Citizens of "The Free State of
Throughout its history, the county has manifested a trait that has become characteristic of its people. It was their opposition and refusal to stay hitched to the "existing order" that has caused the county to be popularly known as THE FREE STATE OF LAVACA. In 1835, they declared their opposition to the despotic rule of Santa Anna; in 1860, they, with hardly a dissenting vote, declared their armed resistance to the ''Yankee Rule"; four years later, they were just as vehement in denouncing Jeff Davis' government for promoting "a poor man's war for a rich man's nigger"; later, in the 80's, when barb wire and the railroad came, they bowed their necks and defied the law to fight the land monopoly; from 1910-1916, their county seat was the hot-bed of Socialism, as the Rebel, Pozor, and Habt Acht spread the doctrine throughout the state; in 1920, they bolted the Democratic party to elect Jim Ferguson president and install an entire new slate of county officials; from 1918-1932, they never accepted the 18th Amendment, and successfully resisted its enforcement. Yet in spite of their cantankerous nature, they have done a good job of settling the county and developing it socially and industrially.
THE FREE STATE OF LAVACA is more than a phrase; until 1900 it was an apt description of Lavaca County, Texas, and its people. If one has doubts, he need only leaf through the docket sheets of the various courts to verify it as fact. That the aptness of the description prevailed until 1900 can also be corroborated. For instance, the docket of the justice of the peace, Precinct 1 (Hallettsville), in April, 1895, lists 145 criminal complaints: 35 for unlawfully carrying a pistol, 3 for carrying brass knucks, 30 for assault, 40 for gambling and 2 for keeping a disorderly house. These hundred or so charges, while perhaps not speaking well of the people, gave testimony to the spirit in the town on the banks of the Lavaca River. These culprits made noise, too; talked too loud and without restraint. Four were charged with disturbing the peace, one with disturbing religious worship, one with abusive language and another with the oral slander of a female. You could not put a bridle on the offenders, even after they were penned. After the law got its hands on them, six were charged with attempt to escape. in short, they cavorted, snorted, then aborted to run like hell. Paul C. Boethel, LavacaCo historian of Hallettsville, Texas.
Books by Judge Boethel on LavacaCo History
Hallettsville, named after Mrs. Margaret Leatherbury Hallett, later the county seat of LavacaCo, was mentioned in Ripley's Believe It or Not:
Biographies of selected residents of La Baca/Lavaca County 1836-1846. Additional biographies of DeWitt Colonists who were residents or owned land in the area that became the county in 1842 are linked below and at 1828 Residents, Land Grantees & Residents, Gonzales Town Residents, The Battle of Gonzales-Old 18 and Gonzales Alamo Relief Force.
BRASHEAR. William P. Brashear was in LavacaCo in 1839 investigating land when he became the subject of J.W. Wilberger in Indian Depredations in Texas. It is unclear if Brashear settled in the county for a significant length of time. He was the son of Levi Brashear and Camilla Lansdale and a soldier in the Texas Revolution. He is listed in 1840 Citizens of Texas, v.2 (Tax Rolls) of JacksonCo, TX. He was taxed for 1 poll, 1 saddle horse, and 1 gold watch "whether running or not", but no land. In v. 3 of the same above work (Land Grants), Brashear brothers are listed:
The record also says that this land was patented to William P. Brashear on 25 Nov 1861 (patent 133 vol. 11 abstract 57 GLO file Goliad bounty 192) (Due to the fact that he was supposed to be dead then, this is curious, maybe his heirs got the patent, but it does say patented to him). This information is from page 125 of the donation and bounty land grants of the State of Texas. On the same page is R.C. Brashear; he received 1920 acres on bounty warrant #59 in Karnes Co, TX, for his death at Goliad. This land was patented to heirs on 24 Feb 1862. R.C. also got a donation land grant of 640 acres on certificate #28 on 16 May 1846. It was patented to the heirs on 17 Apr 1861. William P. Brashear, d. 1846, TX, and William C. Brashear of the Texas Navy administered his estate. Their relationship has not been established. William C. Brashear, b. c1812, PGCo, MD, d. 1849, Beltsville, MD, son of an unknown and Sarah Brashear (she applied to the Texas Navy Committee in 1859 for his bounty pay). During the Texas Revolution, William C. served as a second lieutenant in Capt James Pope Price's company of Kentucky Volunteers, but his company arrived too late to fight in the battle of San Jacinto; he served in the Texas Navy until at least 1844, when he was promoted to Commander.
