Thursday, April 30, 2015

As the Byrd Flies--Virginia to Texas

In a previous post we discussed D.H. Byrd's claim that he was a cousin of Admiral Richard Byrd, Jr., the Polar explorer of the 1930's and made only a possible connection to a common ancestor 300 years or so earlier. Admiral Byrd's line of descent seems to have no other common links to the line from which D.H. Byrd stemmed. D. H. Byrd's heritage is traced below from his ancestor Andrew down to Abraham Ruddell Byrd, who died in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in 1857:




To Cape Girardeau, Mo. in 1799
 
D.H.'s branch of Byrds arrived in Missouri in 1797, before that territory (then called Upper Louisiana) became part of the Louisiana Purchase. Amos and Sarah Ruddell Byrd were progenitors of the clan which had started out in disputed territory of the Watauga Valley near the Proclamation Line of 1763. Heading west, they crossed the line into what is now Knox County, Tennessee and settled there long enough for three of Amos' sons to find wives among a family named Gillespie. Amos' family, including Stephen and Abraham, were born in Knox County 1768 and 1772, respectively. They remained there until almost the end of the century before the entire family headed west for the Spanish territory. They acquired land grants from Spain near what was to become Cape Girardeau County, Missouri.

Unfortunately for the settlers, however, in 1800 Spain ceded the land to France shortly after the Byrds arrived there, so they were forced to prove the validity of their land grants after the United States purchased the land from Napoleon in 1803.

Author Louis Houck, 1908, page 185
We are told that the Byrd men became prominent in the government of the area--Amos as a judge, Abraham and Stephen as colonels in military regiments. Amos and Sarah died in 1818. Sarah's maiden name, however, would continue to be passed down to descendants, including D.H. Byrd's eldest brother, Ruddell Jones Byrd (called R.J., or Leo), who was born in 1888.

Stephen died in 1830, and his brother, Abraham Byrd, remained in Missouri until his death in 1857. Abraham had a son born in 1815, whom he named Stephen, and it is through that ancestor that D. H. Byrd springs.

From Missouri to Texas after 1900

Continuation of D.H. Byrd ancestry, indicating his mother's family link to John Nance Garner. Click to enlarge.
Stephen Byrd II married Nancy Moore in 1844 and farmed his land in Missouri until his death occurred in 1866, leaving their two youngest sons--Abraham (born 1852) and Edward (born 1854) --along with some daughters, as orphans, their mother having died in 1861. Edward was then only 12, but he had his oldest brother, William, to look after him. In his autobiography published in 1978, D. Harold Byrd stated that Edward had set out for Clarksville, Texas, in a covered wagon in 1873. After exploring the destination for awhile, he returned home on a horse and prepared to move permanently --relocating to Blossom Prairie and a settlement four miles south of it called Byrdtown.

William Charles Byrd (born 1845) married Mary Jane Evans at the age of 23, just as the civil war was waning. Three of his sons relocated after 1900 to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, later enticing their parents to move to this promised vegetable-growing  paradise in Dimmit County at Winter Haven, situated between Crystal City and Carrizo Springs (Zavala County), just above the border with Mexico.What could have possessed them to move to that part of Texas at that particular time?

Most likely it was a railroad advertisement that prompted the move, such as this one which appeared in 1907:








Herbert Hurd of Kansas City, Mo. was promoting his Texas lands near South Padre Island that year from his office in the original Union Depot (built in 1878 and demolished in 1915), by advertising in magazines such as the Western Fuit-grower. He gave prospective purchasers a ride from Kansas City on his private railway car parked at Union Depot to view the land which would later become a citrus paradise. Real estate all over the region had been skyrocketing in price ever since the railroads arrived in the most southern regions of Texas.

At some point around 1901, Ed Byrd moved from Detroit, Texas to Ardmore, Oklahoma--which at that time was still part of the Indian Territory, having been opened up in the 1880's to homesteaders. The local newspaper in the latter city declared on June 13, 1901:
Ed Byrd, Bob Easley and F. C. Dollins [Ed and F.C. were married to Easley sisters, and Bob Jones Easley was married to Ida Dollins] from Detroit, Texas, are prospecting in the city.
Ed Byrd married Mollie Easley.
Mollie's brother, Robert Jones Easley, married Ida Dollins.
Ida's brother, Francis Clinton Dollins, married Maggie Easley, sister of Mollie and Bob Jones Easley. Another sister, Linna Easley, in 1891 married David Erastus Waggoner (no relation to Dan Waggoner, the rancher), a Dallas banker and insurance executive, who ran for governor as a Republican in 1934.

On October 10, 1905 an item appeared in the Ardmore, Oklahoma Ardmoreite:
A. R. Byrd and William Byrd of Jackson, Mo., accompanied by their nephew, E.R. Byrd of St. Louis, have been in the city the guests of their brother, Ed Byrd. These gentlemen have made considerable investments here and have gone to West Texas to see about their business interests there.
S.A., Uvalde & Gulf RR, 1918
We learn of their investments in West Texas from an item that appeared in the San Antonio press in 1918 (see clipping at left).

Three Byrd men (A.R., William, Jr., and E.R. Byrd) in 1918 were directors of a short line that became part of the Missouri Pacific in 1925--the San Antonio, Uvalde & Gulf Railroad. Two years earlier directors and officers of this railroad, with offices in San Antonio, were listed on page 481 of the 1916 Official Railway Equipment Register. The preceding page shows officials of four other Gulf Coast Lines. Then at page 482 another Gulf Coast Line branch is shown--the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico, with offices in Kingsville, Texas.

Two of the Byrds' fellow directors--Buckingham and Groos--were real estate promoters and were mentioned in a book by Beatriz de la Garza, A Law for the Lion: A Tale of Crime and Injustice in the Borderlands, published in 2009. De la Garza describes Crystal City as being in 1917 a "modern, 'planned community,' barely ten years old." It was one of the "new towns, created out of the old ranches, the Cross S:
See also a 1910 ad  and 1911 ad for Cross S ranch lands.
The International and Great Northern railroad, part of the Gould system, in 1906 had begun building a 45-mile extension in Southwest Texas, from Carrizo Springs to Artesia, through the heart of the "Bermuda onion belt." This railroad (sometimes called the Artesian Belt) went into receivership in 1914, possibly a result of overextending itself into less populated areas with little traffic. Thus these uncles and cousins of D. Harold Byrd, while young Harry was still in short pants, were making inroads into an industrial network of railroad tycoons who would later play politics as though it were an untuned violin.

We will pick up there in the next post.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

There is information on D. Harold Byrd in the book "The Byrds of Virginia" by Alden Hatch. Hatch includes D. Harold Byrd as part of the Byrd family, calling him a distant cousin of the Virginia Byrds, albeit of the Texas branch.

Linda Minor said...

There seems to be no evidence the branch that went to Missouri had any contact with their very distant "cousins".

Anonymous said...

After D. H. Byrd became wealthy, he financed in part one or more of Admiral Byrd's polar expeditions, which is why the Harold Byrd mountains are so named in Antarctica. Alden Hatch writes that in 1943 Admiral Byrd wanted to convalesce in private from an accidental injury, so he turned to his "distant cousin" D.H. Byrd for help, and D.H. Byrd arranged for the Admiral to check into a Dallas hospital under an assumed name. "The Byrds of Virginia", p. 367. (Hatch mistakenly calls D.H. Byrd "Harold E. Byrd", but it is the same person by descriptions).

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