The Civil War & Spring Hill Texas


Civil War Index || Carl Matthews Articles on Dawson & Spring Hill


Revised 3-21-03

The Civil War & Spring Hill, Navarro Co. Texas

South Carolina was the first state to secede from the union and the news reached Navarro County, Texas December 28, 1860. No cannon existed in Corsicana, but it was said that the community celebrated by firing anvils. This was a practice where one anvil was turned upside down and the large hole on the bottom filled with gunpowder. Another anvil was placed over the gunpowder filled hole. When the gunpowder was ignited the explosion could be heard for miles. It became a tradition at Spring hill to “Shoot the Anvil” at Christmas.

Civil War hostilities began on April 10, 1861 when General Beauregard ordered his Confederate troops to fire on Fort Sumpter, located at Charleston, South Carolina, and demanded the surrender of the Union garrison.

Alva Taylor, a Navarro County historian, wrote 1965…

February 23, 1861 – Navarro County voted 213 to 3 to secede.
May 1861 – The Commissioners Court voted to purchase $2500. worth
Of guns and ammunition.

Two months later, elements of the 18th Texas Brigade were reported to have begun forming at Spring Hill, Navarro Co. Texas. The 18th Texas Brigade was said to have begun at Lancaster in south Dallas County, but men enlisted from a number of other counties. The unit moved through the Indian Territory into Arkansas and spent much time there and in Louisiana.

It may have been that the residents at Spring Hill were contacted to enlist with the group forming at Lancaster during the early days of the war. One of the residents of that city had traveled to Richmond prior to the firing on Fort Sumpter and had returned home to organize a military unit. The early enlistments may have been in response to his call.

No other reference has been found that the 18th Brigade was begun at Spring Hill and it could well be that the above could have been an error.

Records indicate that most enlistments from Western Navarro County, Texas were with Capt.Winkler’s Navarro Rifles…Co I, 4th Texas Volunteer Infantry…and..Dresden’s Texas Cavalry..Co I, Texas Cavalry Regiment.

Names found with NAVARRO RIFLES included

2nd Lt. J R Ogilvie married Bethena Perkins Snead II…lived at Liberty Hill
3rd Lt. B J C Hill step son of Ethan Melton of Dresden
W A Fondren the first man from Navarro Co. killed in action
Frank Hagle from Germany, lived at Dresden, son Mack Hagle
Joseph Hagle from Germany, lived at Dresden, son Joseph Hagle Jr.
Jack Hill… killed, probably related to Lt. Hill
Jarvis Hill… .twice wounded, arm amputated
H L W Killian related to the Hill family
W P Spence died of wounds, from Illinois
James H Treadwell married Sarah Elizabeth French

Names found with DRESDEN CAVALRY included

Geo W Berry b. AL m. Eleanor Jane French
James Alex Berry b. AL, m. Nancy Dawson, dau of Brit Dawson
Jos Mont. Berry b. AL, m. Sarah Elizabeth Walker
Robt D Bills b. Marshall Co TN, m. Mary Elizabeth Ogilvie
David Blackburn father was first Grand Master, Spring Hill Masonic Lodge

J B Booth these brothers, born MS, had a relationship with Maury Co
S Booth Tenn…Sisters married Sam Jetton, John P Treadwell, and
T J Booth Henry Fullerson
William Booth

Wm T Cannon brother of Susannah Cannon who married Brit Dawson
Henry Dawson son of Brit Dawson
David Fraley rancher from Silver City, sons John & Frank
Wm C French Marshall Co AL, m. Sarah Ann Berry
John Fullerton b. 1844 probably related to Henry Fullerton
William Fullerton brother of Henry Fullerton
Henry C Garner m. Sarah J Fullerton, Henry Fullerton’s sister

J P Onstatt sons of Joshua and David Onstatt who came from Illinois
T B Onstatt to Navarro Co prior to 1850s
Francis M Onstatt
John H Onstatt
William R Onstatt

Patrick H Osborne born at Frost TX….P G Osborne lived Dawson 1930s
James D Richey step brother of Susannah Cannon Dawson
James M Scales Grand Master Spring Hill Masonic Lodge
Warren Sidwell wife and children buried Spring Hill Cemetery
James W Sims may be son of Bartlett Sims
Wm H Slaughter from Williamson Co TN
Nicholas T Sneed Sneed family arr. NavCo 1850s..purchased 6000 acres
Cyrus Spence family came early from Illinois
L W Spence school teacher
Andy Tickle farmer from Spring Hill
Absolem Toten brother or Nemiah..from Roane Co TN
Nemiah Toten m. Elizabeth R French, son Jas “Callie” Toten
William Walker wife buried at Spring Hill Cemetery
John Ward family came from Illinois, related to Scroggins & Vinsons

S R D Westmoreland
Wm T Westmoreland Kept a detailed diary during the Civil War

F W Williams Frederick Washington Williams, Spring Hill wheel right

Samuel Wright furnished his own horse, rode to east coast, NavCo Judge
J S Wright son…Joseph Stewart Wright..father of Daws Wright
N S Wright son…Newton LaFayette Wright…Father Fate Wright
S F Wright son…Samuel Franklin Wright..Father Ira Wright
Robert Wright son…Robert James Wright..m. Kate Boydston

Robert Younger m. step daughter of Dr Geo. Washington Hill


The August 1861 enlistments at Spring Hill included:

Capt Robert Harve Matthews Age 47 single Beat # !
Britt Dawson Age 44... married Beat # 5
John Booth Age 54 married Beat # 5
James O French Age 21 Beat # 5

Alva Taylor wrote in 1965,

August 1, 1861….Ninety men signed up to fight under Capt. C M Winkler. These were the first men in Navarro Co to sign up for war. This company was known as “The Navarro Rifles.”

Later, a Confederate Training Camp was reported to have been created between Spring Hill and the area that later became the town of Dawson. That recollection of the location may have been in error.

Alva Taylor wrote in 1965…

March 6, 1842 - The First Training Camp was established at Spring Hill, Texas
fifteen miles west of Corsicana. Here Capt. Winkler and his men trained.

Jacob Elliott, a New York attorney, arrived in Navarro Co. about 1850. He purchased, in February 1850, 3605 acres on Richland Creek for $12.81 at a tax sale. The previous owner was John White. He and his family lived on the property, then moved to Corsicana. Jacob Elliott wrote in his diary: J M Elliott was listed in the 1850 Navarro Co Census. He was single, a school teacher, living in the home of Hampton McKinney, and shown to have been born in Illinois.

Oct 19, 1861 - Col. Locke’s Eastern Texas Regiment was to march to Richland Creek for several days training.

September 21, 1863 - Capt. Davenport had marched through Corsicana on his was to the place at Richland Creek. The force was about one hundred….”mostly Negroes.”

December 9, 1863 - Collected 10 bushels of corn. Sent to Capt. Savage’s Company, Texas Cavalry.

December 10, 1863 - William Lindsey, James Adamson, Billingsly Taylor, members of Capt. S Savage’s company, arrived in Corsicana.

July 5, 1864 - Rode to Waco. Dined with Rufus Burleson. On the way home spent the night with Brit Dawson.

August 14, 1864 - Bought 55 sheep from Britt Dawson, killed one to eat, sent 570 pounds of corn, will send balance soon.

October 24, 1864 - The Quartermaster and Commissioners are in town today. Corsicana being made a depot of government suppliers.

May 21, 1865 - Bad news coming in. Many disbanded soldiers passing through Corsicana.

March 27, 1865 - General Joe Shelby and part of his Division were camped on Chambers Creek on the road to Chatfield.

June 2, 1865 - Two officers of Shelby’s Division are on their way to Mexico.

September 1, 1865 - Took the oath of allegiance to U S Government before S Wright, Chief Justice of Navarro Co.

(Samuel Wright had married Prudance Shaw Matthews in Maury Co Tennessee 1836, arrived at Spring Hill Christmas Day that year, settled at Liberty Hill west of Dawson. He raised a company during the Civil War which included four of his sons, rode his own horse to battles in Virginia and elsewhere)

One writer identified the location of the Training Camp by referring to “The Old White Church” that was nearby. The Old White Church has appeared in several writings about the Spring Hill area. It was in existence in the late sixties or early seventies when Moses Laford Berry married Miss Maud Jane Margaret Houston.

The “Society Hill Church” sent three delegates to the 1850 Annual Meeting of the Trinity River Association…Noah Byars, James Sanford, and William French. The congregation was still meeting in 1858 and church minutes listed…Benjamin Boydston, Thomas Slater, and John Treadwell. J M Perry was listed as pastor.

Another “White Church” with a cemetery was located one and one-quarter miles south of Blooming Grove, but that would have been several miles from Spring Hill. Burials found on the gravestones indicate that the cemetery was not used until near the turn of the century and would indicate that the site was not that of “The Old White Church.”


Robert Harve Matthews was, apparently, involved in Quartermaster duties during the Civil War and some references are found where he continued to operate a freight business to the Red River area following hostilities.

No record has been found of a Quartermaster facility at Spring Hill. However, a number of references are made to the Quartermaster Depot which was located in Corsicana on a site occupied in 2003 by Corley Funeral Home. Probate of the will of Robert Harve Matthews included commercial property in Corsicana and could well have been the structures used for a freight business during and after the Civil War.

The Training Camp was identified as “The Spring Hill Training Camp.”
It was not identified with Dresden or Melton’s Store…but as Spring Hill.
It was said to have been near “The Old White Church.”
“The Old White Church” was on the north side of Richland Creek.
That was where the Treadwells, Frenches, Berrys, Boydston, etc. lived
Troops marched through Corsicana to “Richland Creek.”
It was reported being fifteen miles west of Corsicana.

The above would place the Training Camp on the north side of Richland Creek just south and east of the John Treadwell land patent. Perhaps, between Navarro Mills and Brushie Prairie communities.

