EARLY MADISON PARISH
Coordinator Note: Many thanks go to Billie Grunden of Jasper, Texas for preparing
this report. Billie has spent many hours researching the Moses Groves family,
and Madison Parish is honored to have the benefit of her investigation on this
website. Moses Groves was one of the earliest settlers and one of the largest
landowners in the region, having come to the area from Mississippi before
Madison Parish was created in 1838.
Richard P. Sevier (firstname.lastname@example.org) November 2006.
Little is known about the early years of the life of Moses Groves. The earliest recorded information is that a Moses Groves served in the Mississippi Territory command of Lt. Colonel Nixon during the War of 1812. Somewhere in Mississippi he became acquainted with the Cogan family. Patrick Cogan was one of the earliest persons to own land in Claiborne County, Mississippi, having received a grant of 400 arpents from the Spanish Government. His land grant was confirmed by the U.S. Government in 1805. This land was located 40 miles North of Natchez on Bayou Pierre. Patrick Cogan was affiliated with Thomas W. Cogan, but the relationship is not known. Moses Groves developed a close relationship with a young lady and on April 26, 1817, Thomas W. Cogan cosigned a marriage bond for Moses Groves, and on April 29, 1817, Moses Groves married Rachel Cogan in Claiborne County, Mississippi. Rachel was not the daughter of Thomas, but may have been a sister or niece. The following year, 1818, in Claiborne County, the first child was born to Moses and Rachel, a son they named Horace H. Groves.
Moses Groves proved to be a successful planter, acquiring more and more land, some from the U.S. Government and some from individuals. Prior to 1830, his acquisitions were in Mississippi. His smallest purchase was one of the most interesting. He, along with Thomas W. Cogan and Lewis Powell, bought one acre in Claiborne County in 1826 to be used for the site of a Methodist Meeting House. The Meeting House was to be used by all “professions of Christianity” when not in use by the Methodists.
By 1830, Moses was beginning to acquire land west of the Mississippi River. That year he bought several tracts of land on Bayou Vidal, which at that time was located in Concordia Parish. He borrowed money to buy land and slaves and to have operating capital that all plantation owners needed. In 1835, he mortgaged 2166 acres on Bayou Vidal for $30,000.00 to the Bank of Louisiana, the mortgage being recorded in Vidalia, Concordia Parish. In December of 1833, he paid $16000.00 for 18 to 20 slaves. In 1838, Madison Parish was created and most of his plantations were then located in Madison Parish. Many of his transactions were recorded in the Old Record Book and Notary Book A of Madison Parish. Some of his plantations had names recorded in a notary record, but some did not. His “Home” or “House” Plantation stretched along the north side of Bayou Vidal from the present community of Afton to within a few miles of King. It contained 5000 acres. It was upon this land that the Groves family burial ground was located in Section 1, Township 15 North, Range 12 East. The Basin Plantation contained 2350 acres, part north and part southeast of Roundaway Bayou, along current Highway 603. The 1600 acre Moses Groves King Place was neatly bisected by Roundaway Bayou, and now has Highway 603 through the west portion. It was a few miles north of the Basin Plantation. One plantation was simply referred to as the River Land Lots and lies along the west bank of the Mississippi River between plantations later known as Dahlia Plantation and Killiecrankie Plantation. Various other tracts of land owned by Moses Groves dotted the southern portion of Madison Parish and parts of Tensas Parish, some wholly owned, some undivided quarter or half interests.
Outline of some of Moses Groves properties in 1848. From
La Tourrette’s Map of Louisiana
Moses Groves’ wife, Rachel, died sometime before November of 1839. A family meeting was held before Parish Judge Richard Charles Downes, and the heirs were recorded in parish records. Horace H. Groves, the oldest child, was the only child not considered a minor. The minor children were George W. Groves, Elizabeth Groves, Celia Ann Groves, Moses Groves, and Elijah Groves. A decision was made to sell the Basin Plantation, along with slaves, livestock, equipment, and 2000 bushels of corn. At auction it brought $78000.00 for the estate. Horace H. Groves received $6500.95 for his 1/12 part inherited from his deceased mother.
Moses and Rachel Groves were very good friends with George W. Grove and his wife Celia A. King Grove (Grove spelled without an “s”) of Willow Glen Plantation. They may have been related, but that connection cannot be made at this time. However, the Moses Groves family was related to a King family. Moses and Rachel named a daughter Celia Ann and a son George W. When Moses Groves needed a witness, it was usually George W. Grove who signed with him. Other friends or relatives were Thompson King and Charles Carpenter. Ann Cogan, Rachel’s sister, married Charles Lee, and they owned a plantation in what is now Tensas Parish.
As was the custom of plantation families during that time, their entertainment consisted of many social events such as balls, parties, and visiting one another, sometimes for several days at a time. The affluence and freedom from everyday chores enabled the people, especially the young ladies to focus on the latest fashions and fads. Tutors were hired to live on the premises to instruct the children in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Older children were often sent to a boarding school for more formal education. The children of Moses Groves were no exception. Daughter Celia married Alonzo Snyder, a lawyer, and Horace H. Groves married the daughter of Henry S. Dawson, another Madison Parish plantation owner. In 1850, Moses Groves, age 17, was a student at Oakland College in Claiborne County, Mississippi, which was not surprising since his uncle, Charles Lee, was one of the original trustees, and Thomas W. Cogan was one of the first to donate money to form the college.
