The 1860 - 1872 Period in
Navarro County History Texas


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The 1860 - 1872 Period in Navarro County
This history was taken from the Dedication pamphlet for the Texas Historical
Marker Commemorating "Events in Navarro County Years 1860 - 1872)
and is used with permission of the Navarro County Historical Society


On the courthouse square in Corsicana, Texas, location of the present Corley Funeral Home, there stands today virtually no reminders of the Civil War and post-Civil War period, 1860-1872. But the archives of the State of Texas and of Navarro County indicate that stirring historical events occurred here, particularly on a corner of the square where once there stood a Confederate Quartermaster Warehouse and later a Federal Occupation En-campment. The historicity of this site, then occupied by an ordinary commercial storehouse, began to take shape when the quietude of the 13-year-old city became greatly disturbed as a result of the national election of 1860.

The Navarro Express, one of three newspapers published at that time in Corsicana, brought out its next issue with incendiary headlines: "Lincoln Elected, The North Has Gone Over-whelmingly For Negro Equality And Southern Vassalage; Southern Men, Will You Submit To This Degradation?" Immediate response was to haul down the Stars and Stripes on the court- house and run up the Lone Star Flag of Texas. This was done to the accompaniment of ringing church bells and firing of anvils, along with cheers from the people. A few weeks later, on February 21, a state election gave the people the opportunity to vote for or against secession and Navarro County voted 631-38 in favor of the rupture. Corsicana at that time had a population of 1200; the entire county, about 6,000. In the county there were about 2,000 slaves, but only 300 of these were in Corsicana, a fact that indicates most of them were employed on the farms of settlers who grew cotton on the good black soil. Most of these settlers were from the South and entertained strong Southern sentiments.

Corsicana's great events at that time took place on the courthouse square, the center of the town. As soon as Texas' secession was assured, the local people began to consider military duty in defense of the Cause. The county commissioners' court appropriated $2,500.00 for the purchase of arms and ammunition. Courageous men beat the drums for military enlistments here on the square, forming the "Navarro Rifles". When a complement of men had placed their names on the muster roll, an election was held by the volunteers, naming William Melton, Captain; J. R. Oglebie, First Lieutenant; and J. H. Hill, Second Lieutenant. William Melton considered himself too old for the responsibility of command and was soon replaced by 40-year-old attorney and ex-legislator, Clinton M. Winkler. The Navarro Rifles went into camp to train at Spring Hill, near the present town of Dawson.

Another Corsicana attorney and legislator, Roger Quarles Mills (1832-1911), had been a personal friend of Sam Houston but differed with Governor Houston over the issue of secession. Mills helped to organize the Secession Convention (in which he was a member, representing Navarro County) and shortly after Texas seceded entered the Confederated Army as a private in the unit of Henry E. McCulloch. Both Mills and Winkler brought honor and recognition to Navarro County. Although the Navarro Rifles were mustered earlier, the Corsicana Invincibles were the first Navarro County troops to reach Virginia. The first fatality among the Corsicana soldiers was W. A. Fondren, who was killed in the battle of Gaines Mill. In 1862, there were 4 additional companies organized on the square in Corsicana.

The commissioners' court, meeting on the square did not neglect either the soldiers or the families left behind, but continued to vote funds for both sectors of the population. In May of 1862 the county passed a war tax of 12 1/2 cents per $100.00 valuation and at the same time sold $2,500 worth of county bonds for support of the families of soldiers. Navarro County issued scrip in denomination of 25 cents to $10.00, to the extent of $5,000.00. Nevertheless, the community of Silver City gained its name by refusing to accept or trade with paper money, demanding only silver or gold The original bond issue did not suffice, and on February 18, 1863, an additional issue of $7,000.00 worth of county bonds was sold for the support of soldiers' families. The value of confederate money deteriorated, and the county refused to accept Confederate bills of more than $100.00 in payment of taxes. In 1864 the county drew on the State of Texas for $4,980.86 to support the needy families of fighting men.

An elderly civilian, Jacob Eliot (1803-1870), kept a diary that gives a few contemporary notes about local happenings. On October 24, 1864, he noticed that a Confederate quartermaster and Commissioner were in town and that Corsicana was being made a depot for government supplies. About 10 days later he had a fortunate experience and was able to rent to the quartermaster, Captain C. Johnson, the Michal storehouse, which he had previously purchased. This building stood at the noted corner across from the courthouse and was to be the site of significant events. Only the next day, November 5, he noted there had been no monetary transactions in the town for the past several days, because the money in the hands of townsmen was old issue and was refused by most creditors.

C. L. Jester, too young to enlist for service, was to recall some of the dire hardships of civilian life in and around Corsicana. '"The flower of the manhood of this county, in fact all the able-bodied men, had gone to the war, leaving at home only the boys and old men. We went to mill with the corn for meal and into the woods for blackjack and shumach berries to dye the cloth. Our fields and prairies produced cotton and wool for cloth, and corn and wheat for bread, hides for leather, and this county was absolutely self-sustaining. The women and girls manufactured in the homes the raw materials we produced in the fields. You could pass any home and hear the stroke of the old handmade loom keeping time to the music of the spinning wheel. It was the noble women that encouraged our soldiers during those 4 years to remain in the field."

It would be impossible to give proper credit to all the Corsicana and Navarro County men who went into the Confederate Army, because the records are incomplete. During the first year, all who went were volunteers. On April 16, 1862, the first draft was inaugurated, calling for the induction of all white men between the ages of 18 and 35. However, then and throughout the war, age limits meant very little. There were 50-year-old and even 70-year-old privates, as well as proud 15-year-old volunteer recruits. Home guard companies were organized in Navarro County and elsewhere and rendered important service.

About two-thirds of the Corsicana Confederate soldiers never crossed the Mississippi River during the war. This is not to say they marked time. They saw plenty of martial action in such bloody affairs as the recapture of Galveston on New Year's Day, 1863, or in the Red River campaigns to prevent Federal army incursions into Texas. On one occasion saboteurs in Navarro County tried to create a disturbance. This was in 1864 when unnamed parties stored a cache of arms and ammunition on Post Oak Creek, near what is now Princeton Drive, in Corsicana. Loyal parties discovered and removed the munitions, and the plot fell apart.

It is estimated that 450 Navarro County men went into the Confederate Army. Of this number, 125 were killed in action died of service-related disease. Disease actually accounted for more than half the deaths. When the Navarro men who were with Lee in Virginia surrendered at Appomattox, there were still surviving 13 of the original volunteers who had marched out of Corsicana, along with 6 additional recruits from here. No transportation could be furnished these veterans, and they had to manage their return home in the best way they could find. John Dureli and Hatch Berry noticed a Federal calvary bivouac near by and waited until dark to "manage for" some horses to ride home. Derry crawled into the bivouac area, led out 2 saddled horses and shared with Duren, but was to complain with tongue in cheek in later years that Duren never did pay him back for that horse.

On June 10, 1865, Federal occupation troops reached Texas. Jacob Eliot's diary for July 6, 1865, shows that by that time he had heard in Corsicana that General Grant had "issued a proclamation calling on all parties to establish the Union as it existed before the war". A few weeks later, on September 1, 1865, he called on Judge Walker and took an oath of allegiance to the United States government in the presence of S. Wright, Chief Justice of Navarro County.

As in the case of the rest of the county seats in the South after the war, Corsicana was occupied by Federal troops. The camp of the occupation troops was at the northwest corner of the courthouse square, adjacent to the former Confederate quartermaster depot owned by Jacob Eliot. A century later the Corley Funeral Home was to be located at this same site, 418 North 13th Street. The Federal presence at the focus of city and county life was something of a shadow in itself, but it was an additional burden on local pride to have the troops be men of former slave class now prone to swagger in the4r supremacy as occupation troops. The lieutenant in charge of these soldiers was a man of great ability, however, and was a power for conciliation. This young officer was Adan Romanza Chaffee (1842-1914), an Ohio man who had served 4 years in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was a person of such uncommon talents and abilities that during his career he was to be the hero of many campaigns and was to rise to the rank of Army Chief of Staff in due time. At the time he was stationed in Corsicana as officer in charge of the occupation troops, he was somewhat enlightened as to the need for tact and discipline by reason of the fact that he was in love with and paying court to a young Texas widow whom he was to marry. Her family doubtless had indoctrinated him with the Southern point of view. A favorite story in Corsicana during the occupation concerned an encounter between one of the leading citizens  and one of the troopers. On this occasion a drunken soldier accosted an unoffending pedestrian, Colonel Clinton M. Winkler, cursing and berating him. Thereupon, Colonel Winkler gave the man a beating with his walking cane. Other Federal soldiers gathered and were about to mob Winkler when Lieutenant Chaffee came forward and dispersed his soldiers. Upon discovering the provocation that led to the caning, Lieutenant Chaffee had the offending soldier tied up and left in the sun for the rest of the day to sober him. Not all Navarro County people were willing to be as restrained and moderate as Colonel Winkler had been. Some used guns, not canes, when confronted by a Negro soldier's impudence or even with official Federal opposition. In his lifetime, John Wesley Hardin (1853-1895) took offense at many actions of his fellow men. During the Federal occupation of Navarro County, the teenage John Wesley Hardin was living with his very moral minister-father's household in the Pisga community, about 10 miles south of Corsicana. In 1868, when he was only 15, John Wesley Hardin killed a cursing Negro boy with whom he was wrestling at his uncle's home in Polk County. During the next year, when he was employed as a teacher at Pisga, a detachment of Federal soldiers came down to Pisga to arrest him and another man named Frank Polk. They took Polk but failed to find Hardin. Later, the troopers returned to arrest Simp Dixon, a cousin of Hardin and allegedly a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Hardin was with his cousin and later was to recount the events of the day: "A squad of soldiers ran upon us in Richland bottom, and a pitched battle immediately ensued. It was a free and fast fight. When the battle was over, two soldiers lay dead. Simp killed one, and I killed the other." Hardin went on to become one of the most celebrated murderers of the nation. The freedom with which he conducted himself on the 1869 occasion in Navarro County did him no real good. Rather, it seemed to inflate his ego. Still the 1866-1872 Federal occupation was relatively peaceful: The population of Corsicana had fallen from its pre-war 1200 to 800, and very likely the rural population figures were down in the same proportion, although there was a net gain by 1870. The people went to work and re-established their homes, farms and businesses. There was a Ku Klux Klan, but it was relatively quiet and seems to have confined itself mostly to demonstrations that impressed the superstitious minds of the former slaves and others. The hooded horsemen let it be known that they were actually the spirits of the dead soldiers calling at the homes of the surviving population of their home communities to make sure the survivors were behaving themselves properly. There is no account of any drastic action taken by the Klan in Navarro County.

Jacob Eliot was able to find a new tenant for his store building adjacent to the Federal camp. A man named Jameson agreed to pay him $50.00 a month and rented the structure on September 1, 1865. An election was held on October 15, 1866. Mr. Eliot, aged 63, rode up-town to the courthouse to vote, and the election officers came out to his buggy to receive his ticket. He did not have to mix with the newly-enfranchised ex-slaves. He proudly voted for Roger a. Mills for the United States Congress.(It probably did not worry him at all that the Texas delegation to the Congress was later to be denied seating on the grounds that Texas was not a state in the Union because of the act of seceding). On December 6, 1666, he leased an office in his brick building to Colonel C. M. Winkler for the rental of $75.00 a year. Eliot had agricultural products on hand that winter, and on December 11, 1866, he had "the boys haul 6 wagonloads of cotton to Drane's moveable gin, set up near the public square" and the courthouse "where they will gin my cotton" preparatory to marketing it. In the time-honored manner of the South, the Eliot family had given succor to one of the former slaves of the community who now had no home. On December 11, 1866, "Eliza, a Negro woman who came here to work for her food, had her baby born in our kitchen", said Eliot. He added that she was formerly a slave of W. A. Hoard and now had no means of support. Politically, as well as in practical matters, the people had a long stage of agony to live through before times were to improve. The moderate government which had prevailed in Austin was to be turned around by the general election called by the commanding general of the occupation on November 30, 1869. In this election, the required new state constitution was adopted, and Edmund J. Davis, formerly of Galveston, Laredo, Corpus Christi and Brownsville, as well as the Federal Army, was elected Governor. Davis was to take office in January of 1870. On March 30, 1870, the Congress of the United States admitted to its membership the newly elected senators and representatives of the State of Texas, taking note that the required new constitution had been adopted in Texas. Thus, the state was once more a member of the Union.

Governor Davis had won office by a very slight margin over A. J. Hamilton, who had served formerly during the earliest days of the occupation. His failure to win a clearer mandate than was indicated by the margin of only 809 votes over Hamilton caused Davis to rule by might rather than right principle. Even his own party protested. The Republican Party-dominated Taxpayers' Convention held in Austin on September 22-25, 1871, registered its moral indignation over the unconstitutional government foisted upon Texas by Governor Davis.

If Republicans could meet and speak out in Austin in 1871, the Democratic Party must have felt it ought to hold a convention in 1872 under similar conditions of freedom. But it did not choose Austin as its site. Under the leadership of Roger Q. Mills, the Democrats convened in Corsicana in 1872. This was a convention for the purpose of nominating congressmen and presidential electors for the national ticket, since under Davis there was no state election that year.

These was available for the assemblage a just-completed but not yet dedicated Methodist Church, considered a proper site for such a meeting of high principle. "All the great Democrats of Texas were in attendance Men came on horseback and in buggies across the prairies. There was in that convention such men as Jno. H. Reagan, who was still disfranchised and was made chairman of the convention......Richard Bennett Hubbard a later governor, Gov. Throckmorton and a host of others, leaders of the democracy of Texas...." "It was the first meeting of its kind after the Civil War which was held without the handicap of the military", and out of it came the deliverance of the State of Texas from the rule of the E. J. Davis administration, said C. L. Jester in his Short History of Navarro County and Corsicana.

The thought of having eluded the eyes (and the hired killers) of Governor Davis inspired the delegates to high flights of oratory. They were immensely pleased with their proceedings, especially the plans they were making to elect a Democrat to the office of governor in 1873. Yet over the years it was a homely sidelight to the convention that almost universally pleased narrators of convention history.

Corsicana was still a town of practicality. Citizens kept hogs to supply meat for the family larder. There was no stock law. The common practice was to let the hogs run free and pick up any food they might find. So it was that a herd of pigs had found the soft mud and humid gloom under the floor of the newly-completed Methodist Church building. Here they made themselves a wallow and were in residence, "creating so much squealing and disturbance that it was necessary to stop the meeting several times and run the pigs away" Moreover, the noisy hogs were infested with fleas, and some of the fleas came up through the cracks in the floor and found new hosts on persons of the leading Democrats of the State of Texas. Hence, this assemblage in after years was called the "hog convention" or the "flea convention" depending upon the more vivid impressions of the commentator.

One of the nominees of the Corsicana convention was Roger Q. Mills. He was subsequently among the members of the United States Congress who were elected on November 8, 1872. He was to serve for the following 20 years, until his resignation in March of 1892.

The troops were gone from the occupation campsite, and Corsicana had hosted the significant Democratic Convention in 1872, but there was a postscript to the story of the city and county's Civil War and post-Civil War experiences. A state election was called for 1873 in Texas, and Edmund J. Davis ran for another term as governor. The Democrats of the State, including those in Corsicana, strongly opposed him, of course. "In those troublesome times when the despotism of a. J. Davis....brooded over this county and hung like a pall over the land, Roger Q. Mills was regarded and followed by his countrymen as 'a cloud by day and a pillar by night'. This was known to the Governor, and he announced that he would come to Navarro and hush the mouth of Mills. He came and, attended by his police, spoke at a public meeting held in the grove...near the later Jester's daily...' After the speech of the Governor, Roger Q. Mills then mounted the rostrum and "brought Edmund J. Davis to bay, denied his claims, defied his powers:....When Mills began his denunciation, Davis entered his carriage preparatory to leaving the grounds but was ordered by Col. Mills to remain until he had~heard what he had to say. Surrounded by the friends of Mills and the Confederacy, the Governor was detained until he had heard all Col. Mills had to say, after which he left the county and returned no more. This broke the backbone of the trouble and ultimately led to the election and inauguration of Richard Coke as Governor of Texas in 1874 and the restoration of the state to its own people." The Southern spirit was to remain strong in Navarro County and in Corsicana for several generations.

Many Confederate reunions were held here, some of them for the surrounding countryside, some for a wider region. The last State Convention was held at the Commercial Hotel and the Navarro Hotel in Corsicana in 1937. There were at least 6 old gentlemen in their 90's in attendance at that last convention. One of them, General M.H. Woolfe, was displaying a facial scar that was caused by a saber thrust and still proclaiming to all and sundry that by rights the South should have won the war. A people who have lost a war never forget.

In 1883, the warehouse of which Jacob Eliot speaks, was disposed of, and a fine home was erected by Alien Templeton. After Mr. Templeton's death, the home was occupied by various prominent citizens of Corsicana. In 1929 it was bought by John R. Corley and is the site of the Corley Funeral Home. Extensive remodeling has been done, and the present chapel was completed in 1972 with a seating capacity of 300.

 


Navarro County TXGenWeb
Copyright March, 2009
Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox