TENNESSEE'S TEXAS RANGER
Used here with his permission
1880 Census pg.
LEGENDS, AND A LITTLE GOSPEL TRUTH
Mary Ann Stewart Matthews and her small children were alone in the
tiny cabin Robert Matthews had built in the canebrakes of Southern
Middle Tennessee. November 18l4 had come with a chill in the
air, but the cabin was made warm by the crackling fire that burned
in the large stone fireplace.
Mary Ann had been expecting the arrival of her sixth child for
several days and had spent the time making preparation for what was
about to happen. The large oak barrel had been filled
with fresh water from the spring and a generous supply of wood had
been stacked near the fireplace. A large pot of beans and ham
hock simmered in the heavy iron pot that hung over the fire
and she had baked several large skillets of corn bread the night
before. Mary Ann had milked the cow soon after the sun rose
and had strained the rich milk through a white cotton cloth into the
large crock pot her mother had given her when she and Robert left
North Carolina. The milk and two large molds of butter sat in the
"cooler box" that Robert had ingeniously created on the
north wall of the cabin.
The cabin and its contents were a constant reminder to Mary Ann that
she was fortunate to have her Robert. They had been married almost
fourteen years and Mary Ann often thanked the "Good Lord"
for every minute of the relationship. Robert had learned
woodwork from an old cabinet maker in Mecklenburg County, North
Carolina and had made Mary Ann a beautiful bed as a wedding present.
And..just before their "Patty" was born, he made a
combination cradle and rocking chair that was the marvel of the
community. Robert had said that Mary Ann could work on her
embroidery and rock the new baby at the same time, her two favorite
Robert had constructed the cabin with the same "keeness of
design" that had been employed on the bed and the cradle.
The cabin was small but other wives in the settlement were
constantly commenting about the little details that were present.
No other cabin had a "Cooler Box" where milk and butter
could be stored in winter months. Most cabins were drafty, but
taken care to position each log tightly against the other. He
had shown Mary Ann and Patty how to mix grass and moistened
clay..."chinkin'" that was used to "chink"
openings where the logs did not meet.
Robert had taken great pains to make the heavy door weather tight
and the wood hinges permitted it to be opened with ease. It was a
"Dutch" door that some of the German families in North
Carolina had made for their cabins. The top could be opened
for light and ventilation. The bottom would remain
closed to keep children "in" and varments "out."
Mary Ann's fireplace was the envy of every wife in the settlement.
Robert had carefully selected every stone and joined the stones with
clay mortar. There was an oven for baking and a large iron
swing supported pots that were hung over the fire.
Robert made the mantel from the wood of a maple tree that he had
felled nearby and carefully sawed into heavy boards. The
mantel looked like fine furniture when Robert was finished with it.
He had hung his musket there and there he hung the powder horn that
her father, Sampson Stewart, had carried in the American Revolution
and had given to Robert. Both were now absent from their
places of honor on the mantel.
The musket and powder horn
were with Robert and Robert was somewhere to the South serving his
country in the War of 1812. Someone had said that he was with
Andrew Jackson down in New Orleans protecting the mouth of the
Mississippi from the British.
Robert had been home for several weeks in the summer to help gather
the crops, but he had returned to his militia unit the last of
August. He was reluctant to leave, knowing that the birth of
another child was expected in the fall, but Robert Matthews had
given his word to his country and, to Robert Matthews,...it was
important..to keep one's word. Keeping one's word was
one of many Christian duties that had been instilled into the mind
of Robert Matthews by his parents, James and Mary Doak Matthews.
Robert did, however, have some comfort in the fact that Mary Ann's
sister, Martha Patricia..."Aunt Patty"...would come when
the "time was near." "Aunt Patsy"
had married Edward Gullet and they had made the move from North
Carolina with Robert and Mary Ann. Patsy and Edward Gullett
had cleared some land and built a cabin several miles north of where
Robert and Mary Ann had settled.
Mary Ann had planned well for the "birthin'" of the new
baby. The cabin was clean. Water, firewood, and food
were in good supply. And .. Patsy would arrive on the
fifteenth .. just one day away.
Sampson placed another log on the fire and while Patsy worked with
Jane and Sampson on their "learnin'" Mary Ann took
opportunity to relax with her embroidery...sitting in the
rocker-chair. Minerva Catherine and William Newton were
playing on the furry rug made from the skin of a bear Robert had
killed the year before. Mary Ann was almost finished
with a "sampler" that
she planned to give her sister Patsy. Embroidery had been Mary Ann's
specialty since early childhood and she had received high praise
from her elders. The "sampler" she was creating for
Patsy spelled out "The Lord is My Shepherd." She
knew that Patsy would appreciate it.
Mary Ann was thinking of Robert..wondering where he was, when he
would come home. She was proud of Robert and of the
children she had borne him. She smiled as Minerva Catherine played
on the rug. She was almost two. Martha Patricia..her
Patsy who was named for Mary Ann's sister...was ten and what a
mature young lady for her age. Mary Ann had taught Patsy to
read and how to do numbers. Now Patsy was teaching Jane and
Sampson. Sampson was eight and such a handsome boy. He had
assumed responsibility for many of the outside chores. Jane
was now nine and wanted to learn to cook just like Mary Ann.
William Newton was four. He was still her chubby "baby
boy", but he was growing fast.
Mary Ann was rocking comfortably as she watched her children, her
fingers moving the threaded needle quickly and artistically through
the cloth she had woven the previous summer. Suddenly, Mary Ann
experience a pain that had become familiar...a contraction that was
a signal that the birth of a child was approaching. Patsy
would not arrive until the following day and it was
too late to send her Patsy to a neighbor for help. Mary Ann
would have to depend upon Mary Ann.
Mary Ann Stewart Matthews remained calm as she moved about the cabin
without alarming the children, gathering items she knew would be
need for "Birthin'." Labor pains were occurring in
much faster succession than she had remembered in previous
births. She gave instruction to her Patsy and was
comforted in the knowledge that her children would be safe in the
cabin. She could depend on Patsy.
The labor pains were coming closer as she made fast the heavy wooden
door of the cabin. The day was cold, but the sun was
shining brightly and the wind was calm. Mary Ann
gathered her long skirts as she made her way passed the shed where
the milk cow and her new calf were penned...passed the haystacks
Robert had created when he was home for the few days in the summer.
She remembered how hard Robert had worked while he was home and how
lucky she was to have Robert for her husband.
Soon she was on the edge of the dense canebrake...tall hollow canes
with sharp leaves..some as high as a man. Canebrakes had
covered the area when they arrived, but Robert had cleared almost
fifty acres to plant crops, but there were many acres of canebrake
The pains were even closer as she found a clearing in the cane that
was covered with tall prairie grass. The first frost had
killed the tall grass. It had been washed clean by the
fall rains and bleached by the sun...a perfect straw colored "birthin'"
Mary Ann was experienced at "birthin'" babies, but this
was the first time she had faced the experienced alone. She
remembered how frightened she had been when Patsy was born despite
the presence of her Mother, Catherine Stewart, and the old Slave
Woman who had been in her family for as long as Mary Ann could
remember. The Old Slave Woman had told Mary Ann that her
"birthin'" would be "gist fine"...and it was.
Subsequent "birthin'" experiences had become almost
routine and when her Catherine was born two years before Mary Ann
barely interrupted her daily routine.
The pains were arriving in quick succession, but Mary Ann remained
calm. She had made preparation. She knew what to expect.
More..she knew what to do. She recalled the processes of
past births, made mental notes, and each contraction made her happy
as she gave thought to having another precious baby when her Robert
was able to return home.
Mary Ann was settled comfortably on the soft grasses when the final
pain was experienced. The baby was now coming fast.
Suddenly, Mary Ann was holding the baby in her hands. It was a
boy! Mary Ann held him by his feet and gave him a loving
"whack" on the backside..just like the Old Slave Woman had
done to Patsy. There followed a cry that shattered the silence of
canebrake and Mary Ann laughed aloud..shocked that such a tiny body
would produce such sound. Next, there was the tying of the umbilical
cord. Then Mary Ann reached into her apron pocket for the embroidery
scissors she had remembered to bring to sever the cord.
Mary Ann smiled as she dried the tiny body with clean, soft, cotton
cloths she had brought from the cabin. She noted the perfect
little body and the full head of dark hair. Mary Ann
remarked to herself, "This is a beautiful baby."
But.. Mary Ann thought all babies were pretty.
The sun was shining brightly
on Mary Ann's primitive "birthin'" bed and the canebrake
broke the little breeze that blew in with the cold. Mary Ann
was exhausted and she took advantage of the opportunity to rest
awhile...to enjoy God's newest blessing in her life. She
thought of Robert and the day they were married at the Almance
Presbyterian Church in North Carolina. She
thought of her parents, Sampson and Mary Wiley Stewart...four
hundred miles away. How glad they would be to know they had another
His name? That was important. She would call him Robert
Harvey Matthews after his father.
It was then that Mary Ann realized what day it was. It was
November 3, 1814. It was the birthday of Robert Harvey
Matthews. It was..as well..the Fourteenth Anniversary of the wedding
of Robert Matthews and Mary Ann Stewart. Mary Ann had
presented a fitting anniversary present to her Robert who was far
away serving his country.
(Note: The powder horn mentioned above was given to Robert Harve
Matthews prior to his leaving for Texas in 1835 and was in his
possession when he died at his large home in Dawson in 1894.
It was, probably, in the large home when Bettie Prddy Matthews
lived, but disappeared after her death. No picture of
Robert Harve has been located at this date.)
Robert Harve Matthews 1814-1894
"COME TO TEXAS!"
Sterling Clack Robertson was a huge man in stature, but he was
equally large in the minds of the small Duck River boys who had
observed him as he engaged in land transactions there for many
years. His father and uncles had been among the first to enter
The Tennessee Territory, some as early as the 1750's. He had
been named for a soldier from South Carolina who had served with
distinction in the American Revolution.
Sterling Robertson was no stranger to Maury County, Tennessee in the
early 1800's. Elijah Robertson, had received a huge land
grant in the late 1700' that included a large part of the area and
many Maury County land deeds make reference to the grant as the
beginning of the title.
Sterling Robertson did not live in Maury County, but his name
appears time and time again in various land transactions there.
He often served as a land broker. There were times when he
bought land outright. He often foreclosed on land he had sold
and financed. Other members of the Robertson Clan were, also,
involved in land transactions in the area. James Robertson
from Davidson County (Nashville) and Mark Robertson were active land
The early arrival of the Robertson family in The Tennessee Territory
permitted them to acquire huge tracts of land by various means.
They were on the frontier and they quickly became true entrepreneurs
of the wilderness...always ready to seize the opportunity of a
lifetime during the lifetime of that opportunity. The family
became extremely active in Tennessee politics and accumulated
Tennessee had, indeed, become a veritable Gold Mine for the
Robertson Family. They had arrived early and by the 1820's the
area was filled with thousands of families who come arrived to
settle the relatively inexpensive land. Sterling Clack
Robertson had done well financially buying-selling land, but there
was no opportunity for him to become the true power broker that his
father and uncles and grandfather had been. Sterling longed
for an opportunity to make a similar mark on his own and it was
bound to happen...in Mexican Territory.
Mexico included a large and largely desolate area which began west
of the Sabine River...South of the Red River and north of the Rio
Grande. Mexico had attempted several settlements, but none
flourished more than the establishment of Catholic Missions and a
few unproductive ranches. When land prices began to soar in
the United States, many Americans who had failed to obtain land of
their own began to look across the Sabine River into the Mexican
Territory. It was a new frontier. It was
Moses Austin applied in 1819 to become the first of several
"Impresarios" to receive permission from the Mexican
government to settle American colonist in the province of Texas.
Moses Austin died in 1821, leaving his dream of building an empire
to his son, Stephen F. Austin. Mexico permitted settlers in
the "Impresario" colonies to receive 4605 acres of land
for as little as $50.00. The "Impresario," when
quotas of colonist were filled, received personal grants of
many,many thousands of acres.
