The Hays County Historical Commission updated their website to include the comprehensive cemetery inscription list which previously resided on the county website. It makes sense to put this information alongside the history, old photographs and bits of ephemera pertaining to the county’s history. Now there is a brief history of each cemetery along with some photos to complement the listing. Overall, very nice, but there is some error in the history of the Butler Cemetery. Most notably, the references to the Heeks family should read Meeks. Since I have a little information on this family, I thought I would share. As always, this is a combination of public records research, afternoon library lounging, daydreaming, speculating and burning up the wires with other genealogy/history/library geeks. You must take me as you find me. Ain’t history fun?
In 1850, a large group of extended family from Missouri and Arkansas settled in Travis County and Hays County, Texas. It included Suddeth (possibly, Suddeth would have reached 70 years of age in 1849) and Winnie (y) Ann Meeks, some of their children and their children’s families. I have no way of knowing but I suspect they were prompted to seek less crowded conditions in Texas after a drought and a terrible cholera epidemic in 1849. At least two of their children preceded them to Texas. It is possible that this is something they were already considering and conditions in 1849 sealed the deal.
The oldest daughter, Lucy, was married to Reece Butler. Younger sisters Nancy and Elizabeth were married to brothers, Dan and John Mayes. The association of the Meeks, Butler and Mayes families goes back to Arkansas Territory days.
The children’s families looked something like this:
- Lucy Meeks Butler, husband Reece Butler and three children, lived near Wimberley;
- John Meeks, wife Mary Ann Norris Meeks and twelve children, settled the Webberville area;
- Nancy Meeks Mayes, husband Daniel Mayes and seven children, lived in the Webberville area in 1855 and moved to San Marcos by 1860;
- Merritt Meeks, wife Nancy Sarah Burden Meeks and six children, resided near Manchaca before moving on after the war; and
- Elizabeth Meeks Mayes, husband John Mayes and at least six children, lived in the Onion Creek and Wimberley areas.
The Reece Butler Family
Lucy and Reece were married in Arkansas in 1828. Arkansas didn’t become a state until 1836. I doubt there are records to be found that might give us the exact date of their marriage. For this reason, I haven’t yet looked further than the year carved onto Lucy’s grave marker. They were enumerated on the 1830 census in Crawford, Arkansas and I believe shortly thereafter moved to Barry, Missouri where Lucy’s parents resided. They were the parents of at least five children:
a daughter, name unknown, born in 1829;
John M., born 11 Dec 1832;
Sarah, born 14 Mar 1834, married John C. Johnson;
a son, name unknown, born 1835-1840; and
Elizabeth, born 1842.
I suspect there are more and that not all their children survived to make the trip to Texas. In 1850, Lucy would have been 46 years old and (I suspect) past her childbearing years. That is, I haven’t found any children born in Texas. Reece would have been 44. John, Sarah and Lizzie are buried in the cemetery with their parents.
The following is a tale describing Reece Butler from “Tales of Old-Time Texas” by Frank Dobie.
The Indian who as a favor tells a secret of hidden gold is not obligated to prove anything. I’m not either. In 1941 I helped Mr. J. D. Talley celebrate his eighty-eighth birthday, in Austin, Texas. He was a refined old gentleman of marked neatness and did not look or talk as a cowboy who had ridden the open range and trailed longhorn herds to the wild cow-towns of Kansas is supposed to look and talk. That evening he told this tale.
When his people moved to Hays County – the county of the beautiful San Marcos River – in 1870, they became neighbors to an odd character named Reece butler who had been on the frontier a long time. He had a few cattle, farmed a little, hunted whenever he wanted to, was a blacksmith, carpenter, and furniture-maker and could do anything. He made a wagon out of bois d’arc wood he got up on Red River. He made fiddle keys out of the wood of Mexican persimmon. He mad charcoal for the forge in his blacksmith shop out of mesquite wood. He claimed that mesquite charcoal produces a hotter fire than cedar charcoal, which is more commonly used. He made crucibles from clay found on the Colorado River near Austin.
Reece Butler had fought the Indians, but he had also been friendly to some of them, and one time an Indian whose life he had saved guided him to a deposit of silver and gold ore somewhere in the Llano River country – where the Lost San Saba Mine is sometimes placed by hunters who can’t find it on the San Saba. About once a year Reece Butler would yoke six oxen to his homemade bois d’arc wagon and pull out alone. A month or so later he would come back with a heavy load of black-looking ore. What he did with it was no secret, but the place where he got it was. One time a man tried to follow him; the man did not come back.
He would unload the ore at his blacksmith shop, pound it into small pieces no bigger than acorns, place them in one of his clay crucibles and then use his bellows and mesquite charcoal to melt the metal. The extract from a wagon load of ore would amount to a hunk about as big as Reece Butler’s two burly fists. It was mostly silver, but anybody could see streaks of gold in it. This hunk of gold-tinged silver he would take to Austin and sell to a jeweler named Bahn.
