Pioneers of Ellis County
Thomas "Willow Pond" Smith
Pioneer Settler of Ellis County
Compiled by Frances Smith
Thomas Smith was born in North Carolina about 1809, according to the 1850 and later censuses. He married Margaret Miller, daughter of William and Margaret Campbell Miller, in Mecklenburg Co., N.C. Nov. 19, 1827. We do not know the identity of his parents. Thomas and Margaret Smith moved to Warren Co. Tenn. soon after their marriage. Her parents and siblings also made the move, and Warren Co. records are full of information about them. Thomas is listed on the 1830 and 1840 censuses there, living near Millers, Smiths, and Seitzes. All the Smith children were born in Tenn., presumably in Warren Co. The Memorial and Biographical History of Ellis County, 1892, states that Thomas Smith had moved to Ellis County in 1844. His daughter Margaret was born in Oct. 1844 in Tenn.
Thomas received his "homestead" at no cost, from the State of Texas, 640 acres of land in southeastern Ellis County. He was required to get the land into cultivation, and build a serviceable house. His claim was dated April 1850, but that would have been after meeting the requirements. The earliest record of a land transaction was in 1848, when he received a labor of land (177 acres) from James Jett, in Robertson District, at Willow Pond (no information on payment). In 1849 he bought a labor of land from Eli Smith (no relation) for $100 (Benjamin Hart first owner). Dec. 2, 1850 Stephen D. Bright transferred ownership to him of 197 acres of land in Robertson's District, 18 miles SE of Waxahachie (no information on payment). By 1868, he owned 1334 acres, all in the southeast corner of Ellis County. His "home place" was located at Willow Pond, on Willow Pond Branch of Chambers Creek, just south of present day Alma. In 1868, he decided to deed that property,"200 acres with improvements," to Jesse Curlin, in exchange for Curlin's farm on the outskirts of Marshall, Tex. Thomas and Margaret's children brought suit to prevent the transaction, since this was the home of their mother who was deceased. He settled by deeding each of his children other portions of his land. The property in Marshall was part cotton land, and part within the city limits, so court house records there show that he leased part for farming, and sold small parcels for city lots. A deed, dated July 11, 1871, in Marshall, was signed by Paralee, his second wife. In August 31, 1871, he sold some land in Ellis County, and mentioned his deceased wife, so we can place her death between those dates, because of the land records. By 1875, he had moved back to Ellis County since a deed record describes him as "Thomas Smith of Ellis County." He traded land with his son-in- law, Andrew J. Pippen, for land from the Love Survey on Waxahachie and Mustang Creeks, and this may have been his final home. [Records may be found in Marshall, Harrison County, Tex., and Waxahachie, Ellis County, Tex].
Willow Pond was a lovely place, named for the willow trees that grew nowhere else in the area. When the stage coach came through from Waxahachie to Marshall, Willow Pond was the rest stop. and it was also a favorite picnic spot. Thomas became known as "Willow Pond Smith," since everyone in the community knew and admired the place. (The nickname prevented him from being confused with Thomas Ingles Smith, no relation, who lived in the Howe settlement, and was a former Texas Ranger and member of the legislature.) Thomas built a substantial house beside the pond, using cypress hauled in from Jefferson, Tex. He had a gristmill to grind corn into meal and his grandchildren remembered the fun it was to go to Grandpa's to get cornmeal. The pond is gone now, filled in by erosion, but there are still a few willow trees left. The house still survives, protected with siding, and used as a barn. Most of the land from Alma to the county line along Interstate 45 once belonged to "Willow Pond " Smith and his son John O. Smith.
When Thomas Smith prepared to move to Marshall, he leased a tract of his land to James L. Smith, who was either a nephew or brother. This lease gives a picture of agriculture in early Ellis County:
(Ellis County Deed Book G, p. 290) This indenture made the 25th day of May, eighteen hundred and sixty eight....lease to James Smith a certain tract of land with the tenements thereon... containing about two hundred and thirteen acres.... for the term of six years from the date hereof, paying therefor the annual rent of one third of all the grain, including corn, wheat, oats, rye and barley and cotton, hemp, flax, ramie, tobacco, and also one third of all other produce that may be grown... payable at the end of each year... and quietly to deliver up said premises after the full expiration of said term... in as good condition as the same were in when they were received by him, reasonable wear and tear thereof excepted James Smith shall cause to be made all necessary repairs... and he shall cause the premises to be cultivated in a good and husbandmanlike manner......
