The following pages of this booklet are copied from the original Minute Book of the Trespalacios Baptist Church, once located in the old Deming’s Bridge Cemetery, on the east bank of the Tres Palacios Creek, two miles east of Blessing, in the Thomas Jamison League, Matagorda County, Texas. The Minutes recorded Services, Conferences, Protracted Meetings, deaths of Members or their Dismissions, or Exclusions from the Church, from July 4th, 1852, to September, 1891—and a “crossed out report” at the end, dated May, 1892. During the early nineties, the Methodists also used these church buildings, and their members were the nucleus of the present Methodist Church in Midfield.
The original minute book was given to Mrs. Abel B. Pierce of Blessing, by Abraham Bradburn Smith of Midfield. “Ham” Smith as he was affectionately known in this locality, was the brother of William Henry Smith, mail carrier of Blessing Texas. They were both sons of the John Bradburn Smith, president at that first meeting in 1852, acted Daniel M. Wheeler home, located farther south down the river.
You will note that the names of Daniel M. Wheeler, Horace Yeamans, John Smith, Robert Partain, and John Moore appear most frequently throughout the pages, in the fine Spencerian handwriting of Horace Yeamans, Church Clerk,-- telling the story of their earnest Christian work over this period of forty years. All of the other names appearing on these pages, and index, have many descendents in Matagorda County, as well as in other parts of Texas.
This Tres Palacios Baptist Church was located in the old Deming’s Bridge Cemetery-- so named because of its proximity to the Deming’s Bridge built for the early settlers to cross the river at this point, by a Mr. Edwin Demings who was the first postmaster of the Deming’s Bridge postoffice-- one of the oldest in Matagorda County. All of their baptizings took place in the river, near this bridge, which was located on the north side of the present big drainage ditch-- and the north boundary line of the present Hawley Cemetery. The last of the old piers of this ancient bridge, washed away only a few years ago.
We want to note here, that on the north line of the Jamison League, is located the John Partain League, where another small, private family burial place can be seen from the road-- in the pasture now belonging to Walter Skutca. The old Partain home was located between Mr. Skutca’s home and the river bank.
The original holdings of the Trespalacios Baptist Church-- or Deming's Bridge-- or Hawley Cemetery-- was deeded to the three Trustees of the Trespalacios Baptist Church-- Daniel M. Wheeler, Horace Yeamans, and Samuel Pilkington, on August 17th, 1854 (Deed recorded Book I, Page 68). This gift consisted of two acres out of a tract of 300 acres acquired by Norman Savage from his father, Emelius Savage by Deed dated January 3rd, 1838. Emelius Savage obtained this tract from Thomas Jamison, Oct. 24th, 1838 (of record in Book C, pages 329-331, deed Records of Matagorda County). Mr. Jamison had of course acquired the land from the Mexican Government. Norman Savage’s Witness[es] to the last deed were James H. Selkirk, Clerk of the County Court, and D. E. E. Brannan [Braman].
Jonathan Edwards Pierce followed his older brother, Abel Head (Shanghai) Pierce to Texas from Little Compton, Rhode Island, in 1858. After working for B. W. Grimes as cow-hands for two or three years, both brothers joined the Confederate Army. At war’s end they returned to the Grimes place and started in buying land whenever they could. One of John's first pieces was the Jamison League, where he built his home “Rancho Grande”-- a large, strongly built two and a half story house with galleries around the house on both floors, many fire-places, and a “look-out tower” with eight windows in it, perched on the very top of the highest pitch of the roof. A one-storied wing was attached at the rear of the house. A lengthy white picket fence separated the house from the pastures around it, and this pasture in turn was enclosed by thirty-five miles of Cherokee Rose Hedge.
This home, located a short distance south of the present Hawley Cemetery, was burned to the ground in 1902-- with only one of the old red barns still remaining-- standing off to the north. Mr. Carl Jensen owns the place now.
In 1865, “Shanghai” Pierce married Francis Lacy and in 1866, John married Nannie Lacy. Jane Lacy married Joseph Pybus and their Pybus Ranch was located below the Grimes Ranch on the Tres Palacios. Later they moved to Palacios and lived in their large two-storied home. Their children were Lacy Pybus and Miss Nannie Pybus-- among several other children. Louise, Mrs. Carlton Crawford, is there grand daughter. Jane and Joseph are buried in the Pybus plot in Palacios. John and Chloe Pybus interred at Hawley were related because Joseph and John were brothers--and several Pybus women from Old Caney Church, joined the Tres Palacios Baptist Church in the early 1860’s.
