The Tate Family
By Steven R. Butler, Ph.D.
The Butler and Tate families are related by virtue of the 1906 marriage of Herman H. Butler to Alice May Tate, a daughter of Isaac H. and Sarah Tate.
The Tates, believed to be of Scots-Irish ancestry, originated from South Carolina. They also have roots in Georgia and Alabama. In the late 1880's, the Isaac Tate family came to Texas from Alabama. They lived awhile at Vernon, Texas before settling in Dallas in 1890. For many years, the family lived in East Dallas, near the state fairgrounds.
Harrison Tate was born near Greenville, South Carolina on May 27, 1814. His parents, whose names are unknown, died during his childhood and "he was raised an orphan" - according to an anonymous account found in an old family Bible. Neither is it known who cared for him after the death of his parents.
Because Harrison Tate's age at the time of his parents' demise is uncertain, a possibility exists that a certain John M. Tate could be his father - but only because he was the only head of a household bearing the surname Tate enumerated in the 1820 federal census for Greenville County, South Carolina. At that time, Harrison Tate was only six years old. Perhaps his parents were still alive at that time.
It appears that as a young adult, Harrison Tate may have resided for a time at or near Columbus, Muscogee County, Georgia. He might also have resided in Harris County, Georgia or Russell County, Alabama. All these places are situated in the same general locale and are more or less adjoining. Whether he migrated to Georgia or Alabama alone or with the people who raised him is unknown. A certain Thomas M. Tate, a 63-year old native of South Carolina who was enumerated in the 1850 federal census for Harris County, Georgia may have been a kinsman. A certain Thomas S. Tate, a lawyer, and a John B. Tate, a school trustee, might also have been a relative. Both the latter are known to have resided in Russell County, Alabama in the 1830s and 1840s.
The earliest known public record of Harrison Tate involves military service. On June 2, 1836, at the age of twenty-two, Harrison Tate was enrolled as a Private in Talley's Company, 1st Georgia Drafted Militia, at Fort Ingersoll - located about twenty miles from the city of Columbus. Serving for three months, the young man was among 4,755 Georgians, 4,300 Alabamians, and 1,103 regular army soldiers under command of General Winfield Scott who was to go on to greater glory in the 1846-1848 War with Mexico. Their task? To subdue the Creek Indians who had recently gone on the warpath in Alabama, and force their removal to the west.
The trouble started after the U.S. government had begun the forced removal of Indians from Alabama and Mississippi to the "Indian Territory" (now Oklahoma) far to the west - so that white settlers could come in and take up land previously held by the Indians. Of all the southeastern tribes, the Creeks, even more so than the Cherokees, the Chickasaws, and the Choctaws, were reluctant to leave. However, in an 1832 treaty the tribe ceded all its lands east of the Mississippi River to the U.S. government.
But despite the government's desire "that the Creeks should remove to the country west of the Mississippi and join their countrymen there," the treaty contained a provision that allowed any Creek who wished to remain to select a half section of land. He could then sell it, or, after five years, he could receive a deed for it if he still did not wish to emigrate.
Unfortunately for the Creeks, things did not work out the way they were meant to. The treaty became a silent signal for many whites to flood into Alabama. Naturally, the Creeks were more than a little upset that their lands, promised to them by treaty, were in effect being stolen right out from under their noses. Even worse, the government did little or nothing to remedy the situation. It took a turn for the worse when a group of destitute Creeks camped in Georgia in the spring of 1836. After being attacked by the Georgia Militia, roving bands of Creeks began to attack and kill whites living in the area and to destroy property.
Initially, General Thomas Jesup was in command. After Scott arrived from Florida, where he had been fighting the Seminoles, a plan was put into effect whereby Jesup's men would drive the Indians from the west toward Scott's forces - who would sweep from the east. The idea was to catch the Creeks between them.
Jesup, however, could scarcely restrain his Alabamians. Despite the plan, he and his men located the main Creek camp where they captured the Indians' leader, Eneah Micco, along with three or four hundred warriors.
Although this action, seemingly brought peace once more to the area, Scott was angry because so many Creek warriors had escaped. In late June the Georgia Militia, probably including young Harrison Tate, met and defeated the remainder of the hostile Creeks. By June 24th General Scott was able to report to his superiors in Washington, D.C that the war was over - although for the next few weeks there were still occasional skirmishes with scattered bands of Indians.
The following month, the removal of the Creeks began. Handcuffed and chained and guarded by soldiers, the defeated warriors left Fort Mitchell on July 2nd. Wagons and ponies transporting children, old women, and the ill followed them. A little less than two weeks later, nearly 2,500 more Creeks were put aboard boats at Montgomery and taken down the Alabama River to Mobile ? for further transportation to their lands in the west. It's possible young Harrison Tate may have watched at least the earlier of these two sad scenes. However, his services no longer needed, he was mustered-out at Columbus, Muscogee County, Georgia on July 17, 1836, his military career having lasted a little less than two months.
Two years later, at the age of twenty-four, Harrison Tate was married in Harris County, Georgia, located north of and adjoining Muscogee County. The wedding took place on November 26, 1838. His bride's name was Mariah E. Hill, a native Georgian who was then about fifteen years of age. She was the daughter of Isaac Abner Hill and his wife Isabella (Cox) Hill.
Little is known about Mariah Hill Tate except that over the next twenty years she bore her husband at least six children. The first, James Tate, was born about 1840 in Georgia.
The third child (and second son), Isaac Henry Tate, is known to have been born on October 31, 1844 in Lafayette, Chamber's County, Alabama. Probably, all the Tate children, with the exception of James and the youngest, were born in Chambers County - where the family was living when enumerated in the 1840 federal census. The others, not already named, were: Manerva Tate, born about 1843; William H. Tate, born about 1847; and John Henry Tate, born about 1849. The last child, Thomas Lee Tate, was born about 1858, probably in the Wacoochee Valley, in Russell County, Alabama.
In 1850 the Tate family was again enumerated in the federal census for Chambers County, Alabama. At that time, Harrison Tate was a farmer who owned $200 worth of land.
Several other Tate families lived in the county at the same time - some or all of who might have been relatives. Thomas Tate, a South Carolinian only a year younger than Harrison, might have been a brother or cousin. The 1850 slave schedules show that Harrison Tate also owned one slave at this time, a 15-year old black male.
About 1856 Harrison Tate moved his family a few miles south to adjoining Russell County, where they resided at a place called Wacoochee (or Wakoochee) Valley. This place was situated just a few miles north of the town of Opelika. There, in the spring of 1861, they learned that Alabama had seceded from the Union, along with several other southern states and had become part of a new nation - the Confederate States of America. For a time, Montgomery, Alabama was the capital of the Confederacy. Shortly thereafter, the Civil War began. James Tate, age 19, promptly enlisted in Company A, 15th Alabama Infantry. His commanding officer, Colonel Warren B. Oates, later wrote that when enlisted, James was "a man of poor health and delicate constitution." But, continued the Colonel, "He was willing to serve and did the best he could," adding, "He tried hard to keep with his command and do his duty." Oates noted that later in the war, James Tate "was finally detailed as a baggage guard. His health at length improved and he was with his command in several engagements toward the close of the war." He added that in 1864, while on picket duty, James was slightly wounded.
Tragedy struck the Tate family on October 9, 1861, when Mariah Tate died. She was only thirty-eight years of age. Her oldest children" were not yet grown and her youngest, Thomas, was barely out of babyhood. No doubt her loss was deeply mourned. She was buried at the Concord Baptist Church Cemetery in Lee County, Alabama.
The following spring, on April 15th, Harrison Tate's seventeen-year old son, Isaac Tate, enlisted as a Private in Company K, 34th Alabama Infantry at either Loachapoka or Salem, located in what was then Russell, later Lee, County, Alabama. As a result, he was probably not at home when his father married for the second time, a little over a month later on May 26, 1862.
The new Mrs. Tate was the former Mary Caroline West - a widow since 1858, when her first husband, William C. West, passed away on December 5th of that year at Mountain Hill, Harris County, Georgia. Mary's father was Neill Strahan, a veteran of the War of 1812 and prosperous slave owner who lived in Meriwether County, Georgia. A native of Meriwether County, Mary had been born on November 20, 1831. She and Harrison Tate had known each other about two years prior to their marriage. Indeed, Mary had been friends with Mariah Tate and when the latter was on her deathbed, Mary had been there by her side.
To her new marriage, Mary brought three children: a son named Henry and two daughters, Sarah and Mary Jane.
That fall, Isaac Tate returned home after being discharged from the Confederate Army due to illness. He no doubt had time, as he recuperated during the winter months, to become better acquainted with his new stepmother, stepbrother, and stepsisters. But when the spring came again, in 1863, he wasted no time" in getting back into uniform. He had not yet seen action and may have feared, as many young men did, that the war would be over before he got a chance to share in its glory.
He was not to be disappointed. At Columbus, Georgia he joined the same company and regiment as his older brother. Within a few short months he would "see the elephant" at a place called Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Later, at Chickamauga and the Wilderness in Virginia, where he was wounded, Isaac may have wondered what madness made him think war was glorious.
When the Civil War was over (or perhaps even earlier) Isaac and James came home. The South had lost its bid to break away from the United States. But life goes on and Isaac, then twenty-two years old, fell in love with his thirteen-year old stepsister, Sarah. The young couple was married on November 19, 1865 in Russell County, probably at their parents' home. Within a year, they presented Harrison and Mary Tate with a grandchild - a little baby girl they named Manerva, after Isaac's sister.
That same year, 1866, Russell County was divided. The Tates, without moving, found themselves living in newly created Lee County, named in honor of Confederate General Robert E. Lee - under whose command Isaac and James had served. Over the next two decades, Harrison Tate held a variety of public offices in the county. He was, at one time, a judge although he may have served in that capacity in another county. In 1880, when the family was enumerated in the federal census for that year, Harrison Tate was shown to be the sheriff of Lee County. The census also revealed that Harrison and Mary's granddaughter Hettie (Isaac's and Sarah's daughter) was living with them at their home in Opelika - a farming community in the northern part of the county.
Their only child still at home was Thomas Lee Tate, who was then twenty-two years old and a clerk in a dry goods store.
Times were especially hard in the South during the long years of "Reconstruction" following the Civil War. Opelika, which had been something of a boomtown in antebellum days, went into decline, offering few postwar opportunities. Sometime after 1880, it appears that Harrison and Mary, along with Isaac and Sarah and all their children, moved south, settling in a small town called Columbia, in Henry (now in Houston) County. There, Isaac Tate ran a general store, perhaps with the help of his brother Thomas. Harrison Tate's occupation at this time is unknown.
In 1887, leaving their aged parents behind in Alabama, Isaac and Sarah and their family (at that time, four young children - Hettie, Henry, Mamie, and Alice) left Columbia and set out by mule-drawn wagon for Texas. No doubt Harrison and Mary were sad to see them go. The old couple, so it appears, was especially fond of their grandchildren.
Apparently, the next three years passed quietly, probably with little or nothing of importance occurring in that little farming community located in the far southeastern section of the state. No doubt Harrison and Mary received, from time to time, a welcome letter from their children, who, after more than two years after leaving Alabama, had settled in Dallas, Texas. Thomas Lee Tate, Harrison's youngest son, got married about this time although the exact date is uncertain. His bride, Eugenia Bates, was the daughter of a prominent businessman, Captain Thomas Jefferson Bates, who like the Tates, had roots in both Russell County, Alabama and Columbus, Georgia.
At one o'clock in the morning, on January 18, 1891, Harrison Tate, aged seventy-six years, passed away. Whether or not Isaac and Sarah were able to come from Texas to attend his funeral is unknown. The community of Columbia, however, was saddened by the loss of this man who had lived among them during the final years of his long life. In the local newspaper, an obituary appeared which gave some of the details of Harrison Tate's life. It also praised him, stating: "Personal integrity, great kindness of heart, a wide human sympathy and a pure home life were virtues all accorded him," adding, "Those who criticized his public acts found in his private life nothing to condemn him." The newspaper also gave the details of his death:
"He died as one might wish to die...in his own home, in the midst of the friends and neighbors of many years, at Columbia, which loved him and which he loved, in the tender care of her who was nearest and dearest, without premonition or pain of parting." His last words were reported to be, "Oh Lord, I am in thine hands."
Harrison Tate was buried in the Columbia City Cemetery.
Mary C. Tate survived her husband by nearly two decades. Not long after his death, while still living at Columbia, she applied for a $12 per month federal pension based on Harrison's 1836 Indian War service. Unfortunately, it had occurred so far in the past that she had forgotten much of what her husband had told her about it, if anything. As a result, her application took a long time to process. Regardless, the pension was finally granted and she received it for the rest of her life.
Sometime between her husband's death in 1891 and the turn of the century, Mary C. West went to live in Waverly Hall, Harris County, Georgia, presumbably so that she could be near her daughter Mary J. Byrd and family. For a time, Mary boarded with a William H. Fern family. She died on June 26, 1909 and was buried at the Waverly Hall Cemetery, in the Byrd family plot, near her daughter, who died in 1927 and son-in-law James Henry Byrd, who died in 1935.
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