Friday, August 27, 2010

Arphax Dawson

Given name is spelled various ways: Arphaxton/Arphax/Arphaxad . It is a biblical name and reference to it can be found in the Book of Genesis 10:22. Arphaxad was the son of Shem and grandson of Noah.

Richard B. McCaslin's book "Tainted Breeze," gives this account of Arphax:
"Arphax R. Dawson immigrated to Texas from Illinois; he is listed in the 1860 Grayson County census (F.N. 642) as a farmer from Georgia, age fifty-five, with $3,297 in real and personal property. His wife, Jane, was from Tennessee; their five children had been born in Illinois, Missouri, and Texas. Their oldest daughter, Mary Ann, married Rama Dye on June 27, 1861."

Arphaxton. R. Dawson was born 1805 in Oglethorpe County, Georgia. He was married about 1824 to Mary HORN near Sewanne, Franklin, Tennessee. They had twelve known children (listed below). Mary died in 1856 in Franklin County, Illinois. Arphax then married Jane Caroline Stalcup. They had three known children (listed below.) He and second wife, Jane, were living in Sherman, Grayson County in October 1862. Arphaxton R. DAWSON died 19 Oct 1862 "The Great Hanging" at Gainesville. He was 57 years old at the time of his death. Some online accounts state that his body was taken back to Grayson County for burial, but NO burial site is known.

During the proceedings of the ‘Citizens Court” Arphax gave testimony in the trial of his son-in-law, Ramey Dye.  Testimony: “Ramey Dye came to my house and told me that M. D. Harper had been arrested on the charge of being connected with our society; and that there would be a meeting held that night, (1 Oct 1862) near Lattimer’s and Richies’ steam mill, for the purpose of consulting how to rescue Harper. He wished me to attend and bring my gun, which I did. The meeting was attended by Ramey Dye, John M. Wiley, Isham Welch, Wm Boyles, Jon Ware, H. Gilman, Robt Duncan and others. He talked about the rescue of Harper. We came to the conclusion that the force at Gainesville was too strong for us to accomplish our purpose.”
Arphax Dawson was tried in a group trial (5 men) and found guilty of “giving the signs, grip, and password, and were active members of Capt Ramey Dye’s company.” They were found guilty and hanged.
George Washington Diamond's Account of the Great Hanging at Gainesville, 1862, ManuscripteEdited by Sam Acheson and Julie The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Vol. LXVI, January, 1963, No. 3, pages 331-414

In the "Tainted Breeze," McCaslin states that "Arphax R. Dawson and James A. Ward, had tried to flee the state but found their way across the Red River blocked by unseasonably high water brought on by the deluge of October 1."

Rama Dye, the son-in-law of Arphax Dawson, was also tried by the 'Citizens Court', found guilty of treason and hanged.  His wife, Mary Ann Dawson Dye, lost both her husband and father during those dreadful October days when so many men were hanged.

Arphax had three sons who fought in Confederate units.  According to a descendant, Ephriam A. Dawson was serving in a Confederate Texas Cavalry unit on the very day that his father was hanged by the confederates in Gainesville .

Arphax can be found in the following census records:
Census: 1840 in Franklin County, IL
Census: 1850 in Franklin County, IL
Census: 1860 Grayson County, Texas

Jane Dawson, was married once before. Her first husband is believed to be William Bland. In the 1860 census, 2 boys named James BLAND (b. abt 1850 TN) and John R. J. BLAND (b. abt 1853 TN) are living in the Dawson household. Jane C. and Arphaxton married in late 1856 or early 1857 (no marriage record found) as they had their first child Arfax DAWSON in 1857 in Missouri on their way down to Texas from Illinois.

Arphaxton and Mary HORN had the following children:
1. Allen DAWSON b. 1825 d. 1877 m. 1848 Mary C. VAUGHN; buried in Dawson Cemetery, Franklin Co., IL Descendants known.
2. Minerva DAWSON b. 1826 Alabama; m. 1850 William J. FLETCHER in Franklin Co., IL; descendants known (she names one of her sons Arfax)
3. Susan DAWSON b. abt 1827 m. HARRISON Descendants unknown
4. Rebecca Jane DAWSON b. abt 1828 AL; m. 1850 George LEFLER in Franklin Co., IL; descendants known
5. William DAWSON b. abt 1829 m. Melinda HAMON Franklin Co., IL; some descendants known
6. Juda "Judith" DAWSON b. abt 1834 White Co., IL m. 1853 Henry FLETCHER Franklin Co., IL; descendants known.
7. Samuel J. DAWSON b. abt 1838 AL; m. 1859 Mary Jane SKAGGS Cooke Co., TX; descendants not known
8. Ephraim A. DAWSON b. 1840 Franklin Co., IL; d. 1926 Cooke Co., TX; buried Mt. Zion Cemetery, Cooke Co., TX; m. 1861 (1) Sarah Jane WARD 1861 (2) Lucinda PARSONS 1868; descendants known
9. Mary Ann DAWSON b. abt 1843 Franklin Co., IL; m. 1861 (1) Rama DYE in Cooke Co., TX (he was also hanged in The Great Hanging Oct 1862) and (2) William T. HORTON ; descendants unknown
10. Nancy Catherine DAWSON b. abt 1845 Franklin Co., IL; m. 1861 A. DICKERSON in Grayson Co., TX; unknown descendants
11. George W. DAWSON b. abt 1846 Franklin Co., IL; m. (1) Cordelia REEVES (2) Sarah HUFFACRE in 1867 Cooke Co., TX; descendants unknown
12. Canzada DAWSON b. abt 1849 Franklin Co., IL; m. William KING in TX; nothing more known

Arphax R. DAWSON and his second wife Jane had the following children:
1. Arfax DAWSON b. 1857 Missouri; m. 1882 Mary Elizabeth FUTRELL in Dallas, Dallas, TX. She died in 1883 and nothing more in known of Anfaxton.
2. America Jane DAWSON b. 1859 Sherman, Grayson, TX;
d. 1939 Willis, Marshall, OK, buried in Marlow, Stephens, TX
m. Dennis Morgan MURPHY 1874 in Dallas Co., TX; descendants known.
3. Parthena T. DAWSON b. 27 Jun 1861 Sherman, Grayson, TX; d. 1916 Dallas, Dallas, TX; buried Laurel Oaks Cemetery, Old Bennett Cemetery section, Mesquite TX. She married (1) James WILLS 1877 Dallas Co., TX; ended in divorce; she had one child, Mary, with him; nothing known of her. (2) Samuel Wayne FUTRELL in 1882 Dallas, Dallas, TX; Descendants known.

Arphaxton R. DAWSON's second wife, Jane C. remarried Creed Taylor WALTHALL, a minister and farmer, on 26 Jan 1864 in Grayson County, Texas. They had the following children: Thomas WALTHALL b. abt. 1864 and Milton WALTHALL b. abt 1866 - nothing more in known about them.
Jane C. Dawson Walthall d. 1902 Dallas, Dallas, TX; buried in the Laurel Oaks Cemetery (Bennett section) in Mesquite, TX

What Were Their Occupations?

What were their occupations?

In October 1862, 42 men were tried for their Union Sympathies and convicted by a Confederate ‘Citizens Court’ in Gainesville, Texas. 40 men were hanged and several were shot while trying to escape. 

According to McCaslin, “Many of the victims were not of the lower echelons or fringes of society, but instead could claim to be middle-class.”

The following is a list of ‘Great Hanging’ men and their known occupations. Since most came to Texas to become landowners and farm, the majority of the men were obviously farmers, but it’s surprising to see other occupations represented as well.  Many of the men had trades or held county offices.  Known talents, such as being a musician, are also noted.

Any corrections or additions to this list of the men and/or their occupations are welcome! 

