ASHBY - WILSON CREEK COMMUNITY

Compiled by Betty Rusk

Ashby Information
 



FM 1095 at CR 355          28°50'4.91"N     96°7'39.90"W


ASHBY-WILSON CREEK COMMUNITY

WILLIAM ERASTUS MOORE, A NEW JERSEY NATIVE, SETTLED IN
INDIANOLA IN THE 1850. AFTER SERVING WITH TERRY’S TEXAS
RANGERS IN THE CIVIL WAR, HE RETURNED TO SETTLE ON LAND
NORTHEAST OF BLESSING AND NAMED THE SURROUNDING
AGRICULTURAL COMMUNITY IN HONOR OF COL. HENRY M. ASHBY, A TENNESSEE FIELD COMMANDER WITH WHOM HE HAD SERVED DURING THE WAR.

MOORE OPERATED A RANCH IN THE COMMUNITY AS WELL AS A GENERAL STORE THAT HOUSED THE POST OFFICE WHERE HE SERVED AS POSTMASTER FROM 1890 UNTIL 1902. HE ALSO FREIGHTED SUPPLIES BY BOAT AT A TIME WITH THE COLORADO RAFT (LOGJAM) MADE AREA CREEKS, SUCH AS THE WILSON CREEK, MORE NAVIGABLE. AN ACTIVE MEMBER OF THE COMMUNITY, MOORE DONATED LAND FOR THE ASHBY METHODIST CHURCH AND THE ASHBY CEMETERY.

CONCURRENT TO ASHBY’S DEVELOPMENT, A GROUP OF FREED SLAVES ESTABLISHED THE NEARBY WILSON CREEK COMMUNITY. RESIDENTS THERE ORGANIZED THE CHRIST CHIEF ST. MARY’S BAPTIST CHURCH AND BUILT A SANCTUARY, WHERE AS WITH THE METHODIST AND BAPTIST CHURCHES IN ASHBY, LOCAL CHILDREN ATTENDED SCHOOL.

THE COMBINED ASHBY-WILSON CREEK COMMUNITY SHOWED ECONOMIC PROMISE IN THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY WITH COTTON GINS, STORES AND WAREHOUSES, BUT THE POPULATION GRADUALLY DECLINED. WHEN THE RAFT WAS CLEARED AND THE COLORADO RIVER BECAME NAVIGABLE, WILSON CREEK WAS NO LONGER VIABLE. PLANS FOR A RAILROAD CONNECTING WILSON CREEK TO THE COLORADO WERE ABANDONED. THE RESULTING ECONOMIC DOWNTURN COUPLED WITH WARTIME POPULATION SHIFTS TO OTHER TOWNS IN THE 1940’S, LED TO THE NOW SPARSE HABITATION OF THE AREA. STILL DESCENDANTS OF EARLY RESIDENTS REMAIN, AS DO THE MEMORIES OF THE MANY MEN AND WOMEN WHO MADE THEIR LIVES HERE.   (2002)

Typed by Faye Cunningham
 

        
The development of Matagorda County began with many settlements, one of which was called Ashby. Captain W. E. Moore named the settlement after Col. Henry M. Ashby, a Tennessee field commander with whom he had served during the war.

Ashby is located about five miles south of SH 35 on FM 1095 in the G. J. Williams League. The area later became known as the T. J. Williams Estate. T. J. Williams was a descendant of Thomas Williams, who was one of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred. He first settled in Cedar Lake in 1821.

The Ashby area was first inhabited by the cannibalistic Karankawa Indians who used it as a campsite in their constant search for firewood, food, and fresh water.

In the 1800s the population growth was contributed to the deep, navigable Wilson Creek , which flowed into Matagorda Bay by way of the Tres-Palacios River. The Colorado River was not navigable due to the raft on the river. By 1869, Ashby had houses of worship. Norman Savage was one of the first preachers who traveled by horse, foot or buggy over the area preaching at camp meetings, visiting the sick, performing marriages, and burying the dead. Church camp meetings held by the Methodists sometimes lasted for days. Being the main social activity, it was at these church camp meetings that the people shared their joys and sorrows and received the support that sustained them through their many hardships.

Captain W. E. Moore and his wife joined the Methodist Church in 1875. He gave an acre of land for the first Methodist Church at Ashby. The Ashby Methodist Church lists names of a hundred members, but only fifty-four were on the church roll when the church was destroyed by fire in 1902.

