Family Histories of Coleman County, Texas

by Lila Belle White

From A History of Coleman County and Its People, 1985 
edited by Judia and Ralph Terry, and Vena Bob Gates - used by permission

Joseph Brown Harris, known as J. B. Harris and in later years as “Uncle Joe,” was born August 12, 1858, in North Georgia, the eleventh child of twelve children born to Willis D. Harris (born 1812), and Lucinda Mikel (born 1818), married in 1834.  During the Civil War Willis moved his family into eastern Alabama near Wedowee.  Young Joe Harris married Mary Elizabeth Robertson (born April 30, 1863 at Roanoke, Alabama), on October 10, 1882, (Mary’s parents were Joseph William Robertson and Cynthia Ann Pearson).  In 1892 a new neighbor moved to the farm adjoining the Harrises.  It was the family of James Thomas and Abigail (Abbie) Smith with their nine children.  Henry, their eldest son, was seventeen years old that winter and never dreamed that he would one day marry his little 10-year old neighbor, Maude Harris!  The Smith family had one more child, the only one born in Texas, James Norman, born January 4, 1893.

J . B. suffered from asthma and had great difficulty breathing a lot of the time.  They moved from Bell County in 1902 to Santa Anna and for the first year or two lived east of town.  It wasn’t long until he moved to a farm northwest of town, living in a house very close to the railroad tracks.  He became active in organizing a Primitive Baptist Church at Santa Anna and interested people came from as far away as Zephyr for the organizational meetings.

By the time they moved to Santa Anna there were five children in the family, all of whom were born in Bell County except Ruie Maud who was born in Wedowee, Alabama, December 3, 1884.  D. J. the first to be born in Texas, October 23, 1887; Lillie, January 18, 1890; Respress (“Rep”), February 25, 1891, and Milford, October 25, 1895.  This was a hard working family and though Grandfather’s health was not good, he bought the farm that lay between the Banisters and what was then the Coleman Highway.

Maud married Henry M. Smith on September 9, 1906 (see Henry M. Smith).

D. J. Harris married Ethel Rowe November 10, 1907, and their first child, a son was born August 24, 1908, but died that same day and is buried under the big tree in Santa Anna Cemetery.  A daughter, Velma, was born July 19, 1910, and still lives at Santa Anna. She married Homer Vinson December 1, 1935.  D. J. and Ethel were divorced and D. J. became a deputy sheriff under sheriff John R. Banister, where he served until World War I.  He was then called into the Service.

Lillie Harris married Albert Dodgen of the Plainview community December 24, 1913, and they first settled down on a farm near Plainview School but soon moved to the high plains of Texas.  When the older Harris ‘‘boys” left Bell County, both Uncle “Mid” and Uncle “V” moved to that area, about the time Joe moved to Coleman County.  The Dodgen’s three children were J. B., Thelma, and Buford.  When Buford was still small, they moved back to Coleman County.  Lillie died March 20, 1960, and Albert died June 15, 1973, and both are buried in the Santa Anna Cemetery.

And then came World War I.  D. J. served in France, most of his time in the military police.  He returned home with a beautiful French girl named Georgette.

Milford was next to go to war.  He trained at Fort Dix, New Jersey, went first to England, then to France.  When he came home he married Mary Blanche McSwain of Rockwood and took over the farming of the land J .B. had bought many years before.  Five children were born to them there: Marie, Mary Jo, Elgene, Lois Faye, and Bill Jack.  Milford never left this land, until he was unable to work, and the land still belongs to Elgene.  Milford died January 25, 1978, and is buried at Santa Anna.

Rep Harris did not go into the service during the war.  He had suffered a stroke and though he was in his mid-twenties, he was badly paralyzed on his right side.  He had to swing his right leg to walk, and wired his arm to a hoe handle so he was able to do what was needed to grow food.  Rep also learned to write with his left hand and gradually overcame every noticeable difficulty.  He was the next to the last of the Harris family to marry; an avowed bachelor until he met little Miss Alma Puckett, they married, March 5, 1921.  They farmed in the Plainview community for several years, later moving to the Buffalo community.  Their children were born in those years: Louise (see Alfred Smedley), Eugene, Helen Ray and the baby, Will Rogers - named for a man Rep admired so very much.  Born on Christmas day, 1928, he died following surgery for a ruptured appendix, August 25, 1932.  Rep later became a poultry buyer, moving to Coleman where he died of cancer of the throat, March 6, 1943, and was buried in Coleman.

When D. J. returned from France, he settled at Meadow and began construction work, forming a company that built most of the buildings there.  There he met Clara Copeland, a teacher, and they married on March 17, 1921.  Two children: Noble, now living in Abilene, and Mary Margaret, married to Sam Chisholm, a professor at Texas Tech.  ‘‘Uncle D” died October 13, 1932, and is buried at Meadow.  His widow and children moved to Abilene.

I had the privilege of growing up within three to five miles of both grandparents - having them close by until after I married in 1926.  On June 7, 1929, Grandfather Harris slipped away quietly at 2:03 in the afternoon.  His service was held in Mountain View Primitive Baptist Church, buried in the Santa Anna Cemetery.

Grandmother died on September 11, 1947, and is buried in Santa Anna.  Grandmother was 22 when she left Alabama; she only saw her mother again one time, in 1892, when they went back for a visit!  How brave mothers and daughters were in those days when daughters moved with their husbands and young families so far away and hardships were so great!  Often there was but small chance of ever seeing each other again.  Two of Grandmother’s brothers came to Texas.  James P. (Jim) Robertson, the oldest, became a wealthy landowner in east Texas around Jacksonville, where a daughter and some of her family still live.  Joseph T. Robertson moved to Dalhart where he spent the rest of his life.  His son, Joe, lived in Santa Anna for some years and married Juanita Hunter, daughter of C. K. Hunter, a druggist there.

(Image to be added)

Joseph Brown Harris and Mary Elizabeth Robertson, October 10, 1882

Families History Index
Coleman County Index
Please send additional links, comments or suggestions for articles to:

This page last updated November 12, 2005
© 1982 - 2005 Ralph Terry.  All rights reserved.