A TEXAS FAMILY
[Major General James Kerr Crain (1879-1972) was a distinguished Texan from Lavaca and DeWitt counties, graduate of West Point and served in numerous positions in the US Army including both World Wars. He was a great-grandson of Major James Kerr and grandson of Capt. Isaac Mitchell of the DeWitt Colony region. The following is part of a more extensive family history deposited for public use in the Gonzales County Archives]
Chapter I. THE PIONEERS. THE FIRST GENERATION IN TEXAS.
My father and mother were born in Texas. My mother was born in Texas when it was a republic, so that she was in fact "A Daughter of the Republic". My father, a few years younger was born just after Texas was admitted to the Union. Our families on both sides have been Americans for many generations, and may be justly numbered among the pioneer families of America.
It has occurred to me that it would interest my children in later years to read the bits and pieces of facts and family legends which were related to me chiefly by your grandmother Crain, but which were gathered also from my brothers and sisters, from family papers, and from occasional articles in old magazines and newspapers. My mother led a romantic life, although she would be the last to think of it in that light. Her early years were spent as the daughter of a wealthy planter with many slaves, but when she was eight years old her father was killed in a hunting accident. A little over two years later her mother remarried. The second husband was Joseph Charles Sheldon. This abrupt change from a fond father to a stepfather she did not like gave your grandmother a number of unpleasant years.
The hunting accident which cost my grandfather Mitchell his life occurred in sight of their plantation home on Mitchell's Point on Lavaca Bay, and your grandmother was the first member of the family to reach him followed by her mother. A run-away slave hiding in a thicket witnessed the tragedy and ran to his mortally wounded master. My grandfather realized he was dying and asked to be baptized. Under grandma's instructions the slave picked up his master's hat and ran to the bay shore where he filled the unusual baptismal font with sea water, and with this the grief stricken wife baptized her dying husband, his last words were: "Darling it was my own gun as I was crawling up on the turkey". His dying thought was to remove suspicion from the truant but faithful slave.
To give a proper background, however, I must go back a little farther. My mother's maternal grandfather was Major James Kerr, for whom I am named. The title of Major derived from a commission he held in the army of the Republic of Texas. This James Kerr played a prominent part in the early days of Texas and of Missouri and like all who stood out in those days he was a hardy character. Major Kerr's grandfather, also named James was born in Ireland. He is described in John Henry Brown's Family Register, prepared in Indianola, Texas, in 1853, as "an Irishman fresh from the bog, very fond of his grog, and when groggy very piously inclined." This same Register relates that this James Kerr married the widow Hyde in Pennsylvania in about 1746. From this marriage there were three children, two daughters and another James Kerr. One of the daughters, Susan, married Lamb, and was the mother of the stalwart and noted Indian fighter, John Lamb of Kentucky. The son, James Kerr, was born in Pennsylvania October 8, 1749. He became a circuit rider of the Baptist church in what was then Virginia. in the course of the circuit riding he became acquainted with the family of Richard Wells. He fell in love with Patience Wells, reputed to have been so named because she was one of twenty-four children. His affection was reciprocated by Patience, but not by her parents, so the young couple eloped with Patience riding double behind the impetuous parson whose worldly goods consisted of one horse.
The newly married pair removed to Kentucky and settled about two miles from Danville, now (in 1853) Boyle County, Kentucky. There in 1790 my great-grandfather James was born on September 24th. He was one of ten children. As this number crowded the family nest several of the young brood removed to Missouri which was then a part of French Louisiana. The Preacher and Patience visited their children in Missouri and there Patience died. Preacher James returned to Kentucky and later married Phebe Bonham; there were no children of this marriage. By 1808 all of the Kerrs, including the father and his second wife, had removed to St. Charles County, Missouri. The elder James Kerr is said to have been the first Protestant minister west of the Mississippi River.
Despite the fact their father was a minister of the gospel, or perhaps because of that fact, the Kerr boys were not overly observant of his precepts. On one occasion just as the Reverend James Kerr's small congregation was emerging from a Sunday morning service a group of whooping boys came rushing by with one of their number astride an astonished and cavorting cow, The scandalized preacher recognized the equally horrified rider as his son James. Thus James junior gave early indication of a fondness for the unconventional. Perhaps he had inherited it from that part of his father's character that had led the latter to elope to the wilderness with little more than a charming bride and a single horse. The war of 1812 found James junior a volunteer, and he took part in several engagements. The Adjutant General of the Army wrote me that one James Kerr served in the War of l812 as a sergeant in a company designated at various times as Captain Daniel M. Boone's and Captain James Callaway's Company of Mounted Rangers, United States Volunteers. His Federal service began 19 May 1813; was reduced to private 14 January 1814, and his service ended 19 May 1814. The Adjutant General of Missouri sent me a copy of the receipt roll signed by James Kerr for his pay and allowances for the period April 29-May 18th 1813, while in the service of the Territory. The amounts covered by the receipt are interesting because of their size. It is startling to note that for twenty days service his pay was $5.17; and his subsistence allowance was twenty-eight cents! Not quite a cent and a half a day. His travel pay was fifty cents. But his allowance for his horses was 48.00 which was more than his pay plus all other allowances.
In 1813 he was second in command to Captain Boone in Boone's defeat on the Illinois River, and Kerr received great praise for his conduct during the retreat. During that same summer he and two others were ambushed by seventeen Indians at the mouth of the Salt River in Missouri. in the ensuing fight his horse was wounded three times and finally killed under him. The party escaped because of his cool daring and a well contrived ruse. My mother told me the ruse consisted in securing a camp kettle to the end of a log to represent a cannon, and the Indians were unwilling to close in on what they thought to be that much feared weapon. The Captain Boone referred to was a son of the famous Indian fighter and frontiersman, Daniel Boone. After the war ended James Kerr was elected Sheriff of St. Charles County, then extending to Boone's Lick, and now (1853) comprising ten counties. He held the position of sheriff for four years. On July 23, 1818, James married Angeline Caldwell of Ste. Genevieve County. She was the daughter of Major James Caldwell, in 1819 or 1820 the young couple moved to Ste. Genevieve County to live. Major Caldwell was one of the most popular men in Missouri. He had lived in Kentucky before removing to Missouri and had represented Harrison County in the lower branch of the Kentucky Legislature in the years 1800, 1807, and 1808. Angeline Caldwell was born in Kentucky on February 8. 1802.
