Family Histories of Van Zandt County

Van Zandt County Genealogical Society


These Family Histories have been submitted by descendants of early settlers of Van Zandt County. If you would like to submit your family history, it would be welcomed and greatly appreciated. It can be in any form such as a genealogy report or a narative or a time line. Just email to Sibyl and it will be posted on this site.


Melton Family History

submitted by Robert Bloomer

When I was still in my early teens and my grandfather (John G. Melton 1889-1971), who was born in Van Zandt County, Texas, told me of his boyhood days in the dusty streets of Grand Saline. How he "cut" school to play in the city's streets and hid from his searching father behind wooden watering troughs that lined Main Street. When I ask about his parents and grandparents he told me the name of his grandfather was Crow Melton and the names of several aunts and uncles, but beyond that he knew very little of his Melton heritage and certainly nothing of his connection to other Melton families living in Van Zandt and other East Texas counties.

The first mention of the name Crow sparked more interest and imagination in my young mind, and I pictured a frontiersman who had just rode out of the Rocky Mountains, dressed in buckskin, with crow feathers dangling from his hat. An image of a Texican who lived a life of Texas adventure among the Indians flashed before my youthful eyes. I was sure he had been given the name Crow by some Indian friends, perhaps the Crow or Comanche tribes. I knew he must have spent part of his days hunting buffalo, and his nights sleeping under the stars or in a teepee. For years I searched for this East Texas man with little information other than what my grandfather had given me. When I was unable to locate him, I again assumed Crow Melton tired of married life, slipped away some warm summer night back to the wilderness, and the Indians he knew and loved.

Years later I discovered the truth and my young fanciful immigration was just that. No Indian friends or nights in a teepee for Crow Melton. Denson Crow Melton was just another Melton among a large group of cousins who had migrated from Newton County, Georgia and settled in East Texas. He used his given names in various forms, but the Crow came to him from his mother's family with absolutely no Comanche or Crow Indian connection.
In the early 1830s Meltons were regularly departing Newton County, Georgia headed for Texas. And before that date they had headed for Alabama and Mississippi. But the first Melton to arrive in Texas, according to the 1830 Texas Census was Eliel Melton, Crow's first cousin.

In 1820 Eliel was a prominent young figure in Clarke County, Georgia. He was listed as a merchant and sheriff. But in 1829 he got the Texas itch and moved his business interests to Navarro County, Texas Eliel is listed as a merchant in an 1830 Texas census records. By 1835 Eliel had a growing business and a list of friends that included the prominent business men of San Antonio. Eliel was the son of Johanthan Melton Jr. and Tabitha Stroud. Eliel served as a Lieutenant and Quartermaster at the Alamo and surrendered his life during that famous battle. It is presumed that the Mrs. Juana Melton, who was one of the few survivors of the carnage, was the wife of Eliel. Enrique Esparza, a witness at the Alamo, recalled that Mrs. Melton was considered by him an aristocratic Mexican lady, and that when he entered the Alamo with his parents in April of 1836 she had an umbrella in hand drawing circles in the dirt with its pointed tip. Enrique had seen few umbrellas and the image remained in his young mind for the reminder of his life. Juana was married to an American and she had requested Enrique's mother, who was inside the walls at the end of the day, not to inform Santa Anna that she was married to a Gringo. Enrique was not interviewed until the early 1900, but the fact his father and mother were both present at the time of the Santa Ann's attack is without question. So, it seems that Mrs. Susanna Dickinson was not the only survivor of the Alamo.

The events that surround the death of Eliel (6 March 1836) will probable never be completely known, but it is fact that his brothers, Ethan, Stroud, and Buckner, and an Uncle Elijah soon traveled to Texas to settle the large estate that Eliel untimely death had left. This land was in Navarro County and by 1850 these men, with the exception of Stroud, all had large and growing Texas families; some having named their sons Eliel. These Meltons plus Isaac, Denson Crow, and Hackett Webb Melton in Smith County were the nucleus of the Melton population in East Texas.

The reason I had had such a difficulty with the initial identifying of Denson Crow Melton, is that most often his name was recorded as Denson or D.C. Melton, never Crow Melton as my grandfather called him. And by the time Denson fathered my great-grandfather, James B. Melton in 1863, he was 55 years old, and had fathered a previous large Texas family from his first wife, Eliza Webb. When James and his twin brother John were born they had half brothers and sisters old enough to be their parents.

