The Wilson Barker Family Experiences Of Early Settlers

By: Vircenoy Macatee

The following family biographical note was scanned from the
Hood County Genealogical Society Newsletter No. 14; May 1987
Editor: Merle McNeese

The Wilson Barker Family

In relating a little of the history of the Wilson Hopkins Barker family, you will have an idea of life in 1859 up and down the Paluxy Valley which was to the west and in a more sparsely settled area than on the Brazos.

William Barker was born in Kentucky in 1783 and married Abiah Hopkins who was born in Virginia in 1787. After moving to Gibson County, Indiana, one of their sons, Wilson Hopkins, was born in 1819. he married Mariah Mills in Edwards County, Illinois and had three children. They moved to Hopkins County, Texas in 1846. Hopkins County was named for her family who had come to Terse a few years before. A son, Benjamin Franklin, was born in Hopkins County in 1847. After Wilson’s wife died he married Eliza Jane Brumley and in 1859 they moved to Erath County. B. F., who was called “Dock”, married America Lucinda Styron in 1888. Their middle child was Fern May who is my mother.

When Wilson II. moved his family to Erath County in August 1859 they loaded all of their belongings and small children in the wagon. The older boys, “Dock” being 12 years old, walked and led the cows, oxen and riding horses. They first settled just west of Glen Rose on the Paluxy River. This was on the banks of the river and north of the present Highway 67 just after you cross the Paluxy. They stayed at Murphy Springs about a week or two and on September 5. 1859 moved about 4 miles west to Barker Branch on the north side of Highway 67. Except for a family about 1 1/2 miles west there were no settlers within 8 miles.

In 1840 the State of Texas gave each head of a family 160 acres of land if it was occupied and improved for three years and paid surveyors and patent fees which was about $10 — $12. Often after a few years a previous owner would appear and reclaim she land. The present settler would have to give up his improvements and the land he thought he owned. In 1862 a previous owner came and Wilson had to sell his improvements. He moved to Johnson County and took care of Dr. Douglass’s farm and stock while he was off serving in the Civil War. When Dr. Douglass returned, Wilson returned to Barker Branch. In 1864 Wilson and his family moved back to George’s Creek about 3 miles east of the Brazos on Highway 67 to Cleburne where the state park is located. The park is where their corn crib and lot was located. The house was about 300 yards east between 2 large oak trees and a smaller oak tree. In this house the Barkers lived in 5 counties and never moved.

When the Barkers built their log cabin on Barker Branch and at George’s Creek, they cut the trees and shaped the logs. They made the square nails and burned the lime to make the mortar. They gathered the flattest rocks to make the chimneys by using an old ax for a hammer and a board paddle for a trowel. For the times he built a nice cabin–two rooms painted inside and out and two chimneys.

In the early years because of the sparse settlement, the men banded together for protection. Most of the settlers were honorable and honest; however, as always there were some who were dishonest and thieves. In civil cases, the settlement was by arbitration: and criminal offenders were given 10 days to leave the county or suffer the consequences. A thief was given the benefit of the doubt but if guilty, the penalty was death by hanging. If a thief left Indian signs to cover his crime and he was caught he was shot on the spot and left where found.

To secure supplies other than wild game, beef, or what they could raise, the men joined together to go by ox wagon to McClellon or Dallas County which was 50 – 60 miles and purchase meal or flour. Corn was $1 per bushel and flour $5.00 per hundred. The nearest dry goods or post office was about 25 miles.

When first coming to the area they would have to go about 25 miles to take wheat and corn to the mill for grinding. In 1861 a mill was built on the Paluxy River at Paluxy just north of the present Highway 51 which was about 10 miles from Barker Branch. Dock would have to carry corn and wheat in a sack on the back of a mule without a saddle to Paluxy for grinding when he was about 14 – 25 years old. In 1862 one was built about half way to Paluxy up the Paluxy River: and in 1861 Charlie Barnard started a mill for merchants at a cost of $30,000.00. This was then called Barnard’s Mill and is the present Glen Rose. The materials for this mill was brought from Shreveport by ox wagon . Most of the crops were wheat on the upland and corn and cotton in the Brazos and Paluxy bottoms.

In the 1870’s the State legislature passed a law that all land owners had to render their property for taxes. This caused considerable confusion and unrest because many early owners showed up to render their property and claim the property from those settlers who thought they were the owners. In March 1875 the Hood County courthouse burned and Somervell County was formed during the March 1875 Legislature session. Wilson Barker was a Commissioner in Hood County from the time it was formed in 1866 until it was separated from Somervell County in 1875. At that tine he became a Justice of Peace at George’s Creek and served until his death in 1907. When Somervell County was formed P. T. “Dock”, was elected to the first commissioner’s court and served until his death in 1929. He never filed as a candidate but was elected each time as a write-in.

There were no schools at first but when enough children were within 1 or 4 miles a cabin would he built and they would have school for 4 or 7 months The children would go to school until about 12 – 13 years old. The school houses were usually about 14 or 16 feet square with a chimney across one end. The doors would be made of raw hide nailed on board for a frame. Trees were cut to make the logs and seats were split logs with peg legs. On the side opposite the fireplace a log would he removed for a window. The writing desk would be a split log under the window resting on pins driven in the wall and a log bench.

The roads were cut through the brush from one settler’s cabin to another. At times the road would he marked by plowing a furrow. The road from Barker’s Branch to Meridian was cut by Wilson Barker. He had been to Meridian two or three times soon after he settled and had a road marked. Then he took his wagon, put his wife and kids in the wagon, tied a log on the back of the wagon, and drug it to mark the road. When they came to an area that had to be cleared. they would clear it by cutting the trees.

Most of the information is taken from “Sketches” written by Wilson H. Barker when he was 82 years old and blind. He relates many of the experiences of the early settlers living as pioneers and the problems with the Indians. A copy of this manuscript is on file in the Genealogical Section of the Hood County Library.

Vircy Macatee
April .24. 1987