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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---------