Chatfield Community
Navarro County, Texas


Chatfield Community


Chatfield, Texas

By L. P. Hodge
Originally published in "The Navarro County Scroll", 1956
Reprinted with permission of the Navarro County Historical Society

There are six Chatfields located in North America: Chatfield, Texas; Chatfield, Minnesota; Chatfield Ohio; Chatfield, Arkansas; Chatfield, Oregon, and Chatfield, Manitoba.  Chatfield Oregon, has been discontinued as a post office.  All of these Chatfields are named for the descendants of a pioneer Scot-Irish family.  I have been to every one of these Chatfields except Chatfield, Ohio, and I expect to see it some day.

In Love's History of Navarro County we find this comment:  "Captain Robert Hodge, one of the first settlers had a son R. L. Hodge who was born and died at the old home at Chatfield at the age of seventy-two.

Chatfield was a very important community about the time of the Civil War, and it is particularly remembered by a man who contributed his share to the Confederate Army.  This man was B. F. Lisman who operated a blacksmith shop at Chatfield, and he made such excellent sabers for the Confederate soldiers that his daughter, Mrs. Joe Clayton, can show a letter from the quartermaster saying that the Listman sabers were the best that he had seen.  Chatfield also had another excellent artisan in the person of Bailey Crofford, who made excellent furniture of oak and walnut.   It still excels most of the furniture of modern times.  No nails or screws were used in it.  B. F. Listman also made a steel plow that was one of the first to take the blackland".

A good many doctors have practiced medicine at Chatfield.  Dr. Cage and Dr. James Cooksey both practiced in the fifties and both died there about the close of the Civil War.  Dr. Philips practiced at Chatfield from 1858 to 1865.  Dr. Norris Witherspoon practiced medicine at Chatfield before the Civil War.  Dr. Ford Witherspoon (Dr. Norris's brother) came to Chatfield from Mississippi at the close of the Civil War.  He had been a surgeon in Stonewall Jackson's Brigade.  He married my father's sister.  She did not live long and left a son, R. W. Witherspoon, who was reared by my grand parents.  He ran a store and gin at Chatfield for fifty years.  Dr. Ford Witherspoon moved to Corsicana in about 1875 and practiced medicine there until his death in about 1892.  Dr. Williams Pannill (my mother's brother) began practicing medicine at Chatfield in 1878 and practiced there until 1895 when he moved to Corsicana.  Dr. Truscott practiced medicine in Chatfield from 1895 to 1899.  He moved to Indian Territory.  His son, Gen L. K. Truscott was born in Chatfield in 1896.  Dr. J. S. Daniels practiced medicine in Chatfield from 1897 to 1914, when he moved to Corsicana.  Doctors Norris and Ford Witherspoon, William Pannill and J. S. Daniels all had a large practice in Corsicana and were well known.

Before the Civil War Chatfield had an academy and young people from miles around came there to school.  John Ballew (father of the late W. W. Ballew) was head master from 1854 to about 1865.  Professor Bacon was also head master for several years.  Excellent subscription schools were headed by Hon. B. F. Marchbanks (married my father's sister) Prof. Johnson and Captain Harris.  When the public school system was established after 1876 Chatfield was old District No. 1 in Navarro County.  In 1896 the Elizabeth Institute was established (Named for my grandmother who gave 10 acres of land for it).

Some able educators were connected with this institution as Captain Harris, J. W. Nix, Charlie Goree, S. E. Gedian, and J. T. Dorsey.

Some of the other families that settled in Chatfield before the Civil War were the Spurlins, Sessions, Jeffers, Scogins, Grahams, Claytons, Lockharts, Westbrooks, Ransons, Browns, Poitevents, Bartlet, Haneys, Fortsans, Gogans, Sands and Kinners.  Henry Griggs came during the war.

Some of the families that came after the Civil War were the McMullins, Thorps, Monforts, Merediths, Mizells, Holseys, and Edwards and McCants.

The following is a news clipping from Corsicana Observer Friday April 29, 1881:

Deer Hunt
A large group of men from Chatfield have been on a big deer hunt in Trinity River bottom.   They were having lots of fun, seated around the camp fire not thinking of retiring until past midnight.  The jug was passed frequently around, while some were playing Euchre most of them were listening to Major McMullen a veteran of the Seminole War, and Col. Henderson a survivor of the Battle Creek Indian fight tell of their bravery in meeting Indians.  Some of the men had slipped away from the party and gave the war whoop firing over the heads of the party, cutting off leaves and branches.  Cards were scattered, jugs were kicked over, men rolled and tumbled.  The Major and the Colonel went off on their all fours.  After they got on their feet it was hard to catch them and harder to convince them that it was not Indians but members of their own party that caused the disturbance.  Since their return from the hunt, the Major and Colonel have had very little to say bout the Indian warfare.

GENTS, AN EX-SLAVE as told by L. P. Hodge to Mrs. Caroline Gray.
This is the story of Gents, a negro who belongs to Captain Hervey's wife, who was a niece of grandmother Hodge.  She had inherited him from her father.  Gents was an intelligent negro, raised in religious and cultural atmosphere.  Gents was trained for a blacksmith and she kept him hired out to Squire Lisman, a blacksmith who ran a wagon yard and blacksmith shop.

When Gents was emancipated he worked for Squire Lisman.   He joined the Freedman's Bureau and the Loyal League and would go to Corsicana every Saturday evening to attend meetings with the Scalawags and Carpetbaggers.  He got very disrespectful and was a great hand to say, "the bottom rail is on top now".

Grandfather gave Gents a good talking one day and told him that someone was going to kill him and that the Confederate soldiers were not going to put up with his insolence.  He also told him that he was not raised in that atmosphere and that he knew better than to run around with Scalawags and trashy white folks.

Gents told grandfather, "moster, nobody can hurt me.  The whole Federal government is behind me".

My grandfather told him, "Gents, the  Federal Government is not going to get in bed with and sleep with you, and someone is going to kill you if you don't mend your ways".

The next week Gents went to Corsicana on Saturday evening as usual.  He caroused all Saturday night at the Freedman's Bureau with Yankee soldiers returning to Chatfield on Sunday evening.  He was driving a beautiful span of horses to a nice buggy.  He was well-groomed, wearing his stove pipe hat.   His horses were flying red, white and blue ribbons from their harness.  About a mile from Chatfield he ran into two white ladies, turned their buggy over, and kept driving.

That night one of my grandfather's negroes, Willis, was grooming his hair down at Gents' house.  Three men were hiding behind trees in front of Gents' house.  They did not want to kill Willis, so they waited until he went into the house to get a pan of water.  Then they filled Gents with buckshot and slugs.   He died instantly.

My father was sitting with his parents in the old home in the edge of Chatfield when this shot was fired.  They spoke of the terrible explosion, but during the conditions of the time, did not think much of it.  In a few minutes Willis broke into grandfather's room and fell at his feet.  My grandfather rebuked him saying, "Why are you coming in the big house in this manner?"

All he could say was, "Gents shoot! Gents shoot!"

Grandfather sent Willis to the cabin, got his hat and walked down to the Village.  He returned in a few minutes stating that Gents had been killed and he was afraid there would be trouble with the Yankees about it.

The next day a company of Yankee soldiers came out from Corsicana with fixed bayonets.  They made lots of threats and threatened to burn the village down, but the could get no information about who had killed Gents.  Long after the War it leaked out who did it.  One of the men was a church official.

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