The "Impresario" thing was exactly what Sterling Clack
Robertson had in his dream for the future and he was not far behind
Austin in becoming an "Impresario" in his own name.
The idea had begun in 1825 in his Uncle's bank in Nashville and the
formation of a group of leading Nashville professionals known as The
Texas Association. The group made several unsuccessful
attempts to begin a movement to settle in Texas, but it was Sterling
Robertson, one of the incorporators, who moved the idea into
The group had purchased an "Impresario" contract for
$8,000.00 that included a huge tract bounded on the south by the El
Camino Real (Old San Antonio Road), on the east by the Trinity
River, and on the west by the Brazos River. The north
boundaries were vague and, apparently, extended as far as colonist
had courage to settle. Robertson established his community
just north of the El Camino Real and a few miles east of The El
Camino Real landing on the Brazos River. He called his
community Fort Franklin after a town southeast of Nashville,
Robertson led several Middle Tennessee families to Fort Franklin in
1830. They rode horses from Maury County to the Little Rock,
Arkansas area, south to the Texas Territory town of Nacogdoches, and
west to the Robertson grant. Robertson returned to
Tennessee several times to recruit settlers. He had returned
in 1835 on another recruitment trip to Giles and Maury Counties and
he was constantly proclaiming the boundless future that existed for
those rugged individuals who dared make the move to Texas...and Fort
Franklin, in particular.
It was almost noon when he made his appearance at the home of Robert
and Mary Ann Matthews who lived in the Hurricane Switch area.
Robertson was greeted as the old and trusted friend that he
was and he expressed his appreciation for having an invitation to
the noon meal. Mary Ann and Hannah, the female slave given to
Mary Ann by her father, Sampson Stewart, stayed in the kitchen to
make sure that the "extras" always added for prominent
guests were carefully prepared.
The large bell that hung near the font gate was rung with vigor and
the sounds rushed across the fields and canebrakes to the far
reaches of the Robert Matthews farm. One by one the family
members working the fields arrived, each greeting Sterling Robertson
with a hearty "Hello" and a "Welcome Back!"
Laughter filled the large kitchen of the new house Robert had built
for Mary Ann to replace the small cabin he had constructed thirty
Minerva Catherine Matthews, one of their daughters, had married
Francis Slaughter the previous July, and they had come over for the
day. Francis had assisted Sterling Robertson in his
recruitment from time to time and he had first planned to go to
Texas in 183l, but was unable to make the trip due to the birth of
his third child and the death of his first wife.
Prudence, another daughter, was dating a young man whose name was
Samuel Wright. Sam Wright, who lived on an adjacent farm, was
interested in what Robertson was to say and had been invited for
Presently, young Robert Harve rode up on his horse. He was
working as a surveyor to establish legal boundaries for a farm
recently purchased by a family from North Carolina, but knowing that
Sterling Clack Robertson was coming, had rushed to finish his work
so he could be home for dinner.
Sterling Robertson had always liked Robert Harve. Robert Harve
was twenty and Sterling Robertson, who had not seen him since he was
fifteen, could not believe that the young teenager he had left was
now a tall, lanky, good-looking young man. He noted that
Robert Harve had retained the boyish grin and warm smile.
Robertson remembered Robert Harve carrying the chains for surveyors
as they did their work. Robert had begun carrying chains when
he was ten or eleven and when he was fourteen he was solving
mathematical equations required for complicated surveying efforts.
The long table located in the huge kitchen was covered with a blue
and white checkered cloth that was almost hidden by the many
platters and bowls of freshly cooked food. Hannah had picked
some zinnias from the flowered bed near the well and their color
splashed over the top of the old white crockery pitcher that served
as a vase. Sterling Robertson, the guest of honor, sat at one
end of the table. The food was delicious, but everyone who sat
at the table waited anxiously for the end of the meal and the
opportunity to hear the latest news from that fabulous place called
Sterling Robertson bragged on the fine meal to Mary Ann, telling her
that Hannah was the finest cook in all Middle Tennessee.
Hannah smiled like a sixteen year old girl despite her age that
neared seventy. When the last of the berry cobbler was
finished cigars were distributed to the menfolks and the dishes
cleared from the table. Mary Ann, Catherine, and Prudence
helped Hannah put away the food and stacked the dishes. Dishes
would be washed later. The women wanted to enjoy the
conversation that was sure come.
And the anticipated conversation did come...first with the small
talk about the crops...then the economy of Middle Tennessee...and..then...quickly..to
what was happening in TEXAS. Robertson brought his hearers up
to date on the latest word concerning the Mexican political
situation. Mexico had begun to have second thoughts
about permitting so many Americans to settle in Texas. He
expressed his concern over the increasing discontent between the
American colonists and the Mexican Government.
Robertson made himself remember that he was there to recruit
settlers and moved quickly from politics to emphasizing that no
change had been made with regard to distribution of land. Each
colonist was still able to receive a grant of 4406 acres of land
with an investment of $50.00. He pointed out that the
colonists, to obtain the grant, were required to sign a pledge of
allegiance to Mexico and become a member of the Catholic Church.
Mary Ann bristled as Sterling made the comment about becoming a
member of the
Catholic Church. Mary Ann was a staunch member of the
Presbyterian Church. She had brought her children up with
Presbyterian practice and strong Calvinistic morality. She
wanted none of her children to become Catholic. And she
forcefully voiced her feelings to Sterling Clack Robertson.
Robertson laughed in response as he reared back in the straight
chair and puffed again on the long black cigar and assured Mary Ann
that the thing about the church was nothing more than a formality
that the Mexicans insisted, but no one took it seriously.
Besides, he said, there was not one Catholic Church in Fort Franklin
and that the only time he had seen a priest was on the road from
Nacogdoches to San Antonio.
Robertson continued, saying that many Americans had settled in Texas
and that many, many more would be arriving in a few years, that, in
time, the Americans in Texas would renounce their allegiance to
Mexico and become a Republic. He added that there was
much talk of the matter circulating throughout the Texas
Robertson pointed out that life was hard on the Texas
frontier...sometimes cruel, but he turned to Robert and reminded him
that Middle Tennessee was no "bed of Roses" thirty years
earlier when Robert and Mary Ann had arrived in their wagon.
Robert acknowledged Robertson's comment and remembered just how hard
and difficult those first years in the canebreaks had been for him
and Mary Ann. But..he thought...thirty years had made a
difference...a big difference. Now there was a new house, the
fields were cleared and productive, additional land had been
purchased, and the Matthews farm produced more cotton than any other
in the Duck River area.
The thoughts by Robert Matthews were halted as Robertson continued
with his informative dialogue. Robertson said that many of the
Americans living in Texas had begun to talk of the day when Texas
would be part of the United States. After all, he commented,
there more Americans living in Texas than Mexicans and the Americans
possessed most of the real wealth.
Robertson began to mention some of the families already living at
Fort Franklin. He named the McCandless family from Giles
County. Robert and Mary Ann knew them well. There were
other familiar names mentioned...Lawrence, Wheelock, Berry, and
Hill. These were names familiar to Maury County residents.
Robert and Mary Ann could remember when some of those families had
left the county to go to Texas and she was pleased that they had
done so well there.
Sterling Clack Robertson mentioned that he had already secured a
large list of new families who had agreed to return to Texas with
him and he indicated that the list would eventually include more
than one hundred families. Most, he commented, were young families
with prospects of being nothing more than share-croppers in
Tennessee, but who could..possibly..own a plantation in Texas.
Robertson pointed out that Texas needed hard working families who
would be willing to overcome the hardship and dangers and privations
of the frontier. "Indians?" asked Minerva Catherine.
Robertson commented that Indians did live in Texas, but that they
were, for the most part, peaceful. Local Indians were as
peaceful as the old "hound dawg" sleeping on the front
porch. He added that, now and then, the Comanches and the
Kiowas get "riled" up and create problems at isolated
ranch houses, but never settled
communities like Fort Franklin.,
Francis Slaughter and his bride, Minerva Catherine Matthews, had
talked seriously about Texas before the wedding in July.
Francis had worked with Robertson for several years and would have
gone to Texas with him earlier had it not been for the illness and
death of his first wife. Now he wanted to take his bride and
his three children there. Minerva Catherine had agreed to
share his dream as well as his life, but they had not revealed their
plans to Robert and Mary Ann.
Presently, Sterling Robertson turned to Robert Harve and inquired as
to what plans Robert Harve had for his life. Robertson was
unaware that Robert Harve Matthews was already excited about that
faraway place called Texas. He had a bad case of that frontier
"itch" that had affected just about every Matthews
generation for more than two hundred years. He often imagined
as he rode his horse across his Father's farm that he was riding
across his own plantation that stretched as far as he could see in
every direction. That was fantasy. Reality reminded him
that such a dream would never be possible in settled Maury County
Tennessee. The Nashville paper had carried accounts of
what was happening in Texas and now...hearing first hand reports
from Sterling Robertson...created the worst case of "frontier
itch" he had ever experienced..and it needed scratching...real
"Robert Harve," Robertson continued, "I
desperately need a surveyor at Fort Franklin and I think that I can
make it worth your while if you would see fit to help for a couple
of years." Mary Ann flinched as she realized what
Robertson had said to her son. She wanted Robert Harve to be
successful, but she had never envisioned Robert Harve seeking
success in such a primitive place as Texas. Robertson saw the
concerned looks in the eyes of Mary Ann and Robert and quickly
assured them that if Robert Harve wanted to come with him that he
would take personal care to watch over him and make him an
associate. He pointed out that Robert Harve would be permitted
a sizable grant of land as a single person and that he would receive
additional land each time he surveyed property. People
in Texas didn't have much currency, but were willing to make payment
for service with land.
Robert Harve had listened, but he made no comment. He would
make no decision...as good as the opportunity appeared...until the
matter had been fully discussed with Robert and Mary Ann.
Sterling Robertson was aware of what was going through all minds
gathered around that noonday table and he stressed that Robert Harve
should not make a decision at that time, that he should talk to his
parents, and that he, Robertson, would contact him in a few days.
Robertson announced that he was to meet with another family for
supper, thanked Mary Ann and Robert for their hospitality, bade the
group good-bye, and rode away on his horse.
Family conversations continued through the afternoon and into the
evening. Every word and every thought focused on Texas and
what Sterling Robertson had said. Robert Harve had made his
personal decision. He desperately wanted to be with Robertson
on his return to Texas, but he would not do so against the wishes of
his parents. He listened carefully as they spoke of
consequences of various decisions relating to the the matter, but at
no point did either Robert or Mary Ann voice any opposition to any
the family going to Texas.
Minerva Catherine and Frank Slaughter went for a long walk.
Those who remained at the house knew that the walk involved more
than the need for exercise. It was talk time. Frank and
Minerva were barely married, but they were ambitious...they were
both hard workers.
The battle of the pros and cons of family members going to Texas
raged on and, as the logs began to flicker in the fireplace, Robert
placed his hand on the shoulder of Robert Harve and told his son
that he knew that he wanted to be with Robertson on the return trip
to Texas...that if that was his desire he would have the blessing
and support of Robert and Mary Ann.
Robert Harve hugged Robert and Mary Ann, grabbed his hat and coat,
and was through the door. He jumped from the porch to the bare
ground with a "YEE-HA" that could have been heard all the
way to Giles county.
Robert Harve Matthews, at age twenty, was on his way...to
adventure....to success...to a new life.
HE WAS ON HIS WAY TO TEXAS!
ROBERT HARVE MATTHEWS
SPRING HILL MASONIC LODGE
Robert Harve Matthews was born 1814 Maury Co. Tennessee, the son
of Robert and Mary Ann Stewart Matthews. He trained as a
surveyor and came to Texas in 1835 as a single man in company
with family members who settled at Fort Franklin, Robertsons
Colony. He became a member of The Texas Rangers and was
involved in a number of Indian battles, once wounding Jose
Maria, Chief of the Andarko Indians who had a camp on the West
Bank of the Brazos River.
came to the Spring Hill area in 1848 with his sister, Minerva
Catherine Matthews Slaughter, a bride of a few months of Dr.
