William Christmas Wiggins

Dec. 25, 1832 - July 1869

William Christmas Wiggins, son of Hundley and Nancy (Wilson) Wiggins, was born in Bedford County, Tennessee on Christmas Day, December 25, 1832. The paternal grandparents of William were James Frederick and Nancy (Smith) Jordan Wiggins. His maternal grandparents are said to be James and Hannah (Bryan) Wilson.

Billy, as he was called by his family, was the fifth of eight children born to his parents, and was the fourth of six sons. His brothers and sisters were: James Frederick; John W.; Harrell S.; Sarah Jane; Ransom H.; Mary Elizabeth and Thomas Eugene, all born in Tennessee. The paternal grandfather of these children, James Frederick Wiggins (1763- 1836), was born in Granville County, North Carolina, where his father, Thomas Wiggins (ca 1730-1799) was an early settler of Granville County, becoming one of the largest plantation land holders in the county.
Hundley Wiggins (1786-1863) first married Dolly Stark in Granville County, North Carolina on November 10, 1818, as recorded in the marriage records. It is reported that Dolly died within a year. Not long afterwards, Hundley, along with other families, migrated in the early 1820s from North Carolina to Tennessee. Traditional stories state that Hundley married Nancy Wilson in Coffee County, Tennessee. The couple next moved to Bedford County for a number of years. All of their children were born in Tennessee. About 1847, the Hundley Wiggins family decided to sell out in Tennessee and try their luck in Texas after hearing of the cheap land being offered there to homesteaders. The Republic of Texas (1836-1845) had just ended and Texas had officially become the 28th state on December 29, 1845, although formal transfer of the government did not take place until February 19, 1846.

In 1845, the Congress of the Republic of Texas legislature passed the "Pre-emption Act," where as much as 320 acres of land was offered to homesteaders who would come settle and live on the land to help populate the fledgling state. Thirty-one new counties had been carved out of seven larger and older counties, sometimes called "districts." To entice families to move west, the Texas General Land Office offered pre-emption land certificates and advertised far and wide in the older southern and eastern states during those early Texas years.

Hundley first purchased 380 acres in the Jose Pineda Survey, Cherokee County, Texas, near the Old Jacksonville settlement in 1847. On April 2, 1849, he purchased 2,860 acres of land near Striker Creek, originally patented to Wade H. Walters on February 10, 1846 in Cherokee County by the Texas General Land Office. Hundley continued to acquire land throughout the years and ultimately became an extensive land holder, owning about 4,000 acres when he died July 20, 1863. According to his will, written November 7, 1862, his plantation near New Salem was divided between his wife and children. He also set aside enough acreage for two cemeteries - one for his family and one for his slaves.
William Christmas Wiggins grew up on his father's farms in Tennessee and Texas.

In 1850, when the first census was taken in Texas after it became a state, William, age eighteen, was living with his parents in Cherokee County, where he is shown along with three brothers, Harrell, Ransom and Thomas and sister Mary E. Wiggins. His older siblings had married and left home. William's occupation is listed as "farmer." When he was twenty years old William Christmas Wiggins married Lou C. Wrenn on December 30, 1852. The bride was about nineteen. The young couple was married by Reverend J. M. Scates, a minister in Rusk County, Texas, where their union is recorded at the courthouse in the marriage records, Volume B, page 17.

The parents of Louisa C. Wrenn are unknown for certain, but at age sixteen, she was found listed in the 1850 census of Madison County, Tennessee, living in the home of Henry H. Brown and his wife Sarah E., age twenty-seven. Also living in the home was William Wrenn, age twenty-six, believed to be a brother of Louisa. Sarah Brown is thought to be their sister. All of this family had moved to Texas by about 1851-1852 and were living in Rusk County not far from New Salem in the 1860 census. One man, Washington Wrenn, served in the "New Salem Invincibles" as Orderly Sergeant. Whether he is the same man as William, or another related to this family, is uncertain.

William "Bill" Wiggins and Louisa "Lou" Wrenn had two sons - William Jackson born April 1855 and James Washington, born two years later on December 9, 1859, near New Salem in Rusk County.

