The Tate Family
By Steven R. Butler
Isaac Henry Tate
Isaac Henry Tate Isaac Henry Tate was born on October 31, 1844 at Lafayette, Chambers County, Alabama. He was the second son and third child of Harrison Tate and his wife Mariah Hill Tate.
Isaac Tate, along with his brothers and one sister, grew up in Chambers County, Alabama. When he was about fourteen, the family moved to Russell County. In 1861, when he was sixteen years old, their mother died. The following year, their father married a widow, Mrs. Mary C. West, who had three children by her first marriage. Isaac probably was not present at his father's second marriage. The month before, on April 15, 1862, the seventeen year old enlisted as a private in Company K, 34th Alabama Infantry, Confederate States Army, at either Loachapoka or nearby Salem.
Afterward, his regiment marched to Tulepo, Mississippi where, with the 24th and 28th Alabama and two regiments from South Carolina, they were brigaded under General Arthur M. Manigault. From Mississippi, say official records, "the regiment moved into Kentucky, but it was not under fire during the campaign. The "campaign" referred to began in the fall of 1862 and culminated in the Battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee in December. General Braxton Bragg headed it.
But long before the battle, young Isaac Tate became ill. On August 22, 1862 he was in the hospital "at Tyner's." He was still there in November but may have been discharged before Christmas, his military career cut short at least for a while.
Back at home, he had the opportunity to spend time with his father, brothers and sister and of course, with his new stepmother, stepbrother and stepsisters.
By the spring of 1863, Isaac had recuperated from his illness. Now eighteen, he crossed the Chattahoochee River to Columbus, Georgia. There he enlisted again as a private in the Confederate Army - this time enrolling in Company A, 15th Alabama Infantry. Not coincidentally, it was the very same outfit with which his older brother James was then serving.
Within two months of re-enlisting, Isaac Tate found himself participating in what was to become the most famous and decisive battle of the American Civil War. Brigaded under General Evander M. Law, as part of Longstreet's First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, the men of the 15th Alabama found themselves in mid-June 1863 advancing upon the state of Pennsylvania. General Robert E. Lee, Commander-in-Chief of the entire Confederate Army, had decided to take the war to the North.
Moving northward toward their destiny, Isaac and his comrades may have been part of an amusing event that occurred as General Longstreet observed his men crossing the Potomac River at Williamsport, Maryland. So as not to be uncomfortably wet later, the men removed their trousers for wading across the shallow river. As they were making their way through the water to the opposite shore a carriage-load of young Maryland women, traveling to Virginia, happened by. The soldiers, of course, were embarrassed to be caught literally with their pants down (or off, in this case). Was Isaac one of them? Perhaps. No one knows. But this humorous scene probably quickly forgotten as the Confederates marched into Pennsylvania and an encounter with the Army of the Potomac became more likely.
Led by Colonel William C. Oates and Captain B.A. Hill, the 15th Alabama found themselves in Hood's Division when the fighting began near the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on July 1st, 1863. General Hood was wounded early on July 2nd. Unable to command, he was succeeded by General Law. That same day, the men of the 15th Alabama saw their most intense action at Gettysburg. At a hill called Big Round Top they came under fire from the 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters on the heavily wooded lower slope. To clear out the Sharpshooters on Big Round Top, the 15th and most of the 47th Alabama charged up the hill. This action is well described in Time-Life Books' Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide:
"It was a cruel climb", recalled Colonel William C. Oates. Commander of the 15th. His men were "catching to the rocks and bushes and crawling over the boulders in the face of fire of the enemy, who kept retreating, taking shelter and firing down on us from behind the rocks and crags which covered the side of the mountain thicker than gravestones in a city cemetery". About halfway up, the enemy resistance faded away. At length Oates' men arrived; sobbing for breath, on the summit of Big Round Top, 305 feet above the plain, the highest point for miles around...Oates let his men rest for a few minutes while he surveyed the scene to the north. Through the foliage, he could see all the way to Cemetery and Culp's Hills. There, and down the crest of Cemetery Ridge, Federal troops were digging in; to his immediate front, on Little Round Top more than 100 feet below him, a few Federal signalmen were wig-wagging their semaphore flags... Then, and for the rest of his life, William Oates was convinced at that moment, he held the key to Gettysburg. If a few artillery pieces could somehow be manhandled up Big Round Top and a field of fire cleared by axmen, the Confederates would possess what Oates called" a Gibraltar that I could hold against ten times the number of men that I had." And from that height, the guns could blast the enemy line from one end to the other."
