Old Family Tales

Van Zandt County Genealogical Society


Old family stories are not only fun, they enrich us and tell us about our ancestors and their lives back in the old days. If you have an old family story or biography that you would like to share (almost everyone has a either a character or a very interesting individual in their family tree!), please write it in your own words and email it to Sibyl and it will be placed on this page.


"Words from an Old Settler of Van Zandt County"

Submitted by Ruby Wallace, a descendant of

Solomon Young Carter

Solomon Young Carter was born May 16, 1834, probably in Perry County, Tennessee, to Solomon Carter and Winifred Pate. The tombstone located at the Cool Springs Cemetery, Van Zandt County, Texas, states that he was born May 5, 1834; however, the death certificate shows that he was born on May 16, 1834. Solomon Young Carter died June 8, 1905.

By 1840, his family was living in Perry County, Tennessee. His father had been granted 20 acres, Land Grant #4188, Reel 172, Vol. 5, Pg. 557. They were still in Tishomingo County in 1850. About 1852 they were in Van Zandt County, Texas. In 1856, Solomon Young's father received a preemption grant on Kickapoo Creek, five miles southeast of Canton in Van Zandt County.

On November 19, 1856, Solomon Young Carter married Susan Jane Moore, the daughter of James Moore and Cynthia Hardcastle. They were the parents of eight children, the last having been born in 1876, all born in Van Zandt County.

Solomon Young Carter enlisted in the Confederate Service of the Civil War on July 10, 1862, in Van Zandt County, enrolled by W.W. Newland, for the period of the war, as 1st Lt. in W.W. Newland's squad; listed absent without leave since October 20, 1862, last paid by W. McMaster on August 10, 1962. In November and December, 1863, listed as private, 2nd Co. B, again absent without leave at Van Zandt County. January and February, 1863, he was listed as private, 2nd Co. B, listed absent without leave at Van Zandt County. Pay due from Enlistment. Apparently he had never received any pay for his services because all of his service reports stated that he was due pay from his time of enlistment.

A farmer, Solomon Young was appointed sheriff of the county on September 13, 1869. He resigned this position January 6, 1870. His wife Susan Jane Moore Carter died in 1880. The place of her burial is not known; she may be buried at Cool Springs Cemetery but this has not been documented.

He was married for the second time to Mrs. Sarah Ann Bethany Foster Hodges on January 1, 1883. They had one son, Daniel Boone Carter, who was born on November 25, 1886. He served as postmaster at Canton from September 2, 1889 to 1892. He then served as postmaster at Myrtle Springs, from December 4, 1899 to 1902.

Solomon Young Carter was asked to speak before the Old Settlers Reunion in 1904. His speech was published in the Wills Point Chronicle on July 28, 1904, page 7. The speech is set out below:

Solomon Young Carter's speech before the Old Settlers Reunion of Van Zandt County:

"Ladies and Gentlemen: Your presence here today is a source of pleasure to me greater than I have language to express, and, while many of you are strangers to me by name, yet I realize the fact that you are the husbands and wives, the fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters who now compose a part of the grand and noble brother and sisterhood of Van Zandt County, and I am the more pleased to see you here today because this is the day and place appointed for the gathering together and social enjoyment of the old pioneer settlers of Van Zandt County, one of whom I am proud to say I am.

"Just fifty-two years since (lacking a few days) I, with my father and mother, three brothers and one sister, moved from Tishomingo County in North Mississippi, to Van Zandt County, Tex., leaving one brother, William P. Carter, there. He, however shortly followed on, and since that time Van Zandt County has been my constant home - a period of fifty-two years. My father, my mother, with all my brothers and sisters, are gone from this stage of life to realms I know not of (yet, I believe - I hope), and when I am called from this stage of life to the unknown scenes of the future, I can only ask, let my fate be as theirs - nothing more, nothing less.

"But as to the old Settlers of Van Zandt County, their mode of living and customs, of doing business in the early days here, is the subject matter about which I wish to speak, I will say:

"About the first day of September, 1852, I crossed the Neches River, nine miles west of Tyler, Texas, and there my feet first trod the soil of Van Zandt. At that time there was only three public roads with overseers in the county: On e on the south side, known as the Porter Bluff and Tyler road; one on the north side, known as the Dallas and Shreveport Road; one in the center, known as the Kaufman and Tyler Road, all running parallel with each other - east and west. At that time the county was very thinly populated, with about 300 legal voters.

"Two or three families had located on each of the public roads for the purpose of serving as guide post to immigrants and for the accommodation of travelers. At that time the interior parts of the county were dotted over with two or three families constituting each neighborhood from eight to ten miles apart. And when a new immigrant wish to explore the rural districts, he, without quide or compass, launched out into the wild woods so beautifully decked with all sorts of tree, vines and flowers, directed on his way by the green and silent moss which grew near the ground on the north side of the trees of the forest, and he never missed his point of destination while obeying such direction.

"Canton, our county seat, had been located before my arrival in Van Zandt County. At that time about one-half dozen families had located at Canton, mostly county officials, with Uncle Johnnie, as he was familiarly called, and his better half, Aunt Betsey, Bivins as hotel keepers. And I shall never forget the old-time dinners of which I have partaken and enjoyed at Aunty Betsey's table, prepared and served by her own hands.