George Washington Hill. When Dr. Hill became responsible for
Indian Affairs and the resettlement of Indians in Young Co.
Texas (Graham), Robert Harve was named Surveyor of Young Co.,
lived there, and owned property in the county.
returned to Spring Hill and purchased 500 acres of land from Dr.
Hill, surveyed the land into Town Lots, Farm Lots, wide streets
and filed the plat on the fly leaf of the County Clerks Book in
Corsicana. The area was known as "The New Spring Hill."
Robert Harve was, from time to time, owner of the Spring Hill
General Store where he, also, served as Postmaster. He gave
land for the church and school, served as a Navarro County
Commissioner, raised cattle, purchased and developed property.
His first and only marriage was at age seventy to Miss Bettie
Priddy who was twenty-eight. She was a daughter of Richard
and Elizabeth Gilmore Priddy. A son was born the following
year but died in infancy and is buried at The Spring Hill
Cemetery in the fenced plot where his father was buried later.
Robert Harve Matthews died in 1894 in the new house he had built
on Main Street in Dawson. He had accumulated 1600 acres of
land, owned cattle, commercial buildings in Dawson and
Corsicana, and held financial notes for debts.
on the Texas Frontier
Robert Harve Matthews
Some reports indicate that Robert Harve Matthews first joined
Barnes' Rangers in 1837 under the command of Major Smith and,later,
joined Eli Chandler's company where he served until 1845.
He..MAY..have first joined
the Rangers in 1837, but the Rangers were formed in November 1835.
Harve arrived at Franklin on Dec. l, 1835 when Rangers in his area
were being recruited. Harve's name is listed as an
"Original Texas Ranger" on the stone marker at the Ranger
Hall of Fame in Waco, Texas. Reason would indicate that he
must have first joined the Rangers sooner than 1837.
Few details have been discovered that shed light on the efforts of
Robert Harve Matthews with the Texas Rangers. The Texas
Rangers in 1835-1840 was a new, and probably, loosely organized
group, that kept few records, many of which were destroyed or
misplaced through the years.
The "Rangers" were established in the fall of 1835 just a
few days before Harve and his sister's family arrived in Franklin.
(Minerva Catherine Matthews had married Francis Slaughter in Maury
Co.TENN in the summer of 1835. Francis' first wife had died
and left him with three small children.) The Rangers needed young
men with spirit and Robert Harve Matthews was just such a young man.
He was single, had not established himself in the community, was
excited about life on the frontier, and wanted to do his part for
the betterment of the community. Harve had arrived in Franklin
on December 1, 1835 and recruitment of individuals to
"range" the area between the Trinity and Brazos Rivers
north of The Old San Antonio Road had begun.
Harve needed something to do and "Rangering" seemed to
Stephen F. Austin initiated the first Texas Rangers in his colony,
but he was not the first the employ "Rangers." The
local militia of Augusta Co Virginia included a group called
"Rangers." And...some of those Virginia
"Rangers," probably, bore the name of Matthews.
Samuel Doak served as a Virginia Ranger in 1742 and James
Matthews..b.1739...married Mary Doak.
Rangering was not a full time position. Rangers were
hired on a per day basis to "range" the area as needed to
maintain some semblance of law and order. There were no
uniforms. Each man was required to furnish his own horse,
saddle, bedroll. Each man was required to furnish his own
The "Look" of The Texas Ranger evolved out of the needs
that soon became evident to those who served. Rangers needed large
hats to keep the hot Texas sun off their faces during the summer and
to keep the heads warm in winter. Tall, heavy leather boots were
needed to protect the feet and legs from mesquite thorns as they
rode through the brush and from the bite of the rattlesnake on the
ground. The repeating rifle and the revolving pistol had not been
invented. Rangers soon learned to carry a muzzle loading rifle
on their saddle and a cap and ball pistol in a crude holster or,
sometimes, just secured at the waist by a wide leather belt. A
powder horn and shot bag completed the requirement for firearms.
Most Rangers soon learned the need to carry, as well, a large knife,
usually secured on the belt with a leather holster. The knife
was used for dressing wild game which became part of their diet when
away from home, but, also, the knife came in handy when Rangers were
forced to engage in hand to hand combat.
Delegations from all over the Mexican territory of Texas had
assembled at San Felipe, seat of government for Stephen F. Austin's
colony, to discuss the needs of the settlers. Viesca,
seat of Robertson's colony, had the largest group. One of the
acts of business was to authorize Silas M. Parker to employ
twenty-five Rangers "to range and guard the frontier between
the Brazos and Trinity Rivers." Ten more were to
"range" east of the Trinity and twenty-five more would
"range" west of the Colorado River.
Each man and horse would be paid $1.25 for each day actually served.
Rangers would be under the command of a Major and consist,
eventually, of one hundred fifty men. Those so employed
were to draw ammunition from John Lott at Washington-on-the-Brazos.
Privates would enlist for one year and receive "full
compensation for pay, rations, clothing, and horse service."
Rangers were "required to always be ready...armed and equipped
with one hundred rounds of ammunition (powder and ball)...good horse
properly accoutered (saddle, bridle, bags, etc.) at their own
expense. If any man had none, Superintendent could purchase
one for him and take it out of his pay"
The above was presented to the delegates on November 21, 1835 and
adopted three days later. R. M. Williamson was elected
"Major of the Corps of Rangers and Sam Houston immediately
ordered Rangers to Mill Creek where Indians were
"lurking," probably to steal horses.
1836 - The Texas Congress passed a Law to "Raise a
Battalion of Mounted Riflemen"...280 men..."To protect the
Major George B. Erath and other authorities prepared a list of
"Rangers" who were included on the Ft. Milam Muster Roll
in 1836 and who were sent in 1837 to Waco Village to establish Ft.
Fisher. The list, presented on a bronze plaque located in the entry
courtyard at the Ranger Hall of Fame at Waco, Texas, includes the
name of R. H. Matthews.
The list presents Capt. Thomas Barron as Commanding Officer.
Lieutenants were Charles Curtis, David Campbell, and George B Erath.
Sergeants were Hardin Nevil, William Neale, Lee R Davis, and James
Jesse Bailey Thomas James
Silas Bates Sam Johnson
John Barron Ben Long
David Clark R H Matthews
James Coryell Thomas Matthews
William R Cox William Matthews
Aaron Cullins Green McCoy
Daniel Culling Jerry McDonald
Anson Darnell Lewis Moore
Charles Duncan Morris Moore
Alfred Eaton H R Parsons (Persons)
Thomas H Eaton Joseph Proctor
Bradley Emmons Sterrett Smith
David M Farmer Empson Thompson
Robert Furgeson John Tucker
Benjamine Fitch John Folks
Stephen Frasier Jacob Gross
1839 - Robertson County: Authorized recruitment of
fifty-six men to serve six months. Thirty-four were recruited
and led by W G Evans, marched to Ft. Milam (two miles distant from
present day Marlin Texas). It was on April 26, 1839 that
Indians stampeded a herd of buffalo through their camp.
Harve Matthews must have been party to many of the early activities
of the Ranger group operating out of Franklin, but only two written
accounts of his involvement have been found.
SERVICE DATES - EARLY TEXAS RANGERS
Rank Organization Com. Officer
Mar 5, 1839-June 8, 1839 Mtd Rangers
Capt Jas D Matthews
ROBERT HARVE MATTHEWS
Mar 8, 1839 90 Days Pvt Mtd Rangers Capt Jas D Matthews
Jan 4, 184l l5 Days Pvt Robertson MM Capt. Eli Chandler
June 4, 184l 15 Days Pvt Robertson MM Capt. Eli Chandler
July 20, 184l 15 Days Pvt Robertson MM Capt. Eli Chandler
Aug 6, 184l 10 Days Pvt Robertson MM Capt. Eli Chandler
Aug 24, 184l l0 Days Pvt Robertson MM Capt. Eli Chandler
Oct 29, 184 l6 Days Pvt Robertson MM Capt. Eli Chandler
Feb 16, 1845 Pvt Rangers Lt T J Smith
Sept 15, 1845 l00 Days Pvt Robertson Lt T J Smith
JAMES D. MATTHEWS
Mar 8, 1839-June 8, 1939 Mtd Rangers Comm. Officer
Jan 4, 184l l5 Days Pvt Robertson MM Capt. Eli Chandler
May 17, 1841 9 Days Pvt Robertson MM Capt. Eli Chandler
June 4, 184l l5 Days Pvt Robertson MM Capt. Eli Chandler
July 20, 184l l5 Days Pvt Robertson MM Capt. Eli Chandler
Aug 6, 184l l0 Days Pvt Robertson MM Capt. Eli Chandler
Aug 24, 184l l0 Days Pvt Robertson MM Capt. Eli Chandler
Sept 5, 184l 6 Days Pvt Robertson MM Capt. Eli Chandler
Oct 3, 184l 6 Days Pvt Robertson MM Capt. Eli Chandler
Oct 29, 184l 6 Days Pvt Robertson MM Capt. Eli Chandler
One account occurred near January 1, 1839 and was recorded by an
early Texas frontiersman whose name was John Henry Brown. James
Marlin's home was the northernmost on the Brazos River.(Marlin,
Texas area) Beyond the Marlin place was nothing but wilderness
and Indian country. The Marlins and several other families
were together, perhaps celebrating the arrival of the New Year, when
Indians suddenly broke into their cabin. Several of the
Marlin children were outside the cabin and escaped the bloodshed and
slaughter that occurred inside. Young Isaac Marlin came from
his hiding place after the Indians left, surveyed the situation, and
ran five miles to the home of his uncle, John Marlin. John and
several friends who were visiting at his home, quickly rode to the
horror scene. They found one young girl alive. The other were
dead and scalped.
Ten days later, the Indians, seventy in number, attacked the home of
John Marlin. John and several friends were inside the
house and repelled the attack, killing seven of the Indians.
The two Indian raids prompted a decision upon the part of all
settlers in the area that the Indians had to be pursued and fought
or the settlement would, of necessity, be abandoned.
Forty-eight men gathered from throughout the area, including the
town of Franklin,( Sometimes referred as Fort Franklin), and began
pursuit of the Indians. They quickly found their trail and
followed it to the Brazos. They crossed the river and found a
deserted camp with the fires still smoldering. The
Indians were close by.
On January 16, 1839, they discovered an empty cabin that the Indians
has plundered. The pursuers located the indians six
miles away at Morgan's Point on the Brazos. They were in
a ravine that ran through some Post Oak woods.
Jose Maria, an Indian chief of some notoriety, was leading the group
and, upon seeing the men rushing toward him, pulled his gloves from
his hands, aimed carefully at the leaders. The first
bullet cut through the sleeve of Joseph Butler. The
battle raged for some time and it appeared that the Indians were
near being defeated. A command was issued by the leader of the
pursuers to fall back, but was misinterpreted as a signal for
retreat. The Indians took advantage of the situation and
charged the Texans. The Texans were pursued for four miles
when the Indians gave up. Dead and wounded were said to have
been equal on both sides. The Indians continued their rampages
until they were signally defeated at Little River in Bell County.
The names of several of the Texans involved included William
Fullerton, G. W. Morgan, Joseph McCandless, Britton Dawson, R. H.
Matthews, and Eli Chandler. Eli Chandler was one of the early
officers in the Texas Rangers under whom Robert Harve Matthews
served. Names of McCandless, Morgan, Fullerton, and Matthews
are to be found in the early history of Maury Co. TENN)
Jose Maria, long a threat to the Texas frontier, later became
peaceful and civilized and lived a long life. He often
acknowledge that the Texans had whipped him at the battle at the
Post Oak Woods and that he was retreating until he saw the panic and
confusion which prompted his charge. He visited Bryant's
Station in later years, offering his pipe to Bryant. Bryant
insisted that Jose Maria smoke first since he had won the fight
years earlier. The old chief smiled and puffed away.
A second recorded incident was contributed by a Major H. D.
