Letters From The Past

Mr. J. F. Herndon
Kenton, Tenn.
Dear Cousin
Your letter to hand was indeed suprised but glad to receive a letter from you as we had never written to each other.  Indeed it would be a pleasure to us to receive letters from you often. We came to Texas in Dec. 86 & located at Springtown, Parker Co. 100 miles north of this place. We struck a terrable drouth that year, made nothing so we left thare Oct '86 went to Whitney, Hill Co. Texas, lived thare 7 years. Moved from thare to Milford, Ellis Co. 1894. Have lived here ever since. So you see I have moved several times but never expect to move again as I have a little home here in one of the best countreys I ever seen. I am surrounded with all the conveniences a man could look for in way of being close to good schools & good churches. Milford is a small town with about 1200 inhabitants. It is located on a branch line of the H. K. & T. Rail Way about 50 miles from Dallas, 20 miles south of Waxahachie, the County Seat of Ellis Co.

We have had three children all girls you may have seen our oldest child whose name was Edna. Out second daughter's name was Grace. The third child's name was Malissie the latter died when we first came to Texas.

Edna the oldest married at 19 to a man by the name of S. L. Raborn. She only lived about one year after she married left a little baby girl 8 days olde. Grace married when she was 24 years olde. Married to W. W. Blanchard. She lived about 12 months after she married & died lieving a little girl baby 6 wks olde. We are raising our too grandchildren. We will mail thier pictures to you when we mail this letter. See thir names on back of photo. ans soon resp  /s/ J. I. Hays [Searchers and ResearchersVol. IX, No. 4, 1986]


[Contributed by Pauline Pierce]

Milford, Texas, Nov. 11, 1906
Nov the 13 1870/71?
Milford Ellis Co Texas

Dear Uncle
after my respects to you and family I seat my self to let you know the situation of Brack and the two Files boys and a mexican that is living with my husban they are at this time a living in the brush I will tel you for what a bout two years ago there was a set of thieves that kept stealing cattle drove after drove and no one would make eny effort to stop them and Brack and Jack and the Files boys asked others [illegible] stop them and they was hung I do not know whether the boys did the hanging or not but it is suspose that they done it and last thurs night a week ago five men went to Jacks and told him they wanted to search his house he ask them who they was and what they wanted he said the head man said that he was the surif of Ellis County and wanted to search his house for a man and Jack thinking it was John King the surif he told them then they could search they told him to make a lite he did so and set the lite on the mantle piece and step back to the foot of the bed and the went [sic] one white man and 4 megroes and they told him they told him I believe we will take you Jack said I recond not and as these words left Jacks lips they fired an shot him twice and tould him to surrender Jack said I have then they shot him three more time and he fell the last shot and never spoke one of the men felt his pluse and fun tht he was dead and tould the men to run for their lives Jacks wife saw it all Harriett was there but in a nother room and did not see it but got there as the last man was leaving the house the police said that they tried to take Jack and that Jack shot the first gun and the had to kill him but he never moved his pistol from under his pillow nor his gun from the rack they shot him in the hand and through the shies?? and through the head and twice in the body the shot six times but did not hit him but five times Brack sais he will have revengeif he loses his life in the atemp the police 4 while men and 5 megroes are now traveling in the night and searching at the houses and expeing the wiming to cook for them they have not bin here yet but I am looking for them every night but I will not cook for them so help me god let it be as it may I never will cook for no set of murders. Brack told me to write to you as he did not have the chance to do so he wants help and advice in this case fourth with write to me as soon as you get this as it will be uncertain about Brack getting the letter I think there will be somthig done soon if the boys can get men enough to stick to them that has got the sand in their gisard nothing at this time give my love to all Mr Files all so send his love to all your niece

/s/ Murah Files

I have rote to Tom but I expect the letter has bin taken out of the office I wish you or ben would write to him as the post office is watched up here
Note from Mrs. Pierce: Myran Mitchell Files refers to her brothers Brack (or Brock), Tom, Sam Mitchell. I assume the Jack killed was Andrew Jackson Mitchell. A. J. Mitchell married Susan E. Harris 15 Sept 1870. A sister, Harriett, married James Tarrant.


Letter from Emory W. Rogers and wife, Nancy to Family
Copy published in History of Boz compiled by Jean Caddel

Waxahachie, Texas
January 4 A D 1858

Dear Mother, Brother & Sister,
Your letter came to hand some 10 days since. I have not had time to answer until this morning, the first Monday morning of 1858, which has appeared with a heavy rain and has the appearance of a wet day.
The District Court has just closed after a session of two weeks during which time we have been crowded to the overflowing.
I was proud to receive a letter from you and to learn that you was all well. You stated to me that you had not received a line from us in some 4 years. Since that time we have been blessed with a fair portion of health until this fall. We have had some sickness. Son William married August was a year ago and on the 23 of November his wife brought him a fine daughter. She took the childbed fever and like to have died, but she is better and I think will recover. Some 3 of the family had a light brush, but are all up. We have had more sickness this fall than we have had since we have had a family. The Doctor and Mary is living in town and is doing well and has 3 fine children. William will settle some 2 miles from me on land I gave to him. William will commence house keeping worth at least 5 thousand dollars. I gave him and Mary 2 hundred acres of land each for which they could realize $10 per acre. William got with his wife some 3 thousand dollars which will give them a fine start. His wife's name was Sally Malone. James & Tandy is almost grown. Beatris is well grown and beginning to think about boys and we are afraid she will leave us in a few years. Hansford and Charles is two fine boys and has gone to school some.
Brother Josiah, I have been telling you about the children and how they are doing. I will not forget to tell you about the hard times we are having over in this part of the Kingdom. We have been living and staying in Texas for near 10 years and I can say that I have never seen harder times than this County is undergoing. We have had a severe drouth for 2 years. This last year it was almost a failure. There has barely been bread made in my section of the country. In other portions of the state, there has been tolerable crops made. Corn is worth $1.50 per bl., wheat $1.50 and scarce at that, but I think we will be able o weather the storm. At least we look forward with hope for we have a prospect for a bountyful crop the present year. We are having fine rain this fall and winter which insures a good crop in this country.
Pork is worth from 8 to 10 cts. per pound, beef from 2 1/2 to 3 cts. The last article is plenty and I can kill fat beef out of the pasture anytime of the year. I had last year some 2 hundred and 20 acres of land in cultivation and did not have more than 3 hunmdred bushels of grain. I sowed last fall one hundred 30 acres in wheat and rye and you would be astonsished to see what fat stock I have. I have pastured 30 head of horses all winter. We have fine pasture from our wheat fields until the 10 of March, then take the stock off and make from 15 to 30 bushels to the acre. I am going largely into the horse stock of which I have some good mares. We are still keeping a Tavern, although sometimes I feel that I would like to be out of it, but I have no doubt but what we shall end our days at it for it would be a hard matter for us to pull up stakes from where we are. More than that we can't complain at our luck in Texas for we have been wonderfully blessed in good health and so far as accumulating this worlds goods, we have no right to complain and I feel this day to thank God the Great Giver of all good gifts, that in the midst of adversity and misfortune and when everything was dark and looming in the future, I never lost hope, and among strangers and starvation, far from connections and in a distant land we keep sacred the great principle truth of honesty which made us many friends and gave us a standing in our adopted home that I hope we shall never be ashamed of in this world nor in the world to come.
My town is improving slowly. We have 6 large stores, a drug store, silversmith, good schools and 2 churches and upon the whole as good a society as can be found anywhere. You will scarcely ever see a drunk man in our town, but I fear it is on the increase. I live on the great thoroughfare from north to the west. The mail stage arrives at my door 8 times a week and departs. I have a good stand from customers.

The District Court is just over. It lasted 2 weeks. We had from 40 to one hundred every meal. Board per day for man and horse $2.00. I took in during the 2 weeks 6 hundred and fifty dollars. 10 years ago I settled in this place. At that time there was not more than 10 families in the County. We voted last August 6 hundred and ten votes. There was not a family west of me to Sante Fe, the country full of Indians and some buffalo. Not the settlements extend west of me one undred and fifty miles over the most romantic country. My County and section is prairie, mostly level, but rolling enough for comfort. As you go west or up the rivers, the country becmes more broken and peaks running on up to eminent height. he finest water abounds and health as it ever gets, but to me a long way to market. At present only fit for stock. The Central Railroad from Houston, 309 milies, is running. It is serving within 4 miles of my town. We feel assured that in a few years that we should have a outlet and when that is done it will be but a few days travel back to old Morgan. Nancy is beginning to speak of coming over to see you all and you need no be surprised to seeus come walking up someday not far distant. We could make the trip now in some 14 days and when the railroad is down, in about half the time.

