From the birth of McMullen County, it has been tied to Live Oak County by more than just a shared border.
Live Oak County was born from land taken from San Patricio and Nueces counties by act of the Texas Legislature on Feb. 2, 1856.
On Dec. 8, 1857, land from Live Oak County, along with land from San Patricio, Goliad, Refugio, and Karnes counties was used to create Bee County, which was officially organized on Jan. 25, 1858, when the first officers were elected.
On Feb. 1, 1858, land was again taken from Live Oak County, along with land from Atascosa and Bexar, to form McMullen County.
McMullen County was first “organized” in 1862, but not for long as the Civil War took men from the county and with a lessened ability to protect themselves from the Indians and bandits, and with the population decline, they reverted back to the Live Oak County courts for operation. They would remain that way until January 1877.
In 1871, Live Oak County Clerk John C. Ross did try to establish a court in Dogtown, with a new name for the town, the name of Colfax.
After five months the court was abandoned, as the locals refused to use it.
I wonder how much the name had to do with that refusal as Colfax was almost certainly named after the vice president of the United States at that time, a Republican from Indiana.
Schuyler Colfax was the 17th vice president of the United States (1869–1873) and served in the Republican administration of President Ulysses S. Grant.
It would seem odd that either a McMullen County citizen, or a citizen from Live Oak County, would give the name of the Republican vice president, because at that time, McMullen and Live Oak counties had another tie, they were almost entirely Democrat.
According to the Oakville Tribune, as quoted in The Galveston Daily News, Oct. 8, 1874 edition, Matt Ussery was the only Republican in the two counties of McMullen and Live Oak.
A petition was sent to the legislature in 1873 for the county to be once again organized, but that did not happen until 1877.
An 1877 map of McMullen County has “Colfax” in bold letters and it is designated as the county seat, but the name “Tilden” appears underneath it.
The General Land Office’s map from 1887 has the name as “Tilden,” and “Colfax” is no longer mentioned.
Tilden, it seems, was named after Samuel J. Tilden, governor of New York, and the Democratic candidate for president in the 1876 presidential election.
Tilden lost to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, governor of Ohio, winning the popular vote, where nearly 82 percent of eligible voters voted, but lost by only one vote in the Electoral College.
It would be the second, of now five times, that a candidate won the popular vote and lost the electoral vote.
The high turnout in the election may have had a little to do with the fraud in that election.
Three states, Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, went for Tilden, but they were also marked by fraud and threats of violence against Republican voters.
The worst of the three being South Carolina, where they had a record 101 percent voter turnout.
The issues with the election resulted in a commission to be established to figure out the electoral vote, and in the end, Tilden lost by a single vote.
Though Tilden lost the election, it would seem that McMullen County citizens chose to honor him by naming their county seat after him, when the county was reorganized.
Another reason citizens of McMullen County might have been reluctant to use the courts in Colfax (Tilden) is found in the description of McMullen County in the Texas Almanac for 1871, and Emigrant’s Guide to Texas.
Of the county’s citizens it said, “They live on the ‘squatter sovereignty’ principle, but few owning or caring to own the lands.”
From what I have read, that may have applied mostly to the Yarbrough Bend community, a squatter community, than to the rest of the county.
At that time there were a number of outlaws living in the area as well, and they weren’t likely to choose to appear in court if they could help it, no matter where that court was held.
Austin’s Weekly Democratic Statesman July 30,1874 edition carried an article that stated “The Western Stock Journal gives an account of a meeting in McMullen County, called for the purpose of taking steps to organize a company to assist the officers of the law in putting down lawlessness and crime.”
This “vigilance” group would later get in trouble of its own.
The attempted name change to Colfax must have been very short lived as The Texas Almanac for 1872, and Emigrant’s Guide to Texas list for McMullen County only one post office and that was “Dog Town” with J.N. Franklin as post master.
According to the Galveston Daily News Nov. 25, 1876, the election for McMullen County offices was to be held Dec. 19, 1876.
The Dec. 7, 1876 edition gave as the slate of officers: County Judge, G.A. Dilwort (Dilworth); County Treasurer, J.F. Hanning; Sheriff, Henry Martin; Assessor, Marcellus Lowe; Inspector of Hides and Animals, Mat. Martin.
The same paper, Feb. 7, 1877 edition says they were all “duly installed” and the “seat of government was Dogtown.
The March 12, 1877 Denison Daily Cresset noted that the new commissioners changed the name of the McMullen County seat from Dogtown to Tilden.
I don’t know what happened to the slate in the election, but it appears that if Henry Martin was elected sheriff, he didn’t remain in office long. The March 15, 1877 Galveston Daily News reported that “Mr. Lem Parchman, sheriff of McMullen county, died on Feb. 25 in the thirty-fifth year of his age.”
G.A. Dilworth would be elected, but he too would not remain in office long as before the year was out, he was referred to in the newspapers as “ex-county judge of McMullen,” Oct. 12, 1877, Galveston Daily News.
The common border will always tie the counties of McMullen and Live Oak together, but so will our pasts.
Come talk with us about those pasts at the Grace Armantrout Museum today.