James Kerr was very popular with the young man of the community, and in 1822 he was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives. Major Caldwell was at that time a member of the State Senate, and then occurred on of those unfortunate events which change the lives and destinies of men. in 1824, against the wishes of James Kerr, he was elected to the State Senate defeating his father-in-law Major Caldwell. The old gentleman was so indignant at his first political defeat, and this at the hands of his son-in-law; that from that time he refused to speak to him, because of this unpleasant situation and because of his wife's health, James Kerr that same year resigned his seat in the State Senate which had been thrust upon him, and made plans to move to Texas. Green DeWitt of Ralls County, Missouri, was interested in organizing a colony to go to Texas, and James Kerr agreed to assist DeWitt and to become surveyor of the colony. Your ancestor with his wife, three small children, and a few slaves took passage in a Mississippi River packet bound for Texas by way of New Orleans. The family was in that city when General Lafayette arrived there on his triumphal tour of the United States, and my grandmother, Mary Margaret Kerr, then three years old was one of the numerous little girls kissed by the famous Lafayette during the ovations given him.
It was the year 1825 that the Kerrs started for Texas. in New Orleans James Kerr met the agent of Stephen F. Austin, the "Father of Texas" and received from him a letter of introduction to that great pioneer and leader. I will digress at this point to say that Mr. Kerr was permitted to retain his slaves in Texas on the rather specious but satisfactory ground that the Mexican law forbade the importation of "American Slaves" and since the Kerr slaves had lived in Missouri when it was a French Possession It was decided they were not "American Slaves". The little family finally obtained passage in a coastwise packet and landed in Brazoria in the spring of 1825. The hardships of the long journey from Ste. Genevieve and of life in their now surroundings soon exacted a heavy toll, on the 27th of July 9 1825 the young wife and mother died in their temporary camp on the Bernard about four or five mile from Columbia. Her unfortunate husband was absent at the time on a trip to locate a suitable site for their future home in the Green DeWitt Colony,
So Angeline Caldwell Kerr born in Kentucky, married in Missouri, died in Texas at the tender age of twenty-three, leaving behind three small children, the youngest of whom was not yet one year old. Her burial service was read by one of the noblest of the pioneer woman of Texas, Mrs. Mary E. Bell. Her coffin was hollowed from an oak log by faithful slaves. In 1853 her daughter, my grandmother, had the remains removed to the church cemetery in West Columbia and a marble slab placed over them. The inscription upon this slab is worthy of note:
Thus James Kerr returned to his camp on the Bernard to find his wife in her grave, and the three little children under the care of Mrs. Bell. He had located a home in Texas that only he of the little family would see for many years, and then one only---his little daughter. He set out for his new home with the three young children and his servants. His home was to be on the bank of the Guadalupe River where now stands the city of Gonzales. The father carried his infant son in his arms on horseback, and in his arms the little follow died just a few weeks after his mother's death. And the older boy just turned five died three weeks later. So within a few months after reaching the promised Land only the father and the three year old daughter remained of the happy family of five.
The little girl, Mary Margaret, was left at San Felipe in the care of Mrs. Pettus, and the small party, resumed their march to the site of their now settlement. Kerr named it Gonzales in honor of the Governor of Coahuila to which state the province of Texas was attached, Deaf Smith, a famous scout who was later to be sent by General Sam Houston to burn the bridge over Vinces Bayou before the battle of San Jacinto, was a member of the Kerr party. The young settlement, the first American one on the Guadalupe River, had but a short life. Kerr was absent on a business trip when an Indian was caught in some petty theft. He was given a sever flogging which was a great mistake and was due to a lack of knowledge of Indian psychology. The flogging would not have occurred had Kerr been present for he had had considerable experience with the red men. The outraged savage returned with a war party and found the whites dispersed. The majority of the settlers were on their way to a dance on the Colorado to celebrate the Fourth of July, while a few remained at Gonzales. The travelers were attacked at night, and while their casualties were slight their horses were driven off which left them stranded afoot. They returned to Gonzales to find their dwellings partially burned and deserted save for one unfortunate man dead and scalped. The harassed settlers started once more for the Colorado settlement where they arrived safe but weary and destitute,
When Kerr returned and learned of the raid he decided that his advanced position on the Guadalupe was untenable with the Indians, unfriendly. He then withdrew his settlement to a point nearer the seacoast and within closer supporting distance to other whites. The name "Kerr" was later given to a newly organized county by reason of the fact that he was the first American to settle on the Guadalupe River. It was in October, 1826, that he moved to the Lavaca River and built a fort long known as the "Old Station". This was the last fort erected by one of our family, although your father when a lieutenant of Coast Artillery directed the movement of many of the heavy guns to the top of that famous fort, Corregidor Island, which more than thirty years later defended it against the Japanese.
But the names of your ancestors were attached to two other and earlier forts far removed from Texas. One was "Well's Fort" built in Virginia by Alexander Wells who was an uncle of Patience who eloped with the hard-riding preacher, James Kerr. A second was "Nicholl's Fort" in South Carolina which was undoubtedly built by one of your mother's forbears, for they were the only Nicholls in that area at that time. To return to Texas, Kerr continued his survey of DeWitt's colony using the "Old Station" as his base. DeWitt arrived there in 1827 bringing his family. And that year the little colony harvested it s first crop of corn. The major part of their food consisted of wild game which fortunately was plentiful. A traveler wrote that he had come to the cabin of James Kerr and found him at work with the only food in the house a leg of venison. Although Major Kerr had been in Texas but two years he had earned the respect and confidence of Stephen F. Austin. It was in 1827 that the Fredonian war broke out headed by Edwards in Nacogdoches. The avowed object of this outbreak was to establish an Independent republic. Austin and his colonists looked upon this movement as suicidal and opposed it bitterly. Major Kerr headed a commission of three discreet persons which was sent by Austin to Nacogdoches to negotiate with and remonstrate with the leaders of the insurrection. The commission was not successful in persuading the rebellious element to abandon their course; but when direct action was taken the rebellion collapsed.
Major Kerr remained the Surveyor of DeWitt's colony for several years, but continued to reside on the Lavaca. He became also the Surveyor of DeLeon's colony and surveyed most of its lands, including the city of Victoria. At that time there were in use several "varas" (Spanish unit of length). James Kerr resolved this confusion by establishing one "vara" alone as the proper standard and the vara be established is still the legal vara where that unit of measure appears in deeds and other documents. When DeWitt moved his settlers from the "Old Station" to the re-established Gonzales on the Guadalupe River, Major Kerr was left alone; for some time he had no neighbor within fifty miles. By his knowledge of the Indians and his fair dealings with them he obtained and held their friendship. However, the next few years brought into this neighborhood a number of families. And this enabled Major Kerr to bring his little daughter Mary Margaret to his frontier home.
