William Patrick Fitzgerald
Photo & story from Lora B Tindall
Our ancestor, WILLIAM PATRICK FITZGERALD, the first child of Garrett and Nancy (Mathews) Fitzgerald, was born 2 May 1830 in Marion County, AL. His father was in Texas by 1836, but his mother must have remained in Alabama as she was listed as head of the household with six young children on the 1840
Marion County, AL, census. William Patrick?s obituary says he came to Texas in 1844 at the age of fourteen. That is likely the date that his father moved his wife and children to Texas. His father, Garrett, had staked a claim on land near Honey Grove, Fannin County, Texas, much earlier. It is likely that he left Nancy in Marion County near her family while he came to look over the situation and establish residency in Texas.
In March of 1852, William Patrick Fitzgerald married Emily Belle Downing, daughter of George T. Downing and Sophia Wales, at Ft. Inglish, now Bonham, Texas. Emily, born in Indiana on 16 July 1835,
came to Texas in 1845 with her parents. She claimed to have been Irish and Tuckahoe Indian.
They filed on land located five miles west of Bonham, near Ector, and received a landgrant. Here they established their home, and began farming.
All of their twelve children were born on this farm. Emily was serious minded and energetic, while Patrick was happy-go-lucky. They lived on this farm about sixty years, working hard and prospering.
William Fitzgerald enlisted 1 July 1862 for a period of three years as a private, Troop E., 34th Texas Cavalry, Confederate States Army. On the last roll which his name is borne, January and February 1864, he is reported detached to Taylor's Hospital, 1 October 1862, as a nurse. No later war records of him have been
found. This is because he contacted yellow fever and nearly died. When he recovered months later, the war
was over and his troop disbanded. He made his way home by walking most of the way.
While William was away fighting for the Southern Cause, Emily and her children suffered many hardships
and all but starved one winter. When the war was over and other soldiers returned, the family did not hear
from William and had presumed him dead. Then one day William walked into the house looking like an old
man, grabbed his young son, likely William, pulled the red knit cap off the child's head, and tossed it in the
burning fireplace. The child screamed, "My Daddy will get you for that when he comes home!" None of the
family recognized William until they heard his laughter.
Emily was so happy to have her husband back from the dead, that she rushed him off to the nearest
photographer for a portrait of the two of them. In this picture, he looks much older than his years as his
beard had turned white during his illness. Emily also shows the hardships she suffered in his absence.
Their oldest child, James, called Jabe, was born in 1853. He ran away from home during the war to find his father and to join the Confederate Army. He was presumed killed as nothing more was ever heard of him.
Sarah Ann was born in 1855 and married James Winston Carter 8 February 1874. They were the parents
of Winston, Nora, Charles S., Pat, and Beryl. The last child was adopted. Charles was a medical doctor who
practiced medicine in Savoy and Bells for many years. "Uncle Doc" was my mother's first cousin and our
family doctor when I was growing up. Sarah (Fitzgerald) Carter died in Paul's Valley, OK, but lived and raised
her family in Bonham.
Another daughter, Mary Jane, born in 1856, married John Wesley Allen. They were the parents of Barbara, Alonzo, Myrtle, and Claude. She raised her family, lived, and died in Bonham. She is buried at Willow Wild Cemetery.
Nancy S. Fitzgerald, our ancestor, was born in October 1859. She married Joshua Hale Fox on 14
February 1878 at Bonham, Texas. Her children were Della, Virgil, Cora, Audrey, Jay, Joe and Edith. Nancy
died 8 June 1904 at Bells and is buried at Willow Wild Cemetery, Bonham.
William A. Fitzgerald, born 15 January 1861, married Safrani Pierce and they were parents of Art, Arthur,
Edna, and Clyde. William A. married second, Lou Ada Clusser, and had one son, Willie. William A. Fitzgerald
and his two wives are buried at Willow Wild Cemetery. Edna, William's only daughter, was something of a
character. Her father sent her away to college. She didn't want to go alone; so she took her best friend. She
managed this by telling her father that all the expenses were for her, and he paid without question. Another
hilarious, yet disturbing, story was told about Edna. Edna's mother died when Edna was young and she grew
up knowing nothing about keeping house; yet the household tasks were her responsibility. Once when her
aunt drove up to the house, there was all the bedroom furniture in the farm pond. When asked about this,
Edna explained that she was drowning the bedbugs.
