1997-2003, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved.

The Two Families of DeWitt Colonist

Sarah Ann Ashby

The McClure and Braches Families of Gonzales


Judge Bartlett McClure Bartlett Dupree McClure. According to DeWitt Colony land records, Bartlett D. McClure and wife arrived 10 May 1830 and received title in 1831 to 24/25 sitio on Peach Creek, east of Gonzales town, just north of where the current counties of Gonzales, DeWitt and Lavaca meet. Just to the east he received a labor of prime farm land to complete his sitio. McClure was a member of the Texas Consultation of 1833 and primary judge of in the Gonzales Ayuntamiento of 1835 who guided the municipality through the war of independence. He was a member of the Gonzales Committee of Safety and Correspondence formed in May 1835. He presided over the Jul 1835 meeting of Gonzales area citizens in which they established their position regarding speculative land sales in the colony and the disputes at Saltillo and Montclava factions within Coahuila. McClure was sent to recruit volunteers from East Texas ("The Redlands") to join the Texian Army as it retreated to confront Mexican forces at San Jacinto. McClure helped organize Gonzales county after independence. He died in 1841 and was buried in the McClure-Braches Cemetery on the family ranch on Peach Creek.

From Virginia Woods (The History of Gonzales County, Texas. Reprinted by permission of the Gonzales County Historical Commission). After the end of the war, Bartlett McClure was appointed chief justice of Gonzales County by President Houston. In 1847 he died in Gonzales County and was buried in the family cemetery; his body later was moved to the Masonic Cemetery in Gonzales. After her father's death, the widowed Sarah McClure was administrator of his estate with responsibility for rearing her younger brothers and sisters. The records she kept included $12.00 tuition paid for [younger sister] Euphemia Texas Ashby at Rutersville College February 14, 1843, the first year of the first college in Texas. Euphemia married William G. King July 7, 1850. They made their home in Seguin and had five children: John, Henry, William, George and Ann. Sarah's young brothers both died unmarried and childless. William Ashby was a Texas Ranger; he contracted pneumonia in that service and died March 4, 1857. Travis Ashby was among the first in Gonzales County to answer the call of the Confederacy. He was elected captain of a unit raised in Gonzales County, contracted an illness near the end of the war and died February 15, 1866. Sarah McClure's son Joel fought for the Confederacy and was severely wounded at Shiloh. His brother-in-law, Roderick Gelhorn, husband of Francis, went to New Orleans to take him home to be cared for. But Joel never recovered and soon died of his injuries. Sarah McClure did remarry in 1843 to Charles Braches, a participant in the Texas Revolutionary War and a member of the Texas Legislature in 1842. They lived on her land on Peach Creek. She had a daughter by him, named Mary Frances, "Mollie", who married Hartwell King Jones of Dilworth. Sarah McClure Braches died October 17, 1894 at her home on Peach Creek. Years later Sarah McClure's youngest sister, Euphemia Texas Davis Ashby King, recalled her admonishments to her charges to live upright lives saying, "Remember a bird never flies so far that its tail doesn't follow." Sarah McClure's own life followed her Ashby family motto: "Be just and fear not."

Modified from John Henry Brown's Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (abt 1890). Sarah Asby McClure BrachesMrs. Sarah Ann [Ashby McClure] Braches, who died at her home on Peach creek, near the town of Gonzales, October 17th, 1894, aged eighty-three years and seven months, was one of the last survivors of the colonists who came to Texas in 1831. Although confined to her bed for a number of years, she was ever cheerful, and would laugh or cry with the changing theme as she recounted with glowing imagery the story of the hardships and perils through which she passed in her earlier years. Her memory was remarkably retentive, and her mind singularly clear, almost up to the moment of her death. She was the representative of a race that redeemed the wilderness and won freedom for Texas. Upon the broad foundation it laid, has been erected the noble superstructure of later times. Truly a mother of Israel has passed away. May the flower-gemmed sod rest lightly above her pulseless form, and her memory be preserved in grateful hearts as well as upon the pages of the history of the country she loved so well. Her parents were John M. and Mary (Garnett) Ashby, natives of Kentucky. Sara Ashby was born in Shelby County, KY, March 12th, 1811, and was the oldest of twelve children.

She was united in marriage to Judge Bartlett D. McClure in Kentucky in 1828. Three children were born of this union: Alex, in 1829, John, in 1833, and Joel, in 1839, all now deceased. Joel was a soldier in Terry's Rangers during the war between the States, and in the charge led by Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston at Shiloh was shot in the groin, a wound from the effects of which he died October 23d, 1870, at the old family residence. In 1831 the Ashby family and Judge and Mrs. McClure emigrated to Texas. At New Orleans, March 12th of that year, the party took passage on a ship bound for Matagorda Bay and landed upon Texas soil the first of May following. The vessel was caught in a storm and the pilot losing his bearings steered into the wrong pass, whereupon the ship struck repeatedly upon a bar with such violence that all aboard expected every moment to be engulfed in the raging sea, but the ship was strong and kept afloat until morning, when the passengers and crew took to the small boats and effected a landing on the bar. Here they pitched camp and waited four days, when, the vessel still sticking fast, it was decided to abandon her to her fate and Judge McClure and a few companions, at the request of the rest, made their way to the mainland and went on to Goliad to get permission for the party to land, from the Mexican commander, who, according to the process of the tedious laws in vogue, had to send a courier to the seat of government before he could issue them a permit to enter and remain in the country. They were gone five days on this mission. The whole party finally landed in boats about fifteen miles below the present town of Rockport, but had to camp another week on the beach for Mexican carts to be brought from Goliad. They were delayed again at Goliad waiting for oxteams from Gonzales, as the Mexican carters would go no farther than the Guadalupe river.

The two families separated and Mr. and Mrs. Ashby settled in Lavaca County, on Lavaca river, five miles from Halletsville, Mrs. Ashby dying in that county in 1835, and her husband in Matagorda County, October 15th, 1839. Judge and Mrs. McClure established themselves on Peach creek near Gonzales, in De Witt's colony, where the subject of this memoir lived almost continuously during the after years of her life. There were only twenty-five families in Gonzales when they first visited that place. At this time (1831), the Comanches, Lipans and Toncahuas were friendly, but the Waco Indians were hostile and giving the settlers much trouble. In September, the people of Gonzales gave a dinner to about one hundred Comanches. The meal was partly prepared by the ladies of the place. Knowing the treacherous nature of the redskins, a guard of fifteen well-armed men was quietly appointed. These kept on the qui vive and neither ate nor drank while the Indians regaled themselves. No disturbance occurred and the Indians, having finished their repast, mounted their horses and departed with mutual expressions of good will. These friendly relations were terminated a year later, however, as the result of the action of a party of French traders from New Orleans, who passed through the country. These traders gave poisoned bread to the Comanches, and the latter declared war against all whites. For many years thereafter the country was subject to raids and depredations. In all those stirring times the subject of this memoir displayed an heroism as bright as that recorded upon the most inspiring pages of history, and a tenderness ennobling to her sex. On more than one occasion her intrepidity saved the homestead from destruction. At others she helped to prepare rations for hastily organized expeditions and spoke brave and cbeering words to the country's defenders. The wounded could always rely upon careful nursing at her hands and the houseless and indigent upon receiving shelter and succor. Ever womanly and true, her virtues won for her the lasting, love and veneration of the people far and wide and she is now affectionately remembered by all old Texians.

In August, 1838, while riding across the prairies with her husband, they came across twenty-seven Comanche warriors. By a rapid movement the Indians cut them off from the general ford on Boggy Branch, and they deflected toward Big Elms, another crossing place two miles distant. In the mad race that followed she became separated from her husband. A portion of the band observing this fact, uttered a shout of triumph and made a desperate effort to overtake her. She realized that she must put the creek between her and her pursuers and accordingly turned shortly to the right and rode at break-neck speed straight for the stream. As she reached it she fastened the reins in her horse's mane, wrapped her arms around his neck, buried her spurs in his quivering flank and the animal, with a magnificent exertion of strength, vaulted into the air and landed with his fore feet on the other side, his hind feet and legs sinking deep into the mud and quicksand that formed the margin of the branch. In an instant she leaped over his head and seizing the bridle encouraged him to make an effort to extricate himself, which, being a large and powerful animal, he did. She then waved her sun-bonnet to her husband who had effected a crossing further down at the Big Elms and whom she descried at that moment galloping toward her. He joined her and they rode home, leaving the baffled Comanches to vent their rage as best they could.

Sarah Ann McClure described the event in her own words:

"I didn't expect him to be able to jump clear across but I thought he would strike his feet in the opposite bank and I would be able to jump out over his head, but when he landed he managed to scramble up the bank and we galloped away safe and sound. The Indians rode up to the place and whooped and whistled and shook their spears at me but they didn't dare to try to make the leap that I did. Mr. McClure took an opposite direction when we became separated and I thought all along that he was killed, but he succeeded in reaching the crossing above and joined me several miles further on. The Indians had spears which they had fastened to their wrists. These they threw at us several times during the early part of the pursuit, their object being to cripple our horses."

Periods of quietude and occasional social gatherings gave variety of life and common perils nourished generous sentiments of neighborly regard, mutual kindness and comradeship. The hardships and dangers of the times in themselves seemed to have had a charm for the bold and hardy spirits who held unflinchingly their ground as an advance skirmish line of civilization. Nor were the happening of events rich in humor wanting. These were recounted over and over beside blazing winter hearths to amuse the occasional guest. One of these told to the writer by the subject of this memoir was the following:

Judge McClure, on starting for Bastrop in 1834, left a carpenter whom he had employed to build an addition to the house, behind him to protect the family. The man was a typical down-east Yankee. A morning or two later Mrs. McClure's attention being attracted by cattle running and bellowing; she looked out of her window and saw Indians skulking in the brush and two of the band chasing the cattle. She at once commenced arming herself and told her companion that be must get ready for a fight. He turned deathly pale, began trembling and declared that he had never shot a gun and could not fight. "Let's go back of the house," he said "and down into the bottom." To which she replied, "No, sir, you can go into the bottom if you want to; but I am going, to fight." The Indians killed a few calves but kept out of gun shot and passed on that night. The carpenter sat up until daylight with a gun across his lap. He could not shoot; but, it is to be presumed, found some comfort in holding a gun, for all that. The following morning she told the man that if he would go down to the lake back of the house and get a bucket of water, she would prepare breakfast. He replied that he was afraid to go. She stood this condition of affairs, as long as she could and then strapping a brace of pistols around her waist, took the bucket and started for the lake. The fellow at this juncture declared if she was bound to go, he would go with her, and followed on behind a few holding the gun in his hands. This so angered her that she turned and told him that, if he dared to follow her another foot she would shoot him dead in his tracks. Alarmed in good earnest he beat a hasty retreat to the house. Several days later some men came by going to Gonzales, and the carpenter went with them without finishing his job. What hair-lifting tales he told when he got back to his native heath and the prodigies of valor that he performed may be conjectured.

Sam Houston Oak[Photo: Sam Houston Oak.  Click on picture for more].  She [Sarah Ashby McClure] was living on Peach creek at her home, when the Alamo fell [see Gonzales Alamo Relief Force, Andrew Kent-WLM]. Prior to that event, when the people were fleeing from Gonzales in dread of the advance of Santa Anna on that place, twenty-seven women, whose husbands were in the Alamo, stopped at her house and were there when they received news of the massacre. Gen. Houston also stopped at her home on his second day's retreat and sitting on his horse under a big live oak tree (which she ever afterwards called Sam Houston's tree) ordered a retreat, saying that those who saw fit to remain behind must suffer the consequences. A great many relic hunters have secured souvenirs of moss from the tree. The women and children were sent on ahead, and when they had gone about four miles, heard the explosion of the magazine at Gonzales, blown up by Col. Patten, who later overtook them at the Navidad. Santa Anna and his army camped on Peach creek for five weeks and made his headquarters in her house during a part of the time. He then moved on toward the east after the Goliad massacre. The Mexicans drove off or killed all the stock on her farm, filled the well up with bricks torn from the kitchen floor and burned everything except the dwelling house. Having, been ordered by Gen. Houston to go after and bring up the "Redlanders," Judge McClure left his wife at Grisby's (now Moore's) Bluff on the Nueces, proceeded to execute the order and was thereby prevented from being present at and participating in the battle of San Jacinto. He was a member of the convention of Texas, held in 1833; organized the first county in DeWitt's colony and was its first county judge; and after an active and useful life died and was buried in Gonzales County in 1842.

Charles Braches. Mrs. McClure married Mr. Charles Braches, of Gonzales County, March 2nd, 1842, a man noted for abilities of a high order, and sterling character.

He was born at Gaulkhausen, Kreuznach, Rheim, Prussia, February 25th, 1813; sailed from Europe for America April 3d, 1834; arrived at Baltimore, Md., left for St. Louis, Mo., two days later and from that place moved to Sharon, Miss., where he conducted a literary and music school until 1840 when he emigrated to the Republic of Texas, and settled in Gonzales County, where he engaged in merchandising with Dr. Caleb S. Brown, who was also from Mississippi. This co-partnership continued for twelve or thirteen months. A man of rare personal magnetism, fine address and brilliant talents, Mr. Braches soon took rank as one of the ablest and most influential citizens of the community and in scarcely more than a year (1842), was elected to represent the district in the Texas congress. While going to and returning from the seat of government he first met his future wife and shortly after the close of the session they were united in the bonds of wedlock. He was a participant in the battles of the Hondo, Plum Creek and the Medina, and numerous Indian expeditions in which he behaved himself with conspicuous gallantry. Both Mr. and Mrs. Braches were members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church for many years and were liberal contributors to schools and churches. During his lifetime Mr. Braches devoted many thousands of dollars to these purposes. He died July 7th, 1889, at his home in Gonzales County, admired and respected by a wide circle of friends extending throughout Texas. From Brown Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (abt 1890)

Coming to Gonzales as a part of the Republic of Texas in 1840, Charles Braches obtained his properties by purchase or reward for public service. He owned a labor of land in the Burket-Zumwalt-DeWitt cluster of tracts on the Guadalupe River southeast of the Gonzales town tract and was a neighbor of the David Burket, Adam Zumwalt, Francis Berry, John Oliver and Green DeWitt families. Burket and Zumwalt records indicate that he was a close friend of both David Burket and Adam Zumwalt, ancestors of the author. Adam Zumwalt's will indicates that they did business together to some extent. County Commissioner Braches name will be found on many Gonzales County legal documents. He, along with her cousin Adam Zumwalt, is believed to have been of great assistance in aiding the illiterate widow Mary Ann Zumwalt Burket in quick legal disposition of the Burket estate after David Burket died suddenly in 1845 intestate.

Braches Home[Photo:  Braches Home 1998.  Click on photo for more.]  Charles Braches was buried in the McClure-Braches Cemetery on Peach Creek near the Braches House which still stands today next to the Sam Houston (or Runaway Scrape Oak) which is a Texas historical landmark. Charles and Sarah Ann Braches had children Ann Braches (b. 2 Feb 1845;d. 10 Jan 1848 GonzalesCo, TX; buried McClure-Braches Cemetery);. Mary "Molly" Francis Braches (b. 16 Nov 1846; d. 7 Jan 1919; buried Masonic Cemetery, Gonzales); married Hartwell King Jones; Henry Braches (b. 8 Apr 1846; d. 20 Aug 1851; buried McClure-Braches Cemetery); Bertha Braches (b. 6 Apr 1851; d. 6 May 1851; buried McClure-Braches Cemetery); Charles Braches (b. Nov 1852; d. Nov 1852; buried McClure-Braches Cemetery (Genealogical information from Jo Toland Ackman, Gonzales, TX).

The Braches family was listed in the 1850 census of GonzalesCo, Peach Creek Districts: 25-25, Braches, Charles, 37, m, $12,980, Germany; Braches, Sarah, 39, f, Ky.; Braches, Mary, 3, f, Texas; Braches, Henry, 1, m, Texas; McClure, Joel D., 11, m, Texas; Ashby, Wm., 24, m, Ky.; Ashby, Francis, 22, f, Ky.

J.H. Brown's tribute to Sarah Ashby McClure Braches continues:

"When Bowie started upon his San Saba expedition Mrs. Braches had beeves killed and dressed, food cooked and a general supply of provisions prepared for the use of his men on their march. He wrote out and tendered her vouchers against the Republic to cover the expense that she had incurred, but these she refused to receive, saying that she considered it a pleasure as well as a duty to aid in a movement designed for the protection of the homes of the settlers to the full extent of her power and that she could not think of receiving pay for such a service. Sentiments equally unselfish and praiseworthy inspired all her actions. A distinguished Texian says of Mr. and Mrs. Braches:

'After Mrs. Braches' parents died she became a mother to her younger brothers and sisters, viz., Mary, who married John Smothers; Isabella, who married in her house in 1840, Gen. Henry E. McCulloch; Fannie, who married in her house Mr. Gelhorn; Euphemia, who married Wm. King of Seguin; William, who died young, and Travis H. Ashby, who died after being a Captain in the Confederate army.'

A braver or grander-hearted woman never trod the soil of Texas, and all of the survivors of those early days, from San Antonio to the Colorado and from Texana and Victoria to the foot of the mountains, will attest the truth of this statement. Knowing her from boyhood and not having seen her for a little over twenty years I willingly and conscientiously pay this tribute to her. Mr. Braches, for forty-six years, proved himself to be worthy to be the husband of such a woman. It is needless for me to speak of his character to those among whom he so long lived. That he was a polished and refined gentleman, of kindly heart, all will admit. He was to have been my guest at the State Fair last fall, but sickness prevented his coming. My little grandchildren, inspired by the eulogies of their grandparents, were sorely disappointed at his not coming. In conclusion, I can only say that I believe Charles Braches to have been incapable of a mean or dishonorable act. He was, in the highest sense, an honorable and benevolent man and good citizen. Mrs. Mary Jones, wife of Mr. H. K. Jones, of Dilworth in Gonzales County, a station near the old family homestead, is the only surviving child born of this union.

Mrs. Braches was the soul of patriotism---a lady of rare refinement and intelligence, and her deeds of kindness and charities were innumerable. Her grave will be watered by the tears of the widow and orphan. Her life is a part of, and interwoven with the most stirring period of Texas history. To her belongs the glory of a Roman matron and the halo of a tender Christian mother. She was one of the best known, best beloved and noblest of the noble Texian matrons who inspired the men of earlier days to resistance to tyranny and deeds of heroism and kept the fires of patriotism brightly aglow upon the hearthstones of the country. At her home, to the time of her death, she maintained that free and elegant hospitality that made the South famous in olden time. Her name deserves to be wreathed with imperishable immortals and to be inscribed upon one of the brightest pages of the State's history. Peace to her ashes and lasting honor to her memory."

1997-2003, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved