From a handwritten letter by Delphia (Kinnard) Griggs, November 24, 1978
Submitted by Barbara Childers
|S. Erastus Umphress was born in 1857 and died in 1914.He was buried in Mitchell Bend Cemetery in Hood County, Texas.|
Erastus Umphress, one of the extensive landowners of Hood County was a representative and leading farm and rancher possessed of a true progressive spirit of the age which is so rapidly transforming this land from a wild uninhabited region into beautiful homes and farms, placing it on a par with the states that have been much longer settled.
Ras, as was his nickname, came from the peninsula state of Florida. His birth having occurred in Jefferson County, Florida on June 9, 1857. His parents, Mitchell and Martha (Horton) Umphress were both natives of Georgia. Ras had only three brothers and one sister left who moved to Dallas County (ed. note: His older sister, Martha Ann, wife of Jesse Aldredge, remained in Georgia). At this present time there is a street in Dallas by the name of Umphress Street.
S.E. was reared to farm life on the old homestead in Florida, and what little education he acquired in his youth was under the instruction of his parents (and in common schools). His father died in Florida in March, 1859.
Our subject continued under the parental roof until nearly 22 years of age and then started a life for himself, without assistance from relatives or friends. In 1872 he came to Texas, a poor young man and being unable to purchase a farm he rented land in Dallas County on which he raised 2 crops.
On the 25th of October, 1872, was celebrated the marriage of Mr. Umphress and Miss Maggie Grubbs, daughter of John and Rebecca (Kinsey) Grubbs, both natives of Florida. They had a interesting family of 8 and lost one. Those who survive are Lola, William, Rollins, Augustus, Lela, Olen and Maggie.
He then removed to Hood County and purchased 100 acres where he now lives, about 9 miles south of Granbury, in a loop of the Brazos River which is now Mitchell’s Bend. Building a log cabin to live in and as his family grew built additional rooms for more space.
Ras was a quiet, hard-working man and as his sons became old enough expected the same from all. The well-tilled fields indicate his careful supervision, and the many excellent improvements stand as monuments to his thrift and enterprise. He has a handsome frame residence, good outbuildings, a wind pump and the latest improved machinery. He raises stock of good grades, and his capable management and earnest efforts have brought to him a comfortable competence.
Ras followed farming, stockraising, and as his financial resources increased, bought other property, until he had accumulated 900 acres of excellent soil. He farmed 280 acres and on the remaining acreage grazed his longhorn cattle.
Ras was one of the first ranchers to own a famous registered bull. He ordered and payed for a registered white face Hereford bull from the City of Hereford, County of Herefordshire, England. Ras got his adjoining neighbor, Fred Sue, to go with him to Galveston and drive the fancy bull back to Hood County. Ras let Mr. Sue use the bull for breeding, but it belonged to Ras.
Ras drove his cattle to the markets in Kansas City, Missouri. He traveled the famous Loving-Goodnight trails often, taking his oldest sons as this was a very difficult task and taking several months to accomplish.
Finally, after a long period of time, being one of the main instigators, Ras and a few of the main ranchers were rewarded by getting the first railroad spurs out of Fort Worth into Granbury. This was a great accomplishment as this enabled the ranchers to ship their cattle to market by railroad.
Ras and family would attend feasts given by Charles (Uncle Charley) Barnard Jones, who would always kill a beef to serve. The Umphress children were always afraid as the different tribes of Indians were always there, sitting back in the shadows. The reason being friends of Uncle Charleys who owned a Trading Post. They came often to trade with him. The Comanche tribe came to the trading post and brought with them this beautiful girl they had stolen. Uncle Charley fell immedately in love with this girl and traded sugar and supplies for this bride to be.
Ras, loving music, owned a pump organ. A niece, Lula Umphress, whose home was in Dallas, visited Ras’s family frequently. Lula was very talented on the organ and guitar. Ras insisted the children be taught by Lula. She did quite well by using a long yard stick, hitting the children’s hands when they missed the correct notes.
Ras and Maggie were members of the Missionary Baptist Church and contributed liberally to its support, and donated three acres, known as Shady Grove, in 1899. Their home was a hospitable one and friends throughout the community were many. Mr. Umphress was very religious and believing strongly in prayer would often go to his pasture near a big oak tree on the banks of the Brazos to pray. He would raise his arms and the neighbors would often hear his prayers in praise of the Lord.
The Shady Grove Church was first built back of Mr. Umphress’ home. Every Sunday morning, leaving wife Maggie at the house to prepare lunch, Mr. Umphress and children went to church and Lola Lea would play the organ for singing. After services Mr. Umphress would get up and invite everyone to eat lunch at his home.
After several years and having several grandchildren, Ras, loving history, would gather the children, carrying them to Granbury, showing off the new courthouse, explaining about the clock atop the courthouse, saying that it was a Seth Thomas (the old courthouse having burned in 1885). Some of the children thought the General Granbury statue was named Seth Thomas, of course misunderstanding. Ras also showed the cotton gin and gristmill which he and two other men had built on the Maberry Creek and they later sold to Mr. Maberry.
Ras belonged to the Ancient and Honored Society of the Masons. His membership first being at Granbury Lodge No. 392 F.A.M. He transferred to Shady Grove Lodge No. 821 from Granbury the year of 1898. He was Master of Shady Grove the years 1902, 1905 and 1909. His wife Maggie was also an active member of the Eastern Star Lodge.
His political support is given to the Democracy, but he is by no means a politician, caring not for the honors or emoluments of public office, content to faithfully discharge his duties of citizenship in a quiet way. He is an intelligent and broad-minded man, public-spirited and progressive, and takes a commendable interest in all that pertains to the welfare and upbuilding of the community. Churches and schools find him a friend, and during the quarter of a century that he has resided in Hood County he has ever been known as the champion of right and order. In manner he is social and genial, and is highly esteemed for his sterling worth.”
Other notes: Serastus bought and sold land all over Hood County and was a holder of large amounts of acreage most of his life. He deeded about 320 acres next to the home place, to daughter Maggie when she married [Mr. Cotton]. She was the youngest in the family and helped take care of her parents. This acreage remained in the Cotten family until after the death of George Cotten in 1967.
1. According to various family members, the Umphress family are descendants of Black Dutch (The Puritans, possibly. See JOHN HUMPHREY, 1598).
2. Members of the family say the name ‘Stokes’ is a possible name used by the family before coming to Texas. A man named ‘Stokes’ reportedly tried to blackmail Ras as to his name. It is said that Serastus gave him money to leave Texas but later found him hiding out. The Umphress ‘boys’ caught him, whipped him, bought a ticket and sent him back to where ever he belonged.