The mother of the Lacy girls was Sarah Bright, daughter of David Bright, one of Austin’s “First 300” colonists. Sarah first married Eli Hunter (also a colonist) and had one daughter Lavinia Hunter who later became the wife of Daniel M. Wheeler and lived in the old Wheeler home down the river “a piece” from Deming's Bridge Cemetery. Eli Hunter are buried in the are buried in the died, and his widow Sarah, then married John McCrosky (another colonist) and a son of this marriage lived. John McCrosky, Sr., had taken into his leather business (making saddles for the army) at Columbus, Colorado County, a new-comer from Tennessee in 1830, one William D. Lacy, as his partner. In poor health for some time, John McCrosky died, and William Lacy then bought his widow's share of the business. Later on (1832) William married Sarah. They had a son Richard, and three daughters, Frances, Nancy, and Sara Jane.
William Lacy took part in the ferment for freedom from Mexico and was one of the “Signers” of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Columbus was selected as the County Seat of Colorado County (established at the same time as Washington County) by Eli Mercer, Robert Brotherton, and William D. Lacy in 1836. Not too many years after this, Williams health failed, and Sarah took him and her children back to Paducah, Kentucky, where William died in 1848. Sarah did not return to Texas at once and we do not hear much of her until she entered the Trespalacios Baptist Church in 1857 with her daughters and “Letters” for Membership from the Baptist Church of Spring Bayou, McCracken County, Kentucky.
The Lacy tract of land on the east bank of the Tres Palacios river, later became a part of the Wheeler land, and 21 graves of the Wheelers and a few other slaves are buried there, not far from where the old Wheeler home stood.
The Wheeler home, was the opening scene of the organization of the church contained in these Minutes. Sarah Bright, Mother of Lavinia Hunter Wheeler (wife of Daniel), was buried farther up the river on the J. E. Pierce and Nannie Lacy Pierce Ranch (just below the old cotton gin). In this small fenced enclosure is a large granite marker with the following inscription:
These notes have digressed somewhat, in order to show the background history of a few families concerned in this Minute Book.
In 1893, John E. Pierce gave another acre and a half of ground adjoining the original two acres from Norman Savage. His wife, Nannie Lacy and other members of the Trespalacios Baptist Church and Methodist Church members, then built the last church, with the final decision that it might be used by any church denomination. Nannie Pierce died in 1896. This newest church was used for many years but was finally abandoned-- fell into decay, with many things being stolen out of it--and it was finally torn down (about 1937) by Nannie’s daughter, Pearl Pierce Smith, because no one would help her in keeping up the repairs.
Prior to this last church building, and presumably before the big 1875 storm when their old frame church (built 1854) blew down-- John Pierce and his Masonic brothers belonging to the old Texana Lodge in Jackson County, decided to have their own Lodge in Matagorda County, and on the church and cemetery grounds on the Pierce Ranch. The Masons used the upper floor for their hall, and the church used the first floor until the last church was finished. After the town of Blessing was started his Masonic Hall was moved into Blessing, where it still stands. Out at Hawley Cemetery, three huge old Live Oak trees mark the place where the hall once stood.
The change-over in name from “The Deming’s Bridge Cemetery” to the present “Hawley Cemetery” by Jonathan E. Pierce, occasioned quite a stir about 1897 or ’98. The graves and spread out from their original two acre plot--onto his land, even beyond the extra acre and a half he had added to Norman Savage’s gift indeed--and it never occurred to him at first, that the public would mind the change. He renamed the Deming's Bridge Cemetery the “Hawley Cemetery” in honor of his friend, Texas Senator Hawley, who had given John’s youngest son Abel a Navy Appointment--when Abel wanted to get into the Spanish-American war. In 1913, two years before John E. Pierce died, his two daughters, Pearl Pierce Smith and Grace Pierce Heffelfinger, joined him in a gift deed to the Hawley Cemetery of 13 acres at the time they sold the Jamison League to the Ward Cattle Company. So whether the present cemetery contains 13 acres, or 16 ½ acres is a moot question; as John never owned the first two acres, it being deeded to the first church before John came to Texas. John then gave the 1 ½ acres just before the last church was constructed. Then he gave 13 acres before he sold to the Wards. (Recorded Volume 44, Page 589).
