Old Pioneers of Van Zandt County

Van Zandt County Genealogical Society


This page will be devoted to the Old Pioneers of Van Zandt County. These stories have come from a variety of sources, some from old newspapers, some from descendants and some have been previously published in the Van Zandt County Genealogical Society's quarterly publication, "Our Heritage." Our thanks to Sue Wilkinson, quarterly editor, for permission to reprint these stories. All biographies are welcomed and if you have one that you would like to submit, just write it in your own words and send it to Sibyl and we will be very happy to post it on this website.


JAMES W. FLOWERS aka FRANK STARR
(September 1854 - 30 March 1924)

Jim Flowers was born in September 1854 near the village of Big Rock in Van Zandt County, Texas. His parents were A.T. and Lucia "Lucy" Ann (Morris) Flowers, who were both born in Kentucky. A.T. was born in 1830 and Lucy was born in 1835. When enumerated on the 1860 census they had four sons (William - 7, James W. - 5, Thomas M. - 3, and J.W. - 1) and two daughters (Martha - 8 and N.E. - 6). Based upon the dates and places of birth of their children, apparently A.T. and Lucy moved their family from Kentucky to Van Zandt County around 1853. Lucy's parents and her brothers followed a few years later.

James M. McCarty, owner of one of the Corner saloons, stated that he had known Jim Flowers as a boy. That is probably correct because they both grew up in Van Zandt County and McCarty was only one year older than Jim Flowers. Sometime between 1860 and 1867 A.T. Flowers was killed by a Section Foreman named Bryant. Lucy remarried on 23 December 1866 to a Wagon maker named R.W. Gilliland. On the 1870 census some of the younger Flowers children were living with that couple and some were living with other families. William and Jim were 17 and 15 years old respectively and were living with Lucy's brother Elijah Morris while working as "farm hands". Martha was living with a widow, Hannah Gilliland, and working as a Weaver. Hannah Gilliland was probably a relative of R.W. Gilliland. Interestingly, Jim Flowers' uncles, Elijah and Polk Morris, were very well respected Baptist Ministers in early Van Zandt County, and Jim Flowers was obviously raised closely enough to them that they should have had a positive influence upon his morals.

James McCarty also stated that Jim Flowers was only 17 years old when he killed the man who had killed his father. A newspaper article several years later stated that he was "only about nineteen years old" at the time of that killing. James McCarty indicated that, after killing his father's murderer, Jim Flowers adopted the alias "Frank Starr" and fled to the Twin Territories. The validity of that statement is rather questionable. Jim Flowers obviously spent some time in the Twin Territories; however, he did continue to maintain a home and family in Van Zandt County, and was using his real name there. At least he did use his real name on all the census reports; he listed his occupation as "farmer". He and his family appear on the census reports for Van Zandt County for the years 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910 and 1920.

Jim Flowers married Synthia Victoria Knight in Van Zandt County on 30 November 1878. She was born on 20 April 1857, and apparently she used the nickname "Vic". They had a son, James Edward, born on 9 January 1882. Their second child died at birth and was also a boy. Vic died two days later, on 9 December 1891, and is buried in Morris Cemetery in Van Zandt County. Apparently Jim Flowers married Mary Lee Ritter sometime in 1894, although I could find no record of that marriage. Lee's date of birth was 17 February 1874 (she was 20 years younger than Jim). They had one son, Jerome Kirby Miller, born on 1 March 1896. Lee and Jerome appear, with Jim listed as a farmer, on the census reports for 1900, 1910 and 1920. His 18 year old son James is married and living adjacent to him on the 1900 census.

It is unclear as to exactly when Flowers traveled to the Twin Territories to work as a body guard/bartender at James McCarty's saloon in the Corner area of Oklahoma Territory. It is also open to speculation as to whether he was spending an appreciable amount of time in Van Zandt County and actually doing some farming there during that 1895-1924 timeframe or if his family was simply telling the Census Taker that he was living there. He does not appear on any of the Oklahoma or Indian Territory census reports.

In April of 1909, Jim Flowers was arrested at Frederick, Oklahoma and returned to Van Zandt County to stand trial for the murder of his father's killer 31 years earlier. Below is an article describing his arrest and return for trial that appeared in the April 29, 1909 edition of the Terrell Daily Transcript:

"That murder will out, is illustrated in the following news item in the Canton correspondence of the Wills Point Chronicle:

Deputy Sheriff John R. Kellis brought Jim Flowers from Frederick, Oklahoma, and landed him in jail here Saturday. Flowers is charged with killing a section foreman, a Mr. Bryant, at Grand Saline in 1878, he being at the time only about nineteen years old. Flowers, it is alleged has led a very wild life, having killed several men in his career, and served two or more terms in the penitentiary. He has gone under various names and contended with Mr. Kellis till they reached Wills Point that his name was not Flowers. Now he owns up and said he was the first man locked up in the old jail, a portion of which still stands. Sheriff Gentry and Mr. Kellis have been trailing and getting evidence for the past two years, and were sure they had the right man before they had him locked up in Frederick, Oklahoma. There are several eyewitnesses to the killing, still living. Though thirty-one years have passed, he is now behind bars awaiting justice for a crime of the worst kind."

In April 1910, Jim Flowers was tried and found not guilty of the murder of Mr. Bryant. The record in the Sheriff's office describing the physical appearance of Jim Flowers describes him as being 5'10" tall, with black hair, brown eyes and dark complexion.

In his article "The Old Corner Saloon", Alvin Rucker describes how Jim Flowers met his end in Southeastern Oklahoma near the Choctaw-McCurtin County line. Flowers killed a peace officer after quarreling with him over the reward money that was to be awarded for killing a robber they had been following. Flowers fled after that killing and was subsequently killed by a posse on 30 March, 1924. He is buried beside his first wife, Vic, and his infant son in the Morris Cemetery in Van Zandt County.

In 1930, both of Jim Flowers' sons were living as farmers in Van Zandt County. James E. had three sons and two daughters while Jerome K. had only one son.

Submitted by Jim Flowers


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