Ethan Melton
of Navarro County, Texas


Biography Index || Ethan Melton Tombstone Photos || Post Office Index

Ethan Melton
By Alva Taylor
Navarro County Scroll - 1958
Used with the permission of the
Navarro County Historical Society

Ethan Melton was recognized by many as one of the ten top men who was instrumental in the creating of Navarro County out of  Robinson County in 1846.

The Melton families came to Texas from Alabama. Lil (Eliel) the oldest brother, came to Texas around 1835 to trade for land.  He joined the Texas Anny and was killed in the battle of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, on March 6, 1836.  After news reached Alabama of the death of Lil, Ethan Melton was appointed attorney on August 27, 1835, for the children of Lil. The children whose names were Tibetha, Johnathan and Stroud Melton, lived in Chambers County in Alabama.

Ethan Melton, who was forty-two years old, saddled his horse and headed for Franklin, the county seat of Robertson County, in "The Land of Texas." He inquired and was told that the Lil Melton property was to the north, in a land of many Indians.

In 1838 a group of men came north to survey land at Springhill and a battle took place on October 8, 1838.  By 1840 Ethan had located and sold all the property which belonged to Lil's estate.  Records at Franklin courthouse show that his work was satisfactory and by the time he had finished this task, he was asked by the court to locate and settle the estate of Milton J. Tidwell, deceased. Records show Milton's 1,240 acres were located on Richland Creek, twenty miles west of the Trinity River.

C, M. Winkler, a lawyer at Franklin, was guardian for the heirs of Tidwell, and soon became a close friend of Ethan Meltons while working on the Tidwell estate.

By 1841, Ethan Melton located the land near the Richland Creek. Here he found a tribe of Tonkawah Indiana, which were friendly to the white people. This, no doubt, caused Ethan Melton to like this land, as he purchased a few acres, built a small log pen in which to keep his horse· Then in the spring of 1842, while on a trip back to Franklin, Mr. Melton bought a negro boy called "Peter" for FOUR HUNDRED AND TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS.   The sale of this negro slave took place an the second day of August, 1842.   He bought the negro boy from Ephriam Melton.

Mr. Melton traded for a wagon and two oxen, loaded the wagon with groceries, ammunition and tools, and then he and Peter came back to Richland Creek.  In order to cross that creek, they cut a large cottonwood tree so that it fell across the creek, then took the wagon apart and, piece by piece, carried it across on the log bridge.  Once across, the wagon was re-assembled and the journey continued to a place where they stopped and built a two room log house. In 1643, Ethan Melton returned to Franklin, Texas to make a report to C. M. Winkler, the lawyer, on the Tidwell estate.  While in Franklin he visited the widow, Mrs. James Hill. James Hill was a brother of George W. Hill who was appointed Indian Agent and who had a trading post located near Springhill.  Records at the County Clerk's office show that Ethan Melton and Mrs. Lucinda Hill, a widow, were married on July 7, 1843, by E. L. Patten, Chief Justice of Robinson County. This marriage was witnessed by the widow's two sons.

Mr. and Mrs. Ethan Melton, her two sons and the negro boy, Peter, moved to their new home on the north side of Richland Creek. Many other settlers had begun moving in as early as 1842.

In 1844, the Meltons began a full year's work as they built barns, cleared land, planted a garden around which they placed a rail fence to keep the stock out. While Ethan was finishing out the Tidwell estate, he was appointed the Administrator of Buckner Melton's estate. Buckner, who died in April, was a brother of Ethan Melton and owned 320 acres of land on Richland Creek near Springhill. (Book C, Page 265, County Records).  Ethan sold this land to W. B. Lawson.