According to the 1860 Federal census of Cherokee County, Texas, William Christmas Wiggins was listed as W. C. Wiggins, age 28, born Tennessee -occupation "farmer." He reported the value of his real estate at $2,000 and the value of his personal estate at $10,750. His wife Louisa was listed as L. C. Wiggins, age 22, housekeeping, born in Tennessee. Two sons, W. J., age 4 and J. W., age 2, were living in the home.
In the 1861 Tax Records of Cherokee County, William C. Wiggins was paying county taxes of $9.88 and state taxes of $15.21 on the following:
631 acres in the W. H. Walter Survey
440 acres valued at $1500
11 Negroes valued @ $5,580
2 horses valued @ $150
10 cattle valued @ $50
22 sheep valued at $68
Misc. Property valued at $85 (probably tools & equipment, and maybe a wagon or two).
When William's father, Hundley died July 20, 1863, his will provided to him:
"Also to my son William C. Wiggins, a tract of land on which he now lives, known as Block No. 4 of the Wade H. Walters League Survey, containing 446-1/2 acres, more or less, valued at $550 dollars, also the following Negroes: Young Alfred and Sinthy and her increase - valued at $1,000, to have and to hold as a part of my estate."
And this:
"The ballance of all my Lands and Negroes and Moneys and Notes shall be valued and devided by my Executors equally between each and everyone of my heirs, so as to give each heir an equal portion of whole Estate, after paying my just debts. Also, it is my wish that Nancy Wiggins, my wife, and James F. Wiggins, my son, and J. H. Ewing, my son-in-law, be my sole executors of this my last will and Testament, revoking all wills made by me here to fore." Witnesses were John K. Knight and Lewis M. Knight.
The Inventory and Appraisement records were filed of record on 31 August 1863, by W. P. Brittain, Clerk of County Court, Cherokee County, Texas, recorded in Book I of Probate Record, pages 668-669. His estate appeared to have a value of $66,516.
"Bill," as he liked to be called by family and friends, had been married nine years and was twenty-nine when he enlisted in Confederate service on September 21, 1861 during the Civil War. He joined the "New Salem Invincibles" with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in his brother's company of cavalry known as Captain J. F. Wiggins Company, 3rd Regiment, Sibley's Brigade Mounted Volunteers, Company F. 7th Regiment Texas Cavalry. His oldest brother was James Frederick Wiggins, whose company was mustered into Confederate service October 26, 1861 at Camp Pickett near San Antonio.

As mentioned, Wash Wrenn, who served as the Orderly Sergeant for the "Invincibles," may have been a brother of Louisa C. Wrenn.

General Sibley led his force of 2,500 men across the Rio Grande River in Sibley's New Mexico Campaign in 1862. The "New Salem Invincibles" went on to fight their first battle at Valverde on February 21, 1862. The Battle of Valverde was a Confederate victory which forced a Union tactical retreat. It was followed by the Battle of Glorieta Pass, a strategic location situated at the southern tip of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and on the Santa Fe Trail. The battle, fought on March 26-28, 1862, was a Union victory that became the turning point of the war in the New Mexico territory.

A company muster roll dated April 30, 1862 reported that William C. Wiggins was "Left at Socoro (New Mexico) wounded February 27, 1862. Horse gave out and equipage abandoned Mar. 7." A later return dated June 6, 1862 shows: "W. C. Wiggins, 2nd Lt. Co. B, 6th Regmt. appearing as a prisoner of war, troops in the Confederate Service captured in New Mexico during the campaign of 1862." And, in a prisoner exchange about four months after his capture, he was reported as: "Exchanged June 6, 1862."

A letter dated December 24, 1862 verifies that he resigned his commission due to wounds, to take effect January 1, 1863:
"Dec. 24, 1862
Camp Cleaver
Hd.Quarters 7th Regt.
T.M.V., C.S.A.

Hon. Jas. A. Seddon
Secty at War

Sir, I have the honor of tending my resignation as 2nd Lt. Co. F. 7th Regt. T.M.V. (Texas Mounted Volunteers) to take effect from 1st Jany. 1863.

My reasons for wishing to leave the service is from Disability - caused by a wound of the leg received at the Battle of Val Verdi, N.M. and I do not feel that I am doing justice to my companions to continue in position when I am unable to perform the duties necessarily devolving on a Lieutenant -appended is the Surgeons certificate.

I have the honor to be Very Respectfully
Your Obt. Svt.;

/s/ W. C. Wiggins, 2nd Lt. Co. F 7th Regt. T.M.V."

