When Walter was 13 years old (1860),
owning to economic conditions, lack of food, etc.,
he came to America with an aunt on the sailing vessel, "The W.B. Travis", the voyage
taking nine weeks from Liverpool, England to Galveston, Texas. Two weeks into the
voyage Walter fell and broke his leg. The Captain, a typical, hardened old seaman of his
day, had the young lad placed on a pallet on the dining room floor, holes cut through the
floor and the pallet so that the boy's body could be securely strapped down in an
immovable position that could not be wrenched by any lurching of the ship, and a very
cruel stretcher made and attached to the broken leg. Walter laid in this torturous position
for seven weeks producing a strongly knitted bone but Walter walked with a severe limp.
After going ashore at Galveston, Walter
and his aunt traveled up the Bayou to Houston
on a small barge. They completed their journey to Kent, Bosque County, Texas by
[In 1850 the Universal Immigration Company
of England purchased 27,000 acres of land
from Richard KIMBALL to establish a colony devoted to both agricultural and manu-
facturing endeavors. The Company laid out a townsite on the west bank of the Brazos.
Thirty English families, consisting of 125 people, arrived in the fall of 1850 and in
January 1851. They settled in an area between the present-day towns of Kopperl and
Kimball under a massive rock formation called Solomon's Nose, on the Brazos River
beginning this idealistic colony of Kent. near Kimball's Bend, when that area of Bosque
County was still part of Milam and McLennan counties. . The first winter was harsh
causing many hardships that led to a high number of fatalities. Five immigrating families
soon abandoned the project and received individual headrights from the state. In 1852,
Lieutenant Charles Finch MacKenzie, leader of the colony, and the other colonists
abandoned the venture. Some colonists moved to Fort Graham, located across the river in
Hill County, which was vacated by the army in November 1853, some colonists migrated
separately to other areas, and some moved back to England. The town of Kent dissolved.
In the 1970s only ruins of log houses were left at the site. It is now a vanished
Young Walter lived for a year with an
aunt and uncle, T. Timms, in Kent, Bosque
County, not very far from Kimball. . His brother, James Timms, had been sent over
previously. Walter was very lame until a strange incident made it possible for him to
walk as straight as any one. He had been helped up on a horse to ride over to a
neighbor's, Mr. Baker's--several miles through the woods--to get some mutton that Mr.
Baker had just killed. As the boy rode along the trail through the woods, a sudden flurry
of quail startled the mare, her plunge forward causing the inexperienced young rider to
fall under her feet. In an attempt to become untangled from the frightened boy, the mare
kicked him right in the broken leg, so that he fell over on the ground almost paralyzed
with pain and the fright that Indians were near by and had caused the quail to fly. But by
and by the pain was gone; and when Walter tried to get up to attempt to mount the horse
that was grazing near him, he suddenly discovered that he could walk on his leg and was
so overcome with joy that he ran up and down the trail screaming, "I can walk!, I can
walk!" Leading the horse, he walked on up to the Baker house to show his friends that he
could walk as straight as other people.
After the failure of colonizing the
town of Kent, Walter and James Timms' aunt and
uncle returned to England, leaving the two boys on their own. James Timms settled in or
near Mayhann, Bosque County, Texas, where he married Miss Maria Archer and raised a
When Walter Timms was fourteen years
old he went to work at fifteen dollars a month,
driving for Mr. Jacob DeCordova, who owned great tracts of land and was agent for other
large tracts, and who went about the country in his buggy looking after these lands. .
Young Timms stayed with Mr. DeCordova for several years, doing things for him that no
one else could do. One of his jobs in the earlier days was riding horseback eighteen miles
to Meridian to get Mr. DeCordova's mail. Another of his jobs brought him to Barnard's
Mill (near Glen Rose) to have wheat and corn ground into the winter's supply of flour and
meal. DeCordova's Bend is named for Jacob DeCordova. Very soon Mr. DeCordova
found that young Timms was "as true as steel, and as straight as a shingle", so that he
trusted him more and more and put more and more responsibility upon the youth.
After Mr. DeCordova's death, Walter
Timms was a trail driver and representative of local
farmers and ranchers going up trail with herds of cattle, bringing back the money in gold
to pay various ranchers for different amounts of cattle thrown in to these trail drives.
Walter bought an interest in the ferry boat across the Brazos River at Kimball, where the
cattlemen, driving cattle up the trail, crossed the river.
