In the Prairie Point Cemetery
near the Bazette area north of
Kerens, Texas, Navarro County, TX, there is a broken monument which
assures us that Zachariah Westbrook was born in Chester District, South
Carolina on December 25, 1809, was married January 8, 1835, and died
February 1, 1878.
Behind this factual bit of
information lies a typical, yet interesting story of a large pioneer
family who followed a path of migration in the search for new and better
land. Apparently, Navarro County proved to be a bit of the
"promised land", for this family settled down and added their story to
the maturing of the county.
Zachariah was the third son of
Jarrett and Lucy (Blake) Westbrook. Sometime between 1801 and
1809, Jarrett left Virginia to live in Chester District, South Carolina.
Jarrett's father had been John Westbrook whose will is found in the
Southhampton County, Virginia Will Book 11, p. 659. John's other
children were Zachariah, Betsy, and Dolly. This earlier Zachariah
is believed to have also migrated from Virginia to South Carolina and
remained there. There is some indication that the above John
fought in the revolution, but there remains much possibility for
additional work on this family in Virginia and before.
Below, for your speculation
and enjoyment, is offered a version of a story which has been passed
down in the family:
had served in the Revolutionary War. While on picket duty during
the Revolution he shot and killed what was supposed to be the "old white
sow" which was in the habit of going the rounds of the patriot camps
daily. The post he was placed on to guard was an unlucky one,
three men having been shot and killed there while on picket. He
was instructed to hail any object approaching him three times, and then
shoot if no answer came. When the old "sow" approached him,
grunting along, he hailed it three times and then fired, and the "sow"
jumped up and ran only a short way before falling over a log, and the
next morning when the officer of the guard went to inspect the spot he
found a dead Englishman and his gun lying there. The gun was taken
home by Mr. Westbrook, and handed down to his posterity and finally came
into the possession of John Westbrook (Note: John Wesley Westbrook who
was the son of Zachariah) who brought it to Texas, and during the Civil
War the gun was remodeled as a muzzle loader and carried to the front by
a Confederate soldier. (Another source states that the gun was lost at
that time.)) "See John
Westbrook Gun Story"
Obviously, positive proof of
this story is lacking, and as one descendant observed to me, "it sounds
pretty far fetched to me as I feel sure a British soldier would have
used better judgment than use a hog costume any were near Washington's
camp where it was well known a shortage of food existed".
Jarrett and Lucy Westbrook's
children, along with Zachariah, included John (b. 1797 Va.), William (b.
1801 Va.), Samuel, Middleton, and James (b. 1812 Va. - d. 1892 Monroe
Tradition tells us that
Zachariah moved to the Aberdeen area near the Tombugby River, Monroe
County Mississippi as a young man and bought land from the Indians.
It also tells us that he returned to South Carolina and married Mary
Agnew, daughter of George Agnew. In any event, at some period
before 1840, he, his parents, and all of his brothers settled in Monroe
In 1852, a time when
immigrants were pouring into Texas, Zachariah and his brothers John and
William and their families crossed the Trinity. One story tells us
that a large number of wagons came together -- all bearing Westbrooks
and their "kin". There is a possibility that some members of the
family came and then returned to Mississippi.
His brother John (m. Jane
Jackson) settled in Ellis County near Village Creek and the Trinity
River (5 or 6 miles above Porters Bluff). They had ten children;
James Turner, Jackson W. (m. Becky Bollware), William (unmarried),
Henry, Reuben (unmarried), David (moved to Grayson County), Elizabeth
(m. Benjamine Sands - lived around Chatfield, Navarro County), Lucy Jane
(m. John Westbrook -- no relation -- called "Mexican John"), Jemimiah
(unmarried), and (?) Ann (m. Mr. Brock or Brook).
William settled 8 miles south
of Chatfield near the
Trinity River and is buried with his wife in unmarked graves near the
old "homesite". William was married to Margaret (called Peggy)
Agnew who was a sister to Zachariah's wife Mary (called Polly).
Their children were Joshua (m. Lucinda Frazier - moved to Houston
County), John, Jarrett, Wesley, George William, James Henry, Zachariah
(d. Mississippi), Lucy, and Mary.
In 1855 Zachariah and William,
along with three other men, founded the Prairie Point Methodist Church.
The fact that they were naming their children "Wesley" would indicate
they had been Methodist at least back in Mississippi. Zachariah
donated the land for the church and the cemetery. The original
church was built around 1860, and the
cemetery appears to
have been first used in 1871.
Zachariah bought land in the
Henry Brown survey. As the children married, they too settled
nearby; and the family eventually owned a substantial amount of land in
the area. This became known as "the Westbrook neighborhood".
On what is suppose to have been the original home site, there remains
today a house which is said to encompass the original log cabin.
One wonders at the problems
they faced; isolation was surely one. An old history book tells us
that in 1853 there was a serious plague of grasshoppers in Navarro
County and that the prairie fires were always a serious threat.
Certainly there were personal trials such as a period ca.
1862-1872 which included the loss of our of their gown children, as well
as other relatives; a period which also included the civil war.
Before the war, the family
maintained a "plantation" type operation. They farmed and raised
stock. They apparently took pride in their horses. Zachariah
was one of the early cotton raisers of the county and the owner of the
first reaper operated in the county. They had some type of
cotton gin and also made their own brick. Zachariah owned two
wagons made of bois d'arc wood, a wood said to have made stronger wagons
than oak. They would haul eight or ten bales of cotton to Houston
and buy supplies for the coming year.
Zachariah's son James Nelson
as well as William's sons George William and James Henry were killed in
Virginia fighting for the Confederacy. Zachariah's sons John and
George Middleton (having run away from home to join) also served in the
civil war. History tells us that in Texas, the people had a worse
time dirig the reconstruction era than during the war. The
Chatfield area was a "hotbed" of rebellion. Family tradition tells
us that some members of the family sustained serious difficulties with
the federal troops which were stationed in Chatfield.
Mary (b. S.C. Oct. 20, 1813 -
d. May 25, 1896) and Zachariah's children were: 1. John Wesley
(1837-1916) m. Drucilla Sanders; 2. Lucy J. (1838-1862) m. Joseph B. H.
Sessions; 3. James Nelson (1840-1863); 4 Mary (1841-1873) m. (1) Jeptha
Sessions, (2) William Turner Garner; 5. George Middleton (1844-1925) m.
(1) Emma Hunt, (2) Mary E. Morgan; 6. Margaret E. (1846-1886) m. P. A.
Peck; 7. Christina (1848-1923) m. James H. Holland; 8. Penninnah
(1852-1934) m. (1) Thomas C. Banks, (2) Sterling Carpenter; 9.
Zachariah, Jr. (1855-1870); 10. Robert Payne (1856-1899) m. Sarah
Frances Posey. All of the above with the exception of Lucy and Zachariah
Jr. (who are buried at Chatfield) and James Nelson (who was killed in
Va.) are buried in the Prairie Point Cemetery.
In no way is this to be
considered a definitive study and no effort has been made to touch upon
later descendants of this family. It is an area which would be
worth investigation; and I would be glad to exchange information with
A debt of gratitude is owed to
the following people, as well as others, who have collected and shred
information on this family; Mrs. Reed Albritton, Mrs. William Albritton,
Mr. Harlan Banks, and Mrs. Mike Hairgrove.
Written and submitted by: Jean
Westbrook Gibbons and Ellie Funk.