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1 ISAAC SAMUEL ROGERS STOOD STRAIGHT and tall at the center of the small Bolivar Courthouse assembly room. He pulled at his tight starched collar, the twenty-one-year-old Tennessee farmer uncomfortable in suit and tie on this cold March evening. But the occasion of his wedding kept him resolute, somber, uncomplaining. To his left stood his brother William, like Isaac a farmer in the Hatchie River Valley of Hardeman County, Tennessee. Seated just behind him in the straight-backed hickory chairs were several members of the Elkins family— the elder William, his wife and a cousin or two sat ramrod straight at the edge of their seats. On Isaac’s right stood eighteenyear -old Mahala Elkins, soon to be his bride. Woodson Vader, justice of the peace for the Bolivar area and a neighbor and friend of the Rogers clan, intoned the civil ceremony then pronounced the couple husband and wife. Isaac was pleased to loosen his collar for the remaining festivities that Tuesday evening. It was March 18, 1834.1 Although both bride and groom were natives to the Hatchie Valley —born and raised long before Hardeman County’s 1823 organization —they felt a pull to the west to start their married life together. And so they packed their few belongings, bade farewell to kith and kin, and headed for the newly opened Chickasaw Country. 1 CHAPTER 1 The Guadalupe Homestead Chapter One 2 ★ Forty-five miles to the west and just south of Bolivar lay the Old Chickasaw Trail making its way from Mississippi into Tennessee, skirting the Tennessee River Valley. The Nonconnah River, a tributary that ran north-south nearly to the state line, displayed a welcoming valley of rolling hills and rich farm land. Families from both states were moving in even as the American Indian Nation was removed. Isaac and Mahala Rogers settled there in the fall of 1834 on a small homestead that straddled the two states. Their first child Michael was born the following spring and quickly followed by James, Martin Van Buren (named for the current president in 1839), Richard, and John Harris. Their fifth son, Pleasant William Miles, was born in 1844 and the last child, and only daughter, Leonora, arrived in 1850 just weeks after the census taker had come by the farming community. Because of the proximity of the farm to the two states, five of the children claimed Shelby County, Tennessee, as their birthplace, while Richard and Leonora claimed De Soto Township, Marshall County, Mississippi as theirs. The census taker in June of 1850 placed the homestead in Mississippi.2 In 1836 the first school was begun in that area and named Rock Springs. Four years later, amid the clutter of mercantile trading posts, the first of several churches was organized not too far from Pigeon Roost Road. The makings of a real community were in place by the mid-1840s. But even as the farming community grew, the American West opened again after the War with Mexico and the stunning discovery of gold way off in California, and Isaac Rogers contemplated another move for his large family. The gold fields were no place to raise a family, although there were riches to be had there, and the Great Plains remained something of a mystery to all but the bravest who crossed it in search of wealth. But reports continued to laud Texas, now the twenty-eighth state of the Union, as a Paradise itself. In the fall of 1856, after a decade on the fringe of the Chickasaw Trail, Isaac decided to move the homestead southwest across the Red River. His adult sons Michael and James made different decisions— Michael would accompany his family while twenty-year-old James stayed behind on the family’s farm. The Guadalupe Homestead 3 ★ And so it was that Isaac Rogers purchased a humble 162 acre homestead in Guadalupe County, Texas, in the fall of 1856 and moved his family there. Guadalupe County and its county seat of Seguin already had a long history in the Southwest stretching back to the Spanish and Mexican days, a center for unrest during the Texas Revolution in 1835-1836, and now a prospering community of farms and ranches. The Guadalupe River, though unpredictable and even vicious in the spring and fall rainy seasons, nonetheless had provided fertile soil for thousands of years, dug out beautiful valleys among the softly rolling hills, and left natural springs and unusually dependable—for Texas—creeks every...


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