In the course of nature Reece Butler died, and with him died all knowledge of the ore deposit shown by one Indian to one white man.
The Dan Mayes Family
Dan Mayes and Nancy Meeks Mayes were enumerated on the 1830 census in Crawford County and in the recently formed Benton county in 1840. They were the parents of eight children:
a daughter, name unknown, born 1830-1834;
Hollen Coffee, born 28 Aug 1835;
Sarah Ann, born 12 Nov 1837, married Hugh Miller Sr.;
John, born 19 Jan 1839;
Stephen, born 1842;
Margaret, born 1844;
Mary V., born 1846;
Nancy, born 23 Dec 1848, married Eli Hill.
I can confirm that seven of their children made it as far as Texas. Dan seems to be the only one buried in the Butler Cemetery. I believe he died about 1867. Nancy died sometime after 1880.
There is a story circulating among researchers and passed along to me by Linda M. that Dan Mayes was murdered by one Michael Sessom, an early settler of San Marcos, in revenge for Mayes turning in his son David. David Sessom served in the Confederate Army and was accused of spying for the Union. He was subsequently hung for treason. Some thought Dan Mayes the victim of an Indian attack when he was later found dead. However, descendants tell a story of Michael Sessom’s death bed confession. On an interesting note, David Sessom’s widow was Mary Meeks, daughter of Dan’s brother-in-law Merritt.
Before the state library closed the genealogy room for remodelling last year, I looked into this a little bit. I found David Sessom’s military record which was brief and of little interest. I checked the Hays County tax records for the 1860’s. Dan Mayes is listed as paying his taxes through 1867. In 1868, his son John paid his father’s taxes. There is no record after that and the stone in the cemetery has only his name. The Merritt Meeks family and their widowed daughter Mary had relocated to Collin County by the time of the 1870 census.
My gut instinct tells me that there is at least some truth to this story. There were many people in central Texas during the war that were lynched for their pro-union sentiments. I think maybe something like this happened, rather than some sort of offical action such as a court martial.
The John Mayes Family
John Mayes purchased 320 acres on the Arkansas River in Crawford, Arkansas in 1832. The family was enumerated on the 1840 census in Benton, Arkansas. The birthplace of their children is often given as Missouri so it is quite possible that they lived in Missouri near Elizabeth’s family before coming to Texas. They were the parents of nine children:
a daughter, name unknown, born 1825-1830;
a daughter, name unknown, born 1835-1840;
a daughter, name unknown, born 1835-1840;
Lorenzo C., born Nov 1838;
W. M., born 1841;
Missy, born 1842;
Marinda, born 1844;
Daniel David, born 1846.
What interested me is the reference to “Col. John Mayes” and I’m not sure to whom that refers. John, son of Daniel, is buried in Blanco County. There is a John D. listed in the inscriptions but he is too young to have been the son of John Sr. Ah, I have much work to do. My wish is to find this list of people interred in unmarked graves of which I have heard rumor. Anyone know anything of it?
Selected Butler Cemetery Inscriptions
Butler, Beverly H./1887/1938
Butler, John M./11 Dec 1832/07 Dec 1905/Married 14 Dec 1882
Butler, Lee/17 Jun 1894/28 Jun 1916
Butler, Lucy/11 Feb 1804/09 Jan 1883/Married Reece Butler A. D. 1828
Butler, Reece/22 Feb 1806/19 Dec 1887
Johnson, Sarah/14 Mar 1834/17 Jan 1902/mar John C. Johnson 03 Nov 1853/My Mother
Mayes, Dan/no inscription
Mayes, John D./15 Mar 1880/23 Mar 1913
Mayes, Katy/no inscription
Mayes, Mattie M./02 Dec 1875/15 Jan 1902
Mayes, Sam C./19 Jul 1891/29 Mar 1945/Pvt 26 Tx Fld Hospital
Mayes, Wm. Austin/15 Apr 1845/05 Apr 1926
Meeks, Alonzo Aldon/02 Feb 1872/29 Jun 1956/Lon on footstone
Meeks, D. A./04 May 1876/14 Jul 1901
Meeks, H./27 Sep 1908/09 Aug 1952
Meeks, Lon Baker/04 Apr 1914/12 Jan 1985/fiddle on headstone
Meeks, Rachel/14 Jul 1845/no death date/Wife Mother Friend
Meeks, Randolph/18 Mar 1836/02 Jan 1919/on stone with Rachel Meeks
Meeks, Walter A./02 Mar 1867/21 Jan 1901/W. A. M. on footstone
Meeks, William Thiele/22 Sep 1897/06 Oct 1903
Meeks, Worth/08 Sep 1869/24 Nov 1954