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The Life and Times of John Swanson Yarbrough
 copyright © 2001, 2005 by Renee Pierce Smelley


John Swanson Yarbrough was born December 25, 1777, according to his son Joseph Randolph Yarbrough's Family Bible, in the state of North Carolina as his Character Certificate states.  He was known as Swanson to his family and friends, but not much is known about Swanson before he entered the State of Cohuila on the Northern frontier of Mexico in February 1832, just prior to the Republic of Texas. We only have small bits of information before 1832, to which nothing contains anything conclusive about Swanson's parents or his siblings.  I think Karen Mazock said it best when she referred to John Swanson Yarbrough as being a "spontaneous generation," meaning that he seams to appear from out of nowhere without any ancestry.  Swanson could read and write and appears to have signed his name as Swanson Yarbrough on all the documents that have been found requiring his signature.

In 1810 Swanson shows up on the Ouachita Parish, Louisiana Census.  Swanson is listed as head of the household in Ouachita Parish, but it is not known whom the females, 1 age 16-26 and 2 under age 10, are that are living with him during this time.  Also recorded is 1 other free person living in the household.  It is thought that the girl age 16-26 may be an earlier marriage for Swanson Yarbrough, before Elizabeth Galbreath, but to date nothing at all is known about this early family.  It appears that Swanson has been in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana as early as 1806 where he was a witness to a marriage contract between John Williams and July Roy.

In 1804 The Louisiana Territory was divided into two parts and the southern part of the territory was known as the Territory of Orleans.  The Territory of Orleans is what we know now as the present state of Louisiana.  In working on a timeline research showed that in 1805 the Counties of the Territory of Orleans were set up by the Territorial Legislature. The counties were later renamed parishes, because the boundaries match the ecclesiastical parishes of the Catholic Church, thus the Church parishes became the units of local government in the territory of Orleans.

"Family Tradition" says that Swanson first married Elizabeth Galbreath, (or a variant spelling of the surname) probably about 1815 from estimation with the birth of Joseph Randolph Yarbrough.  The name Elizabeth Galbreath comes from Joseph Randolph's family, which is recorded in the notes of Betty Moore another J.S.Y. family researcher.  There has been no record of the marriage between Swanson and Elizabeth found to date.   Their first known child, Joseph Randolph Yarbrough, was born on January 31, 1817.  Joseph's birth date was recorded in Joseph Randolph's family Bible and it is thought that Joseph was born in Louisiana since he always used Louisiana as his birthplace on census.  According to Joseph Randolph's family Bible John Swanson Yarbrough, Jr. was born on March 27, 1819, and died February 9, 1849.  It is also believed that Swanson, Jr. was born in Louisiana.

The earliest record found for Swanson is circa 1811 Missouri Territory (St. Genevieve District) where he and David Yarbrough claimed title to land, but the information on Swanson is limited. Testimony regarding David indicates that there is a land dispute and David was living in the area by the fall of 1802 before the land was surveyed in 1806.  It is believed that there is a close relationship between Swanson and David, but it is not known how they are related.  It is very likely that this David is a brother of Swanson since records indicate they are in the same age range.  David Yarbrough was born about 1774 in North Carolina, as the 1850 Desha County, Arkansas census records found show.  Both Swanson and David were denied the land in St. Genevieve in 1811.

Swanson appears in the Early Settlers of Arkansas County in 1814 -1816 where it says Swanson Yarberry was there in 1816.  This information is taken from tax records and other early records of the county.  In 1816 Arkansas County was a district in Missouri Territory.  The Arkansas District was very large taking up 1/3 of what we know now as the state of Arkansas.

By 1819 Arkansas had become it's own territory and also included most of what we know today as the State of Oklahoma.  It appears that by 1820  the family has moved into Clark County in Arkansas Territory.  Swanson was recorded in the "Reconstructed" 1820 census that was taken from county tax records.  Lucinda Jane Yarbrough was born June 1, 1821 in presumably Clark County.  According to the 1835 Municipality of Tenehah Census their next child was Ervin W. born about 1823, probably in Clark County as well.  It is not known what happened to Ervin W. after 1835.

In the Clark County, Arkansas Circuit Court August Term in 1822 Swanson filed suit against Conrad Huttzman on July 3, 1822 for an action of Debt founded on Notes in writing.  These promissary notes were written back in 1811 Ouachita Parish, Louisiana.