Richard G. Brashear was a victim of the Goliad Massacre while serving in Capt. Burr Duval's company from Kentucky. From Kentuckians in Texas: Captain Burr H. Duval's Company at Goliad by John B. Thomas Jr.:
.........What the prisoners did not know was that, on March 26, unequivocal orders had come from General Santa Anna to Colonel Garay, now commanding at Goliad, to shoot the prisoners. John C. Duval provided a survivor's account of the events of that Palm Sunday. The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, v. 81, no.3 (Summer, 1983) 237-254):
Above Provided by Charles Brashear
BROWN. Bernard and Ann Riney Brown. Anthony, James, Thomas B., Bernard Jr., Mary Ann.
CLARKE. Edward A. Clarke (1808-1858), priest, son of Ignatius and Aloysia (Hill) Clarke and grandnephew of the first bishop of Cincinnati, was born in Marion County, Kentucky, in 1808. He and George W. Haydon were the first American-born Catholic priests to settle and minister in Texas. Sometime before 1824 Clarke, along with his childhood friend Haydon, entered St. Thomas Seminary in Bardstown, Kentucky. Both transferred to St. Joseph College before graduation and ordination to the priesthood at St. Joseph's Cathedral in 1832. For the next few years Clarke served as missionary in a large district encompassing several counties. In 1836, after a brief assignment at St. Thomas Seminary, he was named coassistant to the pastor of St. Louis Church in Louisville, a position also held by Haydon. In 1837 Clarke joined the faculty of St. Joseph College as professor of natural philosophy. In 1839 Clarke and Haydon volunteered to go to Texas as missionaries, at the request of a number of Kentucky and Missouri Catholics planning to move to the young republic. After an initial delay due to conflicting reports about their pastoral qualifications, the two Kentucky priests set out for New Orleans, where they obtained canonical credentials from Bishop Blanc and a letter of introduction to President Mirabeau B. Lamar from the Abbé Anduze, chaplain of the French fleet. Upon arrival in Texas, Clarke and Haydon visited a colony of Kentuckian settlers in Brazoria and then undertook a missionary tour of the republic. A few months later, using Richmond as a starting point, the priests made a second, longer, missionary tour of Texas, after which they separated for greater effectiveness. Haydon settled at Refugio, where he started to repair the old Spanish mission church, and Clarke moved to Brown's Settlement on the Lavaca River, where he helped the residents build a log church dedicated to St. Mary. The priests, however, continued to support each other; together they built a two-story log cabin amid the Lavaca farms, to serve as a school for children and adults. Eventually, the church entrusted all the English-speaking Catholics in the southwestern districts of the republic to Clarke's care. Haydon died in October 1841. The loss of his lifelong friend was a deep blow for Clarke, but it made his pastoral commitment stronger. Using St. Mary's as a pivot, he traveled extensively during the next few years, ministering to Catholic settlers from the upper Navidad River to Victoria and Texana. In 1847 he was appointed resident pastor of St. Vincent de Paul, the oldest church in Houston, where he remained until 1856, when he became seriously ill. He returned to Kentucky to rest and died of consumption in Louisville on November 25, 1858.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Ralph Francis Bayard, Lone-Star Vanguard: The Catholic Re-Occupation of Texas, 1838-1848 (St. Louis: Vincentian Press, 1945). Catholic Archives of Texas, Files, Austin. Aníbal A. González
CLARK. George Wilson Clark was the son of John Alexander Clark whose land holdings included part of current St. Louis, Missouri. The family comprised of John Clark's second wife, Mary Margaret Kerr (sister of Major James Kerr), two small children and three of nine children by a first wife came by boat via New Orleans arriving at Lavaca Bay in 1838. Wilson was part of the latter children and arrived with the family by oxcart from the bay on the Ashby tract on the Lavaca River which John Clark purchased. Essentially residents of the Zumwalt Settlement, the family built a two room cabin and improved the land for farming and ranching. Wilson Clark was a member of Capt. Adam Zumwalt's minuteman company of Lavaca River settlers in numerous encounters with Indians and served in the Vasquez and Woll campaigns of 1842 as part of Capt. Zumwalt's company. He participated in the Sommerville Expedition in Capt. Isaac Mitchell's unit. He participated in the Mier Expedition in Capt. Reeses Company where he was captured, imprisoned and released Sep 1844.
