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The Texas Manskers and Eastland County


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By 1860, William Henry Mansker and his brother Joseph/Josiah Mansker, who were sons of William Mansker and grandsons of George Mansker, had emigrated from Arkansas to Texas.

William Henry, with his wife Sarah/Sallie Lindley settled in Eastland County, Texas, on the lake now that bears his name. At some point after the Civil War they were joined by his nephews, Isaac Peter "Ike", James K., and Henry Schmick. These men were sons of his sister Mary Mansker and her husband Casper Schmick, both of whom remained behind in Arkansas. Henry Schmick was the first sheriff of Eastland County (1875--1879), Ike was the first elected county clerk, and James was the third sheriff of the county.

William Henry and Sarah Mansker had eight children in all. Sarah died on 7 August 1876 and on 20 January 1878 William Henry married Salina/Polina Barkliff, who was born 3 May 1833 and died 27 December 1893. William Henry died 3 December 1879, less than two years after his second marriage.

Joseph Mansker, who also appears in the records as "Josiah" Mansker, is listed in the 1850 Randolph County, Arkansas, census, as being 28 years old, born in Arkansas, and living with wife Sarah, 25, born in Tennessee, and three sons, William, John and Joseph H., all born in Arkansas.

Sometime prior to 1860, Joseph and Sarah Hickey Mansker emigrated to McLennan County, Texas, where they show up in the 1860 census with four more children: Thomas, Philmon ("Doc"), Mary, and Isaac. In 1870, they are still living in McLennan County, with yet another three children: Robert, Fletcher and Minor, male, age 5. By the time of the 1880 census, Minor seems to have disappeared and been replaced by "Minnie", female, age 15. It seems likely that these are the same person, and the 1880 census taker heard Minnie when the respondent said Minor... Some early census takers were, shall we say, less than diligent at obtaining all of the correct information.

Eventually Joseph/Josiah and Sarah migrated to Eastland County and the settlement at Mansker Lake; they are both alleged to have been buried in the cemetery there.

Eventually the small community of Alameda grew up near the Mansker settlement. In the mid-1860s, William Henry dedicated a portion of his land for a cemetery for the local residents. By way of a land deed dated January 1, 1885, William Henry's son, James Franklin Mansker and his wife Alice, made an additional transfer of approximately one acre of land to the county for a "Public Free School"; this was done "in consideration of the sum of $1.00 Dollar to us in hand paid". The school is long since gone, but the cemetery is still in use today (see below).

In the Alameda Cemetery are the following graves:

Polina N., wife of W. H. Mansker, May 3, 1833 -- December 27, 1893
J. Mansker, husband of Sarah Mansker, May 6, 1824 -- April 7, 1876
Kittie A., wife of P. G. Mansker, Aug 2, 1860 -- April 14, 1887
W. H. Mansker, Dec.4, 1879 -- Dec.14, 1900
Alice F. Mansker, Aug 3, 1861 -- Jan. 3, 1921
J. F. Mansker, July 3, 1864 -- Jan. 27, 1892
Frank R. Mansker, Dec. 15, 1881 -- Jul 1, 1960

There are a number of graves in and near the Mansker plot with weathered headstones that are now impossible to read, as well as a few that are marked only by a rock. William Henry Mansker's grave is covered by a large cracked slab (see the Eastland County Photo Gallery page), but any markings have long since weathered away. It lies in the middle of the old Mansker plot in the oldest part of the cemetery. In addition, some old information indicates that the following graves are also in the cemetery, although they are not marked:

Josiah Mansker, July 31, 1820 -- December 3, 1897
Sarah A., wife of J. H. Mansker, September 1, 1840 -- October 29, 1904

If two of these are, as they appear to be, the graves of Joseph/Josiah and Sarah Hickey Mansker, then the year of his birth is questionable (if he was 28 in 1850, he would have been born in 1822), as is his wife's name, although she supposedly was named Sally Sarah Hickey--in any case, her year of birth is in accordance with the census.

On 2 May 1998, a Texas Historical Commission Marker was dedicated at the old Alameda Cemetery in Eastland County, Texas, to commemorate the contributions of William Henry Mansker and the other early settlers to the area. Eastland resident Chuck Johnston's essay on the historical value of the Alameda Cemetery was submitted to the commission in support of the marker. See a photograph of the marker and read the inscription.


Eastland County, at one time a major oil producer, is in north central Texas, between Abilene and Dallas-Fort Worth. Interstate 80 runs across the northern part of the county. (For the geographical location of Mansker Lake, see On the Web: Links to Other Websites.)

