Part 1 – Newtonville, The African - American Settlement of Bandera County
By Raymond V. Carter, Jr. BCHC Research Historian
Pictured: Jeff Cooksey, Jr.'s home place
This is a post, Civil War (War between the States), history of American citizens that is being researched in a professional and earnest way by the Bandera County Historical Commission. The following information comes from the U. S. Census, State Archives, County Archives, Criminal, Civil, Death, Probate, Inquest, Preemption Survey, School, Deed and Commissioner's Court records of Bandera County, Texas. Even though this has been attempted in the past, this is a more thorough compiling of what has been gathered so far. By no means is it a complete history, but it is an on-going, continuous effort, as our documents are being preserved and uncovered.
There was an African-American settlement known as Newtonville southwest of Bandera (just southwest of today's Mayan Ranch), named after settler, Isaac Newton. This settlement was located on the south side of Schmidtke Road. At least eight preemptions were made of donation land grants to the head of households. They were Andrew Jackson, William Henry, Isaac Newton, John Nelson Riggs, Alfred Grant, Henry Williams, Robert Fisher, and Jeff Cooksey, Jr. The first settlers there were William Henry and Isaac Newton.
William Henry was a head of household, who settled upon 160 acres of land, Survey No. 38 3/4, which was surveyed by Charles Montague on May 12, 1869. After improving and living on the land for more than 3 years the property was surveyed for patent on July 29,1874. William Henry died prior to July 20, 1883, as evidenced by probate files we have found. At least two of his children we’re: Jane Henry, born ca. 1866 and Tim O. Henry, born ca. 1868. They were living with Hanna Griffin as of July 20, 1883.
Isaac Newton was a head of household, who settled upon 160 acres of land, Survey No. 38 1/2, which was surveyed by Charles Montague on May 12, 1869. After living and improving the land for more than three years his patent was approved June 3, 1873.
John Nelson Riggs, commonly known as Nelson Riggs, was a head of household. Along with his wife, Nancy Riggs, they settled upon 160 acres of land on or about August 1, 1873. This was Survey No. 38 1/4, which was surveyed by Charles Montague on July 29, 1874. John Nelson Riggs abandoned his family and Nancy Riggs became the head of the household, and proof of settlement, was witnessed by Andrew Jackson and Amasa Clark. This survey was patented September 12, 1892. Nelson Riggs and Nancy Martin were married on February 8, 1873 by Charles Montague, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1, in Bandera County.
I do not know if these persons are any relationship to John Nelson Riggs, but I found this marriage license in the Bandera County Clerk 's records, it was issued on July 14, 1869 to Alexander Riggs and Matilda A. Tiner ("Freedman and Freedwoman"), both of Bandera, Texas. They we’re married on July 15, 1869 by T.C. Rine, Justice of the Peace of Precinct 1.
Head of household Henry Williams, and his wife Priscilla Williams, both settled upon 160 acres of land, Survey No. 38 1/10, which was surveyed by Charles Montague on July 29,1874. They sold this survey to Jacob Postert for $75.00 on December 9, 1879. Amasa Clark and Samuel Stephens both swore affidavits on March 25, 1880 that this land was first surveyed by S.F. Christian for Lucy I. Stiner, but was abandoned many years before. Henry Williams (Late Freedman) and Percila Grant (Late Freed Woman) were issued a marriage license on August 18, 1866. They married on August 18, 1866 by O.B. Miles, Chief Justice of Bandera County. This may well be the first African-American marriage recorded in Bandera County.
Andrew Jackson was a head of a household, and received a donation grant dated February 3, 1879, for 160 acres one mile west of Bandera, between William Henry's place and the Harris and Roman surveys. He moved on the property on or about February 1, 1879. After living on the property for three years it was surveyed out to be Survey No. 37.1 for a total of 100 7/10 acres on November 9, 1881. Alfred Grant and Louis Polk, Bandera County Surveyor, were his witnesses for proof of homestead.
Andrew Jackson was married to Mary Leonard on February 2,1915 by M.B. Epperson, Minister of the Gospel. The marriage license was issued and recorded in Bandera County Clerk's Office. Andrew’s first wife was Maria (Mary) Jackson. She died on December 17, 1912 at the approximate age of 58. She was born in Louisiana. Andrew Jackson died on November 15, 1925 at his home near Bandera at the approximate age of 79 years and was buried in the “Negro Cemetery" on November 16, 1925, by J.F. Langford. His parents are not known.
Andrew Jackson's friend, Lee Risinger, was the executor of his estate. Jackson stated in his will "I give and bequeath unto my daughter, (or rather a girl I have raised) Alice Jackson, and unto my wife 's son, Henry Harvey Lenoard, share and share alike all the property, both real and personal..... "His separate estate consisted of 100 acres of the A. Jackson Survey No. 37.1, one cow, one 2 3/4 farm wagon, 2 sets of chain harness, one turning plow and one double shovel. Both Andrew Jackson and his wife, Maria Jackson are buried in the Bertha Tryon-Hendrick Arnold Cemetery.
Robert Fisher was a head of a household, and received a donation grant dated June 11, 1880, for 160 acres (Survey No. 38 4/10), which was surveyed on November 4, 1881, by Samuel Stephens, Bandera County Surveyor. Robert Fisher and his wife, Lavinia Fisher, sold this survey to Amelia Schmdtke for $200.00 cash on November 11, 1885.
Alfred Grant, a married man and a head of a household, received a donation preemption for 160 acres (Survey No. 38.2) on September 23,1879, which was surveyed on November 4, 1882 by Samuel Stephens, Bandera County Surveyor. Alfred Grant and his wife, Helen Grant, sold this survey to Amelia Schmdtke for $55.00 cash and a note for $175.00 on January 12, 1884. On October 13, 1909 Amelia Schmidtke Oates and her husband TW Oates sold the Fisher and Grant surveys to Jeff Cooksey Sr.
Jeff Cooksey, Sr. was married to Gracie Fisher and was associated with the Bandera County Jail and Sheriff's office. He was a witness in the prisoner release case number 204, State of Texas versus J.A. Brown. Cooksey, Sr. was arrested on a charge of complicity during the jailbreak of July 31, 1889. On February 13, 1905, W. Benson, Jeff Cooksey, and Alfred Grant were appointed managers of the school trustee elections of Precinct One, School Number 2.
On October 26, 1911 Jeff Cooksey, Sr. gave to his children, Jeff Cooksey, Jr. and Julia Dimery, (wife of Sam Dimery) the Alfred Grant Survey No. 38.2 of 160 acres and the Robert Fisher Survey No. 38.4 of 160 acres. Jeff Cooksey, Jr. (of Kerr County) got the southern half of the surveys and Julia Dimery got the northern half of the surveys. To his other daughter, Nettie Cooksey, Jeff Cooksey, Sr. gift deeded to her an undivided half interest in Lot No. 45, near the town of Bandera, containing 49 acres on June 6, 1912. Jeff Cooksey, Sr. was evidently getting up in age and was settling his affairs, because at the same time, he gifted more land to Julia Dimery.
On June 6, 1912, he gift deeded over to his daughter, Julia Dimery, as an agreement to care for him in his "old age", Survey No. 289 of 177 acres and Survey No. 10.8 of 480 acres. His health must have been failing him. Jeff Cooksey, Sr.'s birth and death dates are unknown at this time and no official record of his burial site is recorded. But, I believe he is buried at the Bertha Tryon-Hendrick Arnold Cemetery with is son and family.
On June 14, 1913, Jeff Cooksey, Jr. applied for a preemption (Survey NO. 4 1/2) for 29 2/10 acres of land, but it was part of Survey No. 4, which had already been preempted and granted to someone else. Another survey (Abstract 2017) for 160 acres was granted to Jeff Cooksey, Jr., but evidently Cooksey sold this survey and it was patented to B. H. Clark on June 10, 1921.
Jeff Cooksey, Jr. (ca. 1879-1924) was 45 years old when he died on August 6, 1924 of an apparent heart attack after lifting a heavy disk plow. His wife was Mahala (Thornton) Cooksey. In the October Term A.D., 1924, of the Bandera County Court, Mahala Cooksey applied for the guardianship of Jeff Cooksey, Jr.'s (deceased) and her children. Their children were listed as James Cooksey, a boy over fourteen years of age; Jeff Cooksey (III), a boy about twelve years of age; John Henry Cooksey, a boy about eleven years of age; Wesley Cooksey, a boy about ten years of age; and Jessie Cooksey, a boy about two years of age. The Cooksey estate consisted of 160 acres of land, 80 acres of the A. Grant Survey No. 38.2 and 80 acres of the Fisher Survey No. 38.4, in Bandera County. The Court required a $250.00 bond of which Mahala Cooksey was principal, Chas. Fifer and Wm. Benson were securities. Isaiah Blanks' signature was also on the instrument. John. R. Leavell, Kerr County Court Clerk verified that Chas. Fifer, Wm. Benson and Isaiah Blanks had properties in Kerr County larger than the bond required. Jeff Cooksey, Jr.'s parents were Jeff Cooksey, Sr. and Gracie (Fisher) Cooksey. Both Jeff Cooksey, Jr. and Mahala Cooksey are buried in the Bertha Tryon-Hendrick Arnold Cemetery.
Cooksey, (unnamed infant), a boy born, March 9, 1917, and died at the age of three days on March 12, 1917. Parent’s not known. Believed to be buried in the Bertha Tryon-Hendrick Arnold Cemetery.
C.D. Cooksey, a single male, died on March 4, 1920 and was buried on March 5, 1920 in the "Colored Cemetery" by J.F. Langford. Age is unknown. His father was Jeff Cooksey, Jr. and his mother was Mahala (Thornton) Cooksey. He is buried in the Bertha Tryon-Hendrick Arnold Cemetery.
See Part II, Schools and Burial Sites in next weeks edition of the Bandera County Courier.