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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

The Smith Brothers

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
Four brothers from Delta County lived with an ordinary name in the mid-1800s, but they were far from ordinary.

Benjamin, Charles H., Gilford and Mira Smith helped carve Delta County out of the Texas frontier after coming to the area from Arkansas.

Each of the brothers stood six feet, four inches or taller and weighed over 250 pounds. In the l800s, when men generally were smaller, the Smiths must have looked like giants. When they migrated into East Texas, they obtained a title to the Moses Williams land grant, patented in 1849 and surveyed by Major George W. Stell.

The brothers cut logs and built cabins with puncheon (split-log) floors, riven-board roofs, and homemade furniture. Instead of nails, they used wooden pegs, and instead of glass windows, they built shutters.

The Smiths' chimneys were made of black clay mud plastered over sticks.

For food, the Smith brothers and their families ate a lot of bear meat obtained with flintlock rifles in such dangerous places as the Jernigan Thicket, a few miles west of Cooper.

The thicket was a dense thicket of ten to fifteen square miles, which formerly covered an area including northeastern Hunt, southeastern Fannin, and western Delta counties.

It was centered near Pecan Gap in Delta County, not far from where the Smiths lived. The thicket was made up of hardwoods, particularly bois d'arc, pecan, and oak; juniper and pines; and rattan vines. Mesquite and grasses grew on its outer fringes.

Caddo Indians originally lived in the vicinity. By 1750 the French had arrived, and in 1820 scattered remnants of Delaware, Quapaw, and Seminole Indians were hunting there. The thicket was named for a hunter who was lost there for twelve days in 1843. For many years it served as a hideout for fugitives, including the Martin D. Hart company of bushwhackers.

After the Civil War when mechanized agriculture began to develop, much of the thicket vegetation was removed to clear the way for crop planting.

The black soil in the area produced some of the finest cotton in Delta County. The Smiths put virtually every acre of their land into cotton production and during World War I years the value of their land rose to $400 an acre.


Each of the four brothers were different in some ways.

Charles H. was a hunter and carried a flintlock must of his life, but obtained a Springfield rifle around 1860. Charles was also known as "Honey Smith" because of his proficiency in managing bee hives and collecting honey for his family and friends.

Mira Smith was a blacksmith and passed the trade on to his son Henry and another son, Moses, became a tanner and was widely known for his buckskin suits.

Gilford marched off to war during the Civil War and was killed at the Battle of Mansfield, Louisiana, and his body was buried there. Charles H. also served with the Confederate Army, but returned home to his family.

Two of Mira Smith's sons, Henry and Jasper, also joined the Confederates, but, according to a family account,"they had a tough time during the war."

The Smiths produced large families. In the three families, nearly twenty children were born.

In 1968, the Texas Historical Commission erected a state historical marker to the Smiths' legacy on a site three and a half miles west of Cooper beside Texas Highway 64.
All Things Historical
January 8, 2007 Column.
Published with permission

A weekly column syndicated in over 40 East Texas newspapers

Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman of Lufkin is a former president of the Association and the author of more than 30 books about East Texas.

Bob Bowman's East Texas
A timely gift for any East Texan. Sample a little of East Texas here, a little there--and come away with a good helping of stories you might not know if you didnít read this book.
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