When I’m looking through a family tree to verify birth and death dates, marriages, and lists of offspring I can generally count on two certainties — most of the early pioneer families in old Campbell County/Douglas County migrated to Georgia out of North and South Carolina, and at some point, various family members migrated further west to Texas, especially following the Civil War.
Fellow historians provide several reasons for the Texas migration including the effects of war. Many families found it impossible to raise cotton, this area’s prime cash crop, with a loss of fathers and sons killed or handicapped from the war. Farm hands were scarce and bank loans were not being offered. Even if families opted out of land ownership and attempted to raise a crop by sharecropping, the land had begun to play out since this was an age before soil conservation. It’s no wonder that so many locals decided to move west to Texas and take advantage of homestead claims.
One such person was Nancy P. (Couch) Eargle (1832-1912), daughter of John Couch who settled in old Campbell County as early as 1843 when Nancy was just eleven years old. In 1856, Nancy married Charles “Artemus” Eargle (1832-1864). Joe Baggett’s genealogy notes mention more than likely Artemus was the brother of John Eargle who is buried here in Douglas County and is the ancestor of many local Eargle family members today. Baggett further notes that descendants of Artemus referred to John Eargle as “uncle.”
Artemus and Nancy Eargle began raising a family. Eventually, they would have six sons and two daughters, but tragedy would strike the family in July 1864 when Artemus contracted pneumonia during the Battle of Atlanta and died.
The 1870 census indicates Nancy and her children were living in the Dark Corner district of Douglas County, probably near her husband’s kinsman John Eargle, but by 1875 a decision was made to move her family to Hico, Texas where she settled in a rough-hewn log cabin.
Recently, I located an article in “The Comanche Chief” dated Jan. 15, 1932 recounting the 55th wedding anniversary of Sarah Elizabeth “Lizzie” Eargle and “Buck” Anderson. Buck’s family had been in Texas in 1858, a bit longer than his bride’s family, and maintained a cattle ranch. He could remember his family lived in a cabin with dirt floors and told how much of his time was spent guarding his father’s horses and cattle. Many sleepless nights went by for Buck as he watched for Indians who would drive the livestock away if given an opportunity.
Lizzie was one of Nancy Eargle’s daughters and could remember moving to Texas in 1875, and then marrying Buck Anderson on Dec. 24, 1876 at her mother’s log cabin in Hico.
During the ceremony preparations the minister asked the groom for the marriage license. Buck fumbled in his pants pockets and then his shirt pocket but couldn’t find the important piece of paper. He was certain he had put it in a pocket before leaving his family’s ranch.
Blaming Buck’s forgetfulness as part of being a nervous groom the preacher helped Buck look but couldn’t find it either. It was eventually decided that Buck would have to ride back to his family’s ranch some 18 miles away round trip to fetch the necessary paper. Today, an 18-mile trip would take us mere minutes, but this was Texas, in December, and with 3 feet of snow on the ground. Let me add also the trip would be made by horseback.
The wedding was delayed for a few hours. It was only after Buck returned to the Eargle family cabin that the license was found in his coat pocket — that inside pocket many of us overlook. Though he was a bit frustrated by his forgetfulness Buck later commented, “I was never intoxicated in my life, never drank whiskey at all, even though our wedding was delayed a few hours due to my failure to find the license.”
As stated above, the Eargle family isn’t the only Douglas County pioneer family with Texas kin, and I feel certain even if you aren’t from Douglas County but hail from an old southern family, you have a Texan in your family tree somewhere, too!