The John Clark family is listed in the 1850 census of LavacaCo: CLARK: Jno. 56, m KY; Margaret 34, f KY; WILLSON: Geo. (Insane) 31, m MO; John A. 15, m MO; Thomas 13, m MO; Franklin 7, m TX; Richard J. 5m; WILLSON: Margaret E. 3, f TX; Stephen A. 1, m TX. It is thought that household members listed as "Willson" may be those of George Wilson Clark.
COBLE. Adam Coble participated in the Battle of Bexar 5-10 Dec 1835 for which he received 640 acres service bounty. He served in the Repubican Army 20 Mar to 20 May 1836 for which he received 320 acres. At San Jacinto, he served in Capt. Benjamin Franklin Bryant's 7th Infantry Company, 2nd Volunteer Regiment. Coble married Mary Medcalf in Ft. BendCo 6 Jan 1838. The family is listed in the 1850 census of LavacaCo: COBBLE: Adam 44, m KY; Polly 40, f KY; James 10, m TX; Louisa 8, f TX; John 6, m TX; Thomas 4, m TX; Michael 2, m TX; SHARPER: Augst 23, m Ger; Christena 18, f Ger.
FOLEY. A George Foley, a widower, received title to a quarter sitio grant in the DeWitt Colony on the west bank of the Lavaca River adjacent to the Andrew Kent league in 1831 cited as having arrived in 1827. His relation to WGW Foley below is unclear.
Washington Green Lee Foley (1780-1874), Lavaca County pioneer, immigrated to Texas in 1838 with his wife, Sarah, two sons, a daughter, and a large number of slaves. He established a plantation at a site on Nixon Creek in Colorado County (now in Lavaca County). The mill, gin, blacksmith shop, and cluster of slave huts were listed on Ferdinand von Roemer's map of Texas as Foley's Settlement and were described by William Bollaert in 1843 as "a very fine settlement and good cotton and corn plantation." Foley was wealthy and made extensive loans to settlers and merchants in the area, including one for $1,000 to Gail Borden to finance his "meat biscuit." In 1851, on the tax roll for Lavaca County, Foley is listed as owning ninety-five slaves and over 12,000 acres. He had five sons and two daughters. Sarah Foley died in 1863; W. G. L. Foley died on January 23, 1874. His funeral was attended by seventy of his former slaves.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Paul C. Boethel, Colonel Amasa Turner, the Gentleman from Lavaca, and Other Captains at San Jacinto (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1963). Paul C. Boethel, Ole Foley: The Story of W. G. L. Foley (Houston: Armstrong, 1981). W. Eugene Hollon and Ruth L. Butler, eds., William Bollaert's Texas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1956). Paul G. Boethel
FOSTER. John Ray Foster emigrated to Texas in 1832 and served in Capt. Henry S. Brown's Company at the Battle of Velasco 28 Jun 1832. He was in Capt. Moseley Baker's Company from San Felipe 8 Apr to 30 May 1836. Records indicate he received a 20 day furlough from the unit camped at Victoria in which time he visited his home on the Brazos. At San Jacinto, he fought in Capt. Baker's Infantry Company D, 1st Regiment of Volunteers. After the war, he served in Capt. York's Ranger Company 20 Jul to Nov 30 1836. He received land for service from the AustinCo land commission. He is thought to have lived for some time in LavacaCo after the war.
