Stories About My East Texas Family

Why didn’t I ask questions as I listened to the stories being told at our family reunions? Perhaps my great grandmother, Margaret Henrietta (Stanley) Welch, could have told me about the little town of Bugschuffle where she was from. Or do we know if all of great Uncle Kinchs’ moonshine that was buried out in the pasture has been found?

If my dad had only been stationed in Texas when I was born, I would have been a 5th generation Texan thru my mom’s (Stanley) side of the family. My dad was a career military man from Moffet near Lufkin. His mother was Anna Lee (Calhoun) Shoffitt and he had one brother, Watson. He and my mother met in elementary school, they married in Lufkin in June of 1940, my sister and brother were born at the Army hospital in San Antonio. We were stationed at Camp Gordon in Augusta, Georgia in 1951 when I was born. The family names I will give history about are: Calhoun, Cheairs, Dunkin, Shoffitt, Stanley, Watson and Welch.

The John Caldwell Calhoun family came to Angelina County, Texas from Louisiana after the War Between the States. He posted a sign on his log cabin door that read, GTT (Gone To Texas) where he had received 640 acres of land that had rich soil, good water, making it great for farming. So in 1866, he loaded up his wagon and he, his wife, and first born son made their way to Diboll, Texas. He built a dogtrot house on Bear Creek in the area known as Beulah. He and his wife, Sarah reared their six children in that house, which still stands today. The Calhoun’s are buried at the Prairie Grove Cemetery off FM 1818. My late father, James Edward Shoffitt, Sr., descends from this family. Until just a few years ago, the descendants of John and Sarah Calhoun would gather for a reunion at the dogtrot house. Many good stories were told by Pearl Weaver Havard (she is now deceased). This time, being older, I did ask questions and learned a lot. Pearl was a 4 ft. 9 inch tall, walking, talking history book and is truly missed; she was just shy of a few months from celebrating her 100th birthday when she passed.

On the night before the Calhoun reunion, my husband (Jim) and I would spend the night with Pearl. We would take her out to dinner (she called it supper) and always wanted to eat at Brookshire Brothers deli. Back at the house she would ask if we wanted a little piano music before bed, our answer was always yes. Pearl could not read music but boy howdy could she ever play by ear. She would have those 88 keys dancin’ all over the place. Before bed she would say, y’all want meat and eggs for breakfast, again our answer was yes. She would mix up her fabulous buttermilk biscuits, they were so good. Only a few of those biscuits would be left, we would have gladly taken them home with us but Pearl gave them to Blackie, her dog. There were two ministries who spoke at her funeral, they had the packed auditorium rolling in the floor with laughter as they reminded everyone of some of things Pearl had done. Just one example…one night she and her husband (Avy Joe) went hunting with a few other couples. Pearl had taken some fresh apples with her and while sitting around the camp fire she peeled them. One of the men had a call of nature and while he was gone, Pearl put the apple peels down in his bedroll. As the man readied himself to crawl in the bed roll, suddenly he felt something wet and cool. As he jumped out of the bed roll yelling snake, snake, Pearl was laughing herself to tears. There was a streak of mischief to this precious little lady.

The Jan de la Cheairs family came from France, settled in Arkansas and later in San Augustine County in 1833 when Texas was still part of the Republic of Mexico. Jan de la Cheairs fought at the Battle of San Jacinto alongside General Sam Houston. After the battle, Jan and some of his family settled in what we know as Houston Count, in fact they named the county. Jan was given 320 acres of land on January 15, 1841 for his participation at the Battle of San Jacinto. After settling in Houston County, Jan changed his name to John F. Chairs. He died on December 25, 1852 and is buried in the Johnson Cemetery in Angelina County near Zavalla. One of his daughters, Margaret Rebecca, had met a young man by the name of William Carroll Stanley, while they (Cheairs) lived in San Augustine County. The Stanley’s had come to the Republic of Mexico from Alabama, being sponsored to enter the Republic by the Johnson family in Angelina County. The Stanley’s had received a land grant with the colony of Lorenzo de Zavala. Rebecca and William married on October 9, 1837. William fought in the War Between the States with Co. F, 32nd Reg. Ala. Inf. CSA. It was not uncommon for a man to go back to his home state and muster in with other family members and friends. William was also the Constable of Marion in Angelina County. The town does not exist any longer, but there is sign that reads Marion Ferry. He is buried on a knoll in a pasture just off Hwy. 69 in a cemetery that was either called Johnson or Warfield (depending on who you ask) and it is on private property now.

The Dunkin’s came from Chockaw County, Mississippi to Angelina County, Texas in 1890. They crossed the Mississippi River in a covered wagon pulled by oxen. William Harrison Dunkin and his wife Sarah Matilda (Watson) Dunkin settled near the town of Zavalla and reared their six children. One of their sons, Kinchin, was a self educated doctor. The article in the book titled “Little Angels of Angelina County”, states that Dr. Kincheon A. Watson would be seen riding his horse out in the forest to gather tree bark, herbs and other items to make his home medicines. He fought in the War Between the States, with Co. K, 15 Miss. Inf., CSA. The doctor had a son named Kinchin Mack and he was a character. In his grown life, he was a farmer but he also had his own still, making “homebrew”. The story goes that one day while plowing, he hit one of his kegs that he had forgotten about. Well, not to let it go to waste, he just sat down and started drinking. When he didn’t come home for supper, his wife came looking for him. Seeing him in his condition, she left him there, she would fuss at him later. Both of these men are buried in the Dunkin Cemetery near Zavalla off Hwy. 69. Another son was Harrison Abner Dunkin, who served as the Postmaster in Dunkin, Texas. There was a lumber camp in Dunkin that tapped the pine trees for turpentine and cut the trees for lumber. In later years the camp was known as Camp Nancy. My mother, Dorothy (Dunkin) Shoffitt, used some of the home remedies she learned about while living at the “turpentine” camp as she called it, in the late 1920’s. If you had a scratch and it looked infected, she would put turpentine on it, place a bandaid over it and by morning, the scratch was almost healed.

Another son of the Dunkin’s was named Emmett Payton; he was a handsome man. There was a dreadful pandemic going across the world called the Spanish Flu and from January 1918 to December 1920, millions died. Emmett Payton was married to Lucy Ann Pride and they had two small children. Lucy died of the Spanish Flu on January 11, 1919. Nancy Allie Farah Stanley was married to Lee Albritton and they had two small children. Lee died of the Spanish Flu on October 21, 1918. The local doctor (Stewart) had treated both Lucy and Lee and after their deaths, he introduced Emmett Payton and Nancy Allie Farah to each other. They married on July 30, 1919 in Angelina County and had ten children together. A son of Emmett and Lucy was Lenwood Denman Dunkin. He and his wife Bessie lived in Zavalla where Uncle Denman worked for the railroad, was an avid hunter, rode horses and everyone in town knew Uncle Denman. There was only one other as well known as Uncle Denman and that was Poochie, his squirrel dog. He was known all over the county and neighboring counties as well. During the grand opening entry ceremony Uncle Denman would ride his beautiful Palomino named Chief into the rodeo arena on Saturday night in Zavalla. Uncle Denman would carry the American flag as he and Chief would make their way around the arena. Uncle Denman and Aunt Bessie are buried in the Kitchens Cemetery near Zavalla. My mother was #6 in that group of sibling’s, she was born in Shawnee Prairie in what was called the buzzard hut. Both Emmett and Allie are buried in the Dunkin Cemetery just off Hwy. 69 near Zavalla.

William Harrison Dunkin had a brother named Mack (he was the first of all the Mack’s in this family). Mack and his wife Dora settled in Rockland, Texas. They owned a saloon, a meat market and the Dunkin Ferry. Great Uncle Mack ferried Bonnie and Clyde across the Neches River; it is documented in a book titled “Paddling the Wild Neches” and there is a picture of them as well. Great Uncle Mack and his wife are buried in Rockland, Texas.

William Carroll and his wife Margaret Rebecca had a son named William Hollis (Hawk) Stanley. He in turn had a daughter named Margaret Henrietta Stanley, she was my great grandmother. Mommy as she was called, lived to be 101, she was born in Bugschuffle, Texas on March 4, 1876. She married Oliver Cromwell Welch on December 31, 1893 and they had 13 children. Oliver died on April 30, 1943 and sometime later, in the early 1950’s, there was talk of digging a lake and it would be called Lake Sam Rayburn and Bugschuffle would soon be covered with water. Mommy Welch moved to live with her youngest child, Katie Welch Rhoudes in Huntington, where her son-in-law was the mayor. Mommy was an energetic women, she kept a spotless house (how so with 13 children) and she never let a blade of grass grow in her yard. My mother witnessed her sweeping the front yard with her pine needle broom. She also never believed that the astronauts went into space. When Mommy celebrated her 100th birthday, there was a big party and the write up in the newspaper stated that she had 355 “living” descendants. That number makes for a lot of family and history. Both she and Oliver are buried in the Jonesville Cemetery in Huntington.

Oooops…I left out great Uncle Abner Dunkin (he was called Abb). He and his family settled in Jasper, Texas, where he built a beautiful Victorian style house. It still stands to the left of the front of the courthouse in Jasper. Uncle Abner did well for himself, he owned a general store, cattle and a lot of land. He and his family left Jasper after the sudden death of their 16 year daughter (ruptured appendix) and settled in Wauricka, Oklahoma.

Oliver and Margaret were the parents of my grandmother, Nancy Allie Farah (Welch) (Albritton) Dunkin. Mamaw (as she was called) and Emmett were the parents of my mother, Dorothy (Dunkin) Shoffitt. Mamaw kept a clean house, was a good cook (her pound cake was fabulous, as were her chicken & dumplings) and she seemed to be somewhat “laid back”. The story is told that one of their sons, George Hollis, talked back to her one day. As she approached him, he took off running and climbed up a tree. Well, supper was cooked, the family sat down to eat, someone ask about George, to which mamaw said “he’ll come down directly and I’ll get him then” (enough said). She really did have patience, one time she had seven children in bed, all with the chicken pox. Mamaw had two favorite television shows and she would not answer the phone or go to the front door if she heard someone knocking, while she was watching those shows. Those two shows were The Fugitive and As the World Turns. I guess the saying “the apple didn’t fall far from the tree” is true, as my mother wouldn’t answer the phone or the door if she was watching Perry Mason or As the World Turns.

As you can gather, I come from a large family. I was closest to the fourteen children of Emmett Payton and Nancy Allie Farah Dunkin. I never met my grandfather Emmett Payton but I did get to know my grandmother. I would be amiss if I didn’t state the names of those fourteen children. The two children of Nancy Allie Farah (Welch) and Lee Albritton were Mildred Albritton Bealer (had one son) and Ruth Albritton Kirkland (had one son & two daughters). The two children of Emmett Payton Dunkin and Lucy Ann (Pride) were Pauline Dunkin Beaird (had three daughters) and Denman Dunkin (had two sons). Then came the ten…Harrison Dunkin (no children), Dorothy Dunkin Shoffitt (had two daughters, one son), Josephine Dunkin Connor (had one son, one daughter)…Aunt Jo had four husbands & they all died, I can’t remember all their names, Ollie Dunkin Thrailkill (had two daughters), Ruby Dunkin Abbey (had three sons), Mack Dunkin (no children), George Dunkin (had one daughter, two sons), Augusta Dunkin (Hughes) Ingram (had three sons, one daughter), Sarah Dunkin McNamara (had two daughters) and Farah Dunkin Doggett (no children). At this writing, two of my aunts are still living, Sarah McNamara and Ruby Abbey.

We would come to Texas on my dad’s furlough and I always looked forward to those visits. I had so many 1st cousins (28 at one time) and I think it’s unique that I know my 2nd cousins (39 at last count), what a family I have. A lot of the family stayed in the Angelina County area and to this day, if you meet a Calhoun, Chairs, Dunkin, Shoffitt, Stanley, Watson or Welch, I am related to them. I regret that I could not mention every family member by name. I moved to Texas at the age of 21 and have lived here since. My immediate family still lives in Georgia. In researching this family of mine, it amazes me that I am still meeting relatives for the first time.

Story submitted by Regards, Eva (Shoffitt) Rains