Jacob Harmon Garner
A Jefferson County Militiaman of the Texas Revolution
By W. T. Block
The writer is grateful to Sherwood McCall III of Houston for research generously provided.
For the two centuries prior to the War Between The States, the American concept of a soldier was that of a buckskin-clad farm lad, who dropped his plow handles in time of emergency, shouldered his flintlock musket, and sped away to fight in defense of his home and country. That concept of the frontier militiaman lingers with us today, his image frequently adorning government stationery, securities, and other paper. For the militiaman's convenience, however, it was always hoped that such emergencies would occur between the fall harvest and the time for spring plowing. If not, when March 1st rolled around, some militiamen were equally as adept at shouldering the musket once more and returning to the plow handles, for it was the latter that kept him and his family fed throughout the year. Even though Jacob Harmon Garner lived in Mexican Texas in 1835-1836, the facts reveal that he shouldered his musket twice in the space of one year to defend both his family and the cause of democracy.
Jacob H. Garner was born in Louisiana in 1814, probably at Big Woods, near Edgerly (now in Calcasieu Parish), although this parents lived for a time in Rapides Parish. He was the great great great grandson of John Garner and Susanna Keene, who arrived in Virginia about 1650. Jacob's paternal grandparents were James Garner and Elizabeth Straumit of Virginia, and their son, Bradley Garner, Sr. (1768-Ca. 1845), arrived in Spanish Louisiana about 1790 and later would fight in the consolidated 17th, 18th, and 19th Regiments of Louisiana Militia at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.1
On December 27, 1800, Bradley Garner, Sr. married Sarah Rachel Harmon (Herman), the daughter of Jacob Harmon and Nanette Gasse (Guice), also of the Big Woods community. They were married by Father Pedro de Zamora, in the "parish church of St. Landry, Military Post of Opelousas, Province of Louisiana," with the ceremonial details recorded by Father Zamora in the Spanish language.2
Bradley and Sarah Garner had four sons and three daughters, whose names and life histories read like a chapter out of Texas revolutionary history. The oldest daughter, Anna Garner (1801-1847), married Claiborne West, who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, served one enlistment in Captain Franklin Hardin's company, and became Jefferson County's first representative to the Texas Congress in 1836. He also represented Jefferson Municipality at the Consultation of San Felipe, in November, 1835.3 Their daughter, Rachel Garner (1817-1856), married Benjamin Johnson (1815-1872) of Sabine Pass, who served three enlistments in the Texas Army, fought at the Battles of San Antonio de Bexar and San Jacinto, was once discharged at the Alamo, and now has a Texas state historical marker erected above his grave.4
Their daughter, Sarah Garner (1802-1871), married John McGaffey (1787-1848, who was too old for military service), and she and her husband founded the town of Sabine Pass in 1832. Sarah was affectionately called "the mother of Sabine Pass," and for a long time, she lived there alone with her family when the nearest neighbor lived twelve miles away in Louisiana.5
Their oldest son, David H. Garner (1807-1864), is believed to have been the first sibling to arrive in Texas in 1825, where he received a Mexican land grant, north of Orange, on the Sabine River. During his thirty year stay in Jefferson County, before moving to Calhoun County, he became one of the most prominent men in Southeast Texas. In October, 1835, he mustered nineteen militiamen from Jefferson Municipality (which had the exact geographic confines of present-day Orange County), who marched to the defense of Bexar, and participated in the "Grass Fight" and the Battle of San Antonio with Col. Ben Milam. David Garner was elected sheriff of Jefferson County on three occasions, in 1839 (resigned), 1843, and 1845, and served two years, 1839-1840, as Jefferson County's representative in the Texas Congress.6
Son Isaac Garner also served at least two enlistments in the Texas Army, and he was issued bounty lands as a result of that service. Son Bradley Garner, Jr. (1820-1858) was too young for military service in 1836, and he died in a drowning accident on Sabine Lake in 1858.7
According to the Minutes of The Board of Land Commissioners of Jefferson County, 1838-1842, five Bradley Garner siblings, David Garner, Isaac Garner, Jacob H. Garner, Anna (Mrs. Claiborne) West, and Sarah (Mrs. John) McGaffey, arrived at Old Jefferson on Cow Bayou (present-day Bridge City, Texas) in 1825. The parents, Bradley, Sr. and Sarah Garner, and the two youngest children, Rachel and Bradley, Jr., arrived there in 1828.8 By 1835, Old Jefferson was a rural collection of a dozen or so log cabins, with Claiborne West as the lone merchant and postmaster under the Mexican regime.9 Nevertheless, Jacob Garner was only eleven years old as of 1825, and he apparently resided in the household of one of his brothers or sisters. The Garner siblings were attracted to Southeast Texas in 1825 because of the abundance of fertile, unclaimed lands, and because of the thousands of unclaimed, unbranded Spanish cattle (the descendants of those abandoned at a Spanish mission in 1773) that roamed the marshes and made it possible to acquire a herd of branded livestock with ease and without cost. In the Atascosita Census of 1826, which attempted to enumerate all of the residents of the Municipality of Liberty all the way to the Sabine River, only the John and Sarah McGaffey household was included, but the enumerator explained that there were several families residing between the Neches and Sabine rivers that had been omitted.10
Very little is known about Jacob H. Garner's youthful years. There were certainly no schools at Big Woods, Louisiana, or Old Jefferson, Texas, on Cow Bayou, that he could attend. Hence, his childhood education must have been taught to him by members of his own family. Since Bradley Garner, Sr. grew to adulthood on the Atlantic Seaboard of Virginia, and would have had the educational advantages that that area afforded, it is presumed that he was literate and was able to transmit his own education to his children. As early as 1836, the signatures of Jacob Garner, his father, and brothers appear on a petition in the Texas Archives, regarding the transfer of the county seat from Old Jefferson to Gilbert Stephenson's plantation. And in 1840, they appear again on three petitions on behalf of free Negroes seeking to remain in Texas.11 In 1846, Jacob Garner ran for and was elected district clerk of Jefferson County, and since the principal task of that office was to record the minutes of the quarterly assizes of the district court, he must have considered himself sufficiently qualified to discharge those duties.12
Ironically, the first appearance of Jacob H. Garner in the history of Texas occurred in the Order Book of Stephen F. Austin, whereas the muster roll upon which his name appeared burned in a fire at the General Land Office in 1855, and was never reconstructed.
Early in October, 1835, the rumblings of revolt against Mexico echoed all over Texas, and the call went out for volunteers to join the Texas forces assembled outside of San Antonio. The first outbreak of violence at Gonzales, Texas, occurred early in October. A minor engagement, the Battle of Concepcion, took place at the Immaculate Conception mission on the outskirts of San Antonio on October 27, 1835, between about ninety Texas militiamen and some 400 soldiers of General Perfecto de Cos' command. From that moment on, the Texans had only one recourse left to them -- to wrest control of San Antonio from the Mexican Army.13
On October 5, 1835, David Garner raised a company of nineteen volunteers from what is now Orange County, and was elected as its leader.14 It is quite fortunate that, since no other muster roll of it survives, the list of volunteers was preserved in Stephen F. Austin's Order Book, as follows:
One of the oddest engagements that Captain David Garner and his men participated in was the "Grass Fight." Most of the Texas militiamen had received no pay for the two months of their service at Bexar, when they learned that a large Mexican pack train was a few miles below San Antonio, said to be carrying a payroll of Mexican silver. Garner was detached to Col. James Bowie's command, and when the latter attacked the pack train on November 28, 1835, they soon discovered that the Mexican teamsters were carrying only grass forage for their cavalry horses, but no silver. The Texans lost one killed and two wounded in that affray.16
Capt. Garner's company lasted until December 4, two days before the Battle of San Antonio began, when the company was broken up, and the members were mustered into larger companies. Capt. Garner was reassigned to Capt. James Chessher's (the Pine Island Bayou ferryman) company, but the fate of the other militiamen has not survived. After the battle, David Garner was discharged on December 13, 1835, and he returned home.17
Jacob H. Garner, like his brother David, Payton Bland, Charles Cronea, and Benjamin Johnson, left San Antonio in December, 1835, believing that the Texas Revolution had ended with the victory of the Battle of San Antonio, that they had won, and that the war was over. They had no inkling whatsoever that a few hundred miles south of San Antonio, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana and a large Mexican army were winding their way northward to subdue the American colonists and drive them out of Texas. On March 2, 1836, Joseph Dunman rode into Liberty with a copy of Colonel William Barret Travis' last appeal from the Alamo, and the old Southeast Texas militiamen began mustering their companies again. By March 4, 1836, Captains William Logan, Franklin Hardin, Benjamin Harper, and James Chessher had already mustered companies at Liberty, Beaumont, and Jasper and had started west.18
About March 4, 1836, Jacob Garner, Payton Bland, and Elisha Stephenson enlisted in a company mustered at Old Jefferson, present-day Orange County, by Captain William Milspaugh, who resided at Milspaugh's Bluff, on the Sabine River, north of Orange. (According to Miriam Partlow, William Milspaugh was once the deputy alcalde of Liberty. He died at Beaumont in 1837, and his probate file is in the Jefferson County archives). By April 21, 1836, Milspaugh had been succeeded by a Captain Patterson as company commander. On Jacob Garner's pension application, dated January 4, 1871, he, Payton Bland, and Charles Cronea swore under oath that they had fought together at the Grass Fight and in San Antonio with Jacob Garner, and that on the day of the Battle of San Jacinto, Captain Patterson had detailed Jacob Garner, Payton Bland, and Elisha Stephenson to guard house duties, guarding two military prisoners, John M. Smith and William Smith, each of whom had been convicted of the murder of Alfred Carroll at Liberty, Texas.19
Miriam Partlow, the author of Liberty, Liberty County and the Atascosita District devoted six pages to the Alfred Carroll murder at Liberty, and reprinted a letter, datelined "Harrisburg, 29 March 1836," from the "State Dept. Texas," ordering Judge William Hardin to transfer "the 2 Smiths under your jurisdiction to Harrisburg under a sufficient guard selected by you out of the men who volunteer for the service of the government, at least ten men. . ."20
On July 3, 1991, the Texas General Land Office furnished the writer with two muster rolls, page 141, showing Jacob Garner in Colonel Jesse Benton's Regiment of Texas Rangers, and page 143, showing him to be a member of Captain E. D. Wheelock's Company, Colonel Bane's Regiment of Rangers, enrolled on May 8, 1836 for three months. The name of Isaac Garner does not appear on either muster. There is, however, irrefutable proof that it was indeed Isaac rather than Jacob who served in that company. First, Jacob Garner did not claim service in these Ranger units in his pension application of 1871. Likewise, the writer obtained a copy from S. P. McCall showing that indeed Isaac Garner was discharged from Captain Wheelock's Company of Rangers at Aransas, Texas, on August 8, 1836 at the end of his three-months enlistment.20a
Likewise, Charles Cronea confirmed in his memoirs of 1892, that he had served at the "Grass Fight" and Battle of San Antonio with David and Jacob Garner. "Some of us had guns with bayonets," he added, "while some just had old Kentucky flintlocks. We all had knives."21
After returning home to his father's cabin on Cow Bayou, now in Orange County, Jacob Garner next appeared in recorded history as a freeholder, subject to jury duty, in Jefferson County in January, 1837.22 On November 29, 1838, Jacob H. Garner married Matilda Hayes (b. January 13, 1817-d. May 14, 1895) at Beaumont, the 25th marriage license issued in the county courthouse records.23 She was the daughter of James Hayes, a native of Virginia, and Augusta Matilda Smith, who were married in the Catholic Church, Parish of St. Landry, Military Post of Opelousas, Louisiana, in June, 1815.24
On March 29, 1838, Jacob Garner's father, Bradley Garner, Sr., was issued First Class Headright Certificate No. 130, for 25 labors (4,605 acres) of land, by the Board of Land Commisioners of Jefferson County. The land was located in two surveys, one in Throckmorton County and the other on Cow Bayou, and the latter location is where Jacob and Matilda Garner lived until they moved to Sabine Pass in 1846.25 On May 1, 1835, Bradley Garner, Sr. had applied to empresario Lorenzo de Zavala for a Mexican land grant for the Cow Bayou land upon which he and his family were "squatting," but the Nacogdoches land office closed in December, 1835, before Garner's land survey and field notes had been completed.26
On March 8, 1839, the same Board of Land Commissioners issued to Jacob Garner Certificate No. 2 for 2/3 of a league and one labor (3,129 acres) of land. The land was also located in two or more surveys, one of which was a 1,200-acre tract on the gulf beach, ten miles west of Sabine Pass. Garner did not get a clear title to that tract until 1873.27
In 1839, Jacob H. Garner voted at Cow Bayou, Jefferson County, and he paid taxes on 100 acres of land. His father, Bradley, Sr., paid taxes on 1,107 acres of land in Jefferson County, seven slaves, 45 cattle, and one horse. His brother, David Garner, had already acquired one of the county's largest cattle herds on his Mexican land grant, north of Orange, paying taxes on 500 range steers, as well as nine horses.28
Researching the life of J. H. Garner certainly points out the harshness of life in 1840 when there was no stage coach or inland steamboat transportation, no bridges over streams, and no resident school teacher, ministers, or priests in the county. The March session of the district court at Beaumont required the summoning of 36 men as a venire for empanelling petit and grand juries (exclusive of witnesses). In that era, no more than eighty adult males resided in what is now a two-county area (Orange and Jefferson), all of whom needed to be in the fields, either sowing or plowing, at that particular moment. As a result, failure to report for jury duty was punishable by a jury trial and a fine of up to $15, and that in an epoch when *almost no currency or coin was in circulation.
Nevertheless, Jacob Garner accepted his civic responsibilities as a necessary fact of life. He was summoned to grand jury duty in the October term of 1837.29 On February 6, 1843, he was elected justice of the peace of the Cow Bayou precinct.30 In January, 1846, he was appointed "reviewer of roads" at Sabine Pass, an honorary position which paid no salary.31 In February, 1857, he was appointed "overseer of roads," authorized to "call out" all adult males and slaves to work on the dirt roads in the Sabine Pass precinct.32 And in July, 1857, he was elected as an alderman of the first city council ever elected at Sabine Pass.33
The crowning achievement of Jacob H. Garner's public career came on July 13, 1846, when he was elected district clerk of Jefferson County, a position he was to fill until August 5, 1850.34 Earlier, his brother, David Garner, had been elected sheriff of Jefferson County three times, in 1839, 1843, and 1845.35 In the July session of 1847, when Circuit Judge C. S. Buckley had to dismiss a grand jury because there was no criminal docket to be indicted, the judge's words were immortal, even if plagiarized, as he said:
On July 1, 1991, the author spent two hours in the district clerk's office in the Jefferson County courthouse, scanning the old volumes of J. H. Garner's four-year term of office. To a historian, it was an unbelievable sight to see the 145-year-old records so excellently-preserved, each page of the old court records individually heat-laminated in plastic and rebound to withstand the ravages of time during the coming centuries. Jacob H. Garner's unique signature, as well of those of his two deputies, Joseph Pulsifer and John K. Robertson, appear everywhere in Volumes A and B of the District Court Minutes, the Criminal Docket Book, and other books containing the civil suits and criminal prosecutions of the quarterly sessions of court. What readily attracted the eye were the numerous prosecutions for such 'felonies' as "allowing card-playing in the home," "living in adultery," "bearing a challenge (to duel)," as well as operating a store, saloon, or ferry without a county license.
The best record of Jacob Garner's move from Cow Bayou to Sabine Pass is told in a book by Garner's great grandson, Leroy McCall, in his autobiography, titled Mr. Mac. Sabine Pass in 1832, much as it still is today, was a treeless expanse of marshes and high ridge meadows, with only a sprinkling of huge cypress trees or scrubby mesquite bushes scattered about. The huge live oak trees were planted by the early settlers from acorns. When Jacob Garner moved there in 1846, he imitated the move of his brother-in-law and predecessor, John McGaffey, who had moved from Cow Bayou to Sabine Pass in 1832.37 Both McGaffey and Garner cut hundreds of small pine logs and saplings at Cow Bayou, notched the end of each log with an axe so that it could be fitted in place easily while building a log cabin, and then nailed the logs into a giant raft upon which all furniture and possessions, even children, chickens, and small livestock, could be carried. Such a raft had no steerage equipment, however, and it could not be moved into Sabine Lake until a day arrived, free of wind and waves, with absolutely calm waters. Then the raft could be "poled" along the shallow waters adjacent to the lake shores until the raft reached Sabine Pass. Accounts of that early voyage were told to McCall by his grandmother, as follows:
Garner's large raft was to influence another man, Major Sidney A. Sweet of San Augustine, a wealthy real estate broker, who had just bought a half-interest in the 2,000 lots in the town site and moved his family to Sabine Pass in 1846. Sweet was convinced that he could operate a sawmill at Sabine Pass by towing rafts of saw logs from the Sabine River to Sabine Pass for milling in his steam-operated upright saws. Although the mill was remodeled and sold four times during the next fifteen years, D. R. Wingate and Company was milling 30,000 feet of lumber daily at Sabine Pass when it was burned by the Union Navy in October, 1862.39
The history of Sabine Pass got off to a slow start in 1839 because of a dispute over land titles between John McGaffey and Dr. Niles F. Smith, the local agent for President Sam Houston's Sabine City Company.40 Their dispute ended in 1844 when the General Land Office gave McGaffey a clear title to the McGaffey league, and they ruled that Dr. Smith's land certificate was a clever forgery.41 Nevertheless, the town grew slowly at first. In 1844, the French ambassador to Texas described it as a ramshackle village, consisting of "eight or ten sorry wooden shacks," a rather harsh evaluation by the debonair Parisian, County Dubois de Saligny.42 However, the population had grown to almost 250 persons when the 1850 census there was taken.43 Jacob Garner was enumerated with a wife and five children in his household, three of whom were born at Cow Bayou and the last two children at Sabine Pass.44
Garner moved to Sabine Pass at the invitation of his sister, Sarah McGaffey, following the death of her husband at Saint Martinsville, Louisiana, while he was returning from a New Orleans cattle drive. She had a herd of several hundred range cattle to look after, and she needed the assistance of her brother in caring for them. How much of an imposition that may have created is unknown, for Jacob Garner had just begun his term as district clerk at Beaumont.45
Nevertheless, Garner found time to grow 90 bushels of corn in 1850. According to the agricultural census, he owned forty milk cows, 125 range cattle, 8 horses, altogether worth $1,085; and sixty acres of land worth $500.46 Soon after he arrived at Sabine, Sarah McGaffey sold her brother twenty acres of good farm land on the front ridge for $10, and that was the location, near present-day Scurlock Oil Company and Sabine Pass Cemetery, where Garner built his first cabin and would reside for the remainder of his life.47 In 1850, he acquired a house and lot in Sabine Pass due to his high bid of $51 at a sheriff's sale for taxes, and until his death, there is no record that he ever sold that property.48
The decade of the 1850s was kind to Jacob Garner, and he increased his personal estate in ten years time from $1,364 to $7,000. This included the value of two male slaves that he had either acquired or perhaps inherited from his deceased father's estate.49 Two of his oldest daughters, Anna Eliza and Martha Ann, had married two brothers, respectively, James McCall and John McCall, who had been reared in the socialist Rapp Colony (the Rappites) at Economy (now Ambridge), Pennsylvania.50 For many years, the McCall brothers were a part of the crews of the old Neches and Sabine River steamers during the cotton shipping season.51 Although two daughters had left the Jacob Garner household by 1859 in order to marry, three more children had been born during that decade.
As the storm clouds of war hovered over Sabine Pass in April, 1861, life would be altered quickly for Garner and his family. By April 15, a call came from the Texas governor for enlistees in the state militia companies and the Texas State Troops, but no one knew as yet that Confederates had fired upon Fort Sumter, South Carolina, for it would take several days for that news to arrive by steamship. On August 3, 1861, Jacob Garner enlisted in a cavalry company, styled the "Ben McColloch Coast Guard," and he was elected third lieutenant. Enlistees among the privates of that same company included his son, Leonard Garner; his brother-in-law of San Jacinto fame, Benjamin Johnson; and four nephews, Neal McGaffey, Uriah Johnson, John Johnson, and Bradley Johnson.52
At the expiration of ninety days, the "Ben McCulloch Coast Guard" was mustered a second time as Company A, Likens' Battalion of State Militia, but Jacob Garner, being nearly 48 years old, did not reenlist. However, his son Leonard reenlisted even though he was only fourteen years old. Several months later, Captain O. M. Marsh, who was a graduate of West Point, discovered Leonard Garner's correct age and discharged him. Upon reaching his seventeenth birthday in 1864, Leonard Garner enlisted again, fought soon afterward at the Battle of Calcasieu Pass, where fourteen Confederates were killed, and served until the war ended. Leonard Garner's name appears twice on First Sergeant H. N. Conner's "Original Muster Roll of Co. A, Likens' Battalion," an unpublished copy of which is owned by the writer.53 Company A and other companies of Likens' Battalion, later Spaight's Battalion, were inducted into the Confederate Army in March, 1862.54 In one published muster roll of Company A in 1863, the name of Leonard Garner does not appear because it was enumerated following his discharge and prior to his reenlistment.55
The first year of the war at Sabine Pass was much as it was in peace time, with blockade runners entering and exiting the port at will, and no Federal blockaders anchored offshore. That situation came to an abrupt halt in August, 1862, when a major yellow fever epidemic broke out, killing about 150 soldiers and civilians in a two-months' span. Obviously, since no member of Jacob Garner's family died of the illness, they evacuated aboard a steamboat at the first news of the outbreak, just as 90% of the town's population did. For those that didn't, the price was high. All (five) members of the Hartsfield family died, as did four members of Otis McGaffey's family, and three members of Dr. Niles Smith's family.55 Captain K. D. Keith of Company B wrote, "Our principal business was to bury the dead."56 And those victims account for most of the empty spaces without tombstones in Sabine Pass Cemetery.
It is not known where the Garner family evacuated to or how long they were gone, but they probably stayed away from Sabine Pass until January, 1863. Sabine Lake was under control of the Federal Navy from September 25, 1862, until January 8, 1863. In 1865, Jacob Garner emancipated his two slaves. His son Leonard and two sons-in-law, John and James McCall, came home from the war. In 1862, his youngest daughter Rachel was born.57 Certainly the Civil War had taught the Garner family to become extremely resourceful. Cut off as they were from the customary foreign supplies of coffee, cheap bolts of yard goods and hardware, such as buttons, pins, and needles, everything had either to last or substitutes had to be found. People at Sabine soon learned to boil sea water for its salt. Tanned leather was replaced by either rawhide or wooden soles. Every household made "homespun" clothing from wool or cotton, and often two or more spinning wheels per residence were in constant use. Buttons were made from dried persimmon seeds or sea shells. Inks and dyes were concocted from roots, sumac, poke or mulberry juice, "set with rusty nails." Envelopes were improvised from wallpaper, fly leaves of books, or old account books. Black gum roots served as bottle corks. "Coffee" was made from parched corn or peanuts. Hence, the Garner family probably became as proficient as any other Confederate family at improvising their needs.58
The war had likewise taken its toll on Jacob Garner's personal estate, which dropped from $7,000 in 1860 to $2,200 in 1870. The emancipation of two slaves was a part of that loss.59 Garner reported once more that his twenty acres of land were worth $1,000, and that he had grown 40 bushels of corn and 150 bushels of sweet potatoes in 1869. Surprisingly, he also grew 2 1/3 bales of cotton in 1869, whereas there is no evidence that he grew any cotton before the war. As of 1870, he owned two horses, 20 milk cows, 250 range cattle, and 15 hogs, the value of his livestock amounting to $1,000.60
Jacob Garner also completed significant land transactions during the next decade. In 1871 he bought a 70-acre farm on the "Back Ridge" at Sabine Pass from C. H. Alexander, the town's principal merchant, for $550, and he sold it two years later for $800.61 In 1873 he finally got a clear title to his 1,200-acre beach front tract, and in 1874 he promptly sold an undivided one-third interest in it to the estate of C. H. Alexander.62 In 1885, he received his veteran donation of 1,280 acres. His first survey, located in King County, was disallowed "due to a conflict with reserved land," and the writer has no information on its subsequent disposal.63 The final transaction of Jacob and Matilda Garner was to deed 5 1/2 acres of their homestead for $1 "in consideration of the love and affection of our son Bradley Garner," who had remained at home single and delayed his own marriage until after his father's death.
A printout of land surveys in the General Land Office, mailed to the writer on July 3, 1991, indicates that there are eleven Jacob Garner surveys recorded at that office, as follows: (1). surveys of J. H. Garner, one in San Augustine Company and one in Jasper County; (2) surveys of Jacob Garner, one in Liberty County and two in Fannin County; and (3) surveys of Jacob H. Garner, one in Fannin County, one in Jefferson County, and four in Milam County.64
The Jacob Garner family was most fortunate in another respect inasmuch as they reared nine children to adulthood (that is, as best the author can determine) without the loss of any of them to war, yellow fever, or the usual infantile diseases, and that in an era when epidemics and children's illnesses were rampant, and life expectancy was 35 years. As stated earlier, Ann Eliza and Martha Ann Garner married the two McCall brothers, and they lived out their lives at Sabine Pass. Leonard Garner returned from the war, married Marcilia Gibney, and moved to Johnson's Bayou, Louisiana, where he became a farmer and Baptist minister. Milton Garner married Jessie L. Hodges and moved to Beaumont. Mary Ann Garner married Bradley Johnson and remained at Sabine Pass. Alice Garner married D. C. Garrett and remained there as well. After his father's death, Bradley Garner married Rachel Johnson and moved to Beaumont. The youngest daughter, Rachel, married Milton Hayes.65 Daughter Sarah Ann (Sally) Garner remained single and was still living with her mother in the old Garner home during the early 1890s.66
The census of 1880 is the last available record of Jacob Garner's farming activities. He still reported ownership of his 18-acre homestead, worth $1,000, and the 250 bushels of corn and 70 bushels of sweet potatoes that he grew in 1879. He no longer grew any cotton, but the census noted that he owned an orchard of 100 bearing fruit trees, that had been heavily damaged by the hurricane of August 22, 1879. He still owned 220 heads of cattle, 15 horses, 20 hogs, and two other animals of a type never previously reported by him -- a yoke of oxen.67
Jacob Garner had had little experience with gulf storms between 1837 and 1865. A hurricane of October 12, 1886, however, would become the instrument for delivering the terror, death, and destruction to the Garner family that war, yellow fever, and other pestilence had failed to do. The huge storm of October, 1837, hit principally in the Galveston Bay area,68 but it pushed a tidal wave in front of Sabine Pass sufficient to float a 3-masted, square-rigged ship seven miles inland into the marsh and deposit it near Keith Lake. For decades, the hull of the 130-foot vessel was scavenged for building timbers and firewood.
For the next 28 years, no storm struck Sabine Pass until, only five months after the Civil War ended, the hurricane of September 13, 1865 arrived to add insult and injury to the havoc inflicted by war and disease. Thereafter, a moderate-size storm struck Sabine Pass in every odd-numbered year (and twice in 1871 and 1875) until 1879. And yet, it appears that Jacob Garner, as did most of the Sabine residents, clung to the Front Ridge like barnacles on a boat's bottom, with no thought whatsoever given to moving farther inland.
The morning of October 12, 1886, began with a bright sun, many people picking cotton in the fields, and the children in Miss Mary Page's one-room school house busy at their desks. A few dark clouds showed up at a remote distance offshore, but nothing appeared to be extremely amiss until 2 P. M., when, suddenly, the waters of the Pass rose three feet in one hour's time. An hour later, water covered the marshes and town everywhere as winds estimated at 130 miles an hour slammed into Sabine Pass. Houses and furniture began floating off, and what couldn't float away was ripped to shreds by the howling winds. By midnight, Sabine Pass had died.69
By the next morning, 86 people, about one-third of the population of the town, had drowned, and many survivors, some of them still tied to the limbs of the live oak trees, appeared dazed and insensible. Some parents had lost all of their children, and vice versa, many children were orphaned. Jacob Garner's grand daughter, a pregnant bride of seven months named Annie McReynolds, sat on her husband's shoulder until a large wave washed her away, and she wasn't seen again until her body was found. Apparently, the remainder of Garner's family survived, lashed to the limbs of large trees, but old Jake Garner, already 72 years old, spent the night shivering in the wind and rain. He caught pneumonia as a result of exposure, and he died a week later, as surely a victim of that storm as if he had drowned.70
Jacob and Matilda Garner did not walk in the footsteps of the wealthy and mighty, for there were scarcely any people of that caliber in East Texas in that wilderness age in which they lived. In fact, there weren't very many footprints to be seen anywhere in Jefferson County in 1838 -- period. Except for his service as a Texas Revolutionary soldier, Jacob Harmon Garner would have attracted hardly any attention at all. His life story, though, is a good example of the early militiaman, who kept his powder dry; of the public servant, who earned the respect of his peers; of the devoted husband and father, who strove to care for his family; and of the relentless pioneer, who carried the torch light of civilization into the wilderness. The old frontiersman blazed a trail that his successors could follow with ease, and in so doing, he earned the right to have his name emblazoned on a Texas historical marker. The story of Jacob Garner deserves a permanent niche somewhere in the annals of the Lone Star state that he sought to preserve and defend with his musket.
1 Typescript, Family of Bradley Garner, Sr., much of it taken from Garner-Keene Genealogy (Charlottesville, Va.: Jorman Printing Co., 1952); "History of the Bradley Garner, Sr. Family," in T. J. Russell, Pioneer Reminiscences of Jefferson County (Beaumont, TX: 1986), pp. 31-32; C. E. Raymond (ed.), Rapides Parish Pensioners in The War of 1812 (New Orleans: Polyanthos, 1977), p. 5.
2 Ibid., Family of Bradley Garner, Sr. typescript; R. V. Jackson et al, Louisiana 1820 Census Index (Bountiful, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems), p. 13; R. Ardoin, Louisiana Census Records (Baltimore: 1970), I, 52.
3 L. W. Kemp, The Signers of The Texas Declaration of Independence (Salado: Anson Jones Press, 1944), pp. 362-363; "Return of Capt. Franklin Hardin's Company," p. 57, Muster Roll Book, Texas General Land Office.
4 "History of The Benjamin Johnson Family," (Beaumont, TX) Journal, January 28, 1906; W. T. Block and W. D. Quick, "San Jacinto Veteran's Grave," Yellowed Pages, II. No. 1 (February, 1972), pp. 6-10; S. H. Dixon and L. W. Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto (Houston: 1932), pp. 403, 408.
5 "History of The John McGaffey Family," (Beaumont, TX) Journal, January 14, 1906; G. W. McGaffey, The Genealogical History of the McGaffey Families (Bradford, Vt.: Opinion Press, 1904), pp. 30-34.
6 Minutes of The Board of Land Commissioners of Jefferson County, Texas, 1838-1842, p. 24, Jefferson County, Texas Archives; O. H. Delano, Surveyor, "Map of Jefferson County," April, 1840, Texas General Land Office; "History of the David Garner Family," (Beaumont, TX) Journal, February 11, 1906; "Biography of David Garner," in Biographical Directory of the Texas Conventions and Congresses (Austin, 1941), p. 87; "Biography of David Garner," in W. Webb and H. Carroll, Handbook of Texas (Austin, 1952), I, 671-672; Muster Roll of Capt. David Garner's Company, in "General Austin's Order Book For Campaign Of 1835," Texas Historical Association Quarterly, XI, No. 1 (July, 1907), p. 46; "List of County Officers, 1837-1908" (Beaumont, TX) Enterprise, November 22, 1908.
7 Bexar Donation Warrant No. 535 to Isaac Garner for 1,280 acres of land, Austin, August 4, 1881, Texas General Land Office, copy owned by the writer; (Beaumont, TX) Journal, February 11, 1906.
8 Minutes of The Board of Land Commissioners of Jefferson County, Texas, 1838-1842, pp. 24, 25, 27, 86, 109, 135, 174, Jefferson County Archives.
9 Edward Stiff, The Texas Immigrant-1840 (Waco: Texian Press, 1968), p. 123.
10 Mary M. Osburn (ed.), "The Atascosita Census of 1826," Texana, I (Fall, 1963), p. 14.
11 A Petition to Transfer Seat of Justice to G. Stevenson's, Nov. 11, 1836; three Petitions, dated Sept., 1840; Sept. 18, 1840, and Sept. 19, 1840, for the Relief of Elisha Thomas, and William, Abner, Aaron, Joshua, and David Ashworth, Free Persons of Color, in the Texas State Archives.
12 "List of County Officials, 1837-1908," (Beaumont, TX) Enterprise, November 22, 1908.
13 "The Texas Revolution at Gonzales" and "Battle of Concepcion," in D. W. C. Baker (compiler), A Texas Scrapbook (Austin: Steck, 1935), pp. 64-65, 83-85.
14 "Biography of David Garner," Webb et al, Handbook of Texas, I, 671.
15 Muster Roll of Capt. D. Garner's Company, in "General Austin's Order Book For Campaign of 1835," Texas Historical Association Quarterly, XI, No. 1 (July, 1907), p. 46.
16 "The Grass Fight," Baker (compiler), A Texas Scrapbook, p. 92.
17 Webb et al, Handbook of Texas, I, 671.
18 "Muster Roll, Captain Chessher's Company of Volunteers With The Army Before Bexar, 1835," p. 22, Muster Roll Book, Texas General Land Office; Webb et al, Handbook of Texas, I, 671.
19 Pension Application, Jacob H. Garner to A. B. Bledsoe, dated Sabine Pass, Texas, January 4, 1871, in J. H. Garner pension file, Texas State Archives; Fannin Donation Warrant No. 1154, W. C. Walsh, commissioner, to Jacob H. Garner, January 24, 1885; Bounty Warrant No. 460, John D. Pitts to Elisha Stephenson, Austin, September 29, 1848; and Bexar Donation Certificate No. 1153, W. C. Walsh, commissioner, to Charles Cronea, January 24, 1885.
20 Miriam Partlow, Liberty, Liberty County, and the Atascosita District (Austin: Pemberton Press, 1974), pp. 117-122.
20a Pages 141 and 143, of the published Muster Rolls of The Texas Revolution; also, copy of military discharge, Lt. F. M. Doyle to Isaac Garner, Aransas, TX, August 8, 1836, released from duty in Captain Wheelock's Company of Rangers.
21 "Charles Cronea of Sabine Pass: Memoirs of a Lafitte Buccaneer and a Texas Veteran," Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record, XI, No. 1 (Nov., 1975), pp. 91-96, reprinted from (Galveston) Daily News, March 6, 1893; W. T. Block, "The Last of Lafitte's Pirates," Frontier Times (July, 1977), pp. 17, 51-52.
22 Book A, p. 1, Commissioners' Court Minutes, Jefferson County, Texas Archives.
23 Ibid., Book A, No. 31, Marriage Record.
24 Genealogical Chart of J. H. and Matilda Garner, copy owned by the writer; p. 147, Marriage Book, Catholic Church Records, Parish of Saint Landry, Opelousas, La.; Rev. D. J. Hebert, Southwest Louisiana Records (Eunice, La: 1974), II, 430-431; Mrs. John W. Barnes, Southwest Louisiana Records, 1756-1810, I, 516.
25 Letter, Texas General Land Office to Reah McGaffey, dated Austin, Texas, December 6, 1968; Typescript, Family of Bradley Garner, Sr., copies of both owned by writer.
26 General Land Office, Box 60, Folder 24, Unfinished Mexican Land Titles, confirmed by letter to S. P. McCall, March 12, 1991.
27 E. J. Davis, Military Governor, to J. H. Garner, Volume Q, p. 280, Jefferson County Deed Records; Abstract of Land Titles of Texas, Vol. I (Galveston: Shaw and Blaylock, 1878), Patent No. 475, Volume 19, Abstract 126.
28 G. White and J. Day (eds.), The 1840 Census of the Republic of Texas (Austin: Pemberton Press, 1966), p. 95.
29 Volume A. p. 3, Commissioners Court Minutes, Jefferson County Archives.
30 "List of County Elected Officials," (Beaumont, TX) Enterprise, November 22, 1908.
31 Vol. A, p. 66, Commissioners Court Minutes.
32 Ibid., Vol. B, p. 208.
33 (Galveston) Weekly News, July 28, 1857; W. T. Block, A History of Jefferson County, Texas, From Wilderness to Reconstruction (Nederland, TX: Nederland Publg. Co., 1976), p. 31.
34 "List of County Officials," (Beaumont, TX) Enterprise, November 22, 1908.
36 "Among the Cowboys of Jefferson County," (Houston) Telegraph and Texas Register, July 27, 1847.
38 Leroy McCall, Mr. Mac: Memories and Philosophy of A Country Lawyer (Dallas: Taylor Publg. Co., 1977), p. 9.
39 Block, History of Jefferson County, pp. 55-56.
41 McGaffey League Patent, J. P. Henderson, Governor, to John McGaffey, recorded in Vol. 9, p. 456, Jefferson County Deed Records.
42 Nancy Barker, The French Legation in Texas (Austin: 1973), II, 554.
43 Seventh Census of the United States, 1850, Jefferson County, Texas, Schedule I, Population, City of Sabine Pass.
44 Ibid., residence of J. H. Garner.
45 Leroy McCall, Mr. Mac, pp. 8-9; T. J. Russell, Pioneer Reminiscences of Jefferson County (Beaumont, TX: 1986), p. 24.
46 Seventh Census of the United States, 1850, Schedule IV, Products of Agriculture, Jefferson County, Texas, microfilm reel, Lamar University Library.
47 Vol. I, p. 94, Deed Records, Jefferson County Archives; McCall, Mr. Mac, p. 9.
48 Ibid., Vol. H, p. 184.
49 Eighth Census of the United States, 1860, Sabine Pass, Jefferson County, Texas, Schedule I, Population, res. 359, and Schedule II, Slaves.
50 Book A, Nos. 253, 293, Jefferson County Marriage Record; (Beaumont, TX) Journal, February 11, 25, 1906; New Encyclopedia Britannica (Chicago: 1974), VII, 421-422.
51 W. T. Block, Cotton Bales, Keelboats, and Sternwheelers: A History of The Sabine River Cotton Trade, 1837-1900 (Nederland, TX: 1978), p. 13.
52 Vol. C, pp. 62-63, Personal Property Record, Jefferson County, Texas Archives.
53 "Original Muster Roll of Co. A, Likens' Battalion," in Unpublished Manuscript, "Diary of First Sergeant H. N. Conner," copy owned by the writer.
54 (Houston) Tri-Weekly Telegraph, April 8, 1862; "History of A. W. Spaight's Texas Regiment," A. W. Spaight Papers, File 2G276, Barker Texas History Center, Austin, Texas.
55 "Report of Dr. Holland," in (Houston) Tri-Weekly Telegraph, September 10, 1862; W. T. Block, "The Civil War Comes to Jefferson County," Blue-Gray Magazine, IV, No. 1 (August-September, 1986), pp. 12-13; W. T. Block, "Sabine Pass in The Civil War," East Texas Historical Journal, IX, No. 1 (October, 1971), pp. 130-131.
57 Genealogical Chart of Jacob and Matilda Garner; Block, History of Jefferson County, pp. 103-106. See also W. T. Block, "The Sinking of The United States Gunboat 'Dan,'" Frontier Tales of the Texas-Louisiana Borderlands, pp. 51-56.
58 "War Days in The South," (Galveston) Daily News, July 25, 1886.
59 Ninth Census of the United States, 1870, Jefferson County, Texas, Schedule I, Population, City of Sabine Pass, res. 75.
60 Ibid., Schedule IV, Products of Agriculture, Microfilm Reel No. 9, Texas State Archives.
61 Vols. P, p. 400, and T, p. 428, Deed Records, Jefferson County, Texas Archives.
62 Ibid., Vol. Q, pp. 480-481.
63 Fannin Donation Warrant No. 1154, General Land Office to Jacob Garner, January 24, 1885; and Letter, General Land Office to S. P. McCall, March 7, 1991.
64 Vol. X, p. 625, Jefferson County Deed Records; also letter dated July 3, 1991, General Land Office to W. T. Block, and printout of 11 Jacob H. Garner land surveys scattered over Texas.
65 Census Lists of Sabine Pass, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, copies owned by the writer; Genealogical Chart of the Jacob and Matilda Garner Family; Book A, Nos. 253, 293, 416, 433, 578, 634, 1072, and 1236, Jefferson County Marriage Record; and (Beaumont, TX) Journal, February 11, 1906.
66 McCall, Mr. Mac, p. 9.
67 Tenth Census of the United States, 1880, Jefferson County, Texas, Schedule IV, Products of Agriculture, Microfilm Reel No. 29, Texas State Archives.
68 (Houston) Telegraph and Texas Register, October 11, 1837.
69 If interested, the reader should consult W. T. Block, "The Great Storm of 1886: A Day of Agony and Death at Sabine Pass," in Block, Frontier Tales of The Texas-Louisiana Borderlands (Nederland, TX: 1988), pp. 258-261, based upon the 8 long newspaper articles in the writer's possession of (Galveston) Daily News, October 14-21, 1886.
70 McCall, Mr. Mac, p. 11; Russell, Pioneer Reminiscences of Jefferson County, p. 31.