Central Texas Storybooks

Central Texas Stories and Legends

Welborn Barton Sr., M.D.
(1821-1883)

Welborn Barton was born in Greenville County, South Carolina, September 25, 18211 He was the son of Colonel Wilson Barton, born in Greenville County, South Carolina March 17, 1796,2 and Mildah McKinney Barton, born in Greenville County, South Carolina, on August 6, 1802.3 Mildah died September 2, 1848 and is buried at the Tyger Baptist Church Cemetery in Greenville County, South Carolina.4 There were nine children born to this union with Welborn Barton being the first born.

A few months after Mildah's death, Col. Wilson married Rebecca Hagood Hightower. She was the widow of John Hightower, a brother of Alfred Hightower. Alfred Hightower's daughter was married to Decatur, Wilson's second son. Hightower had another daughter who would marry Alexander, Wilson's third son.5 In other words, the Hightower sisters married Barton brothers.

Wilson and Rebecca Hightower signed a typical marriage contract in which their property, including provisions for their slaves, reverted back to themselves when they filed for separation five years later in February 1854.6

Welborn Barton Sr.
Welborn Barton Sr., M.D., 1821-1883.

In the autumn of 1854, a wagon train of one hundred people, forty-eight white people, the others slaves, left South Carolina headed for 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, were ready for some adventure. So, in1849 the two young men headed for the gold fields of California. They got as far as Washington County, Texas when Welborn decided that he had gone far enough so he stopped and established a medical practice in Washington County. Cousin Ben continued on to California.

After being in Texas a few years, Welborn grew lonesome for South Carolina and the sweetheart he had left behind. So, in 1850, he returned to South Carolina and on December 12, 1850, Welborn Barton, M.D. married 15-year old Louisa Adeline McCoy Cox in Greenville County, South Carolina.7 Louisa's father was Robert L. Cox, a colonel in the South Carolina militia who had served in the state General Assembly. Her mother was Bethsheba McCoy.

The Bartons' 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.

The Barton families were leaving their privileged, comfortable life for unknown, unsecured futures. Their destination was the untamed frontier of Texas where Indian raids on Anglo settlements were common. The government was offering land grants for homesteaders, but it appears that the Barton families purchased their land.

After three months of relentless travel, the wagon train arrived in Williamson County, Texas, in December 1854. Among the nineteen family members on the train were Welborn Barton's father, Col. Wilson Barton, and his six brothers and their families.

The roll call of family members included Col. Wilson Barton, Welborn and his wife, the former Louisa Adeline Cox and their two children, Rebecca, and Sam Houston; Decatur and his wife, the former Susan Catherine Hightower and their three children; Alexander Madison and his wife, the former Louisa Pamila Hightower, and their two sons; and Wilson Perry and his new bride, Eliza Caroline Cox, Louisa's sister; Welborn's three adolescent brothers, David age 18, Joel Poinsett age 15, and Columbus age 10.8

When the wagon train was traveling, the slaves walked most of the time and Welborn and a few of the other men rode ahead on horseback to scout for camping places, provisions and food for the horses. The route taken was through South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana. They swam all the streams and rivers with the exception of the Mississippi River, where they crossed on a ferry. They came through without any sickness or accidents. 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.

As the train approached Williamson County, news traveled ahead that the train was coming and the neighbors were ready to greet the new arrivals and had provisions gathered for them. A man by the name of John Owens had made provisions for the Barton family to camp on his place. From there, all the families went out and bought land within a radius of fifty miles. The train got there in time for all the families to make crops. The Bartons stayed on Owens' land for a year and made a crop. Dr. Barton also established a medical practice, often riding for miles to see his patients.

After their stay in Williamson County, the Bartons moved to Burnet County where Col. Barton bought 600 acres on the South San Gabriel River for a cost of $700.00. Welborn Barton bought 525 acres of land, using part of Louisa's inheritance, and built a log cabin on the South San Gabriel River next to his father's land near the settlement of South Gabriel. All the brothers lived nearby. In 1882 many residents of South Gabriel moved to the newly created town of Bertram when the railroad passed through there rather than South Gabriel. The Bartons stayed where they were.9

In 1861, when the Frontier Guards from Burnet County organized for the Confederate States of America, Welborn and all of his brothers enlisted and two brothers, David and Wilson Perry, did not return. David died in an Arkansas hospital of pneumonia. Although Wilson Perry's death went unrecorded, it is assumed that he also died of pneumonia. Welborn Barton served the Confederate army as a surgeon during the Civil War. His tenure of service was from June 1861 until June 1862. It's possible that his handicap cut his tenure short.

Col. Wilson Barton was elected the third Chief Justice of Burnet County serving from 1856-1858.10 A few years later, the title of this office was changed to County Judge.

In 1929, Rebecca Barton Eubank dictated a letter to Mrs. John Eubank Edwards, her daughter-in-law, describing her life in early Texas. In this letter, Rebecca stated, "Texas was so unsettled that San Antonio and Austin and a few other cities were the only cities at that time. Sam Houston had just been elected governor of Texas, [1859]. Up to this time he had been President of the Republic of Texas. My father made his acquaintance and they became fast friends."11

Rebecca continued her letter by writing that when the family arrived in Texas her father bought a farm in Burnet County about twelve miles out of town, and the negros put in a crop and began a sheep ranch. When the Mormons came to Burnet County, they stopped about two miles from the Barton home and built a gristmill. The mill made graham flour as it was said that the miller was named Graham and that was the first time anyone had ever heard of graham flour.

(Author's Note: Rebecca is probably referring to the Mormon Mill established by Lyman Wight who later sold it to Noah Smithwick. The mill was located on Hamilton Creek near Marble Falls. The mill was used as a flour mill, a lumber mill, a cotton gin, and a furniture factory.)

Life was hard for the Barton family as well as all of the other families living in this untamed frontier of Texas. They made all of their household goods by hand out of raw materials that were available. Anything that they could not raise came through Mexico from France and Spain. They had wild tea that grew on the prairie and for coffee, they cut up potatoes and half wheat.

They traded across the Mexican border for many of the necessities of life. They exchanged wheat, flour, wood, and barley for sugar, coffee, and calico. The men who drove the wagons and horses between Burnet County and Mexico literally took their lives in their hands because of the desperados who lay in wait ready to kill and rob them, and the Indians who were ready to murder and scalp them. Rebecca stated, "Some came back and some did not."12

During the Civil War it fell to the folks back home to make clothing for the soldiers. In her letter Rebecca stated that they had to make everything they wore. Plus, they had to cord, spin, and then weave the cloth for everything the soldiers wore, including their trousers, shirts, and underwear. On Sunday afternoons the women would gather and sew and knit and weave with a sense of urgency in an effort to have clothing ready for the next soldier who was home on furlough so he could take the items back to the troops when he returned to the battlefield.

When soldiers came home on furlough, it was cause for celebration. There was usually a big party with lots of singing and dancing. If the soldier had a sweetheart waiting for him, he usually composed a ballad and sent it ahead to his sweetheart. When the girl received the ballad, she would keep it a secret until her soldier came home and a party was given, then she would spring it. The soldiers always looked forward to hearing their ballads sung at these celebrations.

In her letter, Rebecca stated that one of their biggest problems was trouble with the Indians. She stated that the Indians would steal and kill their horses, kill children on their way to school, and kill herders out with the sheep.

She told of the Johnson family who were all killed by the Indians as they were going home from a neighbor's home where they had been making sorghum. The Indians cut one little girl's head off, killed the mother and father, but the mother threw the baby off into the brush where her clothes caught in the branches. The baby hung on the branch all night and was found the next morning. Her only injury was an arrow through her arm.

In describing the role of the negros during the Civil War, Rebecca stated, "Some of the negros went to war, but those masters who sent them were not very well thought of. The negros stayed at home and protected the women and children."13 The greatest protection had to be from the Indians. All work had to be done on the farms and plantations by early afternoon because the Indians would kill the negros if they were caught out after dark.

The Indians also would take all the horses and mules and what they could not take, they would kill. Rebecca told of how her father had left behind his big horse when he left to go to the war. Her mother had the negros lock a chain around the horse's neck through the window pane into her room. The Indians came that night and cut the horse's throat.

Grave marker of Col. Wilson Barton
Grave marker of Col. Wilson Barton, 1796-1878, in South San Gabriel Cemetery, Burnet County, Texas. (Photo made on September 1, 2018.)

According to Rebecca's letter, the first death recorded with this group of pioneers was the death of a twin baby born to Mandy Barton, a negro of Dr. Barton. After they arrived in Texas, Mandy married a negro man belonging to another white man. When negroes married, the children belonged to the master of the woman. When the baby died, since there was no established cemetery, the question came up as to where to bury the baby. Dr. Barton made a pine coffin and then he and the baby's father, carried the little corpse to a camp ground where the soldiers had been mustered out, and buried it there alone, and that was accepted as the cemetery. The next person from their group to be buried there was Rebecca's grandfather, Colonel Wilson Barton (1796-1878). According to Rebecca's account, Mandy Barton's infant child and her grandfather were the first and second people buried in the South San Gabriel Cemetery in Burnet County, Texas.

After serving as a surgeon in the Civil War, Welborn Barton came home perhaps sickened by the sights, sounds, and smells of the blood-soaked battlefields of war. Also, when he was confronted with hardships that his family had endured while he was away, he realized that it was time for a fresh start for his entire family. Therefore, in 1865, Welborn and Louisa gathered up their family of six children, Rebecca and Samuel Houston who had been born before the family left South Carolina, and the four children, Robert, Addie, Emma, and Sallie, who had been born in Burnet County, and headed east toward a little frontier village known as Salado.

The Bartons had heard that Salado boosted of a newly chartered college and since they wanted their children to receive the best education Texas had to offer they chose Salado as the ideal place to start anew.

At the beginning of the Civil War, the Slave Schedule for Burnet County as of June 30, 1860, showed that Welborn Barton owned eight slaves.14 No record could be found indicating what became of these eight former slaves after the Civil War. Perhaps they stayed in Burnet County as there is no mention of freedmen traveling with the Barton family to Bell County.

The Barton House in Salado
The Welborn and Louisa Barton House in Salado, Texas, built 1865-1866.

Upon his arrival in Salado, Dr. Barton bought 22 acres of land on the north side of Salado Creek from Col. E.S.C Robertson and built a three-story house of native stone on Main Street. The house had six rooms with all the interior and exterior walls made of stone. The master bedroom had a hand-cut stone lavatory that was designed to drain to the outside. This was considered a very unusual feature at that time.

With a new house and his family settled, Dr. Barton, once again, started his medical practice and he became involved with the work and life of the village. He served on the Board of Trustees of the collage and he and Louisa joined the then named Salado Baptist Church of Christ where Dr. Barton taught the Primary Children's Sunday School class.

In 1878, when the church members elected to build their first church building, the property for the 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.

As a country doctor, most of Dr. Barton's patients were either too ill or had no transportation to come into town to see the doctor in his office. So, Dr. Barton would hitch up his horse and buggy and go to the homes of his patients, traveling several miles per visit. Louisa would often accompany her husband, driving the horse and buggy and serving as his nurse. Dr. Barton rode shotgun watching for hostile Indians.

After practicing for several years in Salado, Dr. Barton expanded his practice to specialize in the care of female patients. A notice in a local newspaper stated that Dr. Barton would be in "his office some portion of every day (except Sunday) to treat all diseases peculiar to females, and on Saturdays from 8 A.M. to 3 P.M."15 The article continued by stating that Dr. Barton had a "separate neat and convenient office attached to his dwelling and that a lady assistant [would be] present when necessary."16 At this time Dr. Barton had been practicing medicine for 35 years. A year later, 1882, Dr. Barton's son, Dr. Robert (Bob) Barton was practicing out of his father's office.

At some point, Dr. Barton was struck with a severe paralysis that left him critically ill. Welborn Barton Sr. M.D. died May 13, 1883 and was buried in the Old Graveyard Section of the Salado Cemetery.17 He left a legacy of caring for the sick and hurting. Two of his sons, Robert (Bob) Welborn Barton and Welborn Barton Jr., became physicians. Two of his daughters married physicians, and two of his grandchildren also were doctors, one becoming a dental surgeon.

After her husband's death, Louisa supplemented her income by providing room and board for college students. Prior to his death, Dr. Barton, who had acquired several acres of land, deeded a tract of land to Louisa whose inheritance had been used for the purchase of their homestead in Burnet County. He conveyed this property to his wife to provide security for her future.18

Louisa Cox Barton traded a life of privilege for one of adventure and hardship when she married Welborn Barton, a man 14 years her senior. She bore ten children, traveled by covered wagon from South Carolina to Texas, watched her husband leave to go serve in the Civil War, endured hardship after hardship during his absence, and was a self-supporting widow for 37 years before her death on November 14, 1920.19 She was buried next to her husband in the Salado Cemetery. A Texas Historical Commission marker was dedicated at the Bartons' gravesites in 2003.

The Barton family gravesite.
The Welborn and Louisa Barton family gravesite in Salado Cemetery, Salado, Texas. (Photo made in July 2018.)

By Charlene Ochsner Carson
Page last updated: October 19, 2018

Footnotes:

  1Nally, Robert Dacus, The Barton Book revised edition for The Barton Historical Society. Genealogy Publishing Service, North Carolina, 1994.
  2Date inscribed on Wilson Barton's tombstone.
  3Nally, Robert Dacus, The Barton Book revised edition for The Barton Historical Society. Genealogy Publishing Service, North Carolina, 1994.
  4Ibid.
  5Smith, Karla Cox, The Family of Wilson Barton and Mildah McKinney, Morgan Printing, Austin, 2003.
  6Ibid.
  7Nally, Robert Dacus, The Barton Book revised edition for The Barton Historical Society. Genealogy Publishing Service, North Carolina, 1994.
  8Smith, Karla Cox, The Family of Wilson Barton and Mildah McKinney, Morgan Printing, Austin, 2003.
  9Ibid.
  10Debo, Darrell, Burnet County History, A Pioneer History 1847-1979, Vol. I, Burnet County Historical Commission, Eakin Press, Burnet, 1979.
  11Nally, Robert Dacus, The Barton Book revised edition for The Barton Historical Society. Genealogy Publishing Service, North Carolina, 1994.
  12Ibid.
  13Ibid.
  14Debo, Darrell, Burnet County History, A Pioneer History 1847-1979, Vol. I, Burnet County Historical Commission, Eakin Press, Burnet, 1979.
  15The Texas Farmer (Belton), February 23, 1881.
  16Ibid.
  17Date inscribed on Welborn Barton's tombstone.
  18Smith, Karla Cox, The Family of Wilson Barton and Mildah McKinney, Morgan Printing, Austin, 2003.
  19Date inscribed on Louisa Barton's tombstone.
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