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Blog for Ellis County Texas History

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Friday, February 17, 2017

The Shawnee Cattle Trai through Western Ellis County Marker

Driving through Italy, TX a week ago I decided to take a scenic route towards 5 points.  As I descended L R Campbell rd (Named for Lee Robert Campbell) to the Chambers Creek bottom I spotted a Historical Marker on the right.  "That was never there before!", I said to myself.  Its behind a wire fence at the entrance to Pecan Springs Ranch .  The ranch's website provides a lot of history of the Shawnee Cattle trail and the ancestry of the land in the Sims family.  A beautiful area if not the most beautiful area in Ellis County. The Shawnee Cattle Trail was the original cattle trail north.  I'm not sure if the trail actually follows the road but I do know the cattle drives varied because they had to find land that hadn't been grazed before and it was thought Western Ellis County was chosen because of the prairie lands and the many creeks and springs. I know that Buena Vista Road that connects Waxahachie to Maypearl was the basic path of a connector trail between the main cattle trails. Lots of interesting hard working cowpokes came through here. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ellie May- Ellis County Mammoth

So there have been many news stories done on the Mammoth Ellie May found in between Italy and Avalon in Ellis County.  I've been googling all the stories and heard one where the guy on the dig say that three Mammoth have been pulled from Ellis County earth. One near Bardwell(I'm guessing when the Lake was built in the 60's but not for sure) and one in North Ellis County in the 1920's.But nothing as complete as this Mammoth.

An added note I've been reading a book on Ely Green called "Too Black, Too White."  In 1912 Ely worked in Waxahachie for the Stone & Webster Company who was building a bridge for the North Traction Company.  While digging a hole for a pier "at ten feet he (Ely) dug up a rock that looked polished a weighed 10 pounds" Judge Dunlap was watching and asked to see it.  He proclaimed it to be a Mastodon tooth and that he would put it in the Sims Library.  I'm assuming this is the trestle that crossed Waxahachie Creek south of downtown.  Don't know if it ever made it to the Sims Library.

In the late 80's early 90's I walked out to the old brick factory in Ferris where the golf course is now.  On a hill where they got the clay for the bricks I found some vertebrae. I can't remember if I kept it or not.  Seems like I left it.  Surely, workers came across bones while moving the dirt there. 

Monday, September 16, 2013


Trumball circa 1968

You probably blow right past Trumbull on I-45 and don't think much about it. Well honestly, there really isn't a lot there. A Quiet community with maybe two or three businesses where chickens roam the neighborhood.The People who live there are pretty much considered to be in Ferris. Trumbull has always had a Ferris connection. In 1872 it became a switch on the Houston and Central railroad. In fact, the Engineer's referred to the town as "The Switch." Which means it really didn't have a name. Since the late 1800's Trumbull had gone by a few names. Three Mexican section hands(some say ranch hands) were killed on the tracks and buried on the near by Smith's property on the west side of the tracks. The graves were marked with steel rails. After this the town became known as "Ghost Hill." The Engineer , Mr Valley, would hang a red lantern out out of respect for the dead when he came through town.The town would go through two more names, "Mackie" and "Clemma", until It was finally named Trumbull in honor of J. A. Trumbull, a railroad official.

  In early 1900's a resident recalled that 16 coal burning passenger trains per day would come though Trumbull. Pretty good traffic and this allowed for businesses to thrive. Grocery stores, a saloon, a bank, and a doctor's office. In the early 1900's, the stores were in wooden buildings over by the railroad track. There were three groceries - one operated by L. N. Lee, who also had a small saloon inside. Another grocery store, owned by Jim Davis, had a soda fountain, and sold clothes, shoes and bolts of material. He was also a druggist, owned the first gas station in Trumbull, and a lumber yard on the other side of the tracks. Next to the grocery store was a restaurant, a barber shop (owned by Eli Whitley) and a doctor's office. The Texas Electric Railway came through about 1913 and you get your tickets at Mr. Perkin's store. The interurban station was a three-sided building. In 1954 there was the Trumbull Implement Co., Perkins Grocery store, a filling station, store and market, and a gin run by Larry Smith. The Trumbull Implement factory was owned by John Toal. It was said that he had an ingenious way of making plows. Some say that they were so well built that he put himself out of business because they lasted so long. The sons carried on the business until 1983.

