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County Co-Coordinator is Jean Huot Smoorenburg
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Hearne in theory came into
existence, but nothing happened to make Hearne a reality until 1856
when the construction of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad
northward from Houston began. The railroad
was constructed to Millicaii where work was stopped by the outbreak of
the Civil War in 1861 and lagged there during the war and a few years
During this time,
Christopher Columbus Hearne died in 1867 and his estate became
considerably involved. The several
claimants of the Francisco Ruiz and Kennedy grants filed suits and
other friendly suits were filed by the Hearne relatives to establish
their claims. The Hearnes, you will
remember, had obtained their lands by contracts and not deeds. The heirs and assigns of John R. Cunningham,
who had been out of the picture since the original Francisco Ruiz
purchase by Morehouse and Cunningham came to life with their valid
claims and the courts were kept busy.
This was the situation when
the Houston & Texas Central Railroad Company finally resumed
construction and the railroad reached the site of the proposed town
site of Hearne. Colonel Charles Lewis,
acting with Mrs. Mary Ellen Hearne, widow of Christopher Columbus
Hearne, made good the original agreement with the railroad and executed
a deed to the railroad company for approximately seven hundred acres of
land for the town site.
When the railroad
construction actually was resumed and construction neared the proposed
town site, settlers began to locate and several business houses got in
on the ground floor to do business with the construction gangs. Charles Lewis 1,@ Son opened a general
merchandise store, Adams k Leonard, sons-in-law of Horatio Ransome
Hearne and Ebenezer Hearne. opened a private bank and later this firm
followed the railroad into Dallas. Jonathan
Gideon Wilkerson with Greenwood Brown, a local land owner, established
the general store of Brown & Wilkerson. This
firm was very active in business as well as in civic life in this
infant community. Jonathan Gideon
Wilkerson brought his young wife, the former Sara Wadsworth of
Matagorda, Texas, to Hearne on the first train on the new railroad that
went through to Calvert, and to this couple was later born the first
white child to claim Hearne nativity, Albert Wadsworth Wilkerson.
A lack of records and the
fact that those of this generation failed to obtain information from
older citizens has caused the loss of much valuable history in the case
of the lands located between Sutton and Wheelock. In
that section there are some old brick foundation which are supposed to
be the remains of some kind of factory. During
and prior to the Civil War a packery of considerable size operated a
few miles south of where Hearne was to be. In
this packery as many as 350 head of cattle were butchered and handled
in a day. The product was pickled beef
packed in barrels. There evidently was a
miscarriage in the formula for this process as one large European cargo
smuggled via Galveston went bad on the high seas and had to be
jettisoned; this sad occasion also jettisoned the packery.
With the coming of the
railroad, more farm lands were opened and industries in a small way
began to come into the frontier town of Hearne. The
railroad construction brought many workmen and a bit of a boom seemed
Practically all of the
railroad workmen were Irish paddies and the Roman Catholics established
a hospital here and arranged for church services for those of that
faith. There were quite a few Chinese
employed in the railroad construction work also. In
addition to the Roman Catholic services, the other scattered
denomination raised funds and built a Union Church building which was
also used as a school as the small settlement grew and prospered. This Union Church building was located on the
corner of Barton and Post Oak Streets and was later moved to the corner
of Magnolia and Davis Streets where it is still standing and is being
used as a home in 1958.
The trustees of the
railroad company had inherited something hot in accepting the town site
grant as the title to the railroad land was on the same basis as were
those of the Hearnes and other early land purchasers, and consequently,
the trustees were involved in a long series of suits.
During the time that the
Houston & Texas Central Railroad Company was involved in the land
suits, in 1870 another railroad company began negotiations for land
grants to enter this territory. Again,
Colonel Charles Lewis, acting for himself and other land owners, deeded
a tract of land of about seven hundred acres to the International &
Great Northern Railroad Company under conditions that the company would
have trains operating over the deeded land by January 1, 1872. The acceptance of this grant involved the new
company in the many title complexities of the Houston & Texas
Central Railroad Company, so the two railroads combined their legal
forces for the enormous job ahead. The two
railroad companies were successful in bringing about what is known as
the Railroad Compromise. This compromise
practically fixes all titles to that date for Hearne.
Only one other obstacle presented itself. The
son-in-law of Francisco Ruiz came to life and filed suit on all parties
involved in any of the Francisco Ruiz transactions.
The record of this suit seems to be a general quit claim deed
from Blas Herrera and wife to all parties for the sum of five hundred
dollars cash. After this round in the
courts, the two railroads then formed the New York and Texas Land
Company exchanging deeds for their grants, but in making the survey for
the addition to the Houston & Texas Central Railroad town the
surveyors must have gotten off just a bit with their surveying
instruments as the two surveys did not jive. On
Davis Street, where the two town sites join, the north and south
streets fail to meet by about fifty feet, this jog being very
The New York & Texas
Land Company donated ten acres for Norwood Cemetery and gave each
church denomination two corner lots of their own selection upon which
to build church buildings.
