of Mrs. Mary Miller [as told to C. L. Jester]
I have some very vivid
recollections of the old home in Macoupin County, Ill. and also of
the trip to Texas. Your grandfather Jester and his wife, my sister,
Diadema, lived near us in Madison County, and when we moved to Texas
we went by their home and I ran in to see them. I remember so well
picking up your uncle George who was the baby then and playing with
him. Your father, Charlie Jester, was then about five years old - a
very bright and smart little fellow.
Mother was opposed to coming
to Texas, but the children, like all young folks, were eager for
change and adventure, and the long journey was just an extended
pleasure trip to us. We came through St. Louis and crossed the
Mississippi River on a ferry boat. We crossed the Red River at
Fulton, Mo. and it was so red that it made a lasting impressing on
my childish mind. Just before we reached Navarro County we camped on
Chambers Creek in Ellis County, not far from Reagor Springs. R. M.
White, who afterwards moved to Corsicana, lived there with his
family. Mother was sick and they took her to their house to take
care of her; we have always known them. They moved down here soon
after we did and settled in [now] Corsicana on what is [now] Fifth
Avenue about a block from Beaton Street.
The first people we got
acquainted with when we lived at Dresden was the D. E. Hartzell
family. I always looked on him just like one of my brothers. He used
to go with my sister, Kate, who married Ham Morrell. Dan's sister
waited on me when I was married. After we moved to Corsicana, Dan,
who was in business there, boarded with us for years and years and
was like one of the family.
I first knew Colonel Winkler
when we were living in the little house we had before the tavern was
built. He came from the southern part of the state and was, at that
time, 1847/48, judge of the first circuit court. He boarded with us
until he married. Mother got his clothes ready for him when he
married his first wife, the widow of Thomas I. Smith. He enlisted in
the Civil War and married his second wife some time during the War.
We used to entertain all the
lawyers who came to court at the Tavern. Some of them in those days
were Rob. S. Gould, who was district attorney and lived in
Palestine; John H. Reagan and A. H. Willis, who was afterward Judge
of the Supreme Court. Major John L. Miller and Major A. Beaton
settled here and I married Major Miller. Then there was Col. R. Q.
Mills who was a law student at that time and later a partner of
Major Beaton. He was a gallant young man, very good looking and
popular and used to go around with our crowd of young folks all the
time. We would go to camp meetings. The young men would write notes
to the girls and would get a wagon so we could all be together.
Other lawyers here were Col. Croft and Major L. T. Wheeler. Col.
Croft married first Roxie Elliot, a daughter of Col. Jacob Elliot.
She lived only a short time and he later married a Miss Lockhart.
The first court house was
situated on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 12th Street. It was a log
house of one room and was used as a court house, school house,
church and general assembly hall of the town for years. I used to go
to school there to Mack Elliott. The next court house was a frame
building built on the present site of the courthouse in 1851. It
burned in 1855 and it was reported that it had been set on fire by
parties who wanted to destroy certain indictments and papers, but
that was never proved. The court house built in 1856 was a brick
building, and your father, Charles W. Jester, hauled the brick. He
had just come from Illinois and had a good wagon and team and that
was his first job.
The first church was built
by the Cumberland Presbyterians, and was located about where Will
Gordon's place is now on Third Avenue, then Main Street. All
denominations held services there until the Methodist Church was
built in 1871. That was the church on which the steeple fell down.
There was no Methodist church here before the War. We used to go to
the Cumberland Church to work for the soldiers during the War. I
remember they had a big convention in this church when Mills was
nominated for Congress. Before the War we had "circuit
riders" as Methodist preachers. I remember Old Brother Mose - I
think he was here as far back as 1847 when we lived in Dresden
Brother Hardin was another circuit rider who had some very bad boys.
One of his sons, John Wesley Hardin, was a notorious desperado.
Another circuit rider (who married me and my sister, Jane) was
Brother Manley. Brother Fly was an early Methodist preacher here as
was Brother Campbell.
The first school I remember
in Corsicana was taught in the old courthouse by Mack Elliot. He was
a surveyor and neighbor of old Jacob Elliot and the father of Mrs.
John D. Lee and Mrs. Ellen Cheney. The next school I went to was in
Cedar Hall taught by Capt. Peek. He and his wife boarded with us at
the McKinney Tavern and their first child was born there. Mrs. Peek
used to lecture me about going with the boys. She said I looked like
a little Pin Cushion Sock on the arm of a boy. The truth was the
boys would come to see my older sisters and some of them would fall
back on me when they could not get one of the older girls. Mrs.
Peek's health failed and they went somewhere back East where she
died and their child was burned to death. Afterward he came back
here and went into the mercantile business, but went to Freestone
County, settled at Fairfield, and married again.
D. Oakes was one of the
early doctors. I think he went to Waco. His wife was quite young and
she used to have me stay with her when he had to be away. Then there
was Dr. Leach and Dr. Green Kerr, a brother of Uncle Jimmy Kerr, Dr.
Wootan and Dr. Tate. Dr. Tate's wife was a relative of Judge Frost.
The doctor was a high tempered man and fell out with my father
because he sent for Dr. Dixon one time when he was sick. Dr. Dixson
administered roots and herbs instead of regular medicines. He was my
father's doctor when he died. Two other early physicians were Dr.
Love and Dr. McKie, father of J. W. McKie who married Eve Elliott, a
daughter of Col. Elliot. Col. Elliot was a land trader in the early
days and first lived down near Richland where his first wife died.
