Today, I want to talk about a handful of families who in 1855 came to what is known today as Erath County, Texas. Of course, there was no Erath County at that time; in fact, there wasn’t much of anything else either, just, as one historian put it, wind, grass, and Indians.
Getting to the area wasn’t easy, and it actually took these people over eleven years to make the journey. Here’s what happened to those who have names that many of you will recognize as Erath County names:
In 1844, the Gilbreath, Turnbow, and Maloney families left Tennessee, headed for Texas. They made it as far as Polk County, Arkansas when a tragedy of some type happened, and the group decided to forego the rest of the journey. They purchased land in Polk County and farmed it for the next eleven years before once again heading their wagons toward that great land known as Texas.
In 1855, these families were once again on the trail, traveling in a wagon train of about seven families who were all headed to this area.
The leader of the group was Chesley Turnbow, whose father died while they were in Polk County; however, Chesley’s mother (buried in the Barbee Cemetery) traveled with him.
Other men traveling in the group were Turnbow’s brother-in-law, William Henry Gilbreath (married Turnbow’s youngest sister, Nancy Louise) and two sons-in-law, Andrew Jackson Gilbreath (married Turnbow’s daughter, Rebecca) and John Maloney. Just as an aside, there was a baby born to the Maloney family as they traveled through Dallas. This was the first baby (in any of these families) to be born in Texas.
Upon arriving in what would become Erath County, Chesley Turnbow traded two Tennessee mares to John M. Stephens (Stephenville’s namesake) for 500 acres of land.
It is believed that William Henry must have purchased about 160 acres from Stephens, all continuous on Resley’s Creek. No one knows for sure, but it is assumed that Andrew Jackson Gilbreath also purchased 160 acres, also adjoining the others’ Resley’s Creek acreage.
It is about this time that I always have to pause in my story to contemplate…contemplate and wonder…just how the women in these families must have felt. Maybe I’m just thinking like a 21st century woman, but I don’t think so because I really don’t think people have changed all that much.
Think about it. Can you even imagine piling all of your belongings (at least those that would fit) into a wagon and leaving everything and everyone you’ve ever known to moved to a place of nothingness, a place with no homes, no people, no doctors…a place that is known in common circles as Indian Territory? And if you can imagine doing it yourself, can you imagine taking your children into such circumstances? I cannot.
Well, luckily I wasn’t asked to do such a thing, and these women did not know that 1857 would begin the Indian raids that would last for years. So…Chesley Turnbow built what they called the big house in 1855, and everyone else helped him do it. Now, before you envision a large frame structure, you need to know that the “big house” was a double cabin separated by a dog trot! The house served as meeting place for that part of country for some years: church services, family gatherings, etc.
The Turnbow’s lived in the double cabin until 1858, when the Jones Barbee family came into the area. Actually, the story goes that the Barbee’s were traveling through this part of the country when they broke a wagon wheel near the Wilson Community.
It is believed that the Barbee’s had not intended to settle in this area, but while the wheel was being repaired, Mr. Barbee rode out to the Turnbow place and bought the 500 acres and, of course the cabin. Knowing quite a bit of Barbee history, I’ve often wondered if the family regretted Jones’ decision.
However, Chesley, never one to refuse a profit, could not turn down the offer, and so ownership passed from Turnbow to Barbee.
Today part of this very home sits in the Wright Park in Dublin, Texas. It is known as the Turnbow-Barbee cabin, and it is well worth a visit if you have not seen it.
Chesley Turnbow moved his family to the Clariette Community and purchased a few hundred acres there. He later moved one final time, near Carlton, Texas where he is buried in the Turnbow Cemetery…Fredda Davis Jones with much help from Harrell Gilbreath