By L. P. Hodge
Originally published in "The Navarro County Scroll", 1956
Reprinted with permission of the Navarro County Historical Society
There are six Chatfields located in North
America: Chatfield, Texas; Chatfield, Minnesota; Chatfield Ohio; Chatfield,
Arkansas; Chatfield, Oregon, and Chatfield, Manitoba. Chatfield Oregon,
has been discontinued as a post office. All of these Chatfields are named
for the descendants of a pioneer Scot-Irish family. I have been to every
one of these Chatfields except Chatfield, Ohio, and I expect to see it some day.
In Love's History of Navarro County we find
this comment: "Captain Robert Hodge, one of the first settlers had a
son R. L. Hodge who was born and died at the old home at Chatfield at the age of
Chatfield was a very important community
about the time of the Civil War, and it is particularly remembered by a man who
contributed his share to the Confederate Army. This man was B. F. Lisman
who operated a blacksmith shop at Chatfield, and he made such excellent sabers
for the Confederate soldiers that his daughter, Mrs. Joe Clayton, can show a
letter from the quartermaster saying that the Listman sabers were the best that
he had seen. Chatfield also had another excellent artisan in the person of
Bailey Crofford, who made excellent furniture of oak and walnut. It
still excels most of the furniture of modern times. No nails or screws
were used in it. B. F. Listman also made a steel plow that was one of the
first to take the blackland".
A good many doctors have practiced medicine
at Chatfield. Dr. Cage and Dr. James Cooksey both practiced in the fifties
and both died there about the close of the Civil War. Dr. Philips
practiced at Chatfield from 1858 to 1865. Dr. Norris Witherspoon practiced
medicine at Chatfield before the Civil War. Dr. Ford Witherspoon (Dr.
Norris's brother) came to Chatfield from Mississippi at the close of the Civil
War. He had been a surgeon in Stonewall Jackson's Brigade. He
married my father's sister. She did not live long and left a son, R. W.
Witherspoon, who was reared by my grand parents. He ran a store and gin at
Chatfield for fifty years. Dr. Ford Witherspoon moved to Corsicana in
about 1875 and practiced medicine there until his death in about 1892. Dr.
Williams Pannill (my mother's brother) began practicing medicine at Chatfield in
1878 and practiced there until 1895 when he moved to Corsicana. Dr.
Truscott practiced medicine in Chatfield from 1895 to 1899. He moved to
Indian Territory. His son, Gen L. K. Truscott was born in Chatfield in
1896. Dr. J. S. Daniels practiced medicine in Chatfield from 1897 to 1914,
when he moved to Corsicana. Doctors Norris and Ford Witherspoon, William
Pannill and J. S. Daniels all had a large practice in Corsicana and were well
Before the Civil War Chatfield had an academy
and young people from miles around came there to school. John Ballew
(father of the late W. W. Ballew) was head master from 1854 to about 1865.
Professor Bacon was also head master for several years. Excellent
subscription schools were headed by Hon. B. F. Marchbanks (married my father's
sister) Prof. Johnson and Captain Harris. When the public school system
was established after 1876 Chatfield was old District No. 1 in Navarro County.
In 1896 the Elizabeth Institute was established (Named for my grandmother who
gave 10 acres of land for it).
Some able educators were connected with this
institution as Captain Harris, J. W. Nix, Charlie Goree, S. E. Gedian, and J. T.
Some of the other families that settled in
Chatfield before the Civil War were the Spurlins, Sessions, Jeffers, Scogins,
Grahams, Claytons, Lockharts, Westbrooks, Ransons, Browns, Poitevents, Bartlet,
Haneys, Fortsans, Gogans, Sands and Kinners. Henry Griggs came during the
Some of the families that came after the
Civil War were the McMullins, Thorps, Monforts, Merediths, Mizells, Holseys, and
Edwards and McCants.
The following is a news clipping from
Corsicana Observer Friday April 29, 1881:
A large group of men from Chatfield have been on a big deer hunt in Trinity
River bottom. They were having lots of fun, seated around the camp
fire not thinking of retiring until past midnight. The jug was passed
frequently around, while some were playing Euchre most of them were listening to
Major McMullen a veteran of the Seminole War, and Col. Henderson a survivor of
the Battle Creek Indian fight tell of their bravery in meeting Indians.
Some of the men had slipped away from the party and gave the war whoop firing
over the heads of the party, cutting off leaves and branches. Cards were
scattered, jugs were kicked over, men rolled and tumbled. The Major and
the Colonel went off on their all fours. After they got on their feet it
was hard to catch them and harder to convince them that it was not Indians but
members of their own party that caused the disturbance. Since their return
from the hunt, the Major and Colonel have had very little to say bout the Indian
GENTS, AN EX-SLAVE as told by L. P. Hodge to
Mrs. Caroline Gray.
This is the story of Gents, a negro who belongs to Captain Hervey's wife, who
was a niece of grandmother Hodge. She had inherited him from her father.
Gents was an intelligent negro, raised in religious and cultural atmosphere.
Gents was trained for a blacksmith and she kept him hired out to Squire Lisman,
a blacksmith who ran a wagon yard and blacksmith shop.
When Gents was emancipated he worked for
Squire Lisman. He joined the Freedman's Bureau and the Loyal League
and would go to Corsicana every Saturday evening to attend meetings with the
Scalawags and Carpetbaggers. He got very disrespectful and was a great
hand to say, "the bottom rail is on top now".
Grandfather gave Gents a good talking one day
and told him that someone was going to kill him and that the Confederate
soldiers were not going to put up with his insolence. He also told him
that he was not raised in that atmosphere and that he knew better than to run
around with Scalawags and trashy white folks.
Gents told grandfather, "moster, nobody
can hurt me. The whole Federal government is behind me".
My grandfather told him, "Gents, the
Federal Government is not going to get in bed with and sleep with you, and
someone is going to kill you if you don't mend your ways".
The next week Gents went to Corsicana on
Saturday evening as usual. He caroused all Saturday night at the
Freedman's Bureau with Yankee soldiers returning to Chatfield on Sunday evening.
He was driving a beautiful span of horses to a nice buggy. He was
well-groomed, wearing his stove pipe hat. His horses were flying
red, white and blue ribbons from their harness. About a mile from
Chatfield he ran into two white ladies, turned their buggy over, and kept
That night one of my grandfather's negroes,
Willis, was grooming his hair down at Gents' house. Three men were hiding
behind trees in front of Gents' house. They did not want to kill Willis,
so they waited until he went into the house to get a pan of water. Then
they filled Gents with buckshot and slugs. He died instantly.
My father was sitting with his parents in the
old home in the edge of Chatfield when this shot was fired. They spoke of
the terrible explosion, but during the conditions of the time, did not think
much of it. In a few minutes Willis broke into grandfather's room and fell
at his feet. My grandfather rebuked him saying, "Why are you coming
in the big house in this manner?"
All he could say was, "Gents shoot!
Grandfather sent Willis to the cabin, got his
hat and walked down to the Village. He returned in a few minutes stating
that Gents had been killed and he was afraid there would be trouble with the
Yankees about it.
The next day a company of Yankee soldiers
came out from Corsicana with fixed bayonets. They made lots of threats and
threatened to burn the village down, but the could get no information about who
had killed Gents. Long after the War it leaked out who did it. One
of the men was a church official.