Central Texas Storybooks

Central Texas Stories and Legends

Caroline Childers Tyler
Pioneer Settler of Bell County, Texas

Caroline Childers Tyler lived the events recorded in this story. Therefore, this narrative is told in the first person. Most of her story was recorded by her son, George W. Tyler, in his book, History of Bell County. Other parts of the story were recorded by other family members.

Part 1 of 3: Colonial Texas

My Parents

Carolyn Childers Tyler
Caroline Childers Tyler

My parents were Captain Goldsby Childers and Elizabeth Thomas Goldsby. My father was born January 31, 1790 in Virginia and my mother was born May 19, 1797 in Kentucky. They were married in Lexington, Kentucky February 13, 1812.1

My father served with General Harrison at Tippecanoe and he also served in the War of 1812. During the war, he was taken prisoner by the British, tried and condemned to be shot as a spy; however, his sentence was commuted to life in imprisonment. When the war ended, he was released and returned home to the surprise of his family, who had already mourned his death.

After his release, Papa and Mama lived in Kentucky until about 1828 when they moved to a 400-acre farm near Quincy, Adams County, Illinois. While living in Quincy our family became a part of a caravan that set its sights on relocating to the promised land of Texas.

Coming to Texas, 1833

In 1833, seven families left the comforts of their home in Illinois for the uninhabited prairies of Texas, then a province of Mexico. Like many emigrants before us, we had heard that Texas was a promised land of new opportunities for anyone who had initiative and who was willing to work. In our family, the Captain Goldsby Childers family, there was Papa, Mama and nine of us children. I was seven years old at this time.

Others traveling with us were Reverend Isaac Crouch and his wife and several children; Dr. Robert Davidson and his wife and four children; a Mr. McCandless and his wife and several children; Elder John Parker and his wife; James W. Parker and his wife and four children; Elder Daniel Parker and his wife and several children; and several single men including Herman Chapman, George W. Chapman, Joseph G. Ferguson, “Old Man” Rhodes, Ezekiel Robinson, and Empson Thompson. Our company consisted of forty or fifty people.2

Each family had a wagon pulled either by horses or several yoke of oxen; some families had two wagons. The men and some of the older girls rode horseback. At night we pitched tents in some suitable place where there was plenty of wood and water.

Our route was from Quincy, Illinois down the east side of the Mississippi, where we crossed the river by ferry at St. Louis, then traveled through Missouri and Arkansas. We crossed the White River near Batesville, Arkansas.

One of nature’s most phenomenal events occurred that fall night while we were camping on the banks of the White River. We witnessed what appeared to be the falling of the stars. The entire sky lit up with an unmatched brilliance of light as each star in the heavens seemed to fall toward the earth. Both fear and reverence filled our hearts as we watched this spectacular display of nature.

The next morning, as our journey continued, we crossed the Arkansas River at Little Rock, the Red River at Fulton and then turned westward to Clarksville in Texas. From that point, we followed the route used by many of the other overland immigrants into Texas. We followed the Caddo Trail southwards to the San Antonio Road, crossed the Trinity at Midway and the Brazos at Tenoxtitlan, and then down to the Devers Settlement in Austin’s Colony (now in Washington County), not far from Old San Felipe. It took about three months to make this journey.3

Places in Robertson's Colony mentioned by Tyler.
Caroline Childers Tyler mentioned four of the places shown on the above map in her story of settling in Texas: Sarahville de Viesca, Nashville, Tenoxtitlan, and Fort Parker.

With the reopening of Robertson’s Colony in the summer of 1834, Papa and the other men in our group visited the upper country and selected locations for the lands to which they would be entitled on becoming members of the colony. Daniel Parker and his family settled near the present city of Elkhart in Anderson County. Elder John Parker and James W. Parker preferred to settle farther west so they selected land on the Navasota River near the present town of Groesbeck in Limestone County. It was here that, for protection against the Indians, they built a fort that became known as Parker’s Fort.

The first village established within the limits of Robertson Colony was Tenoxtitlan. It was located on the Brazos just above the crossing of the Old San Antonio Road. Established in 1830 by a small group of Mexican soldiers, it became a stopping place for immigrants, prospectors, and travelers. However, with the establishment and growth of nearby towns, Tenoxtitlan gradually dwindled and disappeared.4

One of my favorite places to visit was the town of Nashville. My family visited Nashville often and my brother William Presley was born at Nashville, Texas in August 1836. He died at Clarksville, Texas in the Confederate Army in 1863 or 1864.5

Nashville was a beautiful little town founded in 1835 by empresario Sterling C. Robertson. He named it for Nashville, Tennessee in honor of his birthplace.6 It was located on the southwest bank of the Brazos River two miles below the mouth of Little River in the present county of Milam. It was here that the newly arrived settlers would rest and gather supplies before moving on to claim their land and establish their new homes. It was always exciting to go to Nashville when a new group of immigrants arrived and to hear the news from the states.

Another important town to our family was the town of Sarahville de Viesca. Robertson established this village further up the Brazos River overlooking the great falls where water fell about ten feet over a rocky ledge. Sarahville de Viesca was Roberson’s headquarters for his land office. It was here that titles were issued and where the maps, field notes, archives, and other records related to the colonists were kept.

As previously mentioned, the Parker families settled on the Brazos River, but Papa selected his colonial headright league, a league is 4.428 acres, on the north bank of Little River, at the lower line of the present Bell County, about four miles southwest of the present town of Rogers.7

It was an exciting day for our family when Papa was issued a copy of the final title (the testimonio) written in Spanish. It was, “Given in the Village of Viesca on the 10th of September, 1835.” It was signed by Guillermo H. Steele, and witnessed by Manuel Ma Valdez and Elijah S. C. Robertson. The original handwritten title was placed in the archives at Sarahville de Viesca.8

My family still has the handwritten copy of the original title that was issued to my father and it is truly a family treasure. (An English translation of this title was later printed in the book written by my son.)9

Having possession of the title to the land meant that now it was time to get to work and make the required payments and improvements to the land. Under the Mexican colonization law, the colonist must pay the state in three installments, four, five, and six years from the date of the grant. The payments were $30.00 for each league (4,428 acres), $3.50 for each irrigable labor, (177 acres), and $2.50 for each non-irrigable labor. Also, the colonist must improve or occupy his land within six years. If he should leave the republic the colonist lost title to the land.10

Our colony consisted of eight settlements and all of our grants fronted on the river. Papa’s was on the north side of the river and the lowest down-stream. Our family, the Captain Goldsby Childers family, consisted of Papa, Mama and nine of us children including Thomas (21), Robert (19), James Franklin (16), Catherine (14), Prior (12), Amanda (10), Caroline (8), Elizabeth (3), and Mary Jane (1).11 Mary Jane, however, died in the Fall of 1835 at our Little River home.

Above Papa’s league was the one-fourth league (1,107 acres) of John Needham, a single man. According to the Mexican colonization laws, an unmarried man could receive only one-fourth as a married man; however, if he should later marry, he was entitled to a full league. Above Needham was the league selected by Dr. Robert Davidson. Above and adjoining Davison’s, was the Moses Griffin league. Above and adjoining Griffin’s league was the league selected by William H. Taylor. (In later years, this valley area would become known as Taylor’s Valley.)

On the south bank of Little River was Michael Reed on his labor tract opposite his league which was located on the north bank at Reed’s Lake. Two single sons, William Reed, and Jefferson Reed, lived with their father. William had selected a one-fourth league on the south bank of Little River, and Jefferson had selected a one-fourth league on the north bank. Next and above the Reed settlement was the league of John Fulcher. Nearly eight miles above Fulcher’s was the league selected and occupied by Orville T. Tyler.12

Homesteading in Texas

All eight of us homesteading families built and lived in what was considered an old-time frontier pioneer log cabin. Some families built a single log room, but since we had a family of eleven people, Papa built a cabin with two rooms with a passage way between. The entire house was roofed with boards held in place by weight poles. Some of the houses had floors made of split logs laid flat side up, known as “puncheon” floors. Some houses had only the dirt floors. The houses were built with small square openings which served a dual purpose for ventilation and as port or gun holes for defense against the attack of Indians. We used the pelts of fur-bearing wild animals as floor coverings and for winter clothing.

Families came prepared to be homesteaders on their new land. They usually brought an ox-wagon, a team of one or two yokes of steers, two or three saddle horses, a few head of cattle and hogs, and some farm implements. In addition to tools needed for farming, the families also brought kitchen utensils and household goods. Most families brought a supply of sugar, flour, coffee, salt, molasses, bacon, and tobacco. Nearly every family brought an “English steel mill,” which, when set up and bolted to a post or tree and operated by a hand crank, ground the family supply of corn meal.

The woodlands and streams around us provided a constant source of food. The woods were full of wild game such as bear, deer, turkeys, and small game. In the winter great herds of buffalo came down from the northwest country. The woods were also full of wild honey, grapes, plums, berries, pecans, and walnuts. And the streams afforded good fishing.

For fresh meat, and for self-defense, Papa and our neighbors relied on their old flint-lock rifles, the powder horns, and the leaden bullets, molded at home.

As soon as the cabins were finished so that we all had shelter, Papa and the other men began immediately to clear, break, and fence small patches of land in the bottoms near the streams, which provided water, building and fencing materials, and offered better protection from the Indians, who preferred the open country for their operations.

Our living conditions would not have been bad, if only we could have been free from the menace of Indians. There were the hostile Indians who resented the white settlers and would attack without provocation, but there were also the friendly Indians who just seemed to want to be around the white settlers. I remember vividly of a time in the summer of 1835 when a large party of friendly Lipan Indians came into our valley and set up their tepees near our home. As was the custom, our family invited them to spend the day and that evening Mama cooked a good dinner to share with our guests. A few days later, the Indians invited our family to share a feast with them in their tepees. This was the first time I had been inside a tepee. The dirt floors were covered with rugs made of the skins of bear, buffalo, and deer, like the floor covering in our homes. The Indians were nicely dressed and were friendly and gracious hosts. They served a good dinner of corn bread, venison, honey, and coffee.13

Caroline Childers Tyler's story is continued in Part 2 of this article.

By Charlene Ochsner Carson
Page last updated: April 9, 2024


  1Story of Bell County, Texas, Volume I, Bell County Historical Commission, Eakin Press, Austin, 1988, pp. 392-393.
  2Tyler, Goerge W., History of Bell County, edited by Charles W. Ramsdell, The Naylor Company, San Antonio, 1936, p. 6.
  3Ibid, pp. 6-7.
  4Ibid, p. 7.
  5Story of Bell County, pp. 392-393.
  6Tyler, p. 8.
  7Ibid, p. 17.
  8Ibid, p. 14.
  9Ibid, pp. 12-14.
  10Ibid, p. 2.
  11Ibid, p. 17.
  12Ibid, pp. 18-19.
  13Ibid, p. 13.

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