It was during this period of her life that several events occurred which made a lasting impression upon young Mary Margaret. One of these became well remembered in our family because my grandmother used it to impress upon her children the importance of obedience. On this occasion her father was taking her for a ride hold in front of him upon an excellent horse. Suddenly a small party of unfriendly marauding Indians appeared between them and their home and with wild whoops began a chase. Major Kerr's horse was much too fast for the Indian ponies, but the country was brushy and the little girl was suffering from the hard ride. So the father while hidden from view of the Indians deposited his daughter in a thick clump of bushes with strict instructions to remain lying there until he returned no matter what might occur. He then led the Indians in a wide circle and headed for his nearest neighbors. Reinforced by them the tables were turned but the Indians made good their escape. And Major Kerr found his child safe and sound for she had not stirred when the Indians raced by. In later years when one of her children was guilty of disobedience she would relate this story and then say: "Now, If it had been one of you disobedient children you would have raised up to look at the Indians and you would have been carried off by them and never seen your father again."
On another occasion Mary Margaret did not come off so well. One of the famous characters of those early days in Texas was Robert M. Williamson who was called "Three Legged Willie". This peculiar sobriquet arose from the circumstance that he possessed one sound leg, one leg partially paralyzed and undeveloped, and a third wooden leg to take the place of the undeveloped one. Little Mary Margaret was greatly intrigued by this peculiarity of Three Legged Willie, and upon one occasion when Judge William on was at her father's table she slipped under it to learn which was the wooden leg. Unfortunately the first leg she pinched was the paralyzed limb which evoked a yell from the surprised guest and caused Mary Margaret considerable embarrassment.
James Kerr's association with Stephen F. Austin developed into a warm friendship that ended only with the death of Austin with Kerr at his bedside. When young Mary Margaret Kerr was baptized into the Catholic faith, Stephen F. Austin was her godfather. It so happened that on her ninth birthday Austin was at the Kerr home, Mary Margaret, or Minnie as she was called, had begged her father often to give her a gun for her very own; on this birthday she renewed the request which was overheard by her godfather. The man of the ranch had brought in a wolf which they had lassoed on the prairie, and the animal secured by a rope in the yard was restlessly pacing to and fro the length of his tether. Austin walked to the ranch house door and calling Minnie he handed her his pistol and said: "Minnie if you will shoot this wolf I will give you a gun for your very own The child took the pistol in her hands, and a fairy godmother must have been near, for when she pulled the trigger the wolf fell dead. Her godfather kept his word. He sent into Mexico an order for a small and light rifle to be mounted in silver and to bear the inscription: "Minnie's Rifle". It was an excellent weapon and fired accurately; so much so that many were the requests to use it. Unfortunately. this precious souvenir was stolen or destroyed in the burning of the Mitchell home on Point Comfort on Lavaca Bay. By that time Minnie or Mary Margaret, had grown up and had married Captain I. N. Mitchell. It was in this plantation home that my mother spent her early childhood.
The Texas James Kerr was not a handsome man. Indeed, at one of the rare social gatherings of the sparsely settled community he was a contestant in a simple frontier game called, "Uglying for the Knife". Social paraphernalia was sadly lacking in those days and this game called for none. The contestants lined up before the judge and the one deemed the ugliest was presented with a knife as a prize; the winner must then carry the knife until he met an uglier man to whom he would transfer it. On this occasion a fellow contestant striving for the prize called out; "Stand just as God Almighty made you, Kerr." Whether our ancestor was making faces at the time is not related; at any rate he won the knife. A year or so later Major Kerr attempted to pass the knife to a newcomer who recoiled exclaiming: "Mister, shoot me but don't give me that knife, if I am uglier than you then I want to die." I have concluded always from this sequel that Major Kerr was not making faces when he won the knife.
In 1833 James Kerr married a second time. His bride was Sarah Fulton, the adopted sister of John J. Linn of Victoria. This made life more pleasant for little Mary Margaret who had never really known her mother. Four days before this second marriage James Kerr was baptized into the Catholic Church. I have in the old Kerr bible the baptismal certificate. It is written in Latin and is dated September 20th 1833. The ceremony was performed in San Patricio by Father John Thomas Malloy. His sponsors were Richard Everard and Elizabeth McGloin.
The Americans in Texas had arrived now at a numerical strength sufficient to cause them to consider their relations with the Mexican government. The first convention ever held in Texas was at the town of San Felipe de Austin (not the present capital city Austin) in October 1832. James Kerr was a delegate to that convention from the District of Lavaca and was a Member of three of its committees. The second convention of the people or Texas was assembled in San Felipe de Austin in April, 1833. James Kerr was again a delegate to the convention, and was a member of the committee which drafted a "Constitution for the proposed State of Texas, to be forwarded to the Mexican Congress for approval". R.M.Williamson (Three Legged Willie) was a member of that same committee, and Sam Houston was its chairman, This convention sought the erection of Texas into a Mexican state independent of Coahuila. The political relationship between the colonists and the Mexican, authorities now commenced to deteriorate. Friction had developed between the Americans and the Mexican Government, and much uneasiness existed among the colonists. By 1835 the dissatisfaction had grown to a point where the Americans in the Province of Texas determined that action was necessary.
The settlers of the Lavaca-Navidad region called a meeting in July, 1835, to discuss the situation. The meeting was held at Millican's Gin, and James Kerr was selected to preside aver the assembly. After a free and full exchange of views the following resolutions were adopted:
1. The farmers declared their belief that
Santa Anna was hostile to the state's sovereignty and to the state constitution, hence to
I have set down the foregoing in some detail because one of your ancestors presided over the "spirited proceedings" which were the first organized gathering to make public pronouncement against the dictator Santa Anna in the year 1831 the Mexican Government had presented to DeWitt's Colony a valuable four-pounder cannon. It was held at Gonzales and highly prized. Now in 1835 the Mexican Government sought to remove this weapon from the hands of the Texians by reason of the discontent which had grown up among the colonists. A Mexican force of one hundred and fifty men was dispatched from San Antonio to Gonzales to seize the cannon and convey it to San Antonio. A band of men in Gonzales held up the Mexican force at the Guadalupe River until reinforcements arrived from other settlements. Your ancestor James Kerr was among the patriots who rallied to the defense of the cannon. On the second of October, 1835, the Texians having crossed the Guadalupe River the previous night attacked the Mexican force and drove it back to San Antonio. Four Mexican were left dead on the field and an unknown number were wounded. The Texians had no casualties. This was the first armed clash between the Texians and the Mexicans and was the beginning of the War of Independence. And you should remember that your great-great-grand father was a soldier in this historic fight.
