Robertson County TX

 
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TXGenWeb Robertson County Books & Master's Theses

G H O S T   T O W N S   O F   R O B E R T S O N   C O U N T Y

See also Ghostly Haunts Collection

"Ghost Towns Of 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.

-- Mrs. Katherine Galloway

Sterling

30 59 05 N / -96 42 26 W
(two miles west of Calvert on FM 979 to CR 116)
TopoZone Map

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 Presbyterians." (#10950/1973)

Sterling, located on the 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 general stores.

The village was named 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 1876.

Among the early settlers 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 Webb 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 Store 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 an 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 Talbot, 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 and 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.

Romanus Talbot, James 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.

Robert Calvert came to 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 located 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 was 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, Sterling 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 center 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 of the 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 in the 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.

 

 

 

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Page Modified: 17 August 2014

   

 


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