Early settler John Sherman
left his mark by constructing mill ----
By 1891, West Kerr County residents John
and Eliza Jane (Williams) Sherman’s clan had
grown into a large brood of 10 children,
some of them already married, and several
grandchildren. Shown standing, from left,
are John Jr., Charles Thomas, Nathan, Maggie
Ophelia, Martha Ann “Mattie,” and Milton
“Mit” Lee. Sitting, from left, holding
babies, are John and Eliza Jane, Alvira
Louise (Sherman) Turk, and Mark S.R. Turk.
On laps, from left, are Julia Mahala, Bell(e),
Acie Allen Turk, John Ray Turk, William T.
By Irene Van Winkle
One early settler did what took most pioneer
families several generations to achieve —
arrive from the far northeastern states to
the deep southwest. He left his mark here by
constructing one of the many early mills
that popped up for the shingle trade, a
founding industry of Kerr County.
In his nearly 90-year long lifetime, John
Sherman (1825-1914) came from his New York
birthplace, at least 1,800 miles, to his
final resting place by his wife, Eliza Jane
(Williams) in Nichols Cemetery under a grove
of cedar trees.
Their descendants — such as Raymond Edward,
“Stan” and Charles C. Jr. (the family branch
historian) — still live in the area.
A historical marker was erected nearby on
Hwy. 39 near Waltonia Crossing. The mill
itself was built near the confluence
of the Guadalupe River and Kelly Creek, but
was washed away in the flood of 1932.
Remnants of it, however, still exist.
Although his parents’ names are unknown,
records show that John’s father was born in
New York, and his mother in Pennsylvania.
John got to Texas by 1848.
Charles Jr.’s archives include a document
signed on Feb. 28, 1861 by Sam Houston,
Governor of Texas — the culmination of a
process John had begun when he applied for
the grant in 1854.
Therein the grant said (ref. No. 342, Vol.
32) “In the name of the state of Texas ...
to John Sherman, his heirs or assigns,
FOREVER, one hundred and sixty acres of
land, situated and described as follows, In
Atascosa County, on Palo Alto Creek, a
branch of the Atascosa, about 25 miles S.
15-(deg.) from San Antonio. ...”
The grant document is also signed by Francis
M. White, Commissioner of the Land Office.
Later, family records catch up with him
during the Civil War. Some information came
from the National Archives and Records
Administration, found by Randy Scott, who is
married to a descendant.
John’s military service began when he
enlisted in 1862 in the Texas Confederate
Army as a Private. He signed up to be in
Company 3, 36th Texas CSA Cav., called
“Green’s Brigade,” registering on the same
day that the company was organized in San
His enlistment was for “three years, or the
war.” The horse he rode had a value of $80,
and equipment, of $25.
During his service between 1862 and early
1864, John was assigned in a number of
locations such as Camp Clark (in San
Marcos), San Antonio Springs, Camp Sibley
(near Ft. Brown), Camp Placido and Camp
John’s nickname at the time was “Battery,”
and he worked as a teamster in Woods’
Regiment. Muster rolls listed him “present”
between July and October, 1862, but then
absent, “detached drivinggovernment wagons,”
through April 1863, and again in June.
Several entries show him on “extra duty”
during portions of 1863 and 1864.
According to descendants, the earliest
record of his future bride, Eliza
(1847-1919), was found in the 1850 Arkansas
census, and living in Prairie County,
Richwoods Township. Her Tennessean parents,
Lorenzo and Mahala (Sweet), had other
children: Jenetta, 15; Rachel, 13, Lucy E.
7; Elizabeth E., 5.
Ten years later (1860), the Williams’ had
Elizabeth and Eliza listed as still living
in the same household with her parents in
Atascosa Co., Texas. Records indicate
Minerva J. Sweeny, age 6, living there. She
was Lorenzo and Mahala’s granddaughter.
John had been purchasing land, between
1861-1889 in Jourdanton, even though he had
moved to Kerr County by the 1880s.