In 1844 the records show that Ethan Melton engaged Clinton M Winkler to ask for additional time to close the Tidwell estate.  A few of the neighbors who purchased items of the Tidnrell estate, were Charles Welch, David Hollis, J. J. Whittler, Esquire, W. T. Rice, E. R. Patton, E. M. Melton, William Anderson, L. J. Whiteside, H. Owens, James Springfield and John Stokes.  We name these families to show who were living around Springhill in 1843.  By 1844 many families had moved to this community, known later as Dresden.  These twenty five families came under the Mercer Contract.

These families coming to find new homes camped near the Melton home until land could be located.  This campsite later became Dresden.  During the summer of 1844, according to Mr. Melton, a stranger rode up on this horse late one afternoon.  The man was very ill and asked for help.  Before they could ask his name, he died.  He was buried in the corner of the garden, which was only a few hundred feet in front of the Melton home.

In 1845 as the Mercer Colonists camped at the Oak Grove began to move to their new homes, they kept in touch with each other by leaving a letter or package at the home of Ethan Melton.  Mrs. Melton would charge a dime to handle the letters.  Ethan made application to postal authorities to have a post office placed at his home.  As a result the Melton home was the community center for news.

In 1845 Mrs. Lucinda Hill Melton became ill and in July, she died.  She was buried in the garden in front of the log home.  Before she died, however, she expressed the wish to Peter Gamble and William J. Ladd, that her brother-in-law, George W. Hill, be made guardian of her two boys and that he be appointed the administrator of her estate, which consisted of two thousand five hundred sixty one acres of land near Franklin, five town lots in that city and personal property amounting to Two Thousand Nine Hundred Eighty One Dollars, according to John Roark and William J. Ladd, who had been appointed as appraisers of the property.

In 1846 the Probate Courts of Franklin ordered Ethan Melton to be made administrator of his late wife, Lucinda's estate and guardian of her two sons.  Ethan Melton made bond for Two Thousand Dollars, with M. A. Mitchell and John Wilbanks as bondsmen.

On the day of May 22, 1846, the Post Office Department granted Ethan Melton permission to use his home as a post office.  A small room, four by six feet, was built on the front porch and was used as the Post Office.   The Post Office Department called it Melton, Texas.  Prior to this the community was called Richland, Texas.  Mail reached this post office by horseback once a week.

Now that a post office has been established in the community, Ethan Melton gave land to build a church on, according to Mrs. M. E. Hartzell, who wrote the book, "I Remember Dresden".

Ethan found that doing administrative work, cooking for the boys, and running a post office was quite a job, so he began looking for someone to run his home.

The year 1846 proved to be a busy year for Ethan Melton.  Many of his friends were meeting at the post office to discuss the possibility of creating a new county.  Ethan discussed this idea with his attorney, C. M. Winkler of Franklin.  Several of the pioneers, among them C. M. WInkler, Judge E. H. Tarrant, W. R. Howe, J. C. Neil, William Love and Ethan Melton, met at the home of Thomas I. Smith and drew up a petition asking that a new county be formed out of Robinson County.  C. M. Winkler was asked to present the petition before the next Legislature.

On July 13, 1846, a new county was created with the home of W. R. Howe being the County Seat.  E. H. Tarrent was appointed County Judge, Elias Rogers was appointed as Assessor and Tax Collector, and Ethan Melton was appointed Treasurer.

Another job for Ethan Melton to perform!  He soon realized that working the cattle, trying to run a post office, looking after his real estate, and trying to run a post office, looking after his real estate, and trying to keep house without a wife was just too much so he began to look around for a housekeeper.   All the time he had his eyes on a beautiful maiden over at the Welch home.   July 6, 1847 became the important day when Ethan Melton and Miss Hanna Welch were married.  You would never guess that he was fifty three years old on that day.   His work continued increasing.  Melton received word that W. R. Howe had died and that another county seat must be located.  Several of the pioneers desired the county seat be located nearer - at least south of Chambers Creek.  W. R. Howe's home was several miles north of the creed, so early in 1848, in a meeting at the home of Thomas I. Smith, a committee of five men was chosen to locate the new county seat.  That committee was Ethan Melton, Thomas I. Smith, brother-in-law of W. R. Howe, W. F. Henderson, one of the survivors in the Battle Creek fight in 1838, John Riggs and J. A. Johnson.  Two places were under consideration, Dresden and the Hampton McKinney campsite, which was midway between Dresden and Porter's Bluff.  On February 23rd, this committee met and three men out of the five members voted for the McKinney Camp site.   New officers for the year were Ethan Melton, Treasurer, R. N. White, County Clerk and J. M. Riggs, District Clerk.