"In the early days of Van Zandt county these hardy pioneers had begun to improve and build up their county seat by erecting log cabins for their residences and place of office. The courthouse then stood on the west side of the public square. It was constructed of oak logs, scalped on both sides by a broad-axe held in the study hands of an early settler as a kind of planing machine. The county jail stood on the east side of the square and was constructed of the same kind of material and in like manner as the courthouse. It, however, stood for many years as an ornament to the county seat, only to be viewed and seen from the outside, for in those good old days of brotherly love and Christian kindness there was no cause from remanding inmates to prison in Van Zandt county.

"The district court convened at Canton twice in each year, with two weeks allotted to each term for the transaction of business, and was presided over by that man who stands today as a bright star and living monument among all the old pioneer settlers of Texas - the man who, by honest endeavor laboring with his own hands, raised himself from a state of honest poverty to the highest pinnacle of fame in the council of our nation; the man whose name in memory will always meet a proud and tender reception in the bosom of all the old pioneer settlers of Van Zandt county; the man whose name is so familiarly known throughout all Texas today - the Hon. John H. Reagan.

"Canton, at that time was the only town or place of business and its only post office in the county where mail matter was delivered by an appointed carrier, services being performed as a mail coach drawn by four horses en route from Tyler to Kaufman by the way of Canton. And there the old pioneers of Van Zandt met together. They went there at all times when law and duty demanded their presence in the courts of their county. They went there in search of letters which brought them tiding from relatives and friends then living in the older states and country. They went there for the purpose of exchanging their produce for such family supplies as they could not manufacture at home, which consisted mostly in gun flints, powder and lead; the produce given in exchange therefor consisted principally of dried coon and deer hides, with dried venison, hams, which were frequently accompanied by a few pairs of woolen socks and a few yard of woolen jeans which had been carded, spun and woven by the cheerful and willing hands of the pioneers' wives, mothers and daughters of Van Zandt county and held by them as a surplus or balance after neatly and comfortably supplying all the needs of the entire household.

"George M. Fain and Henry F. Blackwell, Sr., were doing a retail business at Canton and were the only ones engaged in the mercantile business in Van Zandt county at that time. They were always ready to exchange with the people anything kept in their line of business from the country produce mentioned, which was transported by them over a dirt road on wagons drawn by oxen a distance of 140 miles to Shreveport, La., and there exchanged for more goods which were brought back to supply the people in the future. It was by these common customs for the people that they soon became acquainted with each other which implanted in their bosoms a confidence and a tender feeling sense of friendship which never can be removed nor broken.

"And it is the memory of those warm attachments that has called the Old Settlers of Van Zandt county to meet here today. At that time Van Zandt county was but little more than an inviting wilderness. Land was cheap. Three hundred and twenty acres were given by the state to each settler by his remaining on same a term of three years and then (not as now) every settler soon became the master of his own home. Then it was that all seemed untied and engaged in one common cause. They went to work; they felled the timber; they built houses of logs to live in; they cleared their farms; they opened new roads and invited immigration. The axe, the saw, the maul and the wedge were the chosen harps on which the fathers and sons played together and each was an expert. And if one of these old pioneers saw fit to change the tune for one day he called in the boys, and sound of his horn, the yelp of the dog and the keen crack of his rifle were signal messenger of that fact to his neighbors. The old-time cards, the wheel, the loom, the needle and the scissors constituted the organ which the mothers and daughters played and there never was any discord in their music. And by their profession, without money or price, they neatly and comfortably furnished all the necessary household apparel. And with due respect to those who have seen fit to change fashion since the time I want to say that in my judgment the neatest and the prettiest; the most lovely, and the one who please my fancy first above all others was a woman arrayed in garments made from fabrics which she had spun, woven, colored and made with her own hands.

"At that time literary schools in the rural districts were unknown in Van Zandt county, but as the children grew up with the county, schoolhouses were erected and teachers invited to come among us. And the man who could solve all the problems in Smiley's arithmetic, and understand all the rudiments laid down in the old blue back speller, was considered as holding a first grade certificate.

"At that time, churches or houses for public worship were very few and far between, but every one's bosom was the habitation of his Divine Master from which flowed those noble impulses which prompted men and women to deeds of duty and to love their neighbors as themselves.

"Such, according to my best recollection, is a brief sketch of the habits and customs of the early settlers of Van Zandt county. They are days past but have left a pleasing recollection in the memory of every Old Settler now living who witnessed their time.

"And now, in conclusion, let me say to you, my old pioneer brethren, we should feel the more proud of those days when we all as one man planted the seed from which grew the tree of wealth whose branches have reached out and overshadowed every mile post in Van Zandt county. And while some of us today are very poor and it may be said by some that our lives have been a failure, but let us sorrow not at the present but rejoice in our knowledge of the past and our hope in the future, for a time is coming and a system is in operation that will bring all on an equality with each other in the end as they were in the beginning. When the lion will lie down in peace with the Lamb and know that:

"All men are equal in their birth,
Heirs of the earth and skies.
All men are equal when this earth
Fades from their dying eyes.

Tis man alone who difference sees
And speaks of high and low,
And tramples these and worships these
While the same path they go."


Solomon Young Carter's speech before the Old Settlers Reunion was printed in the Wills Point Chronicle in 1904. The speech and the family history background was submitted by Ruby Wallace.


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