But it was not to be. As Oates and his men surveyed the scene, a messenger arrived with orders from General Law ordering them to abandon Big Round Top and seize Little Round Top. Obeying, Colonel Oates led the 15th Alabama down Big Round Top into the "saddle" between the two hills. Along the way the 4th Alabama and the 4th and 5th Texas regiments joined them.
While descending the hill, Oates later recalled, "in plain view was the Federal wagon trains, and less than three hundred yards distant was an extensive park of Federal ordnance wagons, which satisfied me that we were then in their rear." Hoping to take advantage of the situation, Oates ordered Captain Shaaf of Company A "to deploy his company...surround and capture the ordnance wagons, have them driven under a spur of the mountain." This order probably saved the life of both Private Isaac Tate and his brother James. As members of the detached company, they escaped the murderous onslaught of enemy gunfire their unsuspecting comrades were only moments away from encountering.
Colonel Oates had seen only a few Federal signalmen on LittIe Round Top during the brief ten-minute respite his men had enjoyed earlier and no enemy troops were in sight as the men began their ascent. But then, without warning, from behind a cluster of large rocks only fifty yards in front of them suddenly came what Oates later recalled as "the most destructive fire I ever saw." A soldier in the 5th Texas was more descriptive when he wrote: "The balls [were] whizzing so thick it [looked] like a man could hold out a hat and catch it full."
The Federal soldiers had only been in position a short ten minutes before the Alabama and Texas outfits arrived. Federal General Gouverneur Warren who had been alerted to the presence of Confederates in the vicinity of LittIe Round Top by the same signalmen Colonel Oates had observed from atop Big Round Top had sent them there on the double.
The fighting that followed was among the fiercest that occurred at Gettysburg. Facing the 20th Maine, a regiment led by Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, the 15th Alabama staggered back from the initial volley that had caught them unawares. But they quickly reformed and charged again up the hill, against an onslaught of bullets so deadly that according to Colonel Oates, "my line wavered like a I1Uln trying to walk against a strong wind." When the Alabama troops made an attempt to get around the Federals' left flank, the 20th Maine immediately fell into a V-shaped formation to counter the Confederate movement. A private of the Maine regiment described the battle as:
...a terrible medley of cries, shouts, cheers, groans, prayers, curses, bursting shells, whizzing rifle bullets, and clanging steel. The air seemed to be alive with lead. The lines at times were so near each other that the hostile gun barrels almost touched.
During the fight, Lt. John Oates, the younger brother of Colonel Oates, was shot and mortally wounded. Shouting, "Forward my men, to the ledge!" the Colonel then fired his revolver and led a surge of Alabamians toward the Federal line, a mere thirty yards distant. Captain Howard Prince of the 20th Maine later wrote:
Again and again, this mad rush repeated, each time to be beaten off by the everthinning line that desperately clung to its ledge of rock.
The 20th Maine's commanding officer, Colonel Chamberlain recalled how:
...the edge of the conflict swayed to and fro, with wild whirlpools and eddies. At times I saw around me more of the enemy than of my own men; gaps opening, swallowing, closing again with sharp convulsive energy. All around, a strange, mingled roar.
Finally, as the Confederates rallied for yet another charge, Colonel Chamberlain had his men fix bayonets and he shouted for them to charge the Confederate troops. The noise of battle was so loud though that hardly anyone heard him and no one in the 20th Maine moved from their positions until a lieutenant jumped out in front of the line, yelled to his men to follow, and charged alone! For a moment, only a few soldiers followed him and then suddenly the entire 20th Maine, or what was left of it, erupted into a charging line down Little Round Top, led by Colonel Chamberlain with his upraised sword.
At the same time the 20th Maine came charging toward them from the front, Federal sharpshooters who had come up to surprise them fired upon the Alabama and Texas troops from behind. It was horrible.
Colonel Oates later wrote:
While one man was shot in the face, his right-hand or left-hand comrade was shot in the side or back. Some were struck simultaneously with two or three balls from different directions.
At first, Oates was determined to "sell out as dearly as possible" but then changed his mind. The order was passed for everyone to get out as best they could and as Oates himself described it, when the signal was given, the Confederates "ran like a herd of wild cattle." It is to General E.M. Law that we turn for a description of the 15th Alabama regiment's experiences on the next day, July 3rd:
Concerning the operations of Lee's extreme right wing, extending to the foot of Round Top, little or nothing has been written on the Confederate side. This part of the line was held by Hood's division of Longstreet's Corps and was really the key to the whole position of Gettysburg. Here, some of the worst stubborn fighting of that desperate battle was done, and here a determined effort of the Federal cavalry to reach the right rear of the Confederate Army on the 3rd of July was frustrated.
A Federal officer, Captain HC Parsons of the 1st Vermont Cavalry, described that effort:
My first squadron was again ordered forward. The enemy's sharpshooters appeared in the rocks above us and opened fire. We rode obliquely up the hill in the direction of (Major) Wells, then wheeling to the left, between the picket line and the wall... The head of the column leapt the wall into the open field. Farnsworth (Captain Elon].
Farnsworth of the 8th Illinois Cavalry), seeing our horsemen, raised his saber and charged, as if with an army; at almost the same moment his followers, and what remained of the First Battalion, cut their way through the 15th Alabama, which was wheeling into position at a run and offered little resistance.
Nevertheless, the Federals did not break through the Confederate lines and Captain Farnsworth was killed in the attack (although there reports that "he fought desperately with his revolver after he was down, and that he blew out his brains rather than surrender"). Colonel Oates kept for a long time the star he or someone cut from Farnsworth's coat. Oates hoped to return it to Farnsworth's family but somehow it was accidentally lost or destroyed. General Law described Farnsworth's death, as he knew it:
Farnsworth, with his little handful of gallant followers rode upon the skirmish line of the 15th Alabama regiment, and, pistol in hand, called upon Lieutenant Adrian, woo commanded the line, to surrender. The skirmishers, in return, fired upon him, killing his horse, and wounding Farnsworth in several places.
Whether or not Isaac Tate was one of the Alabamians who fired on the Federal officer is not known but it's likely he at least witnessed this event.
At Gettysburg the 15th Alabama began with a complement of 644 men. By battle's end on July 4th they had suffered 72 killed, 190 wounded and there were 81 missing. Considering the fierceness of the fighting in which the regiment took part, it seems a miracle that Isaac Tate survived.
After Robert E. Lee ordered the Army of Northern Virginia back to the South, the 15th Alabama next saw action at Battle Mountain where it, "suffered lightly" and then, "transferred to the West, bore its colors proudly at Chickamauga (Georgia) where it lost 19 killed and 123 wounded out of 425 engaged." The Battle of Chickamauga, a much-needed Confederate victory, took place on September 19th and 20th, 1863.
The 15th's next engagement was at Brown's Ferry in Tennessee, near Chattanooga, where the Federals had retreated following their defeat at Chickamauga. There, the 15th Alabama lost 15 men and 40 were wounded. This toll included those killed or wounded in Lookout Valley, near the mountain of the same name. These losses were suffered in late November 1863. "Six killed and 21 wounded at Knoxville, and light loss at Bean's Station, closed the operations of the regiment in Tennessee."
In the early part of May 1864 Isaac Tate found himself, along with his regiment, back in Virginia. There, on May 5th the Battle of the Wilderness began. The "Wilderness" was a "jungle-like stretch of second-growth timber and isolated farms" that "was a bad place for a fight," according to Civil War author Bruce Catton who also wrote:
The roads were few, narrow, and bad, and the farm clearings were scarce; most of the country was densely wooded, with underbrush so thick that nobody could see fifty yards in any direction, cut up by ravines and little watercourses, with brambles and creepers that made movement impossible.
The Battle of the Wilderness was blind and vicious. The woods caught fire, and many wounded men were burned to death, and the smoke of this fire together with the battle smoke made a choking fog that intensified the almost impenetrable gloom of the woods.
The battle, in which the Army of the Potomac lost more than 17,000 men, was a narrow victory for the South but for nineteen-year old Isaac Tate it was the end of the war. On May 6th he was wounded and never again returned to active duty. His commanding officer, General Longstreet, was also wounded at The Wilderness. Called "Old Peter" or "Bulldog" by his men, Longstreet was described by one soldier as, "a tower of strength. " Unfortunately, as reported in a biography of the General:
Near the close of the May 6 fighting in the Wilderness...Longstreet was shot by his own troops (accidentally). Gaping wounds in the neck and arms would have killed anything less than this bull of a man. Yet he struggled back to duty five months later, his right arm semi-paralyzed.
As to the nature of Isaac Tate's wound, nothing is known, but apparently it was serious enough to require hospitalization. According to official records, Isaac was carried on his company's muster rolls for September and October 1864 in a hospital but reported absent without leave from November 21st. Whether this was a clerical error or true is not known. However, near the end of 1864 it had become apparent to many in the South that further resistance was futile. Many Confederate soldiers, wounded or just weary, simply went home. Large numbers lacked shoes and decent uniforms as well as weapons. Was Isaac Tate one of these men? It appears so. "No later record of him" can be found in regard to his service, though an official sources states, "It is deemed proper to add that the collection of Confederate Records...is far from complete.
Regardless, the War Between the States came to an end on April 9th, 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia with the formal surrender of the Confederate Army by General Robert E. Lee to Federal General Ulysses S. Grant. The South had lost its bid for independence. Now it was time for the people of that region to rebuild their land and their lives.
At home in Alabama, twenty-one year old Isaac Tate married his stepsister, Sarah West, on November 19th, 1865. A month later, on December 23rd, the new Mrs. Tate, a native of Harris County, Georgia, celebrated her fourteenth birthday.
During the first twenty-five years of her marriage to Isaac, between 1866 and 1891, Sarah Tate gave birth to no less than fourteen children. Her first was born when she was fourteen and the last when she was thirty-nine.
Unfortunately, the child-mortality rate in the South at that time was quite high. Of those fourteen children, only four lived to reach adulthood. Only one of that particular four was a son. Tragically, he died at the age of twenty- one, unmarried, leaving no male heirs to pass on the family name.
Nine of the Tate children did not even live to reach school age, their lifespan ranging from a month to about three years. The only one to survive infancy but not to reach maturity was Isaac and Sarah's first child - a daughter named Manerva who was born in 1866. Manerva died in 1875, just a few months short of her ninth birthday.
The children who survived to adulthood were Hettie, born in 1873; Henry Harrison, the son who died at age twenty-one, born in 1877; Mary Leona, or "Mamie," born 1879; and Alice May, born 1885. The three daughters all lived a normal or longer than normal lifespan; presumably Henry Harrison Tate might have done the same had he not met with an untimely end.
So, despite the large number of births, the Tate household was never overcrowded. Until 1879 there were never more than two living children in the family at anyone time.
What Isaac Tate did for a living during the early years of his marriage is unknown. He may have farmed for a time or worked as a carpenter ? a trade he followed later in life.
During the 1860s and 1870s the family lived in the Wacoochee Valley at a town called Mechanicsville. Located then in Russell County, the town may not exist any longer. By 1881, the Tates, including Isaac and Sarah's parents, removed to Henry County, Alabama where they took up residence in the town of Columbia. Since then, the county boundary has changed and Columbia is now in Houston County. The town is today a small farming community in extreme southeastern Alabama just as it has always been. It is located just a few miles north of the Alabama-Florida state line and a short distance from the Chattahoochee River dividing Alabama from Georgia.
In Columbia the Tates lived in a modest frame house. Whether the grandparents resided in the same house or had their own home is unknown. Previously, Harrison and Mary Tate had lived on their own in Opelika, Lee County, Alabama where Harrison was county sheriff. Isaac's youngest brother, Thomas Lee Tate, then in his early twenties and working as a clerk in a dry goods store, had lived at home with his parents. It isn't known if he also made the move to Columbia. Hettie Tate, Isaac's and Sarah's daughter, had lived with her grandparents for a while about the same time.
Isaac Tate ran a general store in Columbia but times were hard in the postwar South. It appears that by 1888 he was either so heavily in debt or business was so bad (or both), that at an age when most men are settled in life, he made the decision to leave Alabama and go to Texas. At the time, Isaac was nearly forty-four years old. With what little money they had, sewn into Sarah Tate's petticoats for safekeeping, the Tates left for Texas during the summer of 1888 in a mule-drawn wagon. The family then consisted of Isaac and thirty-six year old Sarah, ten-year old Henry Harrison Tate, his fourteen-year old sister Hettie, eight-year old Mamie, and little two-year old Alice. Sarah was pregnant with her twelfth child who would be born in Texas.
Isaac Tate and his family made their way slowly across Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, arriving in Texas in July 1888. They first stopped at Jacksonville. There, on July 17th, Sarah gave birth to another son. He was named Roy Neil Tate. Afterward, the family moved on to San Marcos, a small community near San Antonio, where the baby died on August 17th, exactly one month old. From San Marcos, they continued their journey, stopping next at the town of Rusk. Finally, during the summer of 1889, they traveled to Vernon, a town situated near Wichita Falls in northwest Texas. There, in Vernon, they lived for a yearend-a-half. During that time the family experienced three noteworthy events - two happy, one sad. The first was the birth of the Tate's thirteenth child, a little girl they named Bessie Fay, on March 2, 1890. Two weeks later, on March 14th, sixteen-year old Hettie Tate was married to Mr. John W. Abbott, a citizen of Vernon. Finally, on June 15th, little Bessie Fay Tate died. She was less than five-months old.
That same year, the Tates made one final move. In December, leaving Hettie in Vernon with her husband, they traveled south to Dallas.
Dallas, in 1890, was nothing like the "Metroplex" it is today, but compared to Columbia, Alabama or Vernon, Texas it must have seemed like "the big city" to the Tate family. Indeed, it was the big city in 1890 - the largest in Texas, with a population of 38,067.
San Antonio was then the second largest and Galveston, previously number one, had slipped to third place. According to local historian A.C. Greene, Dallas in 1890 had 300 saloons and beer halls and 572 streets. The most prestigious area of town was then at the intersection of Wolfe and Maple. There, on the northwest corner, where the Maple Terrace Hotel now stands, the Dilley family mansion was finished in 1890 at a then unheard of cost of $40,000! Soon after, Maple, Fairmount, Routh and Cedar Springs were also lined with expensive homes. Greene also writes that in the spring of 1890 the then-separate town of East Dallas was annexed by the larger city of Dallas. The East Dallas City Hall, at the corner of Gaston and College, was turned into a school where Alice Tate was later a student.
The city still had its rural side in those days, according to Greene; Trades Day, or First Monday, was held every month at Chenoweth Brothers feed storage barn and at Dallas' largest wagon yard, located at Houston and Commerce (site of today's Terminal Annex).
Farmers, horse traders, mule-breeders and boys spilled into the alleys and jammed the streets around the site. Today's trendy "West End" district consisted mainly of the factories and warehouses of a large farm implement industry.
During their first years in Dallas the Tates lived at a variety of addresses, indicating that they probably rented rather than owned a home. Their first known address, during 1890-1891, was 242 Beaumont Street in South Dallas not far from City Park. This area was then notable as a neighborhood of large comfortable homes owned by some of Dallas' more successful merchants, such as the Sanger brothers. The park, then larger than now, may have been little Alice Tate's first playground as a child in Dallas.
From about 1892 to 1893 the Tates lived slightly north of today's downtown business district, at 536 San Jacinto.
The family's last child, another little girl, was born soon after the Tates' arrival in Dallas. Her name was Ruby. Sadly, she lived only a short time. Born on October 16, 1891, the child departed this life less than three years later, on April 18, 1894. The cause of her death is unknown. At the time of her passing, the family resided again in South Dallas ? at 648 (now #2508) South Harwood, between Coombs and Clarence Streets. About this same time Isaac went back into business for himself running a vegetable grocery at 336 (now #1504) Elm Street in the heart of today's downtown Dallas, near the northwest corner of Elm and Akard Streets. A peanut shop most recently occupied the site, in modern times.
Presently, it is vacant. During this same period, Isaac's son Henry Harrison, then seventeen years old, worked as a machine hand at the Dallas Box and Woodwork Company on Main Street.
By 1895 the Tate family had moved yet again, to 482 Browder Street (now #1814). At this time, young Henry Tate was working as a clerk and his father, it appears, was no longer in the grocery business - although it isn't known what he was then doing for a living.
The Browder Street address was in South Dallas; once again they lived very close to City Park.
Between 1897 and 1902 the family resided at 282 (now #3100) Floyd Street, at the corner of Oak and Floyd - just slightly north of today's downtown Dallas and only one block away from the now-restored Wilson Historic District. During this period the Dallas Box and Woodwork Company again employed Isaac's son. Isaac himself was a "representative" of The Dallas Weekly Record, a newspaper that is now long defunct. Its offices were located at the southeast corner of Commerce and Houston Streets near the "Old Red" courthouse that still stands today.
Exactly how Isaac "represented" the paper isn't known. Perhaps he sold advertising or copies of the newspaper itself.
Not long after coming to live in Dallas, Isaac had become a member of the Sterling Price Camp of the United Confederate Veterans. The group had been formed in 1889 and counted among its membership some of the most prominent members of Dallas' civic and business community. One of the most outstanding was General "Old Tige" Cabell who also served for a time as Mayor of Dallas.
General Cabell, each New Year's Eve, would hold an open house for the veterans in his own home. His daughter, Katie Cabell Curry, was very active in the Daughters of the Confederacy - an organization that was sup portative of the veterans.
In 1897 the Daughters of the Confederacy unveiled a grand monument to the Confederate Veterans in City Park. None other than the widow of Confederate President Jefferson Davis also attended the unveiling, witnessed by literally thousands of Dallasites. Certainly Isaac Tate, as staunch an old Confederate as any, was there to witness the event, along with members of his family.
In 1898 tragedy struck the Tate family. Henry Harrison Tate, Isaac and Sarah's only living son, traveled with friends to Lexington, Kentucky to attend the horse races. Somehow, while there, Henry was kicked or trampled by a horse and died of his injuries. His father had the sad task of traveling alone to Lexington. Probably due to a lack of money, Isaac had his son buried in Kentucky rather than bring his body home.
During the 1890s the Tate daughters, Mamie and Alice, attended school. Their grades reflected their intelligence and hard work. Both were students at the East Dallas School and after graduation, Mamie became a teacher. Her first posting was at her old school. Alice went on to attend ~ Bryan High School (now Crozier Tech).
About 1903 the Tates moved to 215 Floyd Street (now #2815), between William Tell and Germania Streets, where they lived until about 1905 or 1906. During this time, Mamie began teaching at the Stephen I F. Austin School (where she remained until 1920).
Earlier, in April 1902, Dallas had hosted a grand Confederate Veterans Reunion at the State Fairgrounds (today's Fair Park). Most of the activities were centered around the old wooden exposition building on the site of the present Centennial Building. Isaac, as a member of the local camp, was no doubt a host delegate to the convention that attracted thousands of ex-Confederates from all over the South. The event lasted for several days.
In 1906 Isaac was a delegate to the Confederate Reunion held in New Orleans. That same year (or possibly in late 1905) the family moved for the last time, to a home they bought at 1013 Main Street in East Dallas, just a few blocks from Fair Park. (The address was changed in 1913 to #3905,) This was the home in which Isaac and Sarah lived for the rest of their days. At the time they moved in, Isaac was sixty-two and his wife about fifty-four. Their daughter Mamie, who never married, lived with them until about 1920. Located near the corner of Washington and Main in what is now called "Deep Ellum", the house was long ago torn down. The address today is the site of a retail business.
1906 also saw the marriage, on March 18th, of Alice Tate to a young man named Herman H. Butler. After their marriage, Herman and Alice lived at 235 Gaston Avenue, not far from Alice's parents' home on Main Street. Throughout their marriage, reflecting the close ties Alice had with her parents, Herman and Alice Butler never lived far from Isaac and Sarah Tate.
In 1901 Isaac had been employed as a laborer with the city street department but during most of the first decade of the twentieth century he worked as a carpenter - literally helping to "build Dallas." On some jobs he worked with his son-in-law Herman, and possibly Herman's father Will Butler. Later, after he retired, Isaac and Sarah's years seem to have been relatively uneventful, probably filled with routine. Isaac corresponded with friends and relatives back "home" in Georgia and Alabama. It appears they may have made a trip back east to visit Isaac's youngest brother, "Tommy," who lived in or near Columbus, Georgia. They might also have gone back to visit Columbia, Alabama where Harrison Tate, who had died in 1891, was buried. By that time, Mary West Tate had also died, sometime during 1909. Presumably, she was also buried at Columbia.
Isaac no doubt attended the State Fair of Texas each year on Confederate Veterans Day, an annual event. The ex-Confederates then comprised a large portion of Dallas' elderly and were generally well respected by the community at large. Isaac's children were particularly proud of "Papa" and his service to the Southland.
A year earlier, Isaac wrote to Confederate Veteran magazine. A plea for his fellow ex-soldiers to write to him was carried on page 239 of the May 1914 issue. It read:
I. H. Tate, 3905 Main Street, Dallas, Tex., asks that any surviving comrades of the 15th Alabama Infantry, and especially of Company A, will kindly correspond with him.
By the mid-1920's Isaac and Sarah were getting on in years. Sarah, called "Gustie" by her husband (because her middle name was Augusta), was a small woman with a big heart. Her granddaughter, Margaret Butler Ficklin, remembers Sarah as "a little bitty thing" and "the sweetest woman you'd ever want to meet." Sarah very rarely went out, even to church on Sundays, preferring to stay home. On the 29th of March 1928, she died there at 3:25 AM. She was seventy-six years old.
A year earlier, Isaac Tate had purchased a plot in Forest Lawn Cemetery then located far out in the countryside north of Dallas, beyond Bachman's Lake. Today, the site is at the busy intersection of Harry Hines Blvd. and Walnut Hill Lane, on the southwest corner. It was there that Sarah Tate was laid to rest.
"Grandpa" Tate, as Margaret Butler and her siblings called Isaac, lived on a few more years after his wife's death. He was a relatively tall man, at least six-feet, but in old age he walked with a pronounced stoop, at least at home. When going out, he would walk stooped over to his front gate. As he opened the gate and stepped out on to the sidewalk, he would straighten his back and walk out tall, proud and erect, his back like a ramrod.
Isaac never spoke to his grandchildren about his experiences in The War Between the States. If they were around when he and old friends began to reminisce, the children would be shooed away and told to go play.
He was a religious man and read his Bible faithfully each day. The Tate house had a big porch on all sides and Isaac kept chairs there. On the front door he had a sign that said he read his Bible from one o'clock to two o'clock and if anyone came by to call on him at that time, the sign instructed them to take a chair and wait. He kept this habit very strictly.
Yet he was reticent about discussing religion with anyone. To him, it was a private matter. Unlike Sarah, he attended church regularly and was a member of the Grace Methodist Church for over thirty years.
Seemingly an unlikely candidate, Isaac was the first member of his family to fly in an airplane! Sometime during 1930 or 1931 he was taken to Love Field for a half-hour flight over Dallas. A newspaper article appeared about it that read:
Thrill in flying can not anything like compare with the thrill of war, in the opinion of an 86-year old Confederate veteran, I.H. Tate, who took a half-hour flight the other day over the city in which he has lived for forty years.
Mr. Tate, who lives at 3905 Main Street in a house that has stood in Dallas for decades, made the airplane flight recently in a Texas Aero Service plane piloted by R.S. Johnson at Love Field. "I felt much safer flying that I do riding in an automobile downtown and there weren't any jars and bumps like you get in a car, " he said.
A photograph of the old man accompanied the article. How he came to take the ride is unknown.
Several years earlier, in 1915, Isaac had applied for and received a Texas Confederate Veteran's Pension. In 1931, about the time he took the airplane ride, he also applied for admission to the Texas Confederate Home in the state capital, Austin. Before he could be admitted, he had to submit to a physical examination. It found him to be about five feet, seven inches tall (obviously, he had "shrunk" with age), weighing about 100 pounds. He appeared to be "debilitated." His main health problems were that he had "difficulty at times in starting urine" and"mild myocardial degeneration." He also had a suspected malignancy of the stomach as well as a hernia. For the latter, he already wore a truss. The doctor who examined him wrote that Isaac was, "A dear old man, whose mental facilities are clear. For several months he has had pains in his stomach, nausea and vomiting, fermentation, loss of weight, etc." Isaac's application was approved and he entered the home on August 13, 1931.
His stay was very brief. Perhaps he sensed he had little time left to live and just wanted to die at home. For whatever reason, Isaac wrote a letter to the Comptroller of the Confederate Home on September 30th that said in part, "I am going back to Dallas to stay. " He was discharged the next day, October 1, 1931. He then returned home to Dallas, having spent less than two months in Austin.
However, on December 4th, he was readmitted, possibly for medical treatment. His stay the second time was longer, until April 1, 1932 when he was allowed to go home again.
That trip was his last. Less than two weeks later, on Tuesday, April 12th, Isaac Henry Tate died at his home on Main Street in Dallas. He was 87 years months, and 12 days old.
The following day, April 13, 1932, the old man was laid to rest next to his wife at Forest Lawn Cemetery, following services held at the Ed. C. Smith and Bros. mortuary. He was buried wearing a grey uniform - an old Southern soldier to the end. A large stone marked "TATE" was erected above his grave, in addition to the smaller ground level stone bearing his name and the years of his life's beginning and end. The large family he left behind attended his funeral; a number of his grandsons were his pallbearers.
During his long life Isaac Tate not only participated one of the most momentous events in United States history but also lived to see technological advances that were mere fantasies at the time of his birth. A individual who did not believe that a forty-four year old man was too old to pursue a dream, he left the state of his birth to seek a better life in the fledgling metropolis of Dallas. His descendants live there still.
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