HALLETT. According to Lavaca County history author, Judge Paul Boethel, John Hallet received a league of land in the Austin Colony on the east bank of the Lavaca River having arrived in 1833. He was the son of an English nobelman and born in Worcestershire, England where he enlisted in the British Navy. Threatened with punishment from officers, he deserted ship and swam to an American vessel in the same harbor in which the captain acted as his protector and brought him to America as his adopted father. With his adopted father, he remained a seaman and participated in an engagement against the British in Chesapeake Bay in the War of 1812. In 1808 he married Margaret P. Leatherbury, born 25 Dec 1787 in StaffordCo, Virginia, said to be of Scotch-Irish ancestry and descendant of prominent and well-to-do families in VA. Her family was opposed to her marriage to Hallett, but Margaret's attitude was "I would rather marry John Hallett and be the beginning of a new family, then remain single and be the tail-end of an old one." Hallett became captain of his own ship with home ports of Baltimore and New York. With insurance money from loss of a ship off the coast of Key West, Florida, he became involved in trading at Matamoros and later Goliad in Texas. In Matamoros the Hallett's had a mercantile business, but trouble with Mexican authorities in Matamoros resulted in confiscaiton of the store and the Halletts set up their business in Goliad and in 1833 joined Austin's colony bringing with them numerous native laborers and young bois d'arc trees. The family established a homestead on the Lavaca River, fortified it and planted the trees. They apparently moved between the area and Goliad where John Hallett was at one time the town clerk. John and Margaret Hallett had children John Jr., William Henry who were born in Matamoros in 1813 and 1815 and Benjamin and Mary Jane who were born in Goliad in 1818 and 1822. Benjamin was dead by 1824, unsubstantiated legend says he was captured by Indians and never heard from again. John Hallett Sr. is thought to have died in Goliad in Oct 1836. William Henry Hallett served in the Texian Republican Army under Houston according to family histories, went to Matamoros to purchase land and was imprisoned there as a spy. He died there in 1836. John Hallett Jr. served in Capt. Heard's Infantry Company F, 1st Regiment in the Battle of San Jacinto. He is believed to have been killed by Indians on the Nueces River in 1837, although Dixon and Kemp in Heroes of San Jacinto say he died in ColoradoCo (these authors confuse John Jr. with John Sr.).
After the death of her husband and several children and surviving the flight to east Texas on the Runaway Scrape, at age 50 Mrs. Margaret Leatherbury Hallett and daughter Mary Jane returned to the desolation left by both Houston's and the Mexican Army on the way to San Jacinto surrounding the LavacaCo homestead. There she has to contend with squatters on the Hallett league, a prime location on the Lavaca River in the region, and in the path of nomadic Comanche bands. Mrs. Hallett immediately rallied the few settlers in the area and friendly Tonkawa Indians in addition to appealing to the new government of the Republic for aid against the Comanches and lawless bushwhackers. She established her home as a trading post for basic supplies and trade of hides, pelts and commodities between settlers and primarily Tonkawa Indians, which became successful because of its strategic location in the region and contact with Gonzales. She became an excellant manager and began to produce crops of corn, cattle and horses on her league. Mrs. Hallett became a major figure in the area and eventually a legend. She was known to be fearless, a friend to the local Tonkawa Indians and severe with them when they misbehaved. Legend says that because of her bravery in handling unruly Tonkawas who insisted on whiskey from her store (she hit one over the head with a hatchet), she was made an honorary member of their tribe by Chief Lolo when he heard of the incident and thereafter referred to her as "Brave Squaw." Despite the ruggedness of the area, Mrs. Hallett was known to always dress brightly and always carried a large chatelaine bag. When a newcomer to the area asked about what she carried in the bag, the reply was "powder, but not of the cosmetic variety."