The register of the Methodist Church reveals many of the ministers’ names dating back to 1869 when Norman Savage served the people. Some of the circuit riders were: J. W. Turner, John C. Huckabee, M. C. Fields, Samuel H. Brown, J. W. Holt, George H. Collins, J. L. Kennedy, L. P. Davis, Harry May, J. W. Morris, W. C. Bracewell, A. J. Anderson, J. J. Calloway, and E. L. Ingrum.

Names of infants baptized were Ashby, Winifred and Gladys Moore; Martha and Blanche Downs (twins); T. E. and Frederick Cornelius; Addie Adair; Newberry Vaught; Martha Marker; Mary Logan; Marion and Wiley Kuykendall; Thomas J. Floyd; Malcolm, Ellen Jane, and Bertha Williams; Laura Phillips; Lee Owens; and Irma Dot and Ura Ruth Napper (twins).

The following marriages are listed in the church register:

                   R. Y. Kuykendall & Maggie Moore           June 18, 1890

                   E. D. Lunn & Sue Keller                            October 12, 1892

                   T. J. Poole & Lizzie Keller                        June 18, 1890

                   J. P. Pierce & Louise Keller                     October 26, 1892

                   E. Moore & Susie Garnett                        No Date

                   N. M. Vogelsang & Myrtle Collins            January 16, 1895

                   S. S. Moore & Annie McCamly                June 30, 1895

                   R. H. Whaley & J. J. Calloway                  November 29, 1898

                   C. Moore, M.D. & Maide Dunbar             June 28, 1900

A Baptist Church also was built next to the Ashby Cemetery. After it burned, a committee consisting of Mr. & Mrs. F. J. Krenek, T. B. Smith, Gene Spoor, Mrs. Belton Snider, and Mrs. I. M. Bowers led by chairman G. B. “Pat” McKissick and his father built a Baptist Church on the Collegeport Road on FM 1095 and the corner of Buckeye-Ashby Road. It was used until 1968. Robert E. Black was the only pastor in the church’s history. This building was traded to the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Markham, Texas, with the condition that they build a fence around the Ashby Cemetery.

The old Ashby Cemetery, bearing names of many pioneer settlers, is still in use and maintained by relatives of the deceased.

There are two Williams family cemeteries in the area. One is on land donated by John Williams. It is still used and maintained by heirs. Another older Williams Cemetery is located at the confluence of the Wilson Creek and Tres-Palacios River . It has been in use since the 1830s, but did not become an official cemetery until 1905 when Rebecca Moore Horton Williams gave one-fourth acre of land and recorded the cemetery. The cemetery is no longer used, but it is maintained by members of the Williams family.

The community provided for schools that were held in private homes, such as Mrs. Sterling Landers’ home on Wilson Creek Road . Mrs. Landers also taught piano lessons. Twenty or more pupils met in her living room. The teacher, Miss Mary Doss, was paid $45 a month for her three months of service. She was charged $15 a month for room and board.

In 1911 a school teacherage was erected about sixty yards from FM 1095 at the entrance of the Ashby Cemetery Road. One side of the building was used for classes and the other side as a teacherage. It is the present home of the Vavra family.

Due to the enthusiasm of Mrs. Landers, a school building was erected behind the teacherage. This building was later sold to Frank Kacer who moved it behind his home on Hawley Cemetery Road to be used as a barn.

Some of the early teachers were Eudora Moore, Era Trousdale, Katie Nicholson, Clara Ritchie, Mary Doss, and Tom Hale. Students of Ashby schools still have ancestors living in the area. Some of the pioneer names are Beiri, Vavra, Nicholson, Williams, Robertson, Spoor, Orsak, McKissick, and Vacek.

During the mid 1890s, Captain Moore operated a general store at Ashby. Other businesses in the area were a rice and cotton warehouse, a barbershop, and a blacksmith shop. A two-story building owned by Thomas Gyle had a store on the first floor and the second floor served as a meeting place for the Woodmen of the World Insurance Company. A cottonseed compress was located on Compress Creek, now called Compress Gully.

Captain W. Moore built a twelve-room house, “The Oaks”, to accommodate his large family.

Possibly the most popular building at Ashby was the post office built in 1890 on Gyle land, now known as the Dunbar Ranch. A second one was erected in 1912 on Wilson Creek Road on property belong to Sterling Landers. Phyllis Allen now owns the property. Canna lilies and some rose hedge mark the location of a well that was directly behind the post office.

