Adapted from



© Karen McCann Hett  All Rights Reserved 2003-2014

James Marion “Jim” McCan was the son of James McCan and Sarah S. “Sally” Viser.

James was the grandson of Andrew Viser (Andre Visier), an immigrant from France who came at the time of the Revolution. Jim was born in Lawrence Co., Alabama, on October 20, 1834. He was the first half-cousin of W. W. Viser, who was a member of the Danville Mounted Riflemen.(1) Also from Lawrence County, Alabama was his friend and possible cousin, Jabez S. Thomason.

Jim was about three years old when his family moved from Lawrence County, Alabama, to Panola County, Mississippi. (2) We know that his parents were still alive at the time of the 1837 Territorial Census of Panola County, and his father was still living at the time of the 1840 Panola tax rendition.

We are not sure exactly when James and his four brothers and sisters made the long trip to Texas. The William Viser family, which was also residing in Panola at the same time as the McCans, arrived in Montgomery County, Texas, by December 1839, according to their affidavit for headright land.

It seems likely, now, that James and his siblings did not come to Texas until after the death of their parents in 1840 or later.

There is a possibility that they were brought to Montgomery County, Texas, by the Thomason family in 1841, but this is only speculation.

The first record we have of James Marion “Jim” McCan is as a teenager in the family of William Viser in Walker County. Texas, in 1850. (4)

By 1860, Jim was out on his own. He was enumerated in Madison County in the household of Craner Ford, and his occupation was listed as “miscellaneous business.” (5)

Jim first served the Confederacy by volunteering for Capt. James Gillaspie's Company, Company E, Fifth Regt. Texas Infantry Volunteers under Col. E. B. Nichols, mustering in on 25 October 1861. This regiment was also known as the Ninth (Nichols') Texas Infantry.(6)

Company E was apparently recruited in Walker and Madison Counties. A monument to James Gillaspie's companies in the Texas Revolution and the Confederacy is found in the city of Huntsville.

Upon being mustered out, in March of 1862, (7) Jim enlisted in Co. B., 24th Regt. Texas Cavalry, under his brother-in-law, Capt. S. D. Wooldridge. He enrolled at Galveston on April 16, and was mustered in on 28 April 1862 at Camp Carter near Hempstead, having traveled fifty miles to rendezvous.


Jim was trained as a cavalryman at Camp Carter, then rode with his Cavalry unit to Arkansas. By September, the troops were stationed at Ft. Hindman, Arkansas Post.

The muster rolls show that Jim was captured, along with other members of his company, at Arkansas Post, Arkansas, on January 11, 1863. He was with a group of prisoners who were sent to Camp Butler, Springfield, Illinois by way of St. Louis, Missouri. There, Jim was left in the hospital for several months. The muster roll for 30 April 1863 shows that he was left in the hospital at Camp Butler as a nurse. We know that many of the prisoners were ill with chronic diseases, including small pox.

Jim was sent from Camp Butler to City Point, Virginia, arriving there on the 17th of April along with 508 other Confederate prisoners of war. He signed a parole which stated that he agreed not to take up arms against the United States until regularly exchanged.

The men were exchanged east of the Mississippi River in April and May of 1863, and were consolidated with similar remnants of the 17th, 18th, and 25th Regiments Texas Cavalry, according to Jimís records in the National Archives.

The muster rolls for July through December, 1863, indicate that Jim was sick in the hospital and was absent from muster.

Although an illness such as malaria probably accounts for his stay in the hospital, we have indications that Jim may have also been in the hospital as a result of a wound. This story is told by a grandson, Gale McCann of Fulshear: “Grandpa had his finger shot off in the War. He and a Yankee met on either side of a rail fence. For a minute they just stared at one another. Finally, the Yankee fired, and he shot Grandpa's little finger off. Then Grandpa fired and wounded the Yankee.”

This same story was told to me by J. Ethel Winborn in an interview in January of 1976. “Grandfather McCan was wounded in the Civil War. His forefinger was bent. It never straightened out. He got it shot by a Yankee who was hiding on the other side of a rail fence. Rail fences were all over this country in those days. You could not see a person on the other side of the fence.”

Another indication that he may have been hospitalized for a wound is in the pension application Jim filed in 1899. His physician, in answering the question concerning disabilities, wrote, “Left hand disabled from gangrene, first finger being entirely useless.” (8) So it is possible that Jim was sick in the hospital as a result of gangrene in the finger wound.

Jim must have rejoined his unit between October and January, because he was marked present in January through April of 1864.

In April of 1865, his regiment was consolidated with remnants of regiments in Granbury's Texas Brigade and was paroled at Greensboro, N. C., about 1 May 1865.

I am indebted to Terry Humble, Post Office Box 879, Bayard, New Mexico, 88023, who wrote the following and posted it on his website:

“Muster rolls were turned in on April 29, for paroles which were given out May 2, 527 Texans were issued paroles, a far cry from the many who had started out. When they had left Texas in the beginning, any one of the eight regiments had numbered about 1000 men.