So, Crow Melton was really Denson Crow Melton and the name Crow was nothing more than an old southern surname given him by his mother, Dolly (Crow) Melton. She was born in 1786 in Hillsboro, North Carolina, and was the daughter of Isaac Crow and Elizabeth Stroud. Dolly married Moses Melton about 1800 in Georgia and from 1800 the Crows, Meltons, Strouds and Daniells families lived in the area of what is now Newton County, Georgia. About the only connection between Indians and the Meltons was Moses Melton's Indian land lottery application for valuable Creek, Choctaw and Cherokee land in and around Clarke County, Georgia. This land had been more or less confiscated from the Georgia Indians. There, three generation of Meltons remained until their deaths or departure, but before 1830 some of Denson's cousins were departing Newton County for Texas. Most of these were successful young Georgians of Clarke County, but Texas had called and Navarro County would be their initial destination. Denson, his brothers, and a few other cousins left in the mid 1840s, but other cousins would follow in the years to come and establish a large group of Melton cousins in East Texas. Among the second group were the brothers of Eliel who were to claim his large Texas estate and become some of the first Texas Rangers.

When James was born he had Texas sisters and brothers 35 years older with families of their own. All three of his half brothers were away serving the South in the Civil War. So, when James came into the world on January 4, 1863, he was soon minus his mother (Mary (Cook) Melton) and his twin brother. Both his brother and mother had died soon after his birth. That left a 54 year old father, who was probably more interested in being a loving grandfather and retired farmer than a full time dad. Denson was already overburdened. He must have been, if not a full time farmer, helping with his grandchildren while his sons were away fighting the Civil War. Moses, Denson's son, was killed serving the South and his four children were living with Jacob Harmon in 1870. (Jacob was the brother of William D. Melton's wife.) Just three days before James was born Isaac Hill Daniel, who was related and had come to Texas with Denson, died. This added to Denson's burden and he now had another family to worry about. (Denson's mother-in-law Mary (Webb) Daniel was the step-mother of Isaac Hill Daniel).

On the positive side James had many of relations in the area and Denson could rely on help with his new young son from his older daughter Mary Ann (Melton) Bradford. While Mary already had five children, fortunately she was still nursing her one-year-old son Perry. So, that is just where James went and spent the first few years of his life. (My grandfather had mentioned that an Aunt Mary had nursed his father.)

The oral history related by my grandfather John G. Melton proved to be accurate. It was just that both Mary and Denson had died by the time John was born, Denson died in 1887, and any contact had with the Meltons by James was limited to his half brothers and sisters. John G. Melton knew the names of his Melton aunts and uncles, and he was living in Grand Saline from 1889 until 1910 when the family moved to West Texas, but James was not close to them. John Melton did not apparently realize their age or relate that age difference to me. But, these Meltons were old enough to be John's grandparents.

The fact that the Meltons were a very large, close-nit-family, with cousins all over the southern states, make it difficult to account for every family member that arrived in Texas. However, the largest migration of Meltons appears to have been in 1846 with the Meltons, Crows, Daniels and Dentons. All settling in East Texas near Rusk and Smith Counties. However, apparently not all were satisfied with the new life in Texas. Isaac Melton, Denson's brother, returned to Newton County just after 1860. And old letters preserved by the Daniel's family recorded several visits back to Georgia.

These Georgia visits may help to account for the appearance of Mary Cook in Texas. Her birth state is recorded as Georgia in the 1860 census and on James' death certificate. This plus her age is the only Texas information she left. How did Denson who had been in Texas for 14 years, and a widower for 12 learn about Mary Cook in Georgia?

To find a Mary Cook with a birth year of 1822 from Georgia is about the minimum information required to locate and identify a person. She was not in Texas in 1850 and it can only be assumed that she was a 38 year old spinster when she married. This assumption is based on the fact that there were no unaccounted for children living with her and Denson in 1860. Identifying just who this woman was and where she came from with this limited information is a matter of some speculation. A marriage record has not been found, but the 1860 census recorded that she had been married within the year. From the 1860 census it is know that they were married between August of 1859 and August of 1860.

After a few years of research, I believe she is a Mary Cook who is listed in the 1850 census of Newton County, Georgia. She is the correct age and living in a location (Flint Hill area of Newton County) that gave Denson the opportunity to have known her. By some luck she proved to be the correct Mary Cook. However, women in general are much hard to track then men. When Denson left for Texas he sold his property, fell from tax and voting records, and was mentioned in the will of his relatives. Mary did not own property, did not vote or pay taxes and left no civil records. But she came from a large family and that proved to be the essential element in her identification.

Mary Cook came from a family of nine children. Her brother, James, was married by George Daniel in 1838 and her brother George married Rebecca Smith in 1831. There is an unknown connection between the Smiths and Denson's father, Moses Melton. Whether the Smiths and Meltons were good friends or some family connection is currently unknown, but Moses was listed on guardianship records of the Smith family. And Isaac Melton's will was witnessed by a Harold Smith. In 1850 Mary Cook was living with her 64 year old mother, Mary (Alexander) Cook. Mary's father, John F. Cook, had been previously married to a Mary Cook of Elbert County, GA. I believe the David Cook living in Newton County was a son from this first marriage. David was a minister in Newton County. So there was plenty of opportunity for Mary to know of Denson, but nothing to prove she left Georgia for Texas to marry Denson. Mary was mentioned in the will of her sister Eliza Jane Cook as Mary Melton. The will names Eliza's brothers and sisters, and mentions her sister "Mary Melton deceased."

Eliza (Webb) Melton, Denson's first wife, died before 1850 and is not recorded in 1850. However, listed in Smith County, Texas' census of 1850 is "Denson C. Melton" with his 6 children. At that time Denson and family were living with George (67) and Mary (59) Daniel. This was the second marriage for both George and Mary, and Mary was the mother of Eliza Webb. George and Mary came to Texas with Denson and others in 1846. George had been a very active Baptist Minister in Georgia. The Meltons, Crows, Daniels, Strouds and even a Cook family were some of the first members and founders of the Mars Hill Baptist Church in what is now Oconee County, GA. This church is one of the oldest is northeast Georgia being founded in 1799.

Mary Webb Daniel was part of the older generation that came to Texas, and after her daughter's death she was helping Denson rear her grandchildren. George Daniel died in 1855 and Mary in 1858. Between 1850 and 1860 Denson and many of his relations are mentioned in Smith County, TX court records. These records connect Denson to his married children, the Daniels and other relations that came from Georgia. In 1859 there is an unusual court record appointing Denson as the sole guardian of his own two minor children, Margaret and Martha. I feel this record was created to make the custody of Margaret and Martha clear, because Denson had just remarried.

In the 1860 census again of Smith County, TX Denson , age 54, is now listed with a 38 year old Mary Melton of Georgia, a 16 year old Margaret, and a 14 year old Martha. By 1860 Denson was a well respected member of the community, a successful farmer, and Texas Master Mason.

Since James was born in 1863 he would have been seven yeas old in 1870 when the Eight U.S. census was taken. And in 1870 a seven year old James Melton is listed with a 40 year old Hackett Webb Melton. Hackett was the oldest son of Denson. Hackett Webb Melton and Hackett's 24 year old second wife Tabitha Daniel were living next door to the now 64 year old Denson. There is no chance that James is a son of Hackett, as Hackett's first wife died in 1861. Hackett enlisted, served during the Civil War and did not remarry until after the war's end. Due to the Civil War death of Moses Melton, another son of Denson's, other Melton children were living with Melton relatives in the 1870s. (Tabitha Daniel was a granddaughter of George and the daughter of Isaac Hill Daniel mentioned above).

James remained in Van Zandt, County, Texas during his teens and until well after he married Sarah Elizabeth Looney in 1883. James' "Aunt Mary" was not his aunt, but Mary (Melton) Bradford his half sister. Mary (Melton) Bradford was the wife of Robert Lafayette Bradford who was also living near Arp, Texas. Mary was the daughter of Denson's first marriage to Eliza Webb.

