Byers found poetry during time of war

Posted 4/1/20

Madison County has Byers in our history. In researching, I learned about three predecessors of those. The first I found was William Byers (1687-1742) is referred to as “William the Immigrant” Byers. Born in St. Ives, Cornwall, England, he came to America and is buried in Virginia. Among his several children was the next in this direct line, known as Captain William Byers of the Revolution (1730-1799). Like his father, he was born in Ireland and came to America where he served in the Virginia militia at least three times, the last being in Cherokee War of 1776. The next in that line was William Walton Jr. (1765-1816), born in South Carolina. He fought in the American Revolution.

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Byers found poetry during time of war

Posted

Madison County has Byers in our history. In researching, I learned about three predecessors of those. The first I found was William Byers (1687-1742) is referred to as “William the Immigrant” Byers. Born in St. Ives, Cornwall, England, he came to America and is buried in Virginia. Among his several children was the next in this direct line, known as Captain William Byers of the Revolution (1730-1799). Like his father, he was born in Ireland and came to America where he served in the Virginia militia at least three times, the last being in Cherokee War of 1776. The next in that line was William Walton Jr. (1765-1816), born in South Carolina. He fought in the American Revolution.

The next, William Walton Byers (1810-1881), was born in South Carolina. In 1833 he married Jane Salena McWhorter (1813-1866). Records show that the family migrated to Texas from Mississippi in 1839 in an ox-drawn cart. They came in a group with the families of Andrew McWhorter, Thomas Thompson and R.S. Rayburn to what is now the Midway area. By 1842, the McWhorter and Byers families moved to a permanent settlement on North Bedias Creek approximately ten miles south of what is now Madisonville. Life was extremely difficult at first, due to Indians and scarcity of food. Husband and wife were ultimately buried in Bethel Cemetery, which is just south of the Grimes County line.

According to Volume 1 of our local history book, William and Salena had nine children. One of them, Edward Leonidas Byers (1838-1915), was born in Mississippi but as the saying goes now, “got here as fast as he could”, arriving by 1839. He’s the man that caught my attention and inspired this Musings. I found that, in the Civil War, he was in the Texas Thirteenth Volunteers and later the Thirty-Fifth Cavalry (Brown’s Regiment). During that time, he wrote the following:

What I’m Thinking of Tonight, By Edward Leonidas Byers

In Camp near Opelousas, Louisiana, 1863

Of my home I now am thinking

And of love ones I have left;

Are lonely and bereft.

And as oft as I remember

Their loneliness and pain,

Then heart, however quiet,

Will throb with grief again.

I am thinking of that loved one,

The partner of my life,

Whose prayers ascend unceasingly

For me in this dread strife.

We have lived and loved together

Through happy days and hours;

And we’ve wept and grieved together

For our dear withered flowers.

By the same kind Hand that gave them

To us a little time,

They were taken and transplanted

In a far fairer clime.

Sound of their dear baby voices

Shall no more greet our ears

Till we’ve passed beyond the shadows

That dim lives’ weary years.

I think of my old grandfather

Who held and pressed my hand,

And said, “I’ll be waiting for you

Safe in a better Land.”

Silent tears swiftly chased each other

Adown his furrowed face

Few days and scenes that sever

Him from that blessed place.

I am thinking of my father,

Whose locks are touched with gray,

And his faithful admonition

When parting that sad day

Bending o’er me in his sorrow.

The tears bedimmed his eye

As he breathed on me a blessing

And said, “My son, good-bye.”

And I’m thinking of my sisters,

Whose heart with anguish swell,

Theirs were words of cheer at parting,

Though tears like raindrops fell.

Nor do I forget the servants,

Their hearts, too feel a pain,

For they will often think of me

And wish me home again.

Oh! How many hearts are yearning

For forms and faces bright;

Some for whom they’re sighing daily

For whom they pray each night

Asking for them life and safety,

And that the longed-for day,

Joyful day, of their returning

May not be far away.

And I’m thinking of hearts broken,

Who looked for loved ones, home

Until came the evil tiding,

“They never more will come.”

Perished they with countless others

In war’s unpitying flood,

Where grim desolation follows,

“While hearts weep tear of blood.”

After the war ended, Byers returned to Madison County. At some time, he married Susan Catherine Glaze (1842-1916), and they had four children. Ultimately, husband and wife were both buried in Madisonville Cemetery. Records show that he served as our County Judge from January 1, 1887 to December 31, 1888.

His war experiences seemed to stick in his craw. I have been told that he wrote “Sketches & Reminiscences” for the Madisonville Meteor in about 1906, though that may not have ever been published. Supposedly handwritten copies of that have been passed down, and I sure hope the Museum can get a copy. Later he gave a firsthand account of his war experiences in Miss Mamie Yeary’s Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray, pages 105-107, where he said, “When the strife was ended I came home, like thousands of others, to find almost all means of subsistence swept away while some of my loved ones had gone away to return no more."

Susan Ouida Byers (1880-1972) was Edward’s and Susan’s only child to live out her life in Madison County. She married Garland Ross Madole (1876-1965), and they in turn had Garland Ross Madole, Jr. (1913-1999). Many remember him as Ross Madole, husband of Maidie (1919-2020), and father of David Madole and Brenda Madole Hill.

Now, to the present. Folks often scoff when I mention Facebook. If you enjoy local history, you might want to consider trying Facebook. You might enjoy Madison County Museum’s page, and also Madisonville Cemetery Association’s. For several months now, the latter has held daily posts, each about a different headstone, thanks to MCA President Clark Osborne. He cleans and repairs headstones, takes photos, shares daily on the Facebook page, and includes what history he has found on the deceased. Other locals add what information to which they have access. Because of one of those posts, I learned of the poem by Edward Leonidas Byers and was able to get it to share above, thanks to Sara Newton. Osborne is quite interested in the history and future of our county and is quite helpful. He told me he’d be glad to help anyone interested in doing a similar Facebook page for a favorite cemetery. Contact him, clark@madisonvillecemetery.com

Madison County Museum is located at 201 N. Madison St., and the mailing address is P.O. Box 61, Madisonville, TX 77864. At this time, it is closed due to the Coronavirus Quarantine. Normally it is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call ahead when things open back up, 936-348-5230.

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