(page 293) This article of agreement made the 25th day of May 1868 between Thomas Smith party of the first part and James Smith party of the second part witnesseth that the said party of the first part has this day placed in the care and keeping of said party of the second part, all his stock of stock cattle marked with a crop and split in the right and a slope off the underside of the left ear and branded with a circle on the left hip, saving and excepting ten cows and calves, and all the steers that are three years old and upward all of which are expressly reserved out of. said stock; that said party of the second part is to look after the same, collect them up in the spring of each year, mark and brand the calves of same in the mark and brand above specified, each and every year until the year 1875, when the said party of the second part is to gather and collect said stock of cattle of the usual time of gathering cattle and same are when so collected to be equally divided according to kind and quality between said parties, their heirs or legal representative.
James L. Smith was born in North Carolina about 1820, so he was quite a lot younger than Thomas. He went first to Louisiana, and served in the Civil War from there. He married Elizabeth ________, and they had these children: John P., Thomas, William, Laura, Joseph, Martha, James, and Betty. He was in Ellis Co for about 10 years, 1868-1878, then moved to Wise County, Tex. We confirm the kinship, since James's daughter, Betty, living in the household of Thomas Smith, at the time of the 1880 census, is listed as a niece. We believe that James's son, Thomas, may have been the Tom Smith who lived all his life at Alma. The "Benton House" was his home. (This Thomas married Molly Chandler, and had a daughter Lulu who married Dr. Jeremiah Worsham between 1896 and 1899. He was also father of Elsa who married Lee Bailey of Hill Co. Tex.; Ella, who married Ben Cave, a carpenter; May who married Hugh Grizzard; Emmett; Lloyd; and Shelby. Ruth Worsham Allred was Lulu's daughter and was the source of information about Tom Smith.)
Margaret Miller Smith died in the early 1850's. We don't know the exact date, or where she is buried, perhaps somewhere on the Smith home place. Thomas married (2) Paralee Smith, Dec. 7, 1856, in Ellis County. She died in July or August, 1871, probably in Marshall. We have not yet found her burial place nor identified her parents.
Thomas "Willow Pond" Smith died about 1886, according to a letter written in 1896 by his son, John O. Smith, stating that his father had died "about 10 years ago." We do not know where he was buried.
Thomas Smith and his first wife, Margaret Miller, were the parents of these children, all born in Tenn., according to census enumerations.
(1) ____________ SMITH, daughter, was under 5 years of age at the time of the 1830 census. She is also listed on the 1840 census, 10-15 years of age. We have no other information about her. She was no longer living with her parents in 1850 so she may have married and lived in Tenn. or Tex. She is not mentioned as an heir of Thomas or Margaret, so she must have died before 1870, without children.
(2) JOHN OSBORNE SMITH (1831-1897) was born in Warren Co. Tenn. He was 19 at the time of the 1850 Ellis County, Tex. census. In 1854, he surveyed and claimed 320 acres, on the Ellis/Navarro county line and built a home on a hill just south of Alma. Now called the Rutherford Place, it still stands, enlarged and improved. It is a white two-story house with columns and balconies, on a hill looking north over the prairie. The well can still be seen, as a circle of stones level with the soil. His daughter, Dora, remembered standing on the porch watching antelope play on the prairie. John married Tilitha Ann Seitz ca 1856. She was the daughter of George and Elizabeth Gribble Seitz, of Warren Co. Tenn., who moved to Kaufman County, Tex after 1847. They had been neighbors as children in Warren Co., and lived only about 10 miles apart after the two families moved to Texas. John O. served in Parsons' Texas Cavalry, Co. H, and saw action in Arkansas and Louisiana, especially in the Red River Campaign in the Civil War. After the war, he traveled extensively as a surveyor and cattleman. He bought cattle and drove them to Indian Territory for pasture. He died in 1897 at Orr, in what is now Carter Co., Okla.. Tilitha Ann was born 1835 in Warren Co. Tenn., died in 1885 in Indian Territory and was buried in Montague Co. Tex. Children of John O. and Tilitha Ann Smith, all born at their home near Alma:
(3) WILLIAM M. SMITH was born ca 1832. He is probably the William Smith who was a private in Co. B, 12th Texas Cavalry. He is enumerated in the Ellis County, Tex. 1850 and 1860 censuses living in his father's household. He received land from his father, which he sold to Mr. Gilmore. He was listed on the 1870 census in Bell Co. Tex. (A deed dated 1871 confirms that Thomas Smith's son William M. was from Bell Co.) He was a member of Masonic Lodge 193 at Moffatt, Bell Co., then moved to Comanche Co where he joined Lodge 630, Newburg, 1897. We believe he married Cleopatra Dennis, who may have been a first cousin of Tilitha Ann Seitz (John O's wife) and sister in- law of his younger sister, Mary Smith Dennis. The Bell Co. Tex. censuses list him with these children:
(4) JAMES LEVI SMITH was born ca 1835. He was a Lieutenant "Junior Second" in Co H., Parson's Texas Cavalry Brigade, during the Civil War; he may also have served in the 23rd Tenn. Infantry, Co. C. He and his family were residents of Waxahachie in 1870, he listed as Levi Smith, "drygoods merchant," (per census). In 1871, a deed refers to him as "J. L. Smith of Warren Co., Tenn." He named his father, Thomas Smith, to be his agent in an Ellis Co land transaction. In 1894, he bought several lots in Ennis, where he planned to put in a business, but by 1896, he had rented out that property and moved back to Warren Co. He was listed as a merchant on the 1900 census in Warren Co. and died there Sept 3, 1911 of "chronic kidney and Bright's Disease,." The death certificate lists him as "Levi Smith, retired merchant." He lived next door to Thomas Gribble, cousin of Tilitha Ann Seitz (wife of John O. Smith). The 1870 census is the only record of a family; he was listed as single on the 1900 census and on his death certificate. He evidently married Susan ________, and had these children:
(5) ABRAM M. SMITH was born ca 1838. On the 1860 Census, he was living in his father's household near present day Alma, his occupation that of "stock raiser." He received land from his father, which he sold to Mr. Gilmore. He may be the A. M. Smith who married N. J. Foster Aug 5, 1880, Ellis Co. George Smith, 21, Thomas Smith's grandson, was also listed in Thomas Smith's household in 1880. He may have been Abram's son. We have no other information.
(6) TERRESA (Tennessee, Tracy, Therresy) C. SMITH was born ca 1840. She never married. In 1900, (per census) she was living with her sister Margaret and husband, Jack. She received part of the Willow Pond settlement from her father, and later sold it. In 1896, John O. Smith wrote of visiting her, and of learning that Levi had property in Ennis, rented out "for her benefit."
