A Jolly Post

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the really bad title as today’s post is about my Jolly ancestors. (I guess I should have posted this around Christmas time.)

Yes, it has been quite a while since I have posted here. I have no excuse other than I haven’t been hmmm…excited, enthused, pumped-up…well…interested is probably the closest descriptor to use, about doing my family history lately. The pandemic, the crappy news, the anti-vaxxers, the lack of response from DNA correspondences, the inability to get to records I really need in order to further my research for certain lines, all this has contributed to my malaise. I’ll try to do better this year, I promise, ’cause I won’t let those fu**ers win. So, here goes.

The earliest known male ancestor of my Shaw line, (that would be my maternal grandmother’s line), is James Shaw. The story of James’ life has been passed down in the family and researched: he was an indentured boy who emigrated to York County, Pennsylvania, he joined the Revolutionary cause to help his new home throw off the mantle of British rule, married, had lots of children, and eventually ended up in Kentucky, where he died. I have some doubts about a few parts of his story that were passed down, because they haven’t been verified by sources. But, one thing we do know is true is that he married a woman by the name of Ann Jolly.

Very little is known about Ann, and over the last 20 years I have tried to find her origins. She didn’t just sprout up out of the ground, I believe that she had to have had parents around somewhere when she married James. But, in all these years of research I had been unable to find the answer to that question. Until now.

DNA has helped me in sorting out this mystery, but I also have found records that appear to confirm that her parents were James and Jean Jolly.

Just for added interest a map of Pennsylvania from 1800. York and Washington counties are the ones of interest in this family.

The DNA helped to give me a leg up on where to go to start this search, because I have a couple of matches with other folks who descend from this same couple, but through different children. Those matches gave me a place to start. The fact that they are in Pennsylvania, and the following two probate records cinch the deal for me. First we have James Jolly’s probate record [spelling errors from his record as is]; he died before his wife Jean:

James Jolly probate1
First I have given to my daughter Margeret her full portion that I aloted for her
likewise to my daughter Jane has recd her portion
likewise my dauther Sarah has rec’d hers
also my daugher Ann likewise also has rec’d her portion
my son James he also has rec’d his portion of goods alotted for him
my daughter Elizabeth she also has rec’d her portion
my son William he likewise has rec’d his portion
my daughter Ester has also rec’d her part,

Second… I give and bequeath to my dearly beloved wife Jane my whole estate to be enjouyed by her wholely and solely to be her own property forever to do with the same and use the same as she pleaes… I have let my hand and seal this 24th day of January 1803. John Jolly [seal]

Sighed sealed and acknowledged in presence of Benjaman Lyon, John Kinney, Thomas Parramore

Now this probate doesn’t really confirm much except that he did have daughter Ann. But then Jean died about 3 years later, and her probate record reads as follows:

Will of Jean Jolly…2 I give and devise and bequeath to my daughter Jean who is intermarried to William Quig one dollar.
I give and bequeath my daughter Ann who is intermarried to James Shaw five shillings
I give and bequeath to my oldest son James Jolly one dollar
I give and bequeath my son William one dollar
I give and bequeath my daughter Esther who is intermarried to Nathaniel Parramore one dollar
I give and bequeath Thomas Reacenior five shillings
I give and bequeath William Kinny five shillings
I give and bequeath to Martha Shaw five shillings [<– possibly Ann Shaw’s daughter]
I give and bequeath to my daughter Elizabeth all the reminder of what money in cash is in the hands of William Kinny of mine…

In witness whereunto I have set my hand on this the 26th day of May 18 1806
Jean [her X mark] Jolly [seal]. Witness present in the presence of us: John Mann, William McDonough

If we have DNA matches with folks in this line and the two probate records indicate a daughter Ann who married a James Shaw, I have to conclude that these are likely Ann’s parents. So this is good news. I do love being able to confirm a DNA match with an actual record.

For my next post I’ll try to learn a bit more about James/John and Jean/Jane Jolly/Joley. These folks just can’t decide what their bloody names are!

Oh yeah, I almost forgot – it is possible that the Jolly’s are Scottish. Although, I doubt we will ever know for sure.


  1. v1p487 27 Jan 1803 date of probate — [Jame Jolly entry 1803, v1p487; “Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1683-1994,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L991-MKCR?cc=1999196&wc=9PMX-4WL%3A268493301%2C282444001 : 3 July 2014), Washington > Wills 1781-1814 vol 1-2 > image 256 of 578; county courthouses, Pennsylvania.]
  2. v2p84 11 jun 1806 date of probate –“Jean Jolly entry 1806, v2p84; Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1683-1994,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-8991-M22W?cc=1999196&wc=9PMX-4WL%3A268493301%2C282444001 : 3 July 2014), Washington > Wills 1781-1814 vol 1-2 > image 314 of 578; county courthouses, Pennsylvania.

February 21, 1866 Letter James Shaw To a Brother

I recently found this letter that my mother transcribe years ago. I believe that the original is in the possession of one of our cousins, but don’t bet me on that. James, one of my great Uncles, is writing to a brother, (whom is not named), less than a year after the American Civil War ended. The letter also has him using the language of the time in reference to African Americans. I have left the gist of the word where it is found, because I am not going to ‘rewrite’ his words, but I will not spell them out.

I have included my own commentary, and snarky comments because I was in a mood.

Austin Texas
Feb 21 1866

Dear Brother

Our Texas State Convention met here on the 7th inst. I am a delegate from the counties of Burleson and Robertson. I have been absent at home a week and have just returned. Nancy came very near dying and sent after me but her symptoms change for the better before I got home. I staid[sp] a week and left her improving. The balance of my family and ____ are all well at our _____ _____. Our convention has as yet done but little except the Introduction of Resolutions which have generally been refered[sp] to the appropriate Standing Committees on the different functions of our State Constitution most of which will respond in a day or two. A great majority of our delegates are in favor of giving up all issues which have been decided by the late disastrous war and standing on the reconstruction policy of Andy Johnson as our last and only hope.

The poor n**** is in a worse fix than he was before the war, but that is a matter, not for us now to grieve over [he is grieving that he can no longer legally own slaves], but I hope the extremists [those who were against slavery, and didn’t like traitors who attack their fellow citizens] of both sections who are responsible for his nominal freedom will have his future comforts and happiness attended to. [James was not a big fan of people of color and their rights as human beings, see Slave Schedule below. In this letter he almost appears to show compassion for their plight after the war, he must have been drinking, or out late and was tired when he wrote this.]

There is now a great opening for industrious white men here who can be depended on to labor as but few people here have any confidence in free n***** labor. [You mean you miss slavery? Yeah great Uncle, you and your ilk started a ‘disastrous’ war over slavery. Remember? And now it’s over. You lost. No more slavery.]

Travis & Trump [really hated typing that word!] have hired 8 or 10 at from five to eight dollars per month and are going to try to make considerable cotton, as well as, corn on my place this year. How they will succeed under the new system of n**** labor time alone can determine. [Yeah, that must really suck that you have to pay your laborers now and they have rights.]

So far they are doing admirable, but I fear when hot weather sets in the n**** will fag [tire]. [No shit Uncle, no one likes working long hours in the hot effin’ sun. Not even industrious white men.]

Our Convention is a compound of different elements, Secessionists, Unionists, Confederate and Federal Generals in the late war. I think however they will harmonize as well as could be expected under the current circumstance.

I am boarding at my brother-in-law’s at 6 Raymond they are all well. Write me a long letter and direct to my usual place Texington, Burleson Co[unty] as I expect we will adjourn in two or three weeks. Your note on my letter to John telling him that “if he had looked ahead of him on Sunday or behind him on Monday evening he might have seen his brother George in the 5th Ohio Cavalry” plagues him considerably. He say he’ll be damned if he _____on Monday evening.

Give my best love to all especially to my good old mother. [His mother is Nancy Morin Shaw, wife of John Shaw.]

Old Uncle Jeminy Shaw [possibly James Joseph Shaw] is still living and as wicked as ever. He was very much opposed to the late war and says that the _____ _____ or their descendants of the Old Revolution brought it on.

Yours affection
James Shaw

As promised here are the US Federal Slave Schedule entries for James.

James in the 1850 Slave Schedule for Texas. Here he owns 11 slaves. The information has been water damaged, so I can’t read the details, just his name.

Here he is in the 1860 Texas Slave Schedule. He owns 4 slaves:
2 males 1-36 years old and 1-12 years old
2 females 1-36 years old and 1-25 years old (she is Mulatto)
1 slave house.

James was a Confederate sympathizer, and one of his sons died as a Confederate soldier during the war. To be honest I am not a fan of James. I believe in none of the thing that he did, and do not respect his decision to back the Confederate traitors’ cause.

I guess that this makes the point that folks in the same family can have totally different beliefs from each other. No one in my Shaw family ever owned slaves. Of course, it doesn’t mean that they weren’t racists, but at least they didn’t own people.

Shaw Shenanigans Lead To More Questions

My recent genealogy research has consisted of me reviewing specific ancestors and confirming the accuracy of the ‘facts’ that others have provided regarding their location, vitals and other bits of data.

In this case I have been going over the story of James Shaw, my Irish immigrant ancestor who came here at the age of 15 and was bound out to a family in York County, Pennsylvania. That’s the story anyway.

Using tax, land, and court records I have been able to verify the information regarding his moves throughout his life. However, there are a few bits of history that have not been proven or sourced. How do we know he was here at the age of 15? Where is the ship passengers’ list? There is no record of him in the indentured records, so how do we know he was bound out? If he was an indentured servant he would have been contracted for 4-7 years. That was the gold standard. If he was 18 when he joined the revolutionary war then he was an indentured servant when he was 14 in order for him to have served 4 years. Was he Irish? Or was he Scots-Irish? Where are the sources?

Did he come alone as a young boy? Or did he have a brother or two who were also here?

Now that last one is kind of a trick question. You see, I found a very interesting court record when I was going through the York County Archives on line. This record is about a Daniel Shaw who impregnated Rebecca Jolly, and was in court being fined and convicted for the crime of bastardy in 1780 (or ’81 the record has both dates).

Why this document is especially interesting is that my great grandfather James Shaw married my great grandmother Ann Jolly in 1778 in York County. Are these people related to each other? Is Rebecca a sister to Ann? Is Daniel a brother to James? They are all in the same county at the same time and have the same surnames. A very interesting coincidence.

Here’s another interesting bit of information to ponder–names that show up as volunteers in York County’s 6th battalion, 7th company: James Jolly, Archibald Shaw, Daniel Shaw, James Shaw (my James). Are they related? They are the only Shaw and Jolly surnames to appear in the whole of York County company lists.

Unfortunately, I do not actually have the answer to these questions, they are still a work in progress. And I might never have the answers, but it sure is an interesting puzzle. Fingers crossed!

Bert and Flo partners in crime…

708338When I first started researching my father’s family history, (many, many moons ago), I wrote to a relative (I forget who) asking what they knew about the family. The response I received contained what little information they had to share, along with a mention of memories of my great grandmother Gert not speaking to one of her sisters. Something to do with politics. Now I am wondering if maybe it was something else entirely.

Carrie Rosa and John Cain had, along with several daughters, six sons (in order of birth):
William b1879
George b1882
Albert (Bert) b1887
James b1889
Henry (Harry) b1892
Milton b1894

While doing research in Oconto County newspapers, I ran into several articles in which Bert Cain was the subject, and not in a good way. In fact a few of the Cain brothers were showing up in the newspaper regarding some crime or other they had committed.

James and William* were caught using dynamite to catch fish in the Oconto River in 1915. I don’t know how, or if, William was punished, as there was no judgment found with his name on it, but James was charged $5.00 and spent 30 days in jail. (This was the only time William showed up in court.) James, however, was convicted in 1922 of being in possession of privately manufactured liquor. This time he paid a $200 fine and spent 90 days in jail. Ouch! Milton, the youngest, was always trying to get into saloons when he was underage and was fined twice for his attempts, once in 1912 ($2.00) and again in 1915 ($1.00).

Now to Bert.

Before I dove into the rabbit hole of my latest newspaper research I didn’t know much about Bert. I knew his wife’s name was Florence ____; they never had any children together, that I am aware of; and in 1955 he committed suicide with a shotgun blast to the head. I can say with certainty that I now know a lot more.

Bert and Flo owned/ran a drinking establishment called Swamp Saloon in the Town of Little River, in Oconto County for many years.

The first time he shows up in trouble in the newspaper was in 1920. He was on trial for manslaughter.

newspaper_cainbertmanslaughter copy

All told he paid a fine of $750 for killing someone.

The next time Bert shows up in court is in 1921. He was arrested and charged with selling liquor in violation of the National Prohibition Act, which had been passed in 1919.


Another arrest occurred in 1925. Again for selling liquor. On the face of things this seems pretty innocuous, just another violator of prohibition. (The prohibition act, while enacted basically good intentions, was a farce that didn’t really address the problem of alcoholism and domestic violence, which was the actual intent. It merely made scummy mobsters rich.) The saloon was most likely closed during the trial, along with others.


In reading over the case file I wasn’t really expecting much of interest to show up, after all it was just another case of illegal liquor sales, but boy was I surprised.

It appears that Bert and Flo, while never being charged as such, were also ‘procurers’ or pimps. They conveniently provided prostitutes for interested ‘clients’, and took a part of the ladies’ profits, renting the rooms in their ‘hotel’ for the use of the couples. Below are clips from the court case regarding their prostitution related offenses:

court_cainbert_10418OcontoSeries36 copy



There was no judgment in this case as it was the preliminary hearing to decide whether or not to proceed to trial. Bert and Flo probably pled guilty and paid the fine. They didn’t serve any time in jail as far as I can tell.

In 1931 Bert was again in court for the same reason, as seen in this amusing newspaper article:


I could find no case specific to this time period for Bert. Again, it doesn’t appear that he actually went to jail for any of these offenses, and probably paid another fine.

Bert and Flo continued to operate their saloon until 1933 when an unfortunate and terrifying event occurred:newspaper_cainbert_ODNW1933_03_16p1

The article mentions a daughter Leona [age 17], this would be Florence’s daughter from a previous marriage. This incident didn’t stop Bert and Flo though, they continued to operate drinking and eating establishments as shown in this Billboard magazine news clip from 1941:


As to their prostitution related activities, the length of time of their involvement is not clear. I can find no record of either Bert or Flo being brought to court for them, at least in Oconto County.

We don’t know how much of this activity Gertrude was aware of. But my guess is that it is this brother and sister-in-law whom she didn’t much associate with.

  • This is a link to the court hearing for James and William, with testimony. Makes for some interesting reading.

James Shaw 1808-1880

James is labeled as front row far left. My 3x great grandfather John is sitting next to him, in the middle.

Found online, this is suppose to be a picture of James, I am not convinced. Maybe it is his son Franklin who died in the Civil War.

I mentioned James Shaw in a previous post in regards to his son Franklin being killed during the civil war, but recently while doing some newspaper research I found this great obituary for James in the Galveston Daily News, so I thought I would spend a little time researching his life. The obituary did bring to light the fact that most online trees have his death date wrong. James Shaw died February 10, 1880, his obituary was in the paper Friday of the same week. Everyone else on-line has February 24, 1879, probably taken from his headstone. [Note to researchers, headstones can be wrong.] James Shaw is my 4x great uncle.

According to one of his biographies written by a descendant, James was a surveyor and a teacher who left Ohio in 1833 taking passage on a steamboat heading to New Orleans, his intent was to go to Texas. However, he stopped in Mississippi and taught school for a few years. In 1835 he headed to Texas through the Robertson Colony on the Brazos. He served in the military until 1836, at which point he started his homestead at String Prairie, on land he received as a reward for his military service. Which is also the location of a historical marker in Texas [#8157 Indian Camp Branch which is located on an old buffalo trail. It was named by James to honor the hospitality of a band of friendly Tonkawa he encountered near the site in 1837.] He is also said to have been appointed to treat with the local Indians because he could speak all the dialects.

After establishing his new home, James headed to Missouri to marry his childhood sweetheart, Nancy Ann Riggs. And when they returned to Texas he opened the first school in the area. He was appointed postmaster in 1849, where their home also served as the first post office in the area. He surveyed and laid out the town of Lexington and was instrumental in helping to get the name changed in 1850 from String Prairie to Lexington, after the town in Massachusetts.

I thought I would transcribe his obituary where they also included a letter that James had written correcting errors from a published history of Texas.

Hon. James Shaw.
This veteran hero and statesman of Texas died at his home, near Lexington, Lee County, on Tuesday, of pneumonia, at the ripe age of 72. He was among the volunteers who came to the aid of the people of Texas in their struggle against the Mexican tyrant Santa Anna in November, 1835, and participated in the battle of San Jacinto, which ended in the overthrow and capture of the tyrant, and the destruction of one-half and the capture of the other half of his army. He came from Ohio by steamboat to Natchitoches, and from thence on horseback to San Felipe. Falling in on the road with several other Texas volunteers, they thought it advisable to go to headquarters before joining any company, and accordingly came to San Felipe, where the consultation was in session. The night they arrived there news was received of the capture of San Antonio by Col. “Frank” Johnson. Of subsequent events, Mr. Shaw himself wrote in a letter to the NEWS (in correcting some errors in Thrall’s History of Texas) on the 8th of December, 1879:

“A good many of the citizens looked upon the war as being over, and that we had come too late, which rather hurt our feelings, and some of our number intended to return forthwith without “immortal honors.” Gen. Houston, however, who was a member of the “consultation” hearing that we intended to return, came out and gave us a talk. He told us to remain in the country; that there would be plenty of agitating to do by spring; that Santa Anna would not give up Texas for that little fight at San Antonio, and advised us to go up into Robertson’s colony, above the old San Antonio road, on a buffalo hunt. Three or four of our number took his advice and came up into Robertson’s colony, and joined Capt. Thos. A. Graves (Robertson’s colony surveyor) and went out on Little river, San Gabriel and Brushy creeks on a surveying and buffalo hunting expedition. After having been in the woods some five or six weeks, the Indians, who had been watching us all the time, came upon us in large force just before day, killed two of our number, and severely wounded two, I and M. B. Shackleford being the wounded, and a Mr. Drake from North Carolina, and a negro man belonging to Maj. Holtzclaw, of Tennessee, the killed. There were then eight of our crowd left– two wounded; four of the crowd deserted us and scattered. Maj. Holtzclaw and Lemuel Moore (to who’s now departed spirits I shall always feel grateful for my life,) remained faithful to the wounded, and helped us into New Nashville, a fort on the Brazos, where the International railroad now crosses the river. After our arrival into the settlements all was confusion and excitement– the rumor was that Santa Ana was advancing with 30,000 soldiers. After a remarkably dry winter the flood gates of heaven has been opened, and every stream was overflowed. The Brazos River was 6 miles wide from Hilton Hill. After having rafted all the families over the Brazos, it was rumored that Gen. Houston had left Groce’s Retreat (where he had been encamped for some time), to intercept Santa Anna, across the Brazos River below with some 800 troops. I, Ben McCulloch, Tom Dunham and Tom Greer, (a brother of old Elick, once vice president), rafted the Brazos, and made our way for Gen. Houston’s army. We overtook him in the boggy prairie, the evening he arrived at Harrisburg, 18 April; my three comrades joined the artillery company and I, a cavalry company commanded by Capt. William H. Smith, not being able for foot service from my Indian wound. I was in two skirmishes on the 20th, commanded by Col. Sherman, and on the 21st first by Col. M.B. Lamar. After the battle, and treaty made, I was one of the 80 men commanded by Col. Ed. Burleson, who was detailed to follow the Mexican forces across the Nueces to see that the treaty made and agreed-upon was faithfully carried out; from thence we were ordered up to San Antonio, where our command remained until discharged in the winter of 1836. I served five years in the Congress of the Republic– two regular sessions in the House and three in the Senate, from 1838 up to 1844–and in the state legislature every session (with the exception of one, 1850-51 years), from 1846 up to 1856.”

Mr. Shaw was not only a man greatly esteemed and trusted by his constituents, but an intelligent and honest legislator, above all the intrigues of trafficking politicians, and following his own convictions, without regard to party. He closes the long though hasty letter quoted above in the following characteristic way:

“I am now in my 72nd year, and will soon be an old man. I always go to the Jackson Democratic ticket up to the late disastrous war. I voted an open ticket against the secession in 1861, believing that it would finally end in our subjugation and the freedom of the “n****r.”[let’s say slaves. So he was for slavery? Hard to tell the way it is written, but it sounds like he voted to not succeed, because he believed they would end up having to kowtow to the North and free the slaves.] Since which time, when the fire-eating Calhoun democracy got in the lead in Texas, I have taken but little interest in politics except in voting for what I thought to be the best man without regard to parties. I am not a radical, neither am I a greenbacker, but I am waiting patiently for”something to turn up.” I am now satisfied that it would be sometime before the president will be elected under the name Democrat. Had not the fire-eating portion of the democracy, at the last call session of Congress played h–ll with the democracy, a conservative Democrat, such as Gen. Hancock, Bayard or Seymour might have stood some chance of election, but now, I fear there is none.”
James Shaw.

The surviving family of the deceased consists of his son, Hon. Travis Shaw, of Lee County; Mrs. Sophronia Douglas, wife of Isaac Douglas; his (Mr. Shaw’s) second wife, and her young son. Deceased had accumulated a large number of valuable papers connected with the early history of Texas, the use of which the NEWS expects to enjoy in collating facts in regard to the policy and events connected with the rise and progress of Texas as a Republic and state of the American union.1

Later in the year that he died, 1880, the paper published James letter that he had written in regards to the Thrall History of Texas, with other details:

Thrall’s History of Texas.
The following letter is written by that well-known Texas soldier and Legislature, Hon. James Shaw, but a short time before his death:

“Lexington, Lee County, December 8, 1870. –in reviewing the lead history of Texas, by Mr. H. S. Thrall, I find the most correct history of Texas now extant. Some few inaccuracies, however, occur, particularly in relation to myself. In his biographical sketches he says: “James Shaw came to Texas, in Schooner Hope, in 1831; he was in the Texas Congress in 1841 – 42, and the legislature in 1853, and now lives in Burleson County.” For the purpose of correcting history, and not for any egoism in relation to myself, I will give you a correct statement of my advent into Texas.

Mr. thralls gives a very accurate account of the battle of San Jacinto, and Gen. Houston’s conversation with Santa Ana. I think I ought to know, as I heard every word spoken between them. He, however, in his history of the Somervell campaign, in 1842, does, in my opinion, Gen. Houston great injustice. He says: “It has been conjectured that Pres. Houston never intended an aggressive movement against Mexico, and the Somervell acted under secret orders in disbanding his men,” etc. I enter emphatically that Pres. Houston never did intend an “aggressive movement against Mexico”; neither did the Congress of the Republic intend it. When Houston was inaugurated second term, on 13 December, 1841, I was Sen., representing the Counties of Milam, Robertson and Leon. After our adjournment at Austin, in the spring of 1842, present Houston went to Alabama and married. When he returns to Texas, with his worthy prize, “the Mexican raids under Vasquez and Wall had awaken the martial spirit in Texas.” The country was highly excited, and appeared to be strongly in favor of carrying the war into Mexico. Houston, however, would not shoulder the responsibility of so dangerous a movement; but called Congress to meet in Houston in the summer of 1842 to deliberate on the matter.

Accordingly, a bill was introduced into the house, and passed by some 10 majority for an aggressive movement against Mexico. It also passed the Senate by one majority. Houston vetoed the bill, and after his veto message was read in the House, his argument against the measure were so overpowering that many members who voted for the bill voted against it, and instead of having a two thirds majority to pass the bill they scarcely had a majority. After the bill was defeated Houston ordered Somervell to fall back from the Rio Grand. Somervell obeyed orders, and most of these law-abiding men– such as John Hemphill, William G. Cook, J.H. Herndon, M. Austin Bryant, J.D. Robertson, Tom Green, Ben McCulloch, and many others–obeyed their general, and marched back in accordance with the president’s orders.

Some two or three hundred discontented spirits thought it best not to obey orders, called for volunteers and elected William S. Fisher commander, and started to cross the Rio Grande into Mexico to gain “immortal honors” before they returned to Texas. Accordingly a few days thereafter, they met with a disastrous defeat at Mier, had some 16 killed 20 wounded; the balance, some 200, surrendered, were chained together, and started for Mexico, and on their way they need made attempt to regain their liberty. They overpowered their guards and started for home, but 173 were recaptured and every 10th man shot (which was 17 out of the 173), by order of Santa Ana; and everyone of them would have shared the same fate if Santa Anna had known that they crossed the Rio Grande, contrary to the orders of our president. To save the lives of these poor prisoners, although they had crossed the Rio Grande contrary to orders, Pres. Houston magnanimously held out the idea to Santa Anna that they had crossed in obedience to orders, and finally, through his great influence with Santa Anna, after nearly 2 years confinement, they were released and sent home.”
James Shaw2

Another newspaper article from 1860 indicates that James and Sam Houston didn’t always agree politically:

We see that James Shaw, of Burleson County, is hoisted by the “Organ” here for treasurer…a respectable planter in Burleson County. It is the same Capt. James Shaw who ran for state senator last year, prepared a circular which was intended to be printed at the State Gazette office taking strong political ground against Sam Houston. It is the same Capt. James Shaw, of Burleson, who relates that while in the state of Ohio in 1857, when the news of the election of H. R. Runnels, to the office of governor, reached there, amid the rejoicing of Democrats and the disappointment of the Black Republicans, the latter had prepared to make a grand demonstration in favor of Sam Houston, had he been elected.

It is the same Capt. James Shaw of Burleson County, whom the “Organ” here presents to the Houston party for their support, who was a fellow soldier with Sam Houston at San Jacinto, but who it is said, never endorsed his course on that battlefield. It is evident that either Capt. Shaw or Gov. Houston has in quite a short period changed very much in their views of each other.3

James was heavily involved in the early days of Texas becoming a state and his politics appear to have been that of conservative Democrat. Which today would be a conservative Republican.

SHAW, James, San Jacinto hero, was born in Clermont County, Ohio, August 8, 1808…In 1838, James Shaw began is career as a Congressman. Representing Milam County in the House of the Third (1838-1839) and Fifth (1840-1841) Congresses, he returned to the Sixth as Senator from Milam and Robertson. In the Seventh and eighth, 1842-44, he held the same office. After Annexation, Shaw served one term in the legislature, the Second, 1847-1848, as Representative from Milam…4

More can be found on James in Alvy Ray Smith’s publication Elder Bethuel Riggs of Morris County, New Jersey, and His Family.


  1. The Galveston Daily News. (Galveston, Tex.), Vol. 38, No. 281, Ed. 1 Friday, February 13, 1880, newspaper, February 13, 1880; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth465187/m1/2/: accessed February 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu
  2. Thursday, November 11, 1880 Paper: Galveston Weekly News (Galveston, Texas) Page: 5
  3. Date: Saturday, July 14, 1860 Paper: Texas State Gazette (Austin, Texas) Page: 2
  4. Biographical Directory of the Texan conventions and Congresses, 1832-1845, p170

A Piece of Savage Barbarism…


The Civil War in the United States was a tragedy of huge proportions for the citizens of this country. So many lives lost because of misplaced southern pride in outdated and appalling views on ownership, ‘states rights’ and slavery.

James Shaw, born Ohio in 1808, was an older brother of my ggg grandfather the Hon. John Shaw. By the early 1830s James decided to try his fortunes in Texas and moved his family to what is now Milam County. He had married one of the Riggs girls and had several children with her. One of those children was a son, Frank Shaw.

James embraced being a Texian wholeheartedly, even joining the military when they were fighting Santa Anna. He was in the decisive battle of San Jacinto that was one of the determining factors in the future of Texas as a state.

Sometime after the civil war started James’ son Frank, feeling the fever of youthful righteousness in a cause, joined up. On the side of the South. This decision had the unfortunate effect of ending Frank’s young life quite abruptly. His father wrote this letter to the paper, mostly likely as a way to help himself work through his grief:


Editor Gazette:

Permit me through the columns of your weekly paper, to make known to the civilized world and to Texian soldiers in particular, the death of my unfortunate son, Frank Shaw, a native Texian, who was brutally murdered by Federal troops in Louisiana, on the 3d day of November last. The circumstances are substantially as follows: My son was Orderly Sergeant in Captain Waterhouse’s Company, Lane’s Regiment, Majors’ Brigade of Cavalry. In the morning of the Borbeaux battle, his (Waterhouse’s) and Johnston’s companies, who had been on picket, a mile from the Federals encampment, marched up to a bridge on Bayou Borbeaux fronting the Federals, and were ordered to dismount and take trees. My son with two or three others, seeing a good position across the bayou, some eight or ten steps in advance of our line, ran to it, and after having fired three or four rounds each, the order was given to fall back to their horses, who having further to run by being in advance, they were captured before they got back.

At this critical moment Gen. Green and Majors came dashing up at the head of their victorious columns from the right, and repulsed the enemy, who after having taken my son some four hundred yards, fearing his recapture, brutally and inhumanly murdered him by shooting him in the head with a pistol!

I have not written this account hastily and from the impulse of the moment; but have waited patiently for the last four or five weeks hoping the first account of this sad affair which I received from my nephew, A. P. Perkins, might possibly prove incorrect as I could not believe, that there was a nation on the face of God’s habitable Globe, especially one professing to be foremost in civilization and Christianity, that would have acted so barbarously: notwithstanding the poet has long since said:

“But look for ruin when a coward wins, For fear and cruelty were ever twins.”

My son had met them honorably previously on many battle fields. Mr. James Holland, a member of the same company, has lately arrived at my house, with his horse and baggage. He was taken prisoner a short time previous to my son; but he saw while in New Orleans, before his escape, the prisoners who were captured with him, with whom he was well acquainted, and they informed him that they saw Frank shot in the cowardly manner described above, and for the only reason, that his feeble health would not permit him to keep up afoot, with their retreating cavalry.

I have been thus particular in detailing facts for this purpose of making it publicly known to our brave Texian troops in the field, that these same thieves and murderers under Gen. Banks, are now polluting our Southern borders with their unwelcome presence, and I now leave it with them to decide whether or not, so cowardly and dastardly an enemy deserved the treatment of a brave and magnanimous foe?

James Shaw
Lexington, Jan. 13, 1864.1

There is no getting around the fact that war is an ugly and violent affair no matter how you look at it and Frank was a casualty of that ugliness. The manner of his death, if accurately reported (remember we only have one version of what happened), is unfortunate and it is understandable that James’ view will be prejudiced. In my, admittedly prejudiced, mind his son was fighting to preserve slavery under the misguided guise of state’s rights. Where was the honor in that?  But the fact is, one side had no more claim to honor and heroism than another, as both the North and the South committed acts of barbarism, compassion, and heroism at many times during the war.

1 Published in the [Texas] Galveston Gazette, January 13, 1864.