The third general meeting of the people of Texas was termed THE GENERAL CONSULTATION and was hold in San Felipe in October 1835, but was adjourned for lack of a quorum. It reassembled the following months adopted a plan for a provisional government and for army and military defense. James Kerr was a member of the Consultation though absent during a part of it. This absence was due to the fact that he was with a small force of Texians which attacked and captured the Mexican frontier post of Lipantilan on the Nueces River. This action took place on November 4, 1835. When Kerr arrived at the Consultation he was chosen a member of the General Council elected to serve under the Provisional Government. He was also elected a member of the General Convention which on March 2, 1836 adopted the Declaration of Independence of Texas from Mexico. However, the Mexican Army under Santa Ann was on the march and Major Kerr's home was one of the most exposed and was certain to be overrun or cut off by the advancing Mexicans. His friend and neighbor Elijah Stapp was the other of the two delegates from their communities and the two drew straws to determine which would attend the Convention and which would lead their families to safety. Stapp won the choice and went to the Convention and signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. Elijah Stapp was the father of my Aunt Calista who married Newton Mitchell, my mother's oldest brother.
The general exodus of the American families ahead of the Mexican army was known as "The Runaway Scrape". It was an arduous journey. My mother related to us one of the incidents that had made a deep impression upon her mother, then young Mary Margaret Kerr. One night their party was encamped upon the bank of a bayou when all were awakened by wild yells of terror mingled with calls for help. They were horrified to discover that a large alligator had seized one of the man slaves by the leg and was dragging him towards the water. The men belabored the brute with whatever they could lay their hands on but could not force the reptile to release his hold up on the unfortunate black. Then a quick witted man ran to the camp fire and grabbing a blazing stick thrust the flame at the alligator's eyes. The brute could not endure this and releasing his victim retreated into the bayou.
Tragedy visited Major Kerr once more upon this march. His first born child of his second marriage, Charles Linn Kerr, died at the mouth of the Neches River on the tenth day of May 1836. He was not yet ten months old, and the hardships of the journey coupled with poor nourishment were too much for the poor little fellow; just as eleven years earlier his two little half-brothers had died for the same reasons on the road to San Felipe. When in France in 1918 I saw groups of French civilian retreating before the advance of the German armies, carrying what household goods they might, and driving before them a few wretched animals. I instinctively thought of the retreat of the handful of Texian families in 1836.
In the organization of the Republic President Burnett appointed Kerr a major in the army of the now Republic. Mary Margaret was now fourteen years of age, and it was time for her to obtain more of an education than was obtainable on the border, Because of this and of the unsettled conditions in Texas Major Kerr sent his family to Missouri. Mary Margaret was placed in a convent in Ste. Genevieve and there spent several happy years. Her father visited her there in 1837, and received many flattering marks of respect from his old friends. In 1838 Major Kerr was elected to the Texas Congress. He took a leading part in the passage of the anti-dueling law; and also in securing the removal of the Capital from Houston to Austin. This latter was a great and important victory for the western settlements.
At that time dueling was rife in Texas. One form of the duel was to blindfold one of the participants and place him in a darkened room armed with a bowie knife; his adversary was then similarly armed and blindfolded and sent into the room and the door was closed. Usually one only of the duelists came out alive, and generally he required medical attention. It was during the debate upon the anti-dueling measure that the normally patient Kerr became exasperated at one of the opponents of the bill and remarked that the gentleman's head was as empty as a paper bag and did not contain a single idea. This was too much for the gentleman, and he threatened Kerr with a challenge if he did not retract his remarks and apologize for them. Major Kerr then arose and said in effect that he regretted the language he had used and that in fact the difficulty with the other gentleman was that his head was so hard a new idea could not get into it! This explanation was bravely accepted and the incident was closed.
Major Kerr retired at last from public life to devote more time to his family and to his personal affairs. Although well advanced in years he went to New Orleans and studied medicine. Doubtless this action resulted from the scarcity of doctors in Texas, reinforced perhaps by the memory of the tragedies of his first year in Texas---the lose of his wife and his two little sons---as well as by the death while an infant of the first born of his second marriage. Mary Margaret rejoined her father in 1839 after several pleasant years in Ste. Genevieve. In my papers are three letters written to her by nuns, who had been her teachers. They deal chiefly with news of my grandmother's former teachers and follow-students. They were written in 1840, 1845, and 1850. One extract may prove interesting:
As a young man James Kerr served in the War of 1812. His company was called into service by the Governor of the Territory of Missouri, and a few weeks later it was mustered into the Federal service as United States volunteers.
Muster roll of a company of Militia, Mounted of the Territory of Missouri commanded by Capt, James Callaway called into the actual service of the United States by order of his Excellency Benjamin Howard, Governor of said Territory, from the 29th of April to the 18th May 1813.
Commencement of service Apr. 29, 1813
I certify on honor that this muster roll exhibits a true and correct statement of Capt, James Callaway's Company of Mounted Militia of the Territory of Missouri in the actual service of the United States by order of His Excellency, Benjamin Howard, Governor and Commander in Chief of said Territory, (Signed) A. McNair Inspector General Missouri Territory
STATE OF MISSOURI, Office of the Adjutant General, City of Jefferson, No. 79567 9 May 1950 IT IS HEREBY CERTIFIED That according to the records of this office, James Kerr, Missouri Territorial Militia was called into actual service of the United States with a company of Mounted Militia of the Territory of Missouri on April 29, 1813 which was commanded by Capt. James Callaway, by order of His Excellency Benjamin Howard, Governor of said Territory
Place of residence: St. Charles County
RECEIPT ROLL, CAPT. JAMES CALLAWAY, MOUNTED
JAMES KERR, Private
It will be noted that the company was mustered into the service of the United States as United States Volunteers the day after it was mustered out of the Territorial Militia. During James Kerr's twenty days of service with the Militia his pay was approximately twenty-five cents a day. When I left West Point nearly one hundred years later a private soldier was receiving about fifty cents a day as base pay! But James Kerr's ration allowance was about one and one-half cents a day. His travel pay compares favorably with to-day's allowance for it was one and one-fourth cents per mile. However, his horses brought him more than all his pay and other allowances combined. For they earned him $ 8.00 out of his total of $13.95!
