Family History Page
By Charles C. Chaney
Most of this article originally appeared in the Dameron-Damron Family Newsletter. Volume 23. Fall 1992
JOHN HENRY DAMRON (1826-1917) of Fannin and Brown Counties, Texas, had a long, active, well-documented adult life. However, his parentage and early years are very obscure which seems to be what he wanted. His widow did not know who his father and mother were or where he was born. Few details of his life before 1845 are known. Some think that his parents were CONSTANTINE LADD DAMRON and SARAH McCORMICK while others are certain that his mother was HULDA MAJORS DAMRON, the youngest daughter of Captain JOHN DAMRON and his first wife ANNA LADD. At least one Mormon record seems to suggest that Constantine, Hulda's brother, was not John Henry's father since Constantine's daughter, SUSAN EMELINE (DAMRON) ALPHIN, recorded John Henry's wife, MARY ELIZABETH (MELUGIN) DAMRON, as a cousin rather than sister-in-law, yet the same source correctly records a known sister-in-law as such. [The 1830 and 1840 censuses do not show a male child of John Henry's age bracket in the household of Constantine Damron.] Known records of John Henry mention neither of his parents. The one exception is his death certificate that states that his father was unknown and his mother Anna Ladd, who was actually Hulda's and Constantine's mother.
Some have speculated that John Henry was a son of one of Hulda's brothers' that died young, a son of a Damron relation, or an orphan Hulda chose to rear. However, if any of these was true, why would the identity of John Henry's father remain unrecognized? There is the possibility that he was illegitimate.
NOTE: DNA testing shows that a great-great grandson carries the Damron autosomal chromosomes going back to Moses Damron! Thus, John Henry is a proper Damron descendent although his exact lineage remains unclear. Hulda was probably his biological mother but this is yet to be proved.
Hulda Majors Damron certainly reared John Henry and remained closely associated with him until her death. In the 1830 Illinois census, she appears in the household of her first husband, JAMES THOMAS ADDLETON, along with a male under five years of age. There is no record of an Addleton child of this age but it is correct for John Henry. Descendants of John Henry considered Hulda as his mother. Family tradition indicates that he considered James Thomas Addleton to be his father. He named his first son, James Thomas Damron. James Thomas Addleton might have been his father but this seems unlikely because John Henry never took the Addleton name.
Various records show Illinois, Kentucky, and Missouri as his birthplace. Illinois is the most likely location. His family probably also lived in Tennessee for a time after leaving Illinois and before moving to Jasper County, Missouri, in 1833. There is a family tradition that "when the stars fell, they were camped at Cane Springs in Jasper County, Missouri." ("When the stars fell" refers to the famous spectacular meteorite shower that occurred on the night of 13 November 1833.) John spent much of his childhood there. In 1835-36 (according to tradition recorded by Bertha Damron Sterrling) his father died. This was probably, James Addleton, who could have died as early as 1837 since the last Addleton child, the only boy, was born in December 1837. Tradition holds that John Henry was an only son but if he was Hulda's son he had several half-siblings.
After James Addleton's death, Hulda married a man named Coldiron and had more children before she was again widowed. It should be noted that while the parents and siblings of John Henry's wife are also recorded in the family Bible of John Henry and his first wife (see Bible registry pages), there is no record of anyone who could be his father. Hulda is listed but neither of her husbands. The first page, listing births, records John Henry, his wife and children in the left hand column while the right column lists the births of Hulda and her Addleton and Coldiron children.
In 1845, he was hired by a trader to drive an ox-team and wagon loaded with merchandise from Independence, Missouri, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, then still Mexican territory. Crossing "redman's country" the wagon train encountered hostile Indians. Their first fight was just after they crossed Pony Ford and were at Coon's Creek. There was a fierce battle at daybreak in which two men were wounded. The wagon train reached Santa Fe during winter so John Henry was still there in 1846 when the Mexican War erupted. He enlisted in the U.S. Army where he associated with Kit Carson and was commanded by General Franklin Pierce. When the war ended in 1848, his group was in Chihuahua, Mexico. He returned to Jasper County where, on 9 January 1849, he married MARY ELIZABETH MELUGIN. Their first child, Sallie Isabell Elizabeth, was born on 10 October 1849. The 1850 Missouri census shows them living in Jasper County.
Hulda's brother, GEORGE DAMRON, had been an early settler of Fannin County, Texas. It was here that John Henry moved his family, including his wife's younger sisters, arriving on 2 February 1853. They settled near Savoy on Caney Creek where he served as Executive Officer. John Henry was a member of the Masons in Bonham. His good friend, Capt. W. A. Routh, carried John Henry's petition to the Constantine Lodge No. 13 A.F. and A.M. (the Masons) in 1856 or 1857. The 1860 census reveals that Hulda M. Coldiron was living with him and his family.
On 22 September 1862, John Henry enlisted with the Confederate States of America Army. The various reports of his Civil War military career require review. Some records of other Damrons have been mistakenly applied to him. The most notable are records of JOHN NORVAL (sometimes recorded as NOLAN) DAMRON of Bell County, Texas, who was a distant cousin. Some researchers have misread the initials "J. N." as "J. H." and incorrectly reported those records as being of John Henry!
It is known that he joined Colonel Peter Hardeman's Regiment, 31st Texas Cavalry, Arizona Brigade but never served in the Arizona-New Mexico campaign. Hardeman's Arizona Brigade had returned to Dallas, Texas, in the spring of 1862 and was reorganized as the 31st Texas Cavalry Regiment, Texas State Troops, under the command of Colonel Trezevant C. Hawpe. Hawpe's Regiment was then assigned under command of General Thomas C. Hindman and saw action in Indian Territory, Arkansas, and Missouri. In August of 1862, before the two cavalry units and the infantry unit were combined, the 20th Texas under Col. Bass, captured Fort Washita in Indian Territory. They abandoned the fort, took the garrison into custody and escorted them to the prisoner of war camp at the former Union Fort Towson, Indian Territory.
On 30 September 30 1862, Col. Almerine M. Alexander's 34th Fannin County Texas "Plowhorse" Cavalry (dismounted), Hawpes Battery and Capt. Damron's Company of the 31st Texas Cavalry (dismounted) saw action at the Battle of Newtonia Missouri serving under the command of Colonel John T. Coffee.
On 21 November 1862, Colonel Hawpe resigned and returned to Dallas. Coffee was court-martialed by Gen. Hindman for drunkenness. Coffee resigned after the charges were dismissed dismissed by General Hindman. Colonel J. O. Shelby was then given command of Col. Coffee's Missouri "Iron Brigade". Hawpe returned to Dallas and was killed in a gunfight on 14 August 1863.
In the winter of 1862-1863, Capt. John H. Damron's Company of former Col. Hawpe's 31st Texas Cavalry joined Col. Thomas Coke Bass' 20th Grayson and Cooke County Texas Cavalry along with Col. Joseph Warren Speight's 15th McLennan County Texas Infantry. They saw duty in Indian Territory along the Texas Road from Baxter Springs, Kansas to Dennison, Texas.
Speight's Brigade assignment in Indian Territory was to block movement of General Blunt's Federal troops to the south, toward Texas or east toward Fort Smith, Arkansas. In December 1862, during Speight's patrols in Indian Territory, 120 men of Capt. Damron's Company of the 31st Texas Cavalry surrounded Lt. Colonel William C. Quantrill's 350-400 man unit of irregular light cavalry at Rocky Creek, northwest of the present town of Atoka Oklahoma. Some of Quantrill's men were dressed in Union uniforms that had been seized from General Blunt's Union supply wagon train at Baxter Springs Kansas. A battle was avoided when, at the last moment, the units recognized that they were allies. Quantrill's men were allowed to continue to Texas where they spent the winter of 1862-1863 on Little Mineral Creek near Holland Coffee's Trading Post in Grayson County.
The file of his second wife's "widow's pension" for Texas veterans of the Confederate army states that he was Captain, first, of a company of mounted cavalry, later dismounted, and that he organized the company at Bonham. The file also reports that he enlisted in 1861 and served until 1865. He saw service in Texas, Arkansas and the Indian Territories. There was no record of capture or parole.
After the Civil War, his widowed sister-in-law, Parthena Jane Butler, had died leaving two young sons with John's family. Another of Mary Elizabeth's sisters, Louisa Melugin, lived with the family. John and Mary Elizabeth were known to often take in many, not necessarily relatives, who needed a home.
Their last child, Simeon A. Damron, was born on 5 September 1870. Mary Elizabeth died on 12 October. Almost two years later, on 12 September 1872, John Henry married NANCY A. BLANTON. She was born on 10 September 1842. They were to have no children. Nancy seems to have been well accepted by his children. Some of his grandchildren remembered Nancy affectionately as the only grandmother they knew.
In December of 1886, he moved the family to Brown County, Texas, and settled in the Turkey Peak and Bethel community. In 1907-08, he moved to Blanket, also in Brown County. In 1909, a cyclone struck nearby Zephyr that killed his next oldest daughter, Hulda Rebecca, and several of her children. He was an exhorter (a lay-preacher) and active member of the Methodist Church most of his life. John Henry suffered a stroke while bird hunting and was quite ill for two weeks, then, on 6 November 1917, died at his home in Blanket. He was buried the following day in Zephyr Cemetery at Zephyr, Brown County, Texas. Nancy died on 28 September 1923 and was buried next to John Henry.
See: Obituary of John Henry Damron
Children of John Henry and Mary Elizabeth Damron:
1. SALLIE ISABELLE DAMRON, b. 10 Oct. 1849,
Jasper Co., MO.
2. JAMES THOMAS "TOM"
DAMRON, b. 29 July 1852, MO.
3. WILLIAM E. K. DAMRON, b. 15 Oct. 1855,
Savoy, Fannin Co., TX.
4. HULDA REBECCA DAMRON, b. 27 Oct. 1857,
Savoy, Fannin Co., TX.
5. JOSEPH HENRY "JOE" DAMRON, b. 22
Nov. 1863, Savoy, Fannin Co., TX.
6. JOHN MILTON WESLEY GREENE DAMRON, b. 8
Nov. 1866, Fannin Co., TX.
7. SIMEON A. DAMRON, b. 5 Sept. 1870, Savoy,
Fannin Co., TX.
1. Douthitt Melugin McKay, San Antonio, TX.