"In 1857 a few Baptists who had settled north of Indian creek organized a church in a small house about six miles west of Tyler, just north of what is now the Chandler road. The charter members of this church were Silas GRAMMAR [sic] and wife, William CLAY and wife, H.S. [sic] ELLIS, John REAVES [sic], Turner WHITE and wife, Edwin ADAMS and wife, and G.B. [sic] GREEN. This church was organized by John WHITMORE and Robert CLAY and called Indian Creek church ...
"In 1859 the church was moved to a place on what is now the Dixie Highway, near the home of the late Judge BEAIRD. There they built a very comfortable house and the church gained considerable numerical strength. Robert CLAY was pastor of this church from the time it was organized until 1863. At this time all of the male members were engaged in the war between the states, and this church went down. After the close of the war, Bro. John BARRON, one of the members, made an effort to rally the membership and get the church back to work, but failed. He then called upon them to meet and disband, which was done in the fall of 1866."1
INDIAN CREEK BAPTIST CHURCH of Smith County, Texas, was founded, relocated, prospered and then disbanded in a short span of only nine years (1857–1866). One year after the church's demise and just a year before his own death, charter member Silas GAMMON executed his will, directing that his body be decently interred at Indian Creek Baptist Church.2 A thorough examination of the published cemetery records has failed to locate GAMMON's final resting place, which is not surprising considering the large number of unmarked and lost graves in Smith County. What is remarkable is that the cemetery itself apparently has been lost over time. So where exactly was Indian Creek Baptist Church located?
The article above narrows our search to the west side of Smith County (see plat map below). The original site of the church, we are told, was a "small house" about six miles from Tyler just north of the "Chandler road."3 This was likely the old Bankhead Highway, now County Road 1134. These rough coordinates place the church's location in the vicinity of the lower Henry Teal headright, B-390 (see inset, below left). Indeed, this particular tract of land was sold in January 1857 by William Washington PRICE to his brother-in-law, Absalom Turner WHITE, a charter member of Indian Creek Baptist Church.4 It is interesting to note that WHITE's father-in-law, Starling Ruffin (S.R.) PRICE, also lived nearby. In 1857, he owned the east part of the adjoining John Dean headright, 2-228, which included a section of Indian Creek.5 S.R. PRICE would play a key role in the later history of the church, but he was never identified as a member. All in all, the evidence is very persuasive that the original church was established on WHITE's property.
At the time it petitioned to join the Cherokee Baptist Association in October 1857, Indian Creek reported 26 members and listed John H. WHITMORE as pastor.6 Brother WHITMORE had preached regularly at the old Enon Baptist Church, built in 1854 near the mouth of Butler Creek on the Seven Leagues survey (a few miles south of Indian Creek). This church grew rapidly — adding 50 new members in its first two years — but "went down" about 1856 because of a dispute over titleship to the Seven Leagues.7 It is unknown if any other documented members of Indian Creek had been associated with Enon.
By 1859, a new, more "comfortable house" for the Indian Creek church was built about three miles north of its original location. In a deed dated 08 Oct 1858, the above S.R. PRICE sold for just $1 two acres of land "on which the said church is now located" to William H. CLAY and Edwin ADAMS, trustees of Indian Creek Baptist Church.8 At approximately the same time, Silas GAMMON "set apart for the Baptist Church" an additional two acres on the south side of the PRICE tract.9
A comparison of various records establishes that the combined four-acre church property was located about six miles west of Tyler on the George Myers headright, adjacent to the Richard Merchant headright and just south of the Merchant "panhandle" (see inset, right). An unidentified creek probably defined the property's south boundary line, which angled sharply to the southeast (see inset, below left). Just northwest of the church was the old Lewellen Spring, "where in early times the Indians obtained their water."10
The church building itself was described as being on the south side of the road leading from Tyler to Porter's Bluff, a route now spanned by State Highway 64 (the "Dixie Highway"). A short length of the original road — specifically the section north of the church — encompasses what is now Country Road 4134 but may be better known as the Beaird Cemetery cutoff.
Based on inexact measurements and using current landmarks, Indian Creek Baptist Church was located in the median between State Highway 64 and County Road 4134 just east of the Tyler Pounds airport (built on the old Merchant headright) (see satellite photo below). The sanctuary was still standing as late as March 1875, when S.R. PRICE's widow sold the north half of the church tract to Benjamin Bryant BEAIRD.11
BEAIRD acquired not only the church property but also most of the surrounding land on the George Myers headright formerly owned by Silas GAMMON and S.R. PRICE. One of Benjamin BEAIRD's descendants, who roamed over every square inch of the property as a child in the 1930s and who still lives in the area, has no recollection of the Indian Creek church but asserts that no evidence of burials has been found at the suspected site.12 So where was the Indian Creek cemetery, the existence of which is established by Silas GAMMON's will?
If the cemetery was not incorporated on the church grounds, logic dictates that it was located nearby. It is interesting to note that what is known today as Beaird Cemetery appears to straddle the old GAMMON-PRICE boundary line just one-quarter mile east of where the Indian Creek church once stood. The first recorded burial there dates to July 1859, when both GAMMON and PRICE still owned the land. By the date of the second burial, January 1862, the land on either side had been sold without any reference to the fledgling graveyard.13 In fact, no deed establishing this cemetery was ever recorded.
Further examination of the existing headstones at Beaird Cemetery reveals that the first eight persons known to be buried there were associated with Indian Creek Baptist Church. They are, in order of their deaths:
Susan E. BARRON (1856–1859).
(Daughter of John Wood Barron and granddaughter of Edwin and Martha Adams, all members of Indian Creek.)
Edwin ADAMS (1792–1862).
(Charter member of Indian Creek.)
James Robert ELLIS (1857–1862).
(Son of Henry Thomas Ellis, charter member of Indian Creek.)
William Washington PRICE (1835–1864)
(Brother of Salena Price White, John M. Price and Nancy W. Price Clay, all members of Indian Creek.)
Theodocia T.J. BARRON (1859–1867).
(Susan E. Barron's sister.)
Sarah Elizabeth "Lizzie" ELLIS HUGHES (1854–1874).
(Wife of Christopher Columbus Hughes and daughter of Henry Thomas Ellis, charter member of Indian Creek.)
Willis Jarrell ELLIS (1841–1876).
(Brother of Henry Thomas Ellis and son-in-law of Silas and Sarah Smith Gammon, all charter members of Indian Creek.)
Martha ADAMS (1801–1877).
(Wife of Edwin Adams and charter member of Indian Creek.)
In October 1861, just three months before Edwin ADAMS' death, Indian Creek reported having 45 members — the most in its short history.14 It was not until a month after his death that the men of Smith County first began marching off to war, the result of which led to the church's decline and eventual demise. Therefore, ADAMS died at the very peak of Indian Creek's existence. One can imagine that his passing was deeply felt and his funeral well attended. Yet the evidence implies that he was buried in an unnamed, unbounded area of pasture land just a few hundred yards from the church he helped establish and lead!
There is no question that the present Beaird Cemetery was conceived under a different name. Benjamin B. BEAIRD did not acquire all of the land comprising the cemetery until the mid-1870s, and the earliest existing BEAIRD headstone dates only to 1888. Of course, this does not diminish the family's rich heritage with the cemetery since Benjamin BEAIRD's wife, the former Mary Jane ADAMS, was the granddaughter of Edwin and Martha ADAMS. It does, however, open the possibility that the cemetery shares its beginning with the long-forgotten Indian Creek Baptist Church.
Known Members of Indian Creek Baptist Church
Possible Members of Indian Creek Baptist Church (Appendix)
Bobby J. Wadsworth
Footnotes: 1. Dean, R.A., "Baptist Association Will Meet at Dean Where Church Started 84 Years Ago," copy of loose clipping probably from the Daily-Courier Times, Tyler, Texas, circa October 1938. 2. Probate Record of Silas Gammon, File No. 251. Smith County Clerk's office, Tyler, Texas. [Gammon's will was dated 12 Mar 1867 and proved 26 Oct 1868 at the courthouse in Tyler.] 3. Dean, "Baptist Association." 4. Deed of Sale from William W. Price and wife to A.T. White, 16 Jan 1857, Smith County, Texas, DB H:614. [This property was described as being "a part of" the 271-acre Henry Teal survey located six miles southwest of Tyler. It probably comprised the entire 185 acres (the western portion) purchased by Price from Ira Ellis in 1854 (DB F:361).] 5.
Deed of Sale from Salena Jeffreys to S.R. Price, 18 Oct 1856, Smith County, Texas, DB H:548. [Price and his wife had sold the entire Dean survey (320 acres) to Jeffreys on 31 Mar 1856 (DB H:210) then reacquired the "east part" (150 acres) just five months later.]
6. "Cherokee Baptist Association Annual Session Minutes." Smith Baptist Association, 120 E. South Town Drive, Tyler, Texas. 7. Dean, "Baptist Association." 8. Deed of Sale from S.R. Price to Wm. H. Clay and Edwin Adams, 08 Oct 1858, Smith County, Texas, DB 41:216. [The church tract comprised the southwest corner of a 335-acre tract purchased by S.R. Price from his son-in-law, James Jefferson Lewis, in January 1858 (DB I:306) and sold to William Thedford – minus the church tract – two years later (DB K:440).] 9. Silas Gammon and wife to J.F. Rasbury, 13 Sep 1861, Smith County, Texas, Mortgage Records A:166. [Gammon mortgaged "all" of a 330-acre tract of land that he purchased from Ira Ellis in February 1857 (DB J:242) "except" a 161.5-acre tract that he sold to William Cheek in November 1858 (DB J:246) "and also a small tract set apart for the Baptist church in the NW corner." The location and dimensions of the church tract can be determined from the Cheek deed, so it must have been "set apart" before November 1858.] 10. Woldert, Will, unpublished manuscript on the history and geography of Smith County, p. 592. Copy in the possession of the Smith County Historical Society, Tyler, Texas. [The Lewellen Spring was named in numerous deeds establishing the church and surrounding property lines. It likely was named for the family of John Lewellen (1797–1853), who owned the north half of the Richard Merchant headright in the 1850s.] 11. Deed of Sale from A.L. Price to B.B. Beaird, 27 Mar 1875, Smith County, Texas, DB 41:192. [This tract was described as being "two acres more or less, the same being the land upon which what ... was once knowned (sic) as the Indian Creek Baptist Church now stands" (italics added).] 12. Beaird, Harold, oral interview, December 1999, by Bobby J. Wadsworth at Tyler, Texas. 13. Deed of Sale from Silas Gammon and wife to William Cheek, 13 Nov 1858, Smith County, Texas, DB J:246; Deed of Sale from S.R. Price to William Thedford, 10 Jan 1860, Smith DB K:440. 14. "Cherokee Baptist Association."