So sure were some of those at Dresden that the county seat would be located there, that Jacob and Dan Hartzell and J. A. Roark had some new city lots laid out and had given the name Dresden to the town.

The next few years were quite busy ones for Ethan Melton.  His work kept him in the town of Corsicana where the new county seat was located.  In 1853 the post office was moved back to Dresden where it could serve the community much better.  After this, Mr. Melton was able to devote more time to his real estate, his cattle, and his family.  He had six children, Ethan Jr. Mrs. Blaisdell, oldest daughter, Eliel Angie, who married Blaisdell, Charter Melton, Tindy who marred at Springfield.

The year 1860.  Much could be written about the Civil War, and of Navarro County's part in this conflict.  In 1861 when Navarro County voted to unite with other Southern States to protect our civil rights, several units of volunteers were organized.  Ethan Melton suggested that the new recruits begin their training at Dresden, which they did.

The year 1865 - the war was over.  The Civil War left the county in a very poor condition.  The slaves were free, but many, including Peter, one of the Melton's faithful slaves, desired to remain with him until Mr. Melton's death.

November 29, 1871: "This, the 77th year of my life, I wish to make a will" -- thus began the will of Ethan Melton, a will which Mr. Melton had recorded at the courthouse (Book 1, page 73 of the Records).

At the age of 79, Ethan Melton died November 18, 1873.  He was buried in the corner of the garden by the side of his first wife, Lucinda.  Hanna, his second wife, died years later and was buried at Riesel, twelve miles north of Marlin, [Falls Co.] Texas.

Thus ended the life of Ethan Melton, a Methodist and a Mason.  For several years the treasurer of the Masonic Lodge at Dresden.

NOTE: In March 1847 Ethan Melton gave 3 acres to be used as a cemetery, also for a church and school.  The Trustees were Jacob Hartzell, Henry Cook and Ethan Melton.  Today this is known as Dresden cemetery, one of the best kept cemeteries in our county.