"Swanson Yarbrough by Sam C. Roane his attorney complains of Conrad Huttsman of a plea that he render unto the said Swanson Yarbrough the Sum of five hundred and forty one Dollars and sixty six and two third cents Lawful money of the United States which to the said Swanson Yarbrough the the said Conrad Huttsman owes and from him unjustly detains-"

"the notes in question were executed at the Post of Ouachitas in Louisiana and that the defendant (Conrad Huttzman) left that Country within some short time after the Execution of said notes & removed to this Territory that the Plaintiff (Swanson Yarbrough) commenced his suit in this Territory as soon after his learning to the same as he had fairly acertained where the defendent was"

A account taken from the 1824 Clark County, Arkansas Circuit Court Records reveal that John Bolt on October 1, 1822 stole a hog from Swanson Yarbrough, but Swanson's name was crossed out on the document and Jessee Yarbrough's name was entered, thus the hog had actually been stolen from Jessee Yarbrough.  It is probably this same Jessee Yarbrough and a Middleton Yarbrough that were living in the Warmspring Township of Clark County, Arkansas in 1829 according to a Sheriffs Census.  Jessee was recorded as age 45 and upwards putting him born before 1784 and Middleton was recorded age 21 - 45 putting his birth from 1784 to 1808.  It is very possible that Jessee Yarbrough was a brother to Swanson Yarbrough also.  The time span for Middleton Yarbrough is to wide to say that he could be a brother to Swanson.  It is apparent, though, that Jessee Yarbrough and Swanson Yarbrough were associated with one another when they were both named in the hog incident.
Mariah C. Yarbrough was born on February 10, 1826 in Arkansas Territory and Alfred Yarbrough was born on October 14, 1828.  It is possible that Alfred was born in Hempstead County where Swanson paid county and territory taxes in 1829.  At some point during the mid to late 1820s it is assumed that Swanson's wife Elizabeth has died. This poses a problem not knowing when this occurred because of the closeness in ages between the children.  It is hard to decipher exactly what children belong to Elizabeth, and what children belong to Cynthia.  No marriage record has been found for Swanson and Cynthia either.  The only date we have to go by are recorded in notes written by Amanda Dunn Cude, a granddaughter of Swanson and Cynthia Yarbrough.  She notes "Sintha and John Swanson Yarbrugh married about 1826".  I believe that both Mariah and Alfred could be possible children of Cynthia and Swanson because of their date of births in relation to Amanda Dunn Cude's marriage notes for Sintha and Swanson.

By 1830 Swanson was listed on the census as living in Hope Township in Hempstead County, Arkansas Territory.  In 1829, 1830 and 1831 Swanson paid county and territory taxes in Hempstead County.  Martha C. Yarbrough was born on April 14, 1831 in Arkansas Territory presumably in Hempstead County.

In Hempstead County in 1829 and 1831 from The Inventory of the estate of Absalom Mading these promissary notes are recorded in Administrative Book G.  On January 2, 1829 Swanson makes a promise to pay David Gentman $66.00 in good merchantable seed cotton delivered in John Hughs Gin for value recorded on or before December 5.  Swanson makes a note of promise on October 13, 1831 to pay A. Mading $35.30 on or before December 30, which may be discharged in cotton delivered in Mading Gin for value recorded.

On June 17, 1831 Swanson Yarbrough sold his property in the township of Mine Creek, Hempstead County in Arkansas Territory near the town of Ozan to Matthew Gray for $260.50 cents.  This property had been improved and crops were growing there.  After selling his property the family makes a move to the Northern Frontier of Mexico where Mexico is promissing settlers land grants.

Swanson and his family, consisting of ten persons, arrived in February 1832 in the State of Cohuila on the Northern frontier of Mexico, as his Character Certificate dated August 18, 1835 states, just prior to the Republic of Texas.  Because the Mexican Government wanted only upstanding citizens entering the territory, they required Character Certificates.  Joseph Randolph and Swanson, Jr. also received Character Certificates.

During the early 1820s until about the 1830 time period Mexico was wanting to populate the Northern Frontier of Mexico, but they were having problems getting their own citizens to move into this untamed frontier, so they sent out scouts promising free land to settle.  Swanson Yarbrough may have been one of those persons that came believing that he would be granted land from Mexico.  Swanson had received a land grant from Mexico in 1835, in the District of Nacogdoches, but about the time Swanson arrived relations between the Texans and Mexico reached a new low when Mexico forbid further emigration into Texas by settlers from the United States, so Swanson never received his land grant from Mexico.  During this time growing dissatisfaction among the settlements with the policies of the government in Mexico City would soon lead to the Texas war for Independence from Mexico.

Swanson is first known to be living in what was known as the Municipality of Tenehaw in 1835  where circa 1834/1835 a petition was put together requesting a Ayuntamiento to which Swanson Yarbrough signs.   This petition states that the District has reached more than a thousand inhabitants and they are entitled to a Ayuntamiento.  Basically, a ayuntamiento was the principle governing body of Spanish municipalities.  A municipality was set up like towns are generally set up today.  Circa 1835 a Ayuntamiento was granted and Tenehaw District became the Municipality of Tenehaw.  Tenaha is a town today, now located in what is present-day Shelby County, Texas.

The 1835 census shows that David Yarbrough was born circa 1832.  On the 1850 Medina County, Texas Census, the only other known census with David listed, records David having been born in Texas.  Alfred is also listed on this census under David and they are volunteers in the Texas Ranger Forces.  17 yeaars later David is listed on a July 1867 Voters Registration in Atascosa County, Texas as being a Native of Arkansas.   Another daughter, Elizabeth Yarbrough was born circa 1834 according to the Municipality of Tenehaw census, but nothing more is kown about her.

It should be noted that the 1835 Municipality of Tenehaw Census was found just before Christmas in 1999.  What a great Christmas present for us Swanson Yarbrough researchers.  This census is the first census found to date that records Swanson's family, listing his wife's name, and the names of his children.  Swanson is listed as Swanson Yarberry, and this census introduces Cinthe, his wife.  Her name was previously not known, and it is my assumption that her name was Cynthia and her nickname was Cinthy, since Swanson and Cynthia had a daughter named Cynthia Ann Yarbrough.  It also shows that David Yarbrough is the son of Swanson, which has long been suspected, but not until now proven.  Ervin W. and Elizabeth were children that researchers had never heard of before until now.  This census also says that Swanson Yarbrough is Catholic.  In those days it was a requirement that anyone entering the Territory had to be Catholic or promise to convert.
It should also be noted that a Josiah Samuel Yarbrough, thought to have been born in the late 1820s or early 1830s, does not show up on the 1835 census.  This is also important for the Swanson Yarbrough researchers, since a younger Josiah Samuel Yarbrough born about 1856 was thought to have a father also named Josiah Samuel Yarbrough, that some have said was the son of John Swanson Yarbrough, Sr.  I think the confusion about this Josiah born about 1856 lies with his death certificate.  This death certificate states that his parents were Joe Yarbrough and Polly Brummett.  I have not been able to locate a Joe, Josiah or Polly Brummet in Texas that could be the parents of Josiah Samuel born 1856.  Polly was often used as a nickname for Mary Ann and there are Brummit families in the Atascosa County area, but researchers of the Brummit family can't place this Polly or a Mary Ann Brummit in their family.

Buried near Alfred Yarbrough (born 1828) in the Longview Cemetery in Big Foot, Texas, County of Frio is buried Josiah Samuel Yarbrough born February 12, 1897 and died August 20, 1958.  This Josiah (born 1897) is the son of Josiah born about 1856.  Beth Walker has visited the cemetery and believes she remembers that Alfred and Josiah (born 1897) are buried next to or very near to each other.

The 1880 the Medina County, Texas Census shows Alfred and Josiah Samuel (born 1856) living next to each other in this county.  On the 1900 LaSalle County, Texas Census, Josiah Samuel (born 1856) and his family are living in the county as well as Joe and William Yarbrough and their families, both sons of Alfred Yarbrough.  In my opinion, I think that the Josiah Samuel Yarbrough born about 1856 is very likely the son of Alfred Yarbrough, at least this is my theory. In any case, if there was a son of John Swanson Yarbrough named Josiah Samuel Yarbrough, he would have been born after the 1835 Municipality of Tenehaw Census and was as elusive to the census taker as Swanson Yarbrough was.

In December of 1835 Swanson Yarbrough fought at the Siege of Bexar.  We find mention of this on a affidavit in 1874 given by Thomas S. McFarland who is requesting a pension from the State of Texas for having served in the Texas Army.  Attached to this affidavit is a list of volunteers serving under Captain John English dated October 29, 1835.  It should be noted that many men by the name of English signed the Ayuntamiento Petition for Tenehaw.  This list of volunteers includes an estimate of their personal property.  Swanson's horse, saddle, blankets and other gear have been valued at $ll5.00 while his implements of war are valued at $35.00.  On December 9, 1835, after four days of battle a truce was called and the Texans gained all the public property, guns and ammunition in San Antonio.
On March 2, 1836 members of the Convention of 1836 signed the Texas Declaration of Independence and a month later Texas declared her independence from Mexico.  In April 1836 Swanson and his two eldest son's, Joseph Randolph and Swanson, Jr., help fight for the independence of Texas at the Battle of San Jacinto.  The name Swanson Yarbrough appears on the muster roll of Col. Sherman's Command, 2nd Regiment, Texas Volunteers under Captain Hayden Arnold.  Another muster roll shows the names Randolph Yarbrough and Swanson Yarbrough under Captain Hayden Arnold's Co. Volunteers to May 5th, 1836.  You can't distinguish between the two Swanson's on these muster rolls, but they both received land for having served at San Jacinto, as well as Joseph Randolph.  In Beth Walker's, John Swanson Yarbrough, A Man About Texas, she says that both Randolph and Swanson, Jr. stayed behind during the actual battle to guard the camp of General Sam Houston.  It is assumed they were left behind because of their young ages.  Joseph Randolph had just turned 19 in January and Swanson, Jr. had just turned 17 in March.

On April 21, 1836, Texans under Sam Houston routed the Mexican forces under Santa Anna at the battle of San Jacinto in one of the most decisive battles in Texas History.  Texas claims her Independence and becomes the Republic of Texas.  Texas remains a Republic for more than 9 years and then on December 29, 1845, United States President James Polk signed legislation making Texas the 28th state of the United States. On April 25, 1846, Texas was again at war with Mexico over claims to the boundary of Texas.  The outcome of this war set the Rio Grande River as Texas' boundary between Texas and Mexico. Today Texas is about 50 percent smaller than it was in its early statehood.  Texas claimed parts of the present states of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming.  In the Compromise of 1850, Texas gave these areas to the United States in exchange for payment of 10 million dollars to help pay her pre-statehood debts that were owed.  The Pierce plan was adopted on September 9, 1850 from among three other plans, thus giving Texas the known boundaries that exist today.

On March 24, 1837 Swanson sells two thirds of a League and one labor of land to Isom Parmer for One thousand dollars.  The document states that Swanson is entitledto this land as a Resident Citizen
of Texas and head of a family at the date of the Declaration of Independence.  At the time this land was sold Swanson had only received one third of a league of land.  This land that is being sold has also not been located yet, but Swanson is giving Isom Parmer permission to locate and patent this land.   Swanson, however, is not the signer of this document.   It appears that the writer of this document has signed Swanson's name.  I do, however, believe that this is Swanson, Sr. and not Swanson, Jr.  Swanson, Jr. is believed not to have been married until 1841, so it is also assumed that Swanson Jr. doesn't have a family at this time.

Records show that on April 22, 1837 Swanson Yarbrough is among the signers of the petition to form Houston County from Nacogdoches.  Houston County is the first county formed after Texas becomes a Republic, and was named for General Sam Houston.  On September 4, 1837 Swanson signs another petition with a Complaint against the Tariff & Ad Valorem tax law.  Swanson Yarbrough is granted a Donation Land Certificate dated November 26, 1837 for paticipation in the Battle of San Jacinto, but it is not approved until 1854.

Circa 1837/1838 Swanson and Cynthia have another daughter, Cynthia Ann Yarbrough.  Cynthia Ann is possibly born in the newly formed Houston County, Texas.  In January 1840 my great great-grandfather, Lorenzo Dow Yarbrough, is born in Houston County, Texas.  The 1900 La Salle County, Texas Census is the only record I have found to date that records Dow's month and year of birth.

Sometime after the birth of Dow Yarbrough, or a few short years after, Swanson's wife Cynthia disappears.  It is presumed that she has died, but it is not known what exactly happened to Cynthia.  Cynthia is not listed in the Houston County Cemetery book and her grave has not been located, but it is assumed that she is buried in Houston County.  There is also no record of Ervin W. and Elizabeth after 1835.