Eldon Fitzgerald was born in 1863 and died young. Lee Fitzgerald, born 14 March 1866, died 16 February 1888. Lee is buried at Willow Wild Cemetery.
Cora was born in 1868 and married John Ramsey. They were the parents of Floyd, Pat, Daina, and Olen.
Daina was about the age of Audrey Fox, my mother, and they were often together.
Nora Fitzgerald, another daughter, was born 16 February 1870. She married Jesse W. Bell 27 December
1885. They lived in Savoy, only a few miles from Ector. Their only son, Homer, died as an infant from
measles brought to him by Dr. C. S. Carter. "Uncle Doc" had been treating an infected child and went by to
see his aunt. While there, he held little Homer. In due course, Homer took the measles and died. This would make one think that Nora would have blamed Dr. Carter for her baby's death, but she did not. In fact Charles
was her favorite nephew.
Nora Bell was a character. She often had Audrey and her family for Sunday dinner as she delighted in
preparing a big meal. She raised her vegetables, milked her cows, and made cheese, bread, and wine. She
adored Audrey and her first child, Marinan.
Nora Fitzgerald Bell had a sharp tongue, but a good heart. It was Nora who made her parents give up
housekeeping when they were unable to see to themselves properly. She took them into her home and cared
for them. Her father, William Patrick, wore a long beard which Nora thought was unclean. She insisted on
shaving it off, and he finally agreed. When she got one side of his faced shaved, he refused to allow her to
finish. It must have been weeks before he looked decent.
During the last years of Emily's life, Nora cared for her mother. Wanting to be helpful, Emily would always insist on helping Nora in the kitchen. This help did not suit Nora, who was crusty and determined to do
things her own way. So she sat her mother down each morning in the kitchen and had her sort dried beans,
lima, brown and butterbeans. This took long enough for Nora to finish her chores and get food on the table
for Jesse. After lunch while Emily napped, Nora mixed the beans and sat them up for Emily to begin her
sorting the next day. When talking to a friend one day, Emily said, "I don't know what Nodie would do
without me to sort her beans. We never get through."
John Thomas Fitzgerald, born in 1872 married first Addie Youree and had one daughter, but both his wife
and daughter died when he was yet a young man. He married Alva Agnew, a widow, much later in life. John
was a car dealer and lived in Bonham. Later he moved to Sherman and worked for the government. He is buried at Willow Wild Cemetery, Bonham.
Amanda Fitzgerald, the youngest daughter, married Robert Boyd and lived in Bonham. They were the
parents of Welton, who died young, and Neal, who was a teacher. He taught at Bells at one time, then moved
to Ft. Worth, TX. Amanda is buried at Willow Wild, Bonham.
Lorna Hirum Fitzgerald, their last child, was born 5 April 1874. He married Anna Williams 28 January 1894, and lived in Sherman. They had five children: Cecil, Earl, Emily Belle, Raymond, and Oleah. He died in January 1948 and is buried at West Hill Cemetery, Sherman, TX.
This obituary from the Bonham paper, dated 30 October 1914, seems to tell the story of William's life and
it gives a good example of editorializing in obituaries printed in those days.
A PIONEER OF THIS COUNTY HAS GONE
W. P. Fitzgerald is Buried Today at Willow Wild Cemetery--A Good Man
When the spirit of W. P. Fitzgerald was called to its tenement of clay
early yesterday morning at Savoy, there died a pioneer, a citizen, and a
good man. In this tribute is expressed much. To be a pioneer in a land
is much in itself, for to come to a community and carve from the forests
a living and a home is an achievement that requires much energy, ability,
and perseverance, not to mention fortitude. To be a citizen of a community,
in all that the term implies, as in the case of "Uncle Billie," as his
friends called him, is a goal to be prized by all of us. To be a good man
withal is the acme of living; for in that lies the hope of Hereafter, the
haven for which we are all striving or what we should seek to attain.
William Patrick was the son of Garrett Fitzgerald. He was born on 2 May
1830, in the state of Mississippi (Alabama is correct), and was 84 years,
five months, and 27 days old at the time of his death, which occurred
19 October 1914.
He came to Fannin County with his parents in 1844. At that time Bonham
was a mere village, only eight years old at the furthermost. There was
very little to Bonham at that time to suggest the little city we now have,
and all about the now county seat of Fannin County was a wilderness of
a waste of prairie land, uninhabited, save by the wolf, the bear, and the
deer and the wild fowl of the air. Mr. Fitzgerald was a citizen of this
county for 70 years.
