Robert & Martha Ellen Tate

Contributed by Joshua Tate
January 2004


Robert Mitchell Tate and Martha Ellen Hall Tate

(photo circa 1900)

Robert Mitchell Tate (b. 1852 d. 1905) and his wife Martha Ellen Hall Tate (b. 1862 d. 1954), two Texas pioneers who moved to Texas in the 1880s and lived in Tarrant County around the turn of the century.


Sam & Martha Ellen

(photo circa 1920's or 1930's)

Martha Ellen and her older half-brother Sam Hall, who was visiting from Oklahoma. In this photo, Robert had already died and Martha had remarried to William Granville Nowlin.


Robert Mitchell Tate was born 10 Sept. 1852 in Ooltewah, Hamilton County, Tennessee; his wife Martha Ellen Hall was born June 5, 1862 in Bradley or Hamilton County, Tennessee. Robert was the son of James McDonald Tate and Jane Catherine Pickel.

The surviving records of the Tate family go back to the late 1700s. Robert's great-great-grandfather, Samuel Tate, had moved from Lee County, Virginia to Claiborne County, Tennessee in 1797. Robert's great-grandfather John Tate, Sr. moved from Claiborne to Overton County, Tennessee, where he died. Robert's grandfather, John Tate, Jr., was a preacher in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and moved from county to county in Tennessee. Robert's father, James McDonald Tate, married Jane Catherine Pickel (b. 3 Sept. 1828), daughter of Jonathan Pickel, on 30 Sept. 1847 in Monroe County, Tennessee, and moved to Hamilton County, Tennessee in 1853. Hamilton County was carved out of former Cherokee territory in the early 1800s and many white settlers were moving in during this time.

Robert's father died on March 2, 1858, leaving four children: John Harvey Tate (b. 21 June 1848), Thomas S. Tate (b. 11 Jan. 1850), Robert, and Mary K. Tate (26 Feb. 1855). Soon thereafter, Robert's grandfather John Tate, Jr. moved to Collin County, Texas with his third wife and their children, leaving Robert and his siblings behind. It must have been quite difficult for Robert's mother to raise the family alone, and Robert's baby sister died in November 1861. The years of the Civil War were probably a great trial for the Tate family, as they were for most people in the South. Robert's mother remarried at some point before 1870, but her husband soon died and Robert and his two brothers were living in Ooltewah with their mother and stepbrother when the 1870 Census was taken.

In 1880, Robert married Martha Ellen Hall, daughter of William Henry Hall and Harriet Heaton Hall. Martha Ellen had five sisters, Margaret, Sarah, Malinda, Eva, and Mary, and an older half-brother, Sam. Martha gave birth to a son, James Arthur Tate, on 28 Sept. 1881, and a daughter, Lula May Tate, on 1 June 1884. The young parents decided to move with their two children to the state of Texas, and they made the move in the mid-1880s; some say they made the trip by covered wagon. Robert and Martha Ellen had two more children born in Texas: Earl Otto Tate (b. 18 Jan. 1887) and Clarence Mitchell Tate (b. 11 Nov. 1888). During a revival in the summer of 1891, Robert and Martha were baptized in Denton Creek into the First Baptist Church of Grapevine. The Robert Tate family appears in the 1900 U.S. Census for Tarrant County, Texas.

Robert's brother Thomas S. Tate remained in Hamilton County, Tennessee, and there are still Tates living in the Chattanooga area who are descended from Thomas. There are also living descendants of Martha's sister Margaret, who married a Varnell, still in Hamilton County.

Tragically, Robert died an early death on 30 Jan. 1905. His wife Martha Ellen soon remarried to William Granville Nowlin (b. 1 Sept. 1864), and she lived to be a very old woman, dying in 1954. Martha is said to have missed the five sisters she left behind in Tennessee, one of whom, Eva, had moved to Kentucky; her older half-brother Sam struck oil in Oklahoma and was able to visit his sister at least once. Martha and her new husband lived out their lives in Tarrant County, but Robert and Martha are buried together in Flower Mound Cemetery in Denton County.

Robert's children were very well known in Tarrant County. Robert's son Earl Otto Tate was a butcher and the proprietor of Tate's Cash Grocery in Grapevine. Earl was the father of Gordon Douglas Tate, who was Mayor of Grapevine in the 1950s. Gordon's son William Douglas Tate is the current Mayor of Grapevine. Other prominent descendants of Robert in Texas include Rick Stacy, owner of Stacy Furniture and the former Mayor of Southlake. The Tate family met recently for a reunion in Grapevine that was reported in an article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram published Sunday, January 11, 2004:


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This page last modified on 21 Jan 2004