Sunday, July 12, 2009

Major James C. Wootters


Throughout the pages of the Hall Journal are multiple mentions of a family by the name of WOOTTERS . . . the first appearance of a WOOTERS occurs on Saturday, March 10th, 1860 when J.M. Hall records the following . . . To day we commenced to plant corn in the old ground with two plows running. In the evening Sam Sharp & John WOOTTERS came out from Crockett; Weather clear but cold. I paid Bill HICKS in cash $1. on a/c of rails. . . . the following information from Google Books describes some of the WOOTTERS individuals . . .


James C. Wootters. Any piece of biographical writing should be both an impression and an interpretation, quite as much as a mere summary of facts. Facts, to be sure, are of use as a wholesome corrective of prejudice or whimsey; but in the condensed narrative of a life there is danger that they may tyrannize. In studying a clean-cut, sane, distinct character like that of the late Major James C. Wootters, interpretation follows fact in a straight line of derivation. There is small need for indirection or puzzling. His character was the positive expression of a strong and loyal nature, and his strength was as the number of his days. His name looms large in connection with the civic and industrial development and upbuilding of the Lone Star state, where he established his home fully sixty years ago and where he made his influence definitely felt during the pioneer era of formative policies and activities, as did he also during the latter days of magnificent and opulent advancement. In a work of the province assigned to the one at hand it is imperative, as a matter of consistency, that an outline of his career be given, marked, as it was, by splendid achievement, and guided and governed by the highest principles of integrity and honor.


Major James C. Wootters was born in Queen Anne county, on the east shore of the state of Maryland, and the date of his nativity was April 20, 1830, so that he was seventy-four years of age when he was summoned from the stage of his mortal endeavors, at his home in the city of Crockett, Houston county, Texas, on the 12th of July, 1904, after a life replete with usefulness and honor. He was a son of Ezekiel C. and Mary (Downs) Wootters, both of whom were likewise natives of Maryland, where the respective families were founded in the colonial era and where the parents continued to reside until their death. In his native commonwealth Major Wootters was accorded excellent educational advantages, and during all the years of his long and prolific life he was a student of books, of men and of affairs, — a man of broad mental ken and mature judgment. A dominating personality was his and he could not long remain obscure or dependent, for action was as the breath of his life in his youth as well as in later years of prodigious achievement. In 1853 he joined the vast concourse of argonauts who were making their way to the newly discovered gold fields of California, and he made the voyage down the Atlantic coast, through the Gulf of Mexico and thence proceeded across the Isthmus of Panama, and secured passage on one of the early vessels transporting the gold-seekers to the New Eldorado. He encountered his quota of dangerous and novel experiences in the wilds and the rude mining camps, but his quest for the precious metal in the placer mines proved of negative order, with the result that he soon set forth for the east. He continued his eastward journey only as far as Texas and arrived at Crockett, Houston county, on the 8th of October, 1853. Little could he have anticipated at the time how great success he was destined to achieve in the great state to which he came as a youth with but meager resources of financial order, but with a full equipment of energy, determination and ambition. For several years he was employed in a clerical capacity by Colonel Long, one of the pioneer business men and influential citizens of Crockett, and in the meanwhile he made careful survey of the situation, manifested great circumspection in his sizing up of resources and opportunities, and finally engaged in the mercantile business on his own responsibility. He soon gained secure status as one of the foremost merchants of the progressive little city, and with its rapid growth and development he not only kept pace but also proved a leader in the forward movements along both industrial and civic lines. He built up a large and important retail mercantile business and with the same he continued to be actively identified until the time of his death, this enterprise having been established by him shortly after the close of the Civil war. Through the business noted Major Wootters formed the nucleus of his really great fortune, but his greatest financial advancement was gained through his extensive and judicious investments in real estate. At the time of his death he was the largest landholder and individual taxpayer in Houston county, as well as one of the largest in the entire state. His estate at the time of his demise included more than thirty-three thousand acres of land, besides much city realty, stock and personal property. The greater part of his land was in Houston coimty, but he also had holdings of valuable order in the counties of Trinity, Henderson, Leon, Galveston, Young, Hall, San Augustine, Jack, Haskell, Wise, Anderson, Montgomery, Angelina and others, — a statement that in a measure indicates the wide scope of his operations and the important part taken by him in the development of the resources of the state. He conducted extensive farming and stock-growing operations and was known and honored as one of the most liberal, loyal and public-spirited citizens of his home county. He had at all times a deep and abiding faith in the great future of the Lone Star state, and he was an influential factor in virtually every progressive movement and enterprise projected in his home county along the line of social and industrial advancement. He was never self-centered but in all of his business activities he had due appreciation of his stewardship and sought to make them definite conservators of general prosperity in the community. He served for a number of years as president of the First National Bank of Crockett, and in a quiet and absolutely unostentatious way he gave liberal support to charitable and benevolent objects and movements, the while his private benefactions were many and timely, even as they were generally known only to himself and the recipients of his sympathetic largess.


Major Wootters had the instinction of being elected the first mayor of Crockett and about a score of years after his original administration, when the old corporation was revived, he was again made the popular choice for the office of chief executive of the municipal government, the affairs of which he administered with discrimination, and with the business-like policies which he had made potent in his private affairs. He was in no sense a politician, but he gave unqualified allegiance to the Democratic party, and he served at one time as representative of Houston county in the state legislature, in response to insistent popular demands. He was most loyal in the supporting of the cause of the Confederacy during the progress of the Civil war and in the latter period of the same he served as a soldier in a Texas regiment, with which he saw arduous service and with which he continued until the close of the war. He and his wife were most zealous members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and he was chairman of the building committee that had supervision of the erection of the present fine edifice of the First Church of this denomination in Crockett.


One of the dominating interests in the life of Major Wootters was his deep and appreciative love for the time-honored Masonic fraternity, of whose history and teachings he was an earnest student and whose exalted precepts he followed in his daily life. For more than half a century he was actively affiliated with Lothrop Lodge, No. 21, Ancient Free & Accepted Masons, and of Trinity Chapter, No. 4, Royal Arch Masons. He filled every office in each of these bodies and to many of the official chairs he was elected several times. He was a most regular attendant of the meetings of the lodge and chapter, and his noble character and generous sympathy gained to him a peculiarly intimate place in the regard of the fraternity. This was most effectually shown in the beautiful memorial tribute paid to him by his lodge at the time of his death, — a tribute of appreciation and honor and affection that could have been accorded to none who was not worthy of the same. He was an influential figure in the affairs of Masonry in Texas and received the unique distinction of being made a life member of the Texas grand lodge of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons by the unanimous resolution of that body. This honor has had no precedent or subsequent repetition in Texas and probably in no other state in the Union. This splendid tribute was accorded to Major Wootters as a token of fraternal appreciation of his long and zealous service as a member of the grand lodge, and his liberal and earnest work in promoting and establishing at Fort Worth the splendid home for widows and orphans of Masons. He attended the sessions of the Texas grand lodge and grand chapter with regularity for more than thirty years and for twenty years he served as a member of the finance committee of the latter, having been chairman of this committee at the time of his death. He was lovingly referred to as the corner-stone of the Masonic grand lodge of the state which he signally honored and dignified by his exalted character and services.


On the 7th of June, 1860, was solemnized the marriage of Major Wootters to Mrs. Emily Mildred Long, widow of Col. L. Long, of Crockett. She was born in Louisiana and her maiden name was Emily Mildred Cash. Mrs. Wootters was a woman of most gentle and gracious personality and her memory is revered by all who came within the compass of her influence. She was summoned to eternal rest on the 8th of November, 1898, at the age of fifty-seven years, and her remains rest beside those of her honored husband, Major Wootters, in the beautiful cemetery at Crockett. Of the six children only two are now living — Andrew H. and Robert H., both of whom are associated in the management of the vast estate left by their father. Two of the children, Annie Eliza and Eva, died in infancy. Nannie became the wife of Dr. John Markham, of Decatur, this 'state, and after her death one of her children, John, was reared in the home of his grandparents. Major and Mrs. Wootters. James C. Wootters, Jr., was about twenty-nine years of age at the time of his death; and Mary B. died at the age of about forty years.



Google Books. Bibliographic information. Title -- A history of Texas and Texans, Volume 3. A History of Texas and Texans, Eugene Campbell Barker. Authors -- Francis White Johnson, Ernest William Winkler. Editors -- Eugene Campbell Barker, Ernest William Winkler. Publisher -- American Historical Society, 1914. Original from the University of Michigan. Digitized Jul 29, 2005