A few months after his return to Texas, William's wife Lou died an untimely death in late 1863 or early 1864 from unknown causes. She was about thirty years old and could possibly have died in childbirth. Of course, Bill Wiggins needed someone to care for his two small motherless young sons, who were about six and eight. Not too long after Lou's death, he married Martha E. Wrenn, reported to be Lou's sister or perhaps a cousin. They were married April 29, 1864 in Kaufman County, Texas as recorded in the marriage records there. This marriage date disputes the death date listed on Lou's headstone in the Wiggins Cemetery near New Salem which lists - 1833-1865. William is buried beside her although his death date given as 1870 has been proven by the 1870 mortality schedule to be off by one year. The mortality schedule listed the date of his death as July 1869.
William and Martha became parents of one child, a daughter, Mary Etta Wiggins, born November 20, 1865. Martha signed several deeds in 1867 along with her husband when they sold land he had inherited from his father, Hundley Wiggins, who had died July 20, 1863. His will was filed for record August 1, 1863. William, a farmer, never fully recovered from his war injuries and died in July 1869 at age thirty-three from flux. He and Martha were probably living on the family homestead in Cherokee County when he died - not far from New Salem.

After his brother's death, Ransom H. Wiggins applied for guardianship and was appointed guardian of his nephew, William Jackson Wiggins, son of William and Louisa, giving a bond of $500. That same month, another brother, James F. Wiggins applied to become guardian of his nephew, James Washington Wiggins, and he too, put up a bond of $500. In the 1870 census, both boys are listed living with the families of their two uncles, where they were "working on the farm."

William Jackson Wiggins was thirty-five when he married Mrs. Rutha Ann (Tipton) Johnson on June 8, 1890 in Cherokee County. She was thirty-six and the daughter of Alfred G. and Mary E. (Dotson) Tipton. Their three known children were Lula Belle, born 1892; Lola Mae, born 1893 and a baby boy who died at birth, year unknown. "Ruthie" had previously been married to Augustus Butler; they had three children: Baby Butler, William Thomas, and Laura Ann Butler. By James A. Johnson, she had three children: Fora, Napoleon A., and Dollie Johnson. Reportedly, Rutha was divorced from her first two husbands.

By the time of the 1900 census, William Jackson was listed living in Justice Precinct No. 6, Cherokee County, in his own home, and was listed as "WD" (widowed/divorced). Sharing his home was David M. Atkinson, 39, whose occupation was listed as "Dry Goods Clerk." Both men were listed as "Heads of Household." William's occupation was listed as "Broom Ties." Also living in the home with William and David were Eliza A. Moore and Mandy V. Wilson, and her daughter, Ida E. Wilson, reported as sisters and niece of David M. Atkinson. William Jackson Wiggins was not found on a later census.

The date of William's death is unknown, but a granddaughter, Mrs. T. L. Busby of Gary, Texas, wrote me in 1985 that her grandfather, William Jackson Wiggins, was buried in the Myrtle Springs Cemetery, although no marker was found there. Rutha was buried in the McDonald Cemetery at New Summerfield.

James Washington Wiggins married Martha Elizabeth "Mattie" Atkinson, May 16, 1879 in Cherokee County, and they had nine known children, as shown on the 1900 Federal Census for Justice Precinct 3, Cherokee County: Homer,* born September 1880; Eliza, born October 1882; William Clifton, born Jan 1884; Irene, born February 1888; Zeffie, born January 1890; James Orez, born September 1893; Ossie O., born September 1895; Thelma Lou, born February 1897; John Arlon, born April 1900; and Valma Truth, born 1903. Several of these children died young. The family is buried in the Jacksonville City Cemetery in Jacksonville, Texas.

(*It is believed the census taker wrote down the wrong name as "Homer," instead of "Ona," therefore, this child was not a son as written, but actually daughter, Maggie Ona, born September 25, 1880, who later married Charles Alexander Johnston, and is also buried in the Jacksonville City Cemetery. She died October 26, 1956. J. Brown)

William's widow, Martha E. (Wrenn) Wiggins, daughter of David J. Wrenn and his wife Lucinda (formerly of Madison County, Tennessee), was living with her parents by date of the 1870 census, along with her three-year old daughter, Mary Etta. Ten years later when the 1880 census was taken, they were still living in Kaufman County with her parents, where Martha's relationship to David and Lucinda Wrenn was listed as "daughter" and Mary Etta as "granddaughter." Martha was not located in the 1900 census or later.

It is unknown if Martha ever remarried. Where she was living when she died or the date of her death and place of burial is also unknown. Her little daughter, Mary Etta Wiggins, called "Etta," grew up and married Henry Bell Boatman, June 18, 1882 in Cherokee County (recorded in Marriage Book I, page 164). She was seventeen and he was not quite twenty-three. Henry was born December 2, 1859 in Rusk County.
Mary Etta's husband, Henry Bell Boatman, was the son of John "Jack" Boatman, who died sometime during the year of 1875. Probate records of Rusk County, Texas, Book "M", Page 687, Item 1218 mentions the Estate of John Boatman, filed August 8, 1876. The disposition of John's land and the inventory and appraisement documents can be found in the probate records at the Rusk County Courthouse.

Henry's mother, Isabella Boatman, is reported as a widow in the 1880 census, living on her farm in Rusk County, with three children still at home - two sons, James and Samuel. Also living in the household, was Isabella's youngest daughter, Louisa and her husband, W. S. Barnes.

Also, in the 1880 census, Henry Bell Boatman, 24, son of John "Jack" and Isabella Boatman, was a single man, living with his sister and brother-in-law, Susan J. (Boatman), 21, and Thomas A. Hart, 28, on their farm in Rusk County, TX, probably near Salem in Precinct No. 4. Henry's occupation was listed as "working on farm."
By the time the 1900 census was enumerated, Mary Etta Wiggins had married Henry Bell Boatman, and she was found living at New Salem, Rusk County with her husband and children. This couple raised a respectable family of five children - one son, John William "Will" Boatman (named for his two grandfathers), who married Mary Ida Victoria Matteson, and four daughters, Tressa A., who married John T. Magee; Viola, who married James Wiley Garner; Leda Odell, who married Jack Sherman; and Lula Gertrude, who married John Washington Wilcox.

In 1910, the Henry B. Boatman family was listed living in Justice Precinct 6 in Cherokee County. Henry was listed as 57 and Mary Etta was 47. Three daughters were still at home: Viola, 16; Leda, 14; and Gertrude, 11.

Ten years later, four of the Boatman children had married, and in 1920 Mary Etta and Henry were living in Tyler, Smith County, Texas, with their youngest daughter, Gertrude, 22, who by that date had married a railroad man, John W. Wilcox (age 24 in this census). Henry and Mary Etta's daughter, Leda, age 23, born August 1894, was also living in the Wilcox home in Tyler. Sometime later, the Boatman family moved back to Cherokee County.

Henry died in Cherokee County in 1925. He and "Etta" had been married forty-three years. Mary Etta is next found living with her son, John William "Will" Boatman, and his family. Aunt Duffie (Smith) Boatman gave me a photo of this couple together when they were older. Henry Boatman, like many men of his day, wore a neatly trimmed beard, which was sprinkled with grey. Mary Etta is a pleasant looking lady, although, as was the custom in that day, neither one was smiling in the photograph.

Probably, their daughter, Gertrude, took them to the studio to have their picture made, so she could share it with her brother and sisters, and other family members.

The obituary from The Jacksonville Daily Progress, issue of May 29, 1925, reported the death of Henry Bell Boatman:
Mr. Henry Bell Boatman, a brother-in-law of J. W. Wiggins of this city, died at the family home in Walker's Chapel Community on Tuesday afternoon at three o'clock, and was buried Wednesday at eleven o'clock, at the Myrtle Springs Cemetery. He had been ill for several months.

Mr. Boatman was born December 13, 1857 in Nacogdoches Co., TX and had lived in Texas all his life. He is survived by his wife and four children, the latter being: Will Boatman of Summerfield; Mrs. Wylie Garner of Lone Star; Mrs. John Wilcox of Tyler and a married daughter in Dallas, whose surname is unknown to us, but whose given name is Leda.*

According to her death certificate, Mary Etta Boatman, had been living with her youngest daughter and son-in-law, Gertrude and John W. Wilcox for two months, prior to her death. She had been suffering from high blood pressure and died at their home, October 31, 1943, at age seventy-seven. The Jacksonville Daily Progress reported her obituary:
Funeral services for Mrs. Etta Boatman, 77, Route 4, city, who died Sunday afternoon at 5:30 o'clock at the home of her daughter, Mrs. John Wilcox at Tyler, were held this afternoon at 3 o'clock at the Williamson Holmes Funeral Church with Rev. J. S. Jones of Blackjack, officiating. Interment followed at Myrtle Springs.

Grandsons acted as pallbearers. Mrs. Boatman was a member of the Baptist Church at New Salem.

Survivors in addition to Mrs. Wilcox, include one son, Will Boatman of this city; two more daughters, Mrs. Wylie Garner of New Summer-field and Mrs. J. C. Sherman of Dallas; 23 grandchildren and seventeen great grandchildren.

The Williamson-Holmes Funeral Church was in charge of arrangements.
Henry and Mary Etta (Wiggins)* Boatman were of the Baptist faith and are buried beside each other at the Myrtle Springs Cemetery, Lone Star, Cherokee County, TX.
Janice Cox Brown, Tyler, TX
August 3, 2010

* (There appears to be discrepancies in various sources as to whether Mary Etta Wiggins was given the Christian first name by her parents of "Mary Etta" or "Etta Mary." She is listed both ways on the census records, but, in the marriage records of Cherokee County, she gave her name as Mary Etta Wiggins when she was married. However, on her death certificate, where the informant was her son, Will Boatman, her name is written as "Etta Mary." To her family and friends she was known as "Etta."

1) Records of Granville County, North Carolina and Bedford County, TN
2) 1850 Federal Census, Madison Co. TN
3) 1850 Federal Census, Cherokee Co. TX
4) 1860 - 1870 - 1880 Federal census records of Cherokee Co., TX.
5) 1850 - 1860 Federal census records of Rusk Co., TX
6) Rusk County, TX marriage records, Volume B, page 17
7) Marriage Records of Cherokee Co., TX, 1846-1880, by Ogreta W. Huttash, 1974
8) Marriage Records of Cherokee Co., TX, 1881-1905, by Ogreta W. Huttash, 1976
9) Kaufman County, TX marriage records, Book 1-A
10) Last Will and Testament of Hundley Wiggins, filed in Probate Office, Aug. 1, 1863. Recorded Book T?, Probate Record pages 666-7 & 668, Cherokee Co. TX
11) Military Service Records of William Christmas Wiggins
12) The Atlas of the Civil War, edited by James M. McPherson; published Mac Millan, 1994
13) Ancestry.com - Battle of Valverde Pass, NM, Sibley's 1862 NM Campaign
14) Deed and Guardianship Records of Cherokee Co., TX
15) 1870 Cherokee Co., TX, Mortality Schedule Beat No. 4
16) The Jacksonville Daily Progress, issue of Friday, July 7, 1933 (J W Wiggins)
17) The Jacksonville Daily Progress, issues of May 29, 1925 and November 2, 1943
18) Texas Death Certificate of Mary Etta (Wiggins) Boatman
19) Cemeteries of Northeast Cherokee County, TX compiled by Helen W. Crawford
20) Probate Records of Cherokee County, Texas - 1846-ca 1875 (Minute Books A-1 through N), by Ogreta W. Huttash, Book 1
21) Cherokee County History, published by Cherokee County Historical Commission, 1986
22) New Summerfield Historical Memories, edited and published by New Summerfield Historical Association, 1985

Funeral Services Will Be
Held This Afternoon

James W. Wiggins, age 73, died Thursday afternoon at his home, 923 Sunset Avenue, following an illness of several weeks. He had been in failing health for about a year.

Funeral services are scheduled to be held this afternoon at 5 o'clock at the Williamson Funeral Church, conducted by Reverends Morris A. Roberts and Joe Z. Tower. Interment will be in the City Cemetery.

Surviving deceased are his widow; two sons, W. C. and Arlon of Jacksonville; five daughters, Mrs. C. A. Johnston, Mrs. A. H. Johnston, Mrs. T. M. Cunningham and Miss Zeffie Wiggins, all of Jacksonville, and Mrs. C. F. Bunn of New Salem; 18 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.

Grandsons Pallbearers
Pallbearers will be grandsons of deceased, and include Chester Johnston, Carlton Johnston, Malcolm Bunn, Arvel Johnston, Ray Bunn, James A. Johnston and Jack Wiggins.

As a child Mr. Wiggins lived in the Old Jacksonville community, but later moved to Rusk county, where he lived for about three years. He returned to Cherokee county, coming to the new Jacksonville community, and for the past 33 years this has been his permanent home. He was converted at an early age and joined the Missionary Baptist Church while living in Rusk county.

Mr. Wiggins was one of the old timers of the community and was well and favorably known. His acquaintances and friends knew him affectionately as "Uncle Jim."

All of his children were present at the bedside when death came.