 Originally the town had a log cabin school in 1912 east of town but eventually they built a fine two story brick school. I believe maybe in the late 1910's. I noticed many brick building were erected in this time period around Ellis county. A long time resident, Burnie L. Bailey, believes that the bricks for the school were delivered by train from Malakoff. The school was located just south of the main town. The aerial photograph above is taken from the west and the school would have been in a field to the right out of frame. The school taught up to the tenth grade. In 1945 the children were transferred to Ferris schools. Starting in 1945 Mexican cotton pickers up to 125 used the school building for living quarters. It eventually became abandoned and vandalized. I visited there in the late 1980's or early 1990's and saw the inside. Of course it was vandalized but we could still get up stairs. If my memory serves me right it had an auditorium up stairs. We were really surprised that it seemed like a very fine school for such a small town. In 1999 somebody burned it down and it was bulldozed. Now there is just a field for feeder corn  probably owned by investors that will sale it to the highest bidding gas station one day.
Thanks to Shanon Simpson from the Ellis County Museum for the pics

Monday, July 22, 2013

Ellis County North Western boundary 1878 - I-GN Railroad map

Internet searching about The International-Great Northern Railroad I found this map of 1878. Still shows Ellis County in it's original North west county line. The IGN Railroad would make some tracks in the west and southern parts of Ellis County in 1902.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Waxahachie City Marshal John Henry Spalding deserves a Historical Marker

Yesterday driving down 342 I saw a large gathering of Lancaster police vehicles at 342 and old red oak road. I thought something had gone terribly wrong until I noticed cameras and smiling police officers. It appears the tragedy happened years ago to one of their own. City Marshal P.M. Solomon was struck down by an interurban train he was trying to flag down. There was a station called valley view at this spot on Nov 2, 1912. The City Marshal had got on the south bound train because the driver had alerted him to a drunk on the train. After they got the drunk into custody Marshall tried to flag down the north bound train back to Lancaster but was struck and killed.

 Makes me think that John Henry Spalding deserves a monument to where his death occurred in Waxahahcie, Tx. I believe the location of his murder is on Smokey Lane where Oldham's branch intersects. He was killed by the intoxicated Chas Smith while the Marshall was trying to apprehend him during a shootout. J H Spalding was an original pioneer of Waxahachie and served six years a s City Marshal until his death on December 17, 1882. Director Robert Benton is the Great Grandfather. Benton based the movie Places In The Heart loosely on the shooting death of his Great Grandfather. Dallas County Sheriff Assistant Deputy (Ret.) Terry Baker has researched and brought back respect to many forgotten fallen officers. Guys like him could probably get an historical marker put up for Marshal Spalding. Sheriff Baker actually has left his research in the Sims Library resources department.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Johnson County Takes A Slice of Ellis County

A while back I was thumbing through the Ellis County Genealogical Society's Searchers and Researcher's fall 1996 issue. Found a guy named, Dan Barker, who was researching post offices in Ellis County. He had found that a number of post offices established in 1860 located in Ellis County's far western region had disappeared. He knew something was wrong. He remembered reading a small reference to border changes in Ellis County in one of the history books. He had not given it much attention until now. His research found that a border community Auburn (later called Antioch) had changed from Ellis County to Johnson County. I know that the Auburn cemetery is in Ellis County but I think it had moved some and then changed names. It was basically just a group of houses at one time. I found a Federal Census map of Texas where you can tell the Ellis County and Johnson County border change somewhere from the 1870 map to the 1880 map. It's hard to say when people actually started figuring out when they had changed to a different county. Probably when they paid taxes, vote or had to go to court. Mr Barker did say that if you were looking for people in these communities in the 1870 census they would be in Ellis County in the 1880 census they would be in Johnson County.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I believe the legislative act to give Johnson County the triangular slice of prime Ellis County farmland was proposed in 1869 under the Reconstruction government. It was a section of Ellis County's western border 19 1/2 miles long north and south and 11 1/4 miles east and west. About a 100 square miles of good Ellis County soil. Now how could this be?!! And why did Ellis County put up with it? Hans Smith and his son's had gathered the 100 signatures needed to form Ellis County out of Navarro County(Which everybody knew Navarro would be divided up because it was way too large of an area in 1849 to have a government represent it's people. Just like Robertson and Milam were divided up.) Representative General E. H. Tarrant(The Indian fighter for whom Tarrant County is named) introduced the act to create Ellis County and the legislative act to create Ellis County was signed by Governor Peter Hansborough Bell on December 20, 1849.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I think that the Reconstruction government, like the controversial Governor Edmund J Davis, pretty much did what they wanted to do. The story goes that Johnson County was whining about being forced to give up half of its land to Hood County. In 1866 by act of 11th legislation of Texas, Hood county was formed comprising of 623 sq miles of Johnson County land. Pretty much half of Johnson County. But at least it did form another county. Later in 1875 Somervell County was cut out of Hood. Johnson County complaining they lost so much of their land they proposed to take the western section of Ellis County.  Governor Edmund J. Davis approved the act on March 25, 1871. This was a purely unnecessary land grab. It wasn't to form another county it was to appease somebody in Johnson County. So, many towns changed their county during this time from Ellis County to Johnson County. Here is a list of some. Antioch( Auburn), Barnesville,Bradley,Cahill, Caleb, Cope Cemetery, Crill Miller, Cotton Valley, Cross Timbers,Gossip, Griffith Switch, Heugh, Hines, Lillian, Myers settlement, Pleasant Point, and Truelove. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------It didn't end here. Well into the  1880's the boundary between Johnson and Ellis came in to dispute again. Apparently, when a border between counties is surveyed a surveyor representing each county must be employed to work together. Through the General Land Office I got information that on 5/29/1882 it was noted by the Johnson County surveyor that the Ellis County surveyor did not show up. The notes of the Johnson County surveyor gave my General Land Office source the impression the boundary was still in dispute. It is said that in 1887 the Johnson-Ellis County line dispute got heated and not until 52 years later in September of 1939 did it peacefully get marked and recorded into the State Land Office. Apparently three other lines had been made but were not the proper ones. The Surveyors had to go by the instructions of the act of 1869. The lines were marked with 10 foot Corner markers that were placed six and a half feet deep into the ground with the county's names on the side(I wonder if they are still around?) and then adjoining markers were set in the 19 mile line. They were five foot concrete posts set three feet deep in the ground. Bois d' arc post were placed in the ground every mile. County officials had to figure out back taxes to areas that had been paying the wrong county. What a mess! ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Today, it is interesting to think about this triangle slice of land. It was upsetting for Ellis County to unfairly loose the prime farm land. But how upset do you think old citizens of Ellis County would be if they would have known that in the 21st century the Barnett shale would be the boom of our times and this piece of disputed land is a core section of it. Midlothian sits right on the Ouachita Overthrust  west of it where the land drops is the flat land that was taken from Ellis County and is part of the Ft Worth Basin. This land is full of the Barnett Shale which is full of natural gas which makes people's pockets full of money. Border War? Glad it was finally settled before they knew that it was there. I believe wildcatters found the gas in the 1950's but didn't have the technology to get it. I got a few maps to show the border change, the section stolen form Ellis County, gas wells (pooling) and one that shows the Barnett shale.