When Mary Margaret returned to Texas from her school in Missouri her father procured for her one of the first pianos seen in that part of the world. The foreman of the ranch who was also the father of an attractive daughter heard Mary Margaret playing upon the piano and was so enthused he exclaimed "I'll buy one of those things for my Sally if it costs two Spanish cows." A Spanish cow (range cow) at that time was worth two or three dollars. On another afternoon when Mary was alone in the ranch house practicing her music she became aware that someone had entered the room. She turned and found two Indians sitting cross-legged on the floor gravely listening to the unaccustomed music. Although considerably disturbed by her unusual audience Mary resumed her playing, and after a time her uninvited guests departed as silently as they had entered.
Major Kerr died suddenly of pneumonia on the 23rd of December, 1850, aged sixty years and three months. He died at his home on the Lavaca and was buried in the family cemetery a few miles north of Edna in Jackson County, Texas. A handsome marble tomb marks the grave. And so passed on a truly remarkable character; Soldier and Statesman Surveyor and Doctor, in the Territory and State of Missouri, and in the Province, Republic, and State of Texas.
A few years before the death of James Kerr his eldest daughter, Mary Margaret, married on July 9, 1843, Captain Isaac Newton Mitchell. The wedding took place at Major Kerr's home on the Lavaca River, captain Mitchell was the son of Daniel Mitchell and Mary Chiles who were married in the Abbeville District of South Carolina. Later Daniel Mitchell and his family removed to Alabama, and there Daniel Mitchell died on his plantation within a few miles of Tuscaloosa. He must have been a man of considerable wealth for when Captain Mitchell decided to make Texas his home he brought with him about seventy-five slaves.
Grandpa Mitchell visited Texas first in 1838 and purchased land near Hallettsville, It was on this plantation, "'Oakland"' that your Uncle Henry and I were born twins on August 28, 1879, some forty-one years after our grandfather acquired the property. Later he acquired large tracts of land between Caranchua and Lavaca Bays. And on the shore of Lavaca Bay he built a fine plantation home on Point Comfort, long known as "Mitchell's Point" just across the bay from the present town of Port Lavaca. It was on the shores of this bay that La Salle landed when he was seeking the mouth of the Mississippi River, and he named it "La Vaca" (The Cow) because of buffalo which he saw feeding nearby.
Our grandfather's holdings amounted to many thousand of acres, most of which were fine arable lands. However, in that day and place farming equipment was crude and scarce. The windmill had not been introduced into Texas and the gasoline engine had not been invented. But ample labor was available, for my Uncle Dan Mitchell told me that he had his father's slave book and that there were about one hundred and seventy-five names in it. This list included the children of whom there were a goodly number. The census of 1850 states that Captain Mitchell owned property valued at $20,000.00. As land and cattle were worth little it is probable that much of the estimated $20,000.00 consisted of slaves.
It was nearly fifty years later that "colonists" as the native Texians called groups of newcomers, discovered an abundant supply of fresh water at a comparatively shallow depth, and this with the aid of the windmill and the gasoline engine made farming a profitable occupation. When Captain, then plain "mister", Mitchell first reached Texas the decisive battles of the Revolution against Santa Anna had been fought. But there were still invasions by Mexican forces and retaliatory incursions into Mexico by the Texian in addition the western Indians still controlled the great plains, and from time to time war parties raided the frontier settlements; and in turn parties of Texians made punitive excursions into the Indian country. This adventurous life appealed to Captain Mitchell and he determined to make Texas his home. In 1840 the Indian came in considerable force to attack the town of Linnville on Lavaca Bay and the town of Victoria some thirty miles inland. Your great-grandmother Crain (then Emily Blake) was one of the survivors of the attack on Linnville. She was fortunate in being taken out to one of two small sailing vessels anchored off the town and which the Indians could not reach. The two small sloops, belonged to my grandmother's stepfather. They provided refuge to all the inhabitants of Linnville except two women who were captured and carried off and one man who was killed. The village was looted and burned, and your Uncle Henry has reminded me of one of Grandma Crain's stories of the raid. She recalled seeing a Commanche warrior racing up and down the street with one end of a bolt of red cloth tied to the tail of his pony whooping his wildest. Texians from the neighboring settlements rode into the rescue and Grandfather Mitchell was among them. The retreating Indians were surprised in their camp on Plum Creek in what is now Gonzales County in the ensuing fight the Indians were decisively defeated. One of the women captives was rescued, but the other was killed by the Indians as they prepared to run. This was the last serious raid by Indians upon the settlements.
In October of that same year Captain Mitchell was a member of Colonel John S. Moore's expedition to the upper Colorado where a large Commanche village was totally destroyed, all of the Indians being killed or captured. The Indian village was approached under cover of darkness and the raiders remained concealed until daybreak. As the first light disclosed the wigwams Colonel Moore ordered a mounted charge. The Commanches were taken completely by surprise. The Texians rode wildly through the village yelling and shooting all who appeared; then reloading their weapons they again charged through and the demoralized Indians were unable to rally. In the first charge your great-grandfather nearly met an ignominious death. He was mounted upon a mule, and true to that animals outstanding trait the obstinate beast balked in the center of the village and refused to move. An infuriated squaw ran up behind Grandpa and knocked him from the mule with a club; he regained his feet and grappled with his attacker. One of the Texians seeing his predicament called to him; "Kill her, Mitchell!" But though somewhat dazed by the blow he had received he called back: "Oh, no, boys, I can't kill a woman." He wrested the club from the squaw and was extricated from his dangerous position by the return charge of the Texians.
By 1842 Captain Mitchell had brought to Texas all of his slaves, and had settled down to the life of a frontier planter and stockman. But this quiet life was interrupted by raids of Mexican troops. In March of 1842 General Vasquez with about fourteen hundred soldiers moved up from the Rio Grande to attack San Antonio. Volunteer companies of Texians rushed to the defense of that important city and Grandpa Mitchell was with them. He was in a special scouting party sent out to locate the Mexicans and ascertain their strength; this they did. The next day again out on a scout the party encountered a Mexican colonel with a white flag. Grandpa rode out with a man named Arnold to meet the bearer; after blindfolding him they conducted him to Captain Hays who commanded the Texians. The Mexican stated the strength of the Mexican force and demanded the peaceful surrender of San Antonio. A vote was taken by the one hundred and seven Texians, and by a majority of one the decision was made to retreat. A short distance from San Antonio the Texians passed within a half mile of a body of Mexican cavalry who waved their hats as a sign of derision. Captain Ogden called for well-mounted volunteers to attack the Mexicans. At once a group gathered, among whom was our grandfather, and charged the enemy who fled in disorder. General Vasquez held San Antonio but a short time and then retired to Mexico.
