Letters From Addie
Chapter 1: Addie Makes a Choice, 1884
In 1884, twenty-six-year-old Addie Barton faced two choices. She could stay in her hometown of Salado, Texas, and continue to live the safe, secure life she had always enjoyed. She could continue to live with her widowed mother in the grand, comfortable house on Main Street near Salado Creek. She could continue to help her mother raise her younger brothers and sisters. She could continue teaching a Sunday school class at the local Baptist church, and she could continue teaching school at the nearby town of Holland.
Or, Addie could respond to her missionary calling. She could go to Mexico as one of the first Southern Baptist missionaries to go into the Republic of Mexico. She could live in a place where three-fourths of the people were Indians or of Indian descent.1 She could work in a country where over eighty-nine percent of the population was Roman Catholic.2 She could witness in a foreign land where in the entire country there were only eight Baptist churches with a total of two hundred members. She could start a school for girls where she spoke not the language. She could make her home in a country where smallpox was as common as the poverty that surrounded the people. She could meet the same fate as missionary John O. Westrup, one of the first Baptists missionaries into Mexico. While traveling from one mission station to another, Rev. Westrup was brutally murdered by a band of renegade Indians and Mexicans.3
Addie made her choice. She longed for adventure and excitement but most importantly, she had felt the call of God on her life. Addie went to Mexico. While in Mexico, she wrote hundreds of letters to her family back in Salado. She wrote of working with the Indians and Mexicans. She wrote of how the Catholic priests warned the natives not to become involved with the Protestant missionaries. She wrote of starting new churches in unchartered areas. She wrote of starting schools for the girls of Mexico. She wrote of smallpox and other diseases, and she wrote of the physical dangers she and her co-workers faced. This account is the first publication of some of the letters exchanged between Addie and her family. In order to acquaint readers with Addie's family, the following is a brief description of Addie's parents and their ten children.
In the autumn of 1854, a wagon train of one hundred South Carolina families began its journey to Texas. The wagons rumbled onward one after the other. Through dense forests and over rugged mountains, across countless streams and rivers, they came. The train was led, not by an experienced, well-known wagon master; not by a rough, rugged mountain man, but a physician. A physician of small stature due to a crippling swimming accident he suffered as a young boy.
Nothing about Welborn Barton's education toward a medical degree from Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky had trained him to pilot a wagon train. He did have one strong qualification, however: he had been that way before. After graduating from medical school in 1847, he and his cousin, Ben Barton, who had graduated with him, migrated to Texas. Dr. Barton settled in Washington County and established a medical practice. Cousin Ben continued on to the gold fields of California.
After being in Texas for a few years, Dr. Barton grew lonesome for South Carolina and the sweetheart he had left behind. So, in 1850 Dr. Barton returned to South Carolina and on December 12, 1850, Welborn Barton, M.D. married Louisa Adeline McCoy Cox in Greenville County, South Carolina.
Their first child, a daughter, Rebecca, was born in 1852 and their first son, Samuel Houston, was born in 1854, just prior to the wagon train leaving South Carolina. After three months of relentless travel, the wagon train arrived in Williamson County, Texas, in December 1854. The train was so long that it was three days between the arrival of the first wagon and the last one. And by the grace of God, all arrived safely.
After a short stay in Williamson County, Dr. Barton bought some land in Burnet County, Texas where he set up a medical practice. When the Civil War broke out, Dr. Barton, his father and his five brothers, all who had traveled to Texas together, joined the Confederate Army. Dr. Barton served the army as a surgeon. Two of the brothers never returned from the war.
The Bartons lived in Burnet County until 1865. While there the Bartons had four more children, Robert, Addie, Emma, and Sallie. The Bartons wanted their children to receive the best education Texas had to offer. Therefore, in 1865, they moved the family to Salado, Texas so the children could attend the recently chartered Salado College. Addie was seven years old when the family made this move.
Upon their arrival in Salado, the Bartons built a grand three-story native stone house located on Main Street on the north side of Salado Creek. Dr. Barton designated one room of the house as his office. Louisa served as his nurse and she usually accompanied her husband on his rounds, driving the horse and buggy. Dr. Barton usually rode shotgun with a rifle, watching for hostile Indians.
The Bartons soon became involved in the work and life of the village. Friends and neighbors thought of the Bartons as a generous and humanitarian family. While in Salado, four more children were born into the family, Mildie, Eva, Welborn Jr., and Ruth.
Addie, as well as her nine brothers and sisters, grew up in the then named Salado Baptist Church of Christ, now named First Baptist Church of Salado. The entire family was active and involved in the programs of the church. Dr. Barton taught a Primary class of young children and served on numerous boards and committees. Mrs. Barton also served on numerous boards and committees, and at one time was elected Deaconess.
When the Barton family first came to Salado, the church was meeting in the Salado College building. In 1878, the church members elected to build their own house of worship. The property for the new church building was donated by two men. The first piece of property, located along the north bank of Salado Creek, was donated by O.T. Tyler. On the date of Tyler's donation, Dr. Barton bought and deeded to the church an adjoining piece of property. The First Baptist Church of Salado stands yet today on those two pieces of property.
Dr. Barton watched with fatherly pride as his daughter Addie graduated from Salado College at the age of 17. He was confident that she was well prepared to assume any role the future had to offer. She had studied music, had a fine voice, and played the piano and organ. In addition, she was gifted in languages and mathematics. Her studies and talents would serve her well in any future endeavors. Even though he had spoken to Addie of the Baptist opening mission fields in Mexico, he was denied the opportunity of seeing his dear daughter respond to her missionary call. Dr. Barton died in 1883, the year before Addie left for Mexico.
During her widowhood of the next 37 years, Mrs. Barton remained in Salado, where she reared and educated the children still at home. She also remained active in the hometown church, the Salado Baptist Church of Christ. To supplement her income, Mrs. Barton provided room and board for students attending Salado College, and with her own large family it seemed as if the house was always filled with the needs of many people.
When Addie was in Mexico, she wrote letters to her mother more than to any other person. The common theme of those letters is "don't give yourself any trouble concerning me."
The Barton Children
1) REBECCA (BARTON) EUBANK was Addie's oldest sister. Rebecca was born in South Carolina on March 31, 1852. She was 2 years old when her parents came to Texas. She married Rev. Joseph Eubank on May 5, 1872. Eubank was pastor of the First Christian Church in Willows, California for a short time after he and Rebecca married. The Eubanks had five children. Rebecca and her family spent most of their lives in California. Rebecca died in 1934 at the age of 82. This collection contains no letters addressed to Rebecca. Hopefully, those letters are in the possession of the Eubank's family.
2) SAMUEL HOUSTON BARTON was Addie's oldest brother. Sam was born February 6, 1854 and was a few months old when the family left South Carolina to come to Texas. Sam married Nancy Anderson "Pinkie" Garrett on November 5, 1874. They had seven children. Sam was a successful farmer and stockman living in the Holland, Texas area. Addie refers to Brother Sam and his family in several of her letters. This collection contains three letters Addie wrote concerning the death of Sam and Pinkie's son, Randall, who died at the age of 20.
3) ROBERT WILSON BARTON, M. D. was the second of Addie's older brothers. Robert was born in Bertram, Burnet County, Texas on March 19, 1856. Dr. Barton married Sarah "Sallie" Margaret Hamblen on October 6, 1880. The couple had seven children. Robert practiced medicine in Temple and Barton Street in Temple is named for Dr. Robert Barton. This collection contains several letters addressed to "Bro. Bob." It was Bro. Bob and his family who had saved this entire collection of letters. Because of their foresight and appreciation of family history, these letters have been preserved and are available today. In 1996, Barbara Barton Beemer, great-great granddaughter of Dr. Bob Barton, donated the family's entire collection of Addie's original handwritten letters to the Bell County Museum in Belton, Texas.
4) LOUISA ADELINE "ADDIE" BARTON was the fourth child born into the Barton family. She was born in Burnet County on August 23, 1858, during the administration of James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States. The story of her life as a missionary is told through the letters she wrote to her family. Those letters reveal Addie's pioneer spirit and sense of adventure. They also reveal her love for her family and her zeal for her work. It was her niece, Lessi, however, who tells the story of Addie's missionary calling.
According to Lessi, the Barton house was always filled with people. Some were family members; others were friends. Since Mrs. Barton provided room and board, one never knew what stranger would be sitting in the parlor. One day two of those strangers were a Dr. and Mrs. Powell. The Powells were on their way to Mexico to resume their missionary work at Saltillo. Addie listened with great interest as Dr. and Mrs. Powell told about their work among the Mexican people. As she listened, she became convinced that mission work was also her calling. So, at a time when young single ladies did not travel without an escort, Addie boarded a train in Texas and traveled across three states on her way to Tennessee in order to receive missionary training at Ward-Belmont Seminary in Nashville.
Upon the completion of her training, Addie passed the examinations and was appointed by the Foreign Mission Board as a missionary to Mexico. She returned to Texas in time to join Dr. and Mrs. Powell as they continued their journey to Saltillo. One of the first letters in this collection is a letter from Dr. Powell addressed to Mrs. Barton. In his letter, Dr. Powell assures Mrs. Barton that he will look after Addie and her well-being.
5) EMMALINE "EMMA" BURNETTE BARTON was Addie's best friend and confidante. Emma, born February 7, 1861 in Burnet County, was three years younger than Addie, and they wrote back and forth about everything. Addie portrayed Emma as the "worrier" in the family, and she was constantly inviting Emma to come visit her in Mexico. There is no indication, however, that Emma responded to her sister's pleading. Nevertheless, when Emma died in 1911 at the age of 50, Addie lost a true and dear friend, her soul mate. Emma never married. She is buried with her parents at the Salado Cemetery.
6) SARAH MATHER "SALLIE" (BARTON) MCKENDREE, was five years younger than Addie. Sallie was born in Burnet County on October 24, 1863. She married James Edward McKendree July 17, 1883. The McKendrees had five children. The McKendree family spent most of their lives in San Antonio. Addie referred to Sister Sallie in two or three letters in this collection. Addie also referred to Sallie's daughter, Lessi. When Lessi was a young lady, she spent some time with Addie in Mexico, and later wrote an account of Addie's life as a missionary.
7) MILDAH MILDRED "MILDIE" (BARTON) LAW, born on October 15, 1866, was the Barton's first child born in Salado, Bell County. She was 18 years old when Addie left for Mexico. Addie was in Patos when Mildie married Jarrette DeLeslie Law, M. D. on November 1, 1886. The Laws had five children.
There are several letters in this collection addressed to "Sister Mildie." Mildie and Addie shared many common interests. Both were accomplished musicians, and both were well educated and learned to speak several languages with ease. Mildie also seemed to have a playful spirit and a sense of adventure. We know that Mildie spent time with Addie in Saltillo. It was she who finished the letter Addie had started to Ruth on January 14, 1885. Mildie outlived all of her brothers and sisters. She was born October 15, 1866 and died December 19, 1962 at the age of 96. She is buried at the North Belton Cemetery in Belton, Texas.
8) EVA (EVIE) M. BARTON, the Barton's eighth child and Addie's fourth youngest sister, was born in Salado, Bell County, on March 10, 1870. At the age of ten, Evie suffered an attack of appendicitis. This was in the days before abdominal surgery, and even though Evie's father was a surgeon, he was helpless to relieve his daughter's suffering. He could only sit by and watch as his little Evie slipped into death. The shock of this dear child's death at such a tender young age threw a pall over the entire family, and it had a profound, life changing effect on Addie. Up to that time, Addie was teaching school in the nearby town of Holland.
Upon her sister's death, Addie made the decision to dedicate herself to the Lord and His cause. It was not until her encounter with Dr. and Mrs. Powell, however, that she knew the path that she was to take. When Addie wrote her Life History for the Foreign Mission Board, she wrote of how Eva's death influenced her to dedicate her life to the Lord. Addie's Life History is included with this collection of letters.
9) WELBORN BARTON JR., M.D. was Addie's third and youngest brother. Welborn Jr. was born on May 6, 1873 in Salado, Bell County. Welborn was eleven years old when Addie left home in 1884. Addie quickly assumed the role as surrogate mother to Welborn. Her letters to him are filled with advice on how to grow up to be a strong, useful young man. Welborn Barton Jr., M.D. married Martha Emily Allen on May 5, 1897. They had two children.
10) RUTH "RUFFIE" (BARTON) SHANKLIN was the Barton's youngest child. Ruth was born in Salado, Bell County, on October 6, 1877. Ruthie was seven years old when big sister Addie left home. Many of the letters in this collection are addressed to "My Darling Ruth." Those letters reveal the nurturing, encouraging, loving feelings Addie had for little sister, Ruthie. Ruth married Nal Shanklin, Sr. on April 29, 1903. The Shanklins had one child.
By Charlene Ochsner Carson
Page last updated: October 30, 2018
Footnotes:1Mexico Missions. Southern Baptist International Mission Board Report, Accession No. 2665, May 05, 1861, Columbus, Mississippi. p 3.
2"Mexico," Infoplease, 2000-2005 Pearson Education, publishing as Infoplease. June 4, 2005.
3Inman, Nick, ed. Mexico. New York: Dorling Kindersley Publishing, Inc., 1999.