Prendergast. The year was 1840 and a group of men from
Franklin was sent to pursue some Indians who had stolen horses in
the area. The group included G. H. Love, Judge S. B. Killough,
Harvey Matthews, A.C. Love and D. Hill, two medical students. It is
assumed that "D. Hill" was Dr. George Washington Hill,
who, later, married Minerva Catherine Matthews Slaughter.
One writer stated that "D. Hill" was David Hill, but a
David Hill who was a medical student has not been identified.
The Texans began pursuit and came upon the Indians where two ravines
converged. The Indians were surprised and began fleeing in all
directions. A.C. Love fired the first shot and killed an
Indian squaw riding double with an Indian warrior in retreat.
Several other Indians were hemmed in the ravine and one attempted to
ride through the band of Texans. A shot from Hill's rifle
downed that Indians horse but as the Indian dropped from the horse
he fired point blank at Hill's face, shattering Hill's jaw bone.
A hand to hand battle followed. A.C. Love chased one of the Indians,
each carrying an unloaded rifle. Love caught the Indian and
each attempted to club the other with his rifle. Love's collar
bone was broken, one finger on his left hand crushed. Eventually,
the two began to struggle hand to hand. Love's fingers caught
the Indian's hair...the Indian reacted..and gave Love time to pull
his large knife and plunge it into the Indian.
Early history of Navarro County records the presence of William M.
Love and a W. F. Love. Both were in Navarro County in
the 1850's. These two men may have been sons or nephews of A.C. and
G. H. Love mentioned above.
No record exists that makes note of Robert Harve shooting Jose
Maria, Chief of the Anadarcoe Indian Tribe and sometimes referred to
as "The Iron Eyes." However, several stories
have been told of the friendship that existed between the two when
they became old. It was told that Jose Maria came to visit Robert
Harve at one point when Harve had become ill. His sister Prudence
(Mrs. Samuel Wright) was with Harve at the time and told of Jose
having her feel the bullet that Harve had shot him with..still
lodged under the skin of the old indian's back.
Bountyty & Donation Land Grants of Texas"
Vertical File, Texas Collection, Baylor University,
by Thomas Lloyd Miller MATTHEWS, ROBERT H
One of the rangers who was at
Fort Fisher in 1837, was also in the service of the Republic of
June 4 to September 14, 1836.
MATTHEWS, THOMAS a member of the ranger company at Fort
Fisher in 1837,
was in the service of the Republic of Texas from December ll, 1836
MATTHEWS, WILLIAM O. one of the rangers who
founded Fort Fisher in 1837,
was also in the service of the Republic of Texas from April 28 to
TEXAS LAND BOUNTY RECORDS
MATTHEWS, E W 640 Ac Travis Cty for service 1837 Pd 1874
640 Ac Bell Co paid 1857
MATTHEWS, M W 320 Ac for 1836 Service
160 Ac Hopkins Co pd heirs Jas Gahagan 1872
160 Ac Delta Cty...pd heirs Jas Gahagan 1861
Filed Lamar County
MATTHEWS, R H 640 Ac Navarro Co, Pd 1845 for service in 1837
320 Ac Robertson Co for service in 1836 Pd to
Martha P Matthews 7 Sept 1852
MATTHEWS, THOMAS 1280 Ac Colorado Cty for service 1836, pd to
MATTHEWS, Wm O 320 Ac 80 Ac Hopkins Co pd 11858
240 Ac Denton Cty
"Indian Wars of Texas" Mildred P
Texian Press 1965 Waco Texas POB 1684
Lib Congress Card # 65-29l62
W A Wortham came to Texas from Maury Co, Tn ll-3-1830
JO J. MATTHEWS
12 Days Lamar Co. MM Capt M W Matthews
JOHN C. MATTHEWS
Nov 20, 1838 96 Days Pvt Red River Capt. H B Stout
Apr 20, 1845 Pvt Austin Capt. D C Cady
May 20, 1845 90 Days Pvt Austin Lt. D C Cady
July 20, 184l l5 Days Pvt Robertson MM Capt. Eli Chandler
CAPT. MANSEL W MATTHEWS
Lamar Co MM
Feb 6, 1839 90 Days Pvt Houston Co Capt S Adams
May 9, 1939 90 Days Pvt Houston Co Capt. Solomon Adams
W. O. MATTHEWS
Nov 30, 1838 6 Mos Pvt Red River Capt H B Stout
- Slauter Family Biography
by Carl W. Matthews
Submitted for use at this Website on Dec 1999
A Biographical Account of
the Life of
FRANCIS (SLAUGHTER) SLAUTER
1795 - 1842
Francis Slauter is a name not often recognized in Navarro County,
Texas history, but his name appears on many early land records of
Navarro and several other Central Texas Counties. Francis
Slaughter arrived in Texas December l, 1835 and was named
"Chief Justice" of Robertson's Colony, responsible for
filing deeds for land in more present day Texas Counties than one
Robertson County was formed in 1837 and organized in 1838.
Almost every land transaction recorded in Robertson County from 1838
until January 1842 bore the official signature of Francis Slaughter.
Those land transactions covered more than a little of frontier
Texas. The deeds recorded by Slauter at the Courthouse at
"Old Fort Franklin" represented the dreams of families who
had left the comforts and safety of homes "Back East" to
begin a new life in a raw and savage and unforgiving and hostile
land area which was in Mexican Territory in 1835 and became The
Republic of Texas in 1836.
TEXAS COUNTIES ORIGINALLY PART OF ROBERTSON'S COLONY
l. Brazos l841 Part
2. Dallas l846 Part
3 Limestone 1846
4. Leon 1846
5. Navarro l846
6 Tarrant 1849 From Navarro
7. Ellis 1849 From Navarro
8. Falls 1850 From Limestone
9. Freestone 1851 From Limestone
l0. Johnson 1854 From Hill
ll. Parker 1855 Part from Navarro
12. Palo Pinto 1856 Part from Navarro
13. Hill 1853 From Navarro
14. Johnson 1854 From Hill
15. Hood 1861 From Johnson
Francis Slauter (1795-1842) must have descended from a hardy and
adventurous family that was always seeking new frontiers.
He was, also, one of many Slaughters who bore the name
"Francis." The "First" Francis Slaughter wills
identified in America were in Rappahanock Co Virginia in 1656, in
Richmond in 1718, in Culpepper Co in 1766, and in Shenandoah Co in
1776. Some sources mention a Francis Slaughter living in Isle
of Wight. a Coastal County. These dates indicate a constant move by
the Slaughter family from the coast of Virginia to the frontier
"over the mountains" and into the Shenandoah Valley.
SLAUGHTERS IN KENTUCKY
Virginia Wills reveals a Col. Robert Slaughter, who lived in
Culpepper Co. Virginia; who married Mary Smith in 1723, died in
1769, and left his estate to wife Mary, and three sons, Francis,
Robert, and Thomas. A second Col. Robert Slaughter had
served as a Lt. Col. in the French and Indian War and in the
Virginia House of Burgess 1772-1775, quite possibly the son of the
The second Col. Robert Slaughter may have been among a group of
settlers, many veterans of the Revolutionary War, who were given
grants in The Kentucky Territory. Three hundred large boats of
pioneers landed at the Falls of the Ohio River in 1780, a popular
stopping place located near present day Louisville, Jefferson
Co. Kentucky had but recently opened for
settlement and many of the lands were given to veterans of the
French & Indian War.
Military records from Kentucky state that a Robert Slaughter was
mustered in September 1793 from the Cavalry unit headed by Capt.
John Gordon. Three months later, September 17, 1793,
Robert Slaughter, Esq., was licensed to practice law in Jefferson
Co. This Robert Slaughter would not have been Col.
Robert Slaughter for a Colonel would not have been serving under a
Some members of the Slaughter Family, apparently, remained in
Kentucky. Gabriel Slaughter, whose relationship has not been
established, was elected Governor of Kentucky 1816-1820.
SLAUGHTERS FROM KENTUCKY IN WAR OF 1812
1812 Francis Slaughter, Cpl. Perchal Hickman's Co. 1st Rifle
Reg. Kentucky 1812 William B Slaughter, Pvt. Peter Jordan's Co
Barbee Reg. Kentucky Militia 1812 Francis T Slaughter, Pvt. Peter
Jordan's Co Barbee's Reg. Kentucky Militia 1812
Edmond Slaughter, Pvt. Peter Jordan's Co Barbee Reg. Kentucky
Militia 1812 William H Slaughter, Cpl. James Ray's Co KY
Mounted Vol. Col Sam South 1812 Francis I Slaughter,
Cpl. Peter Dudley's Co, Boswell Reg. KY Vol. 1812 Francis Slaughter
2nd Cpl Peter Dudley's Co. Ky Mounted Boswell Reg. Ky Vol
Detached 1812 Francis Slaughter, Pvt. Jacob Ellison's Co.
Kentucky Mounted Infantry Col. Richard M Johnson
SLAUGHTERS IN TENNESSEE
Robert Slaughter, Esquire, of Jefferson Co. Kentucky had a license
to practice Law thee in December 1793. Seven
months later, July 1794, a Robert Slaughter comes into the court of
Davidson Co. Tennessee (Nashville) and is listed in the returns of
the estate of one Malichiah Sutton. Two years later,
March 16, 1796, Robert Slaughter purchases two hundred acres
of land in Davidson Co. from Andrew Lucas.
Davidson Co. records indicate that Robert Slaughter sold his land in
July 1796 to Churchwell Hooper for Five Hundred Pounds. He, also,
sold a slave boy on July 30, 1796 in Davidson Co. Robert
Slaughter died in Davidson Co. July 21, 1806.
BIRTHS, DEATHS,MARRIAGES IN TENNESSEE
1793 Mary Hodge Slaughter born Mother: Sarah Hodge
dau. Francis and Biddy (Mary Elizabeth)) Hodge 1795 - Francis
Slaughter born (?)
1798 - Elizabeth Slaughter married Daniel Matthews -
February 26 1798 - William H Slaughter born in Tennessee 1801 -
William Slaughter married Peggy Carter March 2 1806 -
Robert Slaughter died in Davidson Co Tenn 1806 - Sarah Slaughter
born. died Maury Co February 22, 1877 1834 - Zeb
Slaughter married Sally Matthews 1835 - Francis Slaughter married
Minerva Catherine Matthews 1836 Millie Slaughter married Mastin
SLAUGHTERS FROM TENNESSEE IN WAR OF 1812
1812 - Abraham Slaughter, Private East Tennessee drafted
1812 - Bernard Slaughter 1st Reg. U S Riflemen
Williamson Co ???
1812 - John Slaughter Private, Volunteer Mounted Gunmen
1812 - Martin Slaughter Cpt. East Tennessee Drafted
1812 - Reuben Slaughter Sgt. Volunteer Mounted Gunmen
Other Slaughters were identified as living in Mecklenburg Co. North
Carolina in the late 1700's, an area from which many of the families
living in Maury Co Tennessee in the early 1800's had migrated.
A Mecklenburg Co NC reference mentions a Capt. Francis Slaughter
whose will was probated in 1718 and who had lived at Isle of Wight.
He is said to have married first Elizabeth Hudson and, second,
Margaret Hudson. ?
George Slaughter is identified in Maury Co Tennessee in the 1820 U S
Census. Francis, Andrew, and William are listed in
the 1830 Census. Zeb Slaughter married Sally Matthews in 1834.
Millie Slaughter married Mastin Matthews in 1836. Francis
Slaughter married Minerva Catherine Matthews in 1835.
Many Slauter names appear in the ranks of those who served in the
War of 1812 and Francis Slauter's name appears. He was
nineteen when he enlisted Sept. 28, 1814 in the Militia under the
command of Robert Evans. He was listed as a blacksmith from
Franklin, Williamson Co. Tennessee. No information has been
found regarding his discharge.
Three years later, at age twenty-three, he married Miss Gertrude
Lowe in Nashville on September 11, 1817. The
first child born to the union of Francis Slauter and Gertrude Lowe
was a daughter whose name was Sarah L. Slauter, born
1819. Gertrude Lowe Slauter died at
some point, possibly at the birth of Sarah L.
