circuit rider and itinerant preacher in the mission fields of Northwest Texas and was ordained a Missionary Baptist minister in 1887. Several articles with information about his life appeared in various small-town Texas newspapers as early as 1904. Beginning in 1890, John M. Lawhon preached his “birthday sermon” every year on August 7 and attracted large crowds in several Texas communities, no matter on which day of the week August 7 happened to fall. He continued the custom for some 45 years; on his 89th birthday in 1934, blind, feeble, and wheelchair-bound, he was carried to the Gunter, Texas church to preach. Newspaper articles record that he baptized more than 1500 persons during his ministry. He was known for his sense of humor, strong religious convictions, encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible, and public speaking ability.

© 2009, copyright Stephen Mills

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Texas Pioneer Buried Three Times

Edward H. Tarrant was an interesting Texas patriot. Below is his biographical sketch from the Handbook of Texas Online (a wonderful resource, if you don’t know – link below and enjoy). Edward Tarrant was closely associated with both of the Watson families in my ancestry. The youngest son of Coleman and Lucy Watson, who was born in Bowie County in 1843, was named Edward H. Tarrant Watson. Edward H. Tarrant also served as the attorney for the administration of the estate of James Watson, who died in Bowie County in 1842. His residence in Henry County, Tennessee is of great interest to me, since Oran Datus Watson, Sr. of Edgefield County, SC moved there shortly before his death about 1822. His relation to James Watson, if any, is uncertain at this time. We also have James Watson’s daughter, Arimenta (Watson) Cross naming a daughter Mary Tarrant Cross, which is indicative of the close relationship with Tarrant. Still a lot more to learn about these folks, and I’m still digging.

TARRANT, EDWARD H. (1799-1858). Edward H. (possibly for Hampton) Tarrant was born in South Carolina in 1799. It appears that during the War of 1812 he was living in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. By the early 1820s he was in Henry County, Tennessee, where he was elected a colonel of militia in the new frontier environment. In 1825 he helped organize the first Masonic lodge in Paris, Tennessee, and by 1827 he had become sheriff of Henry County. He was a resident of Henderson County, Tennessee, from 1829 to the early 1830s, when he moved to Texas, possibly by way of Mississippi. Tarrant apparently established his household of relatives, hired men, and slaves in Red River County, Texas, by November 23, 1835; on February 2, 1838, he received a league and labor of land from the Republic of Texas as part of a uniform grant made to all heads of families resident in Texas on March 2, 1836. There is no record of his participation in the Texas Revolution. Tarrant was elected in September 1837 to represent Red River County in the House of Representatives of the Second Congress; his last appearance in the House was apparently on November 11, 1837, and he submitted his resignation on December 12, 1837. He had decided that he could better serve the republic by directing ranger activities against the Indians. He served as chief justice of Red River County in 1838 after Robert Hamilton had been nominated to that post in December 1836; there is some question as to which of the two men actually served as first chief justice of the county.

Tarrant practiced law, engaged in farming, and took a leading role in the militia's activity against the Indians while he was chief justice; when he resigned from the post on May 30, 1839, he was one of the most prosperous men in Red River County. He was elected by popular vote on November 18, 1839, as commander, carrying the rank of brigadier general, of an organization of Northeast Texas defenders known as the Fourth Brigade. His Indian-fighting career culminated in the battle of Village Creek in May 1841. In 1847 Tarrant ran for lieutenant governor, but he was defeated by John Alexander Greer. He served in the House of Representatives in the Third and Fourth Texas legislatures from 1849 to 1853. He was married to Mary Danforth on April 6, 1851. They lived on Chambers Creek near Italy, Ellis County, and participated in the social life of Waxahachie. In 1857 Tarrant moved part of his household to Fort Belknap, and when Indian depredations became frequent in that area, he again turned his attention to raising forces against them. While traveling from his home on Chambers Creek to Belknap, Tarrant became ill and died on August 2, 1858, at the home of William Fondren, about ten miles from Weatherford, where he was buried. He was reburied on his farm on Chambers Creek on January 28, 1859, and was buried a third time on March 3, 1928, in Pioneer Rest Cemetery, Fort Worth. Tarrant County was named for him.

Handbook of Texas Online, (accessed February 17, 2009).

© 2009, copyright Stephen Mills