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.


Ansel Cunningham Heard
Patriarch of the Heards of Van Zandt County

If your name is Heard or you are a member of a Heard family, and you live in Van Zandt County, TX, it is almost a sure bet that you are a descendant of Ansel Cunningham Heard and one of his two wives. All three of them are buried at the Edom Cemetery in Edom, TX. Ansel lies between Caroline and Cordelia, surrounded by other family members, and since there were fifteen children, there are many of them. Ansel Cunningham Heard was born in Georgia in 1816, the son of William Heard and Rachel Griffin Heard. He was named for a brother-in-law of his parents, a man named Ansel Cunningham who had married his mother's sister.

As a young man Ansel fought in the Indian Wars in Georgia, and by 1840 had emigrated to Texas where he received land in Rusk county. By 1846, he was an overseer on the Devereaux Plantation in Rusk County when he left to take part in the U.S. Mexican War, 1846-1848. Returning to Rusk County, Ansel married Caroline Yates in 1851 and four children were born there: Mary Susan (named for his two sisters, later married Joe Norman); William Clough (named for his good friend George Clough, later postmaster in Ben Wheeler); Nancy J. (married Burton Sanders); and John Griffin (his mother's maiden name).

The family moved to Van Zandt County by 1860 where they are listed on the 1860 census, and the family is found on each succeeding census of 1870 and 1880. Two more children were born to Ansel and Caroline: Joseph Cicero "Joe" and Thomas Marion "Tom." By 1864 Caroline had died and within six months Ansel was wed to a widow Cordelia Rains Shepherd. Cordelia was one of twelve Rains children. Her parents were William and Margaret Pendergrass Rains, also buried at Edom Cemetery. Ansel and Cordelia had nine more children. One of them, Frank, died in infancy, but the other eight children grew to maturity and almost every one continued to live and raise families in Van Zandt County. These children were Jesse Bean, twins, Eleazer Lee (known as Ase or Asa); Ansel Cunningham Jr. (known as Ant); James Richard (Dick); Oliver Culberson (Ol); Rachel Cora (married Jess McWilliams); Julius Lafayette, and Wiley Williamson.

Ansel C. Heard was a cotton farmer and several of his children became owners of cotton gins in Edgewood, Ben Wheeler, and Canton. Ansel died in 1881, and three years later Cordelia passed away, leaving some of the younger children to be raised by family members. The Heard children lived in several Van Zandt County communities, including Edgewood, Grand Saline, Edom, Ben Wheeler and Canton, where descendants still reside. Ten of the original fifteen children are buried in Van Zandt County.

As a young man, Ansel appears to have lived an adventuresome life, participating in various military excursions, and he married rather late in life at age thirty-five. He seems to have settled down to his role as husband and father and after moving to Van Zandt County lived in a peaceful manner as a farmer the rest of his life.

Submitted by Martha Heard


Previously published in the Van Zandt County Genealogical Society's Our Heritage


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This page last updated 3 June 2007

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