REMINISCENCES OF MRS. JANE BEATON
C.L.Jester: Now, Aunt Jane I want you to tell me all you remember in reference to Hampton McKinney, your father, John McKinney, your grandfather, and my great-great-grand father.
Mrs. Beaton: The McKinney family as the name indicates is of Scotch Irish descent but the farthest I can go back is your great-great-grand father, my grand father, who I remember quite well, although I was quite young when he died.
John McKinney was born in North Carolina but what year I do not remember, and died in 1843 at my father’s house in Macoupin County, Illinois. He married Catherine Eaves, who was related to General Wade Hampton, and their oldest child, my father, was named Hampton. John and Catherine McKinney had seven children: three boys, Hampton, Jefferson and Jubilee, and four girls, Susan, who married Mr. Otwell, Nancy who married Fenwick Kendall, Polly who married Mr. Gilliam, and Diana who married William Hadley. Hampton was their oldest child and Jubilee their Youngest.
I cannot state the year that my grandfather John McKinney moved from North Carolina to Illinois, but I know that it was after 1797, for my father, Hampton McKinney, was born in North Carolina in 1797. I know that he was in the Revolutionary War and I think he must have been associated in some way with General Francis Marion, for he had a pair of silver spurs that was given to him by General Marion and these spurs are still in the possession of one branch of the McKinney family, at Corsicana, Texas. As I remember, he was a small man, very quick and energetic in his manner, occupied with something all the time. His wife used to say that he would read if the house was burning down. I remember when he was on his death bed. His mind would wander and he seemed to be reading all the time or he would mumble and mutter as though he was reading something.
He is buried in a small private cemetery In Macoupin County, Illinois. I can remember going to his funeral, and while I was quite young at the time, it made a lasting impression on my mind. At the time I knew him, his hair was quit gray and I cannot say whether he had light or dark hair when he was young. His wife had very black hair and was not at all gray. During the last years of his life he had no settled home of his own but he and his wife lived around among the children and divided their time among them. While he had other children living in Madison County, he seemed to prefer my father's house to that of any of the other children and spent most of his time at our home and, as I have said, he died at our house in 1843, four years before my father moved to Texas. After my father moved to Texas, my grandmother McKinney remained in Illinois and lived with her daughters.
Hampton McKinney, my father and your great-grandfather, was born in North Carolina in 1797 and moved with his father to Madison County, Illinois. He married Mary Clark, whose family was of English descent. They had twelve children, eight girls and four boys as follows: Lucinda and Louisa, twins; (Lucinda died when about eight years old and Louisa lived to be twenty years of age and was engaged to be married when she died); Diadema, your grandmother, married Levi Jester (she was born in 1821, and would have been 100 years old this year); Monroe, a son who lived to be grown; John O. and Thomas, twin boys; Jefferson, who died when a small boy; Nancy, who married John Harlin; Jane, myself, who married Alexander Beaton; Kate, who married Hamilton Morrell (generally called Ham); and Mary and Martha, twins (Martha died in infancy and Mary lived to be grown, and married John L. Miller).
My father was a farmer and owned a large farm in Madison County, Illinois, just across the river from St. Louis. I was born on this farm in 1832, and lived there until I was about eight years old when father sold his farm and bought another in Macoupin Co., Illinois, and moved there. Madison County had begun to settle up with Germans and other foreigners and father did not like that, so he sold out and bought this farm in Macoupin County and lived there until we moved to Texas. This farm in Macoupin County was a very large farm, about four miles from the little town of Girard. On this farm we had a big two-story house surrounded by large trees and beautiful blue grass. At one side of the house there was a fine well of water, and at times it would rise in the well until we could dip it out with our hands. At the back of the house there was a large orchard and garden with rows of currants and gooseberry bushes. It was just such a home as a prosperous well to do farmer with a large family would have, and his children had every advantage that a man in comfortable circumstances could give them in those days. We did not have luxuries that we have now for they were not to be had. Father used to go to St. Louis every year to sell the products of his farm, and would bring back a year’s supply of groceries, clothing, shoes etc. I know he always had plenty of everything. He seemed to be in better financial condition that any of the rest of the family and had more money than the rest of them.
Illinois was not a slave state, consequently we had no servants. What few Negroes there were around there were free. My mother and her girls did all of the house work and my father and the boys did all the farm work. The only means of transportation was wagons or horseback and young people always went on horseback to parties, visiting and to church. One thing we did have was fine horses and we could ride, and ride well. Churches and schools were few and far between. Church services were nearly always held in the school house or some private home. Besides my father being a farmer, he was a local Methodist preacher and belonged to the Methodist Church South. He never followed this profession as a means of livelihood for he never received any remuneration for his services as a minister, but loved to preach and gave his services for the simple love he had for the work. He was a fairly educated man and loved to read. He was a constant reader of the Bible. You might say a Bible student, and he always held family prayer in his home every morning as long as he lived. He was a quiet man and took no interest in politics. He was rather of the pioneer type, about medium height, neither blond or brunette, very positive in his manner, with a big voice for a man of his size. He was a good man and a pious man, and as a child I remember the big revivals he used to hold in those early days when I lived in Illinois.
My father's brother, Jubilee McKinney, came to Texas when a young man, looked over the country and was so well pleased with it he came back to Illinois and got my father interested in the idea of moving to Texas and taking up land, and finally persuaded him to move to Texas. So in the year 1846 father sold all his land in Macoupin County, and with all his family moved to Texas. Jubilee told him so much about the fine land in Texas that he decided that he wanted more land for his boys and decided to come. We left Illinois in the summer or early fall of 1846. I know the weather was not at all cold, and we made the trip in wagons. There was a big party of us that made the trip together. My father, his family, (a big family it was, too), we had three or four wagons and a large carryall drawn by two horses for mother and the younger children. My father's brother Jefferson McKinney, his family wife and five children, they had two large wagons.
Mrs. Nancy Kendall, my father's sister and her husband, Fenwick Kendall and their children, several of them, they had one big wagon that they called a Prairie Schooner. It was different shaped from the rest of the wagons and larger. And my sister, Nancy McKinney, who had just married John Harlin, and they came to Texas on their honeymoon. They had one wagon. All of these wagons came along together like a big procession and all camped together at night. There were several young men: Jubilee was a young man, John Gilliam, a cousin, son of Aunt Polly Gilliam, Jim Moore who was a cousin of the Kendalls. The young girls in the party were Kate McKinney (my sister) and Kate and Mary Kendall, cousins of myself. I was just 15 years old at the time. Just old enough to enjoy the whole trip, all the young folks in the crow had a good time. It took us two or three months to come from Illinois to Texas as we traveled slowly and did not hurry. We camped every night and when we came to a place we liked would stay until we got tired. I remember one time we camped for a week on the Piney River, I think it was, in the Indian Territory or Indian Nation as it was called then. We came through the Indian Nation and saw lots of Indians, but they were all friendly. My father had brought along a lot of dry goods, calicoes, trinkets, etc., of all kinds to trade to the Indians and he traded these goods for corn and food for the horses. When we were camping at night near there, there were Indians. The boys in the crowd would take us girls to the Indian dances and of course we would go on horseback. Just as we were getting into Ellis county there were some talk of unfriendly Indians and the children got very excited but nothing happened and we were not disturbed in any way. Before leaving Illinois, Father sold all of his property and converted it into money which he brought with him, carried it in a belt which he wore all the time. In fact they all brought their money with them as there was no other way of getting it here. The only things we brought along was just what we would need on the trip, tents and bedding and vessels to cook in and dishes to eat out of when we camped. At night some would sleep in the wagons and some in the tents. We always camped on Sundays and every morning before we would start father would hold family prayer. The trip was like one long picnic and the young folks enjoyed it to the utmost.
I will go back now to Illinois and tell you something about your grandfather and grandmother Jester, who were left behind when we moved to Texas.
Diadema McKinney was the oldest one of the daughters of Hampton McKinney who lived to be grown and married. She was born in Madison County, Illinois, in 1821 and was eleven years older than I. She married Levi Jester, I think about 1840. I know it was just at the time we were getting ready to move to Macoupin County. Father and Mother were very much opposed to her marrying him and they ran away and married. She went off to spend the night at some of the neighbors and went off from there. I don't know where they were married, but after they married they lived with Uncle William Hadley and I know they didn't come home for a long time. The reason Father didn't want her to marry Levi Jester was because he didn't know anything about him. He just drifted in there from Delaware. He said he was a young man out there away from his folks and nobody knew anything about him and he had nothing but he was an energetic industrious little fellow and was always working at something. He came out there to make a living at anything that came up, there was nothing against him except that he was a stranger and nothing was known of him or his family. I never heard that he was a Jew, if there had been any talk of that kind we would have heard of it at the time he ran away with my sister. I know he was a member of the Methodist Church, and he used to take my sister to church horseback and would take me along with them, and I would ride behind her. I was just a small child at that time and she was about 19 years old. He lived in Edwardsville and the first I knew of him was when he would come to our house to see my sister, Diadema. He was a little bit of a fellow, a small man, very small, a great deal smaller than any member of our family. I think he was more on the brunette order, not so very much either. Your father, Charlie Jester, favored him more than any of the boys but Levi has a prominent nose like his. He was a great trader and stayed on in Madison County until after the birth of their first child, your father, Charlie Jester, who was born April 3, 1841, while they were living on a farm in Madison County near Edwardsville. I used to go from Macoupin County to visit them. I don’t remember how far it was but I used to ride horseback. They finally moved to Macoupin County near where we were living, close to where the town of Girard is now. They called the community the Head of the Creek, and they were living there when my father moved to Texas. Soon after we left Illinois they move to the town of Waverly and lived there until Levi Jester died, I think about 1850 or 1851. I know your father was 10 years old when Levi died. Levi Jester was away from home at the time of his death. He had accumulated some property at the time of his death, owned their home and some other property. At one time he ran a mill in Madison County, and it seems to me that he had a mill in Waverly. After Levi Jester's death, Diadema Jester and her children lived in Waverly until 1858 when they came to Texas. At that time her oldest child, Charlie Jester, was 17 years old and he and his mother made the living for the family. My brother, Monroe McKinney went back to Illinois and brought his sister and her children out here. Major Beaton gave them a lot 100/160 feet right where the telephone office is now and Diadema Jester built a house there.
Coming back now to the time we arrived in Texas, when we reached Navarro County we stopped at Dresden and stayed there until the next winter. I know we raised one crop of sweet potatoes there and everybody said we raised the largest Sweet potatoes that had ever been raised around there. We had a log cabin there of one room and a shed and there was another room off in the yard where the boys slept. While we were living in Dresden, there was a big camp meeting held over at the place where Bassett is now, and I went with my father to the meetings with other members of the family; we went in the big carry all that held six or eight of us. Coming back from this meeting we passed right through the place where the city of Corsicana is located. There was nothing here then but it was such a beautiful part of the country and my father was so charmed with it that he decided to locate his certificate on this land and make a home for his family which would be their permanent home. The character of the land around here was high rolling prairie with timber along the creeks, and plenty of large trees scattered along the streams, and was just the spot he was looking for, therefore he moved from Dresden, his first location and came up here, bought an empty cabin and moved it on what was afterwards the R. Q. Mills home and located his headright certificate. Like all Texas families that came to Texas to settle, he was issued a headright certificate for 640 acres and my two brothers John and Thomas McKinney each had a certificate for 320 acres issued to them as young unmarried men. Jubilee McKinney also had a headright certificate for 320 acres, which he located just north of town where the old Jubilee home now stands and settled right there. He was rather on the old bachelor list when he came to Texas, and he married after he came here to a Miss Story who lived up above the Mills place.
When my father, Hampton McKinney settled on the land where the Col. Mills place is now there was no town here at all, there were a few cabins scattered around on farms, but nothing like a settlement and my father was really the first settler In Corsicana, and had the first residence if you could call a one room log house a residence. Afterwards, when the early settlers decided to locate the town of Corsicana on this land they persuaded my father to lift his certificate and let them have this land, which he then owned for the town site, which he did and then laid his certificate in Johnson County; however he reserved a good part of the town property for his own use.
After the town was located he moved down to where the court house square is now and selected a spot between where the court house and jail are now and moved two little cabins there and built a hall between and a shed at the back and we lived there until he built the first hotel in Corsicana on the sight where the jail now stands. For many years this was the only hotel in Corsicana and was called the McKinney Tavern. My father and his three sons built this hotel of rough boards that were hewn out of logs by themselves, there was no saw mill here or any where near here then, and all of the houses were built of logs and riven boards. The McKinney tavern had two big rooms down stairs with a long gallery in front, two other rooms at one corner and a long ell back for a dining room and kitchen back of that. The upstairs was all one big room. At that time It was considered a good sized house. It was comfortable but you couldn't call it handsome. There was no paint on it, in fact paint was unknown in this country. There were big fireplaces in the rooms but no stoves except the cooking stove. In fact we had the first cooking stove ever brought into Corsicana, and probably the first stove in the county. Father ran the hotel as a means of livelihood and made a good living out of it for a number of years, he did not care particular about running a hotel but there was nobody else to do it and he was kind of forced into it. He kept the hotel for a number of years, until another hotel was built on the corner of the square where Mrs. Wilson now lives by a man by the name of Randall, and this Randall hotel was subsequently the old Starley Hotel. We were living at the McKinney Tavern when I met Major Alexander Beaton who I afterwards married in 1852. All of my father’s daughters except my sister Mary were married while we were living at the Tavern.
Major Alexander Beaton was born in Scotland in 1820 and would have been 100 years old last year. He came to this country when quite a young man and was living in Independence, Missouri, at the beginning of the Mexican War, and enlisted and went from there to the war and served through the war; it was in the Mexican War that he won the title of Major. After the war he drifted South and for awhile he taught school at Chapel Hill in Washington County, Texas, and afterwards went to New Orleans. He came from New Orleans to Corsicana, I think in 1850. He came here with Col. Croft, and as young men they were always together. He studied law and got his license to practice law after he came to Corsicana and began to practice right here. He and Col. Mills were partners before the civil war and had their office on the square on the east side right where Mr. Stell now lives. I don't think he ever had any other partner except Col. Mills who was then a right young man. Major Beaton continued to practice law and trade in land until he became disgusted with the law and quit the practice and dealt altogether in land. While in this business he accumulated a great deal of property. When he was practicing law he made a specialty of land titles, and gradually got out of the practice of the law and devoted his time to dealing and trading in lands. He was a highly educated man and a man of very positive character quick talking and energetic in his manner. I was the third youngest child of Hampton McKinney, Kate who married Ham Morrell and Mary who married John L. Miller, being younger than myself. I was married to Major Beaton in 1852, while my father was keeping the McKinney Tavern, and about four months after we married we built a little home of our own on the corner of Fourth Ave. and Eleventh St. where Dr. S. W. Johnson afterwards built a house and now known as the Weiler place, we lived in this house for a year or two and finally moved the house just across the street where the laundry is now. We added to the house and lived there for years, my mother lived with us there after my father's death and died there in 1883 or 84. My father, Hampton McKinney died in 1857 of pneumonia at the age of sixty years. While he was living at the place he built on Third Ave. then called Jefferson St., about where the house of Richard Mays built now stands; at that time he owned all the land from where the Pace residence is now down to where Mr. Wm. Tatum now lives.
There were born to Major Beaton and myself three children, Ralph, who now lives in Corsicana, Kate who married Dr. S. W. Johnson, and Tom who has been dead a few years.
My father's two brothers, Jefferson and Jubilee McKinney, had both been out to Texas on a prospecting trip, had visited different sections and finally decided that Navarro County was the best place to locate, and when we left Illinois for Texas in 1846 my father had already decided to settle in Navarro County, relying on his brother description of it. His first stop was at Dresden which was a small village, with various settlements around it. Houston was the nearest railroad point and all supplies had to be hauled from there, all lumber had to be hauled from Houston and at that time a one room log cabin was as good as a mansion would be now and very much harder to get. It was hard on my mother who had given up a comfortable home and all the advantages of civilization to come to the wilds of Texas and live as the early pioneers had to live but she was a woman of strong character, brave and energetic good manager and really better fitted for a life of a pioneer than my father. My husband, Major Beaton, was a public spirited citizen and always interest in the growth and development of Corsicana and it was largely through his efforts that the railroad came here in 1871. When the new part of the town was laid off he gave the land for Beaton St., specifying that the street should be 100 feet wide and this street was named in his honor and is still in his name. Seventy four years ago when I first saw the spot on which this town is located, it was all open prairie not a house or building of any kind. There were some outlying farms around with small log cabins, but there were few. I have lived here continuously from that time and seen Corsicana grow and develop from the one room cabin my father built and occupied as the first dwelling house in the town to the beautiful little city with its many handsome homes and buildings. Those early days were happy days for me and I shall always look back on them with much pleasure for they were the days of my happy youth.
Mrs. Jane Beaton
sworn to and subscribed before me this 10th day of February, 1921. Lucille Bonner,
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