Heritage, Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 1990 Page: 23
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after news of the Emancipation
Proclamation reached Texas,
Joseph Lawrence deeded Malinda
Caruthers 640 acres of rich
bottomland in Navarro County.
The Caruthers family, which
by then included seven children,
raised cotton, corn, hay, and garden
vegetables. Henry became a
leader in Pelham, a black community
near the farm. There he
established a Methodist church,
which was also used as a school.
John Caruthers, Henry's son, was
known throughout the farming
community for his intelligence.
He taught at the school for many
years, and when he retired, he became
a trustee. John also recorded
births and other important information
for people in the community.
lived until he was ninety-nine.
He and Malinda had seventyseven
grandchildren. The former slaves are
buried in the Joe Lawrence Cemetery.
Since the founder's time, shares of the
original property have been handed down
through four generations. Margaret
Caruthers, a second-generation heir, married
twice, once to S.C. Porter, Sr., who
died, and then to Charlie Ross. Margaret
reared ten children on the farm. In 1892,
she deeded William Porter, a son by her
first marriage, 102 acres. It was during this
time that Pelham began to flourish.
Between 1894 and the early 1920s, black
entrepreneurs opened grocery and dry
goods stores, a cotton gin, a telephone
company, and a post office. William prospered
too. At one point, he and his brother,
S.C., Jr., were directors of a bank in Waco
thirty miles away.
William and his wife, Sarah, had eleven
children. In 1947, William gave his land to
his son Elmer. At a time when black farm
ownership was declining throughout the
country, Elmer enlarged his property by
more than 2,500 acres. Today, black farm
and ranch ownership in Texas has dropped
96 percent since its 1930 peak of 78,597.
The Porters, however, maintain their ties
to the land. Elmer's son Bernard raises
cattle and hay on the family's 2,500 acres of
Porter Ranch. Three sisters, two teachers
and a retired teacher, live nearby. Elmer
and his wife Jimmie,who are in their
eighties and retired, have nine
grandchildren, all of whom graduated from
Henry Caruthers founded what is now Porter
Ranch in Navarro County. Caruthers, his wife
Malinda, and two of their children came to Texas
from Tennessee as slaves.
Williamson Farm, 1882,
Sara Jane Davis epitomized the
courageous frontier women who helped to
tame the Texas frontier. The former Illinois
school teacher was fifty and recently
widowed when she left home in 1878 to
travel into the unknown with her two
youngest children, Lillis, eleven, and
Grace, seven. Mrs. Davis homesteaded 369
acres in Wichita County, not far from the
Oklahoma Indian Territory. By the time
she got the title to her land in 1882, she
had planted pasture grasses, corn, fruits and
berries, and she harvested nuts and garden
vegetables along a bluff near the Red River.
A passage from the 1983 Family Land
Heritage Registry gives an idea of Sarah
Davis' formidable inner strength: "Mrs.
Davis was a diminutive woman, but everyone
knew better than to try to take advantage
of her. The cowboys at the Four Sixes
Ranch, though, had to learn the hard way.
The widow Davis was the first person in the
area to fence in her property. The cowboys
quickly took their wire cutters to the fence,
but did not have the presence of mind to do
so while the widow wasn't looking. She set
her shotgun sights on the wires as they were
being cut and let the cowhands know what
was what. She also made sure the cowboys
repaired the fence."
Mrs. Davis' daughter, Lillis
Morgan, was as spunky as her
mother. Widowed twice, Lillis ran
a boardinghouse in Burkbumett
with Alexander Morgan, her
second husband. Their farm, five
miles away, provided vegetables
to feed their boarders. Lillis was an
astute businesswoman. She
bought six more farms in the area
and managed all of them after her
husband died in 1913. She kept
buying until eventually she
owned farms and ranches as far
north as Dalhart. With so much
land to manage, Lillis divided the
homestead in 1917 between Carl
Williamson, a son by her first
marriage, and James A. King, her
Around 1921, as she was driving
home from Amarillo, Lillis
was severely injured in an accident
that left her unconscious for
ninety days and impaired her mobility for
the rest of her life. Thereafter, she was
chauffeured about town by her grandson,
Robert King, until her death in 1946.
Today John Warren Williamson, Jr.,
the great-great-grandson of Sarah Davis,
raises wheat and cattle on 1,000 acres of
land. A rosebush Sarah Jane Davis brought
to Texas still grows on the property. A
cutting Was transplanted to Rosemont
cemetery in Wichita Falls, where family
members are buried.
As the 1990s begin to unfold, families
such as these Family Land Heritage honorees
contribute their ingenuity and labor to
make Texas the agricultural leader that it
is. Throughout the state, farms and ranches
produce an abundance of food that urban
dwellers often take for granted. Like their
ancestors, modem farmers and ranchers
face hardship and economic uncertainty
determined to hold their way of life in tact.
Valerie Crosswell is a writer for the Texas
Department of Agriculture.
The Texas Department of Agriculture will
sponsor the 1990 Family Land Heritage
Program October 11 at 1:30 p.m. in the auditorium
of the LBJ Library, 26th Street and Red
River, Austin. The public is invited.To apply
for the 1991 program write Family Land Heritage,
Texas Department of Agriculture, P.O.
Box 12847, Austin, Texas 78711. Applications
are also available from TDA district offices,
county judges, and county chairpersons of the
Texas Historical Commission. Louise Weissman
is program coordinator.
HERITAGE * FALL 1990 23
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 1990, periodical, Autumn 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45429/m1/23/: accessed November 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.