Circa 1844/1845 Swanson marries for the third known time to Frances, and as usual no marriage record for Frances and Swanson has been found.  It is believed that they married in Houston County, but the courhouse burned in the 1800s and all early records were destroyed.

"Family Tradition" has it that Frances' maiden name is Coker and she is the sister to Cynthia, Swanson's second known wife.  "Family Tradition" also says that Lorenzo Dow greeted Frances with the words, "Why hello, Aunt Fannie," from the front porch when Swanson brought Frances home.  It is also possible that Frances and Cynthia were not related since "Aunt" may have been used as a term of endearment or to show respect to Frances since she was married to the children's father.

I have located a Coker family in the Clark and Pike Counties area in Arkansas.  A Martha "Marthy" Coker is listed on the 1830 Clark County and 1840 Pike County census, but I was not able to lacate a Coker family in tax records for 1820.  I assume that this Coker family may have arrived in this area of Arkansa between 1820 and 1830.  There are also some recorded Coker marriage in Clark and Hempstead counties during the 1830s and 1840s and census also shows a Lydia Coker, probably a daughter n law of Martha, living in the same area.  I have found that later some of these Cokers ended up in Wood and Hunt Counties in Texas.

1830 Clark County
Martha Coker
1 male 5-9 years
2 males 15-19 years
1 female 15-19 years (born 1811 - 1815)
1 female 40-49 years (born between 1781 - 1790)

1840 Pike County
16    Lydia          Coker
1 male 5-10 years
2 females 0-5 years
1 female 20-30 years (b 1810 - 1820)

 19    Marthy         Coker
1 male 0-5 years (1845 - 1840 son of 20-30 year old female?)
1 male 20-30 years (1810 - 1820 possible husband of 20-30 female?)
1 female 0-5 years (1845 - 1840 possible daughter of 20-30 female?)
1 female 20-30 years (1810 - 1820)
1 female 70-80 years (Marthy Coker)

By 1850 Martha Coker is not found on the census, but Lydia Coker is recorded on census up through 1850 and 1860 in Pike County.  I think that her maiden name is Davis and she may have stayed in the area with her Davis family after the other Coker families moved to Texas.

Frances brought with her three young children into her and Swanson's new marriage.  Her first two children were Mary Ann "Polly" Tope, born about 1838 in Arkansas Territory and James Henry Tope, born February 22, 1840 in Arkansas Territory.  Her third child is John M. Moore, born March 1842 in Arkansas Territory.  To date the first names of Frances' previous husbands are still unknown.

On October 20, 1846 in Houston County, Texas Swanson and Frances have a daughter named Amanda Arminda "Mandy" Yarbrough.  This is the last child born to Swanson and the only child that Swanson and Frances have together.

In 1850 Swanson Yarbrough is appointed by the Houston County Court executor to the estate of John K. Castleman in Gonzales County, Texas.  Swanson sold the estate of John Castleman at the Courthouse in Gonzales County and three months later bought the property back. What the connection is between John Castleman and Swanson Yarbrough is not known.

John Castleman  was born circa 1786 in Davidson Co., Tennessee and married Sarah Unknown.  From hand copied records that I have received, they may have been living in Texas by 1828 when property was granted to John Castleman from Mexico.  Some have speculated that Sarah may be a child of Swanson Yarbrough, and that Sarah could possibly be one of the young girls listed with Swanson on the 1810 Ouachita Parish, Louisiana Census.  To date, the Castleman researchers that I have found, do not know Sarah's maiden name.

Elizabeth Castleman, a daughter of John Castleman,  is thought to have been born between 1810 and 1816 in Tennessee.  This is a estimation from Elizabeth's marriage date to John McCoy.  Elizabeth married John on March 15, 1830 in DeWitt Colony.

John Castleman and Sarah's 1st known child is James Castleman who was born about 1827 in Missouri.  I think that it is possible, since the span of ages between Elizabeth Castleman and James Castleman is more than 10 years, Elizabeth could be the daughter of John Castleman and a previous marriage.  It is also likely that John's wife Sarah is much younger than John.

Asa Castleman, a Castleman Researcher, who has collected many documents on Castlemans in Texas has reason to believe that John Castleman died in Houston County, but Beth says that John's probate records are in Gonzales County.  I have seen a few speculations about the connection between John Castleman, and Swanson Yarbrough made by other researchers, but nothing remains conclusive about the relationship between these two men to prove what, if any, family relationship there was between them.

Swanson's family makes another move to Gonzales County, Texas circa 1849 to live after Swanson buys the property of John Castleman.  Swanson leaves behind several of his grown children that have married and have families now of their own.
The children of Swanson that have already married are listed as follows:
Joseph Randolph Yarbrough married February 3, 1840 in Houston County, Texas to Phebe Clementine Crawford.  This marriage date is recorded in Joseph and Phebe's family Bible.  Joseph and Phebe raise their family in Houston County where many of their descendants still live today.  We do know that for a short time the 1840s the family moved to Louisiana, as their daughter, Mary Texana, was born on January 18, 1846 in Louisina. Joseph died on March 26, 1867 and Phebe died in 1902 and both are buried in the Grapeland City Cemetery in Houston County.

John Swanson Yarbrough, deceased on February 9, 1849, was married on April 22, 1841 in Clark County, Arkansas to Mary H. Rose Rounds.  Swanson, Jr. and Mary had no children.  Mary was the widow and only heir of Swanson Jr., when on April 11, 1851  in Harris County, Texas she sold her husband's Republic of Texas Debt Claim to Charles J. Grainger.  Swanson Jr., and Mary have never been found on census to date and nothing is known about the burial location or what happened to Mary after Swanson Jr.'s death.

Lucinda Jane Yarbrough married about 1837 in Houston County, Texas to John Andrew Box.  John and Lucinda raised their family in Houston County.  John died on August 02, 1874 and is buried in the Box Beeson Cemetery in Houston County.  In later years Lucinda moved to Johnson County and died there on November 7, 1892 and is buried in the Pleasant Point Cemetery in Lillian, Texas.

Mariah C. Yarbrough married February 27, 1841 in Houston Co., Texas to Clayton Daniel Skidmore.  Clayton and Mariah raised their family in the Houston County area.  Many of the Skidmore descendants still live in the area today.  Clayton died on April 18, 1879 and is buried in the Denson Cemetery in Grapeland, Texas.  In later years Mariah moved to Hopkins County and she died there on March 04, 1907 and is buried in the Nelta Cemetery in Nelta, Texas.

Martha C. Yarbrough married Samuel C. Callison about 1847 in Houston County, Texas, but by 1851 the Callison Family is living in Gonzales County when their third child Robert Callison is born.  Samuel and Martha raise their family and live out thier lives in Gonzales County.  Samuel died Bet. 1862 - 1870 and is buried in the Sandies Chapel Cemetery in Dewville, Texas.  Martha died on June 09, 1905 and is buried in the Leesville Cemetery in Leesville, Texas.

In 1855 Swanson has 4 children attending school in Gonzales County.  I presume these children to be Lorenzo Dow Yarbrough born 1840, James Tope born 1840, John Moore born 1842 and "Mandy" Yarbrough born 1846.  While in Gonzales County, Mary Ann "Polly" Tope married Albert Garthredge on April 26, 1851.

Cynthia Ann Yarbrough married on February 18, 1854 to John MacAlister Dunn in Gonzales County, Texas..  By the late 1870s the Dunn family was living in McMullen County. It is believed that Cynthia died circa 1880/1881 and was buried in Tilden, Texas, but without a headstone.  She may have been buried in the Yarbrough Family Cemetery at Yarbrough Bend or possibly in the Hill Top Cemetery in Tilden, Texas.  On the 1880 McMullen County census the Dunn children are living in the home of their oldest sister, Mary J. Shellay/Shelling.  John and Cynthia have not been found on the 1880 census.  They were possibly living in McMullen County and perhaps missed by the census taker, as many seem to have been missed in McMullen County that census year.  Their son Benjamin Franklin was not recorded with the children, but it is possible that he has already married, as Nancy Elizabeth was married on June 28, 1877 to Oran Winters in McMullen County.  John died in 1903 and is buried in the Hairston Cemetery in Burnet County, Texas.

By 1856 Swanson's family has moved into what was about to become Atascosa County, Texas in time for Swanson to sign the petition to form the county.  They lived in Atascosa County for about two years before moving to the newly formed McMullen County.   While living in Atascosa County, Alfred Yarbrough married on July 19, 1857 to his first wife Caroline Ethyl Dodd.  Records also show that a Caroline Yarberry married on February 12, 1857 to James Wimberly.  Caroline is possibly another child of Swanson, but to date nothing is known about Caroline or James.  They have yet to be found on later census.  Perhaps this is actually, Elizabeth born about 1834 or possibly another daughter born between 1835 and 1840.

Circa 1858 Swanson and his family, with about 30 other families move into McMullen County, Texas.  South of San Antonio was the last frontier of Texas, open land yet to be settled, still wild and untamed.  The longhorn and mustang roamed free here, this was ranch land, and Swanson went to round up these wild animals and make a living at ranching. These 30 families formed the first settlement of McMullen County called Yarbrough Bend, named after Swanson.  They were squatters, and they settled on the bend of the Frio Rio, located near the present-day town of Tilden, Texas and Oakville in Live Oak County.  In its early days Tilden, the county seat of McMullen, was known as Dogtown.  In 1871 a county court named the settlement Colfax, but the citizens still referred to the town as Dogtown.  Then in 1877, upon organization of the county government, the Commissioners Court changed Dogtown's name to Tilden.

On November 11, 1860 David Yarbrough married in Atascosa County, to Rebecca Jones and their daughter Kiziah was born in November 1861.  This marriage eneded with the death of Rebecca on May 03, 1862.  Rebecca was buried in the Brummett Cemetery in Frio County, Texas.  David enters the Civil War and is found on the muster rolls for Company K of the 2nd Texas Calvary.  On December 19, 1865 in Atascosa County David marries Mary Ann Anderson.  David and Mary have one child, David Melvin Yarbrough, born on March 23, 1869.  Mary shows up on the 1870 Atascosa County census with their son, but David is not found.  It is presumed that David died between Bet. 1868 - June 13 1870 when the Atascosa County census was enumerated.  In 1870 Kiziah Yarbrough is living in the household of  her aunt, Sarah Jones Taylor, in Frio County, Texas.

"Family Tradition" has it that on October 20, 1862, Mandy's birthdate, Swanson and a horse trader named Engate were in a dispute over a horse when Swanson was shot and killed in his corral, apparently, over a horse deal or trade that went sour.  Swanson was buried in the family cemetery at Yarbrough Bend and his headstone  shows that he died at the age of 88 years.  This would put Swanson's birth year in 1774.  Joseph Randolph's family Bible records Swanson's death date on October 25, 1862.

On November 30, 1863 Lorenzo Dow Yarbrough, while on furlough from service in the Civil War, married Nancy White in Oakville, Live Oak County, Texas.  Dow and Nancy and their family remain in McMullen County until the late 1880s.  They later move into neighboring La Salle County.  Dow died on January 05, 1907 and is buried in the Old Cotulla Cemetery in Cotulla, Texas.  Nancy died on February 12, 1931 in Fowlerton, Texas and is also buried in the Old Cotulla Cemetery, but without a headstone.  It is believed that Nancy is buried in one of the unmarked graves by Dow.  Cemetery records do show that she is buried in the cemetery.

Amanda Arminda "Mandy" Yarbrough and Joseph W. Walker were married on May 2, 1864 in Pleasanton, Atascosa County, Texas by the Justice of the Peace late in the evening or in the early morning hours.  Agains her mother's wishes, Mandy ran off after dark with Joseph W. Walker and eloped.  Joseph, a widower 46 years of age and already the father of seven children from his previous marriage to Mary Walker, has children ranging in ages from 4 to 20 years.  Joseph Walker is an original settler at Yarbrough Bend and it is believed that Swanson Yarbrough and the Walker family, to which Joseph Walker belongs, may have known each other for quite some time.  The Walker family is also found to be living in Shelby Co., Texas during the time Swanson and his family were living there in 1835.  Joseph and Mandy raised their family in McMullen County and many of their descendants still live there today.  Joseph died on June 18, 1888 and is buried in the Hill Top Cemetery, Tilden McMullen County, Texas.  Mandy died on December 20, 1929 in Christine, Atascosa County, Texas and is buried beside her husband in the Hill Top Cemetery.

On October 24, 1865 John M. Moore married Rhoda Ellen Winters in Oakville, Live Oak County, Texas.  Mary Ann "Polly" Tope married again on February 14, 1867 to Thomas Elwood Wright in Oakville, Live Oak County, Texas.  Thomas Wright is Nancy White Yarbrough's  uncle.  James Henry Tope married on May 7, 1868 in Oakville, Live Oak County, Texas to Dorcas Salina Winters.  Dorcas Salina and Rhoda Ellen Winters are both daughters of Benjamin Franklin and Sylvania Adeline Cude Winters, original settlers at Yarbrough Bend.

 On October 18, 1868 Frances Yarbrough died at Ft. Ewell in McMullen County.  Frances was the area's midwife and "Family Tradition" says that Frances was sick with a fever, but she couldn't refuse, when she was called upon to go help deliver a baby at Fort Ewell.  It has been said that Amanda begged her mother not to go, but Frances said that her help was needed.  Frances was brought back to Yarbrough Bend and buried in the family cemetery next to Swanson.

Even death couldn't keep Swanson from making yet another move.  120 years after Swanson's death, he moved to Tilden, Texas.  Today that is where you will find Swanson and Frances buried.  In September of 1982 the Yarbrough Family Cemetery, now known as the Yarbrough Bend Cemetery, was moved to make way for the Choke Canyon Reservoir. Archaeologist exhumed six graves at the Yarbrough Cemetery.  Buried between Swanson and Frances was a small child.  The graves were all relocated at the Hill Top Cemetery in Tilden and in October 1982 there was a Memorial Service held for the families of those buried in the Yarbrough Cemetery.  My Grandmother Carmen Tilley Pierce watched that day in September as her great great-grandfather Swanson Yarbrough was exhumed from his grave, and in October she attended the Memorial Service held at the Hill Top Cemetery.

The repaired headstones of Swanson and Frances Yarbrough, that were made identical to each other, stand in front of new headstones that were placed by the State.  Swanson and Frances' original headstones had been damaged in the 1950s when a man clearing in the area of the cemetery accidentally hit the headstones that were hidden beneath the brush.  There are four more additional headstones that were made for the Unknowns that were moved to Hill Top Cemetery from Yarbrough Cemetery.

On December 8, 2001  A Texas Historical Cemetery Marker Dedication was held in Tilden, Texas for John Swanson Yarbrough.  This historical marker has been placed behind his headstones in the Hill Top Cemetery.  The marker reads:

Texas Historical Commission
John Swanson Yarbrough
December 25, 1774 - October 20, 1862

A native of North Carolina, John Swanson Yarbrough came to Texas in 1832 and settled in what is now Houston County in East Texas.  A veteran of the war for Texas Independence, Yarbrough participated in the 1835 Siege of Bexar and in the decisive battle of San Jacinto.  He moved from Houston County about 1850 and led a group of settlers to the Frio River in 1858 to establish the Yarbrough Bend Settlement in what became McMullen County.  Yarbrough's grave was relocated to this site from the Yarbrough Bend Cemetery in 1982 as part of the construction of Choke Canyon Reservoir.  Recorded 2001

Today, if you take a drive out on highway 72 about four miles east of Tilden, Texas you will come across the Yarbrough Bend Texas State Historical Marker.  The marker is located on the right hand side of the road and reads:

Yarbrough Bend Historical Marker, McMullen County, Texas
Site of County's First Settlement
5 MI. NE. On Frio River

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.



A lot of the information used was from sharing and exchanging information with other John Swanson Yarbrough descendants through snail mail, but mainly by email and our private Yarbrough Family Site at

Karen Mazock and the Yarb(o)rough Archives

John Swanson Yarbrough, A Man About Texas by Beth Walker

The Handbook of Texas Online

DeWitt Colony Texas Online

Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas and Texas Timeline 1799 - 1846 by Renee Smelley

The Tilden News, Friday, August 30, 1963, Dogtown, Colfax, Predecessors To Modern Tilden, McMullen Co.

Email correspondence with Dave Moore and Beth Walker

Various Source Documentation linked to within the story.

The Life and Times of John Swanson Yarbrough Copyright © 2001, 2005, by Renee Pierce Smelley. This may be freely distributed but may not be published for profit without the written consent of the author.  This copyright must be on any copies made.  This copy may not be posted to another webpage.

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