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The Tharps of North-East and North-Central Texas During the Last Half of the Nineteenth Century

by
David Tharp

The early American origins of the Tharp/Allentharp family are well documented, beginning with the April 16, 1723 marriage of John A Allentharp and Ann Sebastian in St Paul’s Episcopal Church, in King George County of Colonial Virginia. The births of John and Ann’s children are also recorded on church registers, including the 1742 Christmas Eve baptism of their youngest son, Jacob Allentharp at the Aquia Episcopal Church in nearby Stafford County. While Jacob’s older brothers moved their families to North and South Carolina, Jacob moved his family into northeastern Kentucky, settling first in Bourbon, and then Scott County. Jacob’s grandson, George Allentharp would move from Kentucky into central Georgia, and then west through Alabama to Mississippi and Louisiana. Following his death in November 1851, George’s descendants would eventually move into north-east and north-central Texas, with the exception of his second son, William Allen Tharp, who would remain in Louisiana. What follows is a glimpse of this truly American family as they made their migration west, eventually establishing lasting, strong roots deep in the fertile Texas soil during the last half of the nineteenth century.

George Allen Tharp, was born in late 1791or early 1792 in Bourbon County, Kentucky. He was the son of John Allentharp, and the great-grandson of John A Allentharp and Ann Sebastian. George was born with the last name of Allentharp, but adopted the family tradition of shortening the name to Tharp by the time of his marriage to Anna Spencer1, also believed to be from the present day area of Lexington, Kentucky. Even though the name was shorten to Tharp, the family retained the initial “A” before the last name, and almost all of the children, both male and female, were given Allen as a middle name for the next three generations.

By 1820, George and his wife Anna were living in Dykes, Pulaski County, Georgia as documented on the 1820 census. It is here they began their family. Their first son, John Allen Tharp, was born in 1816, followed by two daughters, Ann Spencer Tharp, born March 18, 1818 and Martha Allen Tharp born in 1819. The 1820 census indicates that the Tharp household consisted of one male between the ages of 26 and 45. This would be George, who would be about 29 years old. There was another younger, unknown male, possibly a brother or brother-in-law, between the ages of 16 and 25, and one male child younger than 10. This child would be John Allen Tharp, my great-great-grandfather. There were two adult females between the ages of 16 and 26, one of whom would be Anna, George’s wife; the other possibly a sister or sister-in-law, and two young girls under the age of 10, Ann and Martha, the first two of nine daughters. Following the birth of Martha, the family began its journey westward, and had a second son, William George Allen Tharp on the 21st of November, 1821 in Wilcox County, Alabama.

In the late 1820’s and early 1830’s the Tharp family is documented in land deeds, and on the 1830 census as being residents of Copiah County, Mississippi. Anna Spencer Tharp apparently died sometime after the 1830 census and before November 29, 1832 when George is documented marrying Martha Bullard, November 29, 1832 in Hinds County, Mississippi.

We know from documents that George’s first wife was named Anna. We also know that their first daughter was named Ann Spencer Tharp, and the family’s oral history has it that the Tharp’s were also Spencer descendants. An assumption has been made that Anna’s maiden name was Spencer.

Several land transactions are recorded in the name of George Allen Tharp between 1826 and 1832 in Jackson, Mississippi. More land records are found in Madison County, Mississippi during the later 1830’s in the name of George A Tharp, and his new wife Amanda. It is believed that Martha and Amanda are the same person, and was probably named Martha Amanda Bullard, because in 1841 a land deed is recorded in Caddo Parish, Louisiana in the name of Amanda Bullard. In that document, it is clearly stated, that Amanda Bullard is the wife of George A Tharp. The older Tharp children, John, Ann and Martha would all marry in Madison County, Mississippi before moving with their families to Louisiana.

We know the family continued to move westward, settling next in the northwest corner of Louisiana. One of the last documents signed by George Allen Tharp in Madison County, Mississippi reads, “George A Tharp, of Caddo Parish, Louisiana.” Before George died in November 1851 in Keachi, DeSoto Parish, Louisiana, he married a third wife, Sarah Henderson, on July 22, 1850 in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana.

George and Sarah are found on the 1850 census of Keachi in DeSoto Parish living with the younger Tharp children, George W, 20; Eliza, 17; Elizabeth, 16; Margaret E, 14; Vincent S, 12; Amanda, 9; and Catherine, 4. Living next door to George on one side, is his son, William A Tharp, 28 and his wife, Priscilla D Atkins, 22; with their children, Martha, aged 2 and Bryant, six months old at the time the census was taken on October 5, 1850. Living on the other side of George is his third son, Thomas George Allen Tharp, 27 and his wife Adelaide Haden, 25, with their first son, Walter Raleigh George Allen Tharp who is nine months old.

John Allen Tharp, George’s first son, aged 35 is living nearby with his wife, Martha Catherine Barnes, 28, of Tennessee and their children, James, Delia, Willis, Mollie (not listed on the census), John, Thomas and Julia, ages 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3 and 1, respectively. On the 1860 census of Keachi, Louisiana, John and Martha have added four more children, Robert, Catherine “Katy”, Charlie and Martha. Thomas, and his wife Adelaide, have two more children, Thomas and Ella. The youngest son, George Allen Tharp, Jr, and his wife, Mrs Elizabeth B Williams Harper, have started their family, and have three children, Emma, George and Charles.