(7) MARY E. SMITH was born in 1843 or 1844 in Tenn. She married (1) Joseph T. Dennis in Ellis Co., Jan 12, 1860. He was in the Civil War, in Darnell's 18th Cavalry Regiment, first as a private, then as a sergeant, and may have been killed in battle. Mary married (2) William N. Dennis Sept 21, 1865, Ellis Co. (She is listed as Mrs. Mary Dennis). Joseph and William were brothers, sons of Joseph Dennis Sr. Both boys were living with their parents in 1850 (per census Milam Co. Tex.) Joseph Dennis Sr's first wife may have been Icie Seitz who was Tilitha Ann Seitz Smith's aunt. Mary and William Dennis were living in Bell Co. in 1870 and 1880 near his father, and Mary's brother William M. Smith, and Leander Seitz, John O. Smith's brother-in-law. The 1870 and 1880 censuses list these children:
(8) MARGARET "MAGGIE" ANN SMITH was born in Oct 1844 and married Andrew John "Jack" Pippen. In 1870, they were living in the Willow Pond area (Burnham Precinct, Cummins Creek). Later they moved into town - Ennis. Dora Smith Cody Green remembered: "Uncle" Jack Pippen gave great balls. Aunt Maggie always wore a sun bonnet and gloves to keep her skin white." Andrew J. Pippen was a private in the 24th Texas Cavalry, CSA. After his death Sept 17, 1910, Margaret received a widow's pension. She died in 1933. The Pippens are buried in the Myrtle Cemetery in Ennis, Tex. They were the parents of these children:
Thomas Smith and his second wife Paralee Smith were the parents of:
(1) TAYLOR LEE SMITH, b. Oct 16, 1857 in Ellis Co. He is mentioned in several land transactions with his father, [Ellis County deeds]. He is mentioned in John O. Smith's letter (1896), as he was living with or near his sister Alice and her husband, Frank Garvin, near Ardmore, Indian Territory. Taylor married in Ellis Co. (1) Elizabeth A. "Lizzie" Green, (b. ca 1863; d. Jan. 2, 1892). He married (2) Minnie (Miney, Mina) Young (b. June 16, 1871 in Jacksonville, Ill.; d. Oct. 12, 1945, Holdenville, Hughes Co., Okla). Taylor died of pellegra in Holdenville, OK, May 16, 1937 Taylor and Elizabeth Smith were parents of these children:
(2) EMILY CALADONIA SMITH was born in 1860. She was included in a list of Thomas Smith's children on a deed in Ellis Co. in 1867, but she is not listed on the 1870 census. She must have died between these dates.
(3) ALICE ELIZA SMITH was born in 1861. She married Benjamin Franklin Garvin, Aug 24, 1882 in Ellis County. They moved to Indian Territory and were living near Ardmore in 1896. (Letter, John O. Smith). We contacted their grandson, Buel Garvin, in 1998 who said that the family moved to Hollis, Harmon Co., Okla.
(4) LYDIA CHRISTINE SMITH was born in 1864. She married Charley Allen, and in 1896, they had 3 daughters. (John O. Smith's letter). No more information at this time.
(5) LUCY ANN SMITH was born in 1865. She is listed on the 1870 and 1880 censuses. We have no other information.
(6) ELAM J. SMITH was born in 1869. He is listed with his father on the 1870 and 1880 census. We have no further information.
Sources of Information:
US Censuses for Warren Co. TN, and Milam, Harrison, Bell, and Ellis Co. TX;
Land Records and Court Records of Ellis Co. TX.
Land Records of Harrison Co. TX.
Marriage Records, Mecklenburg Co., NC and Ellis Co. TX.
Warren Co, TN Will Books 1-7, Vols 1 & 2, by Betty Moore Majors.
Records of Bruce Fowler (great grandson of Jesse Curlin), and of Teresa Green and Don B. Smith, great grandchildren of John O. Smith.
The Tom Smith Family
This Tom Smith may have been the son of James Smith, Thomas Willow Pond Smith's brother or nephew, who lived in the Willow pond area in 1870. This family lived where Jim BENTON now lives in Alma, Texas.
This wedding picture of the whole family was taken between 1896 and 1899. The bride was Lula Smith, who married Jeremiah P. WORSHAM. He was a doctor and they spent their life near Emhouse and Barry. Dr. Worsham's father is buried in the Alma Cemetery. The girl in the center was Elsa Smith who married Lee BAILEY of Hill County and lived near Itasca. The young couple with the baby was Ella Smith who married Ben CAVE, a carpenter, and they lived near Garrett. These girls were Tom Smith's daughters by his first wife, Molly CHANDLER. The younger children, Mary Smith who married Hugh GRIZZARD, Emmett Smith (father of Ruth ALLRED), Mildred Smith who married Avery LEGG, Loyd Smith who married Virginia SANDS (Aunt Vert), and Shelby Smith is the baby. Their youngest son is not in the picture, and since he was born February 14, 1899, we have a time frame for this picture. Shelby (the baby in the picture) was born in 1896.
[Source: Letter from Ruth Allred to Bruce Fowler, March 2, 1981.]
I have more information on Thomas Smith and his family, and welcome queries: Frances Smith
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