[Note: THE CHISHOLM TRAIL path: ran
from San Antonio, Texas thru Oklahoma and
into Abilene, Kansas.
Tens of thousands of cowboys drove an estimated 6 million head of cattle and 1 million
horses north along the trail that stretches from San Antonio, Texas to Abilene, Kansas.
The Chisholm Trail became a main route after 1867, when Abilene, Kansas cattle dealer
Joseph McCoy built stockyards at a rail spur. He encouraged ranchers to bring their
longhorn cattle north, offering to pay 10 times the going price they could get in Texas.
At the trail's peak use, cattle herds as big as 10,000 head were driven up the trail,
although the average herd ranged from 2,000 head to 3000 head.]
Later Timms bought a wagon and four
horses and did freighting for several years.
During this time Walter Timms' life was among the real frontiersmen of the new west,
and he experienced both the pleasures and the hardships of life.
For several years Mr. Timms was Deputy
Constable of Bosque County, and to him was
usually given the commission of going out for the most difficult characters. Once he was
told to go out and bring in a certain criminal for whose safe delivery $500.00 was offered.
Mr. Timms took three of his most trusted men and went to the out-of-the-way cabin
where a relative of the man lived.
"Now, boys, he's in that cabin.
Two of you go in and get him while the other two
of us watch outside; he'll be quick about giving us the slip if we aren't very
At the instant that the men's knock
sounded on the door, the faint flicker of the candle
that had been seen in one room suddenly went out. In a moment, however, the door was
opened by the man of the house with, "Who's there?". The men went in and searched the
two room cabin and came out with the report that only the family were inside.
"He's in there. You go back and look up the chimney," ordered Mr. Timms. In a few
minutes the undesirable citizen was being pulled down by his legs from the rather close
quarters of the old rock chimney.
Walter Timms then bought some land and
settled down to farm. He had a splendid crop
planted and everything in ship-shape order when one night he was wakened by someone
shouting his name. Grabbing his trusty gun, he went to the door to inquire what his
visitor wished. It turned out to be a Mr. Southern who had brought a great herd of fine
cattle to carry up the trail and wanted Timms to go with him. When Mr. Southern had
inquired among cattlemen of the vicinity for a real man that could handle the cows
correctly and that could be absolutely trusted, Walter Timms had been pointed out to him
as the man he wanted. Mr. Southern had ridden many miles to find Timms. At first the
young farmer refused to go, explaining that he had crops just ready to be harvested. Mr.
Southern wanted just such a man as Walter Timms, so the pay offered was generous.
Young Timms asked for a few moments to decide; he had a good hired black man on the
place and he wished to speak to him. The hired man promised to carry out his employer's
directions and to harvest the crops for him, and the former cowman decided to go once
more up the trail. As an intimate associate of Mr. Southern, Timms had many interesting
and pleasant experiences.
The trip took them up into the western
part of Colorado and Nebraska. One early
morning when Walter and Mr. Southern, who bunked together and shared the care of the
same division of the herd, rose up from their blankets and looked down a draw in the
great expanse of the prairie, they saw three young buffaloes drinking at a spring.
Immediately the two men were on their horses with six-shooters ready, and that day all
cowmen feasted on young buffalo meat. There had been times, when Walter Timms had
first gone up the trail, that he had seen buffalo herds that were so thick that their
movements looked as if the earth were moving.
Later, during his life among the frontiersmen
of the new west, Walter had many varying
experiences, adventures and hardships.
In 1871 Timms married Mrs. Elzey
Payne-Lancaster, a widow with two children.
Walter and Elzey had one daughter, Lenna, born July 22, 1873. Elzey died during the
birth of their second child in 1875 (her death attributed to excessive use of chloroform
used by a Saturday night drunken town doctor). After Elzey's death the children of her
first marriage were sent to live with relatives. Walter borrowed money on his farm
(recorded in the Survey Book #1 years 1870-1880, Index of Deed Records, where you
will find "Headright Surveys" made to Walter Timms) and took his two year old
daughter, Lenna, to England where he learned, in the course of two years, the jeweler's
trade and the art of fine watchmaking from a man named Leach. Walter regarded Mr.
Leach as a very fine, understanding gentleman. After two years in England, being unable
to stand the conditions and climate of England, Walter and Lenna returned to Central
Texas. In August of 1878, he sold out his holdings in Bosque County and moved in 1879
to Cleburne where he established the firm, W. Timms Jeweler.
