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

5 comments:

Word Designer said...

It has been so inspiring, reading through your blogs. Very interesting reading. Thank you. I've learned quite a bit and plan on returning often.

Happy New Year!

Word Designer

Teresa said...

Do you know who Susan Young's parents were?

Stephen said...

Yes - they were Alford Young born Indiana and Rebecca (maiden name unknown) born Tennessee, who came to TX from Arkansas in 1856. No relation to John's mother, Ann (Young) Lawhon and the Michael Young bunch. Stephen

Teresa said...

thanks! I'm a descendant of Ann Young's brother Michael.

Anonymous said...

I am decended from David Ervin Lawhon, Hugh's younger brother.

Cory L Collins
wytex2@hughes.net