Fayette County Biographies

The following articles were included in History of Texas, together with a biographical history of the cities of Houston and Galveston: containg a concise history of the state, with portraits and biographies of prominent citizens of the aboved named cities, and personal histories of many of the early settlers and leading families. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1895.

D. THE. AYERS, son of David and Ann M. Ayers, was born in Ithaca, New York, July 21, 1828. When he was in his sixth year his parents moved to Texas and settled at Longpoint, in Washington county, at which place, and at Center Hill, in Austin county, to which they subsequently moved, the early years of the subject of this sketch were passed.

He was educated in the local schools, chiefly at Rutersville Academy in Fayette county, and left home at the age of fourteen to go to live with his married sister. Mrs. Moses Park, whose husband then conducted a store at Independence, in Washington county. He lived with Mr. Park some four years or longer, assisting him in the store, when, in 1847, he enlisted in Ben McCulloch's company, Hays' regiment, for service against Mexico, and was with the forces operating under General Taylor until the close of that conflict. Returning to Independence, he again clerked in the store of his brother-in-law a short time, when, becoming discontented and hearing of the discovery of gold in California, he decided to join the overland tide of emigration and try his fortunes in the gold-fields of the Pacific slope. Mounting his horse, one of the best in the country, he rode to Corpus Christi, at which place he had heard that numbers of emigrants from the Eastern States were constantly landing and outfitting for the journey across the plains. He took with him a letter of introduction to Thomas H. Kinney, then the chief man of means in southwestern Texas, whom young Ayers took occasion to call on and ask some advice concerning his contemplated move. Mr. Kinney advised against the trip and suggested in its stead that Mr. Ayers turn his attention to the horse trade, just at that time a particularly remunerative business at that place, on account of the demand for teams by those daily leaving for California. Buying mustangs from Mexican ranchers from the southwestern frontier, young Ayers resold them at a good profit to the intending gold seekers, and followed this for some time. Later he brought a considerable band of wild ponies and took them into the interior for the purpose of trading with the settlers, and was equally fortunate in this as in his former operations. Being now fully launched in the stock business on his own account, for several succeeding years he engaged in handling horses, sheep arid cattle, owning at different times ranches at Goliad and in Refugio county.

In 1855 Mr. Ayers sold his stock, and, marrying the same year, moved to Galveston, where he embarked in the mercantile business as a member of the firm of Riddell & Ayers, and was in business in this city under that partnership for about a year, when he disposed of his interest here and moved to La Grange. There he formed a partnership with James A. Hanie, and was in business in that city for about a year and a half, when he sold out, and, returning to Galveston opened a grocery store in connection with John D. Perry, under the firm name of Ayers & Perry. He was successfully engaged at this when the war came on in 1861, and he closed on account of the general stagnation in trade. Retiring to a ranch in Goliad county, he remained there till 1864, when he entered the Confederate army as a member of Captain A. C. Jones' company, Ford's regiment, with which he served on the Rio Grande until the close of hostilities, taking part in all the operations in that vicinity up to the firing of the last gun, which happened to be, as history records, the final act in the great military drama of that period.

Returning to Galveston after the war Mr. Ayers again embarked in mercantile pursuits, and, guided by keen practical sagacity, rapidly made money in the then favorable condition of trade. He built up a large grocery business which after several years' successful operation he sold, in 1880, to Moore, Stratton & Company. Since that time he has been engaged in the commission business first as a member of the firm of Miller & Ayers, and latterly as the head of the firm of Ayers, Gardiner & Company. Thus for a period of over fifty years Mr. Ayers has been connected with the business interests of Texas, and has met with noteworthy success. By the exercise of industry, strong practical sense and straightforward business methods he has accumulated a handsome fortune and won an honorable name.