1. C. F. (E. F., Frosty) Anderson - ?
2. George W. Anderson - ?
3. Richard J. Anderson - ?
4. William B. Anderson - farmer
5. Thomas O. Baker - farmer
6. Bennet C. Barnes - farmer
7. Barnibus Burch - farmer
8. Samuel Carmichael - carpenter
9. Ephraim Chiles - farmer
10. Henry Chiles - physician
11. Nathaniel M. Clark - farmer
12. Henry Cockrum- -farmer, miller
13. John Mansil Crisp - blacksmith
14. Arphaxton R. Dawson - farmer
15. Rama Dye – farmer, justice of the peace, minister, road overseer
16. Hudson John Esman – farmer, musician
17. Henry S. Field - shoemaker
18. Thomas B. Floyd (shot) - farmer
19. James T. Foster (shot) - physician
20. Curd Goss - farmer
21. Edward D. Hampton - farmer
22. M. D. Harper - carpenter
23. William W. Johnson - farmer, Clarke called him Dr. Johnson
24. C. A. Jones - ?
25. David Miller Leffel - carpenter
26. Leander W. P. Jacob Lock - farmer
27. Abraham McNeese – farmer
28. Richard N. Martin - farmer
29. John M. Miller – carpenter, teacher, musician
30. John A. Morris - farmer
31. Wash Morris - farmer  OR John W. Morris - farmer
32. M. Wesley Morris - farmer
33. William W. Morris - farmer
34. James A. Powers – “sawer”
35. William R. Rhodes - farmer
36. Alexander D. Scott - farmer
37. Eli M. Scott - farmer, road overseer
38. Gilbert Smith - farmer
39. William B. Taylor - farmer
40. Eli Sigler Thomas - physician
41. James A. Ward - farmer
42. William Wilson Wornell - farmer
43. William Boyles (later shot and possibly died from wounds) - farmer
44. Hiram Kilborn (shot) - road overseer, school trustee, poll supervisor, Baptist preacher
Other men that were killed during that time:
Hanged by James Young:
   William A. McCool - ?
   John M. Cottrell -?
   A.N. Johnson - ?
E. Junius Foster, shot by Young, newspaper editor of the Sherman Patriot, shot as he was closing up newspaper office.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Left Without a Father

According to our latest list (Feb 2012), there were at least 185 children left without a father after the Great Hanging at Gainesville.  If we had a complete list of all the families for the men who were executed during the Hangings, the total children left without a father in the home would be much higher.  Several children, whose mother had died previously, were left orphans by the Hanging.  Read the sad story about the Miller girls in a previous post.

While some of the children of older men who died, were already adults by the time of the Hanging, most of the children were younger and still needed a father in their lives.  There were also numerous infants and some unborn babies.  Think of all those poor widowed mothers who had to care for their families all by themselves without the support of a father and husband.

During our research, as we find more information about the men who died that dreadful October so many years ago, we will undoubtedly find more children who had to live without the benefit of a father in their home. 

The lives of all of these children were definitely changed due to the violent death of their father during those dark days of October 1862.  Not only had they lost their father tragically, but many families faced continued harassment.  Susan Leffel's 1869 letter to the governor states that she and her family had been robbed, threatened and abused since the Hangings.  Dr. Henry Chiles oldest daughter, Elizabeth, had to become a domestic servant to help support her family.  M. D. Harper's wife, Eliza, became a wash woman to help support her young family and most of the family remained very poor, with some of the chldren even being buried in a county poor farm.  These are just a few examples of life for the children after they lost their father in the 'Great Hanging'.

Gone to Texas

Gone to Texas, often abbreviated G.T.T. or GTT, was a phrase used by Americans immigrating to Texas in the mid-1800's. They moved to Texas for many reasons; often to escape debt, to start over again, begin for the first time, to get land or maybe looking for adventure as well as for new fortunes. Obtaining "land" seems to be the driving force for most of those who came to Texas. "Gone to Texas" or "G.T.T." was often written on the doors of abandoned houses or posted as a sign on fences.

Most of the men who died in the Hangings came to Texas hoping for a better life for themselves and their families. Instead, they met a premature death at the end of a rope and their family was left alone on the Texas frontier.  Most were hardworking, honorable men with hopes and dreams for bettering their family's future.

Descendants of men who died in the 'Great Hanging of Gainesville', may qualify for a Texas Heritage Certificate.  Several certificates are given by the Texas State Genealogical Society:
Texas First Families Certificate   Prove direct or collateral descent from an ancestor who settled in Texas before February 19, 1846.
Gone to Texas Pioneer Certificate   Prove direct descent from a person who was in Texas prior to 1886.   Descendants of all the men who died during the Hangings should qualify for this certificate.
West Texas Pioneer Certificate   Prove direct descent from a person who was in West Texas (as defined by list of 133 Counties attached) prior to 1901.

Perhaps the Cooke County Historical Commission should consider a certificate program for descendants of all those who lost their lives in the Great Hanging.   A program such as this would be nice to have in place by the sesquicentennial of the Gainesville Hanging in October 2012.