After losing his wife, Moses Groves did not have much longer to enjoy the fruits of his labor. He lived only about 2 more years and had passed away by February 1842. At that time, his estate was appraised and land held in community with his wife was valued at $122165.00; non community land, $5477.83; slaves, $53550.00; livestock, $5016.00; cotton and fodder, $7500.00; household furniture, $1000.00, for a total of $194708.83. There were notes payable to Moses Groves and when added to the inventory, produced a grand total of $207261.83 free of debt. Not a small sum for that day and age.
Horace H. Groves was appointed administrator of the estate, a job he took very seriously. In 1850, the estate owned 124 slaves, among the top ten in terms of number of slaves owned in Madison Parish. Horace worked to keep the estate intact. Unfortunately, he became so angry with his brother-in-law, Alonzo Snyder, that on November 12, 1848, he wrote the following will:
It is my last wish and request that my aunt, Mrs. Ann Lee, and James G. Gerden be my executors and they administer on the estate of my deceased father and mother and further pray and hope that Alonzo Snyder will NEVER (no way) have anything to do with my property and the property belonging to the estate. It is my wish that Volney King, my cousin, (after the debts are paid) receive five thousand dollars of my estate.
Horace H. Groves
The will was written before his marriage to Catherine Dawson. There is no record of any other will written after his marriage and birth of two daughters. The succession or probate records became an issue later when his daughters had to file a lawsuit to retain possession of the lands they inherited from their father. The records could not be found. Horace basically raised his younger brothers, especially Elijah who was only about 5 years of age when his father died. Horace did not marry until Moses and Elijah were old enough to be responsible for themselves, but he did not have the pleasure of rearing his own children, passing away in 1856 at the age of 38 years. Catherine Dawson married again to Sherrard Clemens, a lawyer and U.S. Congressman from West Virginia. Theirs was a life of affluence, thus Horace’s daughters, Rachel Lee and Catherine, grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia, with every privilege.
Rachel Lee Groves
Meanwhile, Elijah farmed the land that belonged to his nieces since he was the administrator of the Moses Groves Estate. He later sold his portion of the land but not that portion belonging to Rachel and Catherine. The next owner also cultivated their land. In the subsequent land sales, eventually their land was included in the deed of sale. From 1890 to the final settlement in 1895, their brother, James W. Clemens, worked diligently to give his sisters undisputed title to their land. By this time, Rachel had married a Madison Parish resident, James D. Gilpin, and had passed away, leaving four small children. Catherine, Horace’s daughter, was a widow living in Mississippi. A lawsuit was filed and won in Madison Parish, but was appealed to the Supreme Court of the State of Louisiana. The land was returned to the heirs of Horace Groves, but a crash in the value of real estate and the extensive expenses of the prolonged litigation, left them with nothing.
Early and untimely deaths were common in Madison Parish due to yellow fever, typhoid, and other endemic health problems. All of the Moses Groves family died at a young age. In fact, George died in 1842 at age 19 years, and the sisters, Elizabeth and Celia Ann, passed away before May of 1852. In her will, Celia Ann gave her jewelry and trinkets to various friends and relatives, but her portion of the Moses Groves Estate was given to her husband, Alonzo Snyder. Thus, Horace was forced to deal with Alonzo.
In 1857, Alonzo sold his undivided fourth part of the Moses and Rachel Groves Estate to a New Orleans man. Being the good lawyer that he was, Alonzo specified everything he was selling, right down to one fourth of the household and kitchen goods and furniture. This probably did not make the Groves family very happy, because in 1860, Elijah Groves bought the fourth part, particularly Dalmatia Plantation, and returned it to the estate.
In the years following the Civil War, the economy worsened. Elijah Groves, who had married Julia Scott, was the only surviving heir that actively tried to manage the Moses Groves estate. In fact, he may have been the only surviving child of Moses and Rachel Groves. He had to bear the burden of seeing his parent’s estate, their little empire, fall on hard times and dwindle. He died before the age of 40, passing away sometime between 1870 and 1872. Eventually, the remaining lands were sold, some for taxes. The separate tracts were given other names, such as Tchoula, Point Clear, Waterford, Richland, and Kellogg by subsequent owners. Elijah and Julia had two daughters, Annie and Celia, thus Moses and Rachel had no male grandsons to carry on the Groves name.
Today all that is left of the Moses and Rachel Groves Estate is the family cemetery. Once consisting of three acres dedicated to be a family burial ground forever by Elijah Groves in a deed recorded in 1860, it now contains a couple of above ground graves surrounded by broken tombstones pushed by farm equipment into a tiny area. Located in a cultivated field about a half-mile west of Watts-Sevier Road on Hwy 603, it is an unjust memorial for a pioneer family who worked so hard and was instrumental in making Madison Parish flourish in the days prior to the War Between the States.
What remains of the Groves family tombstones