Three more years passed and Francis Slaughter married a second time.
His bride was Lourania Evans, whose father was Daniel Evans,
possibly a brother of the commanding officer under whom Francis had
served in the War of 1812. Three children of record were born
to this union. Daniel M. Slauter, born 1825. Lena (Linea)
Slauter was born in 1828 and William W. Slauter in 183l.
Francis Slauter had contracted "the virus of excitement"
about a land to the Southwest that offered great promise to those
who could dare face the risks, the uncertainties, and the dangers
involved. Francis Slauter had met a tall, handsome adventurer
who made a trip to Texas in 1825. His name....Sterling Clack
Robertson was born into a family of adventurers and entrepreneurs
who had a hunger for political power. His father and uncles
were the vanguard of settlers in the area that later became
Tennessee. One uncle was Duncan Robertson, Governor of
Tennessee. Another uncle was president of the Merchants Bank
in Nashville. A young politician by the name of Sam Houston
had been one of the original incorporators of the bank.
The Merchants Bank in Nashville had been responsible for the
formation of a group of merchants, doctors, lawyers, and teachers
called The Texas Association, a group desiring to create an empire
in the Mexican province of Texas similar to what the Robertsons and
other had created in Tennessee. Robertson made a visit to
Texas in 1825, probably in company with Robert Leftwich who had been
instructed by the Texas Association to obtain a contract from the
Mexican government which would permit the settlement of professional
people in a large area of Texas similar to what Stephen F. Austin
Leftwich, accomplished the task..in his own name... and sold the
contract to the Texas Association for $8,000.00. Political
changes in Mexico brought changes in Mexican laws that restricted
migration into Texas for a time, but in 1830 Sterling Clack
Robertson gathered several families and the group traveled by
horseback to the area obtained by Leftwich. The area....north
of the El Camino Real (Old San Antonio Road) and between the Brazos
Trinity Rivers covered thousand of acres of wilderness.
Robertson led his initial group to a place just east of the Brazos
and quite near the "Old San Antonio Road." He called
his new town, Franklin, after a town southeast of Nashville,
Leaving the initial group at Fort Franklin, Robertson returned to
Tennessee to recruit more settlers. Francis Slauter may have been an
employee of Robertson in 183l for it was on March 26, 1831
that he served as a "witness" for an "indenture"
by which Robertson took all but one thousand acres of land from a
4428 acres grant to be received by a settler from the Mexican
Three days later, March 29, 1931, Robertson paid passage on the
ship, Criterion, for Francis Slauter and twenty-six others.
The trip would entail travel north on the Tennessee River to
Ashland, Kentucky...down the Ohio River...down the Mississippi River
to New Orleans. Schooners..(sailing vessels with two or more
masts)...had established regular schedules to various ports on the
Texas coast. Settlers for Robertson's Colony were, probably,
landed at the mouth of the Brazos River and transported upstream to
the ferry landing at the "Old San Antonio Road."
Some question exists as to whether Francis Slauter actually made the
trip to Texas in 1831 for his name does not appear in the list
presented to the Mexican Authorities at that time. His son,
William M. Slauter, was born in 1831 and Margaret Lowe Slauter may
have had some complications with the deliver of the child, a factor
which may have prompted Francis Slauter to remain in Tennessee.
This could well have been the time when Gertrude Lowe Slauter died.
Gertrude Lowe Slauter died at some point between 183l and June 2,
1835 for it was on that date that Francis Slauter married
"Catherine Matthews" in Mary County, Tennessee. A note of
interest is that Zeb Slaughter married Sally Matthews in 1834 and
Mastin Matthews married Millie Slaughter in 1836..both in Mary Co.
Minerva Catherine Matthews was the daughter of Robert Harvey and
Mary Ann Stewart Matthews who had migrated to Mary County
from Mecklenburg Co., North Carolina c. 1808.
The first record of Francis Slauter being in Texas is found in a
list of "new arrivals" to Robertson's Colony dated "Jany
8, 1836." The report lists Francis Slauter, aged forty,
and from Tennessee. His wife, listed as " Manerva",
is twenty-three. Three children are listed in the report:
Daniel M. Slauter, aged ten; Lena Slauter, aged seven; William
Slauter, aged four. The same list includes R. H. Matthews, age 21,
from Tennessee and "family servants." Later
documents report that the Slauters and Robert Harvey Matthews,
brother of Minerva Catherine, arrived at Fort Franklin on December
The first child born to Francis and Minerva Catherine Slauter was
Robert Francis Slauter, born in 1836 in Texas. The second
child, Mary Ann Slauter, was born in Tennessee, perhaps on a trip to
visit Catherine's father, Robert Matthews, who died in 1839.
Their third and last child was Louise Slauter, born in 1842, shortly
before Francis Slauter completed his will.
Robertson's Colony must have been very small in 1835. Fifteen
years later the 1850 Census registered a total population of
"nine hundred thirty-four...six hundred forty whites...two
hundred four blacks." Regardless of size, Francis Slauter was
quickly recognized as a man with outstanding abilities and was, in a
short time, made Chief Justice of the Colony. Slauter, as
Chief Justice, was responsible for recording land transactions,
probates of wills, and other matters of judicial and legal
The office of "Chief Justice" was a prestigious position
in the community, but it, apparently, failed to provide financial
support to meet the needs of the Slauter family. Francis
Slauter and his brother-in-law, Robert Harvey Matthews, engaged
themselves in some type of retail store. The store sold corn
for $1.00 a barrel... "Texas Money". The
partnership, apparently, did a generous "credit" business.
Accounts listed amounts from fifty cents to forty-one dollars and
included many names that were prominent in Navarro County a century
James D. Matthews owed $41.00. James D. Matthews had married
Martha Patricia (Patty) Matthews, his First Cousin and sister of
Robert Harvey Matthews and Minerva Catherine Matthews Slauter.
James D, son of Joseph Matthews of Maury Co Tenn., had
arrived at Fort Franklin at some point prior to January 1837 when he
ran for and won the position of County Coroner...24 to 23.
Other with accounts included:
J F Galloway another Mary Co, Tennessee native W M Cook whose
families lived at Franklin and some settled in the Spring Hill area
of Navarro county. James W Hill relative of Dr. George
Washington Hill L B Prendergast whose name was later found in
Navarro County George W. Morgan from Mary Co.
Tennessee, whose relatives were killed by Indians in 1838 north of
present day Marlin, Texas M I Treadwell who lived at Spring Hill and
is remembered by Treadwell Branch that ran through the town James
Graham who settled south of Dawson and whose grandson, James
R.Graham, built a large home west of Dawson and opened
"Graham's Park" to the public Thomas Flint whose
descendents lived in Dawson for many years.
Francis Slauter lived only six years after coming to Fort Franklin,
but he was to acquire several parcels of land during that time.
He receive a grant for 4428 acres of land on July 29,184l. He
owned l77 acres of land adjacent to three improved "Town
Lots" in the Town of Franklin. He owned another 4602
acres of land. He had purchased 723 acres of land from Jesse
Webb and another ll07 from the Jesse B Atkinson Headright. He
held title to several Town Lots in Franklin in addition to the three
where he resided and he held a "Quit Claim" deed to
one half the Town Lots in the Town of San Augustine, Texas.
His land holding included ll,067 acres and numerous "Town
Lots" in two towns.
Francis Slauter was forty-seven when he began to write his very
detailed will that covered seven handwritten pages. Francis
Slauter was seriously ill and he was, apparently, knowledgeable of
his condition. His will was signed on February 4, 1842 and
witnessed by H R Persons, L B Prendegast, and Samuel S McMurry.
He died at some point between February 4, 1842 and sometime in
August when the will was filed for probate.
The preamble of his will was typical of many wills written in the
1800's and filled with beautiful, almost poetic language.
"REPUBLIC OF TEXAS, Robertson County: To all to whom
these presents shall come. Know that I, Francis Slauter, a
citizen of said County and resident of the Town of Franklin, being
of sound mind and disposing memory, do make this my last will and
testament and direct the following disposition to be made of the
worldly estate which it has pleased God to entrust me with, (viz)."
Francis Slauter, judging him from his will, was a thoughtful and
caring individual who made detailed preparation for every
eventuality. He must have had some training as a lawyer for
much of his will appears to bear the expressions of a legal mind.
His initial Article was to name an Executor and he named "my
friend George W. Hill," Dr. George Washington Hill, born
1814 in Warren County, Tennessee. Some members of Dr.
Hill's family may have arrived in Texas as early as 1830, but George
Washington Hill remained in Tennessee where he attended a college in
Wilson, Tennessee. He was to have studied medicine at
Translyvania University in Kentucky, but no records of his having
attended exist. He performed "services" for
Robertson's Colony in 1835 for which he was paid Twenty-five cents.
He served 1838-1839 as a representative from Robertson County to the
Texas legislature and as Secretary of War & Marine for The
Republic of Texas under Presidents Sam Houston and Anson Jones until
the Republic was admitted to the United States in 1845.
Francis Slauter placed much confidence in Dr. Hill. So well
respected was Dr. Hill that he was often named as executor on wills
drafted in the county. Francis Slauter mention again and
again in his will that "The Executor shall act as he sees
fit." Dr. Hill eventually "Saw Fit" to marry
Francis Slauter's widow. Dr. Hill and Minerva Catherine
Matthews Slauter married November 17, 1847 and they lived together
until his death in 1860. They had no children of their own,
but Dr. Hill, apparently, served well in his role as father to the
children of Francis Slauter. Dr.Hill referred in
his will to Robert Slauter as "a dutiful step-son."
Slauter stated precisely the names of his heirs. The daughter
by his first wife, Gertrude Lowe, Sarah L. Rankin who had become
Mrs. John M. Rankin. Children by his second
wife, Lourania Evans....Daniel M Slauter, Linea Slauter,
and William W. Slauter. Children by his second wife, Minerva
Catherine Matthews were Robert Francis Slauter and Mary Ann Slauter.
He was careful to make provision for other children "as may
hereafter be born in lawful wedlock of my wife Catherine Slauter."
The concluding article of his will stated, "I hereby declare
and name _______ Slauter, infant lately born of my wife Katherine M.
Slauter, one of my heirs." That unnamed child, a girl,
was later named Louise Slauter.
Slauter's will made provision for Catherine to remain in
"reasonable possession, use and enjoyment of the three improved
lots" located in the Town of Franklin "which I now
reside." She was to "enjoy" the improvements on
those lots and the Labor of Land (l77 acres) adjoining which Slauter
referred to as "My Farm." She would be
entitled to any additional six hundred forty acres contained in his
estate. She would, as well, receive "two milch cows, four
sows and pigs, and sufficient pork or large hogs..or aplentyful
supply of meat for one year." Catherine would
receive the household and kitchen furniture.
Slauter instructed that "My Negro woman, Viney, together with
her present and future increase of children shall remain in
possession of my wife Katherine free of charge for the term of four
years." The provision carried two conditions: One, she
would relinquish possession should she cease to become a widow, and,
Two.".the negroes could not be ill treated." He
stipulated that "They...the negroes...be well treated with
The Executor was instructed
to use the assets of the estate to provide his heirs with a
"Good English education."
Daniel M. Slauter was twice given special mention in the will.
Despite the fact that Daniel was seventeen at the time, Francis
Slauter, apparently, had concern for his son's future. Daniel
was to receive his choice of his Father's horses and his Father's
bridle and saddle. He was, as well, to receive a "small
rifle gun." Daniel must have had a hearing
difficulty, possibly existing throughout his life.
Francis Slauter instructed the Executor to use assets from the
estate for any treatment that might restore Daniel's hearing.
One Article in the will mentioned that Francis Slauter was to
receive a portion of the estate of George Hodge, then deceased, and
formerly of Davidson Co. Tennessee (Nashville). Whatever
portion he was to receive was to be upon the death of Elizabeth
Hodge. He instructed the Executor to appropriate
whatever was received from that source to "the common benefit
of the heirs in this will mentioned." Who were George and
Elizabeth Hodge. They may have been the maternal grandparents of
Francis Slauter was concerned as to where his children would live
following his death and stated his wishes for each child.
