James Seaborn Harwell
Who Settled in Burnet County - 1853
 
 
From: A Journey Through the Past to the Present of My Harwell Family , By Mary Harwell McBryde. Submitted by Jo Ann Hopper, <JHopper494@aol.com>, Dec 1999

JAMES SEABORN HARWELL (called Seaborn) was born in Georgia; (we are not sure what county). We know that he spent a number of his boyhood years in Jasper and Troup Counties, Georgia. Even though he was called Seaborn, he signed his name J. S. (or James S.) Harwell, and we also know that he was the son of Samuel B. and Rebecca Harwell. The Probate Court Records, December Term 1868, Lauderdale County, Mississippi, lists J. S. Harwell as one of the heirs of the estate of Samuel B. Harwell. See Photo.
 
According to family stories, Seaborn left Jasper County, Georgia when he was 10 years old, which coincides with the date that the Samuel B. Harwell family moved from Jasper County to Troup County, Georgia. The 1830 census of Troup County, Georgia lists all three of the sons of Samuel B. Harwell at home. In 1840, the Samuel B. Harwell family are in Chambers County, Alabama, and only one son is at home. Jackson, the oldest son, is married and lives nearby. The son at home is in the 20 to 30 age group, but since both Seaborn and Green are in this age group, there is no way to determine which one was at home, or where the other one was.
 
As previously stated, the Samuel B. Harwell family moved to Lauderdale County, Mississippi by 1846, and it is presumed that Seaborn probably moved with his parents, because he paid poll tax in Lauderdale County in 1848, and the paying of poll tax indicates that a person has been a resident of the county for at least one year. The Samuel B. Harwell home was in the southwest part of Lauderdale County, and probably only a few miles from the James W. King home, which was in the northwest part of the bordering county of Clarke. Whether or not the two families were neighbors, Seaborn soon met Mary L. King, and they were married in 1848.
 
MARY LAFAYETTE KING was the daughter of James W. and Mariah (McCann) King. In 1830, James W. King is listed in Wayne County, Mississippi, with a family consisting of his wife, a son between 5 and 10, and a daughter under 5. This daughter is our Mary L. King, born in 1827, (probably) in Wayne County. Also, in the 1830 census of Wayne County is the Patrick McCann family. He is the father of Mariah King. Patrick McCann served in the Revolutionary War from South Carolina, which is where he lived during the War. This McCann line has been accepted for membership in the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, (#315948 and #604252), so any female descendant of Patrick McCann who is over 18 is eligible for membership in this organization.
 
The James W. King family were living in Lauderdale County, Mississippi in 1840, and according to poll tax records, moved to Clarke County before 1845. They are also listed in the Clarke County 1850 census and a special census taken in 1853.
 
The King family moved to Burnet County, Texas in 1854 or 1855. In the fall of 1856 they bought land in San Saba County, Texas, where James W. King, his wife, three of their daughters and one son lived the rest of their lives and are buried in the family cemetery.
 
I presume that the first home of Seaborn and Mary Harwell was in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, for according to family stories, they moved from Lauderdale County to Burnet County, Texas, and also the fact that he paid poll tax in 1848 in Lauderdale County indicates that they were living there in 1848.
 
Their oldest child, James Samuel, and the twins, Sarah Ann and Mary Jane were born in Mississippi. The twins were so small that shoe boxes were used for beds. Mary Jane lived only a short time, but it is remarkable that they were able to raise even one baby that small, with the limited medical knowledge of 1850. It is also remarkable that Seaborn and Mary Harvvell had 13 children and Mary Jane was the only child that did not reach adulthood.
 
I was unable to find James S. Harwell in the 1850 census, and I think the reason is that they probably lived in the southwest part of Lauderdale County, (which is where the rest of the relatives lived). The census for that part of Lauderdale County was taken in December. Their twins were born December 29, 1850 so the expectant mother probably went to stay with her mother early in December and since the fall work was all done by that time, Seaborn probably was also staying with the Kings, who lived in Clarke County, Mississippi. The census for the part of Clarke County was taken in August.
 
