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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. Turk.


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 Antonio.

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 Sidney Johnston.

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 property.

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. (Spanaway Cemetery).

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 recreation.

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 write.”

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, Mark Turk.

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 mid-1980s.

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 soldiers.

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 of age.

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 Sunset Cemetery.

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 zone.”

He had been taken to the local hospital by William L. Secor, Jr., “and received prompt surgical aid.”

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 Hardin.)

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, Bessie Sparks.

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 streak.

“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 horse.”

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 mule.”

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 on “M*A*S*H.”

“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.

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