Across the river from the Hallett trading post was lived LavacaCo pioneers, Barnard Brown and Collatinus Ballard, a native of VA and said to be a cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln.. The latter married Mary Jane Hallett in 1840. Mary Jane Hallett was educated in St. Mary's Convent, three miles west of current Hallettsville under the tutelege of Rev. Edward Clark. Margaret Hallett helped establish a local educational system in the area and donated land for it including the Alma Male and Female Institute in 1852, the first public school in the area. David Ives (m. Margaret Lanham), a surveyor, lived with the Hallets in 1837 through 1843. The cluster of settlers around Halletts home and store became the town of Hallettsville which was laid out and surveyed in 1838 by Byrd Lockhart according to instructions of Mrs. Hallett who donated land for the site. Mrs. Hallett's home became the site for county business and court sessions in the early days of formation of LavacaCo after independence. In 1841, Ballard supervised the construction of a larger family log home which housed the early Ballard and Hallett businesses, served as a temporary city hall and courthouse in the days of the Republic. It also served as a multi-denominational church in 1841 and afterwards. Residents recalled the earliest "preaching" in the area occurred in 1841 at the house of "Mother Hallet." Margaret Hallett died at age 76 in 1863 and was buried near her home and original trading post and her remains were moved later to City Memorial Park where the site is marked by a historical marker: Hallettsville founded 1838, County seat, Lavaca County since 1852, named for Mrs. Margaret Hallett, Widow of John Hallett, A member of Austin's Colony, A veteran of San Jacinto who donated the town site.
From Goodspeed Brothers (Publishers). Memorial and Genealogical Record of Southwest Texas. Goodspeed Brothers Publishers, Chicago, IL, 1894.JOHN HALLET (deceased). It is a pleasure to speak of those worthy citizens whose active lives have ceased on earth, but whose influence extends still, and will continue to extend among all who knew them. This truth is doubly true when such a man has established for himself and children a reputation for integrity, character and ability. Such is the case with John Hallet, the original settler of Lavaca County, Texas. He was born in Worcestershire, England, and was the younger son of an English nobleman. When but a lad he was commissioned in the British navy, but served only a short time. Being threatened with punishment by one of the officers of the ship he climbed overboard in the nighttime, and swam to an American vessel in the harbor. The captain of this vessel brought him to the United States and adopted him. He was then in his twelfth year. He followed the sea with his adopted father for years, and was a volunteer in an engagement in Chesapeake Bay against the British. Later he sailed as Captain from both the ports of New York and Baltimore for several years. About the year 1808 he married, in Virginia, Miss Margaret P. Leatherbury, a native of the Old Dominion and of an old and prominent family of that State. While sailing on the ocean he lost a ship at Key West, Florida, and with the insurance money he started a business at Goliad, Texas. Soon after the Mexican government confiscated his stock, and later he retired from that business.
In 1833 he became a member of the Austin colony and came to Texas, securing his league of land, on which the present town bearing his name was built. He made but few improvements, erecting but a small cabin, and died at Old Goliad in October of the same year. Three children were born to this marriage: John, was killed by the Indians in San Antonio in 1837. He was a soldier in the Texas army and was in the battle of San Jacinto. He had settled near San Antonio and was about twenty-three years of age at the time of his death; William Henry was reared in Matamoras, Mexico, from his eleventh to his twenty-first year, and then came here to his mother. Later he was sent by Gen. Johnson and Felix Houston to buy land claims in Matamoras, was arrested as a spy and confined for some time, but was finally paroled. After that nothing further was heard of him by his family; Benjamin, died in 1836, when ten years of age; and Mary Jane, the only daughter. Mrs. Hallet resided on her farm until her death in 1863, when seventy-six years of age. In 1836 a town was laid out on her place, she donating one-half the land for a town site, and it was named in her honor Hallettsville. During these early days she had the genuine pioneer spirit, and deserved great credit for her fortitude and energy. She was justly called the mother of Hallettsville. A most intelligent lady, a great reader and well posted, though in a measure self-educated. She retained her property until death and it then went to her grandchildren. Mary Jane, her youngest child, was educated at home, and when in her fifteenth year was married to Collatinus Ballard, who was born in Virginia, and who came to Texas in 1840. He started a store in Mrs. Hallet's house, and this was the first store in the whole country. In 1843 he married Miss Hallet, as stated, and became an extensive merchant. He also followed farming and stock raising to some extent. This worthy citizen was a member of the Baptist Church and died in 1867. To his marriage were born twelve children, eight of whom grew up and five are now living: James, Mary A., died when seventeen years of age; Margaret P., married W. P. Ballard, and died leaving seven children; Fredonia Jane, now the wife of Mr. Roue; Frances B., wife of M. B. Woodall; Collatinus, John L., Ezbell, died when in her twentieth year, and two others died in infancy.