After the death of George Allen Tharp, Sr, his descendants continued to be prominent citizens of the Village of Keachi in DeSoto Parish, and the Shreveport area of Caddo Parish. William Allen Tharp was appointed first postmaster of Keachi, and later donated the land for the Methodist Church and cemetery. The Tharps were involved in several business ventures; one was ‘Wood and Tharp’ and another was ‘Tharp and Brothers’, both were large storage facilities. During the decade of the 1850’s, Keachi was a thriving community with grand, Greek Revival plantations situated at the crosswords of trading between Shreveport, Mansfield and Logansport. The Tharps contributed to the community’s success and prosperity as demonstrated by one of the last recorded events of the Tharps before leaving Louisiana for Texas. John Allen Tharp hosted and was proprietor for a Christmas Day Cotillion for the daughters of the wealthy land owners. The invitation is pictured on the following page.

At this same time, the slave issue was beginning to tear the county apart. In April 1861, Vincent S. A. Tharp enlisted as a Private in Company D, 1st Battalion, (Rightors), Louisiana, in New Orleans. The 1st Infantry Battalion completed its organization at New Orleans during the Spring of 1861 with men from Jackson, Orleans and Caddo Parishes. Its six companies moved to Virginia, and for a time served in the Department of the Peninsula. Later the battalion was placed under the command of General Griffith and in April 1862 totaled 315 effectives.

In June it disbanded and the men transferred to other Louisiana Commands. Lieutenant Colonels Charles D Dreux and Nicholas H Rightors and Major James H Beard were its field officers. It is believed that Vincent died during the Civil conflict as no further records of him have been found.

It was at this same time that John Allen Tharp, Sr, William Allen Tharp, Thomas George Allen Tharp and George W Allen Tharp began moving their families to East Texas. In early 1863, Colonel Spruce McCoy began gathering and organizing the Texas 4th Calvary Regiment Arizona Brigade. All of the Tharp brothers are found on the rolls of Company E, with Thomas serving as 1st Lieutenant. After his service, William would return to Louisiana and settle in Natchitoches.

The other Tharp brothers, however, settled in various parts of East Texas. John, Sr, settled first in Athens, Henderson, Texas, and Rev Thomas A Tharp, in Ennis, Ellis, Texas where he was a well known Methodist minister. Thomas died, November 3, 1888 and is buried with his wife and several of their children in the Myrtle Cemetery in Ennis.

The family of George W Allen Tharp has not been documented after the 1860 census in Louisiana.

The 1870 census of Athens, Texas, shows John, Sr living with his wife Catherine and their children, Thomas, Julia, Katy A, Robert, Martha, Thalia and Cicero. Also living with the family are two farm laborers, William Gentry and David Benham. William would later marry John’s daughter, Catherine and David would marry his daughter, Mollie, who in 1870 is also living in Athens with her older brother, James. Living next door to John, Sr is John, Jr, his wife Emily and their first child, Ella, one year old. John, Sr would later move to Denton County, where he died in 1896 at age 80, and is buried in the Wolfe-Foster Cemetery along with two of his daughters and their husbands. Catherine A. Tharp had married William Gentry in Denton County in 1872, and Thalia Tharp died May 13, 1940 and is buried with her husband, William Crockett Foster. The death date and burial place of John’s wife, Martha Catherine Barnes Tharp is unknown to this author.

John’s son, John, Jr. would become a prominent farmer after settling in Roddy, Van Zandt, Texas. It is here that he married Emily Pernica Fisher, July 28, 1868, also of Louisiana. John and Emily were long-time residents of the community of Roddy in Van Zandt County, Texas.


Simeon married Zora Gertrude Hager, the daughter of Lorenza Jasper “Dow” Hager and Eunice “Una” Berry. Zora and her brother, Thomas Preston Hager were born near Wills Point in the early 1880’s. When their mother Eunice Berry Hager died giving birth to a third child, they became the wards of their maternal grandmother, Nancy Elizabeth Caroline Kirkpatrick Mayes Berry, the wife of Hugh Berry. Hugh was the son of Robert Wilson Berry and Mahulda Tunnell who donated the land for the Prairie Springs Cemetery in Ben Wheeler, Texas, where they are buried.

“Mother Berry”, as their grandmother was known, moved with the children to the Roddy, Texas home of James “Jim” Smith and Frances “Fannie” Elizabeth Mayes Smith who was “Mother Berry’s” daughter by her first marriage to George William Mayes.

Many families had early starts on the shores of Colonial Virginia, and gradually worked their way westward, enduring the hardships and difficulties of traveling tough terrain. Many, like the Tharps, enjoyed the prosperity and success of their dedication to the land and to each other. It is the stories of the struggles of families like the Tharps that make Texas what is today. We owe them our thanks and our respect, and know that in remembering them, we celebrate their journey.

I encourage any person who reads this article to contact me regarding any corrections or additional information. I would especially welcome any old family photographs. I can be contacted by e-mail at DTharpTX@aol.com, by mail at 9030 Flicker Lane, Dallas, Texas 75238, or by phone at: 214.317.9684. Thanks to all for your interest and attention.


Linked toPersonal Library and Photo Collection, David Tharp

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