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William Lovell Sartwelle Family


Burials of the Sartwelle Family in Comanche County, Texas

W. L. Sartwelle Academy for Males and Females
Colorado Tribune, July 21, 1851


W. L. Sartwelle
By James D. Sartwelle


A. fifth generation American, William Lovell Sartwelle, son of Asa and Mary Sartwelle, was born February 4, 1821, in Charleston, New Hampshire, and was baptized and confirmed as an Episcopalian at the Union Episcopal Church, Claremont, New Hampshire, in 1839. In 1840, at age nineteen, he was awarded a Master of Arts degree from Dartmouth. He studied law in a Claremont, New Hampshire, law office, taught school in Alabama, and was admitted to the Alabama Bar in April, 1846. A few months later he moved to Matagorda and was admitted to the Texas Bar in September, 1846, however he did not practice, as he wrote, “little doing in the profession. Can’t make a living at it at present.” The next year (1847) Sartwelle formed a co-partnership with the Rev. Caleb S. Ives, Rector of Christ Episcopal Church, to resume his teaching career at the Matagorda Institute. A devout Episcopalian, Sartwelle served as a Matagorda delegate to “The Primary Convention” of the new Episcopal Diocese of Texas held in Matagorda, January 1, 1849, and thereafter continued a lifelong service to God and his church as an Episcopal lay reader, several times as vestryman of Christ Church, and as a delegate to diocesian conventions.

Sartwelle married Helen Milne Dinsmore, the surviving child of Judge Silas Dinsmore, in Christ Episcopal Church, Matagorda, on July 18, 1850, and they became the parents of a son, William Dinsmore Sartwelle, on May 2, 1852, in Matagorda. In late 1853 or early 1854, a second son, Henry, was born but died in infancy. The couple had no other children.

Mrs. Sartwelle and her mother, Amanda (Coan) Dinsmore, had inherited several thousand acres of land in the Matagorda area, as well as a small ranch in Lavaca County. Besieged by the debts of Judge Dinsmore and declining enrollment at the institute, Sartwelle gave up his teaching career in Matagorda and moved to the Lavaca County ranch in 1860, where he rather unsuccessfully endeavored to farm and operate a cattle and sheep ranch. It was from the “Sarvaca” ranch that the lawyer-teacher entered the Confederate army, and served “during the whole period of our late deplorable Civil War.” Like many other families of the era, the soldier’s wife, child, and mother-in-law nearly perished of poverty on the banks of the Lavaca River during his absence. On Sartwelle’s return home, he continued his agricultural pursuits and his ministry as an Episcopal lay-reader, riding horseback the seventeen miles to Hallettsville to conduct church services there, occasionally several times a week. Times were hard in the Reconstruction Era, but despite their poverty—and because Sartwelle’s mother still lived in Claremont, New Hampshire—in 1867 his son, William Dinsmore, was taken East to a preparatory school, the Rectory School in Saybrook, Connecticut. Upon completion of his studies at Saybrook, William enrolled in Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, and then attended a New York seminary, where he was ordained a deacon in the Episcopal church  March 18, 1876, and ordained as a priest June 3, 1877. His first assignment was as rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Waco, Texas.

As the Dinsmore-Duncan (sisters Amanda Dinsmore and Julia Duncan) families has been almost inseparable since their joint residence in Mobile, Helen Milne Dinsmore and Sarah Jane Duncan (first cousins) had grown up together and were as close as sisters—infants together in Mobile and schoolmates in the Reverend Caleb Ives’ schools in Mobile and Matagorda, summering together at “Canmore” on Well Point and wintering often on Caney Creek. About 1850 Captain John Duncan began investing rather heavily in lands in Comanche County, and as the Reconstruction Era eroded the profits of the Caney Plantation, turned his attention more and more to Comanche. His daughter, Sarah Jane, eventually moved to Comanche sometime prior to Captain Duncan’s death in March, 1878. It is little wonder that the W. L. Sartwelles and Amanda Dinsmore moved from Lavaca County to Comanche in 1877, to be nearer their minister son in Waco and Helen Milne’s cousin, Sarah Jane (Duncan) Walcott.

In Comanche, Sartwelle established a successful insurance agency and he continued his ministry as an Episcopal lay reader, holding services in any vacant building available. His labors were rewarded some ten years later (18871) when St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church was organized and a church building constructed.

Following their son’s marriage in 1878, and as grandchildren began to appear, W. L. and Helen Milne Sartwelle assiduously assumed their role as grandparents and part-providers for their minister-son’s family and graciously served as “home base headquarters” for the itinerant preacher’s every-growing number of children (eventually seven, not one of which shared the same birthplace).

Eventually the family was reunited in Comanche in 1892, as a result of the transfer of the minister-son as Priest-in-Charge of St. Matthew’s Church, Comanche. In 1891, a year prior to the reunion, Amanda Dinsmore died in Comanche and was buried there.

At age seventy-six, after a life of Christian service, William Lovell Sartwelle died in Comanche on November 2, 1897—only two months after the death of his only child, a son—leaving his wife, Helen Milne, to carry on as the matriarch of the family. As such, she was to influence strongly the family’s return to her father’s coastal home in Matagorda and Jackson counties.

Historic Matagorda County, Volume I, pages 91-92


Copyright 2011 - Present by the Sartwelle Family
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Oct. 23, 2011
Oct. 23, 2011