In the following September the Mexicans seized San Antonio again, taking the Texians entirely by surprise. General Woll commanded the raiders who comprised about fourteen hundred cavalry and infantry with two pieces of artillery. Volunteers rode fast to the scene and within a week Colonel Caldwell had two hundred men under his command. At that strength he considered he was in a position to fight the invaders. Accordingly, the Mexicans were challenged to come out of San Antonio and do battle. General Woll accepted the challenge and in the ensuing engagement he was defeated with considerable losses. A few days later the Mexicans slipped past the Texians and began a retreat to Mexico.
Among the volunteers who rushed to the defense of San Antonio was a party of forty-three from the Lavaca settlement. GrandPa Mitchell was absent when this party set out; but upon his return he followed his neighbors to San Antonio, but arrived there after the engagement was over. Night had fallen and he went over the field checking the dead to learn if any of his friends had been killed. He joined Hay's scouts who led in the pursuit of the retreating enemy. The Texians overtook the Mexican rear guard on the Hondo, and late in the afternoon of September twenty-second they made a mounted charge. Again, as in the charge upon the Indian village, our grandfather experienced a combination of bad and good fortune. His group charged the two Mexican field pieces, and just as they rode in among the guns his stirrup leather broke and he pitched headlong among the cannoneers. There was no fight left in them however, and again grandpa emerged unhurt and with prisoners.
Because of these raids upon San Antonio the Texians organized in the following month, October 1842, the ill-fated Somervell Expedition which was to invade Mexico. A fine company was assembled from the Lavaca and Brazos settlements, and my grandfather was chosen captain, by which title I have called him in advance of the actual acquirement of the honor. John Henry Brown, a cousin of Mary Margaret Kerr, and the historian of Texas, was the "Orderly sergeant" of the company. Captain Mitchell's company took part in the capture of Laredo, and later in the capture of Guerrero in Mexico. I have heard my mother say that in the crossing of the Rio Grande Grandfather swam that stream seven times in one day with the aid of an excellent mount helping to get the troops across the river. I was reminded of this event when one of his descendants, my nephew Frank Crain, Jr., of Victoria, told me of his part in aiding the advance elements of the American Army in Italy to cross the River Po in 1944, one hundred and two years later. The flag carried by Captain Mitchell's company was planted on the tallest hut in Carrizo village in Mexico by John Henry Brown, and this was the first Texas flag raised south of the Rio Grande. This flag remained in the Mitchell family for some time; its ultimate disposition is unknown to me.
And now a romantic episode. The flag raised over Carrizo had been made for the company by none other than Mary Margaret Kerr. The flag was presented to the company with much ceremony, as was the custom in the days when all under arms were volunteers and there was no draft. This "Lone Star" was presented to the company on Smother's Creek, and Patrick Usher of Texana received it as color bearer. The lovely maker of the flag, Mary Margaret Kerr, and the gallant young captain of the company, Isaac Newton Mitchell, were married the following summer on July 9. 1843. The itinerary of their honeymoon gives some idea of those times. Captain Mitchell had always entertained a great admiration for Yale University, and that institution of learning was chosen as the goal of the young couple's travels. When it is recalled there were no railroads in Texas, nor near Texas for that matter, and that New Haven, Connecticut, was more than two thousand miles distant, it will be seen that the young newly-weds were quite intrepid. They traveled by horse drawn vehicle to Charleston, South Carolina, and there changed to rail transportation. At Charleston they left a slave couple who had accompanied them in a second vehicle with camping and cooking equipment, and who had "looked after" them on the long overland journey from Texas. On the way north they stopped off in Washington for a visit at the home of John C. Calhoun who was then Secretary of State. Grandma Mitchell was related to John C. Calhoun through her Caldwell ancestry. While there they were guests at a White House dinner. The happy young couple finally reached New Haven and visited Yale University. Returning by rail to Charleston they picked up their retainers and animal transportation and returned to their plantation home near Hallettsville. An account of their journey would be most interesting, but unfortunately none exists.
There were no further military experiences in Grandpa's life, but at least one adventure with Indian took place. Captain Mitchell was returning home from a trip, and as he rode to the shore of Lavaca Bay, but on the side opposite his home, he dismounted to rest his horse and also himself by walking. An upturned skiff lay close to the shore and he walked up and stepped on top of it. Immediately the skiff began to rise under him, and without hesitation Grandpa jumped into his saddle and rode into the bay. Two Indians had seen him approaching and had used the skiff as an ambush. Apparently they wanted to take him prisoner for they made no attempt to kill him with their arrows but waited patiently for him to be forced to return to land. But Lavaca Bay is a shallow body of water, and while it is several miles wide not much swimming was required to cross to the opposite shore. Grandpa never turned back, and doubtless the disappointed Indians regretted their urge to take him prisoner.
After nearly ten years of happy married life Captain Mitchell was killed in March 11, 1853, in the hunting accident described earlier in this narrative. He was but forty-four years old. Five children were born to Captain Mitchell and Mary Margaret Kerr, your grandmother Crain was the oldest; then came Isaac Newton, Jr., Joseph Daniel, Mary Augusta, and Virginia Florence. The last had died in infancy. Five children were born also to Mary Margaret Kerr Mitchell and her second husband, Joseph Charles Sheldon: Joseph Charles Jr., John Odin, Marie Estelle, Francis Xavier, and Genevieve. Grandma Mitchell Sheldon survived her first husband by many years. She died March 28, 1884, in Hallettsville, having lived in Texas through the most trying years of its history.
Granfather Mitchell was a man of noble character, beloved by all who know him. He was the owner of many slaves, some of whom he had purchased; but he would never sell a slave. One of his purchases in New Orleans was a powerful negro named "Mose". This man claimed to be the son of an African king, he made numerous attempts to escape but on each occasion was forced to return to the plantation because of hunger. Because of these attempts he earned the soubriquet "Runaway Mose". He was the slave who ran from his hiding place to aid Grandpa Mitchell when the latter met his accidental death.
Captain Mitchell was buried first at his home on Mitchell's Point. Later his body was removed to the family burying ground of his second son, Daniel, at Wolf's Point on Caranchua Bay. But recently the encroaching waters of the bay threatened the complete destruction of the little cemetery, and my cousin, Stockdale Mitchell had Grandpa's body and his monument removed to the cemetery in Gonzales. This monument contains the following inscription:
My mother, Angeline Genevieve Mitchell, was born January 3, 1845, on the Mitchell plantation near Hallettsville, Texas. The Mitchell summer home was at Point Comfort (at times known as Mitchell Point) on the share of Lavaca Bay and across that bay from the present town of Lavaca. Recently this point of land was designated officially as "Point Comfort". A large plant of the Aluminum Company of America now stands on land that was in our family for a hundred years, and over which I have ridden and hunted many times.
Grandpa Mitchell was a man of means for those days, and when my mother was three or four years old a now dwelling was erected at Point Comfort and the coast plantation became their permanent home. The Hallettsville plantation was retained however, and it was on this latter your Uncle Henry and I were born. Cuban mahogany brought to the Point in sailing vessels went into a goodly portion of the house. The sea afforded the Mitchell household the shortest communication with the outside world, for animals furnished the sole overland train port and such roads as existed were unimproved trails. However the plantation was largely self-supporting for the soil was fertile and there was ample slave labor. I recall my mother telling of visiting the spinning room where about twenty-five female slaves were busily engaged in making cloth.
She spoke also of the various classes of slaves, the class depending upon the character of work which they performed. The housekeeper was quite an aristocrat and autocrat. Each day in season the housekeeper would send the little picaninnies to gather vegetables for the kitchen. My mother would go with them often, and soon the children would begin to play games and in consequence they would be late getting the vegetables to the house. Whereupon the housekeeper would thrash the little darkies soundly. But by the next day the punishment would be forgotten and the same delay in gathering the provisions for the kitchen would result. Finally, one morning the housekeeper switched the picaninnies before they started for the garden, and that day there was no playing and the vegetables came home in ample time!
The plantation gin was forbidden ground to all the children, white and black, because of fear of serious accident. In spite of this your grandmother Crain led her band of picaninnies one day to visit the gin while it was in operation. At first the children watched the mysterious machinery while standing upon a platform near an open window through which they could see the cotton lint piling up below. Mama was seven years old then and quite venturesome; at first she knelt upon the window sill, but not satisfied with this feat of daring she sought to impress the picaninnies by leaning farther and farther into the room. Leaning too far she lost her balance and fell headlong into the pile of lint. Wild shrieks from her little followers alerted the gin operator and he stopped the team immediately. He ran to the lint room and opened the door and out came considerable quantities of lint and out came Mama. Big Mose, the ginner (not Runaway Mose) picked Mama up and got her on her feet. When he found she was not hurt Big Mose returned to his ginning. Mama was wearing a linsey-woolsey dress and she said the cotton lint stuck to that dress tighter than it sticks to a cockle burr. She dared not go back to the house in that condition, so her little companions in disobedience began to remove the telltale evidence from her dress. By noontime Mama was able to present herself at the table so completely free of lint that no one suspected she had been down to the gin. All that afternoon she dogged the footsteps of her father. After supper the overseer came in to make his report. While doing this he said, "Mr. Mitchell, I'm going to have to punish Big Mose. The door of the lint room flow open today and we lost a quantity of lint. I'm convinced it was carelessness on Big Mose's part because I looked at the door latch and it was in good condition. When I asked him how it happened he said "he couldn't rightly say." This was too much for Mama. She cried out the whole story in her father's arms, and instead of being punished Big Mose was rewarded.
The early part of my mother's education was obtained from a governess. As she progressed beyond that stage and because she and her stepfather developed an antagonism which lasted through their lives, my mother was sent to a convent in Galveston. Later she was sent to the Ursuline Convent in New Orleans.
My mother adored her father during the brief period she could know him. Captain Mitchell had been a devoted husband and father, and had been a kind and considerate master to his slaves, The family coachman, "Jim Crow" by name, settled in San Antonio after "Freedom," and for years drove a public carriage between the various railway stations in that city. As a testimony of his affection for my grandfather he would never accept a fare from any of the Mitchell children or grandchildren but took great pleasure In ferrying them across San Antonio as his guests. There was an old plantation song used in the slave dances which contained this couplet:
Possibly the old coachman excelled in this dance and thereby earned his name, "Jim Crow". The stepfather, Mr. Sheldon, resented the memory of his wife's first husband, and this resentment caused him to be unpleasant to all who reminded him of Captain Mitchell from the latter's eldest daughter to the meanest slave on the plantation.
[Angeline G. Mitchell was sent to the Ursaline Convent in New Orleans for schooling during which time the Civil War began]
The years following my mother's return home were not the happy ones she had looked forward to during the period of her enforced stay in New Orleans. As I have mentioned my grandmother had married a second time about two years after the unfortunate hunting accident to Captain Mitchell had left her a widow. Your grandmother's step-father did not please his stepchildren; certainly he did not please your grandmother. Grandpa Mitchell had left a large estate including many slaves, Mr. Sheldon, the stepfather, took possession of everything, and considered himself the proprietor of the estate and acted the part with everyone. Eventually my mother was compelled to bring suit against her stepfather to secure for herself, her sister Mary, and her two brothers, Newton and Daniel, their rightful inheritance. Incidentally, the fee given to Stockdale & Proctor for handling the litigation was a tract of land upon which at a later date a good portion of the town of Cuero was located. It is the part of Cuero south of the Southern Pacific Railway tracks; originally it was called "Morgantown". That name was used customarily In speaking of that section of Cuero when I was a boy, I imagine that name has disappeared, and now can be recalled only by the "oldest inhabitant".
At the time of the litigation Stookdale & Proctor were the leading lawyers of Indianola, When that once thriving seaport was destroyed a second time by a Gulf hurricane the Proctors and Stockdales removed to Cuero and continued the practice of law In that town. Members of our family were associated with those families for many years. During the period of the litigation and for some time prior to its Initiation my mother had left the family home, and had supported herself by teaching which in the convent in Galveston where once she had been a pupil. Your grandmother was a talented musician; she played the piano beautifully until the late years of her life when arthritis had stiffened the joints of her fingers. Finally the courts decided in favor of the Mitchell children, and the young people set up housekeeping on Caranchua Bay, for the plantation home on Mitchell Point had been destroyed by fire long before. None of the family was occupying the house when it was burned and the origin of the fire was never known.
[Angeline Genevieve Mitchell (1845-1924), James Kerr Crain's mother, married William Henry Crain (1848-1896). The remainder of General Crain's family paper concerns the Crain family]
The following entries are taken from the Bible which belonged to Major James Kerr, a pioneer of Texas. A biographical sketch of Major Kerr is contained in "De Bow's Review". Vol. 14, April 1851, which is on file in the Library of Congress. This bible is now in the possession of Major General James Kerr Crain, Retired, at the above address [5612 Woodway, Washington 16, DC, July 24, 1957].