Mr. Ayers has lived many years on Texas soil, has known many eminent Texans, and has witnessed the making of a great deal of Texas history. In all that be has been called on to do he has striven to discharge his duty honestly, fairly, and intelligently, and that he has succeeded in fulfilling his ideal of what a citizen, man of business, husband, father and friend should be, is an honor universally accorded him by those who have known him well in all the various relations of life.

Mr. Ayers married, in 1855, Miss Mary E. Hall, of Goliad county, Texas, a daughter of Campbell Hall, and the offspring of this union has been eight children, three of whom, two sons, Theo. C. and Walter F., and one daughter, Emily, are living.—pp. 629-631

CHARLES FORDTRAN now residing in Austin county, is, both in point of age and residence, one of the oldest living Texans, having been born in the year 1801 and a resident of Texas since 1829. He is a native of Prussia. was educated in the best schools of Germany, and at the age of twenty-six emigrated to the United States, whence after brief stops in the cities of New York, St. Louis, Missouri, Natchez, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana, he came in 1829 to the Mexican States of Texas and Coahuila, taking up his abode in Austin's colony. Marrying in 1833 he settled permanently on a headright granted to one Ernst, one-half of which he purchased, and where he has continuously lived for the past sixty-six years. In the Revolution of 1835-6 he was a volunteer in the patriot army, being detailed by General Houston to assist in removing the families of soldiers beyond the reach of the Mexicans. Mr. Fordtran has never been before the public in any official capacity, having a distaste for everything savoring of politics and scramble for office. As a farmer and stock-raiser he has met with noteworthy success, and in all the essentials of good citizenship has risen to the full stature.

The wife of Charles Fordtran bore the maiden name of Almeda Brookfield, was born in Detroit, Michigan, a daughter of William and [sic.] (Lailiet) Brookfield, who emigrated from New York to Texas in 1831. William Brookfield settled in what is now Fayette county, this State, soon after coming to the country, and there his daughter met and was married to Charles Fordtran. Mrs. Fordtran died in November, 1888. As a civil engineer and Indian fighter, William BrookfIeld had considerable to do with the early history of Austin's colony and of Texas, and is remembered for his patriotic services by the few of his old associates still living. He was a man of wide reading, an orator of ability and an author of some note, having published just previous to his death in 1847 a book in the defense of the Jews. He raised a family of four sons and two daughters. His eldest son. Charles, served on the side of the colonists in the Revolution of 1835-6; Charles, Frank and Walter, were volunteers in the Texas contingent of the United States army in the war of 1846-8, Walter dying in Mexico, Charles being supposed to have been murdered by his Mexican servant, while the youngest of the four, Edward, was frequently in the ranging service helping to keep back the marauding bands of Indians and Mexicans before their final dispersion and removal. The daughters of William Brookfleld were Mrs. Emma Evans, wife of Vincent Evans, and Mrs. Almeda Fordtran, wife of Charles Fordtran.

The issue of Charles and Almeda Fordtran was four sons and five daughters, in the order of their births as follows: William,who died in Fayette county, Texas; Portia, wife of Dr. G. C. McGregor, of Waco; Eugene H.; Frank, who died in the Confederate army during the late war; Charles, Jr., of Waco; Louisa, wife of M. A. Healy, of Brenham; Ann, who was married to J. L. Hill, of Galveston, both of whom are deceased; Josephine, wife of G. H. Mensing, of Galveston; and Sarah, wife of James B. Baker, of Waco.

Eugene H. Fordtran was born in Austin county, Texas, March 15, 1840, and was educated in the neighborhood schools and at Soule University, Chapel Hill, Washington county. Quitting school at the age of eighteen he was engaged in clerking in the mercantile business, in farming and in teaching school till the opening of the late war. In September, 1861, he entered the Confederate army, enlisting in Captain J. S. Lauderdale's company, which became part of the Tenth Texas Infantry, commanded first by Colonel Allison Nelson and after his death by Colonel R. Q. Mills. He served with this command until the fall of Arkansas Post in January, 1862, when he was captured, taken to Camp Douglas at Chicago, Illinois, and held there until 1863, at which time he was paroled. After the re-organization of his command it became part of the Army of the Tennessee, with which he subsequently served. At Tupelo, Mississippi, February, 1865, he was furloughed and was at home, his furlough not having expired, when the general surrender took place.

