Robertson County" is a collection of interesting facts concerning the
earliest settlements in Robertson County. Although all traces
of these early towns no longer exist, their memory is honored and
preserved with Texas Historical Markers. This booklet is
published as a special edition for the 1975 Robertson County Springtime
Pilgrimage and in celebration of the bicentennial year.
59 05 N / -96 42 26 W
(two miles west of
Calvert on FM 979 to CR 116)
Texas historic marker
reads: "Burial place of some
400 Texas pioneers and descendants. On land granted (1835) to A. J.
Webb; bought in 1850 by Judge Robert Calvert, a civic leader in
Sterling, a town named for empresario Sterling C. Robertson. Calvert
dedicated 11.1-acre cemetery and built adjacent Cumberland Presbyterian
Church of his own plantation timber. In 1867, Judge Calvert died and
was buried near cemetery gate. The church building was moved by oxen to
new town of Calvert (2 mi. E). In 1868, his wife, Mary Keesee Calvert,
and their three daughters deeded cemetery site to the Cumberland
east side of the Little Brazos River, where the bottom land blends into
upland, was once a famous Robertson County settlement. In the
1850s, the place had three saloons, a blacksmith shop, two livery
stables, a post office, two churches, a Masonic Lodge, and several
The village was
for Sterling Clack Robertson, the empressario of the upper colony, who
made his home at Old Nashville across the Brazos in Milam
County. The town was a short distance west of Calvert when
the boom town came into existence. Its story includes the
first citizens of the railroad city that rose to fame between 1869 and
Among the early
at Sterling were: J. S. McLendon, who operated the largest
store in the village; Robert Calvert, a distinguished planter; Jared
Steele, a graduate of Yale University; W. P. Townsend, a Civil War
hero; and J. D. Herndon, a Virginian who came to Texas in 1857 and
remained at Sterling until he died in 1881.
James and Thomas
were respected planters in the area. Charles P. Salter
developed a large farm near Sterling in 1853 and later served in the
state legislature. Joseph A. Foster, the brother of Harry
Foster who developed a fine plantation on Lucky Ridge west of the
Brazos, moved to Sterling from Port Sullivan when he was a young
man. He worked in Jared Steel's store for a time and became
famous in the area as a violinist. Foster married Mary
Thomason and the couple raised nine children there and in
Calvert. Their children were: Pearl, Innie, Josie, Jesse, Al,
May, Iogene, Ruth, and Hubert Foster.
John H. Drennan, a
twice-wounded Civil War veteran, came to Sterling in 1858, at the age
of nineteen. After the war, he married the daughter of J. T.
Garrett and remained at Sterling until 1868, when he built a home in
Calvert. In later years, the Drennans sold much of their land
to J. H. Gibson, who brought his family to central Texas from the Texas
coast in the 1870s.
The Jared Steele
was a general meeting place in the village where Joe Foster and A. H.
Allen joined with the proprietor to practice the musical numbers they
played for local dances and celebrations. When a young men,
Steele came to Texas from Virginia and worked for a time at Post
Sullivan. His wife was Eliza Foster and their six children
were: Leila, who later married Peter C. Gibson; Sally, who
became the wife of C. P. Briggs; Louise, who became Mrs. Spencer
Meredith; Ida, who married W. A. Smith of Ohio. Their two
sons were Henry & Eugene Steele.
Jared Steele was
educated man on considerable influence in the area where he
lived. During the Civil War, he was a captain and served
valiantly until he became ill with pneumonia. He never
recovered from his illness and spent the last few years of his life
seeking relief from the resulting tuberculosis. His wife died
in 1874 and was buried at Sterling. Thereafter, Steele sought
to carry his children to West Virginia to live with his
mother. Before reaching his destination, he was confined to
bed in Sedalia, Missouri, where he died on May 3, 1875. Five
of his children except Ida, returned to Robertson County in later
years. Steele's body was later returned to Texas and buried
in the family plot at Sterling.