In the middle of the 19th century, when the Manskers first started arriving in the county, there were, as might have been expected, a number of "problems" between the settlers and the Native Americans, as is illustrated in the following excerpt from 1904's History of Eastland County, Texas, by Mrs. George [Carolyne] Langston:

It is curious that a man, forgetting things he once loved, and moved by spirit of unrest, will sever ties of long standing and expose himself and family to untried dangers. This strange influence burned in the heart of W. [William Henry] Mansker, as he sowed and reaped on his farm in Arkansas, and fanned to flames by news of the Texas lands. With his family, he pushed across the unsettled wastes of Eastern and Middle Texas, and stopped awhile in Parker County, but hearing of the Leon country, he moved on and camped on a lake in the southern part of Eastland County. Later, he built a home there, and the lake still bears his name.

The next to cross the boundary line were James Ellison, from Georgia; J. Ellison from somewhere in Texas; Dr. Richardson from Arkansas, with their families, and the Gilberts, four or five young men from Alabama. All these took up or bought surveys around Mansker Lake; Ellison to the south, at Ellison's Springs, where he still lives [in 1904]; the Gilberts, Jim, Jasper and Tom at Jewell, and Sing and Sam, brothers and cousins to the other Gilberts, three and one-half miles below Jewell on Sabano Creek. This ranch is now known as the Morgan place.

Following these were C.C. Blair, who came from Georgia to Alabama, stopped awhile in Collin and Parker Counties, and finally settled six or seven miles northeast of Mansker Lake. A little later, this settlement became known as Blair's Fort at Desdemona.

W.C. McGaugh came from Georgia and camped at Blair's Fort. His first son, born at the Fort August 17, 1861, was the first white child born in the County.

In the northeastern part of the County, like settlements were being made. William Allen came from Palo Pinto County in 1858, and located a ranch on Rush Creek, which he still owns, some twelve or fifteen miles east of Flannagan Ranch. J.M. Stewart was his nearest neighbor, one-half mile away. Two or three other families settled in the same neighborhood.

In the same part of the County was the Edwards Ranch, and just across the line, from three to six miles, was the Clayton Ranch on Bear Creek. Bethel Strawn settled where the town which now bears his name is located, three miles out Eastland County.

In Palo Pinto County, at the foot of the hills, about five miles east of Strawn, Peter Davidson lived. He moved into Eastland in 1865, and made his home five miles south of Allen's Ranch. All old settlers know the location of these two ranches.

The frontier line in Eastland County at at this time (1860), formed an obtuse angle, Flannagan's Ranch being the apex.

During the years 1857-1862, the Indians were unusually active along the frontier. When one remembers the topography of the counties forming the boundary line of civilization, the numerous streams which cut their way through mountains, leap into canyons and tumble out pell mell into the valleys, where they wind in sinuous, undulating ways, is it to be wondered at that the red man of the forest yielded to the temptation of his environments and sought revenge for the appropriation of his domain to the uses of the white man?

Although the primal object of the Indians in making raids into the white settlements was to steal horses; yet, if there were the slightest pretext, they murdered with all the zest of their ancestral inheritance. During those perilous years, the pioneer settlers were forced to come together for mutual protection.

In the southeastern part of Eastland County, eight families were forted at C.C. Blair's Ranch. The houses were built and the tents stretched around an open square, and these were enclosed by a close picket fence eight or ten feet high. The families living at Blair's Fort were those of Ellison, Kuykendall, the Gilberts, Manskers, C.C. Blair, N.C. McGough, and a little later, William Arthur. There were others who found refuge in the Fort from time to time.

As the largest number of families were gathered here, and it was also a frequent stopping place for the Rangers on their journeys hither and thither, large supplies of bread-stuff and ammunition were kept on hand. As the traveler went northward, however, he found Flannagan's Ranch practically unprotected, guarded only by an elderly man, 'Bad Reese', who was kept about the house. In the Allen neighborhood were three forted ranches ... Allen's, Clayton's, and Edwards'. Smaller ranchmen built their houses in groups of two, three or four. McCain on the edge of Stephens County, and Uncle Peter Davidson at the foot of the mountains in Palo Pinto County both had their ranches well forted.

On Gonzales Creek, a little farther up the country in Stephens County, lived the pioneer settler, Mr. John Reynolds, whose sons George, William D. and P.W. have large interests in Cisco...

Even though a number of the Manskers emigrated to Texas, they never quite forgot their roots. A couple of them took the time to write letters to the editors of Tennessee newspapers. The first letter was written by James Franklin Mansker, son of John Mansker and Elizabeth Dugger Mansker (see also the "Missing" Manskers Page) during a visit to Tennessee:

Chipman, Tenn, Jan 2 1903

Mr. Editor -

Hoping you will allow me space in your valuable paper, and thinking some of my friends would like to hear from this part of the world, I have concluded to give you a few dots.

I arrived at Chipman on the morning of the 24th of Dec.; I got off the cars and for a few seconds it seemed is though I had been dropped down in a strange land. Thirteen years had made many changes, but after looking around a few moments things began to look natural; I forgot to say my arrival was unexpected. After meeting a few old friends, the news soon spread over the little village that I had got off the cars, and I was met by my brother-in-law, Mr. J.C. Littleton and Mrs. James Scott, my niece; stopping there a short time we then got into a buggy and went to my sister's. Right here, Mr. Editor, let me correct you, you said I had gone to the pineywoods of Tennessee, not that, but the black locust groves that the timber on one acre could be sold for $100, would that beat the piney-woods? Well, the hills dotted over with the black locust looked to me like they had got closer together, the rocks seemed larger, and it's a fact that the gulleys are deeper; looking over those old hills where I had spent many happy hours, and at the narrow fields my mind ran back to the Lone Star State, and especially to Runnels County, with its broad acres, that some people call the "God forsaken country", but I answer that is God's favored country, and wonder why it is that people will stay here when they could go to Texas and get home that would never waste any nor wear out.

My first trip from here was to my daughter's some 10 or 12 miles. Partly through the hills can be seen narrow strips called fields, some of them so steep that a Texas pony could not graze on with his head downhill, because he would tumble over; when I got on top of the last hill I looked back, and said if some one would give me ten thousand acres of this land I would not live on it but sell out and go to Texas, but enough of this.

While at my daughter's, the old folks and young people came in Sunday night and we had an old time singing that was splendid and I enjoyed it. After the singing they talked me until I was hoarse. I am meeting many old friends and enjoying myself.

Fearing I am getting too lengthy I will close. Will start back the 17th.

Hoping you have a happy New Year, I am, Respectfully yours,

J.F. Mansker

The second letter, written about 1908, was from Andrew Jackson Mansker, the son of James Franklin Mansker, and the grandson of John and Elizabeth Mansker:

To the Editor, Sumner County News:

While sitting in the county court room of Tarrant county, Texas, listening to one of the best lawyers in the South plead with a jury of six good men to turn a big black negro loose on a charge of aggravated assault, the idea presents itself to me that a letter from an old Sumner county raised boy might be appreciated by a few of my old friends.

I have been in the Lone Star State for eighteen years and feel like a native, but my mind often goes back to the place of my birth, and I can see myself in old Sunday school class at old Hopewell church with Mr. Net Turner for my teacher, and those are days that will never be forgotten.

I have been in the city of Fort Worth for the past six years, and am now with the sheriff's office as county court deputy.

Texas is one of the finest States in the union, and happy am I that circumstances have brought my feet to press Texas' historic soil, and my eyes to the knowledge of her beauty and her thrift. Texas, carved from the vast wilderness, once traced in human blood, its mighty kindling and growing amid the storms of privation until at last the bloom was broken, its beauty disclosed in the tranquil sunshine and the heroic workers at its base, while startled kings and emperors gazed and marveled that from the rude touch of this handful under such conditions should have come the embodied genius of human liberty.

Here lies the fairest and richest domain on this earth. It is the home of a brave and hospitable people. Here is centered all that please or prosper human kind. A perfect climate above a fertile soil yields to the husbandmen every product of the temperate zone. Here by night the cotton whitens beneath the stars, and by day the wheat locks the sunshine in its bearded sheaf. On its plains roam the herds that grow while their owners sleep to vastly increase their wealth. We also have the whistle of the mills and the humming of the spingles, and behold the sky blackened by the smoke of infant industries that certainly foretell the future of this great commonwealth. Then with the exhaustless stores of granite, and untold treasures beneath the Texas soil, are mounting to a splendor that shall dazzle and illumine the world. It is a land better and fairer than I have told you, and yet far inferior in its material excellence to the loyal and gentle quality of its citizenship. Yes, every ripple of its streams clasp a sunbeam, every morning glory holds a dewdrop, every mockingbird trills a love song, every fleeting zephyr carries the odor of violets, every day awakens from a bed of glory and sinks to sleep upon a couch of purple and gold, every night is bespangled with stars and sweet with radiant dreams, and life is a grand, sweet song, down here in grand old Texas.

Hoping, you will find room for these few lines in your paper, and that some of my friends will come out and see if I have told the truth about Texas, I will close,

A.J Mansker
An old Sumner County Boy

It certainly sounds like old A. J. really liked Texas...

The Mansker families who settled in the Texarkana area are also descended from John and Elizabeth Dugger Mansker.