Sarah L.Slauter had married John M. Rankin June 20, 1833 in Mary
County, Tennessee , came to Texas at some point , and eventually
settled in San Augustine Co. Sons Daniel M. Slauter and
William W. Slauter were to live with either of three relatives:
William H. Slauter, brother of Francis; John M. Rankin, his
son-in-law; or William D. Thomson, a relative who relationship is
unknown. William D Thompson was listed as one of three
hundred settlers brought to Texas by Robertson. Alexander
Thompson was said to have been a partner of Robertson.
Whoever took the two boys were to become their Guardian until the
boys read the age of majority.
Slauter's will instructed that Linea (Lena) Slauter...then ten years
of age...was to receive the Guardianship of Henry Smith of Monroe
Co. Tennessee, a county located approximately one hundred fifty
miles east of Maury County, Tennessee. Who was Henry Smith?
William H Smith was one of the signers of the petition presented to
the Mexican government verifying the character of Francis Slaughter.
The Executor was instructed to use estate funds to "take any
minor heirs to the United States should such become necessary."
His children born by Minerva Catherine were to remain in her care.
Francis Slauter died April 25, 1842. His will was filed for Probate
in August 1842 and confirmed on December 26, 1842. Alexander
Patrick, J L McMurry, and Edwin LeRoy Patton were appointed by the
court to inventory the estate and they made their report to the
court on November 5, 1842. H Persons was serving as Chief
Justice when the probate was finalized. Their report included
the lands and Town Lots previously identified and named "Viney,
the negro slave; her daughter, Caroline; and a three year old negro
girl whose name was Adoline."
The inventory, also, included $600.32 due the estate from various
"accounts receivable" both personal and from the
partnership between Francis Slauter and Robert Harvey Matthews.
The amount would not be substantial by modern standards, but would
have purchased more than Twelve hundred acres of land in that day.
Francis Slauter was buried in Robertson County, but none of the
graves registration lists bear his name. A stone marker was,
without doubt, placed over his grave, but many of the old stones
have weathered to illegibility and those individuals who remembered
the location of the grave have long since gone to Glory.
Family history relates that Minerva and her three children moved
into the home of her brother, Robert Harve Matthews and lived there
until her marriage to Dr. Hill George Washington Hill on November
17, 1847.. Dr. Hill was heavily involved with the Republic of
Texas until 1845 when the Republic of Texas became the 37th
State of the United States. The date of their move to
the area of Western Navarro County is not known, but, based on their
marriage and the fact that Dr. Hill was named Postmaster at Spring
Hill in 1848, it would appear that the move was made at some point
in the fall of 1847 or early in 1848. The first burial
in the cemetery located just north of Dr. Hill's cabin was in August
Dr. George Washington Hill, for whom Hill County, Texas was named,
opened a Trading Post at the Indian Spring south of
Richland Creek and was named the first Postmaster at Spring Hill,
Texas in 1848. Dr. Hill died May 29, 1860 and was buried on
two acres of land which he owned and which he, in his will,
designated as a public cemetery. Minerva Catherine
Matthews Slauter Hill died April 24, 1871.
ROBERT FRANCIS (Slaughter) SLAUTER.b. August l, 1836 d. August 6,
1883..continued to live at Spring Hill and is buried at the Spring
Hill Cemetery. Robert Francis Slaughter was married three
times and all three wives, apparently, died in childbirth and are
buried at Spring Hill Cemetery. The markers above their graves
are legible, but provide no clues as to the maiden names. Navarro
Co. records reveal that Robert F Slaughter married Susan I Fullerton
17 March 1872. She was a daughter of Henry II (born in
Ireland) and Nancy Walker Fullerton and a sister of Mary Jane
Fullerton who had married William Clay Garner.
Robert Francis Slauter, son of Francis Slauter & Minerva
Catherine Matthews Slauter, fathered the following children.
By L M Slaughter 1842-1864
Robert Frank Slaughter, 1859-187 buried at Spring Hill
Bobbie Anna Slaughter, born 1864-1884 buried Spring Hill
married 3rd cousin, William Newton Matthews, Feb 10, 1883
Ottma Slaughter Matthews, their son born at Spring Hill, Texas on?.
By Susan Isabelle Fullerton Slaughter 1853-1878
James H. (Jim) Slaughter 1873-1934 Buried at
Cousin Jim married Katherine Ruth (Cousin Kate)Matthews, a cousin in
1898. They had no children. He was raised by his
Mother's sister, Sarah Jane Fullerton who married William Clay
Garner. Willie R. Slauter b. May 28, 1876 d. March 11, 1877
Henry Bell Slaughter 1879-1897. His father died when he was five and
he went to live with Mary Ann Slauter Wheelock who was called
"Aunt Puss" who had married George Ripley Wheelock. Henry
Bell died Oct 17,1897 without issue. His will directed that
his property be given to "Mrs. Mary Simmes" and "Jas.
H Slauter." Mary Ann Wheelock's husband had died
and she had become Mrs. Dan G. Simms by 1897 .
OTTMA SLAUGHTER MATTHEWS b. January l, 1884, became the only
descendent of Robert Francis Slauter. His mother, Bobbie Anna
Slaughter, died shortly after his birth and his Father, Cousin Will,
carried him to Maury County, Tenn. where he lived with his
Grandparents,"W R H Matthews, Southport, Tennessee" until
Cousin Will remarried.
Ottma Slaughter Matthews married Flora Elouise Bankston and lived
his life in Western Navarro Co. Texas as a successful farmer.
Bobbie Kenneth Matthews b. 1933
Billie Sue Matthews b. 1935 m. Cecil Sanders
James Herman Matthews b. 194l
Henry Newton Matthews b. 1945
MARY ANN SLAUGHTER b. April 7, 1838 Tennessee
d. l9l0 Dawson, Texas
Married First..John Ripley Wheelock b. 18l9 d.
Married Second Dan G. Simms (1864-1946) after the death of
John Ripley Wheelock and before 1897. They had no children.
Mary Ann, named for her maternal grandmother, Mary Ann Stewart
Matthews, was called "Aunt Puss." She had
lived at Spring Hill from the time she was eight or nine years of
age, but the family must have returned to Frankin for visits with
relatives, Some members of the Slauter and Hill families
remained in Franklin and it was probably on one of those visits that
Mary Ann, not yet twenty, caught the eye of John Ripley Wheelock who
was almost forty. Despite the age differences the two fell in
love and were married in 1858. Their children and their
Mary Olivia Wheelock b. l862 d. 1910
Married: W W Turner
s. Cliff Turner
s. Leonard Turner
d. Lizzie Turner
d. Sadie Turner
d. Pauline Turner
s. Wilmer Turner
s. Torrence Turner
Annette Wheelock b. 1864
Married: John R Smith Dawson Dry Goods
d. Verna Smith
d. Beuna Smith
d. Annie Smith
d. Joycie Smith
s. William Smith
s. Georgia Smith c1888 m. Dave Berry
Beuna Wheelock b. 1869 d. 1899
Married: Albert Berry
d. Carrie Annette Berry m. Mr. Foster
d. Mary Jane m. Mr. Hutchinson
d. M Hollis (Holly) Hutchinson RN JD Dallas TX
d. Theressa Berry
d. Mary Berry
John Ripley Wheelock b. 187l
Married: Lillian Ellura Wilkes
d. Theressa Ermadine Wheelock b. 1903
Married: Barney Wells 1920
s. Raymond Douglas Wells b. 1921
Married: Janet Woodall 1940
d. Cheryl Wells 194l
s. Gerald Wells l941
s. Weldon Earl Wells b. 1924
Married: Puselle Henley 1946
s. Weldon Earl Wells, Jr. l947
d. Ann Elizabeth Wells 1955
s. Johnnie Russell Wells 1956
Robert Harvey Wheelock b. 1874 d. 1880
LOUISE SLAUGHTER b. l842 d. August 2, 1867
Louise Slaughter was married c. 1857 to Robert A Younger (March 16,
1833) and had one child, Medora Younger, b. 1858.
A Warranty Deed given by "R H Matthews" dated Sept 25,
1860, granted to " R A Younger" "a certain lot of
land." The "lot"covered approximately three
acres and Younger constructed "a large brick
storehouse." Robert A Younger joined the
Confederate Army and was killed at some point during the Civil War.
Louise died in l867.
Medora Younger married F. Alonzo McSpadden
HARVE GOT MARRIED
Robert Harve Matthews married Bettie Priddy in 1884 when he was
seventy and she was twenty-eight. No record has been
discovered as to just how the romance began, how they met, what
Bettie was doing. Robert Harve had lived most of his adult
life with members of his family...sisters, nieces and nephews.
He, apparently, owned and operated a General Store at the time in
"New Spring Hill." He was, as well, a man of
considerable means in the community and well respected.
The 1880 Census of Spring Hill identifies Robert Harve Matthews
living with the James J Coffey Family. Anne E (Elizabeth)
Coffey was the daughter of Robert Harve's brother, Sampson Stewart
Matthews. Robert Harve is listed as an "Uncle" and a
Farmer." Nathan Turnbow, son of Anne's sisters, also
resides in the Coffey household.
Bettie's parents lived in a house, reported to have been owned by
Robert Harve and located just north of the home of W T Priddy.
Prentice Priddy of Dawson, who lives (1994) at the old W T Priddy
homeplace, stated that the old well that served the house where
"Cousin Bettie" lived remains in place, but that the house
has long since gone. The old well is located in the
corner of two properties currently owned by James Matthews, a
grandson of W N (Cousin Will) Matthews, and the north line of the W
T Priddy land. The well is, as well, near the Rockwall Creek
that runs from the Pierce land, across the W T Priddy land, and
across the W N Matthews place.
The 1880 Census of Spring Hill identifies Bettie's family.
Father Richard b. 1829
Mother Elizabeth b. 1830
Daughter Bettie b. 1856 -1921
m. 1884 Robert Harve Matthews 1814-1894
Daughter Jimmy b. 1859
Son Robert b. 1863
Son Johnny b. 1865
Daughter Pattico b. 1867
Son Ripley b. 1872 m. 1921 Mary Dorna Norman 1895-
d. Geneva m. Jesse Thompson
s. G R (MD-Okla)
Son Samuel b. 1872
George Ripley Priddy (b.1872) married Mary Dorna Norman, April 12,
1921 when he was forty-nine and twenty six years older than his
wife. "Rip" lived in Hubbard in the 1930's and
1940's and operated a restaurant. Son G. R. Priddy, Jr. became
a physician, lived in Oklahoma where he died. Daughter Geneva Priddy,
married Jesse Thompson and resided at Hewitt, Texas.
There is a possibility that the land was originally owned by Dr.
George Washington Hill and passed from him to his step-daughter,
Bobby Anna Slauter. She married W N Matthews in 1883 and died
in 1884. Her son, Ottman Matthews, born 1884, received the
property at some point. Robert Harve Matthews...may...have
built the house on land owned by Dr. Hill. The site of the old
well is but a short distance from where Dr. Hill lived in the cabin
he first built for his family and the site of the Trading Post.
Mention should be made that many of the original houses in the area
were located in the area of the Trading Post and that "The Town
of Spring Hill" as remembered by today's "Old Timers"
was not created until c. 1859. Robert Harve Matthews purchased five
hundred acres of land from Dr. Hill in 1858. He surveyed and platted
the Town of Spring Hill at some point afterwards and only then did
settlement begin in that area.
Bettie gave birth in 1886 to a boy who lived briefly and was buried
at the Spring Hill Cemetery. Robert Harve died 1894 and was buried
next to the child.. Despite the wide variance in their ages
the marriage appeared to have been one based on true love.
Robert Harve referred to Bettie in his will as "My Beloved
Wife" and left her all that he had accumulated. The
estate appeared to have totaled something in excess of $30,000., no
small sum in those days and included more than sixteen hundred acres
of land in Western Navarro County. Improved property included
a large house in Dawson, commercial property in Dawson, and a brick
"storehouse" in Corsicana.
Bettie did not marry for more than ten years. Her second
marriage was at some point after 1910 to Dan Simms, who had come to
Dawson from Angelina, Co (Lufkin) Texas and had first married Mary
Ann Slauter Wheelock, widow of John Ripley Wheelock. Mary Ann
Slauter Wheelock was the daughter of Robert Harve's sister, Minerva
Catherine, whose husband, Francis Slauter/Slaughter, died in 1842.
Minerva Catherine married Dr. George Washington Hill on November 17,
1847. Dr. Hill and his bride and her three children...Robert
Slauter, Mary Ann Slauter, and Louise Slauter...probably moved to
the Indian Springs in the early months of 1848.
Dan Simms was born in 1864 and died in 1946. Mary Ann was born
in 1838 and died in 1910. Dan Simms was eighteen years younger than
Mary Ann Slauter Wheelock and was eight years younger than Bettie
Priddy Matthews. After Bettie died in 1921, Dan married a
third time to a lady said to have been from Dallas. The lady
is remembered as having two daughters. The Dallas wife
was referred to as a "High Flying Lady" who ran through
with the property and money that Dan Simms inherited from Betty.
Dan Simms returned to Dawson frequently to attend to his farms and
conduct other business. He died in 1946 and is buried in the Dawson
Mary A Simms (1841-1910) the
date of 1841 is incorrect. Mary Ann Slaughter was born in 1838 in
Tennessee when her Mother returned there during the final illness of
her Father, Robert Matthews. She was named for her
Grandmother, Mary Ann Steward Matthews; Bettie Simms (1856-1921);
Ella Smith (1886-1968) relationship unknown: and Dan Simms Jr. (b/d
Bettie Priddy Matthews Sims was remembered as a pretty lady and one
with a "good head for business." During the
approximately fifteen years between the time Robert Harve died and
when she married Dan Simms, Bettie, apparently, increased the value
of her estate considerably.
Prentice Priddy remembered that "Cousin Bettie" and Dan
Simms often toured the Spring Hill area on Sunday afternoons.
Their means of transportation was a grand air cooled Franklin that
was garaged in the barn on a raised wooden platform. Prentice
stated that each Sunday, after the drive through the countryside,
Bettie had Dan to drain...and save the oil...jack up each wheel
until the tires were free from the wood floor. The car sat
there until the following Sunday when Dan returned the saved oil to
the crankcase...lowered the wheels...and picked up Bettie.
Henderson Culbert owned a blue Franklin in the 1930's that he kept
parked in a garage on the north side of his property. That car
was like new and Henderson rarely used it. His main
means of transportation was a two seat Model "T."
Henderson lived with his sister, Miss Nettie. The car may have
been sold in the 1940's to Felix Davis. That Franklin may have
been the car that Prentice remembered.
W T Priddy, Father of Prentice Priddy, was told that Dusca Webb and
his family, originally from Tennessee,and part of a wagon Train
headed for Franklin in 1848 and had camped under the oak trees just
north of the Trading Post. Webb had a number of children and
his daughter, Sarah, became very ill and died. Some reference
has been made to the fact that she was a child, but the marker
indicates that she was twenty-two and born in Maury Co. Tennessee.
She was buried on the hill behind the Trading Post and was the first
person remembered to have been buried there. This is
very probable since Dr. Hill and Minerva Catherine Matthews Slauter
had married the previous November and, probably, moved to the
Trading Post in the early months of 1848. The marker over
Sarah Webb states she was born Aug 27, 1826 and died Aug 25, 1848.
The names of Dusca and George are included on the marker, but it is
not known if they were brothers who died at the same time or
later...or why their names were included. It is possible that
Dusca and George returned at some point, had the stone erected, and
included their names. A road ran on the north side of the cemetery
where several early Spring Hill families resided....Davidsons,
Cottengames, and Camerons. The road led to Hill Lake (a
natural lake probably located on Dr. Hill's property) in the
Richland bottoms and the road may have been part of the "old
Cowhide" or the "Old Cowhead" road that ran from
Liberty Hill east through Silver City and "Points East."
Prentice Priddy recalled a story concerning "Hill Lake."
It appeared that Ottman Matthews and his Father, W N, owned land
plots that met in "Hill Lake." Ott had a sow
that was continually trespassing on Cousin Will's land and Cousin
Will didn't like that. Ott "Slow Trailed" that sow
one day until she made her move. That sow made her way into
Hill Lake....swam into the deep water...under the fence between the
two properties..and on to Cousin Will's land. Smart Sow!
Barbara Davidson Patterson recounted that Dr. H L Matthews and W N
(Cousin Will) Matthews did not "get along too well."
One of the conflicts appeared to be that Cousin Will drove his sheep
from his pastures south of Spring Hill to those on the north and
that he used the main street of Spring Hill for the drive. For
whatever reason the drive irritated Dr. Matthews.
HARVE AND THE MEXICAN BANDIT
The porch of the Spring Hill Store had long been accepted as the
center of recreational conversation and somebody was always there to
listen to the Tall Tales that somebody was always eager to tell.
The roar of laughter could, sometimes, be heard to the bottoms of
Richland Creek and beyond.
"Drummers<" later called Traveling Salesmen........came
to the store on a regular basis and, always, with some new
story....some more "raunchy" than others.
And there were others who made frequent visits to the store like Old
Jose Maria, the Indian Chief who had led his band in fights against
when the area was first opened. His village was located on the
west bank of the Brazos, but the marauding groups of his tribe often
came across the
river to steal horses to ride and cattle for food. Now
the "Old Indian" was at peace and he had become close
friends with the "Old Ranger," Robert Harve Matthews, who
had owned the Spring Hill Store for so many years. Robert
Harve had once wounded Jose Maria and the miniball remained lodged
in his back until the "Old Indian" died. Jose Maria
enjoyed retelling the story and having listeners feel the miniball.
Robert Harve Matthews had come to Texas in December 1835 and was one
of the first to join up with a group of men who were "part
time" peace officers charged with "ranging" the
frontier to insure that Indians, Mexican bandits, and outlaws from
the United States kept their distance from the settlements.
The were called Rangers...Texas Rangers.
Robert Harve had come to the Spring Hill area in the Fall of 1847.
His sister's husband, Dr. George Washington Hill opened a Trading
Post near the springs south of Richland Creek and Robert Harve had
obtained land nearby as payment for "Rangering." He
purchased the store from Dr. Hill in 1852 and became Postmaster.
And, later...he purchased five hundred acres about a mile north of
the Trading Post and, using his skills as a surveyor, laid out a new
community with streets and town lots and farm lots. He called
the community Spring Hill, Texas. People bought lots and built
houses and barns. Churches and schools were organized,
tradesmen served the community to make wheels, repair plows, gin
cotton, and quarry stone. And there always......The Spring
Few weeks would pass but some "Old Ranger" friend of
Robert Harve would stop by to spend the night. Old Rangers
were known as "Tellers of Tall Tales" and the porch of the
store would soon be filled with listeners. Robert Harve had
done well financially and he was often ribbed by his old cronies
about his "Financial Status."
One "Old Ranger" commented on how well Robert Harve
appeared financially and suggested that he was aware of just how
Robert Harve had begun his climb in the world of "High Finance.
" He reported that Robert Harve was almost penniless when
he arrive in Texas in 1835, but that his fortunes turned while on a
tour of duty with the Rangers.
It appeared that a group of Mexican Banditos had robbed the Bank of
San Marcos of $50,000.00 in gold and were headed back to Mexico with
the loot. Several Rangers in pursuit of the Mexicans met
Robert Harve traveling north toward Austin. Robert Harve was
fluent in Mexican and, since none of the Ranger group spoke any
Mexican, they persuaded Robert Harve to join them as in interpreter.
The Mexicans, unaware that the Rangers were in hot pursuit, stopped
to rest at a well known Cantino in the small town of Helotes.
When the Rangers rushed the Banditos, they were surprised and all
but one Mexican was killed. The Rangers searched high
and low for the $50,000 in gold, but it was not found.
The surviving Mexican was sitting on the ground in the shade of the
Mission, his hands securely tied with rawhide. Capt. Eli
Chandler, hot and tired from the long ride, was in no mood for games
and ordered Robert Harve to question the Mexican.
"Ask him if he was part of the Bandito gang." The
Mexican acknowledged that he was by nodding his head.
"Ask him if they robbed the bank at San Marcos."
Again, the Mexican nodded his head.
"Harve, ask him what they did with the gold."
Harve questioned the Mexican and informed Capt. Chandler that the
Mexican said he would never tell. Capt. Chandler pulled his
Colt six-shooter from its holster...stuck the end of the barrel into
the ear of the Mexican and said, "Now, Harve, tell that dang
Mexican that if I don't get a quick answer as to where that gold is
located I'm going to blow his head off!"
The Mexican was trembling with fear. He could speak no
English, but he knew from the expression on the face of Capt.
Chandler...and by the cocked Colt six-shooter..that he was in a
desperate situation. The Mexican listened intently as Robert
Harve began to speak.
"Mexican, Capt. Chandler is a fine man, but his patience has
reached it's limit. He wants to know what you Mexicans did
with that gold from the San Marcos Bank. If you don't want
your head blown off...I would tell him what he wants to know...and
The Mexican stammered a rapid response in Spanish, understood by no
other Ranger save Robert Harve.
"Señor...Señor...the gold...the gold...it is in a bucket
which we lowered into the Mission well by the gate!"
"Harve...what did he say?" Robert Harve turned
to Capt. Chandler and said, "The Mexican said he is not afraid
of you...that he is a brave
man....completely unafraid of death...he would rather die than
And that is how Robert Harve Matthews got his start....I guess!
Robert Harvey Matthews 1814-1894
The ornate funeral carriage waited outside the Cumberland
Presbyterian Church three blocks north of the business district in
Dawson, Texas. Two matching black horses stood at the ready,
fully hitched..their gleaming harness accented with polished brass
and bright red tassels. Family and friends had begun to gather
at the church a good hour before the appointed time for the funeral
service and when the seating capacity was reached the mourners
spilled into the small entryway, down the steps, in front and around
the church building. Dawson had never before experienced such
The funeral service was drawing to a close and the air was hushed
within and without the church building. Each mourner listened
reverently as the good pastors pronounced the benediction..not
just a benediction for a funeral service, but a fitting benediction
for a life that had been filled with living at its best.
The click-y-clack of the telegraph instrument at the Texas & St.
Louis Railroad Depot in Dawson had quickly spread the word of the
funeral two days before and out of town visitors began arriving the
following day. Seven older men...well into their
eighties..stepped off the train and into the streets of Dawson.
No man had to ask who they were. Their feet were covered with
hand made cowboy boots that rose almost to the knees. Their
dark suits were conservative and a string bow tie had been fashioned
to the collars of immaculate white shirts. Their light colored
beaver Cowboy hats were large and appeared to have come from the
same maker. Each man, despite his age, stood ramrod straight
and on each coat was penned a five peso Mexican coin...the Sign of
The Texas Ranger.
The service was completed and those inside the church building
joined the swollen crowd gathered outside that now extended into the
dusty street. The crowd parted as the family...wife, brothers,
sisters, nieces, nephews..came down the steps and across the brick
walk which lead to the street. Pallbearers moved the polished
pine casket through the doors of the church and gently down the
wooden steps to the brick walk. The casket was place
with care into the funeral carriage and the door gently closed and
locked securely. The members of the Texas Rangers who had served
their old friend as an Honor Guard climbed into special buggies in
front of the funeral carriage. They would serve in their role
for three more miles. It was then that Cousin Nate Wright, driver of
the coach, was signaled to begin the final leg of an eighty year
journey. The destination was the Spring Hill Cemetery.
The family followed in buggies driven by friends who had sat outside
the church in readiness to receive their passengers and to express
in some way their respects. The large crowd that had assembled
followed. Some were in buggies..some in farm wagons..some
walked..others rode horses. The mourners came from every walk
of life. Some were prosperous, some were dirt poor, some
were politicians from the County Seat and from the State of Texas.