Texas at that time, was one of the "newer" states and large portions were still pioneer country, so Seaborn decided to try his fortune in Texas.
 
According to family stories, he went to Texas on horseback, and was gone a number of months. Imagine the young wife's anxiety and worry, not knowing where her husband was, whether or not he might get lost in "that big uncharted country" or maybe have a fatal accident and she would never see him again, (and probably not know what happened). We don't know what parts of Texas he visited, besides Burnet County, but we do know that as he rode along the bank of the Colorado River, he decided "this was where he wanted to bring his family".
 
Remember that at this time that there were no roads and no towns in a large portion of Texas, and Seaborn had spent a lot of time riding over uncharted country looking for the right place, yet, when he was ready to go home, he found his way back to Lauderdale County, Mississippi.
 
It is presumed that he made this trip into Texas in 1852, arriving back home in the fall or early winter of 1852, and according to family stories the family immediately started back to Texas, leaving relatives and friends behind.
 
Beverly Walker, an uncle of Seaborn's, (a brother of his mother), had moved to Tyler, Texas about 1850. When the Harwell family got this far on their journey they decided to stay until the following fall. Seaborn and Mary's second son, Green, was born near Tyler, Texas.
 
Through Mississippi, Louisiana and the Eastern part of Texas, there had been a few roads and several settlements, but from Tyler on southwest, there were very few settlements and the land was mostly "uncharted", so they resumed their trip, knowing the hardest part was just beginning. Seaborn went ahead with an axe to cut trees or shrubs that were in the way and Mary drove the team.
 
Seaborn's "sense of direction" was so good that even though it was over 200 miles, (as the crow flies), he went straight to the place on the Colorado River, where he had been more than a year earlier.
 
When they arrived at their destination, the wagon bed (or hack bed) with the canvass cover was put on the ground to be used as living quarters until a house could be built. It is not known when they arrived at their place or how long it was before they had a house to move into, but it was probably cold weather before they had a "roof over their heads." The first house was near the Colorado River, but after several years they moved up on higher ground, overlooking the river, and the house which their son, John, built in 1911 or 1912 on the same land, is within a few steps of their second house. The place where the first house stood is now under the water of the L. B. Johnson Lake.
 
A short time after they arrived at their new home, it was necessary for Seaborn to go to the town of Burnet for supplies, spending the night in Burnet and returning the next day. It was between sundown and dark when Mary noticed that they were nearly out of water. She took the bucket and went to a nearby spring. She had filled the bucket and as she raised up she heard a slight noise. Turning her head she looked into the eyes of a mountain lion, just ready to spring. She threw the water into the lion's face, which startled him, giving her the few seconds she needed to get back to the hack. Needless to say, she did not sleep any that night, in fact, she kept a good fire going all night because wild animals will not go near afire, but as an extra precaution she kept the gun on her lap ready to use.
 
Supposedly--there are no Indians living in this part of Texas, but very often a small group would wonder across the country, stealing cattle, horses and even children. One time a sick neighbor sent for Mary, and since it was nearly night, Seaborn did not want her to go alone. So, leaving the children in the care of Sarah Ann who was a "big girl" by now and helped with all the housework, as well as helping care for the younger children, both parents went to the neighbor's house. During the night, the children heard Indians outside. Jim, who was a year and a half older than Sarah Ann, helped get the children up and assisted in getting everyone under the house. There were some loose floor boards that had been left loose, purposely, so things could be stored under the house. They very carefully replaced the boards, so if the Indians forced their way into the house, the opening would not be noticed and the Indians would think that no one was at home. The children even took the dog under the house with them and one of the boys held the dog's mouth closed so the dog couldn't bark.
 
When the parents returned the next morning, they were told of the incident and at first did not believe it, but on looking at the ground around the house and seeing where several horses had "milled around", and also saw the moccasin foot prints, they were convinced.
 
