Ellis County TXGenWeb

The Historic Springs of Ellis County

Compiled by Jean Caddel

Imagine moving half way across the continent with a small band of settlers or perhaps only a few members of your family into unsettled territory with no neighbor closer than perhaps forty to fifty miles away. With no modern conveniences, fast food nor grocery store on the corner, not even a water faucet, just what do you think the early settlers must have looked for? My guess is water first and foremost, and with it comes food -- fish and game, wood for cooking, keeping warm, and building crude cabins, barns and pens.

It is likely that this is perhaps the very thing that attracted so many early settlers to Ellis County. In the early 1840s, the pure, balmy air, free from all malarial influences, the numerous springs of clear, limpid water, the delightful scenes that met the vision on every side, the broad area of deep and fertile soil surrounding must have brought cries such as, "Here is the ideal place for homes and business, possessing all the attributes and natural facilities adequate to the development of all that is desirable."

The largest springs in Texas are located along the Balcones fault zone which runs much farther south and includes San Marcos, Austin, and on up through our area into Dallas. The ground water passes through the limestone cavities, constantly dissolving away the rock, causing the water passages to shift from side to side and downward. The plant and animal life around streams and pools is perhaps a better indicator of whether the water is derived from springs or surface run off. If pools or streams are fed by surface run off, they will periodically dry up. If they are fed by springs, the supply of water will be more constant. Here you will find plants, fish, frogs, crawfish and the animals such as raccoons which feed on them also need a steady water supply.

Springs may be classified as artesian or gravity springs. Artesian springs issue under pressure, generally through some fissure or other opening in the confining bed which overlies the aquier. Such are the large springs in the Balcones fault zone.
The flow may dimish or even cease in a few during the very hot season of the summer, however, there are many in Ellis County which are known to have never gone dry in over one hundred fifty years.

Mr. W. R. Howe came as early as 1843, and settled near Chambers Creek on the Thomas I. Smith league. Besides Howe, there was Thomas I. Smith, Dr. Young, Archibald Greathouse, and a number of other settlers. In about 1846, General E. H. Tarrant settled at Tarrant's springs on Mill Creek that runs south from Forreston, and built a mill on that creek.

Soon after the Howe family came in February 1844, Sutherland Mayfield brought his family and settled some seven miles below where the town of Waxahachie now stands. He settled on a league of land on Waxahachie creek at some fine springs. The place was later owned by Capt. John Reagor and the springs are now known as Reagor Springs.

About 1848 Archibald Greathouse moved farther up Chambers to one of the tributaries of Chambers Creek, which is now known as Greathouse Creek. He and his wife soon divorced, and he sold his land to P. C. Sims. Coming with him were relatives, Nicholas P. Sims, who built a mill on Greathouse Creek, and J. M. Brack and his wife, a sister of N. P. Sims. Judge Brack built his first house just north of where the last Greathouse Baptist Church was located beside the Cemetery and close to a spring that was called Machete Spring. It is now often called Brack Springs by many of the descendants of Judge Brack. He had slaves who put into cultivation land where Greathouse Cemetery now stands.

N P. Sims soon moved farther south on Chambers Creek, just west of the old Bethel Church. In 1852, he gave ten acres of land to the Bethel Methodist church, which was first established four miles west of the present church at High Springs. Many were later removed and reentered in the new Bethel Cemetery; however, a few graves are still left in the grove of trees near the old High Springs.

Along this same line and a bit further north is the Mammoth Spring, which was another on the cross road and watering places for the Old Dallas-Waco-Ft.Graham Routes. The Singleton Grave Yard is located below this spring on a small lake which it feeds. It is seven miles south of Midlothian on the Lone Star Camp at Salvation Army.