The title page of the bible reads as follows:
The James Kerr's Bible (in writing)
NEW TESTAMENT of our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST
Translated out of the Original Greek and With the former Translations Diligently compared and revised First Brookfield Edition, Brookfield, Printed by E. Merriam & Co. ,1815
On the back of the title page appear the following entries, some of which are very faint:
John G. son of John G. & Sarah Scott
Born day morn. Jany. 16th 1820 Sarah Scott
Kerr's Bible---Page 2.
The following entries of births, deaths, and marriages are in pen and ink. Entries of slaves are indicated by an *. Attention is invited to the fact that the entries on the first page of the record begin with James Kerr and Patience Wells who were the parents of Major James Kerr. Therefore the entry "my father was born in Ireland" relates to Major Kerr's grandfather, although Major Kerr was the one who made the entries.
First Page (double page)
Family Record for James Kerr My father was born in Ireland
Second Double Page of Entries.
Family Record for James Kerr Born 24 Sept 1790 Wedded 23 July 1818 Angeline Caldwell 8th Sept 1802 Died 27th June 1825 in Texas
Isom Caldwell Kerr son of the above J. & A, Born Tuesday 9th May 1820 9 mg. Died 30th August 1825 in Texas
Mary Margaret Monday 29th Aprl 1822 9 in E.
John James, Sunday 12th Sept 1824 12 E. Died 9th August 1825 in Texas
[Note by J.K.Crain: "The next two entries were not members of the immediate family." Both were sons of John "Waco" Brown, brother of Major Kerr's brother-in-law, Henry Stevenson Brown--Current editor WLM]
John Duff Brown Born Apl 25th 1824
Isom Sept 7th 1829 in Texas Died in San Antonio
*Nelson Son of Shade and Annis Born at La Vaca Station 4th Oct, 1827
*Carolina Daughter of Annis Born at Alto Morales 7 December 1829
*Edwina Surviving twin of Annis born at Morales 20th May 1832 Died at McKinnys bluff 8 May A.M. 6 ock-enterred same day.
Charles Linn Kerr born at Morales De La Vaca 7 O'Clock evening of the 20th July 1835 Died 10th May 11 ock.p.m. at the town of Garzia of measles & acute Dysintery---12 days ilness
James David born at Morales De La Vaca Monday 22 October 1838 at 6 Oclock AM
Thomas Richard born Monday half past 7 oc P.M. Feby 15th 1841
[Note by J.K.Crain: The third double page contains the form to be followed in performing a marriage ceremony, written in pen and ink]
Fourth Double Page of Entries.
David Fulton Born in Ireland Died in New York in year 1808 or 7
Sarah Moor the wife of David Born in Ireland Died in New York in the year 1805 or 6 Wedded in Ireland and migrated to New York in America
Robert the first borne, born New York 1801 or 2
Sarah second, born in New York 1804
Ellen the 3rd born N.York 1805
James Kerr & Sarah G. Fulton Wedded by the reverend father Valdes 24th Sept 1833
Charles Linn Kerr---Son of the above James & Sarah born at Morales de Lavaca at seven oclock eving of Monday the 20th July 1835. Died at McKinnys bluff (mouth of Naches) at 11 ock P.M. on 10th May 1836 of Measles & acute dysentary of 12 days severe illness. Enterred the 11
James David, born at Morales de Lavaca 22d October 6 Oclock A.M. 1838
Thos. Richd---born 15 Feby. 1/2 past 7 pm 1841
Sarah Angeline born 29 June 1843 9 ock A.M.
[The following entry was made in pencil. J.K.C.]
Robert---Son of Robert N. McKenny & Mary Flayer born 12th December 1835 His mother died in Texana the day of 1839. Jas and Sarah Kerr took Robert 24 day of Jun 1839. His father was in N.O.
*John Shade (Son of Cynthia Negro) born in Texana 17th March 1838
*Annis (Daughter of Rosanah) born at Morales de La Vaca 24 March 1838
*Ellen of Cynthia Negro born 23 December 1839
*Bill of Annette (Negro) born 1st July 1840
*Christopher Son of Rosanah Negro born Friday 2d April 1841
*Henry Alvin of (Annette) Born 28th June 1841
*Amanda of Cynthia born 1st Sept 1841
*Harriet of Cynthia Born 31st March 1843
*Hiram of Annette born 7 April 1843
*Will B. of Cynthia Born 6th of March 1845 Died 15th March 1 oclock A.M. Interred 16th
*Ab. Ewesy or Ourang Outang Son of Annette Born 17th March 1845 5 Oclock P. M.
*Bracken Bill (of Cynthia) Born 9th March 1846, 5 O'Clock P.M.
[The next four double pages are blank. Then the following entries appear. J.K.C.]
Thos. McHenry born at Morales de La Vaca Sept. 2d 1830 Died on the Naches May 19th 4-Ock A.M. Enterred same day
Caroline born at the above place Sept 2d 1831
Sarah Jane born at Lavaca died at Strongs bluff on Sabine 3d of May 1836
Augustine born at tivises on the Naches river 17th May 1836 died 20th May 1836
We left McKinnys bluff on the 12th May and came to tivises Left tivises on the 23d May for home---at Colorado bad news, and returned to San Felipe 27 June 1836.
[Note by General Crain: The entries in the early part of 1836 were made during the retreat of the Texian families before the invading army of Mexicans under General Santa Anna. This probably accounts for the heavy mortality among the babies, and also for the scattered places of interment. On the last page of the Bible are some further entries, apparently of slaves. They are rather faint and are not recorded here.]
This is a letter from an ex-slave written to my mother in 1894. Your grandmother made the following notation upon the back of the envelope in which the letter was received:
Webberville, Texas mar 10 1894 Mrs. Annie Crain Dear young Mrs Your letter of the 16 ult recd When I left my white people I came to Travis Co and spent several years rambling about from place to place driving Stock buying and trading horses & working by the month Then I married & commenced farming on the halfs I had nothing but one saddle horse but by living hard and saving what I made I bought a team the next year & rented some land & continued to rent and live hard Saving what little I could until 1888 when I bought 200 acres of land with good house & gin & mill on it, paying four hundred dollars down on it. I have now paid the bal due & own a good place with 100 acres in cultivation am in good easy sircumstances with a good name among both white & collored people. I pay my debts & have some money & plenty of stock on hand. have 2 boys both about grown & both steady hard working boys & neither of them has ever been in Jail or had to pay a fine of any kind.
If you know the date of my birth please let me know. also whether my father is living & if he is where he is now living. Also when he was sold and to whom. My mother has been dead 13 years. all the children are dead also. Rember me to your children And always rember me as your boy (Signed) Morris Mitchel