James Melton remained in the area of Van Zandt County for almost 30 years. James can not be located at age 17 in 1880, but, his marriage to Sarah Elizabeth Looney, the daughter of William Benjamin Evans Looney and Helen Price, on 12 July 1883 is listed in Van Zandt County marriage records. His first two children were born there, and while he died in West Texas he and his wife, along with Sarah's parents, are buried in Van Zandt County at Creagleville Cemetery. William C. Melton, James' oldest son, is also buried there. In 1925 William was shot and killed during a Van Zandt domestic dispute.

The concluding part of this dialog concerns the long America History of the Meltons and others families that came to Texas with the Meltons from Newton County, Georgia. The Melton history is claim to began in Jamestown, Virginian in 1619 with the arrival of Thomas Melton.

The Meltons arrived in Texas with several other families, among them: Crow, Daniel, Harmons and Dentons. These were all names familiar to the Meltons and as Georgia marriage records indicate they were either married daughters or cousins. Many are descendants of Moses (1781-1865) and Dorothy (Crow) Melton. It also appears that Meltons in Navarro County, Texas were part of this extended family. Jeremiah Melton, age 40 in 1850, and Ethan Melton, age 52 in 1850, are listed in Texas Census records. Both of these names along with Stroud Melton are familiar in Meltons genealogy and these men are children of Jonathan and Tabitah (Stroud) Melton. (Ethan Melton married Lucinda Hill 6 July 1843 in Roberson Co.,TX LDS IGI).

The Meltons have such a long history in America that is seems possible that all have a common ancestor. Some researchers have alleged that in 1619 Thomas Melton arrived from England on the ship Margaret. He served an indenture and then acquired land in Isle of Wright County, VA. He died about 1644. The Strouds were in America as early as 1732 and the Crows before 1713 as were the Daniels.

In 1758 Jonathan Melton Sr.'s will was recorded in North Carolina and left his worldly possessions to his wife Purify and their four children. Richard (1680-1732), Jonathan's father, also left a will recorded in North Carolina.
There also seems to have been several marriages between these families and that they migrated from Virginia to North Carolina and then to Georgia. Several of this line fought in the American Revolution.

The parents of Denson were Moses and Dolly (Crow) Melton. Both Dolly and Moses died just after 1860 in Newton County, GA. It was Dorothy or Dolly's parents that contained the Stroud name. Dolly's parents were Isaac Crow and Elizabeth Stroud. Isaac and Elizabeth were married 23 Jan 1783 in Orange County, NC.

Denson's family, based on property records, arrived in Newton County, Georgia in 1825. This is when Thomas S. Melton first purchased land. Denson Crow Melton, then William N., Moses and Isaac soon followed. In 1820 Moses Melton was living in the neighboring county of Walton, Georgia and he is the father of these men. Apparently as early as 1800 the Crows, Meltons and Strouds were members of the Mars Hill Baptist Church in Oconee County, GA. Moses' father, Jonathan Melton (1746-1820) was married to Mary Keen.

Between 1846 and 1849 all but Moses and Thomas S. Melton sold their land and moved west. (It seems likely that Thomas and Moses were brothers).

Isaac Melton (1805-1867) was on his way to Texas before 1849, and is listed in court records of Smith County, TX for the fall term of 1851. However, he is not listed in the 1850 Texas Census. He is in the Rusk County, Texas Census of 1860 with an 11 year old child that was born in Texas. Sometime after 1860 Isaac returned to Newton County where he remarried (24 Oct 1867) and soon after recorded his will. The will names his second wife (Cynthia), children: ( Mary Denton, Thomas J., and Susan), and his brothers William and D.C. Melton and others. The relationship to these "others" is circumstantially, but seems obvious. What is somewhat bewildering is the fact that children living with Isaac in the 1860 census are not mentioned in his will.

One such "other" mentioned in Isaac's will is a William J. Daniel. William Daniel married Mary Melton 18 Sep 1828 in Newton County. As most of the Melton marriages in Newton County this one was performed by George Daniel. George, William J. and others of the Daniel family are recorded in the census and probate records of Smith County, Texas. George (1783-1855) has a probate record listing Denson C's children as witnesses.
In 1859 Mary Daniel also left a probate records naming Meltons and their spouses. "(Mary A. Bradford, H.W. Melton, Moses, Melton, William D. Melton, Eliza wf. of William J. Daniel, Sarah wf. of J.W. Hawkins, Margaret Melton, Martha A. Melton all heirs of Eliza Melton.)"

