. From Kenneth Brown, family researcher for Leon County History Book Updated with new research and Notes by Mary Gresham, family researcher 2009
John Thomas Gresham b. 4 Jun 1817 Taliaferro County, Georgia d. 15 Jul 1870 Centerville, Leon County, Texas
(Note: John Thomas Gresham was the son of James Dillard (Ward) Gresham and Mary ‘Polly’ Ellington, dau of Josiah Ellington. James Dillard Gresham died soon after 31 Dec 1829 in Taliaferro County, Georgia when John Thomas was only 12 years old. It appears that “he learned the blacksmith trade as a youth” when he went to Boligee, Greene County, Alabama to live with his father’s wealthy first cousin, Thomas Gresham and Melinda Calloway. (The 1840 census record for Greene County shows John Thomas now married and Thomas Gresham living near each other.)
John Thomas learned the Blacksmith trade in his youth and was practicing that trade when he met and married Elizabeth Caufield Johnston, widow of George Johnston. Their marriage, recorded in Greene County, Alabama occurred on 12 May 1836. (Note: Receipt found in Greene County, Alabama folder of loose papers of Archibald Janes was from John Thomas Gresham to Janes for blacksmith work.)
John Thomas Gresham’s first wife, Elizabeth Caufield was born in Ireland abt. 1807, first married George Johnston in Ireland and the family immigrated to America in 1822. They settled in Alabama and engaged in the mercantile trade primarily with the Indians. In other words, they owned a trading post. George died in 1832 in Cuba of consumption (tuberculosis) where he had gone for his health. The children of George Johnston and Elizabeth Caufield were William B., Henry G., David J., John, and Robert B.
George Johnston had accumulated considerable property. As a young widow, Elizabeth certainly needed help managing the trading post, the properties, and 5 growing boys. Thus at nineteen (19), John Thomas Gresham was the head of a sizeable family with many things requiring his attention.
(Note: It is very possible that J. T. Gresham arrived in Texas 1840, Class 2, 640 Acres in Sabine, Conditional Certificate dated November 1844. His cousin, George W. Gresham (grandson of John Gresham b. 24 June 1759 Goochland County, Virginia married to Martha Williams Scott arrived in Texas on December 1838, Class 3, received 320 acres in Red River, Conditional Certificate dated December 14, 1839, Unconditional Certificate in Harson dated February 1845.
During the Civil War, George W. Gresham enlisted in Co. H., Texas Guards organized in Anderson County. He died 1860. This may agree with an anecdotal story that two brothers (cousins?) came to Texas and tried to settle near Georgetown but the Indians were too bad, so they came back to East Texas.
In 1847, John Thomas Gresham moved the family from Alabama to Texas and settled in Leon County close to Keechi Creek just a few miles north of the present town of Centerville. Land was purchased. Earliest land deed is dated 1848. Farming and cattle raising were initiated. The young Johnston’s assisted in clearing and opening the very first roads from Centerville to the county seat of Leona. William B. Johnston and Robert B. Johnston started the first store in Centerville under the name of “W.B. Johnston & Bro.” John Johnston became a physician in Navarro County. Robert B. Johnston later served in Gould’s Company during the Civil and was appointed Leon County Tax Collector in 1867.
(Note: from Leon Pioneer about the upcoming July 4, 1852 Celebration “Citizens of Centreville and community to celebrate the third day of July (the fourth being on Sunday) an oration, and public dinner, and a committee of five be appointed to solicit subscriptions for this purpose and that they perform their duty as soon as practicable: Whereupon the following gentlemen were appointed: Dr. D. Port Smythe, Judge ?ison, Col Grigsby, D. Barkley and D.G.? That a committee of twelve be appointed to make all other necessary arrangements where upon: I. F. Wood, R.S. Gould Esqr, RP. Johnson, H.A. McWhorter, H.B. Pruitt, A. Hanna, Jacob S. Horn, John T. Gresham, Wm. Evans, T.W. Shurman, Mark P. Holliman, and Thomas Curtis were appointed, five of whom shall constitute a quorum.” On July 7, 1852, the Leon Pioneer reported that a firing of a salute of 31 guns at sunrise, at 11 o’clock a full National salute of 31 guns, a prayer and an oration, the National Anthem was sung by the choir, another prayer, a procession was formed that marched to the dinner table. “Plenty reigned upon the board and perfect enjoyment among the guests. We all got enough and we cannot tell how many baskets of fragments was taken up. Too much praise cannot be bestowed upon the different committees who superintended the various arrangements of the table and in particular upon J. T. Gresham, Esqr, who superintended the barbecue. Mutton, pig, beef and every delicacy was served. ….After the dinner the younger portion of the assembly retired to the Courthouse and were soon tripping on the ‘light fantastic toe’ to the merry strains of the violin. It was soon found that the Court house, though spacious was not large enough to accommodate those who wished to participate in the dance and some of the company repared to the hospitable mansion of Mr. James Johnson”)
Times and events kept John Thomas’ large family busy. Elizabeth Caufield died 14 Aug 1857. She is buried in the Centerville Cemetery in the old section just east of the dividing road. Her grave has an iron fence around it. With his knowledge as a blacksmith, John Thomas could well have personally made the fence. There is no gravestone, the information was on the gate which has long since been stolen. John Thomas administered her estate in the period 1859-1860 and saw that the Johnston boys received their share of her estate.
In 1852 John Thomas Gresham paid taxes on 2250 acres of land, 2 negroes, 11 horses, and 29 cattle. In 1861, after administering her estate, he paid taxes on only 404 acres. By 1865, he had 1760 acres.
Thus approximately at the age of 41, John Thomas found himself a widower and all the Johnston boys had grown up, married and gone their separate ways. In 1859 John Thomas met and married Elizabeth Render Truitt, widow of James Stell.
Elizabeth Render Truitt was born in Georgia 31 May 1829, daughter of John Truitt and Sarah Shorter. In addition Elizabeth Render Truitt Stell had at least three Revolutionary War ancestors. Purnal Truitt, Joseph Henderson and Lawrence Bankston. After the death of her husband, James Jones Stell (buried in Fayette County, Georgia) Elizabeth R. came to Texas with her father-in-law John D. Stell, Attny. She had three (3) children, Ella Stell, Emma Stell, and John D. Stell.
Again, John Thomas was the stepfather of three new children. Ella b. 5 Jan 1846, grew up to marry William M. Johnston who served in the Civil War. Emma b. 29 Aug 1849 married David J. Johnston. John D. Stell b. 26 October 1847 married Mary Alice Cousens daughter of Dr. Cousens of Virginia. (Note the above Johnston boys were brothers, sons of Isabella Johnston, owner of one of the early Leon County land grants. No known relationship to the Johnstons of John Thomas Gresham’s first wife.)
Four children were born to John Thomas Gresham and Elizabeth Render Truitt. Isaac L Gresham 1860-1861, Elizabeth Gresham 1862 – 1940 married Jerry McDaniel moved to Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas., Lucius Truitt Gresham 1863-1929 married Mattie Lee Patrick (started the first bank in Centerville) and Thomas Herbert (Bert.T.) Gresham 1866-1941 married Margaret Jane (Marguritte) Dunsworth. (Note: Lucius and Bert T. started the Gresham Bros. Mercantile store that later became Gresham & Sons. Bert T. was later elected County Clerk and served for 18 years. He later was a County Commissioner of Precinct #1 for many years)
John Thomas Gresham enlisted as a Private, in July 1863, Co. B, 18th Brigade under A. J. Spiller, Capt., Gen. W. B. Middleton, Comdg. in Leon County for six months. He later mustered up on 16 March 1864 at Camp Keelough under John S. Durst & R. B. Nance Capt, Co. D, 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, T.S.T. for six months. He took the “oath of amnesty” on 7 Sept 1865, as administered by H. B. Pruitt, Chief Justice of Leon County and witnessed by Walter A. Patrick, Clerk County Court, Leon County.
John Thomas Gresham d. 15 July 1870 from a sudden illness and is buried in the Centerville Cemetery. Following the Civil War things were tough for the “Confederates”. They had lost their capital in Confederate currency, now worthless and were faced with higher land taxes. Elizabeth Render kept things together by working as a seamstress and a milliner. She lived long enough to know many grandchildren and died 24 August 1900 and is buried in the Centerville Cemetery beside her 2nd husband, John Thomas Gresham.
(Note: John T. Gresham, grandson remarked that John Thomas Gresham always wore a mustache.) He was a Mason and member of the Centerville Methodist Church. His letter of dismissal was from the Bensalem Presbyterian Church in Boligee in 1848
John Thomas made his will in 1862 before leaving for the Civil war. Interestingly, a beloved negro man would not let him go alone and accompanied him to war to "take care of Mr. John."
Source Citation Texas Department of State Health Services; Austin Texas, USA Source Information Ancestry.com. Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. Original data: Texas Department of State Health Services. Texas Death Certificates, 1903–1982. Austin, Texas, USA.
Source Information Marriage: Ancestry.com. Alabama, Marriage Index, 1800-1969 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006. Original data: Alabama Center for Health Statistics. Alabama Marriage Index, 1936-1969. Alabama Center for Health Statistics, Montgomery, Alabama. Dodd, Jordan R., et. al. Early American Marriages: Alabama to 1825. Bountiful, UT: Precision Indexing Publishers, 19xx. Hunting For Bears, comp. Alabama marriage information taken from county courthouse records. Many of these records were extracted from copies of the original records in microfilm, microfiche, or book format, located at the Family History Library. Dodd, Jordan R. comp. Early American Marriages: Alabama 1800 to 1920
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