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Tyler County News - Breakout

An Inseparable History Part IV: Dogwood, Tyler County & the Wheat Family

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The Burch-Cauble House, which is located near present-day Chester. CHRIS EDWARDS | TCBThe Burch-Cauble House, which is located near present-day Chester. CHRIS EDWARDS | TCB

By Bobby A. Morris, 
Tyler County Historical Commission

One of the early Tyler County families that married into the Wheat family is that of Ruby Cordelia Rotan, who in 1917 married Judge James Edward Wheat, the founding father of the Tyler County Dogwood Festival. Ruby was born in Chester in 1896 to John Rotan (1873-1937) and Clara Rhodes (1880-1968).

Ruby’s mother, Clara Rhodes, was the daughter of Rev. Arnold Rhodes (1835-1887), who in 1859 became the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Woodville. Joining the Bethel congregation that same year were Mary Elizabeth Shivers and her mother, Nancy Tolar Shivers. Mary Shivers was one of four women listed as teachers in Tyler County in 1859. In 1870 she married John Wheat, the great-uncle of Judge James E. Wheat.

Rev. Arnold Rhodes, the maternal grandfather of Ruby Cordelia Rotan Wheat, married Ruth Virginia McAlister (1842-1923) in 1860. Ruth was a young lady who loved to dance and continued to do so after becoming a member of Bethel Baptist. Bethel was organized in 1851 when the county courthouse across from the church was sometimes used as a dance hall when court was not in session. Bethel was a church with strict rules, one of which was against dancing.

Ruth was informed by a church committee that she must stop such inappropriate behavior. Ruth told the committee she no longer wanted to have fellowship with the church, and her name was removed from its membership roll.

Although Ruth and Rev. Rhodes ignored the action of the church and Ruth continued attending dances, Rev. Rhodes no longer served as Bethel’s pastor after joining Captain John T. Bean’s Texas Calvary as chaplain at the start of the Civil War. Bethel continued to have problems with members not following church rules, and in 1866 Bethel dissolved. Woodville remained without a Baptist Church until 1887 when Rev. Jeff Rhodes – the son of Rev. Arnold and Ruth McAlister Rhodes – organized Woodville First Baptist Church. Rev. Jeff Rhodes served as FBC’s pastor for 31 years.

The parents of Ruth Virginia McAlister Rhodes were Daniel McAlister (1809-1870) and Mary Johnson (1821-1896). Daniel McAlister in 1850 was a trustee of the Woodville Academy (school). The McAlister clan, like the Wheats, intermarried with the Shivers family. Robert Magee Shivers married Francis McAlister, a cousin of Ruth McAlister Rhodes. Robert Magee and Francis McAlister Shivers were the grandparents of Texas Governor Allan Shivers, whose story, as well as that of his wife, Marialice Shary Shivers, their challenges, accomplishments, and contributions to Texas and U.S. history can be viewed at the Shivers Museum in Woodville.

The father of Ruby Cordelia Rotan Wheat (the wife of Judge James Edward Wheat) was John Rotan. John was the son of Robert Rotan (discussed below) and his third wife, Mary Polk. Families grow close in rural communities, so perhaps it is more humorous than surprising that Mary Polk’s brother, George Polk, married Ruby Cordelia Rotan’s half-sister, Lizzie Rotan, the daughter of her father-in-law and his first wife, Lucinda Barnes. Lucinda was the daughter of James “Panther” Barnes who settled at Mount Hope in 1839. According to tradition, the historic Mount Hope Methodist Church, still in use today, was organized at the Barnes home.

Robert Rotan had an interesting life beyond his three marriages. During the 1846-1848 Mexican American War he enlisted in Col. George Wood’s Second Texas Volunteers. This calvary unit was fighting in Monterrey Mexico when Mexico surrendered. Wood’s men headed home to Texas, but Robert Rotan was overlooked for unknown reasons and the company departed without him. It took Robert six months traveling by foot at night through hostile territory to reach his Tyler County home. A second story of historical interest comes by way of Robert Rotan’s son, John Rotan, who was present when his father asked his neighbor, Valentine Ignatius “Bob” Burch, a hero of the Battle of San Jacinto, to tell him about that climatic closing battle of the Texas War of Independence. Below is an excerpt from that story:

“Bob (Valentine) Burch. I remember him, well, heard him relate to my father (Robert Rotan) just how the battle was fought. He was on the left wing of the army--waded water waist deep, held his rifle over his head to “keep her dry.”  Ran up on north side of Mexican Camp. Saw several hundred Mexicans bunched up--entire company fired. This company of Mexicans was in command of Almonte, Santa Anna’s Secretary. He--Burch--said they fell like leaves in the autumn wind. Almonte was trying all the while to surrender but just at that moment word came they had killed General Houston. The Texans then fired again mostly from pistols and some rifle fire. Others with knives, some used rifles as clubs. The confusion was awful. Almonte surrendered with several hundred men. Ground where they stood was covered with dead or wounded. Every Mexican threw down his arms. Ten Texans escorted the Mexicans to Houston’s camp.” (General Sam Houston was injured but very much alive.)

Another early family connected to the Rotans, as well as to Valentine Burch, is that of Peter Cauble (1786-1870) who married Mary Rotan (1794-1860), the sister of Robert Rotan. Peter and Mary Rotan Cauble settled in Peach Tree Village in 1831. Peter joined in the Texas fight for independence and in 1839 received a grant of 640 acres from the Republic of Texas. He built a large hewn-log house at Peach Tree Village that we know today as the “Burch-Cauble House.”

In 1841, Peter and Mary Rotan Cauble’s daughter, Helen Cauble, married Valentine Burch. Peter Cauble later secured a deed to 506 acres additional acres which he conveyed to his son-in-law. Valentine Burch, who was raised Roman Catholic, built a house, and often entertained missionaries who said Mass in his house.

When Mary Rotan Cauble died in 1860, Peter Cauble buried her in a small cemetery known today as the Burch-Cauble Cemetery, located a few hundred yards from his house. Peter Cauble moved his daughter and son-in-law into his house and Valentine Burch managed Peter’s cotton plantation. Before his death in 1870 Peter Cauble deeded his Peach Tree Village property to Valentine. Helen died in 1886 and Valentine in 1892. They are buried in the Burch-Cauble Cemetery.

In 1965 the Burch-Cauble House was awarded a plaque recognizing it as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.

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Colmesneil council approves resolution supporting Tribe

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CityofColmenseilBy Mollie LaSalle
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COLMESNEIL -–Colmesneil City Council met last Tuesday evening and wasted no time tackling their agenda. Council members considered approving a resolution supporting the Alabama Coushatta Tribe of Texas in support of the Tribes of Texas Equal Opportunity Act to clarify the Tribe can enjoy the opportunity for Tribal Economic Development on terms that are equal, fair, and to protect jobs; basically, they want to continue to operate as they have been to protect 825 jobs.

The casino brings in $212 million a year in revenue. When they shut down due to Covid, they continued to pay their employees wages and benefits. They also want the opportunity for future expansion. Council approved the resolution.

The saga of the new city truck has been resolved. The current truck, which had been in the shop at the dealership off and on for a while was traded in and a new truck was purchased, from Weaver Brothers in Jasper.

Council had the opportunity to review the FY 2022 audit, prepared by Todd, Hamaker and Johnson, LLC. Overall, the audit looked good, and no action was taken. Council also approved hiring a part-time person to clean city hall and the community center, at least two days a week.

All of the previous month’s reports were approved, and council adjourned for the evening. Colmesneil City Council meets the second Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m.

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Safety audit finds issues

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Theatre students A’Niyah Betts; Adrianna Stark and Lauren Gressler demonstrate their theatrical design project to the WISD Board of Trustees. The students, along with Kyson Hensarling (not pictured), under the direction of Melanie Spivey, placed within the top 12 in the entire state for the UIL Theatrical Design competition, and it was their first year to compete. CHRIS EDWARDS | TCBTheatre students A’Niyah Betts; Adrianna Stark and Lauren Gressler demonstrate their theatrical design project to the WISD Board of Trustees. The students, along with Kyson Hensarling (not pictured), under the direction of Melanie Spivey, placed within the top 12 in the entire state for the UIL Theatrical Design competition, and it was their first year to compete. CHRIS EDWARDS | TCB

By Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – The Woodville ISD Board of Trustees met in its regular monthly meeting on Monday evening, May 15. At the forefront of the slate of discussion items on the board’s agenda was a presentation by Stevan Sturrock, the district’s head of security.

Sturrock presented the findings of the state-conducted district-wide safety audit. The audit consisted of four parts: intruder detection; exterior doors; classroom doors and door sweeps. Sturrock said there were “some issues” with the intruder detection part; that a mock intruder was able to gain entry into the school.

Also, four doors were not locked on the interior, Sturrock said.

Sturrock said adjustments have been made to hopefully prevent any intruder susceptibility, and any other issues pertaining to the audit findings will have to be discussed by the safety committee in closed session, due to security-sensitive information.

Sturrock said a district-wide Crime Stoppers service is being set up through the East Texas Crime Stoppers network for the next school year.

He said the reporting system will be available for students to download to their phones or personal electronic devices, and the way it would work is that when someone makes a report to Crime Stoppers, the organization will send the complaint to school resource officers, who will bring the report to administration.

The service comes at no cost to the district, and Sturrock said he has talked to other districts that are using Crime Stoppers and have had success, mostly with reports and confiscation of vaping products.

New elementary campus updates

During Monday’s meeting, the WISD board also had some discussion, and received an update, about the new Pre-K–fifth grade building.

WISD Superintendent Lisa Meysembourg first entertained a discussion about possible names for the campus. At present, the campuses of Wheat Elementary and Woodville Intermediate service the Pre-K through fifth grade WISD students. Meysembourg said she was leaning toward Woodville Elementary, as the other campuses within the district are named Woodville Middle School and Woodville High School.

Board President Jimmy Tucker spoke about a resolution passed by the board preventing the naming of any WISD buildings or facilities after people. Wheat Elementary, he noted, is named after Josiah Wheat, but grandfathered in.

Meysembourg encouraged the trustees to be thinking about the campus name, and action will be taken at the next month’s board meeting.

Brayden Griffin, of Gallagher Construction Services, spoke to the board about the architectural renderings for the new campus. He said that drawings will be completed on May 31, and there will be a four- or five-week period to get updates, and get the drawings out to bidders.

Gallagher will then go through the bids, score them, and present them to the WISD board, likely in July.

‘Yondr Program’ adopted

One of the action items on Monday’s agenda that was approved by the board was to adopt a district-wide phone-free plan for students.

Meysembourg said that, at present, there have been no issues with the elementary and intermediate campuses, regarding cell phone usage, but in the middle and high school populations, issues have been prevalent.

The policy is that students can use their cell phones before school, after school or during lunch. Meysembourg said many districts are adopting a no phone policy, in which students have no access to the devices during the day.

The protocol discussed, and approved by the board, includes the use of a Yondr pouch, which magnetically seals the device in a pouch for the student to prevent use.

At the end of the school day, Meysembourg said a device at the campus’s point of exit would allow the bag to open.

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Minyard named Warren ISD lone finalist

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By Chris Edwards

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Rusty MinyardRusty MinyardWARREN – Last Wednesday, the Warren ISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved the appointment of Rusty Minyard as the lone finalist for the district’s superintendent position.

Minyard will replace Dr. Tammy Boyette, who has led Warren ISD since 2019. Minyard has most recently served as Woodville High School principal since 2020.

The Warren ISD Board issued a statement about Minyard. “We extend a warm Warrior Welcome to Mr. Minyard and look forward to his proven leadership and vision for the future of the district.”

Prior to serving Woodville ISD, Minyard, a Tyler County native, has coached, taught and worked in administration for many years. He was the principal of Evadale High School before returning to Tyler County in 2020.

Minyard is a graduate of Colmesneil High School and earned his bachelor’s degree at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall. He later completed his master’s in education at Tarleton State University, and his superintendent certification through Texas A&M Commerce.  

He began his teaching career in 1989 working in various districts throughout the state as a teacher, coach, assistant principal and principal.  He spent four years in Marshall ISD as AP; Academic Dean; CIY coordinator and Testing Coordinator followed by eight years at Evadale ISD.

Woodville ISD Superintendent Lisa Meysembourg recognized Minyard’s service to the district and said WISD would miss his leadership, but that she was proud of him for his new appointment.

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Chester ISD voters approve bond issue

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ElectionResults STOCK

By Chris Edwards
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TYLER COUNTY – The unofficial results of the May 6 elections, which saw voters serviced by Chester ISD and ESD #4 faced with options on the ballot are in.

Chester ISD put a bond issue before its voters, and the results from May 6 show 159 voting “for” the measure and 137 “against.”

That bond calls for $5.315 million to replace and upgrade several buildings throughout the school district. The bond order was adopted by the Chester ISD Board of Trustees in February.

Plans call to replace the current middle school and high school buildings with a new 8-10 classroom building located on the east side of the district administration building. The middle school building is in poor condition, and only has three classrooms, while the high school building, which was built in 1967, is not up to current building codes.

The other item up for a vote concerned voters living in the service area of Emergency Services District #4, which includes the Warren Volunteer Fire Department. The measure called for the adoption of a local sales and use tax to benefit the ESD. Voters approved the item to the tune of 29 voting “for” and 10 voting against it.

The Tyler County Clerk’s office will release final voting numbers later in the week, up until Thursday.

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