Early postmasters were: W. Moore , 1890; Sallie Smith, September 13, 1902 ; James F. Shoemaker, October 21, 1905; Thomas Gyle, February 24, 1906; George B. McKissick, October 7, 1907 . The post office was discontinued January 31, 1910 and mail delivered to Blessing. The Ashby post office was reinstated August 30, 1912 with Frank Bond as postmaster, followed by George B. McKissick, November 20, 1912, and Early Legg, April 25, 1917. On October 15, 1917 the post office was discontinued and mail delivered to Blessing.

Most of the people were cotton farmers or stock raisers. Wilson Creek was narrow and deep; boats could tie up at almost any place along the bank for loading cargo. Boats were poled up the creek with long poles to the Tres-Palacios River. Their destination from there was Matagorda Bay where their cargo was loaded onto ocean going vessels.

Rice was an important crop. Later, grain sorghum replaced rice as a major crop, but cotton remained king. Fruits and vegetables were grown and exported along with tallow and cowhides.

Medical services were scarce in the county. An early doctor who attended the sick in Ashby was Dr. Flickwar who rode horseback from Blessing. He was kept busy during the flu epidemic in 1918.

There was also a popular mid-wife in the area – an African-American woman, that every one called “Aunt Easter”.  She delivered the eleven children of Thomas Williams.

Freed Blacks populated the eastern side of the league as early as 1865. Their previous owners gave them land and money to help them become independent. Later, in the 1890s, Antoine Jefferson Deadrick, a Frenchman who married Martha Robinson (an African-American woman), contributed to the population growth in Ashby by giving land to his people for a church/school. Chief St. Mary’s Baptist Church was built about 1891.

A cemetery was across Compress Gully from St. Mary’s. The church has recently been moved by the Matagorda County Historical Society across Compress Gully and sits next to the Moore Cemetery . Names of some of the burials there are Jane Temple Lacy, Ellen Temple Hasley, Anthony Moore, Josiah Thomas, Hester Morgan, John Henry Hadden, Ryan Keith Jackson, Thomas McKinley Peters, Charlotte Temple Moore, Hayes Maxwell Deadrick, Dora Hadden Faniel, Easter Temple Rivers Hadden, and Christina Kincheloe. All eight of Jane Temple Lacy’s children are buried there. The cemetery is still used for burials. The old church serves as a chapel for funerals and social affairs.

Several other African-American cemeteries still exist in the community. One of the oldest contain two graves and the markers read: Antwine Jefferson Died May 1944 and Sarah Jefferson Died Jan. 1, 1941.

The Deadrick Cemetery, another African-American cemetery, is by Wilson Creek on property of B. Ray Rusk.

An interesting picture of what life in Ashby in the 1890s was like was told to Leon Hale, by W. H. Hodges of Anahuac, Texas, and appeared in Hale’s column in the Houston Post, October 2, 1970. Hodges was fourteen years old when he and his family left Ashby:

We came up hard. There were ten of us children who lived in an old box house built by our father. If we wanted meat, we just called the hog dogs and rounded up a bunch and shot the one we wanted. If we needed money, we rode a mule ten miles and sold eggs for ten cents a dozen. If we wanted beef, we would just go out and find a calf and kill it. If we wanted milk, we roped a longhorn cow, tied her down, and milked her. They were roaming all over the country then.

Game was all over there. Prairie chickens were so thick; they used to run in the yard with the chickens. Whooping cranes could be heard. Now they have a place for them in Aransas County .


That big rancher Shanghai Pierce was my father’s friend. He was a big and boisterous talker. He use to loan us his oxen to break our land . . .

By 1984, the only evidence of the Ashby Community were a few old homes, Chief St. Mary’s Baptist Church, and several cemeteries bearing familiar names of early pioneers. The eastern side that was originally populated by African-Americans had not one family left. There are a few remains on Wilson Creek of a warehouse located by the Ashby Cemetery. The Ashby-Wilson Creek vicinity is a beautiful, sleeping, peaceful part of Matagorda County that once was.

The Ashby-Wilson Creek Community Historical Marker Dedication was held May 10, 2003.
 

 

Copyright 2004 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Created
Jan. 12, 2005
Updated
Feb. 3, 2008
   

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