As for Isaac's children: They are: Thomas J. Melton, Mary (Melton) Denton wif of J.C. Denton, and Susan Melton. In the 1860 Rusk County, Texas census Isaac is listed with a William Melton, age 14, J. Daniel age 25, Mary Daniel age 20 and Samantha Daniel age 1.
Enumerated just above Isaac is William Melton age 38, Jane Melton age 28, William F. Melton age 15, George A. Melton age 11, William A. Melton age 6, D??? Melton, age 4, A.L. Melton age 2, and Mary A. Melton, age 1. [A Thomas J. Melton 16 Oct 1836-27 May 1887 is buried in Rock Hill Cemetery in Van Zandt County]

In his will Isaac leaves money on a promissory note held on H. W. Melton of Smith County, Texas to his children. D.C. Melton and W. Melton are bequeathed a promissory note held on William Daniel of Texas. Also mentioned is his beloved sister, Nancy Hamby, wife of Isaac, beloved wife Cynthia J. Melton [This is Cynthia J. Eason whom he married 24 Oct 1867 performed by Isaac Hamby]. An A.L. Melton was a witnesses on the will. This must have been a different A. L. Melton than listed with Isaac in the 1860 Rusk County, TX census.
Eliza Jane Cook's will probated 27 Sept 1866 mentioned brothers: James, Reuben, George, John, and William A. Sisters: Mary (Melton) Cook, Lucy (Cook) Berry, Diane (Cook) Dally, and Milly (Cook) Vaughn. (Parents of these children are John F. Cook and Mary (Alexander) Cook. They were married 25 Feb 1810 in Elbert County, GA)

Newton County, GA Marriage Records
1.Denson C. Melton to Eliza Webb, 1 Jan 1827*
2.Isaac Melton to Sarah C. Ranson, 23 Dec 1838
3.Thomas S. Melton to Mary Zachry 24 Mar 1834*
4.William T. Melton to Rebcca Shumate 22 Oct 1839*
5. Mary Melton to William J. Daniel 18 Sep 1828*
6. George M. Daniell to Martha A. Melton 1 Jan 1849
7. Francis Neely to Emily Melton 2 Aug 1837*
8. H. H. Johnson to Lucy A. Melton 11 Aug 1842*
9. Stephen Daneill to Elizaneth Melton 1 July 1830*
10. F. A. Trammell to Martha O. Melton 1 Oct 1850
11. Isaac Hamby to Nancy Melton 17 Sep1829*
12. Levi J.V. Fritts to Sarah S. Melton 6 Oct 1830
*Performed by George Daniell Minister of the Gospel.

In the Smith County Texas Census of 1850 George Daniel is 67 years old and listed as a Baptist Clergyman. D.C. Melton and family are enumerated next but without D.C.'s wife. Isaac H. Daniel age 40 is after the Meltons.

The Denton family. Mary Melton, daughter of Isaac, married James C. Denton. They are listed in the 1870 Smith County Census. James is 36, Mary is 29.

Denson Crow Melton and Eliza Webb children:
1. Mary A. Melton b. 1828 (Married Robert L. Bradford of Smith County)
2. Hackett W. Melton b. 1830 (Res of Smith County) moved to Indian Territory 3. Moses Melton b. 1831 (Res of Smith County. Died serving in the Civil War)
4. William D. Melton b. 1835 (Res of Van Zandt County)
5. Eliza Melton b. 1837 (Married William J. Daniel)
6. Sarah Melton b. 1840 (Married J.W. Hawkins)
7. Margaret Melton b. 1844 (Married William Hulsey)
8. Martha Melton b. 1846 (Married Jasper L. Blackwell)
Hackett returned from "Indian Territory" and is listed in the 1910 Census in Cherokee County, Texas, age 80, living with a married daughter, Sallie Fitch age 36.

Sources:
1830 Georgia Census Index.
1830 Papers Concerning Robertson's Colony in Texas (Eleil Melton)
1850 Navarro County, Texas Census
1850 Smith County, Texas Census LDS Film 553104
1860 Rusk County, Texas Census LDS Film 0805305 p. 216
1850 Newton County, Georgia Census p. 500 & p. 479
1860 Newton County, Georgia Census p. 541


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