Some were young and some were old. Black men and women..and their
children..some weeping, saying, "We loved him, also."
One mourner was an old Indian Chief who had once fought against the
Texas Rangers. He rubbed the lead bullet still lodged
after many years in his shoulder and remembered that it had been put
there by the man whose body lay in the casket just up ahead.
The two had become close friends when peace was established on the
Texas frontier and he had visited his ailing friend just a few weeks
Memories had been stirred that day, running faster than Richland
Creek after a heavy spring rain. Eulogies had been given at
the church service by several men who had known him
well...recitations of relationships that reach back more than
seventy years. There were memories of good deeds...of a
hearty laugh...of community service..of fairness in business
transactions...of love for family and friends and country.
Hundreds of thoughts...disturbed only by the creaking of an
ungreased wagon wheel, the muffled sound of animal feet pulling into
the sandy road bed..the hushed conversation of those who mourned.
He had arrived at the Indian Spring on the South Side of Richland
Creek forty-seven years before, a time when few white men dared
venture into the area where marauding Indians were still present.
Indians had massacred seventeen members of a surveying party just
nine years earlier on a spot not more than two miles away from the
church. Elder John Parker's little fort had been overrun two
years before that and his daughter, Cynthia Ann, taken prisoner by
the Kiowas and Nokoni Comanches.
He had come to Texas in 1835 from Tennessee and had quickly enlisted
in Sam Houston's "rag-tag" army in an effort to free Texas
from Mexico. He missed San Jacinto by ten days when Sam
Houston ordered him and his Captain, Sterling Clack Robertson, to
return home with their company to protect the settlements from
Indians. He had served Robertson County as Tax Assessor
and Collector in the early days. He had bought and sold
land. He surveyed one large acreage north of the Indian
Springs into home and farm lots..with wide streets and areas for
business and commerce...places for a school and for churches.
He had gone to the County Seat in Corsicana and personally drew the
plat on the fly leaf of the County Clerk's book. He called his new
town...Spring Hill, Texas. He had served Navarro County as a
commissioner...had operated general stores and served as Postmaster.
And...he had acquired a sizable fortune.
Some mourners remembered attending the Spring Hill School that stood
on land that "The Old Ranger" had given. The
building was one of several constructed of a wooden frame covered
with buffalo hide. Some said that he had given the money to
build the building. Others remembered the Spring Hill Trading
Post that he had purchased in 1852 from his Brother-in-Law, Dr.
George Washington Hill. They remembered the smells of the
store...the barrel filled with crackers...dried apples in bright
wooden boxes...shelves filled with "Patent
Medicines."...and hoops of yellow cheese covered with cloth.
And, OH YES...there was that large glass case that harbored red
stick candy...licorice...and gum drops of every color.
Some smiled as they recalled the "Tall Tales" he often
told visitors to the store as they sat around the warm "pot
bellied" stove in winter or on the benches that sat on the
store porch in summer.
Several older men and women remembered that as orphaned children it
had been "The Old Ranger" who had made possible their
education. He had bought their shoes and clothes and their books and
A Grand Nephew who had graduated from Vanderbilt Medical School in
1887 remembered that it was in 1889 when "The Old Ranger"
sold him two lots in Spring Hill for twenty-five dollars. It
was there he had built a new home and there his children were born.
The procession moved South on Main Street toward the Dawson business
district. Nice homes now lined the street. The large two
story home on the right one block south had been built for his old
friend from Spring Hill, R B Marsh. The "Old
Ranger's" doctor nephew would move to Dawson and his family
would occupy the house twenty years later.
Across the street was the two story home he had built just four
years before for himself and his wife, Bettie. He had planted
the hackberry trees himself and now they were growing tall. He
had enjoyed sitting on the large porch that shaded three sides of
the house. The lot extended east to the next street where the
barn and buggy shed were located.
The two story homes were, by far, the grandest and most imposing,
but there were many smaller homes constructed of sawn wood as well
as several newly built log houses.
The brick business buildings on either side of the street stood on
land that was nothing more than raw prairie when he had first
arrived. They passed the "dry goods" store operated by his
old friend from Spring Hill, J. M. Johnson. There was the Woodman of
the World Building where Dr. Kirksey taught a Men's Bible Class each
There was the "racket" store and the harness shop.
And there were two drug stores. H. Silbert had just come down
from Dallas and opened a clothing store. There were
"meat" markets and several grocery stores. There
were saloons and two domino halls.
Dawson had grown rapidly after the railroad arrived just thirteen
years before. The railroad had brought dramatic change to the
area....so different than the area had been in 1848.
The procession made a left turn on the Corsicana Road.
Workmen, constructing a building on the right for The Dawson Lumber
Company, paused from their labor as the procession passed,
each man standing silently with hat held to the breast. The
railroad had completed a siding to serve the lumberyard and the feed
store that had been completed on the next street to the east.
The second floor of the brick building on the left housed the Dawson
Masonic Lodge where he was an honored member. He had become a
Mason in Spring Hill years before and witnessed as the Lodge was
moved to Dawson.
The procession crossed the little branch that ran by the new
tabernacle. Some people from Corsicana had but recently
completed a real "sody water" bottling plant just south of
the tabernacle. On the right was a stand of huge oak trees
where Gypsies and other strangers camped from time to time.
J. C. Calhoun's house was on the right, after the railroad tracks
were crossed. Mr. Calhoun had descended from and had been
named for the great American statesman from South Carolina.
Mr. Calhoun owned the only home in Dawson that had been constructed
with a real basement.
The railroad had built cattle loading pens on the left. The
"Old Ranger" had witnessed the development of a cattle
industry in Texas and had, himself, shipped several car loads of
cattle to the packinghouses in Ft. Worth and Chicago.
Dr. B.W.D. Hill had a new house on the right. Dr. Hill was a
nephew of the "Old Ranger's" best friend at Franklin, Dr.
George Washington Hill. The "Old Ranger" and Dr.
George Hill had fought indians together and Dr. George Hill had
married the "Old Ranger's" sister, Minerva Catherine,
after her husband, Francis Slaughter, died. They had all come
to the Indian Spring together in 1848.
The new McCulloch gin stood north of the railroad tracks and the
Davis boys had another on the South side of the tracks. The
last of the cotton crop was being ginned, but the huge motors that
ran the machinery were shut down in respect for the procession that
was passing by.
Farmersville, the black community, had been built just West of the
gins and the people who lived there had named their community for
another old friend and leader of Dawson, J H Farmer. The
"Old Ranger" had been a friend to black people and the
residents of Farmersville had gathered in great numbers at the edge
of the street to pay their last respects to their trusted friend.
Many had been slaves of Masters who were prominent Dawson and Spring
Hill citizens, but had been "Free men" since Juneteenth
1865 when the formal announcement had been made at Galveston.
The "Old Ranger" had brought "Family Servants"
when he came to Texas in 1835, but he had always treated them with
respect and they felt as members of the family.
The procession followed the railroad tracks east toward the Spring
Hill Road. Off to the right the mourners could see the large
two story house that Brit Dawson had constructed in 1858. The
Dawson home was the very first of the really grand homes constructed
in the area and the lumber had been hauled from Houston on huge
wagons pulled by oxen. The "Old Ranger" and Brit
Dawson had known each other at Fort Franklin long before the town of
Dawson was even a thought. They, with other pioneers, had
tamed the wilderness of Western Navarro County and created the
peaceful communities that existed there in the closing years of the
When the Spring Hill road was reached the group turned North.
On the left stood the new house that Mr. Wilkerson had built for his
family. Cody Wilkerson stood beside his Mother on the huge
front porch and waved his tiny hand to "The Old Ranger"
who had been his friend.
The funeral carriage slowed to make the sharp turn at the Wilkerson
corner and, again, a few yards to the East, as they, again, headed
North on the Spring Hill Road. Ahead was the Priddy home.
The "Old Ranger" had stopped there many, many times to
pass the time of day, to drink water from the cool well, and to
partake of a good meal.
Jim Pierce had but recently built a new house down the lane on the
left. It was down that lane where the wild plums grew in profusion
along the fence row. The "Old Ranger" always watched
for the ripening of the wild plums and always gathered several
buckets full to use for making jelly.
A few hundred yards to the north and to the east was the lane that
led to the Indian Spring Trading Post that Dr. Hill had constructed
..and there was the cabin Dr. Hill had built in 1847 for his bride,
Minerva Catherine Matthews Slaughter, and her children...Robert
Francis Slaughter, Mary Ann Slaughter, and Louise Slaughter.
It was a few yards north of there that the cortege veered from the
main Spring Hill road and turned East on the lane that led to the
Davidson's and the Cottengame's....and The Spring Hill Cemetery.
Cattle, grazing on the hillside, lifted their heads momentarily as
the procession moved passed. The Davidson lane led around the edge
of the hill and up to the small cemetery on two acres land given to
the community for that purpose by Dr. Hill. Sara Webb from Giles
County, Tennessee had died in 1848 and was the first to be buried
there. Others were buried later and Dr. Hill made provision in
his will that this two acres of his land would be so utilized. Dr.
Hill and his wife, Minerva Catherine, had been buried there.
And it was nearby that friends and relatives had prepared an open
grave for "The Old Ranger." Huge and timeless oaks
towered above the chiseled stone markers and wooden
slabs...sentinels watching over the mortal remains of pioneer
families...white and black. The names read like a veritable
"Who's Who" of individuals who had come to a Mexican
province and who had remained through war and famine and dust and
"Blue Northers" until the land became The Republic of
Texas..and finally, the twenty-eighth state of the United States of
America. Many had fought in the Civil war and some had become
free as a result. Young wives and infant children were buried
there. It was a place of resting...and remembrance..and
The seven old "Texas Rangers" took their places on the
south side of the open grave..straight and tall they stood...large
hats held at their sides, secured by gnarled hands. The family
was seated on crude pews brought from the nearby church.
Pallbearers lifted the casket from the carriage ever so
gently....moved with solemn dignity to the gravesite and rested the
casket on sawn timbers that had been placed across the open grave.
Several minutes elapsed before those who had brought up the rear of
the procession could take their places in the congregation
surrounding the gravesite. It was only then that Bro. McKeown
and Dr. Berry began the graveside service. Bro. McKeown began
to read...."The Lord is My Shepherd..I Shall Not Want..."
Dr. Berry continued with an eloquent and beautiful prayer that
included enough good references to secure anyone a place in Glory.
Bro. McKeown concluded the service with a few softly spoken remarks
and offered a closing prayer.
The outdoor cathedral, covered with the leafy branches of the old
oaks, became silent for a few moments following Bro. McKeown's
"Amen." The silence was broken as a single
individual began to sing, "Amazing Grace, How Sweet the
Sound..That saved a wretch like me....!" One by one other
voices joined in the chorus until the entire congregation was united
in song...men, women, boys, girls, white, black, Indian. Verse
after verse they sang until the final verse began to be sung and it
sounded as if some Heavenly Organist had pulled all the stops on the
grandest of musical instruments... and the chorus sang..
been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days..to sing God's praise..
Than when we first begun!"
The sounds of the choir faded across the little brook as members of
the Dawson Masonic Lodge made their way to the gravesite. The
Lodge was first organized at Spring Hill June 3, 1854, but had been
moved to Dawson in 1884. The "Old Ranger" had been
one its first members at Spring Hill.
The Lodge Members assembled and took their places....dressed in dark
suits and wearing large black hats. Spotless white aprons hung
from the waist of each Master Mason. The Grand Master of
the Waco Lodge had been summoned to recite the mystical funeral
ceremony of the order and it was given with beauty and dignity.
The sun was setting in the west over the new house Dr. Hill had
built across the brook on the main Spring Hill Road, now occupied by
Dr. Hill's "Dutiful stepson", Robert Francis Slaughter.
The sun was setting, as well, over the life of Tennessee's Texas
Ranger. His name was Robert Harvey Matthews. He had
lived eighty exciting years and had left a legacy for all men to
Carl W Matthews