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John Swanson Yarbrough Archives

 

John Swanson Yarbrough, A Man About Texas

By Beth Walker
Original article was published in the Texas Genealogical Society Quarterly,
Volume 32, Number 3 in September, 1992
copyright 1992, 1999, 2001 by Beth Walker

used with permission

 

Yarbrough Bend

Founded 1858.  Named for John Swanson Yarbrough an original settler.  Town contained about 30 log "picket houses."  Settlers were often harassed by Indians, cattle, thieves, and wild animals.  Other original settlers were; Dr. George Dilworth, John Moore, James Tope, N. H. Walker, Joe Walker and Benjamin Franklin Winters.  Marker located about 4 miles east of Tilden, Texas in McMullen County on hwy 72.

 

Much has been said about the Brasada of southwest Texas and it's enormous contribution to the cattle industry. J. Frank Dobie has written about the cattle, the mustangs, the cowboys and the great cattle drives. Life on the Range and on the Trail written in 1936 by R.J. Lauderdale and John M. Doak portrays life of the pioneer on this remote frontier of Texas. My friend Joe Pate Smyer wrote the first history of McMullen County in 1952, for his M.A. Thesis at the University of Texas in Austin. McMullen County Family History was published in 1984 with each family contributing their own personal history.

Walter Prescott Webb describes this area as the cradle of the Western cattle business in his wonderful classic, The Great Plains. Another distinction he used in portrayal of this territory was the Texas Diamond. San Antonio, Old Indianola, Brownsville, and Laredo form the four points of this diamond. McMullen County in deep southwestern Texas forms the heart of this diamond shaped area. On this plains region of Texas were to be found all the essential elements of the ranch and range cattle industry. The mustang was plentiful on the open plains, offering free mounts to any who could catch and ride fairly well; the wild cattle were numerous along the river valleys, and grass in the early days was knee-high in an almost tropical climate. The rivers afforded year around water for the range animals and game was in abundance. On the northeast side of the diamond were the future cowboys who would come to this vast frontier of Texas, namely my great-grandfather, John Swanson Yarbrough.

John Swanson Yarbrough was born December 25, 1774, in the State of North Carolina. Family tradition and birth places of some of his children place him in Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri. However, the greatest bargain in American history, The Louisiana Purchase, with it's ever changing territorial names can at times puzzle a genealogist when closely examining this area. The first census listing Swanson is the 1810 of Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. Because of his many moves westward, he is missed by the census taker numerous times. Nevertheless, he is next listed on the 1830 census of Hempstead County, Arkansas. On the seventeenth day of June, 1831, he sold his farm in Arkansas, the township of Mine Creek, near the town of Ozan, to one Matthew Gray, a resident of Washington, Hempstead County, Arkansas.

Swanson entered Texas, in February, of 1832, at San Augustine, as shown on his character certificate on file at the General Land Office in Austin. The government of Mexico, in allowing the settlement of Texas by people other than its own residents, wanted to ensure that the new American settlers were of high character. This certificate lists Swanson Yarbrough as a native of North Carolina, a married man and a family of ten persons. He is described as a man of good moral habits, industrious, a good citizen and friendly to the laws and religion of the country. The GLO also holds character certificates for two sons, Joseph Randolph Yarbrough and John Swanson Yarbrough, Jr., both single.

Arriving in the State of Coahuila on the northern frontier of Mexico, prior to the Republic of Texas, Swanson Yarbrough was immediately drawn to the battles of war that gave Texas her freedom from Mexico. He settled in the Department of Nacogdoches, in the area that would later become Houston County. At Mustang Prairie, April 22, 1837, Swanson signed the petition to form Houston County from the Old Mexican Municipality of Nacogdoches.

Many thousands of acres of land were issued to Swanson Yarbrough for serving in the Texas Army. Texas is unique in that the lands issued as bounty warrants and donation certificates are carried in the names of the original grantees at the General Land Office in Austin. Therefore, tracing the land grants for Swanson Yarbrough has been fairly simple, even though his son Swanson Yarbrough,Jr. did receive grants also. Without the excellent office
personnel of Garry Mauro, this project would have been impossible -- they want to educate the people of Texas about the land because the history of Texas is largely the history of the land. This history is told in the documents of the General Land Office. No doubt arises as to why Swanson Yarbrough came to Texas.

The Battle of San Jacinto was a decisive one for Texas; it gave her the independence to have local government and to enjoy civil and religious liberty. Swanson Yarbrough was on the left flank at that decisive battle fought April 21, 1836. The Muster Rolls of the Texas Revolution list Mr. Yarbrough in the 2nd Regiment of the Texas Volunteers with Colonel Sidney Sherman, the 1st Company in command of Captain Haydon Arnold. His young sons Joseph Randolph Yarbrough, age 19, and John Swanson Yarbrough, Jr., age 17, also are listed, but did not participate in the actual battle, staying behind to guard the camp of General Sam Houstons' Army.

Due credit is not given to Swanson Yarbrough for being at the Seige of Bexar. However, an affidavit on file at the State Archives in Austin, given by Thomas S. McFarland, proves Swanson to be there. Mr. McFarland made this affidavit in 1874, and is asking the State of Texas for a pension, having served in the Army of Texas, at the Seige of Bexar. Attached to this affidavit is a list of volunteers and an estimate of their personal property, signed October 29, 1835, by Captain John English. Mr. Yarbroughs' horse, saddle, blankets and other gear have been valued at $ll5. while his implements of war are valued at $35..

An article published in the Dallas Morning News, September 20, 1935, with a human interest story on several of Swansons' grandchildren, tells an important historical event for Houston County. They stated their Grandfather, Swanson Yarbrough, was the operator of the first hotel in Crockett, Texas. These were the sons and daughters of Joseph Randolph Yarbrough, ages 73 to 93, and all very active.

The exact number of wives Swanson had is not known, but family tradition says his first wife was Elizabeth Gilbreath, while another wife is believed to have been a Coker, and a sister to his last wife, Frances Coker Tope Moore. Mr. Yarbrough married Frances in Houston County, Texas, about 1845. She had children of her own by previous marriages to Mr. Tope and Mr. Moore, both of these marriages in Arkansas before 1842. Her known children were Mary Ann "Polly" Tope, born Arkansas, circa 1838, married first, Albert Garthredge in Gonzales County, Texas, April 26, 1851, and secondly, Thomas Ellwood Wright, in Live Oak County, Texas, February 14, 1867. James Henry Tope, born Arkansas, February 22, 1840, married Dorcas Salina Winters, in Live Oak County, Texas, in 1868. The other known son of Frances, was John M. Moore, born Arkansas, March 1842, and married Rhoda Ellen Winters in Live Oak County, Texas, October 24, 1865.

The early settlers of Texas seemed to be on the move constantly, seeking new lands on the frontier. Mr. Yarbrough was no exception to this rule, appearing on land documents of the following counties; Shelby, Nacogdoches, Anderson, Grimes, Houston, Gonzales, Atascosa, Live Oak, San Patricio, and McMullen. His name has been spelled various ways in these documents; Yarbrow, Yarborough, Yarber, Yarberry, Yawberry, but he always signed it as Swanson Yarbrough.

In Gonzales County, Mr. Yarbrough is listed as the administrator of the Estate of John Castleman. Mr. Castleman has become famous in Texas history because the "Massacre of The Peddlers" took place on his ranch on the Sandies Creek in Gonzales County, in the spring of 1835. Swanson Yarbrough moved from Rancho, Gonzales County, Texas, in time to help organize Atascosa County in 1856.

In the spring of 1858, John Swanson Yarbrough led a small group of settlers to a bend of the Frio River in present day McMullen County, and established that county's first settlement. This settlement was called Yarbrough Bend, but never became an actual town, consisting only of about ten cabins and approximately thirty people. The settlers began to utilize free land and convert wild cattle and mustangs into private property. The early settler of McMullen County built his herd from these Spanish descendants, later to be called the Texas Longhorn. He caught the mustang and began to chase the cattle on horseback, creating the Texas "Cowboy". Yarbrough Bend was the frontier of Texas in 1858, there being no settlements between here and Laredo.

On October 20, 1862, as family tradition goes, John Swanson Yarbrough was shot and killed in his corral by a horse trader, over a horse trade that seems to have gone sour. He was buried at Yarbrough Bend, a few hundred yards from the bend of the river that was named for him. He was described as a robust red-head with a temper to match, but 88 years for him to live in those days proves the toughness of the early settlers of Texas. His wife, Frances Yarbrough, died of an unknown illness at Ft. Ewell in 1868, while helping with the birth of a child. She was brought back to Yarbrough Bend and buried next to Swanson in the little family cemetery on the Rio Frio. Frances was known through-out the country side of this brushy area of Texas, as an excellent nurse and midwife. She taught my grandmother, Amanda Arminda Yarbrough Walker, many of these early skills needed on the Texas frontier for survival. Amanda Yarbrough married another early settler of Yarbrough Bend, Joseph W. Walker.

The United States Department of Reclamation, when building Choke Canyon Dam over the Frio River, removed the graves from Yarbrough Bend Cemetery to Hilltop Cemetery in Tilden, the McMullen County seat. I witnessed a part of this project, realizing these were the remains of my ancestors, and I knew very little about their lives, who they really were or where they came from. I have always been a student of Texas history and a sometime genealogist, but this project has enlightened my soul to genealogy. I have begun a search to know them better, knowing that a part of them lives within me. I must make their history known to others, so that they may be known for their part in the settlement and freedom of Texas.

The known children of John Swanson Yarbrough and his wives include:

I. Joseph Randolph Yarbrough born January 31, 1817, Louisiana, married March 3, 1840, Crockett, Houston Co., TX. Phoebe Clementine Crawford, died March 26, 1867, buried near Grapeland, in Houston Co.,TX. Texas Historical Marker.

II. John Swanson Yarbrough, Jr. born March 27, 1819, Arkansas, married April 22,1841, Mary Rose Rounds, in Clark Co.,Ark., died February 9, 1849, from injuries falling from a horse.