After the war Mr. Fordtran went into the milling business near Fayetteville in Fayette county, and followed this till 1868, when he sold out and embarked in real-estate operations, continuing this till 1883. That year he moved to Galveston and from 1884 to 1892 he was a member of the firm of King & Fordtran, wholesale liquor dealers, having since severed his connection with that firm and resumed the real-estate business. Mr. Fordtran's career has been that of a business man, and it is generally understood that he has met with a fair degree of success. He was once County Commissioner of Fayette county, and has served one term as a member of the Board of Aldermen of Galveston, but with the exception of these two positions he has never filled any places of public trust.

In 1866, Mr. Fordtran married Miss Letitia Satterfleld then residing in Fayette county, Texas, but a native of Halifax county, Virginia, her parents being John N. and Ann (Cook) Satterfield. Her mother died in Virginia, and her father moved in 1849 to Texas, settling in Fayette county. Mr. and Mrs. Ford tran have seven children living; Eugene H., John S., Charles C., William B., Edgar, Walter L. and Frank. — pp. 712-713

S. M. McASHAN, the subject of this sketch, traces his ancestry to Scotch and French Huguenot origin, the McAshans, as might be surmised from the name, coming from Scotland; the Agees, from whom he is descended on his mother's side, from France. It was in the early settling of the country that each family took up its abode on this continent. Securing a foot-hold in the colony of Virginia, where they became identified with the political, religious and social surroundings, and entered with zeal upon the new life spread out before them. With such experiences as they had had in their native countries, they could hardly be expected to do otherwise than align themselves with the colonists in their struggles with the crown and to contend on all proper occasions for an enlargement of their civil and religious liberties. All of the old stock, as family tradition has it, stood with the settlers in their "petitioning," "remonstrances," and other peaceful measures addressed to the throne before the final rupture; and when war came at last, those able for field service took up arms and fought with Marion, Washington and LaFayette, some of them sealing their faith in the cause of freedom with their lives. Those who thus served in the Revolution were John McAshan and John Agee, grandfathers of the subject of this sketch, and John Hall, his great-grandfather, the last named a surgeon of some repute. After the peaceful order of things had been restored, such of the ancestors of our subject as survived settled down to the pursuits of planters, which they quietly and successfully followed the remainder of their lives.

In Buckingham county, Virginia, which contained the old family seat of the McAshan family, Nehemiah McAshan, father of Samuel M., of this article, was born in the year 1783. He grew up in his native county, and at a proper age married Elizabeth Agee, born also in that county, in the year 1789. Some thirty years afterward, in 1844, Nehemiah and Elizabeth McAshan emigrated to Texas, and settled near La Grange, in Fayette county, where the former died two years later. The reason for their coming to this new country was to secure its many advantages for their large family of growing children, a purpose which the father lived to see only partially carried out, but which the mother was spared many years to assist in fulfilling. She died in 1872, at the advanced age of eighty-three. Both inherited to a considerable extent the qualities which had distinguished their ancestors, being industrious, home-loving, and Godfearing people, a trifle old-fashioned in their ways, but sound in the cardinal virtues of truth, benevolence, and that far-reaching faith that raises the humblest plodders to the dignity of spiritual kings and queens. Their household, like that of many old-time households, was a large one, being made up, from first to last, of sixteen children,—seven sons, and nine daughters,—fourteen of whom became grown. Nine of these accompanied them to Texas, most of the number marrying and settling here. Of this large family but one now survives, he whose name heads this article, though many grandsons., and granddaughters, and others of still remoter degree of relationship are scattered throughout the State.

Samuel M. McAshan was born in Buckingham county, Virginia, on the 11th of March, 1829. He was fifteen years old when his parents moved to Texas. He had attended an ordinary private school in his native county some four years before the removal West, and after the family settled near La Grange he attended school at that place another year. The education thus received was all he ever obtained. For a time he worked on a farm, and then, at the age of eighteen, became a clerk in the store of Ward & Longcope, at La Grange, which position he held eight years, when, in 1855, he engaged in business for himself, in partnership with his older brother, Paul, the firm opening a store at La Grange, which they conducted at that place up to the breaking out of the war. In 1863 Mr. McAshan came to Houston, and six months later,—April 1, 1864,—he entered the employ of the late T. W. House, becoming book-keeper in Mr. House's large mercantile establishment. Alter a year's service in this position he was made cashier of the banking department, and this position he has occupied continuously since, covering a period now of thirty years. The large and varied interest, or combination of interests, represented by the name of T. W. House, banker, has been of gradual growth; and the construction of the machinery, as well as the formulation of the principles by which it is carried on, represents the labor of a number of hands, and the conceptions, in details at least, of more than one mind. While, therefore, all honor should be paid to the distinguished founder of the business, no one will deny that the subject of this article, as the head of the financial branch of the establishment,—that branch which, from time to time, has absorbed most of the others,—has had much to do with the making of its history and the achievement of its success. This is an acknowledgment which the present owners of the business cheerfully make, and is more a tribute to Mr. McAshan's worth than it is a plain and candid statement of the facts. Were figures necessary to emphasize the magnitude of the interests which have thus been committed to Mr. McAshan's care, they could easily be given. But these may be omitted in speaking of a business which is one of the oldest, largest and best known in the State of Texas. It will be sufficient to say that all the ebb and flow of this vast estate, its resources and indebtedness, receipts and expenditures, profits and losses, have found their way once a year, and in some departments many times in the run of a year, through the channels over which he watches, investments being changed, securities shifted, plans altered, and other things done involving hundreds of thousands of dollars upon balances made up under his direction and for which he alone is responsible.

Some men seem to have been born for the positions which fall to them in life, while others seem to be fitted by pressure into the places they occupy. The subject of this sketch clearly belongs to the former class. He discharges the duties of his position with a degree of ease, uniformity and success which leaves no doubt as to his natural aptitude for them. To the common attributes of honesty and integrity, promptness and accuracy, are added in his case a memory remarkable for its clearness, a judgment eminently sound, and a facility in passing in rapid mental review the details of all the multifarious interests entrusted to his charge, that is as rare as it is indispensable in the handling of such interests. Certainly Mr. McAshan's mental and moral equipment is an exceptional one, and most certain it is, also, that his career is far removed from the ordinary kind. That he has never amassed wealth, although he has been associated daily with men of means, and has presumably enjoyed some opportunities, is in no wise to be set down against the usefulness of his example. He has subordinated consideration of self to his sense of duty, taking loyalty to those whom he has served in the fullest and broadest meaning as his guide. To the young man who has inherited an even temperament, who desires to live an industrious, orderly life, and who is not eaten up with the lust of Mammon, but sees sufficient motive for faithful application in a personal feeling of duty well done, here is an example that will be helpful, a career that is worthy of thoughtful consideration. Such careers are not entered of record every day, nor are they pointed to for imitation nearly as often as they might be. But that does not militate against their usefulness, nor lessen the obligation of the honest biographer to point them out when found.

On the 11th of August, 1855, Mr. McAshan married Miss Mattie K. Eanes, a daughter of James and Susan Eanes, then residing in La Grange, but originally from Cumberland county, Virginia, where Mrs. McAshan was born and chiefly reared. The issue of this union has been four children: James Everett; Samuel Earnest; Annie E., wife of R. H. Kirby; and Virginia K.. wife of H. R. Du Pree, the two sons and youngest daughter being residents of Houston, and the other daughter residing in Austin.

Mr. McAshan arid his entire family are members of the Methodist Church, in which denomination his parents also held a membership during the greater part of their lives.

Mr. McAshan has seen a great deal of the making of the history of Texas, and has been an interested spectator in all that has gone on around him. When he came to the State there was not a mile of railroad nor a telegraph line in it, no towns of any size, the population being confined mainly to the settlements along the larger streams, and to the few villages then started, in all, perhaps, not over 75,000 souls. Now the State is covered with a network of railroads, and the electric telegraph reaches every portion of the country; the land is dotted all over with towns and cities, and the total population of the State is near 2,500,000. He has witnessed all the marvelous changes which have taken place in this region during the past fifty years, and has lived long enough to know that Texas is destined to become the grandest State in all the American galaxy.—pp. 479-482

GUSTAVE A. MEYER.—This free country of America affords numberless instances of men who have made their way alone in life, and such men are always self-reliant, their necessities having taught them that what is done must be done through themselves alone. In considering the gentlemen of this class in Galveston the name of Gustave A. Meyer forcibly suggests itself, for the reason that he has made his way in the world by the force of his own talents.

He was born in Mecklenburg, Germany, near the town of Rostock, in the year 1839, and in that town, which is the principal seaport of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany, he received the greater part of his education. In i856 he accompanied his parents. John H. and Dorothea (Brandt) Meyer, to America, and for one year they resided on and tilled a rented farm near Cat Springs, Austin county, Texas. The following year the father purchased a farm of 200 acres of George Willrich, of Fayette county, and on this estate Mr. Meyer resided until his death in 1888, at the patriarchal age of ninety-one years. His wife was called from life in 1864. They reared a family of seven children, viz.: Charles, deceased; Louisa, widow of Herman Schroeder and now a resident of Galveston; Wilhelmina, wife of Fedor Soder, of Paige, Texas; Fritz, deceased; Sophia, deceased; Augusta, deceased; and Gustave A.

After coming to America Gustave A. Meyer remained with his parents on the farm for several years until 1864, when he removed to Brownsville, Texas, and while in that city the Federal troops invaded the State at that place. He was thus cut off from his friends and home, and so he made his way into Mexico, locating in Victoria, State of Tamaulipas, and was there engaged in merchandising up to 1867. He then returned to Texas by way of New Orleans, and for two years worked for the hardware firm of E. Schmidt & Company, of Houston, during which time two changes were made in the firm, although Mr. Meyer occupied the position of principal salesman until his departure in 1869. He then started a brokerage business in the city of Houston, being one of the very first to engage in this line of endeavor, and was principally engaged in buying and selling bonds and doing a small banking business.

In 1870 be came to Galveston and became bookkeeper for the firm of Lowenstein & Elias, wholesale tobacco and sugar dealers, and was with this firm for two years. In 1872 he established himself in his present business, continuing alone up to 1890, when he transferred the active transaction of the business to one of his nephews, Charles A. Schroeder, and J. A Labarthe, who were associates for about one year. From May, 1890, until the fall of 1893, Mr. Meyer was engaged as a shipper, but in September, 1893, he again embarked in realty dealing by associating himself with his nephew, Mr. Schroeder, and the firm then became known as Meyer & Schroeder. However, in 1894 Mr. Meyer again took full charge of the business, in which he is now prospering. He is one of the best posted, experienced and reliable real-estate dealers in the city. During his residence in Houston he was an Alderman of the city for two years from the Third ward. He is a member of several social clubs, and has been a member of the Cotton [Exchange] since 1884, has been a member of the Chamber of Commerce almost ever since its existence, and is also an honorary member of the Washington Guards of this city.

He was married in November, 1880, to Mrs. Carolina (Kortegas) Koenig, a native of Brunswick, Germany. She and her sister came to this country in 1855, and in the Lone Star State she has since made her home. Mr. and Mrs. Meyer have no children. — pp. 641-642.