Timms married for the second time on
April 13, 1880 to Miss Ada Tracy of New York
State. (Miss Ada H. Tracy had come to Cleburne, in 1877 with her brother and sister and
brother-in-law, E.R. Tracy and Mr. & Mrs. W.E. Hill. Miss Tracy taught a private school
for the two years.) Hattie Ellen, the only child of Walter and Ada Tracy Timms died in
Walter's daughter Lenna Timms was married
September 05, 1900 to James Benjamin
Finley of Hillsboro, Arkansas. His only grandchild, Walter James Finley, was born
September 7, 1901. Lenna was widowed in 1906 and she and her son Walter Finley
lived with Walter and Ada Timms. Lenna Timms-Finley remarried August 24, 1915 to
Charles James Stevenson.
In June, 1900, Mr. Timms retired from
the jewelry business and bought the Bostick farm
of 320 acres, located 6 miles northwest of Cleburne on the Nolan River. Once more the
life of the open was to be his--the life from which he could not get entirely away. A lover
of fine horses, he began to breed good blooded stock. He raised a number of colts that he
raced at the Dallas Fair and on other tracks. In about 1912 he sold to Mr. Waggoner, of
Fort Worth, for $1,200.00, the mare and colt, Planetta and Clickmaker.
Walter and Ada Timms lived for more
than half a century in Cleburne at their home on
north Anglin Street, and for over thirty years he drove back and forth daily to his farm.
At the age of eighty-five he still drove back and forth almost daily in a two-horse wagon
and attends personally to the affairs of the farm. Frequently he was seen on horseback,
riding a usually tall black horse. During the fifty-three years since his return from
England and settlement in Cleburne, Walter seldom got very far from his jewelry
business in earlier years, or in later years from the management of his farm and horses.
There were trips to Dallas with his horses or on other business, and occasional visits back
to Bosque County.
October 6, 1913 Walter received
his naturalization papers #15400. He made a notation of
this in his "Birthday Book of Shakespeare", The poem for that day was: "WHAT
Providence delays it not denies"-Anthony and Cleopatra.
Walter Timms, pioneer Texan and retired
jeweler of Cleburne, died at the age of 87
years, March 03, 1934, at his home on North Anglin Street, following his wife in death
by exactly a week. Both had pneumonia. He was buried in his Prince Albert wedding
suit. His wife was buried in her wedding dress February 26, 1934.
Varied indeed were Walter's experiences,
and a bit of the frontier history of Texas was
interwoven with his life.
Naturalization papers #15400
Bible Record of Walter Timms (picture of original record)
Oral Timms Family History – word-of-mouth by Walter Timms (1847-1935) to Lenna
Timms-Finley-Stevenson (1874-1940) to Walter James Finley (1901-1980) to Virginia
Mae Finley-Workings (1928 to present) to Douglas Walter Workings (1948 to present).
1860 Federal Census, Bosque Co, TX.
1870 Federal Census, Bosque, Matagarda, McLennan, Navarro Counties, TX.
1880 Federal Census, Bosque Co., Cleburne, Johnson Co, TX.
Article from the Dallas Morning News, Section 4, Features & Book Reviews, Sunday,
October 30, 1932: Walter Timms, Texas Pioneer by Frances Dickson Abernathy, 1932
KENT, TEXAS— Bosque County; vanished
Curtis Bishop, "Kent, Colony of, "The Handbook of Texas, Vol. 1 (Austin: TSHA, 1952),
"Fort Graham," in The Handbook of Texas, Vol. 1 (Austin: TSHA, 1952), 626;
Ed Bartholomew, 800 Texas Ghost Towns (Ft. Davis: Frontier Book Publishers, 1971),
56; 1998-1999 Texas Almanac, 153;
See Dorothy Waties Renick, "The City of Kent," Southwestern Historical
Quarterly 29 (1925-1926).
"English Settlement at Kimball's Bend before the Civil War": filed of record in Plat Book
#1, in Court House Records of Bosque County, at Meridian, Texas. "English Settlement
at Kimball's Bend before the Civil War". (The town was laid out and plotted by Ervin
DeCordova, a brother of Jacob DeCordova, his plat, beautifully drawn).
Kimball's Bend was a trail town at a
crossing of the Brazos River.
Kimball Bend, TX; Bosque County; bend
320943N - 72854W USGS
Kimball Bend Park, TX; Bosque County, park
320724N - 0972952W USGS