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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Settling In Texas

Texas entered the Union in 1845 as the 28th state with J. Pinkney Henderson as the state’s first elected governor. With a newly adopted constitution, Texas opened her doors, and people answered the clarion call advertising inexpensive or free land to those willing to emigrate to the frontier. Between 1850 and 1860 Texas’ population grew from 212,000 to 604,000. The rapid growth was slowed considerably during the Civil War and early Reconstruction.

The reasons for the migration of part of the Varnell family were not recorded. The 1850 census found two brothers – Robert (age 25) and Levi Varnell (age 27) in the Texas Rangers and stationed in Bexar County. Isaac Varnell (age 26) and the youngest brother, Powhattan (age 17), settled in Walker County. The 1850 census shows that Isaac and Francis [La Docia] had two sons, Augustus (age 2) and Napoleon (age 5 months).


The Varnells stayed in Walker County until early 1861 when they opted to move deeper into Texas to Hill County. While three daughters were added to the new Texas family, Augustus was no longer listed on the 1860 census which indicates an unfortunate death to the pioneer family


Settling on the banks of Ash Creek in Hill County about ten miles southeast of Hillsboro, the Varnells set up a horse ranch. They prospered through sales to the federal government but soon turned their efforts to training horses for the Confederacy.

Tom P Varnell came into the world February 13, 1862, the last of the Varnell children. It was the year following the secession of Texas from the Union against the advice of Governor Sam Houston who refused to recognize the newly formed government. He would retire shortly afterwards.

The Committee of Public Safety authorized the recruitment of adult males into volunteer troops. Isaac and Powhattan Varnell joined the 28th Brigade, Texas Militia which formed in August 1861 in Hill County.

Tom’s world early-on was upside down. His first ten years would be full of war and federal retribution. One had to be mentally and physically tough to survive. Tom learned to ride and shoot well at an early age.

Next: Reconstruction

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