Now that Hearne had been
established and was on two major railroads, the town assumed the status
of the present day oil boom. Since the new
railroad, the International & Great Northern crossed the Houston
& Texas Central Railroad about one mile north of the original depot
and business district, these sites being located along Market Street
between Barton and Anderson Streets on the west side of the Houston
& Texas Central Railroad, it was a matter of a short time until the
new business section was at the intersection of the two railroads. The time element was working against the
agreement of the International & Great Northern Railroad Company
and citizens that had made land grants; so with the use of the friendly
services of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad Company, supplies
were brought into Hearne and building on the International & Great
Northern Railroad, under the direction of Colonel Hoxie, was pushed
both ways from Hearne and the town of Hearne was a division point
between Palestine and San Antonio.
Heavy payrolls from both
railroads brought in a horde of camp followers with ideas and ethics of
their own, and Hearne was a roaring open town. During
this period, the expression of "Hearne, Hempstead and Hell" was coined
and depicts public opinion of Hearne during this era.
A letter from Hearne from one business man to another in a
distant city told of an incident that ran like this; "Yesterday was pay
day for both railroads in Hearne and the boys whooped it up. When the sun rose this morning, there were
four dead men on the streets."
Unfortunately, the pace set
at this time prevailed for too many years, and the town of Hearne was
considered one of the toughest in the country.
In the succeeding years the
town of Hearne, with some of the scars of the past, had its ups and
downs, but fortunately has been able to up the downs.
The Brazos River floods seem to have washed Hearne's record
white. Men like Colonel Dick White, Major
Buck Watts, Captain Titus Westbrook, and the grand old gentleman Lewis
Whitfield Carr, the Astins, Ed and Alf Wilson following the lead of the
Hearnes and Lewises made the Brazos Bottoms a rival of the Valley of
The Brazos River Bottom
farmers had a lot of labor troubles. They
always had too many acres for too few men and this condition wrote a
very serious chapter for the merchants of Hearne. In
this emergency the planters contracted with the State Prison Board for
Negro convicts, just a few at first as a test and then later as the
test proved successful most of the farmers secured this type of labor. The pay rolls for this labor went to the State
Prison Department and much of the supplies came from the same source. For the first time friction arose between the
Hearne merchants and the Brazos Bottom planters. Petitions
went to the state officials to stop the practice of convict labor for
Brazos Bottom plantations. In order to
continue this practice, a prominent Brazos River Bottom planter
announced and was elected to the State Legislature on the platform of
more and cheaper convict labor. The
contracts for convict labor were renewed for a number of years and
business in the little town of Hearne suffered as a result. Finally the convict labor price was raised by
the State and since most of the plantations were now cleared of wood
lands and labor could not be used between crops, the situation cleared
Following the era of
convict labor, good times returned. After
losing the convict labor more labor had to be secured from some source. Mr. Horatio Ransome Hearne came up with the
answer. With one of his plantation
managers, 0. F. Spring, Mr. Hearne went to North Carolina and recruited
a train load of negro farm laborers with their families.
This plan continued for several trips, the expense being
prorated among all of the planters. There
was only one drawback to this plan. The
plan worked fine from the Texas end of the route, but just a bit
disturbing on the North Carolina end. The
planters in that state were losing their farm laborers by the train
load and became highly indignant about the whole scheme.
Mr. Hearne personally ceased the practice when a vigilance
committee walked him out of North Carolina between suns.
The State of Alabama experienced this same practice until the
shortage of labor was overcome in Hearne. Today,
even as late as 1958, if you ask an elderly Hearne negro if he was born
in Texas he no doubt will tell you, "Naw Sir, Mr. Hearne fetched me out
of Nawth Carolina."
Much credit for the steady
development of Hearne in its early days is due to its splendid pioneer
leaders of that time.
A former prominent Hearne citizen, now deceased, after being born in Hearne and living in Hearne for eighty-two years, made the following remark; "Hearne is a good town in which to live and work, a good town to retire in, and not a bad place in which to die."
Used with permission of Norman Lowell McCarver, Jr. These electronic pages may not be reproduced in any format by other organizations or individuals. Persons or organizations desiring to use this material must obtain the written consent of McCarver family relatives.
Page Modified: 03 November 2014
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Copyright © 2014-present byJane Keppler. This information may be used by individuals for their own personal use, libraries and genealogical societies. Commercial use of this information is strictly prohibited without prior written permission from Jane Keppler. If material is copied, this copyright notice must appear with the information and please email me and let me know. Neither the Site Coordinators nor the volunteers assume any responsibility for the information or material given by the contributors or for errors of fact or judgment in material that is published at this website.