In 1853, James
then forty-eight years of age, brought his wife Hanna Herring Talbot,
and their children to his farm near Sterling. Talbot was a
distinguished man; a Mason and a Baptist. He was also a man
of strong family ties. He had four brothers and two
sisters. One sister was Mrs. John Harvey, who had been killed
by Indians in 1836.
Ann Harvey Briggs
her husband Sanders Briggs, were with the Talbots. They later
built a home on land near the scene of the brutal massacre.
The Briggs and Talbot homes were frequently used by settlers as a place
of worship. On occasion, traveling ministers held services
there. The famous preacher, Z. N. Morrell counted the Talbots
and Briggs among the most faithful worshippers of that time.
Talbot's son, was twenty years of age when they moved to Robertson
County and lived on the family plantation until the time of his death
in 1895. Roe Talbot served as a scout and spy under General
Ben McCulloch during the Civil War. In 1864, he organized a
company to fight against federal forces invading Louisiana.
After surrender in 1865, he returned to the family plantation where his
father had died three years before. Roe and Nannie Wood
Talbot were survived by three sons, Frank, Aaron, and James
Talbot. A fourth son died in 1894.
the Little Brazos Valley in 1850. His plantation, one of the
first in the state, was a show place for new settlers.
Calvert and his wife both died in 1867. They were buried in
the family cemetery at Sterling. The cemetery with its stone
markers is all that remains to identify the town that flourished
between 1850 and 1869.
The village was
a mile south of the scene of the Harvey massacre in 1836, east of the
old Black Bridge and Sneed's Chapel, and across the river from Port
Sullivan, the town from which many of its citizens came. The
people of Sterling, like those at Sullivan's Bluff, had hopes for the
survival of their hometown in the mid 1860s. The thought was
that their towns would grow and prosper when the railroad reached them.
When the railroad
extended from Hearne, the line was placed two miles east of
Sterling. So, the people of the little village simply moved
to the terminus point and built a new town. The exodus was
complete. Churches, stores, lodges, and shops were moved to
the new boom town. In time, proud little Sterling declined in
population and importance. The village continued to serve
farm families until after the turn of the century. Its day,
however, was over and fewer people frequented its stores.
In its heyday,
was the most prominent freight station north of the Old San Antonio
Road. From 1852 until long after the Civil War, many
thousands of bales of cotton were shipped from the area to distant
places. It was from Sterling and its surrounding fields that
Andrew Knapp loaded cotton on great ox-wagons to be hauled to Mexico to
exchange for gold and machinery for the Confederacy. There,
Confederate soldiers serving in the home guard camped to protect the
planters and to guard the wagon trains sent out from the valley.
The village was a
of business and social life for a large population of planters and
cattlemen. It was a lively place that provided entertainment
for all. The churches had revivals and camp
meetings. Dances were held often. The Masonic Lodge
drew members from distant communities. In the fall, there
festivals attended by lading and gentlemen who came in the best
clothing of that period. There were buggies from plantation
homes, even the vis-a-vis-park carriage, which was occupied by four
persons facing one another, while the driver, a trusted Negro servant,
sat on the elevated front seat.
The last quarter
nineteenth century, from 1875 until 1900, was a period of great
economic growth. The establishment of towns along railways
reduced the rural population. It was in that time that the
great bottom lands of Robertson County were operated by planters who
rode out to farm lands to supervise their operations. It was
in that time, too, that small farmers moved into the area.
In the 1890s and
following decade, the great Brazos Valley suffered from storms,
drought, and floods. Old homes, stores, and landmarks were
reduced to rubble. In time, nothing was left of the town that
sheltered the first planters in the Little Brazos Valley. The
first telling blow may well have been the yellow fever epidemic of
1867. The building of Calvert drew families from the valley
and the great floods and storms at the turn of the century reduced it
further. Finally, the town disappeared, leaving not a trace
of its existence. The lonely cemetery where the dead were
buried is in a pasture; many of the headstones cannot be
reach. Some, however, still stand as a memorial to the town
and its distinguished citizenry.