The Peters Colony of Texas
On the 4th of February 1841, the Republic of Texas adopted a land colonization law called "An Act Granting Land to Emigrants" that dealt with two important issues: the granting of land and the settling of immigrants. This law was proposed by group of 20 petitioners who declared their interest in colonizing unoccupied portions in north Texas. Circulars were printed for distribution and posted in public places advertising the rich lands of the Red River and Trinity Colony in Texas. One advertisement stated that the Peters Colony was “peculiarly adapted to the successful growth of cotton and tobacco,” and, “Indian corn, rye, barley, oats, sweet and Irish potatoes, peas, beans, melons, figs, garden vegetables and all the fruits.” Circulars further claimed that “the country abounds in wild game, such as buffalo, deer wild turkies, prairie hens, quails, and grey squirrels, and the forest with wild honey.” With advertisements such as this, it is easy to see why so many families decided to emigrate to Texas.
Every family settling in Texas during this period was to receive 640 acres of land and each single man 320 acres, provided they lived on and work the land for three years. By the 1850’s, the Peters Land Company was reorganized under the name of the Texas Emigration and Land Company, which offered 320 acres to married men and 160 to single men, plus a "free cabin, seed, and musket balls.”

Below is a list of men who died in the Great Hangings that were colonists in the Peters Colony or had ties to the Peters Colony.  Please let us know of any additions to this list - there should probably be more men represented on this list.
Henry Cockrum – issued a certificate by Cooke County for 640 acres, later disallowed
Rama Dye – issued a certificate and patented 640 acres in Cooke County - Fannin 3rd Class #1201
David Miller Leffel moved to Texas in 1858 when his wife inherited land from her father, Michael West, who was issued a certificate for 640 acres in Grayson County. Fannin 3rd Class #904
William Boyles – issued a land certificate and later patented in Grayson County – Fannin 3rd Class #1569

To conduct a Land Grant Search at the Texas General Land Office, go to:

Leave a comment for additions to the Peters Colony list of men who died in the Hanging.

Gainesville Hanging Cemetery

Gainesville Hanging Cemetery Now on Findagrave now has a virtual cemetery for the men who died in the Great Hangings. The descendants have long been denied from being able to visit a grave site or memorial with names for their ancestors who died in the Hangings.

As noted in a previous post, after the men were hanged, their bodies were thrown into an empty warehouse building on the west side of the town square. A few of the families were able to claim the body of their loved one, but most of the grieving, frightened widows could not find able bodied men to help them (anyone caught helping the widowed families were themselves arrested.) Most of executed men were left for the court officials to bury. Some were buried in hurriedly made coffins, but when the scrap lumber from the torn-down house was used up, the rest of the men were wrapped in old blankets and buried in shallow graves along the banks of Pecan Creek. It has been said that rains washed away the dirt covering some of the graves and that wild pigs dug up some graves.

All that being said, except for the descendants of about 5 of the men who died the Hangings, the rest of the descendants have NO known grave to visit. What a shame the state or county has never placed a memorial marker with all the names of the men who perished in the Hangings.

Now, a virtual cemetery has been created on FindaGrave. If you have an ancestor who died in the Great Hanging, visit the Great Hanging Burial Site on and leave a note & (virtual) flower for your ancestor. If you want, you can also leave a picture, story, obituary or add family links. Also, you can have the memorial of your ancestor transferred to you by just contacting the person who created the memorial.

Go to FindaGrave Website:  -- Then perform a search for your Great Hanging ancestor in Cooke County, Texas.

Gainesville Hanging Group on Facebook

Facebook has a Group for the Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas.  If you are a 'Great Hanging of Gainesville' descendant or have an interest in Texas History, you might want to join this group on facebook.  Joining this group should keep you updated on all the news concerning the Great Hanging.

The name of the group is:  Gainesville Texas - The Great Hanging - October 1862 Civil War
The category of the group is:  Common Interest - History
The group description is: 
Certainly one of the worst atrocities of the Civil War occurred in Gainesville, Texas in Oct. 1862, when 40 men, suspected of Union sympathies, were hanged.
Searching for descendants of the 42 victims who were hanged in Gainesville, Texas in 1862. An anniversary celebration in October 2012 will mark 150 years since this tragedy - the most mass hangings in the United States.
Photo of Nathaniel Miles Clark, lynched in the Great Hanging in Gainesville, TX on October 13, 1862.
Group's Goal:  Searching for descendants of the 42 victims who were hanged in Gainesville, Texas in 1862. An anniversary celebration in October 2012 will mark 150 years since this tragedy.