THE INSTITUTE OF TEXAN CULTURES
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
NOT AN ORAL HISTORY, BUT INTERESTING MATERIAL FOR FUTURE
The previous recording (not usable) was made back in the
early 1970's at the home of Alice Lee here in Me na rd . She
was married to a cousin of Bill Kingston and Bill Kingston
was telling about his father and grandfather . I'm now going
to read about the Kingston family from The Menard County
History Book which was published in 1982. The story of the
Kingston family was written by Jorj Marie Goff as told by
Fannye Kingston Lovelady. I am Mayon Goodr ich Neel and
married t o a great gradson of Martha Schellenberger
Splittgarber who was married to Oscar Splittgarber and they
ran the stage stand 6 1/2 miles west of Menard County . As I
said, I am going to read the story of the Kingston family.
Here it is.
"A str uggle to make a life and a l iving was the basic
fiber of America's early pioneers which left a legacy of
richness and greatness for the generations to come. Faced
with starting a young life filled with uncertainty, the
young Englishman, Dennis Kingston, left his country in
search of his destiny. Ireland, with its rich green hills,
became his destination. But upon arriving, young Kingston
was faced with the harsh reality of the famous potato
famine. Hunger and desperation were the only options
offered to Dennis Kingston. He made a desperate move. He
stowed away on a boat headed for New York. With no family
in New York, no money and no job experience, Dennis Kingston
did what many young men do with an uncertain future. He
joined the Army; the Yankee Army.
Working as a cook, Kingston was transferred to Fort
Davis, Texas, and then as the Army usually does, was
transferred again to Fort McKavett*. (* see last page of
this interview) There he was to meet his wife, Martha
Schellenberger, a woman with as strong a sense of survival
as he had.
The young newlyweds began their life together at Fort
McKavett and on April the 23rd, 1859, had a healthy baby
boy. Life was good; Kingston had a wife, son and steady
work with the Army and then tragedy struck. In an attempt
to break up a fight between two of Kingston's friends,
Dennis Kingston was accidentally shot at Peg Leg in Menard
County and he died. His son, 5 month old Bill Kingston,
would never know his father.
Martha Schellenberger was left a young widow with a
child. One year later she married a tanner, Oscar
Splittgarber and she had 3 more children. One girl , Fannye,
and two boys, Charlie and Sam.
Much can be written of Martha Schellenberger but one
account of her life can sum up the courage and strength of
this pioneer woman. After the Civil War , the Splittgarbers
and others in their little community of Confederate
sympathizers were harrassed and terrorized by Yankee
sympathizers. These renegades made raids on their homestead
and destroyed property.
The men, fearing for their lives, fled to Mexico. Once
settled safely south of the border, they sent for their
wives and families to join them. Martha and 5 other women
gathered thei r children and belongings together and started
out in a wagon train pulled by oxen, for Piederas Negras
where they were to cross the Rio Grande. The river was up,
the waters wide and swift but the women knew they had t o
cross. Tying the wagons together , they started to cross,
with Marth Kingston Splittgarber swimming in front to lead
the oxen. Two miles they swam and drifted but they safely
reached Mexico. They lived there for 5 years before they
felt it was safe to return to their homeland.
Bill Kingston grew up in Fort McKavett and so did a
young woman by the name of Annie Lee. Ann ie would become
Bill's wife and her family background proved the sturdy
stuff with which she was made. Annie's fa t her , Tom Lee, was
a master stone mason in Ireland when bad times forced him,
also, to stowaway on a ship bound f or New York . He then
traveled on to St. Louis , Missouri , where he made a p lace
for himself and then sent for his sweetheart, Bridget
Feeney, a young 16-year old from Ireland. She also stowed
away and met Tom Lee in New York where they were married in
Tom left st. Louis to help build an Army post at Fort
Davis and then sent for his wife. The couple ended up in
Fort McKavett where stone mason Lee helped to build a hotel
in the Army post. The Lee 's had 10 children.
Weddings weren't as lavish and involved in those early
days at a Texan Army post but they were just as special . On
December the lOth, 1884, Annie Lee, in he r dotted Swiss
dress with lace , was united to Bill Kingston by the Army
post chaplain. Bill had made prepar ations for his new wife.
He had bought a shiny gold r ing and had a good job earning a
dollar a day killing and skinning buffalo to provide shoe
leather for the u.s. Army. However, as buddies do, Bill
consented to let a friend borrow the r ing for a short time.
But due to a sudden storm and subsequent flooding, the
fr iend couldn't return the ring in time. Unknown to Annie,
a brass r eplacment p l ated in gold was their symbol of holy
In August 1885, with a new wife and $4.30 in cash , Bill
Kingston decided to join with 3 other families and head for
Arizona to homestead and start a cattle ranch. Kingston had
143 head of cattle. The men drove the cattle and the women
drove the wagons which contained everything they owned .
Bill Kingston reflec ting back on the move said, "If it
hadn't been for star s and God for guidance and with enduring
faith we would never have made it."
Texas was in his blood, though, and the Kingstons
traveled as far as Toyah, when a good Texas beefsteak
persuaded Bill to make this land his own. The town of Toyah
was a railroad town and Kingston settled about 40 miles away
at the mouth of Buckhorn Canyon. He went to work for a
cousin, Bill Casey, and earned $15 dollars a month. There,
in a little 2-room rock house they built, the Kingstons
lived for several years, struggling to save money so some
day they could own their own ranch. Annie had a garden and
made cheese. She s old her cheese, butter and eggs at the
Ar my post at Fort Davis in order to buy sugar, flour and
coffee, the only food items they needed from the store.
After his first year, Bill sold his yearling calves and made
$108 with which he bought a stove for Annie.
The cattle-wise Kingston went to work for the Pitchfork
Cattle Company also known as the Toyah Land and Cattle
Company. After a stay there, he started work ing as a
cowhand for the McCutcheon brothers for 4 years . Bill
McCutcheon took Bill aside one day and told him he was much
too good a cattleman to be wor king for wages and said to g e t
a place of his own. Bill, not being one to ignore good
advice, d id just that and started to homestead in Mader a
When the Kingstons settled on the Madera Ranch they
had little to star t with except fo r an existing 2-room
house. Annie did all the cooking outside, as well as
tending her gar.den, making cheese and butter , gathering e ggs
and sewing for the f amily. Along with this, she always made
extra cheese and butter to sell, sold eggs and did sewing
for other s to b r ing in a needed extr a i ncome in order t o
expand the ranch. Bill worked hard, tending his herd of
white-faced Herefor ds.
By now the Kingston family had grown with t he addition
of 3 healthy boys. Lee came along while they were in Pecos
and has the honor of being the fi r st boy born ther.e. Joe
was born at Toyah during this stay at Buckhor n and Bill
Junior made his appearance while the family was at the
McCutcheon Ranch. Two more children came alo ng at the
Mader a Ranch, Fannye, the only girl born in t he original
2-room house, and the youngest, Duncan.
Always with the family in mind, Bill Kingston knew as
he was expanding the ranch section by section that one day
each of his children would have land of his own. Kingston
cattle had to go with the land. When each c h ild was born,
he would brand a Hereford with that child's particular
brand. With this one heifer calf, the childr en's herds wer e
slowly built. This tradition was set down by Bill's mother,
Martha Schellenbe r ger, who branded 2 heifer s with t he LW
brand for Bill when he was born. That brand is still in the
As the family grew, the small 2-room h ouse with an
added adobe kitchen and dining room and front porch became
too small. In 1905 the Kingstons built a 17-room house.
The Kingstons hired a governess to educate the children at
home. The basics were taught, but Annie Kingston always
t ried to get a governess adept in music and the arts as well
to insure a good well-rounded education for her children
through the high-school grades. They had a time for their
studies and then the boys would work on the ranch and Fannye
would help her mother with the everday chores around the
house. The Kingston family continued to prosper on the
Madera Ranch and grew with the country.
Bill Kingston cared about the country as well as his
own ranch . He participated in soil conservation programs
and was honored the first year as the top conservationist
for putting spreader dams on his land to prevent soil
erosion. He served as county commissioner for 22 years, was
an Odd Fellow, a Mason, a Shriner and a Woodman of the World
for over 50 years and was on the executive board of the
Lee Kingston married Frankie Walker of Balmorrhea,
Texas, and they had 4 children, Amy, Louise, Jack and Patty.
Joe married Sudy Oliver of Menard. Bill Junior wed Iola
Halcom of Balmorrhea and they had Bill the third, Henry,
Beatrice and George. Danny married Shorty Andy Lovelady of
Phoenix, Arizona and Duncan married Cecile Dean of LaMesa,
Texas, and they had Fanny Lou, Elizabeth and Johnny. The
Madera Ranch is still in the Kingston family owned by
Duncan's son, Johnny Kingston."
Mayon Neel says this article is taken out of the Menard
News dated December the 27th, 1984. Kingston remembers
early trips to Menard. Joe and Thelma MacDowell of Pecos,
formerly of Menard, sent the following clipping from the
Pecos Enterpriser, the staffwriter, Karen Oglesbe. We
thought it might be interes ting to your readers as it was to
us, they said.
" In celebrating his 94th birthday recently, Balmorrhea
area rancher, Joe Kingston, had many memories to recall . "I
was born 17 miles west of Balmurrhea ," Kingston said. "On
the side of one of those high ole mountains in a little ole
shack. Dad had to take the horse and wagon down to Toyah
Creek to get the granny woman. Didn't have doctors for
delivering babies back then." That was 5 years afte r
Kingston's parents, Bill and Annie Kingston, moved from
Menard to establish thei r ranch in Jeff Davis County. The
ranch was a modest 100,000 acres of farm and grazing land,
Kingston recalled. Although Kingston sold the ranch 2 years
ago, he plans t o live at home there fu r the rest of his life
with his wife, Sudy . "We have a place there. I put the
finishing touches on it and it' a pretty good shack,"
Kingston said. Kingston married in 1920 after falling for
Sudy. "She was one good basketball player, I remember that.
Big girl." He had courted Sudy on various t r ips from
Menard, where she lived . "We hitched up the mule every 4 or
5 years and we 'd hitch up a mule and go to Menard. I had an
uncle there. 300 miles down. We would drive it in 6 or 7
days." His wife was not the only thing Kingston brought back
from Menard. A friend recalled that Kingston transplanted
from Menard the first pecan trees in the west Texas area.
"Most people around here call him father of the pecan west
of the Pecos," said Kingston's brother-in-law. "Nearly
every pecan t ree you see around here came from one dug up in
Menard. People told him," No way. There's no way you can
grow pecans here! " But Joe decided he was going to do it."
Kingston had been raising a 3-acre pecan orchard near his
home before retiring 2 years ago. "I still live on the
place and I watch things and see that they' r e done right ,"
he said. During his more than 70-year ranching career,
Kingston raised cattle and various crops. He also served
many years on a local soil conservation board. "Guess I've
done everything," Kingston said. "I've baled over a million
bales of alfalfa hay and watched a barnful of it burn up
twice. I'd run cattle 'til I couldn't run anymore. I
worked like hell when I was a boy. I doctored and kept
those cattle as best I could. In droughts I'd watch 'em lay
down and dier nothin' I could do." He cont inued , "'Co urse ,
in as many years as I've had, I've made some mistakes. It's
easy to read between the lines when you're through wr iting
but I don't begrudge any t hing I've done."
END OF TAPE 1, SIDE 1, 15 MINUTES (MAYON NEEL).
(SIDE 2 IS BLANK)
*FORT MCKAVETT, MENARD COUNTY
Fort McKavett, Menard County, was called Camp San Saba
when it was established on March 14, 1852 by the u.s. War
Department as a protection for frontier settlers. The
reservation, covering about 2,373 acres, was later named for
Captain Henry McKavett, 8th u.s. Infantry, who was killed at
the battle of Monterrey on September 21, 1846. During the
summer of 1852, men of the 8th Infantry were busy
constructing buildings, and by July the hospital was
completed. During the following winter the men were
quartered in five stone buildings with walls ten feet high.
Abandoned on March 22, 1859, the post was re-occupied
on April 1, 1868, when it was found to be a mass of ruins
with only one habitable dwelling. General Ranald s.
MacKenzie rebuilt the fort and made it his headquarters. By
1876 there were stone barracks for eight companies, twe lve
officers' quarters , a hospital, guardhouse , a magazine ,
bakery, two storehouses , a post office, three stables, a
headquarters building and a forage house. Supplies of the
quartermaster and commissary were hauled from the depot at
San Antonio; a military telegraph ran to Denison.
After MacKenzie had subdued the Indians in the
Panhandle in the fall of 1847, raids ceased and the fort
became less essential. It was abandoned on June 30, 1883.
THE HANDBOOK OF TEXAS, P . 628. 1952
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