Kenner Prairie Information
Kenner Prairie For KidsKenner Cemetery
The Kenner Cemetery was recently rediscovered by hunters who leased the property on which the cemetery was located. Matagorda County Historical Commission member Ray Horton visited the cemetery, photographed the two markers and recorded the GPS coordinates for the location. Accessibility was aided by the drought conditions which dried up a slough that usually blocked access.
Kenner, also known as Kenner Prairie, was located between Live Oak and Caney Creeks twenty-five miles northeast of Matagorda and four miles southwest of Sargent in southeastern Matagorda County.
The area is named for George Rappele Kenner (1812- September 25,1852) who had moved to Matagorda County from Ascension Parish, Louisiana c 1846 as he wrote a will, dated September 26, 1846, stating "Being about to set out on a journey to Texas..." [see will below] He was the son of William Butler and Mary Minor Kenner and brother of Duncan Farrar Kenner of Ashland Plantation. After his marriage to Charlotte L. Chambers Jones on March 11, 1840, George sold his interest in Ashland and acquired land in Kentucky opposite Cincinnati from his wife's half brother. There he raised horses for a while. He sold his Kentucky holdings after Texas was admitted to the Union and relocated in Texas.
George was enumerated in the 1850 Matagorda County census with his wife, Charlotte L. Jones Kenner. Also in the household were Emily Jones (age 17) and Georgine Jones (age 14) who were Charlotte’s daughters from an earlier marriage. The value of his property was $93,500 which made him the third largest landowner in the county behind Abram Shepard ($100,500) and John Duncan ($100,000). He had an overseer, J. W. Page, and an engineer, George Byington. The 1850 census also included information that he owned 36 slaves. The next landowner enumerated in the census was P. S. McNeel.
On Saturday, the 25th ult., in Matagorda, Texas, GEO. R. KENNER, aged 40 years. He was a native of Louisiana, but for several years a resident of Texas. Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA) October 7, 1852
The Find A Grave entry also states that George is buried on his property on Kenner Prairie, but that location is unknown.
Charlotte later moved to New York and died in 1860. She is buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York in an unmarked grave. (Section 181, Lot 12346)
Emily, daughter of George and Charlotte, married a Mr. Clements and also died in 1860. She is buried with her mother at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York in an unmarked grave. [Information courtesy of Mark Mitchell]
George established himself as a sugar planter on Caney Creek, but wasn't able to fully develop his plantation before his death in 1852. His last crop reported for the season of 1853-1854 indicated only 55 hogsheads of sugar had been produced.
A post office opened at Kenner on February 7, 1859 with Pinckney S. McNeel as the first postmaster. He was reappointed August 6, 1861 as a postmaster for the Confederate States of America. Mrs. Mary Collins (August 9, 1866) served next and the post office was discontinued November 29, 1866. It was reestablished with Miss Jennie McNeel (June 26, 1871) and continued with John F. Nuckols (November 17, 1871), William T. McNeel (December 15, 1882) and John Nuckols (February 24, 1887). May 11, 1887 was the final closing date and the mail was transferred to Hawkinsville.
The next year the 1860 census listed eight families for Kenner Post Office. Most of them farmers. The families included those of Pinckney S. McNeel, farmer; James G. Rainey, Farmer; George Sargent, Farmer; John Kemp, mail contractor; William H. Armstrong, farmer; William O. Rutledge, farmer; R. W. Parker, overseer; and George M. Cox, overseer.
During the Civil War Kenner was headquarters for the McNeel Coast Guard Mounted Rifles, a reserve company under the command of P. S. McNeel.
The 1870 census enumerated several more families at Kenner Prairie, which was served at that time by the Caney post office, as it was during the first time the Kenner Post Office was discontinued. Families included those of Lafayette Wilson, John F. Nuckols (Sr.), John F. Nuckols (Jr.), Pinckney McNeel, William McNeel, Sallie Vandorn, Shelby McNeel, Henry Freeman and Hannah Eggert. The 1870 census was the first census on which African-American families appeared and those listed as living at Kenner were the families of Lewis Jones, Hall Roberson, Thomas Wilson, Simon White, Alexander Smith, Ward Murchison, Phoebe Davis
In 1884 the Kenner population was thirty. The 1894 school census included 30 children who were school age: Lucy and Ada Bournelle; Addie Nuckols; Mary Carrington; R. J. & E. J. Brunson; Lillian and Robert Alston; Rosa, Virginia, Etta and Silva Roberts; Jessie, Annie L., Henry and Charlie Freeman; Mary M. Starr, Gus and Roland Smith, F. E. and W. H. Bell; Alma, Carrie and Emma Burke; Laura, Olivia, and Ed Phillips and Stephen and Nora Phillips. Eleven were in public school and two in private school. The other 17 were not attending school. The students included in the 1895 school census for Kenner were: Olivia, Ed, Stephen and Nora Phillips; Gussie and Roland Smith; Carrie and Emma Burke; Frank, Willie and Keller Bell; J. F. Mamie, Lula and Lillie Ayres; Ellen Hawkins; Annie L., Henry, Charlie and Joe Freeman; and Lucy and Ada Bounnelle. In 1899 a Kenner school reported eighteen white students
Though the 1936 county highway map shows a number of dwellings clustered along a graded and drained road at the site of Kenner, the community was not shown on a 1952 map.
The recent visitors to the Kenner Cemetery found two markers, two footstones and several indentions indicating unmarked burials. There are known burials of two families buried there.
Elizabeth Ann Sargent Smith, daughter of George Sargent, is one of the marked graves. She was born in England on July 8, 1823 and married Jacob Smith (c1818 – c1903) on November 18, 1941 in Matagorda County. During the early years of their marriage, they lived in an area known as Forestier Cedars. According to a biography of one of their children, Jacob was born in Germany and came to Texas in the early 1830s where he farmed and ranched. He participated in the Texas Revolution, Mexican-American War and fought for the Confederacy. There is some question as to the CSA unit in which Jacob Smith served. A Jacob Smith did serve in McNeel’s Coast Guards led by his neighbor P. S. McNeel.
Elizabeth and Jacob’s son, Jacob (September 16, 1843-October 30, 1859), is buried at the Sargent Cemetery on Caney Drive. Also buried at Sargent are George Sargent and Sarah Ann Hill Sargent who both died in a hurricane on September 17, 1875. Henry and Cornelia Smith Freeman and Frank J. Freeman are also at Sargent Cemetery.
The children of Jacob and Elizabeth Smith were Jacob Smith, Mary Ann Smith Bruce (December 22, 1845-November 2, 1932), Millie Adelaide Smith (November 16, 1848-December 26, 1923), Cornelia Smith Freeman (December 5, 1851-March 27, 1883, Lewis Smith (bc 1855-dc 1893), Augustus George Smith (April 7, 1857-June 19, 1936), Isabella “Bell” Smith Burke (bc Aug-Sep 1859-d unknown) and J. Morgan Smith (May 25, 1862-July 29, 1938.
There are two foot markers near Elizabeth with the initials L. A. S. (Lewis A. Smith) and B. S. (Bell Smith). The names of her three children who preceded her in death are carved into the side of her stone. Jacob, Lewis and Isabella “Bell.” Most of the other children of Jacob and Elizabeth are buried at the Matagorda Cemetery. Curiously, Bell married Thomas Burke on May 28, 1894, the same day that Lewis’ widow, Mary Murdock Smith married William Burke, but she is listed on the marker as B. S.
It is possible that Jacob was buried next to Elizabeth when he died in 1903. There is room between Elizabeth and the two children for his grave.
The other marker at Kenner belongs to Emily Hobbs Bell Vanderpool and she was born November 26, 1830 in Alabama. Her first husband was Stephen Wesley Bell and their family was living in Wharton County in 1860. Their children were Stephen Wesley Bell, Catherine Elizabeth Bell, William Mathew Bell and Peter Edward Bell. Emily’s husband died in the mid 1860s and she married James Vanderpool in Matagorda County on June 12, 1866.
James Vanderpool was born in Kentucky about 1825. In 1860 he was living in the household of George Sargent at Kenner Prairie and was working as a laborer. In 1870, James, Emily and her four children were living on Matagorda Peninsula. James died about 1876 and his burial place is unknown. Emily was living at Kenner Prairie near Jacob Smith in 1880 with her children John (age 13), James (age 8) and Francis (age 4) Vanderpool and John (age 23) and Peter Bell (age 21).
Emily died October 27, 1891and was buried in the
Kenner Cemetery. The burial location of her husband, James Vanderpool is
Being about to set out on a journey to Texas, I deem it prudent to make this my last Will and testament.
I give and devise all the real and personal estate of which I shall have in Texas or elsewhere at my death, to my beloved Wife Charlotte L. Kenner to be disposed of as she shall think proper for her own benefit and to descend to her heirs unless otherwise disposed of after paying all of my just debts and the sums I owe Emely and Margaret Jones, her daughters of whom I am guardian. And I hereby appoint my Wife sole executrix of this my last Will and testament, and I desire that when she shall take out Letters testamentary, that the court shall require no security from her.
This is the only Will I have ever made. In witness whereof I have hereto set my hand and seal this 17th day of September 1846.
Signed sealed and acknowledged to be the last Will and testament of the testator before us John McLane, S. B. McLean, M. M. Burton.
The United States. Personally appeared before the undersigned a justice of the supreme sourt of the United Sates Sarah B. McLean and M. M. Burton two of the Witnesses to the within will who being duly sworn say that they saw the testator sign seal and acknowledge the above Will, and that at the time he declared it to be his last will and testament, and that he was of sound mind and memory at the time, in every respect his health was good.
S. B. McLean
Sworn and subscribed before me this 1st day of November 1852.
Recorded 29th day of December 1852.
Copyright 2006 -
Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
Jan. 15, 2006
Feb. 1, 2012