One morning, John went to the woodpile, which was outside the yard fence. As he was picking up an armload of wood, he looked up to see an Indian almost to him. Dropping the wood, he jumped the yard fence, but the Indian grabbed the back of his coat, which was unbuttoned. John put his arms back, let the coat slip off and ran to the house, so the Indian gave up that time, but other times they did not give up so easily.
 
On one occasion, Seaborn had gone to town for supplies and some Indians came by to "get him". Evidently he had helped some neighbors protect their livestock from the Indians or maybe he had helped get their stock back, after the Indians had driven them off. At any rate, the Indians were going to "take him with them". The Indians stayed in the yard and Mary and the children stayed in the house. Finally Mary decided on a plan that she hoped would work. She asked the leader of the Indians if two of the boys could go get firewood. The Indian leader said "yes", but as soon as the boys were out of sight of the house, they went as quickly as possible to a neighbor's house, and the neighbor went to meet Seaborn to warn him of the danger.
 
Along with the worries, anxieties and dangers, there were also good times. More neighbors had moved into the community and a school and churches were organized. I feel sure that Seaborn did his share in getting both the school and a Methodist Church organized. We know that he was one of the trustees of the Hoover Valley Methodist Protestant Church. (Burnet County Deed Book O, page 570, lists J. S. Harwell as one of the trustees of property belonging to this church.)
 
Aunt Dean told me a story about she and her mother that I found very interesting. When Aunt Dean was 5 or 6 or maybe 7, her mother, Mary L. Harwell decided to visit Mary's father, James W. King, who lived in southwest San Saba County, a distance of about 50 miles. They went on horseback with Dean riding behind her mother. I presume they probably knew someone in the northern part of Llano County that they stayed all night with. It was about this time or maybe a little later that the George and Martha Joiner family moved to northern Llano County, so if the Joiner family were living there at that time, perhaps they stayed with them. (Martha Joiner was a daughter of Jackson Harwell.) I am sure if I had made that two day horseback trip across the country about 1880, the trip would have been an outstanding occasion, but Aunt Dean said that the thing she remembered most was her mother's three "old maid" sisters, and that each one lived in her own house, and that each one was a very independent person. Aunt Dean said she got tired of hearing the sisters and their father discussing "old times" or various problems of the day, and when this happened, she would leave them to their discussions, and go to one of the other houses and clean house.
 
Another story that I found very interesting happened after Seaborn was paralyzed. One day, while some neighbors or maybe Seaborn's sons were home, John decided while he had some help would be a good time to move the garden fence. Seaborn objected so much that John cancelled his plans, but after the company left, Seaborn told John to dig near a certain post. On doing as he was told, John found a jar containing gold coins. If the fence had been moved, no one would have known how to find the money. I don't know whether Seaborn did not trust banks, or if it was not convenient for him to get the money to the bank, but I know that banks were not as "safe" in the 1880's as they are today.
 
Seaborn and Mary certainly had a pioneering spirit to move to Burnet County, Texas in 1853. The county was formed in 1852 after a petition containing 79 names was presented to the Texas legislature, and probably the total population in 1852 was under 300, but in 1860 it was 2, 487. Apparently there were a lot of other people who also had a pioneering spirit, and like Seaborn and Mary, they had the will and determination to withstand the hardships and to build a community that they, their children and their grandchildren were proud to call home.
 
Seaborn had obtained 160 acres from the State of Texas, (by meeting certain requirements), and later he bought another 160 acres, which at one time was the home of his brother, Green, but between the time that Green had lived there and Seaborn bought it, it had belonged to a Mr. Horne. After a number of years, Seaborn and Mary decided to build a new house and had saved enough money to fulfill this dream, when Seaborn had the accident which left him an invalid. In those days most of the houses were made of logs but very likely, this house was to be made of planks.
 
When Seaborn died in 1899 all of their children were married except John and the same pioneering spirit that had brought Seaborn and Mary to Burnet County, had prompted several of their children to move to "newly opened territory". When Seaborn died, they had 49 grandchildren, but several were born after his death, making a total of 76 grandchildren.
 
Seaborn and Mary are buried in Hoover Valley Cemetery.

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