Chris L. Knox, well known Corsicana attorney, has compiled some Interesting information concerning Ethan Melton and his family on this, the hundredth anniversary of the settling of the family in this section.
Under the caption, "The Coming of the Meltons," Mr. Knox submits the following:
Last Fridays' issue of the Sun, under ' headline of "Santa Anna Ready to March Into Texas," reproduced a single sentence, said to comprise all the Texas news, contained in the first issue, Vol. 1, No 1 of the Philadelphia Public Ledger, published on March 26, 1836, and quoted as follows:
"It Is confidently affirmed that 'the despot, Santa Anna, is on the full march for Texas and that he has sworn to subdue that province, or to lose Mexico."
As Illustrating the slow methods of communication at the time, it may be noted that the fall of the Alamo had already occurred, on March 6, 1836, some 20 days prior, to the date of the publication, and the events were to find appropriate place on the pages of history.
Centennial anniversaries of the important events in the early history of Texas have been numerously celebrated during the past two years, and are well known to many present day readers, who have familiarized themselves with these tragic days in the lives of the early pioneers.
This, January 28, 1939, is the centennial anniversary of another of those events, that is of particular Interest to those who have delivered Into the early history of Navarro county, In that it is the first definite fixed date, and the first recorded act of Ethan Melton, In the sequence of events, that later resulted In the coming of the large Melton family, with"
their "kin folks," to the territory included within the present limits of the county.
According to the family history, the first member of the "Melton clan" to set foot upon Texas soil, was Ellel Melton, one of the patriots in the war for Texas independence.
He was a companion and associate of Noah T. Byars, In whose blacksmith shop the Declaration of Texas- Independence was written and signed. He was a son of Jonathan Melton and his wife, Tabitha Stroud, of Clarke county, Georgia, where his
father died In 1815, when young Ellel was a mere lad. During the period of unsettled
conditions from 1832 to 1835, when the colonists were seeking assistance in the controversy with the Mexican government, he had emigrated to Texas territory and was
engaged in merchandising and trade at Washington on the Brazos in old Milam district, and at the beginning. of .hostilities he cast In his lot with those fellow countrymen who lost their lives In the fatal massacre at the fall of the Alamo, and on the monument erected to the memory of those heroes on the capitol grounds at Austin, his name is inscribed on the Scroll of Fame, The news of -his fate reached the family home of his widowed mother In North Georgia, and Ethan Melton, the oldest son and brother of a large family, was authorized to come to Texas and look after the interests of his deceased brother, but upon his arrival found that a former partner living In San Antonio, had taken
charge of his Interests and qualified as administrator of the estate of Ellel Melton, deceased.
On January 28, 1839, 100 years ago, Ethan Melton, having taken up his abode in the Republic of Texas, and become a citizen of the district, then known as Robertson county, made his personal appearance and filed a petition in the probate court of Milam county,
at old Nashville, to remove the former administrator of the estate and to remove the estate
to the county of Robertson for administrative purposes.
Judge Jester, In his' "History of Navarro County," pays just tribute to Dr. George W. Hill as the first settler in that portion of old Robertson district, now included within the present limits of Navarro county, and gives credit to old Uncle Ethan Melton as one of Its earliest citizens. According to the family traditions, he came to the old Melton community, later known as the village of Dresden, In an ox wagon, with two yoke of oxen and a negro boy servant, about 15 years of age, as his sole companion.
His first wife was the widowed daughter-in-law of Dr. Hill, and their marriage was probably the first wedding ceremony celebrated within the present limits of the county. He was recognized as one of. the founders of the community, and was its first postmaster, and
when Navarro county was created by the legislature, he participated In the proceedings for Its organization and was elected as its first county treasurer.
The Melton family consisted of some 12 to 15 households, and together with representatives of the Meador, Scott, Green, Welch, Howard, Spivey, Duren, McMillan,
Johnson and other families, with whom they were early associated and connected, directly or Indirectly, as '"kin folks," constituted one of, if not the largest group among the early settlers of the county, and whose descendants are too Innumerable to count, and compose a large part of the population of the county, even at the present day. -*.


Ethan Melton
Oct 8, 1794 - Nov 18, 1873

To learn that our old friend, Ethan Melton, died at his residence near Dresden in this county on the 18th of November last. He was the oldest citizen of Navarro, and was the first man who drove a wagon into this county. He was a Mason in the strictest sense of the term. As a member of the church he was an ornament, and as a citizen he had no enemies.


Ethan Melton Tombstone Photos

A couple of weeks ago, I went out with David Malone (gg grandson of Ethan) to the old Melton family cemetery near Dresden -- with permission of the land owner, David's uncle, Grover Stewart Melton. We cleared a path to all the known headstones. I thought you might be interested in using a couple of shots of Ethan's headstone on your website -- which is quite remarkable, I might add.

Pics of the other four headstones that still remain, a couple of the cemetery in general, and a couple of native stone markers are available as well. Let me know if you would like for me to forward them to you.

Danny Gillespie
Frost, TX


Ethan's Headstone Before Clearing


click here for full size photo

click here for full size photo


Marker Photo by Pete Rost

Dresden Cemetery, Dresden, Navarro Co., TX

This is most likely just a Memorial Marker

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