Dear Brother, I have been telling you some of the good things of Texas. I don't want you to think it is the Garden of Eden for we have many evil covenants here to contend with. For instance, we have to haul building timber from 75 to a hundred miles. I have plank fencing I hauled 85 miles. Timber is scarce and not a good article at that. But to take everything into consideration, I am well pleased with the country, but some don't like it at all. Nancy and myself would like to see you all and especially in this country, I want you to write often and I will do the same. I want you to give my love to Uncle Wiley Speaks & family. tell them to write to me. Excuse my bad spelling and scattering way of writing.
Your Brother & Sister,
E. W. Rogers
Nancy R.

[Emory W. Rogers was born Lawrence Co. Ala. 2 July 1813; married Nancy Clinton Minter Sept. 19, 1833; emigrated from Tuscalousa, Ala. 1838 to Robertson Co. Texas; 8 children. In 1846 moved his family to Smith's Station on Milford Creek. Family later moved to Waxahachie His homestead was site of both 1st and 2nd Rogers Hotels. [Source: Memorial and Biographical History of Ellis County, 1892, Lewis Publishing Co. Chicago]


Letter from John Mann Williams to his brother, Edd D. Williams, of Milltown, Ga. [now Lakeland] shared by James P. Miller, Pavo, Georgia. J. M. Williams and his uncle, Joseph Browning Williams, came to Texas; the latter is enumerated in the 1880 census of Ellis County.

Italy, Texas
November 26, 1885
Mr. Edd D. Williams
My dear brother,
I will once more write to you to let you know I am still living. I am making pictures yet and doing very well, I guess.
Edd, I want to hear from home the worst kind. I do wish you would write to me and let me know all the news--how you are all getting along. How is mother. How many children have you got. In fact tell me everything about all the folks. I was at Joe Brown Williams. He and Jess Pope are doing very well. I guess they are worth about 3,000 dollars and out of debt. Joe is not married yet. Aunt Sissie Gray and John are doing very well.
Edd, we are all going out west next summer to look for us a future home. None of us have as much land as we wantand can't buy it in this country for land is worth from 25 to 30 per acre here and wewill sell out and go west and grow up with the country for it is only a matter of time about the land in the west making us rich. We can buy land out there now for 2 dollars per acre and in 10 or 15 years it will be worth 25 yesy for that is just the way this country done 10 years ago. You could buy all the land here you wanted for 3 dollars. Now it is worth 25 to 50. Come and go with us and I will show you the prettiest country you ever saw and the richest land and as healthy as that piney wood. I would love for you to see this country next summer. Just come. But it will not cost you much to come and your expences shant be a cent while you are here and I will show you all the country. There was a tolerable good crop here this year - corn about 40 bushels per acre, wheat about 30, oats 75 to 100, cotton about 1/2 bale. Cotton was the surest crop of any. Joe Williams and Jess Pope made 35 bales and lots of corn and oats and did not here any, only to pick cotton. Ann Edd, you know it would of taken them 35 years to make that much in GA.
Let me hear from you just as soon as you get this far I have not hard from home in a year. Direct your letters to Bristol, Ellis Co. Tex. and I will get them.
Your brother, John

My baby, Dellinus, sends a bushel or love to the children and says tell Uncle Edd I would like to see him.


The next two letters © Copyright Nancy Timmons Samuels, Fort Worth, Texas, used with permission. Mrs. Samuels has added explanatory notes on the family
Miss Maggie Beard, Ennis, Texas, to her cousin, Josephine Ashford in Milam County

