Stephen F. Austin State University

The Barrows of Chambers County (November 2012)

The Barrows of Chambers County
By Kevin Ladd

Any discussion of the Barrow family in Chambers County has to begin with a gentleman named Reuben Barrow, Sr., who most likely never came to Texas. A large number of family genealogists have studied the Barrow family for decades, but no one has ever determined precisely when Old Reuben was born nor when he died. His burial place, likewise, has been the subject of much speculation.

The fact that he lived, however, has never been in question. A man by that name appears on the 1787 census of Mobile, Alabama, aged some 28 years, which would place his birth in the vicinity of 1759. The late Villamae Williams, a longtime researcher and a former chairman of the Chambers County Historical Commission, placed the elder Barrow in Louisiana by 1795.

Old Reuben was married first, possibly about 1783, to Fannie Kennedy, by whom he had two sons, Levi and Vincent. Family genealogists tell us that Levi was born sometime before 1790 and was married in 1809 to Mary Talley. Levi passed away in 1812 and never made it to Texas. His brother, Vincent Barrow, was married in 1810 to Gertrude Thibodeaux but later married secondly to Catherine Oberland. Vincent settled over in the Hankamer area.

Reuben Barrow, Sr. was married secondly to Mary Jane Johnson, the wedding taking place around 1790. The 1810 census of Opelousas shows two Barrow households, one headed by Reuben and the other by his son Vincent. His other son, Levi, can be found on the census of Rapides Parish that same year. By that time, however, Reuben's household was fairly swarming with young children from his second marriage.

These included their daughters Rachel, Elizabeth, Sarah, Julia and Amelia. Over the years each of these girls would marry and most of these families made their way into what would become Chambers County.

One of the great mysteries within the Barrow clan revolves around the daughter Rachel, who was married in 1811 in Louisiana to John Foreman. No other documentation on this couple has been tracked down. The late Lorraine Barrow Silva, a legendary Barrow researcher, sometimes speculated that celebrated Houston defense attorney Percy Foreman might come from this line, and even thought about writing him and inquiring. But she thought he might charge her for his answer.Elizabeth married Samuel Barber. They would settle on Old River, where Samuel died in 1864.

Elizabeth died in 1863 in Refugio, Texas and is buried there. Sarah married in 1814 to Elisha Henry Roberts Wallis (known in legal documents usually as "E. H. R. Wallis). They would settle at Wallisville. Julia married Alexander Stephens in 1815 and lived briefly on Turtle Bayou. Julia died at Thompsonville, Texas in 1869. Amelia, born in 1803, later married in 1824 to Henry Griffith and settled also on Old River. Four of Reuben and Mary Jane's children (William, Marie, Victoria and Richard Barrow) died young.

The legends that developed around the Barrow family most often surround the three sons of Reuben and Mary Jane. Solomon, who was born in 1801, was the oldest of the three. He married Elizabeth Winfree, and they settled at Point Barrow in Western Chambers County. Reuben, Jr. was born in 1806, and married Susannah Dunman. They lived alternately at Double Bayou and Bolivar. Benjamin, was born in 1808, and was married to Permelia Jane White. After Permelia died in 1861, Ben married secondly to the widow, Mary Jane (Middleton) Bryan.

Old Reuben settled just below Vermillionville, Louisiana.

Before we cover the lives of the three Barrow brothers, we should also address one of the major problems confronting any casual student of that family's history. Most of the Barrow families tended to name their children for other members of the family. Since most of them settled in Chambers and Liberty counties, this creates a confusing minefield for the uninitiated. Every generation seemed to follow the same names.

Old Reuben's two sons by his first wife were also involved in the mix. His son Levi died in Louisiana in 1818 and never settled in Texas, but Levi's son Aaron Leonard Barrow and his wife came and stayed here for awhile. Levi's brother, Vincent Barrow came here after the death of his first wife, Gertrude Thibodeaux and received a land grant near Hankamer. His sons were Levi Oliver, who married Tabitha Isabel Weed; Reuben "Dutch Reuben," who first married Elizabeth Weaver and second to Susan Benton Albritton Courtney (who had been widowed twice); Benjamin Anatoile "French Ben," who married Eliza Weed; Louisa, who married Lucien Abshier; Adaline, who married John Dunman; and Zilphia, who married Robert Dunman.

The pivotal event in the early history of the Barrow family is an exodus of sorts from Louisiana to Texas. This lengthy journey was conducted in the late fall or winter of 1824, when Elisha Henry Robert Wallis and his wife Sarah Barrow loaded their four children and all of their possessions into wagons and set out for the Trinity River. It was not a particularly perilous journey, but it was arduous. There were lots of streams, bayous and rivers to cross. Reuben Jr., Solomon and Benjamin Barrow - Sarah's three surviving brothers - made the journey with them. We'll discuss that journey at more length next month.