Many of us recall the unkept condition of Hawley Cemetery most of the time in years gone by. A few families going out occasionally and cleaning off their own graves-- but leaving the majority of the graves uncared for-- until the place seem to be covered neck-high with dewberry brambles, weeds and grass, among the old tumbled-down individual wooden or wire fences scattered throughout the cemetery. Among the families who tried to clean up the entire cemetery were Susan Kuykendall and her daughter, Mrs. Ella K. Dunn, and Mrs. Allen J. Smith of Philadelphia. After the death of Dr. Allen J. Smith, his wife Pearl Pierce Smith came back south to live at Live Oak Farm in the early 1930’s. Hiring men to do the work, with several members of other families aiding her, the entire grounds were clean.
The old bridge over the north gulley which was the entrance from the old Deming's Bridge road, with a broad gate at the entrance for vehicles, and a stile over the fence for people to walk over if they did not want to use the gate--was all removed as the bridge had rotted and was no longer safe to drive over. A new gate and later a cattle guard was added on the east line of the cemetery--just where it is now. The fence lines were established according to the last Pierce deed in 1913 and had never been changed-- except when the A. H. Pierce Estate renewed all of the fences and had to move the north line in a little because of erosion of the north drainage ditch.
The cemetery owned from the river's edge on their west line, down their south fence line to the southeast corner where a rose hedge used to be--thence north where the present east fence and gate is located. Parts of both south and north fences have been removed in order to allow cattle to graze across the lower west end--with a south to north fence protecting the higher land of the cemetery.
Returning to the big cleaning of the over-grown cemetery in the 1930’s--a wind came up--spreading the fire from piles of burning leaves, moss, and branches, until practically the whole cemetery was ablaze-- burning down the remains of old wooden and wire individual fences before it could be controlled by the workers. Mrs. Smith was so depressed by this fire and the loss of wooden markers, that she had made around eighty concrete oblong blocks, and had them placed at the head of every grave they could locate. With few exceptions, these graves, while numbered and platted on the cemetery maps and listed by grave numbers in our index file boxes, are still of unknown names. These are said to be several graves of colored servants in the northwest corner as well as the grave of a sister of Jean La Fitte’s.
At the death-bed request of Pearl Pierce Smith in 1939, the families and friends of persons buried at Hawley, organized themselves into the “Hawley Cemetery Association” for the up-keep of the cemetery. The Association obtained its Charter, had the cemetery surveyed by John Rother, Matagorda County Surveyor, maps made with all graves marked on it, and file these items in Austin, as well as in Matagorda County Court House in 1940. The Association has hired a care-taker for the past twenty years to keep the grass cut and the cemetery clean.
In mentioning the old, private burial places along the Tres Palacios, Cash’s and Juanita Creeks, we want to add the family burial place of Fritz Cornelius, a Methodist donor to the last church, and father of a large family, who came here from Europe about 1870. This cemetery is just out of Midfield, on Juanita Creek.
On the west banks of the Tres Palacios Creek, just north of the underpass on Highway No. 85, is the old Duffy place. The original owner was a Mr. Green. His daughter first married a Murry and had two sons. After Murry died, his widow married August Duffy and several children were added to the family: among them was John Duffy who later bought the home place. John and his wife are now buried at Hawley, but there are three grades out under the trees some distance behind the old Duffy home--the graves of Grandma Duffy's two husbands, Mr. Murray and August Duffy, and their small daughter. Grandmother Duffy is buried in the El Campo cemetery in her son George's plot.
Farther down the river on the west bank, is the beautiful old lott of the Grimes and Poole families--well fenced and with many headstones--even including their old and faithful servants, Jake and Patience, mentioned in the Minutes. Tom Poole of Bay City is keeping up this cemetery.
On the Collegeport road just off Highway 35 to Palacios (FM Road 521) is the present Frank Stallard place. This was the original 1844 home of Horace and Eliza Yeamans mentioned in the Minutes. Her death is told of, Aug. 22, 1859 (age 32 years) and from her descendants we learn that she was buried in a small family plot just below the present home-- which was the last Yeamans’ home west of Cash’s Creek. Two other graves are nearby--probably a son and a grand-daughter. (Her husband Horace was interred at the old Matagorda Cemetery). Two log houses preceded the present house on this location on Cash’s Creek.