His first two pieces of Kerr County property
(320 acres) bought between 1883-85 cost him
$1,650. The first lot belonged to
Jeremiah and Mary Ann Gregg, and the other
(on Kelly Creek, the old Gwyer Ranch) by
Benjamin and Velma Lewis of New York. John
later sold both for more than $4,500.
John married Eliza in Jourdanton in January,
1866. The ceremony was performed by E. P.
Forest, J. P.
In October, Alvira Louise (1866-1944), was
born. She was followed by William Oscar,
Nathan (1874-1964), Maggie Ophelia,
Martha Ann (1876-1908), Nancy Kizzar,
Charles Thomas (1881-1947), John, Jr.
(1883-1900), Julia Mahala (1884-1969) and
Belle (1889-1969). Only the two youngest
were born in Kerr County.
By their deaths, many siblings had
scattered, and only several were known to be
buried in Kerr County cemeteries: William,
Nathan and Martha at Nichols Cemetery, and
Nancy in Sunset. John Jr., according to
family, lies buried on the Sherman Mill
Charles Jr. said Martha was killed by her
older, jealous husband, J. H. Manning. He
buried her out in the woods, but John found
the body and had it reburied. Her tombstone
did not include her married name. Manning
was never caught or tried for her death.
Only one child, Charles Thomas, was not
buried in Texas, but near Tacoma, Wash.
After Julia Mahala died, her grave in
Calliham Cemetery (McMullen County) was one
of many which had to be moved to higher
ground (in 1982) when a lake in Choke Canyon
Dam was created for a water supply and
John’s whereabouts in 1870 showed him still
in Atascosa County, working as a
wheelwright. In one census entry, it said of
Eliza, that she “could neither read nor
John built Sherman’s Mill on the Guadalupe
River between Ingram and Hunt, near Waltonia
Crossing. Charles said that there is
speculation the mill was built in the 1870s,
but records show John had not bought the
land until the early 1880s. The mill stayed
busy sawing lumber, grinding corn and
ginning cotton. It operated until
about 1914, mostly under the ownership of
Nathan after John retired. Eventually, the
property changed hands.
The land around Sherman’s mill (320 acres)
was sold by 1904; 220 acres went to William
Council and Clarence Sing. The other 100
acres were sold to Elvira and her husband,
According to “Historical Markers” by
Clarabelle Snodgrass, “The mill was about a
quarter-mile below the two-story
Sherman home, and both located on the south
side of the river. (After the flood of 1932)
... a large cypress tree, about five feet
high, landed near the Sherman house. It had
an opening where the children of the
Secor and Crate families played. The boys
dug out the river silt and made a ‘fort’
where they played games. One
time, when high grass around the stump
caught on fire, a pickup was used to pull
the stump over so the fire
could be put out with the water hose.”
Years later, Howard Blackburn bought the
property, and restored mill operations,
including the purchase of a new wheel
from the city of Junction. He even pumped
water to irrigate fields, until he died in
The 1900 Kerr County census listed Eliza and
John staying home with two daughters: Julia
(b. 1886) and Belle (b. 1887), both still in
school. In 1910, per Bandera County records,
Eliza had moved in with daughter
Maggie and her husband, Mark Tracy.
Although his service in the war had been
long over, John lived his latter years
(1908-1914) until his death at the
Confederate Soldiers home in Austin, which
was set up for destitute or disabled
After he died, Eliza filed an application
for a widow’s pension. Before 1920, she was
already living with her daughter Julia
(who married Neil Wilkinson) in Williamson
County. “Bell(e)” Sherman was also listed in
the same household along with her own son,
Edward J.M. Sherman, a child of four years
Wilkinson, Charles Jr. said, had been sent
to life in prison for robbing the mail in
1878 in Gonzalez. He was pardoned after
spending five years at a federal prison in
Indiana. Eliza died in San Antonio, some
think with Charles Thomas Sherman, her
son, at 607 Edgar St. near Fort Sam Houston.
Charles Sr. married Stella Ellen Griffin
(1900-1967) who lived on the Divide. She had
been married earlier to William C.
Clements (1888-1928). He worked at the Secor
Ranch on the south fork of the Guadalupe.
