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 asigns, 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 driving government 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. Charlessaid 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 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
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 Shermans 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.