Mollie Wheeler Bell of Palacios, once related that the Daniel M. Wheelers, John Moores, and possibly others, left the Trespalacios Baptist Church about 1892-- moved to Stockdale, Texas, and died there. Anyone knowing of any other final resting places of these old church members, please write to our contact Mrs. A. B. Pierce, Sr., of Blessing, so that we can add to our records-- far from complete right now. We especially would like information (from hearsay of course) about the first old log church at the Deming's Bridge Cemetery. Clay McSparran, years ago, told us of one or possibly two, out there located on a three-acre tract that the Savages gave for a cemetery before the 1854 gift of two acres to build the frame church on. In the Minutes back in 1852, “the Door of the Church was opened” is related at each meeting-- so we know this must have been the old log church.
We are indebted for historical information to many persons, including the following list of descendents of early settlers: the Hamilton Rhodes, the Will Kellers, the Chas. Yeamans, the Logans, the Wheelers, the Pooles, Pierces, Smiths, Cornelius, Foster, Louderback, Moores, Crawfords, Sanfords, Heffelfinger, McCrosky, Dawdy, Blackburn, Murphy, Sheerer, Jordan, McSparran, Partains and Kuykendalls.
The Hawley Cemetery Association (P. O. address Blessing, Texas) has hired a man to maintain the grounds of this beautiful and peaceful old place for the past twenty years by free-will contributions from a few members. It is to be hoped that the relatives who are not contributing, will see fit to pay their share of the upkeep of the four hundred and thirty-nine graves in this last resting place of their dear ones.
The present Officers and Board of Directors (1959-60) of the Hawley Cemetery Association are Miss Margaret Holsworth, Mrs. John Merck, and Mr. Dean Merck of Collegeport; Mrs. Otto Rasmunson and Mrs. Wm. Taylor of Clemville; Mr. H. E. Powell, Mrs. V. C. Murphy, Mr. Elmer Cornett, Mr. Herman Jaeger, Mr. Bert Logan, Mr. Victor Zemanek of Blessing; Mr. John Domorad, Mrs. Anna Sheerer, of Palacios; Mr. Earl Sirmon of Markham. Officers, Mrs. Abel B. Pierce, Sr., President; Mr. Lee M. Pierce, Vice-President; Mr. Steve Rickaway, Grounds Manager, all of Blessing; Mrs. R. B. (Bob) Trull Margaret Sanford) of Palacios, Secretary-Treasurer.
Annual meetings of the Association are held in the Blessing Community House at 7:30 P. M. on the second Monday night in May. This year (1960) it will be on May 9th.
Sincere thanks are
due Margaret Holsworth, Ellna Anderson and Vivian Osgood for typing,
proofreading and suggestions. A. H. P.
Horace Yeamans, Sr., born 1811 in New York State, arrived in Matagorda County, Texas, 1829, with Stephen F. Austin’s Latorial Colony, died at age of 93, in 1904 at Matagorda, Texas, and is buried in Cemetery at Matagorda.
He was married to Eliza Baxter on May 11, 1844, in said County (see Marriage Records Book A, Page 25). Six children were born to this union, namely: (1) B. A. Ben Yeamans, (2) Daniel Yeamans, (3) Horace Yeamans (Jr.), (4) Margaret (Maggie) Yeamans, wife of Charles D. Bruce, (5) Annie Yeamans, wife of R. L. O’Neal, and (6) Sarah (Sallie) Yeamans, wife of Charles C. Smith. All now deceased (1960).
Eliza Baxter Yeamans, died in Matagorda County, Texas, (age 32) in 1859, August 22 (according to the MINUTES) and is buried in a small Family Cemetery on Cash’s Creek, the old Horace Yeamans home (now the Frank Stallard place).
Sr., served in the War against Mexico in the Army of the Republic of
Texas, for which service he was granted Land Script. His “Headright”
or 1/3 League of Land was located on the Waters of Cash’s Creek, in
Matagorda County. After some delay this land was patented in his
name as “H. Yeamans Survey, Abstract #416, in the year 1841. This
became the H. Yeamans family Homestead. 295 acres of this survey is
still in the Yeamans name and is owned by four of the Original
Patentee’s Grandsons, namely, L. O. Yeamans, Eugene N. Yeamans,
Charles V. Yeamans, and Victor Horace Yeamans.
Copyright 2011 -
Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
Jun. 10, 2011
Jun. 10, 2011