When he was helping work on a dam he was
injured. He died a week later after gangrene
had set in his leg, and he was buried at
The old Kerrville Mountain Sun ran a story
in August, 1928:
“At the time of the accident which cost his
life, Clements was engaged with other
workers in the construction of a dam
on the ranch. Dynamite was being used to
blast rock and one of the charges exploded
before he had time to reach the safety
He had been taken to the local hospital by
William L. Secor, Jr., “and received prompt
Incidentally, the piece ran in the same
issue that headlined two interesting items:
The top story announced Gov. Alfred E.
Smith had received the Democratic party’s
nomination to run for the office of
president of the United States. He
lost. The other story said that local Texas
State Senator Julius Real, a Republican, was
“to wage active fight for reelection.” In
those days, apparently, voters only had to
listen to politicians’ campaign
speeches for a few months.
William’s parents were Emanual Clements and
Martha Balch Hardin (whose brother was the
father of the outlaw, John Wesley
Nathan married Emma Lillie Secrest (a native
of Port Lavaca, Texas. They were listed
living in on “A” street in Kerrville
in 1920, with their youngest, Azalie. They
had six older children: John Franklin,
Charles Clarence (Charles Clarence Jr.,’s
father), Claud (the father of Raymond Edward
and Ernest Standifer “Stan”), Beulah Eliza,
Lillian, and Elvin. Charles, Sr. is buried
in Camp Wood; Claud, at Sunset, with wife,
Stan ranches in Mountain Home, while Raymond
lives with his wife Rene (another avid and
active historian) in Kerrville.
Charles Sr. was a cedar chopper at Camp
Wood, where cousin Charles grew up, and
where his father owned a cedar yard. He
attended Nueces Canyon high school, where
the football team had a great winning
“We won 31 consecutive games in six-man ball
between 1956 and 1958.” After that, Charles
joined the Air Force. He is now retired,
living with wife Phyllis in Kerrville.
Raymond, who went to school in Turtle Creek,
rode there on a horse named “Sundown.”
“All four of us rode that horse bareback.
The ride was about three miles and took
about a half-hour. Every time I got off, if
I didn’t watch it, I’d get bit by that
Charles recalled a different anecdote.
“According to my mother, Stella, grandfather
Nathan Sherman’s nickname was ‘Lump.’
Before he married Lillie, she called him her
‘sugar lump.’ After they got married,
though, he just became a lump.”
Nathan was a rancher, and built fences as
well as water tanks. Charles Jr. said he had
heard a story about John: “He got
inebriated one night and decided to go deer
hunting, but all he ended up shooting was a
The Sherman's have strong ties to the Lee
family, which Raymond said he thought
actually caused favoritism for another
part of the clan.
“Aunt Nina Lee married John Franklin
Sherman; and Beulah Sherman married Archie
Lee, once the manager of the Black
Bull Ranch, which used to be part of the
sprawling YO. Because of that relationship,
he said that his part of the family were
never as close to their grandparents.
Raymond said that the original log house is
actually inside the home that was built
around it by later owners.
“One of the owners built it around the cabin
and kept it intact. The original part was
being used as a kitchen, I think.”
The wheel to the mill was different from
what people normally think — it was placed
horizontally, not vertically. The mill used
to be on the upper part of the property, but
in 1932, the flood caused it to be washed
down. The ditch dug for it was not
destroyed, nor was the wheel.
Apparently, some of his relatives said
Raymond could be pretty handy himself with
water works in times of need. While in
the Navy, he was stationed on Guam in 1947.
He actually invented his own version of a
clothes washing machine, like something seen
“I cut a half-barrel, took steering rods
from a Jeep, added a 1-horsepower gas motor
with a flywheel, and created an
agitator. I had to wring out the clothes by
hand and then do a rinse. Then I had to
wring them again and hang them out to dry.”
Raymond was an electrician, but found other
work, too. In San Antonio, he worked for
Acme Floors, then owned Raymond’s
Custom Floors at 1301 Broadway in Kerrville.
He also owned Hill Country Floors for about
10 years. He and Rene lovingly owned the
Tivy Hotel for about 15 years.
© July 2006 West Kerr Current
Used by permission.