Garner and Elizabeth (Jackson) Mayes
By Kevin Ladd
Among the original grantees of Chambers County, Texas was Garner Mayes (c.1775-1860), an early cattle rancher and pioneer settler of the Double Bayou region of the county. Mayes and his wife Elizabeth were both apparently natives of Amelia County, Virginia but had resided briefly in the town of Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee before settling at Double Bayou sometime around 1837.
Garner Mayes was born in Virginia about 1775, possibly in Amelia County, an ancient seat of the family. This line is traced back to the Reverend William Mease, who arrived in Jamestown in September 1609, and thereby became one of the founders of the Old Dominion. By the time of Garner's childhood, land in Virginia was in short supply, with the landed estates usually passing to the eldest son and leaving the younger sons, such as Garner, to seek their own fortunes, lands or perhaps even professional careers. Like many young men of similar station, Garner went west into Tennessee.
He was married on June 6, 1808 in Knox County, Tennessee to Miss Elizabeth "Lizzie" Jackson. His wife was born about 1785 in Virginia. The couple had several children, namely: Joshua Jackson Mayes, who married Sarah Ann Dunman; Minerva H. Mayes, who married William Fields; Jonie Ann, who married William Long; George G. Mayes, who married Martha Stephenson: Abner D. Mayes, who died without marrying; and John J. "Jack" Mayes, who also died without marrying. Two of his grandsons, Leonidas W. "Leon" Fields and William A. Fields, served as county judges --- Leon in Chambers County and William in Hill County, Texas.
After his marriage to Elizabeth in Knox County, Tennessee, Garner located for several years in first in Franklin in Williamson County, Tennessee, and later at Nashville in Davidson County. He was active in community affairs, various legal transactions, and other forms of business transactions. The family appears on the 1820 census of Williamson County and the 1830 census for Davidson County. When their son Joshua was born in 1823, the family was living in the town of Franklin.
Garner Mayes and his family relocated to Texas in 1837, traveling by boat from Tennessee by way of the Mississippi River, across the Gulf Coast and into Galveston Bay. Family tradition is that their boat sunk at the entrance to Double Bayou in present-day Chambers County, Texas, which prompted the family to settle at that place. The area was located in Liberty County at that time and became part of Chambers County in 1858 when the new county was formed.
Garner Mayes formally received his headright for 640 acres on Double Bayou on July 10, 1848. Garner operated a farm and ranch at his home on Double Bayou. His land holdings increased considerably over the next several years, including property in Tyler and Travis counties.
Garner Mayes drowned in 1860 on Double Bayou. His place of burial is not known. Elizabeth lived on through the enumeration of the 1870 census of the county, passing away sometime thereafter.
Although no monuments mark their graves, their descendants continue to populate Chambers County. The best known of these was possibly their son, Joshua Jackson Mayes (1823-1912), who settled at Wallisville and established a sizable cattle ranch there. Much of the cattle ranch was situated on Mayes Island, an area now owned by the federal government. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers now operates the J. J. Mayes Wildlife Trace on the island.