A short distance north of this location is Mountain Peak, where a spring still flows west of the present Mountain Peak church and cemetery.As you follow the same line north, you come to the well known Hawkins Spring, located on the headwaters of Chambers Creek. It gushes forth from a cavern at the foot of a white rock hill, all covered with trees and shrubbery. The Peters Colony, including William Hawkins, settled here in 1848. During that summer log cabins were built from logs hauled from Dallas County cedar brakes. The spring supplied all water for the colony. A groundbreaking ceremony was recently held at Hawkins Springs, where Midlothian Community leaders and members of the Midlothian Middle School Community Service Problem Solvers Group are beginning a project to make the spring accessible to the public. The project requires careful planning in order to protect the natural beauty while still providing public access and a viewing area of Hawkins Spring.

All of these springs from High to Hawkins, it appears, were on the Dallas - Waco road, and the cattle trail between Waxahachie and Fort Graham, which connected the Shawnee or Sedalia Trail with the Chisholm Trail farther to the west. Remember Cattle Trails were not 60' or 80' right of ways as we see today. In the fall of 1847, E. W. Rogers moved his family from farther south near Smith's station, and built a log cabin in the rear of the west side of what is now the Rogers Hotel in Waxahachie. He was the first settler of Waxahachie. A nice spring behind the Rogers Hotel furnished water for the Hotel for many years.
The animals of the area were described by Robert Mayfield, son of Sutherland = "Deer, antelope, buffalo, wild horses, panthers, wolves, Mexican hogs, wild turkeys, were in the greatest abundance." The deer were in great herds and were of the white-tailed species. "The buffalo was the great wonder of the prairies. They came and went like a mighty torrent, covering the prairies as far as the eye could reach. They always traveled against the wind, even though sleet and snow were being driven by it. They moved by line front and file in depth, making parallel paths as they passed along. "One of their favorite haunts was the Lower Mustang Creek country, where they watered in the strong running branches on the land owned by W. H. Getzendaner and the Boren branch, next above. "Perch and trout and other fish were very plentiful in the creek, and also in some of the branches, especially those down the creek about the Getzendaner plantation."

Peter Apperson crossed into Texas at Cofee's Bend on the Red River January 1, 1845. On December 8, they arrived at a small village on the Trinity River called Dallas. They looked over land where the Texas State Fair is now located, but decided the land was poor and not suitable for farming, so they pressed on south of Dallas about thirty miles where they found land with a nice spring of water on it, located on the south side of Waxahachie Creek. There they settled.

Perhaps one of the best known springs in Ellis County is at Rockett. In 1861, Colonel W. H. Parsons met with a group of men to organize the 19th Regiment Texas Cavalry, numbering about twelve hundred men. The community of Rockett still exists northeast of Waxahachie near the well known as Rockett Springs.

Near the Community of Nash, there are two springs on Big Onion Creek, which furnished all of the water for the community of Nash for years. One of these springs is still visible along the side of the road. Another spring is located on Little Onion Creek northwest of Nash. The land owner took us to the spring that still flows into the Onion Creek. We were told that it furnished all of the water for the paving of the road that went along beside the property.

Ten creeks cross Ellis County from west to east, emptying into the Trinity River. These along with the many tributaries at the head of these creeks surely must harbor many more springs. The ones mentioned are merely the better known springs and the ones I have personally visited.

Sources:
History of Ellis County. Lewis Publishing Company, 1892.
Brune, Gunnar, Major and Historical Springs of Texas, Texas Water Development Board. Reference: Texas Historical Survey Committee, Ft. Worth, Texas, 1971.
The Boz Community, Ellis Co. Gen. Soc. pub. 1993
History compiled by Mrs. Dow McGregor, Dec. 12, 1977
Texas Genealogical Records - Ellis Co. 1899-1955, Vol. VIII, comp. by Gen. Records Com., Rebecca Boyce Chapter DAR, Waxahachie, Tex.

Waxahachie Daily Light Thursday, April 26, 2001
Ellis Co. Museum Files
"Condensed History of Parsons Texas Cavalry Brigade", pub. 1861-1865
Ellis County History Workshop "The Settlement of Ike" by Maude Boyce Farrar


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