Helen Richman Wiston
Contributed some of the following

Capt.Robert Harve Matthews
was commander of
The Quartermaster Division

Four brothers enlisted 1861 at Spring Hill, Navarro Co TX...and joined their Uncle, Robert Harve Matthews, who commanded the Quartermaster Division

Robert Harve Matthews b. 1825 36
Buried Elm Grove Cemetery, Kaufman Co TX
Newton Monroe Matthews b. 1832 29
Killed during the Battle of Atlanta
Joseph Calvin Matthews b. 1840 21
Thomas Presley Matthews b. 1843 18
Married widow of Newton Monroe Matthews
Buried Elm Grove Cemetery, Kaufman Co TX

Newton Matthews was transferred to the infantry in 1864, was sent to Georgia to defend against Sherman, died there, and was, apparently, buried somewhere in Georgia.

Thomas Pressley Matthews and Robert Matthews served the entire Civil War with the Quartermaster, both sustained injuries during Indian raids which prevented them from being transferred to the east. Thomas Pressley was reported to have taken an arrow in the hip that plagued him for the balance of his life.

The two brothers were engaged in transporting supplies to Confederate troops in Arkansas and returning home with men who had been wounded. They were once captured by elements of the Union Army, but were released after providing the Union troops thirty gallons of whiskey...and.. promising more on future trips.

Each month the Union troops received their allotment of whiskey, and each month the two boys were allowed to deliver supplies and return more wounded.

After the war, Thomas Presley Matthews returned home to the Old Goshen Community located in Henderson Co Texas and, on December 24, 1866, married the widow of his brother, Newton Matthews, Sarah Frances Porter. Sarah Frances was a daughter of Robert and Frances Bartlett Porter. Thomas and Sarah Frances are both buried at the Elm Grove Cemetery, Kaufman Co TX.

Tom Sanders, who lives in Kansas, responded that the nephews may have been in the freight business prior to the beginning of the Civil War and Robert Harve may have been involved with them. Could Robert Harve have had the freight business located in Corsicana prior to the Civil War and employed his nephews who lived a few miles distant.

The four brothers lived in the vicinity of Porters Bluff, also known as Taos. Porters bluff was the site of a ferry crossing on the Trinity River. It was, as well, a landing for the flat bottomed boats that brought all manner of supplies from ships trading on the gulf coast. The boats returned to the Gulf with grain, cotton, hides, and other items produced in the area. Wagon traffic crossing the ferry and activity at the landing created a center of commerce and the need for a freight business.

Martha Patricia Matthews, mother of the boys and a sister of Robert Harve Matthews, had moved to the area after the 1844 death of her husband, James D Matthews. at Franklin. The family must have lived quite near Porters Bluff for the 1850 Census records that David Flint, ferryman, boarded in her home. Her daughter, also named Martha Patricia, had married David Ward Sanders in 1854.

Martha Patricia Sr. went to live with her brother, Robert Harvey Matthews, at Spring Hill and was buried at the Spring Hill Cemetery in 1888. It was remembered that she often sat on his porch and smoked a small clay pipe.

David Sanders, son of Charles and Lucy Hatcher Sanders, was born in Arkansas in 1833 and members of his family lived in various places along the route from Arkansas to Porters Bluff. David and Martha lived for a time in Grayson Co., moved on to Arkansas. Their youngest child was born in Arkansas in 1863, but they were back in Texas in 1865.

Levi B Sanders was operating a Trading Post at Porters Bluff as early as He, later, began another store at Cash, Texas known as Sanders Grocery which operated until the 1940s. Cash, Texas is located thirty or so miles south of Greenvile,Texas….on the route to Arkansas. And, in the 1860 Navarro Co. Census, William Sanders, age 22, listed his profession as “Wagoner.”

Robert Harve Matthews, during the same time period, owned a General Merchandise store at Spring Hill, and, in all likelihood, obtained supplies for his store from the landing at Porters Bluff. Harve, also, owned property near Porters Bluff, some of which he sold to a Thomas Banks, also from Arkansas, whose mother’s maiden name was Sanders.

To be continued…..I hope!

Please add your information to this effort.

Shortly thereafter, Thomas Presley Matthews moved his new family and his Mother, Martha Patricia Matthews, to the Arcadia Community, Kaufman Co, Texas. Thomas and Sarah were said to have had eight children.
1868 John Thomas Matthews
m. Barbara Ann Wright
1895 Ollie Matthews
m. Iris Otto Orman
1871 Travis Matthews
1872 Harvey Matthews
1873 Lucy Evaline Matthews
m. R James Wright, Prairieville TX
son ?? of Robert and Kathrine Boydston Wright
Prairieville Kaufman Co..near Maybank
m. Robert Caskey - son of John & Mary Caskey
son Leroy Alonzo Caskey m. Maud Fuller
1877 Rufus Floyd Matthews

Submitted by Carl Matthews, March 2003

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Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox