Tidbits of Shelby County History
Andrew Jackson Truitt

I have previously written about the Truitt family. I discovered a new book in the museum titled “Texas Cossack, a Historical Novel” written by Don Truitt in 1999. This book will mainly focus on the second oldest son, Andrew Jackson Truitt.  The Russian Cassock and the Texan both sold their services for the promise of land and freedom, and both would fight anything that moved.  This was never truer than with Andrew Jackson Truitt.

James Truit, oldest son of Levi and Susannah Morgan Truit, was born in Buncombe County, North Carolina (Asheville area, NC), October 23, 1795, and died in Shelby County, Texas June 11, 1870. The Truitt family left North Carolina in the fall of 1838 and entered Texas on March 3, 1839, at Pendleton Ferry. Most of the trip was made by boat as they traveled on the Tennessee River and came down the Mississippi River, then up the Red River to Natchitoches, moving overland with the ox teams they had brought along. They lived in San Augustine County in 1839. Later they moved to the Ashton Community in Shelby County.  They lived in the Ashton area until the fall of 1849 and bought the place surrounding the present Truitt Cemetery from a Mr. Crane. They resided there until both James and Sarah Hall died. James served his country in North Carolina as sheriff for about 10 years. He married Sarah Hall (July 29, 1796-Jun 3, 1848) on the 23rd of January 1817 in Burke County, North Carolina, and was the father of 10 children. James Truitt was a very distinguished citizen and would be elected to the 1st and 2ndTexas Legislature (1846-1847) as, State Senator in the 4th (1852), 6th (1856), 7th (1858) and the 11th (1866) Legislature; he would also participate in the Mexican War at Monterrey.

 Andrew Jackson Truitt, A.J., was born in Buncombe County, North Carolina in 1819.  Not much is known about his early life, but we do know he enlisted with his brother Alfred Marion, A.M. in Captain Isaac Truitt’s (his uncle) company of North Carolina Mounted Infantry during the Cherokee dispersal of 1837-1838.  A. J. had Cherokee blood flowing in his body, from his mother’s side of the family. With disgust of how the Indians were treated, he along with his father and brothers began their trek to Texas.

The Truitt entourage led on the morning of January 5, 1839. The group included James, 43, his wife Sarah, 42, oldest son Alfred Marion, 19,  Andrew Jackson 19, who had a reputation of being the wild and reckless one; Mary, 16, Sarah Caroline, 14, Levi Marion, 11, Joshua Hall, 9, and Clarissa, 5, and Cynthia, 3. Also on the trip was James’ younger brother, 34, his wife Susan Ann, 32, their children Leander, 13, Permenter Morgan, 12, Elviry, 9, Isaac Jr., 6, Marcus, 3, and Susannah Elizabeth, 1.  There were also twenty slaves, two teams of oxen, two large wagons, eight horses, two milk cows, and a collection of pigs and chickens. Each person on the trail had a different duty as the families traveled west.

By January 8th the family had traveled to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Now three of the children were sick and the family needed to cross the Hiwassee River by ferry. The task was almost completed when A.J. and the owner of the ferry argued about the fare needed to cross the river. On the other side of the river was Charleston, Tennessee and A.J. seemed to be in a hurry to get to Cleveland, which was on the outskirts of Charleston.  This night wouldn’t soon be forgotten by the citizens of Cleveland. When James posted bond for A.J. the next morning, the sheriff told him that A.J. had been thrown out of three saloons, got into two fights, and almost drowned when he passed out in the street.

The family arrived in Decatur, Alabama, on January 18th on a flat-bottom boat and landing at the old Rhodes’ Ferry Landing. James then began contacting steamboat captains to get bids on a charter for the trip to the mighty Mississippi River. He landed a contract with the captain of the steamboat, Rover, to take their belongings to Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi.

On the morning of January 25th, the family started loading the steamboat with their possessions. The Rover was a vessel about eight feet long with a livestock pen in the rear but there wasn’t enough room for the wagons. They were sold as the family continued their trip to Texas.

The trip to Cairo was uneventful, and it took about ten days. Once the steamboat reached Cairo, the family began to unload their belongings.  This time James had contracted for a larger steamboat, the Invincible, to take the family to Baton Rouge. As the loading continued there was a argument between the first mate and the family about a small kitten Cynthia had found on the dock. Of course, Cynthia was upset about losing her kitten. The first mate insisted that the animal be taken off the steamboat as it was white and any sort of white animal aboard a steamship was considered bad luck. While the family and first mate were arguing about the kitten, A.J. eased over to the woodpile and found a large piece of pine hitting the first mate in the nape of the neck. The first mate hit the deck like a sack of flour. He never moved. The crew seemed ready to jump A.J. when A.M. defended his brother. At this moment the first mate began to groan, and the crew backed down. The situation was diffused, but two things became very apparent. First was the steely-eyed courage of A.M., and second was the cold, calculated, violent act by A.J. This was one of the first times one could see the character of A.J. After many other stops on the Red River, James finally chartered the Argo, like the Roverbut larger. It was two more days to get to Natchitoches. The family was able to continue their journey using river travel and on February 23 found the Argo at dock in Alexandria, Louisiana. It was here that James purchased wagons and supplies.

The family finally arrived in Texas on March 3rd for the overland trip, which was about seventy miles. The broker that sold James the wagons told him the easiest way to get to Texas was to follow the Old San Antonio Road and to cross the Sabine River at Gaines’ Ferry at Pendleton.

After the family arrived at Gaines’ Ferry, James immediately sought out the community’s leading citizen, Mr. James Gaines, who had come to Texas in 1812 and started operating a ferry on the Sabine River. James Truitt asked about head-right land grants in this part of Texas and was informed there were none available in Sabine County, although there were some left in San Augustine County.

James was informed all land in San Augustine County was tied up in court because of fraudulent land certificates. As a head-right, James qualified for a grant of 640 acres, and each of his older sons qualified for 320 acres but there was no land available. James and his family went to speak with Isaac Kendrick who owned many acres of land in San Augustine.

Kendrick informed James that he had a small farm of three hundred acres just east of San Augustine and he would sale the land for fifty cents an acre. James informed Kendrick the price was too high, and they would seek another seller. Kendrick then offered to lease them the land and the cabin on it for a reasonable price. James and the family needed to stop and rest while Sarah had the baby, and the men raised a crop for some cash and food for next winter. The family moved into the home that evening. The youngest son of James and Sarah, James Morgan, was born in June.

A.J. became very impatient about the matter of land. He let young John Kendrick talk him into purchasing a land certificate of questionable origin. The certificate was for 320 acres, and A.J. bought it for 10 cents an acre.  A.J. paid Kendrick in cash and immediately took the certificate to the land office to have it recorded. He was told it must be surveyed and duly recorded before the certificate could be authenticated. A.J. took the certificate to a local surveyor who stated he had surveyed at least a dozen certificates in the same quadrant, and all had been fraudulent.

A.J. rode out of San Augustine to address John Kendrick about the matter and the more he rode the madder he became. A.J. checked his guns and knife as he knew that John Kendrick was a shady character.  A.J.  found John Kendrick outback and informed him he wanted his money back because the certificate was proven to be fraudulent.  John said A.J. had taken a chance that the certificate was no good when he purchased it at the low price of ten cents. He would not return A.J.’s money. John Kendrick told A.J. to vacate the premises, or there would soon be blood on the ground. A.J. would wait for a more opportune moment and that moment would be later that night.

A.J. waited for John Kendrick at the Ayish Bayou Bridge until almost midnight. John had been in town drinking and playing cards. When Kendrick’s horse approached the foot of the bridge, A.J. had pistol drawn and shouted, “Kendrick you are a liar and a thief.” Kendrick shouted, “You will play hell before you get your money back.” At that instant Kendrick reached for his pistol and an explosion and flash from A.J.’s gun startled Kendrick’s horse, and down the road the horse galloped toward Kendrick place. The bullet from A.J.’s gun had hit John just below the breastbone and made a nice, neat little hole. John lay in a human heap in the middle of the bridge and A.J. calmly walked over to the lifeless body and rolled him over. He pulled Kendrick’s money belt off and took out a twenty-dollar gold piece and twelve silver dollars and tossed the belt into the bayou. A.J. then reached down and grabbed Kendrick’s boots and dragged him to the side of the bridge rolling Kendrick’s body into the moving water.

A.J. rode back to the farm and woke up A. M. and told him what had happened. The next morning found A.J. sitting on the porch, nervously glancing toward the road to San Augustine looking for riders. A. M. walked over to the barn where James was splitting firewood and explained to him what had happened the night before. James went to A.J. to tell his side of the story; James listened. James then asked A. J. if anyone knew John Kendrick had sold him the land and A. J. said no,not to his knowledge.  James then told A.J. to pack his belongings right then and go the Shelby County and to stay with Isaac and his family. James would tell anyone who inquired about A.J.’s whereabouts that he had left three days ago.

A.J. leaving was especially hard on Sarah as James Morgan (Doc) had just been born in June. A. M. was her good son, but A.J. was her favorite! There is something about the mystical hold that rogues and outlaws have on women. A. J. had that aura and carried it with him for the rest of his life.

This was the beginning of the Truitt family in Shelby County. A. J. arrived in Shelbyville in September 1839. The first thing he did was go to a saloon and the first person he met was Charles Jackson. Jackson informed A.J. he was recruiting volunteers to form a group of vigilantes to “regulate” law and order in the county.  A.J. felt he had found a friend with the first person he met in Shelby County. (There is much written about the Regulator/Moderator War, and I will not cover that conflict in this article. I have previously written 4 articles on this conflict, and they are posted on “Tidbits of Shelby County History.”) A.J.’s character fit right in with this group of vigilantes.

In the spring of 1843, James was still a member of the Regulators as were his oldest sons. In March 1843 he was popular enough in the county to be elected to represent Shelby in the Eighty Congress of the Republic of Texas. It was extremely ironic that later that year one of the last head-right certificates for land in Shelby County was issued while James was in Washington-on-the-Brazos in session. The certificate went to A.J. and he finally had his 320 acres of land.

In the fall of 1843, James learned that Watt Moorman and a number of Regulators had plans to take A.J. back to Ft. Jesup to collect the bounty (an arrest warrant from the States for A. J. had been issued. He was wanted for the death of the first mate on the Invincible. The nearest U.S. Marshall was at Ft. Jesup near Natchitoches) and collect a reward for bringing back Julius Garrett who allegedly deserted from the army.  James decided to confront Moorman with the rumors on 15 October 1843. Of course, Moorman and James Truitt had words over A.J. On his way home, James stopped at the house of John Dial, a Moderator leader. He explained the situation and expressed a desire to join ranks with the Moderators.

The new year of 1844 saw James and the boys becoming members of the Moderators. Many families had been split as far as membership was concerned. The Truitts were one of these families. While James and his boys became Moderators, Isaac, James’s brother, and his boys continued to be Regulators, and Truitt’s closest neighbors, the Hudson, were Regulators too. (Note: Later in July 1844, A.J. and Hudson would get in a gunfight as A.J. recognized Howell Hudson as one of the three Regulators who had tried to burn the Truitt farm that night in June. The group of Regulators put Hudson’s body on a slide and took it home to the Jackson community to be buried on the family farm.)

Many more battles in the conflict were fought. The Moderators inflicted a decisive defeat to the Regulators at Strickland’s Church in Hillard’s Spring vicinity in northern Shelby County. (Note: Shelby County during the Republic of Texas era was much larger than the current county) The Regulators withdrew and made their camp about a mile south of Shelbyville. The Moderators established a camp about two miles west of the Regulator camp and were preparing for another battle when Sam Houston, then President of the Republic of Texas had come to San Augustine and ordered Col. Travis Broocks to proceed to Shelby County with 600 militia and arrest the leaders of both sides. He did and brought the men back to San Augustine to face Sam Houston. Houston forced the leaders of both sides to sign a peace treaty and agree to a cease fire. The treaty was signed by James Truitt and John Dial of the Moderators and M.T. Johnson and John H. McNairy of the Regulators. Sam Houston and the militia came to Shelbyville for the opening session of the county court. Houston met with many of the Moderators and Regulators under the big oak tree on the square in Shelbyville and scolded the men as a father would naughty boys.

In effect the Regulator-Moderator War of Shelby County was over. Time would heal most of the wounds but, the adventure of the upcoming war with Mexico did more than anything to speed the healing process. The last shot fired in the conflict had a touch of irony dripping all over it. On the first day the court was in session in Shelbyville, a man by the name of Charles Ludens was not ready to lay down his arms. A.M. had ordered him to do so when he rode into town armed to the teeth but Ludens shot first at A.M. who wounded Ludens slightly in the arm. Order was quickly restored, and there were no other incidents. The ironic aspect was that the last shot of the conflict was fired at the husband of Johanna Todd, A.M. Truitt, while the first shot fired of the conflict killed the first husband of Johanna Todd, Joseph Goodbread.

Note: The rest of story about A.J. Truitt will be shared next week covering A.J. part in the war with Mexico that started on June 25, 1846.

Also, I wanted to remind everyone of the new exhibit at the museum. It covers the men of Shelby County who fought in World War II. This exhibit was prepared by volunteers of the museum and be sure to come their hard work.