Ennis Ellis County Tex June 14th 1875
Dear Cousin  Joe
Though many months has passed since I wrote to any of you, let you were not forgotten for during this long period of silence in fancy I often visited you and would have visited you in person if I could. We have passed through many changes and trials since I last wrote you and I have been sick so much that I could hardly ever collect my thoughts enough to write. My health is better at the present than it has been in 2 years for which I know you will rejoice with me and that the Great Giver of all good who has been so kind to me. I wish I had something new and interesting to write you but I do not get to visit much nor have any visitors and so I do not year much though we have Preaching Picnics Grance meetings Concerts and most anything else you could mention. There was a Sunday School Picnic here the first of May which was a very nice little affair some 4 or 4 [sic] hundred people present but last Saturday there was another Picnic 8 miles from [here] and almost all Ennis went or at least most of the young people. We did not attend. There was 8 or 10 Sunday Schools expected to be present. I have not heard the particulars about it as I have seen no one from there. Uncle Jim Ashford has just returned from out west been out there to look at the country. Went so far aw Burnet Co. I have not seen him but hear he is well pleased and he wants to move as soon as he sells his place here I presume he may move there.
Julia has written her lovers name and showed it to me. It is Mr. Hudgins a horrid name I think. Don't you? But they say he is good and that is better than a pretty name. Sister Fannie said she would stay with some before long. If the people I live with move west this fall I may go with them if I do not I will have to hunt another home. I shall regret exceedingly to part with them for I love them dearly they have been as brother and sister to me I have lived with them nearly one year. O, cousin Jo why dont some of you come to see us. Give much love to aunt Sarah, Nerva and all the others for me. I think of you all so often and wish to see you. Tell Alex I think he might write to me if his girls did not take up so much of his time. Nerve, too, I would love to hear from her pen. Give much love to all of them for me.
Must close for the present. Please write soon to your affectionate Cousin
Maggie Beard


Miss Julie E. Miller, Ennis, Texas, to her cousin, Minerva Ashford, Milam County, Texas

Ennis Ellis Co Texas June the 16 1875
Miss Mirnervie Ashford
My Dear Cousin I will answer your kind letter. You must forgive me for not answering it sooner. I would have answered but had no envelope. I think you can forgive me. I guess you thought I had forgotten but I will never forget you. I want to see you all so bad. We are all well.
I am staying with Ma and Sister in Ennis. Sister lives with Mr. Thomas and he went out west to look at the country and they wanted Ma to keep house for them while they was gone so I am staying with them. Cousin Charles Ashford has moved out West. There is a good many going to the Western Countrys to live. Ma talks like she might go too, but I like Ellis Co as good as any. We got a letter from Aunt Peggie Dollar sometime ago. They are all well. I will tell you they post office. It is Knights Prairie, Hamilton Co Illinois. They live a long way. It is very dry hear the crops look fine and so does the garens it rained two weeks ago but need it now very bad the wheat and cotton crops are fine everyboddie is cutting their wheat I have forgot how much it has made to the acre. Mr Alexander has a very sick babe they are our near neighbor Ma and Sister have just been their we have not heard from Madison in so long but think we will get a letter soon We have just got a letter from My Miller kin to day I had not herd from them in long time. I have not seen Sister Fannie in a week she come to see Cousin Charles leave. She lives on Grove Creek now with Jim Ashford. I forgot to tell you that Cousin Charles little boy the babe died it died in April and was sick two weeks that was one thing that made them go out West they thought it was helthier than hear Cousin Millia Chapmans husband is very low with consumption dont think he will ever recover he looks so bad aunt Nancy Ashford is staying with her. Well I will stop as I have written all I know tell Cousin Joe I think she might write to me Tell your Ma to write you must write soon as you get this for I want to hear from you all soon So I remain your devoted cousin Julia E. Miller
Notes by NTS:
Michael and Mary (Chappell) Ashford lived in Tishimingo County, Miss. in 1850. They had 11 children, several of whom moved to Ellis County. Their youngest child, Robert Payne Ashford, died in Milam County. His wife, Sarah Ann Gurley, is the "Aunt Sarah" mentioned in the letters. "Alex" is a brother to Josephine and Minerva.
Harriet Ashford, daughter of Michael and Mary, married William Beard in 1842 and had several children. In February 1850, William and three of their children, Mary, 3, Adam, age unknown, and William, age 8 months, all died within eleven days of each other. Surviving were Harriet, the mother, Margaret (Maggie of the letter), and Adrian, a son, age seven. Also dying in February 1850 was a cousin, Mary Conner. The Julia E. Miller to whom Maggie wrote, was Maggie's sister.
Julia E. Miller married John Goodman/Goodwin in Ellis County in 1876 and in 1880 her mother, Harriet Miller, and Maggie Beard lived with them, enumerated as mother-in-law and sister=in-law, in the Ennis area. "Cousin Jim" Ashford must have been James Ashford, a widower with three children in 1870 Ellis County census. By 1880, he was gone from the county, only his son, William (age 16) remaining. "Cousin Charles" may have been Charles Stewart Ashford who married Virginia Kendall; they did move west. "Cousin Millia Chapman" may have been Melissa, wife of William Chapman, shown in the Ellis County censuses of 1870 and 1880.

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