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Robertson County




County Coordinator is Jane Keppler.

County Co-Coordinator is Jean Huot Smoorenburg

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Hearne, TX 

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 thereafter.

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 on.

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 noticeable today.

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 Nile.

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 itself.

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.

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State Coordinator: Shirley Cullum
Assistant State Coordinators: Carla Clifton, Jane Keppler

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Page Modified: 03 November 2014

Copyright 2014-present by Jane 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.