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took her notes for the amounts respectively due
them. All that remained to be done was to pro-
bate the will and file an inventory in the County
Court and this Mr. Kelberg did. The estate was
not in court over three hours. Mrs. King has since
paid the notes, has added more than 100,000 acres



to her ranches, does not owe a dollar and sell*
from 20,000 to 25,000 beef cattle annually.

When Capt. King established himself in the
Nueces country it was practically as far removed
from civilization and the operation of civil law, as
Central Africa is to-day. A few Mexican settlers
were scattered here and, there, fifty or sixty miles
apart, but were little more to be trusted than the
bands of predatory Indians who prowled over the
prairies. Desperadoes from Mexico and the States,
at a later date, also, from time to time, attempted
to effect a lodgment in the country and overawe
and despoil the people. Sagaicious and possessed
of both moral and physical courage (all of which
was needed in these trying times), firm, bold and
prompt, both in planning and acting, Capt. King
proved himself equal to these and all other emer-
gencies and did not hesitate to hold these characters
in check with an iron hand.

He maintained hisrights, the rights of those about
him, and an approach to social order.

Starting in life a penniless boy, his indomitable
will, strength of mind and capacity for conducting
large affairs enabled him long before his death to
accumulate an immense fortune, and rank as one
of the largest cattle-owners in the world.



THOMAS J. JENNINGS,

FORT WORTH.



The late lamented Gen. Thomas J. Jennings, at
one time Attorney-General of Texas, and dui'ing
his lifetime considered one of the ablest lawyers in
Texas, was born in Shenandoah County, Va.,
on the 20th of October, 1801. His parents were
Col. William and Mariam Howard (Smith) Jen-
nings. Col. William Jennings was for a number of
years sheriff and a leading citizen of Shenandoah
County. When the subject of this memoir was
about ten years of age his father moved to Indiana
where he had purchased five thousand acres of land
on the Ohio river near Vevay, remained there a
short time and then moved to Louisville, Ky.,
where he purchased a large portion of the land now
embraced within the corporate limits of that city.
This land he sold for a sum which, at this day, when
its value had been so greatly enhanced, appears
insignificant.

After a short residence at Louisville, Col. William



Jennings moved to Christian County, Ky., where
Gen. Thomas J. Jennings clerked in a country
store, attending school part of the time, until
about seventeen years, old when he secured a school
and taught for two or three years until he accumu-
lated sufficient means to attend Transylvania Col-
lege, at Lexington, Ky., where he graduated in
1824, with the highest honors, having been selected
by his classmates to deliver the valedictory. Jeffer-
son Davis, Gustavus A. Henry, of Tennessee, and a
number of other men, who afterwards distinguished
themselves in law, medicine, politics, and theology,
were his friends and fellow-students. The love he
acquired for the classics at Transylvania College
clung to him through life. There was, perhaps, no
more accurate or critical Latin and Greek scholar
in the South. He was also familiar with the French
and Spanish languages, speaking them both.
After graduating he taught school at Paris, Tenn.,



INDIAN WARS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.



371



studied law, secured admission to the bar and, in
copartnership with his brother, Judge Dudley S.
Jennings, practiced at Paris about two years. The
partnership was then dissolved and he went to
Huntington, Tenn., where he formed a connection
with Berry Gillespie. In 1836 he went to Yazoo
City, Miss., and there enjoyed a large and lucra-
tive practice until the spring of 1840, at which
time he moved to San Augustine, Texas, and later,
in the fall of that year, to Nacogdoches.

In January, 1844, he married at the latter place,
Mrs. Sarah G. Mason, the only daughter of Maj.
Hyde, a prominent citizen in Nacogdoches and
formerly a leading merchant of Jackson, Tenn.

While residing in Nacogdoches he was in part-
nership, successively, with J. M. Ardrey and Judge
W. R. Ochiltree.

In 1852 he was elected Attorney-General of Texas
and, on the expiration of his term in 1852, was re-
elected and held the position until 1856, when he
declined a further re-election to the office, his large
private interests and law practice requiring his un-
divided attention. On retiring from the attorney-
generalship he moved to his plantation near Alto,
in Cherokee County.

In 1857 he was elected to the Legislature from
that county and in 1861 to the Convention that
passed the ordinance of secession. In the fall of
1861 he suffered a stroke of paralysis which con-
fined him to his bed for eighteen months and from
the effects of which he never afterward recovered.
In the fall of 1864 he moved to Tyler, where he
formed a law partnership with Col. B. T. Selman.
In i868, having retired from this copartnership, he
and his son, Hon. Tom R. Jennings, formed a co-
partnership which continued for a number of years.
Gen. Jennings remained in the practice of his
profession until 1875, when, owing to his advanced
years and failing health, he retired from active pur-
suits, after being in harness as a practitioner at
the bar for half a century. At different times
he was a copartner of George F. Moore, late
Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court; Stock-



ton T. Donley and Ruben H. Reeves, late Associate
Justices of that tribunal. In 1877 he moved to
Fort "Worth, Texas, where he died, after a long and
painful illness, September 23, 1881. He was a
member of the Masonic and I. O. O. F. fraternities.
He had three sons: Tom R., Monroe D., and Hyde
Jennings. Monroe died in 1868 at Alto, Cherokee
Count}', when nineteen years of age. Hyde is one
of the leading citizens of Fort Worth and, as a
lawyer, seems to have inherited the solid abilities
possessed by his distinguished father. As a prac-
titioner, he has for a number of years deservedly
ranked among the foremost in the State. Tom R.
is S. lawyer at Nacogdoches and represented Nacog-
doches County in the Twenty-fourth Legislature.

Gen. Jennings' widow survived him a number
of years, dying April 6th, 1873, in Fort Worth, at
the home of her son, Mr. Hyde Jennings, of which
she had been an honored and beloved inmate since
her husband's death. She was one of the sweetest
and most lovable ladies that the old regime could
boast.

Gen. Jennings possessed in a marked degree
those qualities of mind and heart that challenge
confidence and esteem. One trait of his character,
one worthy of all admiration, was the disinclination
that he manifested to think or speak evil of others.
Of this, the writer of this memoir had an example
in 1867. Gen. Jennings was then a member of
ihe Legislature and, upon being drawn out as to
his opinion of the leading men of the State, took
them up seriatim^ dwelling upon the excellent
mental, moral and social qualities of each. Senti-
ments of jealous rivalry never disturbed the calm
equipoise of his mind. Socially he was amiable and
generous to a fault. He mastered every question
he endeavored to discuss. His speeches were clear,
forcible and logical and, when he concluded, court
and jurj' were impressed with the conviction that he
had exhausted the subject, as viewed from his stand-
point. He was one of the brighest and ablest of
the able men of his day in Texas and one of the
purest and best as well.



372



INDIAN WABS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.



JUSTUS WESLEY FERRIS,



WAXAHACHIE.



Judge J. W. Ferris was born March 26th, 1823,
in Hudson, now a large city on the Hudson river,
in the State of New York. His father was Rev.
Phil. Ferris, an effective and zealous minister of
the Methodist Episcopal Church. Young Ferris'
early education was acquired in Cazenovia Semi-
nary, a noted institution of learning in Central New
York. At the age of eighteen he moved to Shelby
County, Ky., and soon entered the law office of
Hon. Martin D. McHenry, where, he pursued the
study of law. He graduated in 1845, at the age of
twenty-two, with honor, in the law department of
Transylvania University, at Lexington, Ky. In
the same year he was licensed to practice law in all
the courts of the State. In 1846 he moved to
Louisiana, where he studied the civil law under the
tuition of Judge Brent, an able and distinguished
lawyer, at Alexandria. His patron having died, he
yielded to the solicitations of his old Kentucky
friend. Rev. F. H. Blades, and emigrated to Texas
in the fall of 1847, locating at Jefferson, then a
promising young city, situated at the head of nav-
igation on Cypress bayou, in Cass (now Marion)
County, where he began his professional career.
The bar at Jefferson was at that time one of the
ablest and most brilliant in the Southwest. Here
were congregated at the courts such legal lights as
Gen. J. Pinckney Henderson, Col. Lewis T. Wigfall,
T. J. and J. H. Rogers, Richard Scurry, Col. W.
P. Hill and others, and here he underwent the
training and discipline that in after years enabled
him to successfully compete with the more skillful
of the legal fraternity. After a partnership of two
and a half years with M. D. Rogers he boldly struck
out into the practice upon his own account and
rapidly rose to prominence, his law briefs appearing
in- the Supreme Court Reports as far back as the
Fourth Texas. For one year, during the presi-
dential campaign of 1852, he edited the Jefferson
Herald, doing good service for the Democratic
party. This work was done chiefly at night, with-
out detriment to his professional labors. He was
elected to the Legislature in 1852, as representative
and floater from the counties of Titus and Cass,
and acquitted himself with credit and distinction,
exhibiting ability in debate, and pushing the meas-
ures he advocated with energy and success. The
authorship of the common-school system, then
adopted for Texas, is, in a large measure, justly



attributable to him, he having prepared and intro-
duced the bill and followed it up to its final pas-
sage. Initiatory steps, which met with his cordial
approbation and support, were also taken in offer-
ing large land donations to induce the early con-
struction of railroads. Before the expiration of
his term of office, it became necessary for him, on
account of ill health, to change bis residence, and
get away from the malaria of swamps and bayous.
Therefore, in the fall of 1854, he moved with his
family west of the Trinity river to Waxahacbie,
then a small village, surrounded by rich undulating
prairies, and beautifully situated by the crystal
waters of Waxahachie creek. Recovering his health
in a few months, his field of practice soon included
seven counties. He was reasonably successful
b9th in criminal and civil cases, taking position in
the front rank of his profession. Among the
more important criminal cases in which he took
a prominent part for the defense may be men-
tioned those of the State v. Calvin Guest, in Ellis
County; A. J. Brinson, in Terrant County; and
A. W. Denton, in Parker County, each of whom
was indicted for murder, and acquitted after a
closely contested and exciting trial. His bright-
est laurels, however, were won in the civil prac-
tice, more especially in suits involving titles to
land. In 1858 he and Col. E. P. Nicholson, of
Dallas, formed a copartnership which continued
for over two years. They did a large law practice
and, in connection with it, engaged in the business
of buying and selling exchange, establishing two
offices, one at Dallas and the other at Waxahachie,
for that purpose. These exchange offices were a
necessity at that time to emigrants, traders and
merchants, and marked the beginning of banking in
North Texas. In 1860 he was one of the nominees
of the Ellis County Convention, assembled for the
election of delegates to the convention called to
meet at Austin for the purpose of considering the
question of the secession of Texas from the Union,
but serious domestic considerations compelled him
to decline the nomination. In the following year
he was elected by a vote of the people to the office
of Judge of the Sixteenth Judicial District, which
position he continued to fill until the close of the
war, believing that by so doing he could the better
serve his country, his constitution being too feeble
to endure the exposure of camp life. The frontier




JUDGE f?:rris.



374



INDIAN WABS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.



Influenced by an early attachment, he returned
to Kentucky in 1850, and married Miss Mattie J.
Crow, a daughter of Mr. A. D. Crow, of Floyds-
taurg, in that State, — a most beautiful lady and
distinguished for many lovable qualities. She
voluntarily left the "old Kentucky home" with
her husband to brave the hardships of a frontier
life in Texas, and has ever been a faithful helpmate
as well as a loving and devoted wife. They have
two sons: Royal A. Ferris, born August 8th, 1861,
in .Jefferson, Texas, who was educated at the Ken-
tucky Military Institute, near Frankfort, Ky. , and
is now a successful capitalist and banker in Dallas,
Texas, and Thomas A. Ferris, born February 10,
1861, in Waxahachie, Texas, who was also educa-
ted at the Kentucky Military Institute, and is now
cashier and one of the board of directors of the
Citizens National Bank, of Waxahachie.



Judge Ferris has been a consistent member of
the Methodist Episcopal Church South for many
years. Though not a demonstrative chuich worker
he }ias ever exerted a strong, steady influence in
favor of Christianity. His daily walk and con-
versation have been exemplary and have indicated
at all times \vith certainty his position on all moral
and religious subjects. He and Mrs. Ferris by
industry and economy have acquired a handsome
estate and are heavy taxpayers, owning a goodly
share of city and country realty. They have a
beautiful home, in the suburbs of Waxahachie,
supplied with a large library and every comfort —
a home blessed with pure domestic happi-
ness. Honored and beloved by all who know-
them, they are in their old age deservedly enjoy-
ing the fruits of a consistent and vrell-ordered
life.



R. S. WILLIS,



GALVESTON.



Richard Short Willis was born October 17, 1821,
in Caroline County, Md., where his father, Short
A. Willis, settled early in the present century.
The latter was a native of Scotland and was brought
by his parents to this country previous to the
Revolution, in which several members of the family
took part on the side of the Colonies, two uncles
of the subject of this sketch yielding up their lives
at the battle of Brandywine for the cause of free-
dom and against the tyranny of the British Crown.

Four of the five sons of Short A. Willis, namely,
Peter J., William H., Richard S., and Thomas A.,
came to Texas in youth or early manhood and have
spent their subsequent lives. The first to come
was Peter J., who made his advent into the new
Republic soon after the battle of San Jacinto, in
1836. After a brief tour of inspection he became
satisfied with the country and returned to Maryland
for his brothers, William H. and Richard S., who,
accompanying him, came back and settled on Buf-
falo bayou near Houston. Peter J. had then just
attained his twenty-first year, William H. was
eighteen, and Richard S. sixteen. In the limited
industries of the new country the lives of the
Willis brothers was by no means an easy one, but
they bravely performed all the labors that fell to
their lot, emerging from the trials to which they



were subjected stronger in purpose and better pre-
pared for the responsibilities of the future. By
their industry and good management they saved
sufficient means to purchase the property then
known as the " Ringold Farm " on the road from
Navasota to Washington, and there, as the reward
of their good husbandry, they laid the foundation
of the splendid fortune which later came into their
bands. It was while living on this place that the
death of William H. occurred. Early in the
forties Peter J. Willis bought a stock of goods and
began the mercantile business at Washington,
Richard S. remaining on the farm. Later Richard
S. left the farm and joined his brother and they
opened an establishment at Montgomery. This
proving successful they started a branch store at
Anderson, in Grimes County, in partnership with
E. W. Cawthon, under the firm name of Caw-
thon, Willis & Bro. With increased success
they were enabled to still further extend their
field of operations, and just previous to the
opening of the late war they formed a partnership
with S. K. Mcllheny, under the name of Mcllheny,
Willis & Bro., and opened a house at Houston.
This firm grew to be one of the most commanding
in the State, and, notwithstanding the general
business paralysis which followed the war, it con-




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INDIAN WARS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.



375



tinued active operations tliroughout the entire
period of hostilities, met all its obligations and
emerged from the almost chaotic condition of affairs
sound and solvent. Upon the close of the great
struggle Mr. Mcllheny went to Laredo, Mexico,
and died there while a member of the firm, after
which the Willis brothers purchased his interest
and continued the business under the firm name
of P. J. Willis & Bro. The Montgomery store
was sold out at the close of the war, at which
time the Houston enterprise began to assume
much larger proportions. Seeing what they be-
lieved to be an excellent opening at Galveston they
started a store at that place. This branch of their
business soon came to engross most of their time
and capital and in 1868 they decided to consolidate
their interests and accordingly removed to Gal-
veston. From that date their operations were
confined to their Galveston business, and not only
this business but many other enterprises of a
public. and private nature in that city were made to
feel the strong propulsion of their sturdy common
sense and sterling business ability.

To Mr. Richard S. Willis fell the inside care and
management of the large and ever-increasing busi-
ness of the firm, and to his labors in this connec-
tion he bent every energy, with the result of
becoming a thorough master of his situation.
Indeed later on when upon the death of his
brother, Peter J. Willis, in 1873, the entire care
and management of the business devolved on him,
he could not be persuaded that the increased
responsibilities resulting therefrom were too labor-
ious and exacting upon him, until ill-health com-
pelled him to discontinue the devotion of his
personal supervision, judgment and valuable ex-
perience entirely to the affairs and details of the
business. He was an indefatigable worker all his
life and not until physical infirmities obtained the
mastery over his iron will was he able to pull
against the current of his earlier days. He served
in various positions of trust and his name was
connected from first to last with many corporate
enterprises in the city. He was president of the
Galveston National Bank, having brought the
affairs of its predecessor, the Texas Banking and
Insurance Company, to a successful termination.
He was one of the promoters of the Gulf, Colorado
and Santa Fe Eailwaj', and for some years a mem-
ber of its directory. He was chairman of the
Deepwater Committee, a prominent member of the
Cotton Exchange and of the Chamber of Com-
merce ; president of the Texas Guarantee & Trust
Company, and a member of the directory of the
Southern Cotton Press and Manufacturing Com-
pany. Mr. Willis was devoted to business and no



man ever left his affairs in better shape or knew
more about the details of every enterprise with
which he was connected. He was of rather
reserved disposition and of marked individuality,
possessing strong prejudices either for or against
men and measures ; but, withal, generous and
confiding where such feelings were required.

On June 3d, 1847, at Montgomery, Texas, Mr.
Willis married Miss Narcissa Worsham, a native
of Merengo County, Ala., born August 29, 1828,
and a daughter of Jeremiah and Catherine Wor-
sham, who emigrated to Texas in 1835, and settled
in what is now Montgomery County, three miles
from the present town of Montgomery. Jeremiah
Worsham was a well-to-do planter and a highly
respected citizen. One of his sons, Isvod Wor-
sham, represented Montgomery County in the State
Legislature and was a man of stirring business
ability. Mrs. Willis has a sister, Mrs. C. H.
Brooks, wife of Rev. C. H. Brooks, residing at
Chappel Hill, in Washington County, the remainder
.of the family to which she belonged having passed
away. Mr. Willis died July 26, 1892.

Besides his surviving widow he left two sons and
two daughters : Short A. Willis, of Galveston ;
Mrs. Kate Grigsby, of Louisville and Bardstown,
Ky. ; Mrs. F. A. Walthew, and Richard M. Willis,
Galveston; a daughter, Laura (Mrs. James G.
Moody), and a son, Lee W. Willis, preceding the
father to the grave, the former dying in 1886, the
latter in 1888.

The widow of this pioneer merchant is herself
one of the oldest Texians now residing in the city
of Galveston, having lived on Texas soil continu-
ously for sixty years. Coming to the country
while it was yet Mexican territory, she has lived
to see many changes and has witnessed both the
peaceful and violent revolutions which have gone
on around her, having lived under five different
governments — that of Mexico, Texas, the United
States, the Confederate States, and again that of
the United States. She has witnessed the gradual
expulsion of the red man and the steady advance-
ment of the white race. She saw the country
change from a dependency to an independent
republic and was not an uninterested spectator
when the new but vigorous republic asked for ad-
mission to the American Union. She witnessed the
movement that made Texas free, and the peaceable
settlement by which it became one of the sister-
hood of States.

Mrs. Willis has led an eminently domestic life,
but since the death of her husband has given more
or less of her attention to busihess, with the result
of keeping his business in the same admirable con-
dition in which he left it.



376



INDIAN WARS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.



JUDGE WILLIAM PITT BALLINGER,

GALVESTON,



The distinguished subject of this sketch was born
in Barboursville, Knox County, Ky., September 25,
1825, and died at his home in Galveston, Texas,
January 20, 1888.

His grandfather, Col. Richard Ballinger, was a
native of Virginia, and an Aide-de-Camp of Gen. St.
Clair at the time of that officer's defeat by the
Indians. He settled early in Kentucky ; was the
first clerk of Knox County ; was, later, a member
of the State Senate ; lived to a great age, and sus-
tained throughout the highest personal character.

His father, James Franklin Ballinger, was a native
of Barboursville, Ky., and, for the greater part of
his life, clerk of the courts of Knox County. A
soldier of the War of 1812, at the age of seventeen
years he was taken prisoner upon Dudley's defeat,
and forced to " run the gauntlet " for his life. He
was a presidential elector on the Whig ticket in 1837.
He removed to Texas in 1868, and died at Houston
in 1875, in the eighty-second year of his age.

W. P. Ballinger's early education was derived
from the schools of his native town ; a two years'
course in St. Mary's College, near Lebanon, Ky.,
and a faithful training in his father's oflBce in the
practical details of court business. His health re-
quiring a milder climate, in 1843 he availed of the
invitation of his uncle, Judge James Love, of Gal-
veston, Texas, and moved thither, beginning the
study of the law in that gentleman's office. Join-
ing, as a private soldier, a volunteer company for
the Mexican War, he was soon elected First Lieu-
tenant of the company. Afterwards appointed
Adjutant of Col. Albert Sidney Johnston's Texas
Begiment, he participated with it in the storming of
Monterey, and in other service. Returning to Gal-
veston in the fall of 1846, he was admitted to the
bar in the spring of 1847 and began the practice of
law. His prompt admission to partnership in the
firm of Jones & Butler, then enjoying the lar-
gest practice in the city, engaged him at once
in the most important cases in the courts.



Online LibraryJohn Henry BrownIndian wars and pioneers of Texas → online text (page 70 of 135)