Editor's Note: This is the final article of this series on individuals, who made positive contributions to Stephenville, the Cross Timbers area and/or the State of Texas. Perhaps other worthy individuals can be remembered in future stories. The research of Dr. Chris Guthrie of Tarleton State University and the late Dr. Dick King, local journalist, was most helpful in writing this article.
By STUART CHILTON
Today's featured individual is one with a mystery regarding his birth place and birth date.
He could have been born in one of four New England states - Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut or Massachusetts. More than likely it was New Hampshire. As for the year of his birth - it could have been one of seven years - 1807, 1808, 1811, 1814, 1823, 1824 or 1828. More than likely November, 1808, is the correct date.
Before he was 10 years old, he was orphaned. Both his parents died within three years of each other. He then lived with an aunt in Vermont until he was about 13 years old. He left his aunt's home, apparently going to North Carolina, where he worked as a woodcutter. It is thought that he arrived in Knoxville, TN. in the early 1820s.
Some researchers think he completed his schooling in Knoxville and perhaps received a teaching certificate. Other historians do not believe he received his teacher certification.
Shortly after arriving in Knoxville, this man was employed at a large mercantile store. One of the co-owners was Perez Dickerson. He would work at this store for about 30 years.
Some time in the 1830s, while our featured individual was in Knoxville, he met a man who wished to sell 10,000 acres of land in Texas for 12 1/2 cents per acre. He bought the land; however, he would not see the property until the early 1860s. The land was situated in Erath and Palo Pinto Counties. Most historians believe this individual walked from Knoxville to this area of Texas. After seeing the land, he continued walking to Waco, where he established a mercantile store on Austin Avenue, the main street in Waco.
One morning, while standing in front of his store, he saw a beautiful woman walking along Austin Avenue. It was Mary Louisa Johnson, a prominent Waco widow. Following a short courtship, the couple was married in 1876. The marriage soon failed, and a divorce was granted in 1879. Shortly after the divorce, this person formulated plans to sell his Waco store, and return to his ranch in Erath and Palo Pinto Counties.
In 1880, he walked back to this area to make his home and live his final years on his remote ranch.
A Stephenville attorney, J.C. George, became a most influential in this individual's later life. It was George, who convinced this person to bequeath most of his money to establish a college in Stephenville rather than in Weatherford.
Today's featured individual died from the apparent effects of typhoid fever at the G. W. Williams' home, near Santo, on Sept. 10, 1895. He was initially buried in the Patillo Cemetery. Three years later, the body was moved to the new college campus in Stephenville in the area now known as Heritage Park. Then in 1928, the body was again moved to its present location at the intersection of Lillian St. and West Washington St.
“A Name to Remember” - Mr. John Tarleton
Dr. Chilton, a retired educator/journalist, lives in Stephenville. He occasionally writes for this newspaper.