“The Texans left Greensboro, May 3, walking to the railroad fifty miles above Knoxville, Tennessee, which took them until May 22. There they took the trail down to Knoxville, reaching Chattanooga the next day and Nashville, May 25. The following day they boarded a steamboat and started down the Cumberland River and into the Ohio River. They passed Paduch, Kentucky, May 28, Memphis, Tennessee, May 29, Vicksburg, Mississippi, May 30, and reached New Orleans June 1, 1865.

“They remained there until June 10, when they boarded another steamship for Galveston, Texas, arriving June 13. The next day they boarded (rail) cars for Houston, arriving the same afternoon. From there each went their separate ways.”

At the close of the War, Jim re-established himself in Madison County, Texas, and on January 20, 1869, he was married there to Amanda Catherine Barrett, daughter of John Whitten Barrett and Hulda Reding. (9) Amanda (or “Manda,” as she was called) was born in Montgomery County on 2 May 1849. Her father was one of the earliest settlers of the area which became Madison County.

By the census enumeration of 1870, Jim had become a farmer. (10) He and Manda and their first child were living near her parents in the eastern part of Madison County, near the Connor Community. The deed index of Madison County indicates that they purchased and sold several tracts of land there, during the following decade. Thus, it is surprising to find the family enumerated in Houston County in 1880, (11) and no reason for the move has been determined. Nothing is known of the duration of their stay in Houston County; however, they apparently returned to Madison County within a few years, as we know that daughter Hulda was married in 1889 in the house Jim had built there.

They are also said to have lived near Spring in Montgomery County for a period of years, reportedly prior to 1900. Their home was located on the north side of Spring Creek, and was near the present-day Woodlands. (12)

Jim and Manda must have then returned to their farm near the Connor Community in Madison County, on what is now F.M. 1428. (13) They were living there in August 1899 when Jim applied for a pension from the state of Texas on the basis of his Civil War service. He gave his post office address as Connor, Texas, and stated that he owned 36 acres in the D. Larrison League.

In the 1900 census enumeration,(14) Jim stated that he was not employed. Living in his household were his daughter, Allie and her husband, Eugene Golden; also residing there was Manda's nephew, Guy Barrett. Apparently farming Jim's land were Eugene, Guy, and two of Jim's own sons. Wooldridge and Walter, since all their occupations were listed as "farm laborer."

Jim has been described by his grandchildren as a short man with a flowing white beard. He was very religious and read his Bible daily. Amanda was the midwife for the community. She went all over the countryside delivering babies, including a number of her own grandchildren. Her signature is found on the birth certificates of many local infants in both Madison and Leon Counties.

Shortly after 1900, Jim moved his family to the community of Dickey in Leon County. In a letter dated 24 Setptember 1970, Orpha Betts wrote, “Your great-grandfather and great-grandmother had a house near the schoolhouse. There was a girl named Hetty, a boy named John, and one named Ben--besides Walter. It seemed to me Wooldridge was a carpenter.”

In 1907, Jim filed a cross interrogatory for the pension application of Antoinette Whitten (widow of Manda's relative, John D. G. Whitten) and at that time stated that he was a resident of Dickey in Leon County. (15) We have been told by several of his grandchildren that Jim and Manda later went to live in the home of their son, Wooldridge, and that Jim worked as a rural mail carrier, carrying mail between Midway in Madison County, and Dickey in Leon County. (16)

“Uncle Wooldridge and Aunt Allie lived in a big old house near Oakwood, and Grandma and Grandpa McCan lived with them. The big family all sat at a large table with Uncle Wooldridge at one end and Grandpa McCan at the other. Once, when there was a bowl of gravy at each end, and Grandpa McCan picked one up and began ladling it onto his plate, one of the little boys--last in line to be served--called out, Leave some for me, Dampa! This became a family saying.”(17)

In 1912, J. M. McCan was awarded the Southern Cross of Honor by the Carrie Hannon Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Oakwood, Texas. Thank you to Hallie (Lowe) and Larry Johnson for scans of the front and back of our great-grandfather's medal.


According to J. Ethel Winborn, his grandmother, Amanda, was staying with his parents (Hulda and Jim Winborn) when she died on 12 January 1915. (18)

Recently, a letter written by Daughter Hettie McCan Hale, telling of her mother's death, has been discovered.

Jim died 31 July of that same year. (19) He was on a visit to his daughter Hulda in Madison County and went to a summer revival at Jenkins Schoolhouse. He was returning from the revival in an open carriage driven by a young Dorman girl. Upon reaching the bridge over Poole's Creek, the horse shied and ran. The carriage was jolted into the bridge railing, and Jim was thrown into the creek bed. According to J. Ethel Winborn, the fall “broke every bone in Grandpa's body. Dad rang me up and told me to come. He and I took the wagon and picked up Grandpa's body. ” (20)

Jim was buried alongside Amanda at the Madison County cemetery variously known as Barrett, Burroughs, Jenkins, and Connor.

Thanks to Larry Figley and the Thomas Jewett Goree Camp No. 2129 of the SCV for placing the CSA Service Marker and the flag

For further information and records of all Confederate soldiers of Montgomery County, Texas, as well as histories of the regiments they served in, see Montgomery County, Texas, CSA by Frank M. Johnson. The book may be purchased by visiting Frank's website at frankmjohnson.net or by contacting Frank at [email protected]


1. The Family Record, kept by James McCan and wife Amanda Barrett, gives both the date and place of birth. This entry furnished the first and only clue I ever found among our Texas relatives to connect our McCan family with Lawrence County, Alabama. (The record was in the possession of Lockie Lowe, who so generously shared with me.) In the section entitled “Researching our McCan Ancestry,” I have discussed the search for our McCans in the records of Lawrence County.

2. National Archives and Records Service Record Group 15. File Designation: Samuel D. Wooldridge Mex. WC 10, 947, WT 57313 160-47 Co. G First Miss Inf. The pension application of Jim's sister, Catherine McCan Wooldridge, states that she “was the daughter of James and Sarah S. McCan, whose parents moved to the state of Mississippi while affiant was quite a child.” James McCan was not enumerated in the 1840 Alabama census, nor do we find him in the 1840 Mississippi census. See the section on James McCan for a complete discussion.

3. Lockie McCann Lowe told me, “Grandpa's parents died when he was a baby. He didn't know when his birthday was until he was grown, and one of his sisters told him.” James McCan (Sr.) is enumerated in the 1837 Territorial census of Mississippi as a resident of Panola County. His name appears in the Panola minute books in October 1838 and on the 1840 tax list, and it is thought that he died soon afterwards. His wife also likely died about the same time.

4. 1850 Census of Walker Co.. Texas, dated 7 September 1850, Family Unit #129.

5. 1860 Census of Madison Co., Texas, dated 5 July 1860, p.32. Family Unit #208. Uncle William Viser's wife was Rachel Brazelton, whose mother had married a Ford as her second husband. The Fords and Visers migrated together through Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas; and William is thought to have reared some of Rachel's half-brothers.

6. T.C. Richardson, East Texas Its History and Its Makers, ed. Dabney White (New York: Lewis Publishing Co., 1940), III.

7. National Archives and Records Service, Record Group 15, File Designation James M. McCan, Civil War Co. B 24 Regt. Tex. Cav.

8. Texas State Library and Archives, Confederate Pension Application of James M. McCan. Madison County, File #2738.

9. This date was recorded in the family Bible record of James M. and Amanda McCan. The ceremony was performed by Jim's cousin, W. W. Viser.

10. 1870 Census, Madison Co.. Tex., dated 30 Aug. 1870, p. 14, Family Unit #96-99.

11. 1880 Census, Houston Co., Tex., Vol. 18, p. 27, line 1, Family Unit #370.

12. Lockie McCann Lowe told me in 1976 that her grandparents lived on Spring Creek prior to the marriage of her parents, Wooldridge McCan and Allie Dickey. She indicated that Jim and Amanda gave or sold their land in the Spring area to their daughter Allie, who married Gene Golden. This land is still in the Golden family. Gale McCann, in 1971, also told me that his grandparents had lived on the land on Spring Creek.

13. From an interview with Ethel Winborn, January. 1976.

14. 1900 Census. Madison Co., Tex.. Pet. 1. sheet A-B. dated 9 June 1900, Family Unit #126-127.

15. Texas State Library and Archives, Confederate Pension Application of Antoinette Whitten, File "Rejected"

16. Clemmie McCan Shadoan in her memoirs dated 1970. “Then we got a little post office named Dickey. Texas...and my father's father was the mail carrier.” Also from a 7 May 1970 interview with Mr. Harvey Spiller of Centerville, Leon Co.,“Jim McCan's father carried mail for awhile from Midway to Dickey. There used to be a post office here named Dickey ”

17. Interview with Stacy Keller Haley. Oakwood, September,1968. Stacy was a niece of Wooldridge's wife, Allie Dickey

18. J. E. Winborn told me in 1976. “Grandma McCan died in our home, in the old house on the Barrett property. She had an internal cancer. I had come home for a visit, when she died. My mother was taking care of her. The old house was built around Great-grandfather Barrett's original log cabin, and that part of it was used as a kitchen and dining room.” Clemmie McCan Shadoan wrote in a letter of 29 November 1968, “Grandma Barrett McCan died in Oakwood but was buried in Jenkins School Cemetery. I went to her funeral. Went on a train. At that time I was married to Dan Frazier from Eagle Lake, Texas.” Note that I have been unable to locate death certificates for either Jim or Amanda, so the exact whereabouts of Amanda's death may never be known, unless a clipping of the obituary notice turns up some day.

19. Jim's and Amanda's death dates are from the McCan Family Bible record, and also from cemetery markers at Barrett/Burroughs/Jenkins Cemetery.

20. All references to material from J. Ethel Winborn are from an interview on 2 January 1976.

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