Mrs. Ballard now resides with her children and has forty-five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. She has lived in Texas under the Mexican rule, through all the career of the Lone Star Republic, and has seen it become one of the most prosperous States of the Union. She has heard the Indian war whoops, the cry of the panther about her door, but has survived all, and now resides, respected and esteemed, in a city that has grown on her ancestors' estates. Her eldest son, James Ballard, was born in Lavaca County, in 1844, and was educated at Baylor University, Independence, and later at Waco. When the war broke out he left school and entered the Confederate army, at first in Shay's Battalion, when he served on the coast, and later in Company K, Thirty-third Texas Cavalry, when he served 'mainly on the coast. On his twenty-first birthday he was married to Miss Alice Zone Russell, a Dative of Louisiana, and a daughter of Robert C. Russell, who was an early settler in this part of the Lone Star State. Soon after marriage he began teaching, followed that for about fourteen years, mainly in Hallettsville, and then served as County Surveyor from 1888 to 1892. For some time now he has been engaged in surveying. Mr. Ballard has a fine place, partly in the town, and on it he has laid out an addition to the town. He is a member of I. O. O. F. and the A. F. & A. M. His wife is a member of the Baptist Church. To their marriage were born ten children, six of whom are living: Susan A., wife of Rev. J. W. Daniels; Beulah, wife of W. C. Baird; Mary E., Addison, Schiller, Eunice H., and four died in infancy.
LAWRENCE. Joseph Lawrence (1800-1897), born 15 Jun in BuncombeCo, NC came to Texas in 1835 and joined the Texas Republican Army in Gonzales having come from Washington on the Brazos on 1 Mar 1836 as certified by Capt. Karnes. He was with a group of men from Washington who came to Gonzales to assemble in relief of the Alamo on 1 Mar 1836. He with Deaf Smith and Henry W. Karnes was sent to San Antonio by Houston to determine the status of the siege. He gave the following account to the Hallettsville Planter:
He first joined Capt. Peyton Wyatt's Company and then Capt. Karnes Cavalry of the 2nd Regiment of Texan Volunteers at San Jacinto. Lawrence received 640 acres bounty for service in CaldwellCo. After marriage to Mary Eleanor McGary on 22 Mar 1839 the family moved to DeWitt County where soon after Mary's brother Edward McGary was killed by Indians. Lawrence participated in the encounter with Comanches at Linnville in 1840 and the battle of Plum Creek. He later moved to La Grange, then back to LavacaCo in 1848 and established a plantation at the Old Pine Tree Crossings on Rocky Creek. He was founder of the Hallettsville Masonic Lodge in 1850. He died on 9 Oct 1897 and is buried at Andrews Chapel Cemetery. (Kemp in Heroes of San Jacinto says he lived for some time in LavacaCo after the war and died in Hackberry, NavarroCo in 1896).
LIVERGOOD. John Himes Livergood
MITCHELL. Isaac Newton Mitchell
TURNER. Colonel Amasa Turner.
WALTON. George Walton. Louisa M. Zumwalt.
WILLOUGHBY. Leaper Willoughby.
SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS