GTT: Where in Texas Did Isaac Sturgell Live?

Gone to Texas!

I’ve written about my husband’s 2X great grandfather many times. Isaac Sturgell was a restless soul and, by all accounts, a difficult man with whom to live. After all, his wives – all four of them – left him and a grandchild remembered him as an angry old man who swatted the grandkids with a broom handle.

His restless nature is evident by all the places he called home, for at least a short time. Isaac was born in Virginia about 1823, probably in Grayson County. His father began the family migration to Ohio in the 1830s; Isaac’s mother reportedly died in or near Wythe County, Virginia in the late 1830s.

William settled his family in Lawrence County, Ohio, where Isaac married wife #1, Mary Bandy, on 27 June 1844. Mary was the mother of all of Isaac’s seven children.

By 1850, Isaac was living in Barry County, Missouri. Although he returned to Barry County more than once, he also lived in several Arkansas counties which were not far from the Missouri-Arkansas state lines.

The 1850 census shows Isaac, Mary and daughter M.J., aged 2 years, all born in Virginia. However, I doubt that is accurate as Mary’s family was in Ohio by the time she was supposedly born and baby M.J. was likely born either in Ohio or Missouri.

Their second child, Amanda, was born in Missouri, but it is the birthplace of their third child that intrigues me.

Andrew Jackson Sturgell was born in Texas, per the census records. That is probably accurate because of the birthplaces of their other children found in census records and supported by tax records:

M.J., born c1848, probably Ohio or Missouri
Amanda, born c1850, Missouri
Andrew Jackson, born 1853, Texas
Abijah Houston, born 4 March 1855, Barry County, Missouri
Margaret E., born 7 March 1857, Arkansas
George W., born April 1860, Benton County, Arkansas
Mary, born 9 May 1861, Arkansas

I’ve made several attempts to locate any mention of a Sturgell/Sturgill/Sturgeon in Texas in the early 1850s, but with no luck.

Texas was a big place, even in 1853, and was definitely the wild, wild West.

Arkansas can be seen in the upper right corner of the map, but it’s the southwestern corner. The Sturgells lived in the northwestern corner of the state and the southwestern corner of Missouri.

In that time period, it appears that the Shawnee Trail, also called the Texas Road or Emigrant Trail, would have been the most popular, and logical, route take by Isaac and his family into Texas. The trail began in Sedalia, Missouri and went in a southerly direction, passing through southwestern Missouri, cutting through Arkansas into Indian Territory (today, the southeastern area of Oklahoma) before crossing into Denison, Texas, continuing south through Fort Worth, all the way down to Indianola, Texas on the Gulf of Mexico.

Given that Isaac wasn’t traveling alone as an adventurer and had not only wife Mary, possibly daughter M.J. (who died before 1860) and daughter Amanda, but a son born in Texas, I think it can be said with some certainty that Isaac’s stay in Texas was somewhere along the Shawnee Trail and probably in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Isaac wasn’t a literate man, but he obviously heard stories about and admired Andrew Jackson, as he named his first son after the President.

I’ve also wondered how to interpret the clue in his second son’s name – Abijah Houston, who is my husband’s great grandfather. While it’s possible that Houston points to the Sturgells’ home in Texas, I tend to doubt that for one reason. Houston’s access point in the 1850s was much easier by waterways. However, those waterways made for difficult travel from southwestern Missouri. The Shawnee Trail was a much more direct way to go, particularly for a man with a young family in tow.

Instead, I believe that Abijah’s middle name was a nod to Sam Houston, a legend in Texas history.

Exactly how long did the Sturgells live in Texas? Well, all I can say is that they were in Barry County, Missouri on 29 August 1850 when the census taker knocked on the door and they were back living in Barry County on 4 March 1855 when Abijah was born there.

It would help if Andrew Jackson Sturgell had a birth or death record, but there is none to be found. He married his fourth wife on 2 July 1876 in Boone County, Arkansas and died before 17 June 1880, when the census taker came around. He is not found in the mortality schedule, either.

Isaac Sturgell was never a wealthy man. I think the family lived in barely comfortable means, if that. He was never taxed in Arkansas for more than a couple of pigs. He didn’t even own a horse and his Missouri land was acquired through the Homestead Act.

I tend to think he didn’t receive a land grant or purchase any land in Texas. He might have been drawn to the historical excitement in Texas, but finding life there unsatisfactory, he took the family back to Missouri.

It might be that the 1860 and 1870 census entries for A.J., as he was called, are the only extant pieces of evidence to tell the story of their Texas trip.

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