  ----------------1850 federal census map-----------------------
-------------------------1880 federal census map-------------------------------

                                                           My outline of the stolen section
                                                        Gas wells in the stolen section..
                                              ----Barnett Shale locations---------

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Capt R. D. ApRice

Read about an interesting Character, CAPT. R.D. ApRice, in the History of Telico, Tx book. A nice lady who was project director of the book let me borrow it. I was hoping to purchase a copy but don't know if there are more available.

Telico was known as Trinity City before the civil War. It was generally in the same area. Trinity city was formed in 1849 (technically in Navarro County but not for long. December 29,1849 it would be in Ellis County)with 118 blocks laid out. The Telico Manufacturing company was formed here with assests of $200,000. They manufactured wool, cotton, and lumber. Trade was back and forth with Galveston. The Trinity River was not known for being the best navigable river. Light draft steamboats would be the most common water craft for business. The largest was the "Welshman" and owned by Captain R.D. ApRice whos was originally from Wales. It was a double-decker steamboat. The Welshman was known to travel as far up as Dallas. Captain ApRice saw the Trinity as a practical transportation route for people and commerce. He surveyed the Trinity all the way to Trinity City where he made a port. When Dallas grew he made Dallas his last stop to trade with the Gulf. Then the Civil War came and ended the business with all the blockades. The Captain moved to Italy, Tx. He was involved with supplying ammunition for the Confederates from Ellis County. ApRice also became a Justice of the Peace. He had the contract for the third Ellis County Courthouse in 1870 under the Reconstruction's Police Court. They needed offices badly during the Reconstruction. The Stone for the Courthouse was to be local and ApRice found a quarry at S.A. Clifton's place two miles east of Waxahachie, Tx. It was a hard native yellow limestone and ApRice was to be responsible for quarrying the limestone and building the foundation. If you go to the basement of the current Courthouse you can still see the third courthouse foundation. John Solon was given the duty of cutting the stones. ApRice is said to be buried north west of Italy about 4 miles. He also had the abilities of a mechanic and had written poetry.

I have recently found the burial spot of R. D. ApRice in Italy.  He is buried in the Clay- Bell cemetery on the back of private property off of R L Campbell Rd. I would advise asking permission before venturing down there so not to surprise anybody. By coincidence I met some of R D's descendants.  They don't own the property around the cemetery they just happen to be there to find relatives.  I was told by a Mr. Bell  that ApRice was a Welsh way of saying the son of Rice or some version of that.  In documents you will see his name written"R. D. Ap Rice." I also would like to note that in the 1870 census he is documented as "Richard" for his first name. Mr Bell told me R D's mother is buried their with a large Obelisk grave stone.  It is very well kept graveyard down a hill.  I asked the relative if he knew why ApRice sank his steamboat.  He said that an old family story was that a wife had drilled holes in the boat and sank it.  I don't know if he had more than one wife.  But it makes a good story.

Regarding the Welsh patronymics, I found this on ancestry "A number of Welsh names being with P which come form the Welsh way of patronymics. That is, they said, "David ap Morgan ap Griffith ap Hugh ap Tudor ap Rhice" — ap meaning "son of." The "a" in ap was often dropped, and that accounts for the frequency of the surname starting with P. This how Hugh became Pugh; Powell is from ap Howell, Pritchard from ap Richard, and Price from ap Rhys."

Capt R D AP Rice grave