In 1852 Mr. Fitzgerald was married to Miss Emily Downing, their married
life extending over a period of 62 years. Twelve children came to the
home in a period of time. Their names are as follows: James (dead); Sarah
(Mrs. J. W. Carter) of Paul's Valley, OK; Mary (Mrs, J. W. Allen) of Bonham;
Nannie (Mrs. J. H. Fox) dead; W. A. Fitzgerald, Bonham; Lee H. Fitzgerald,
Sherman; Amanda (Mrs. W. E. Boyd) Bonham; and John T. Fitzgerald, Bonham;
In addition to these, one child died in infancy. His wife is now 79
years old and survives her husband.
In the early days of this country, Mr. Fitzgerald frequently sought the
recesses of Fort Inglish for safety from the ravages of the Red Man,
who roamed the prairie and skulked in the woods...pioneers who dared
to molest the peacefulness and solitude of the prairie with civilization,
and who had the hardihood to lay the axe to the primeval forest.
When the great conflict between the North and the South came on, Mr.
Fitzgerald, though always a man of peace, shouldered his gun and marched
to the front to do battle for the cause which he conceived to be just, and
which took as toll for the god of war the lives of so many a brave son
of the fair Southland and for which many a brave man of the North found
a grave in the South, among strangers.
Mr. Fitzgerald was absolutely fearless. It is almost superfluous to make
that statement, for bravery is the foundation upon which the superstructure
of a pioneer's life is raised. He was honest; he was truthful; and (what
could be better than this) he was a true friend.
In his time he was a great hunter. He delighted in the chase, and his
keen eye and splendid training in the woods, made him a good shot. There
is no way to tell how many deer and turkey he has slain in his hunting.
He was a man full of energy and one of great vitality, and was the
oldest child of a large family, who outlived all of his brothers and
He died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. J. W. Bell, in Savoy after an
illness dating back to last May. He hung to life tenaciously, for he saw
much in living, but the summons came to cross the River which divides like
a sullen stream this earth from that heavenly land, and he wrapped the
mantle of his couch about him and slept gentle sleep that knows no
awakening until we shall appear before the Great Judgement Bar.
He recognized his son, John, and his daughter, Mrs. Bell, and a
granddaughter, Miss Myrtle Allen, only a few hours before his spirit
took its flight, and talked to each of them. In all there were four of
his children with him when the end came, William A., John T., Mrs. Bell,
and Mrs. Boyd.
Mr. Fitzgerald had been a member of the Methodist church for years;
so long that perhaps very few people could tell. With life consistent
with the vows of the church, why should he fear to enter the valley
of a new Country? How could there be any terrors for his soul, which
has gone to try another untried land? Surely there are none, and when
the redeemed of the earth are gathered in that land where sorrow and
parting never come, there will be found the spirit of this pioneer,
citizen, and good man, who has laid down the temporary life on earth
to inherit that life which comes to the faithful.
The remains were brought to Bonham today from Savoy in a hearse,
and taken to the home of John T. Fitzgerald, his son. Then they were
taken to Willow Wild for interment, followed by a large group of
relatives and friends of the family. The funeral services were held
over the body at the grave at 1:30 today by Rev. J. Sam Barcus, pastor
of the First Methodist Church of this city.
Compiled by: Lora B. Tindall
RESEARCH LOG: Bonham Daily Favorite Obituaries for William Patrick & Emily B. (Downing) Fitzgerald; Tombstone readings, Willow Wild Cemetery, Bonham, TX; Funeral Cards for William and Emily Fitzgerald; Fannin Co., TX, 1850, 1860, 1870 Census records; Emily Fitzgerald's Confederate Widow's Pension application #29813; William Fitzgerald's application #2051566, 1913, for Confederate Soldier's Pension; Citizens of the Republic of TX, 1977, Pub. by the TX State Genealogical Society; Daughters of the Republic of TX, Lora B. Tindall membership #16289-S; Texas Land Title Abstracts, Vol. I-A, General Land Office, Austin, TX, dated May 29, 1856, Patent #333 Vol. #13, Folio # 2025
WILLIAM PATRICK FITZGERALD