By Kevin Ladd
Once in a great while we run across an article that really knocks our socks off as historians or amateur historians. The following article is one such bit of writing. Daniel Leonidas McGary (1833-1902), a native of Hopkinsville, KY, came to Brenham after the War Between the States and published a newspaper there for awhile. He later made his way to Houston, where he published a paper called "The Age." Over a period of two decades, McGary became a major force in Texas journalism, but he ran afoul of his political opponents. In 1897, he closed down his newspaper in Houston and moved the printing press and the whole works to Wallisville, then the county seat of Chambers County. The new editor became fascinated with local history.
The following article, one of the most interesting about the Wallis family, was originally published in the Wallisville newspaper, "The Age," sometime in 1898. Although that actual issue did not survive, the editor of the Liberty Vindicator, Mr. T. Jeff Chambers, published the story in its entirety in one of his weekly editions on January 7, 1898. The information contained in this story was based upon an interview with Mrs. Rachel (Wallis) Dunman and gives us a great insight into the early pioneer days in the 1820s.
The Liberty Vindicator
(January 8, 1898)
At the home of her son, Mr. Ed. Dunman, yesterday evening, the Age had a pleasant chat with Mrs. Rachel Dunman, the only survivor of those who were in this county when she came here 74 years ago. Her father, Mr. E.H.R. Wallis, with his family, left Natchitoches Parish, La. for Texas, in December, 1824. At the Sabine they got small boats and went down that river and up the Neches to where the town of Beaumont is now. From there they traveled with wagons and ox teams to Liberty, reaching that town Christmas Day. From there they came down the Trinity and in the first week of the year 1825, they reached and located on what is known as Wallis Hill, just east of Wallisville, and that is now and has ever since been a Wallis' home, it being at present the residence of Mr. Sol. Wallis, who was born there 68 years ago. If there is any other man or woman in Texas living now where he or she was born 68 years ago the Age would like to know it. When Mrs. Dunman, then Rachel Wallis, settled on Wallis Hill, bears, wildcats, deer, turkeys and wolves were quite abundant, but folks were exceedingly scarce. Her nearest neighbors were at Liberty, 30 miles away, except two bachelors, Burney and Arnold. [Shadrack] Burney, while living, had expressed a wish that when he died he should be buried under a black haw tree that he pointed out, and he was buried there.
In 1827 Mr. Taylor White settled on Turtle Bayou, and his descendants live there now. His grandson, R. M. White [Monroe White], is the leading merchant, cattle raiser and dealer in Chambers County. Just here it is well to say that with Mr. Wallis came two of Mrs. Wallis's brothers, Reuben and Solomon Barrow; and the Barrows to this day are numerous, prominent and influential in this county. A few days after they had got located, Mrs. Dunman says some of the family, herself among the rest, concluded to go down and take a nearer look at the river, and though it was only a few hundred yards distant they had to go through such a dense jungle of wild pea vines, that reaching the bank proved a formidable undertaking. Those pea vines, however, served an excellent purpose. Nature produced them in luxuriant abundance and they were better than corn for fattening hogs. In 1834, just ten years after moving here with her father, Mrs. Dunman was wedded to Mr. James T. Dunman, and the young couple settled on the Harris county side of Cedar Bayou, but afterwards moved to the Chambers county side, and during the past 74 years she has never had a home more than half a day's ride from her girlhood home on Wallis Hill. She raised eight sons, and six of them were Confederate soldiers, the youngest of the six being only 16 years old when he left home and went away with the army. Two of her sons were killed at [the battle of] Mansfield, one shot dead on the field and the other mortally wounded. Two crossed the Mississippi with the [Terry's Texas] Rangers, and one of them, R.L. (Coon) Dunman, was twice wounded. He still lives, wearing honorable scars. Mr. Ed Dunman was then a boy not is his teens and probably did some pouting because he too couldn't go soldiering. Mrs. Dunman has now living six children. The good woman is esteemed by all who know her and revered by her own descendants. She is well preserved in both body and mind, reads and threads a needle without the aid of spectacles, is 82 years old, buoyant in spirits as a girl and may reasonably hope to live to be a hundred. -- Wallisville Age.
Daniel Leonidas McGary