He went back to Kentucky where he married and came back to live in
The Loves were early
settlers. W. M. Love built the first house in this county down near
Patterson Lake. Col. Henderson came soon after we did. He was a
lawyer but didn't practice much. He had a rich brother in New
Orleans who sent him money all the time and he didn't do much but
play chess. Buck Barry was sheriff about that time [no specific
date]. David R. Mitchell gave the most land on which the old part of
Corsicana was built. He later donated the land on which the
courthouse is located and the lot for the Methodist Church. He and
my father were good friends.
I went to school with his
[Mitchell] daughter, Bema, who later married Dr. Seale. The business
part of the town was on the square but when the railroad came here
in 1871 the town moved to it. Major Beaton had a great deal to do
with getting it. He took Capt. Harris, the locating engineer, home
and entertained him and his bride, and got him interested in this
The first postoffice was in
McKinney Tavern and father was postmaster. I can remember as a child
how I liked to hand out the letters to people. Also the first
photograph gallery was in the tavern, owned by a man named Isaac
Cline. I was very fond of having my picture taken and he would
practice on me. The pictures he took were old fashioned
daguerreotypes. The Tavern seemed to be the center of things in
those days. I don't think father was very anxious to keep it; he
didn't like the rough element that naturally congregated around a
hotel in a frontier town so he finally sold out - I think to David
He then built a house right
about where Richard Mays built and where Homer Pace now lives. We
were living there when I married Major John Miller - the other girls
married while we were at the Tavern. Major Miller was born in 1821
in Tennessee. He was a member of the Tennessee Legislature when
James K. Polk received notice of his nomination for President. He
earned the rank of Major in the Mexican War, and came to Corsicana
about 1852. We were married in 1855 and had the following children:
Mattie, Terry (died unmarried age 20), John Lanty, Beaton and Ursula
Miller. About 1858 we moved up near Rice and it was then that my
brother, Monroe, went back to Illinois and brought the Jester family
to Texas. Major Beaton gave them a lot and she took in boarders for
a living. Major Miller died in Corsicana in 1907 in his 86th year.
Diadema and Levi Jester had
the following children, all born in Illinois: Charles Wesley, your
father; Martha (who married Jefferson Kendall); George T. Jester
(married first Alice Bates and second Fannie Gorded); Mary D.
(married James Hamilton); Vina (married R. P. Bates); and L. L.
Jester (married a Miss Cain of Tyler, Texas.) Your father had
different jobs - he worked with a Mr. Jornigan who kept a saddle
shop until he went to war; after that he came back and bought the
saddle shop for himself. He used to do a great deal of business with
The Jesters brought to Texas
the first painted, or factory made, wagon, and for years it was used
for a hearse at every funeral. It attracted a great deal of
attention and the country people and children would gather around
and admire it as they do a circus wagon now. Your father, Charlie
Jester, married Eliza Rakestraw, a daughter of George A. Rakestraw,
who lived down near Patterson Lake. After they married they lived
next door to his mother. My brother Monroe McKinney, married Lou
Johnson. He was killed at Yellow Bayou in Louisiana, leaving three
children. He widow remarried to a Allen. Another of my brothers,
John, went to Johnson County and laid his headright certificate, but
he got sick and came back home where he died at our house, aged 27.
He was very much like my father, handsome, quiet and reserved, not
like any of the rest of us. My brother Thomas married Jan Petty and
moved to Ellis County where he died. Kate McKinney married Hamilton
Morrel. My sister, Nancy had married John Harlin before they moved
to Texas. There was nothing he couldn't do. Everybody liked and
respected him and if help was needed people went to him. He lived in
Waxahachie, Ellis County for a while and then moved to Ennis where
My father was very much
opposed to slavery; he didn't believe in owning Negroes, but after
we came to Texas, he had to buy some in order to get servants. He
didn't approve of dancing and we never had them at the Tavern.
Father would let us girls go with the boys to the dances at the
Randall Hotel just to look on, but we would always get to dance
before we got back. Camp meetings were the principal amusement for
young folks who didn't dance. Father never objected to our going to
them and it was about as much fun as anything else. We also had an
occasional circus. The first I remember seeing was Robinson's circus
which traveled by wagons as there were no railroads here then. The
circus grounds were where the 3rd ward school is now. There was a
grove across the street from where the Ideal theater is now where
they used to have public meetings. I remember Sam Houston coming
here to speak and Major Miller introduced him. That was before the
War. Houston was a Union man and he was very much condemned for his
ideas. He said afterwards that he had made a mistake and regretted
it after he knew the way our people felt about it. He and Col. Mills
had a disagreement and I am sure that was the cause of it for Mills
was for the Confederacy good and strong.
The first newspaper
published here before the war was a weekly called The Prairie Blade.
Dan Donaldson was editor. When the railroad came there were some new
merchants; Sanger was here for awhile. He used to board with your
grandmother Jester. Your Aunt Via Bates was married at her house and
your Aunt Mary Hamilton and your uncle George married and brought
his wife there. She died there when her youngest child, Alice, was
an infant. Your grandfather Rakestraw went with a party of other to
South America after the War because they said they would not live
under a Yankee government, but they did not stay long and were soon
I have lived in this town
for nearly 75 years and in these reminiscences I have tried to
recall the incidents in a long and happy life in relation
particularly to our own family, the descendants of Hampton McKinney
and your great-grandfather, Levi Jester.
[signed} Mrs. Mary Miller 10
Feb A. D. 1921