III. Lucinda Jane Yarbrough, born June 1, 1821, Arkansas, married ca. 1837, Houston Co. TX., John Andrew Box. She died November 7, 1892 , Lillian, Johnson Co., TX.

IV. Ervin W. Yarbrough born about 1823 in Arkansas.

V. Mariah Yarbrough, b January 10, 1826, Hempstead Co., Ark., married February 27, 1841, Houston Co., TX., Clayton Daniel Skidmore, died March 3, 1907, Hopkins Co., TX.

VI. Alfred F. Yarbrough, born October 14, 1828, Hempstead Co., Ark., married July 19, 1857, Atascosa Co., TX., Caroline Ethyl Dodd, died November 13, 1903, Big Foot, Frio Co.,TX. (After the death of Caroline, Alfred married later Harriet Neatherlin, September 27, 1883, in Frio County, TX.)

VII. Martha Yarbrough, born April 14, 1831, Hempstead Co., Ark., married Houston Co., TX., Samuel Callison, died June 9. 1903, near Leesville, Gonzales Co.,Tx.

VII. David Yarbrough born about 1832 in Texas married November 11, 1860 Atascosa County, TX, Rebecca Jones, died 1863, McMullen County, TX.

VIII. Elizabeth Yarbrough born about 1834 in Texas.

IV. Cynthia Ann Yarbrough, born about 1837 in Texas, married January 26, 1853, Gonzales County, TX John McAlister Dunn, died about 1880, McMullen County, TX

X. Lorenzo Dow Yarbrough, born January 1840, Crockett, Houston Co., TX., married November 30, 1863, Oakville, Live Oak Co., TX., Nancy Parilee White, died January 5, 1907, Cotulla, La Salle Co., Tx.

XI. Amanda Arminda Yarbrough, born October 20, 1846, Crockett, Houston Co., TX., married May 2,1864, Pleasanton, Atascosa Co., TX., Joseph W. Walker, died December 20, 1929, Christine, Atascosa Co., TX. (Amanda was the only child of Swanson Yarbrough and his last wife, Frances Coker Tope Moore.)

All of the children cannot be accounted for at the present time, as Mr. Yarbrough had nine when he entered Texas in 1832. There are many avenues still to be searched, but that day of destiny, September 20, 1982, when I saw the archaeologists excavate my ancestors' burial site will drive my desire to complete this search to the end.

MuMullen County is still a frontier today, with miles of brush country laid out on rolling hills. Here lies the dream of the Western man, who had a hunger for empty spaces; it represents my liberty and my pursuit of happiness. I am a part of this beautiful land.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abstract of Land Certificates of the General Land Office. Austin: General Land Office.

Aldrich, Armistead Albert, The History of Houston County, Texas. San Antonio: The Naylor Company, 1943.

Billington, Ray Allen, Westward Expansion. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1949.

Dale, Edward Everett, The Range Cattle Industry, Ranching on The Great Plains from 1865 to 1925. Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1930.

Daughters of The Republic of Texas, Muster Rolls of The Texas Revolution. Lubbock: Craftsman Printers, 1986.

Hollon, W. Eugene, William Bollaert's Texas. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1956.

Lauderdale, R.J. and Doak, John M., Life on The Range and on The Trail. San Antonio: Naylor Publishing Co., 1936.

McMullen County Historical Society, McMullen County History. Privately published, 1984.

Miller, Thomas Lloyd, Bounty and Donation Land Grants of Texas, 1835-1888. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967.

Pohl, James W., The Battle of San Jacinto. Texas State Historical Association, 1989.

Smyer, Joe Pate, A History of McMullen County, Texas. Austin: Unpublished M.A. Thesis, University of Texas, 1952.

Sowell, A.J., Texas Indian Fighters. Austin: Ben C. Jones and Co., Printers, 1900.

Walker, Joseph W., Day Book of Joe Walker, Dogtown, Texas 1869.

Webb, Walter Prescott, The Great Plains. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1981.

copyright 1992, 1999, 2001 by Beth Walker, Great-grand-daugher of Swanson Yarbrough.

The use of John Swanson Yarbrough, A Man About Texas for my web site was granted to me by Beth Walker. This article is copyrighted and may not be used without the written consent of the author. Many Thanks go to Beth for allowing me to use her story and for updating the known children of John Swanson Yarbrough in April 1999 and again in March 2001.

Renee's Note: Since this article was published in 1992 it is now known that Swanson Yarbrough's second known wife is named Cynthia and her nickname was "Sinthy or Sintha." A grand-daughter, Amanda Dunn Cude, records in her notes that Sintha and Swanson married about 1826. In 1999 a 1835 Municipality of Teneha Census was found that records the names of Swanson and his family. This census lists Cynthe as his wife and two new children not previously known; Erin W. and Elizabeth. This census also proves that David was a child of Swanson Yarbrough as up until then David was only strongly suspected to be a son of Swanson. Teneha is now a town that is in Shelby County, Texas in the eastern part of the state bodering Louisiana.

 

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This page was last updated on June 18, 2001

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