Wilson County TX Biographies
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Ashley Newton Denton

Ashley Newton Denton, physician, army surgeon, and state representative, was born in Indian Territory on March 12, 1836, the son of John Bunyon Denton and Mary Greenlee (Stuart) Denton. The Denton family immigrated to Texas around 1837, settling at Clarksville in Red River County. The father was an early itinerant Methodist Episcopal preacher and frontiersman who became the namesake for modern-day Denton County. Denton himself studied medicine in Fort Worth and at Galveston Medical College. After graduating he began his practice at Sutherland Springs, Wilson County. On June 25, 1861, Ashley Denton married Margaret Hester Murchison. This couple had five sons and three daughters. Shortly after his marriage Denton volunteered for service in the Confederate Army, joining the Nineteenth Texas Cavalry Regiment as a surgeon.

Following the Civil War Denton returned to Texas and settled in San Antonio. In 1872 he won election as representative on the Democratic ticket for District Twenty-nine—comprised of Bexar, Bandera, Blanco, Burnet, Comal, Gillespie, Kendall, Kerr, Llano, Mason, Wilson, Edwards, Kimble, and Menard counties—to the Thirteenth Texas Legislature. Dr. Denton returned to public service in January 1883 when he received appointment as superintendent of the State Lunatic Asylum (now the Austin State Hospital) in Austin. He continued in this capacity through 1888; according to contemporary accounts he performed his duties with an unprecedented degree of excellence. Ashley Newton Denton died in San Marcos on March 4, 1901. He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, as well as of the Knights of Honor Lodge.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Denton County (http://www.dentoncounty.com/dentondays/Ashley_denton.asp), accessed July 7, 2007. Family Group Denton (http://longislandgenealogy.com/hicks/gp3849.htm), accessed July 7, 2007. E. H. Loughery, Personnel of the Texas State Government for 1885 (Austin: Snyder, 1885). Members of the Legislature of the State of Texas from 1846 to 1939 (Austin: Texas Legislature, 1939).

John Oatman Dewees

John Oatman Dewees, cattleman, son of Thomas and America (Oatman) Dewees, was born in Putnam County, Illinois, on December 30, 1828. In 1849 he moved to Hallettsville, Texas, with his family and, in partnership with his father and brother Thomas, operated a stock farm near Bastrop. In 1854 he moved to Seguin and in 1857 to Live Oak County; he raised livestock in both places on free range. By the time of the Civil War he owned 1,600 cattle. In 1862 he joined Company B of Col. Peter C. Woods's Thirty-second Texas Cavalry, with which he served throughout the conflict; he reportedly participated in more than thirty skirmishes, including Blair's Landing and the battle of Yellow Bayou.

After he was paroled in 1865 Dewees returned to Texas and with borrowed money bought pastureland in Wilson County, on which he raised cattle. In 1871, in association with James F. Ellison, he drove 2,000 cattle to Kansas and sold them profitably. The two men soon thereafter formed a partnership: Dewees bought Texas cattle, and Ellison oversaw their delivery and marketing at northern railheads, ranges, and Indian reservations. By 1882, when the partnership was dissolved because of Ellison's financial reverses, the two had delivered more than 400,000 cattle to the northern market and ranked among the state's leading drovers. Afterward Dewees ranched on 60,000 acres that he partly owned and partly leased in Wilson, Karnes, and Atascosa counties. From 1876 to 1899 he lived in San Antonio and traded livestock there. Dewees was a Mason. He married Anna Irvin of Guadalupe County in 1873, and they had one daughter. When Dewees died in San Antonio on June 10, 1899, his estate was valued in excess of $300,000.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). J. Marvin Hunter, Trail Drivers of Texas (2 vols., San Antonio: Jackson Printing, 1920, 1923; 4th ed., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985). San Antonio Daily Express, June 11, 1899. San Antonio Light, June 11, 1899. Jimmy M. Skaggs, The Cattle-Trailing Industry: Between Supply and Demand, 1866-1890 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1973).

Jesse Evans

Jesse Evans, whose home is on a ranch fourteen miles northeast of Lamesa, in Dawson county, where he has been enjoying life in ease and contentment for several rears, is one of the noted old-time cattlemen of Texas. He is one of the few men still living who experienced the fortunes of the cattle business when it was still an infant industry in Texas and continued to follow it through the remarkable changes of subsequent years.

Born in Cleveland county, North Carolina, in 1834, he came to Southwest Texas in 1853, and during the years before the war was identified with the cattle industry in the region around San Antonio, in what is now Wilson county (though then still a part of Bexar county). During the war he had charge of the mail route between San Antonio and Victoria. Returning to the cattle business, he was for some years engaged in taking cattle to market over the great trails from the Southwest Texas frontier north through the Indian nations. He was also a cattle trader, well known among the cattlemen of that time. For three years after the war he lived at New Braunfels, but then went into the cattle business on a ranch on Medicine river near Dodge City, Kansas. During his career he has worked cattle all over the frontiers of West and Southwest Texas, and also in Oklahoma and Kansas. For a time he had his ranch headquarters at Fort Supply, in what is now northwestern Oklahoma. Among the well known cattlemen then associated with him was Charles Colcord, the wealthy and prominent citizen of Oklahoma City. On the Evans ranch, near Fort Supply, occurred the fight between the United States troops and the Cheyenne Indians under Chief Dullknife. Mr. Evans has had his headquarters in the Big Springs country since 1885, and has pitched the camp where he intends to rest during the remaining years of his life.

He has a comfortable home and a happy family. He was married while living in Southwest Texas, to Miss Emma Beall. She was born in Georgia. Their six children are : J. D., W. H., Mrs. Emma Graham, R. L., Brinkley and Mrs. May Smith.

Source: History of Central and Western Texas, Vol. I by Paddock, B. B. (Buckley B.). Chicago : Lewis Pub. Co., 1911, p. 389.

Gaspar Flores de Abrego

Gaspar Flores de Abrego, land commissioner and ally of the Austin colonists, was born in San Antonio de Bexar on January 5, 1781, to Vicente Flores and Maria Antonia de las Fuentes Fernandes. In Bexar he was elected alcalde in 1819, 1824, 1829, and 1834. At a meeting on October 13, 1834, described as the "first strictly revolutionary meeting in Texas," anti-Centralists of Bexar, worried by the dictatorial actions of President Antonio López de Santa Anna, called on all Texans to join them in convention on November 15. Among the thirty-five signers of the memorial were Erasmo and Juan N. Seguin, Gaspar Flores and his son Nicholas, and Luciano and Jose' Antonio Navarro.

By 1835 Santa Anna had dissolved Congress and was dispersing state governments, including that of Coahuila and Texas. The crisis reached Bexar with the arrival of troops under Col. Domingo de Ugartechea. Flores, at that time serving as administrator of the Revenue Department, refused to obey the colonel's demand for his official documents, writing that "the military have no right to interfere." Santa Anna next sent Gen. Martin Perfecto de Cos to Bexar with additional troops, but Texas volunteers drove them out of Bexar and out of Texas. A small group of the volunteers remained in Bexar, headquartered in the Alamo with neither money nor supplies. Gaspar Flores offered them all his "goods, Groceries and Beeves." When the soldiers met with citizens in January 1836 Flores served on a committee that included James Bonham, James Bowie, and Juan Seguin, to draft resolutions for the consideration of the committee.

February 1 was voting day for Texas towns, each to select four delegates to the March 1 convention that would decide the future of Texas. Bexar elected Antonio Navarro, Jose' Francisco Ruiz, Erasmo Seguin, and Gaspar Flores. Two weeks later Tejano spies brought word that Santa Anna was crossing the Rio Grande with thousands of troops for the purpose of capturing Bexar. As the younger men joined the Texas army or rode as couriers, Flores and Seguin took charge of gathering their own and other families and with loaded oxcarts and 3,000 sheep hurried to the safety of East Texas.

After the battle of San Jacinto Juan Seguin found them in Nacogdoches struck down by a fever that took a number of lives. Flores died on September 6, 1836, having gone as far as the home of George Huff, a few miles east of San Felipe. His second wife, Petra Zambrano, his son Nicholas, and his two sons-in-law accepted his estate as inventoried on February 11, 1837.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Eugene C. Barker, ed., The Austin Papers (3 vols., Washington: GPO, 1924-28). Eugene C. Barker, The Life of Stephen F. Austin (Nashville: Cokesbury Press, 1925; rpts., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1949; New York: AMS Press, 1970). Bexar Archives, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin. Bexar County Archives, San Antonio. Frederick Charles Chabot, With the Makers of San Antonio (Yanaguana Society Publications 4, San Antonio, 1937). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835-1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence (Salado, Texas: Anson Jones, 1944; rpt. 1959). Antonio Menchaca, Memoirs (San Antonio: Yanaguana Society, 1937). Jose' Maria Rodriguez, Rodriguez's Memoirs of Early Texas (San Antonio, 1913; 2d ed. 1961). Juan N. Seguin, Personal Memoirs (San Antonio, 1858). Texas Republican, November 1, 1834. Louis J. Wortham, A History of Texas (5 vols., Fort Worth: Wortham-Molyneaux, 1924). Henderson K. Yoakum, History of Texas from Its First Settlement in 1685 to Its Annexation to the United States in 1846 (2 vols., New York: Redfield, 1855).

Josefa Augustina Flores de Barker

Josefa Augustina Flores de Barker, donor of the site of Floresville, was born to Jose' Maria Flores and Maria Leonides Flores probably in the early 1800s. She grew up on the family's extensive lands and, in San Antonio on April 17, 1854, married Samuel Williams Barker, who became the first sheriff of Wilson County. When her father died, Josefa inherited a portion of his estate, 200 acres of which she donated to establish the town of Floresville in 1833, with the request that the settlement be named in honor of her great-great-grandfather, Francisco Flores de Abrego, whose hacienda was six miles from the site of the present town. Many of her descendants have continued to live in the community and surrounding areas, and in 1990 some still owned the land that was handed down to them through five generations of the Flores de Abrego family.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Louise Stadler, ed., Wilson County History (Dallas: Taylor, 1990).

Sam Fore, Jr.

Sam Fore, Jr., newspaperman, the son of Samuel Lane and Letitia (Chenault) Fore, was born in Cuero, Texas, on May 3, 1891. His family moved to Stockdale, in Wilson County, and finally in 1903 to Floresville. But even at Stockdale, before he was twelve, the boy had smelled printer's ink, at Charles Hanson's Enterprise, and he prevailed upon the old editor to make him the printer's devil. There, for six months, he learned to set type by hand from wooden cases in the tiny plant. When the family moved to Floresville, Sam soon was nominally on the payroll of the Chronicle, a semiweekly owned by Dr. John V. Blake, a local physician. Here, before and after school and on Saturdays, Fore learned to set type at the rate of two galleys an hour, as well as to pump the old-fashioned press and to handle job printing. When he finished the eighth grade, he began full-time employment with Blake and was soon getting into the editorial side of country newspaper work. In 1910 he was promoted to society editor and in 1911 to assistant editor.

On July 11, 1911, Fore married Elma Teas, daughter of C. S. Teas, a family friend. Later that year, when H. C. Thompson, editor of the Chronicle, died, Blake concluded that Fore was the man to take over as editor. Sam was barely twenty. Two years later Blake proposed that the young couple (Elma was working in the front office) should buy the paper. The purchase became official at year's end, 1912.

Sam and Elma Fore devoted the next forty-nine years toward making the Floresville Chronicle Journal an effective instrument for community improvement. The new editor made a point of traveling throughout the county to meet his public. He did not neglect Floresville itself. In February of his first year as publisher he organized a civic club; it soon had thirty-five members, and Fore was its secretary. The first business of the new club was to organize a city "Clean Up Campaign," which Fore backed with full publicity. During those same months he ran for city clerk in the April election and won, 169 to 52. It was the only political office he ever held, and he held it for fifty years.

In 1919, five years after he first attended the annual convention of the Texas Press Association, he was elected vice president. A year later he was president-the youngest president ever elected. In the 1920s he helped organize the South Texas Press Association to serve the special interests of that region. He continued active in both groups for the rest of his life.

His hometown paper was always the base of his operations. In the 1960s a budding journalist, Emily Lamon, was chosen by a foundation to find and celebrate an ideal country editor. She found Sam Fore and wrote a little book about him. In her preface she says: "He believes in what he calls the mission of the press. `If I couldn't say things good, I wouldn't say anything,' he says. `I didn't try to step up strife and discord. It is as important to know what to leave out as what to put in. I never put anything sensational into the paper. That's not good for this town.' His ideas are strong- he never voted against a bond issue, never voted for liquor, and never scratched a Democrat on an election ticket. Yet his paper is not a campaign sheet for anything but community improvement. Sam Fore comes close to being THE country editor-and for his community he is."

Fore worked hard to establish the Wilson County Fair. The advent of World War I got him into fund-raising; by the end of the war he was county chairman of the Great United War Work Campaign. In the 1920s he began to advocate the diversification of farm crops rather than total dependence on King Cotton. He began also to diversify his own business interests; he bought from the Chamber of Commerce in Robstown its newspaper, the Robstown Record. Operating under a succession of editors, the paper augmented the Fore family's income and extended Sam's influence. In May of 1929 Governor Dan Moody appointed Fore a regent at the Texas College of Arts and Industries in Kingsville (now Texas A&M University at Kingsville), adjacent to the King Ranch. His served two six-year terms.

In the 1930s Floresville was in the Nineteenth Congressional District, which ran all the way from San Antonio south to the coast, including Floresville and the King Ranch. Richard M. Kleberg, was the congressman for that district, and Sam Fore was his enthusiastic supporter. When Kleberg appointed a young unknown, Lyndon B. Johnson, to his staff, he told Johnson to go by Floresville and visit Sam Fore before reporting for duty. Johnson made such an impression on Sam and Elma Fore that Sam told Elma next morning, as they watched him drive away: "That boy is going to be President of the U.S.A., and I'm going to be at his inauguration." This was the beginning of a close relationship between the small-town editor and the rising young politician.

The country was by now in the depths of the Great Depression, and Floresville and all South Texas was suffering. Fore worked through Johnson and Kleberg to get all possible relief measures from the burgeoning New Deal programs. He had become Democratic executive committeeman for the Nineteenth Senatorial District. His efforts in behalf of this constituency won him the appellation "Mr. Democrat of South Texas."

Sam and Elma Fore had two daughters. When the family attended the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia in 1936, Governor James Allred appointed one of the daughters Texas Sweetheart at the Convention. To the delight of all Texas Democrats, Marion Fore was chosen "Queen" of the entire convention. Sam Fore attended his last Democratic Convention at Atlantic City in 1964. He and Elma had operated the Chronicle Journal for a full half century. They were past seventy, and Sam's health was failing. They sold the paper on September 1, 1963, to Mr. and Mrs. Joe H. Fietsam.

Fore died at home in Floresville on December 24, 1966. President and Mrs. Johnson headed those who joined the Fores' neighbors at the Methodist church on December 26 to pay their last respects. He was survived by his wife, his two daughters, four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Emily Lamon, Sam Fore, Jr., Community Newspaper Editor (Austin: Department of Journalism Development Program, University of Texas, 1966). Vertical Files, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin.

Maude Truitt Gilliland

Maude Truitt Gilliland, author, was born on the Capisallo Ranch in Hidalgo County, Texas, on December 21, 1904, the daughter of Alfred L. and Mary Christine Truitt. At the time of her birth, and throughout much of her early life, the remote area she knew as home was sparsely settled, limited in its access to the rest of the state, and the focus of frequent border disputes between Texans and Mexicans. Within a year of her birth her family moved to Rincón Ranch, a large ranch in Starr and Hidalgo counties where her father worked as foreman and manager. The family later moved to Mission, where Maude lived from 1911 to 1923. She remained in Mission until she married Grenade Don Gilliland. With him, and later their children, she lived in Pleasanton and at various sites throughout the Rio Grande valley.

Ranching and law enforcement-and their overlapping interests-were important influences in Maude Gilliland's life. The Texas Rangers used Rincón as a scouting headquarters in the South Texas area, and numerous other law-enforcement officers stopped at the ranch regularly. Maude Gilliland's family had close ties to these groups. Her grandfather, P. M. Truitt, served with John Coffee (Jack) Hays's Texas Rangers in the 1840s, and her father, in addition to working as a rancher, held a special ranger commission and worked in various other law-enforcement jobs in South Texas. G. D. Gilliland was a Texas Ranger and later a border patrol officer.

After raising her family, Maude Gilliland turned to chronicling her experiences in South Texas. Her first book, which she both wrote and illustrated, was Rincón (Remote Dwelling Place)-A Story of Life on a South Texas Ranch at the Turn of the Century (1964). It was praised for its accurate portrayal of the Rio Grande valley and ranch life in South Texas. In 1968 she wrote Horsebackers of the Brush Country-A Story of Texas Rangers and Mexican Liquor Smugglers. This work, covering the period 1920-33, provides a detailed historical account of border gunfights that erupted between state and federal law officials and Mexican horsebackers who attempted to smuggle liquor into Texas during prohibition. Her third book, published in 1977, was Wilson County Texas Rangers, 1837-1977. It relates the exploits of forty-four Texas Rangers from this south central Texas county and includes numerous ranger photographs never before published. In each of her books Gilliland expresses a laudatory and sympathetic view of law enforcers in the border area, crediting them with curbing the careers of notorious smugglers, bandits, and cattle rustlers.

Maude Gilliland remained in Pleasanton until 1979, when she and her husband moved to Cotulla. Preceded in death by her husband, she died in Cotulla in July 1989 and was buried in her husband's hometown of Fairview, Texas, in Wilson County. She was survived by two daughters and several grandchildren.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Southwestern Collection," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 81 (July 1977). Vertical Files, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin.

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