March 28, 2001

Tracing Our Bosque County Roots
From the Bosque County News
28 March 2001

Brother Bill Schibler, of Cranfills Gap, recently brought me a wonderful packet of information regarding the early years of the The Rock Church and the ‘Biological Recollections” of Rev. H. W. Estrem, put together by his granddaughter.  After reading and thoroughly enjoying this early look  at the church and the Cranfills Gap area, I wanted to share some of it with our readers.

The story begins at the very end of Rev. Herman Wilhelm Estrem’s South Dakota ministry, with word coming to him that he was to receive a calling to Texas. On October of 1912, he along with his wife, Cora, and daughter Marlys, who was almost three years old, left for their new home. A trip by Santa Fe Railroad brought them to Clifton, along the way, somewhere near Ft. Worth, Rev. Estrem says “we saw our first turkey buzzards and wondered if they were eagles until some accommodating southerner put us right on

On their arrival in Clifton they were met by Mr.. Schow who showed them around town, taking particular pride in the Clifton Lutheran College, then to the home of his sister Esther and her husband Otto Orbeck.

Sunday Rev. Estrem was installed in St. Olaf Rock Church near Cranfills Gap.  Since their arrival the heavy rains had made travel on local roads difficult. In his own words, the Reverend states “My brother-in-law was to take me out to the services in his Maxwell car. Going over a culvert in the outskirts of town, he punctured two tires. Along comes a young man by the name of Gangshei, driving a single buggy and a fat, chunky bay horse. He
was also on his way to St Olaf church and promptly offered me a ride, which I gladly accepted. Time was flying, and we began worrying whether we could make it on time. Finally another two-lunger came laboring up behind us.  They, too were headed for St. Olaf church. Texas chivalry soon transferred Mr. Anderson’s wife and child to Mr. Gangshei’s buggy and this belated northern parson to the auto, and we chugged, arriving about on time.”

The southern tradition of rattlesnake hunts seems to have been a major influence on the rapid acceptance of this northen pastor by his southern congregation. The Reverend and his family had not been in their new community for quite two weeks when on a Saturday, noon, one of their neighbors, Ole Reierson, a trustee of the church, phoned an invitation to
take part in a rattlesnake hunt that afternoon. Gunder Jorgenson was there and he had taken twenty-six in the forenoon and had some promising dens located for the afternoon.

“Gunder was the son of a prominent lay preacher in Norway, but was rather difficult and had been sent to this Texas community where two of his uncles, Simon and Aslak Jorgenson, lived”, states Rev. Estrem.

The snake dens were low crevices in the rocky mountainsides or bluffs.  During the winter months, the rattlers hibernated in these shallow caves and, after a succession of warm days, would sometimes come out and sun themselves on the ledges outside the den.

“On this day, they were inside where the stored heat of the earth was pleasant. By throwing the reflected sunlight with a mirror into the caves, we could see the slimy occupants some six to eight feet in. Having located them, the next thing was to get them safely out to there and into their sack. For this purpose Gunder used a six-foot quarter inch rod with a bent hook on one end. If he could reach them with this, good and well. If not, he
used pick and shovel, even dynamite to get closer in. When he could reach one, he gently hooked the rod around it and carefully eased it out toward the opening. Then he quickly jerked it out into the bright sunlight which blinded it just long enough for him to put the hook down on it’s head and hold it still while he grabbed around the neck with his bare hand close up behind the head. Then he carried it over and dropped it into the sack hanging in a Judas tree or Spanish oak. That aroused the other captives to a violent rattling for a few minutes. Ater several had been safely put into the sack Mr. Reierson turned to me and asked if I would dare put one in. I really didn’t, but I knew that he was testing me to see what kind of stuff we northern parsons were made of. I had often handled the common grass snake while a boy in Minnesota, so I said “Sure”. Gunder promptly handed the
hooking rod over to me, and I had no choice. Before I quit I had put four three to four footers into the sack.” recalls Rev. Estrem.

According to the Reverend, “The next day was Sunday, and the whole congregation knew all about it, and it was the general talk outside the church. From then on, I was fully accepted as one of them, and I had gained their confidence to an extent that might otherwise have taken many months.”

This is just the beginning of the story and I will include more in upcoming columns, it is a wonderful look at our area in the early 1900’s and the families that lived here.


I would like any information on the marriage of J.N. Wilson to Miss D.B. Hellums in April

1896. Would also like full name of Mr. Wilson. Miss Hellums was Dorothy Beatrice. Who were their parents?
Ann Hill

I was wondering if anyone was familiar with my gggrandfather, John Andrew Thomas. His first marriage (that I know of) was to Mary Elizbeth Odle. She died giving birth to my ggrandfather, Matt Thomas in 1864. I am searching for info. on both John Andrew Thomas and Mary Elizabeth Odle and their ancestry. I also am curious to know where the Thomas family reunions were held. Each summer, the first week of August, we would meet on someone’s land. We would camp out, as their was no house, on a river or creek. Each
family would sleep on cots between their cars and in the morning, we children would awake to cows mooing and walking between right beside our cots. The older folks, particularly, Uncle Dolphus and Aunt Bessie would be frying pounds and pounds of bacon and brewing coffee over the campfire . It was heaven to us. We were especially enthralled with the outhouse! In the early 70’s, we could no longer camp there. The reunion was moved to the VFW in Clifton and that sort of ended our reunions. I have wonderful memories of my grandparents and all of my great aunts and uncles!!! Do you know anything about my Thomas or Odle families?

I would like to have information about Laura New and William James Wylie.  If anyone has information about where they were wed or William’s family. I would like to hear from them. They were my Great Grandparents. Their daughter was Gertrude Elsie m. to Norman David Cawelti in California.
Judy Cawelti Davis

Looking for graves of my MARTIN family in Beautiful Bosque…..Josiah S. MARTIN & wife Mary MARTIN………… son, James MARTIN & wife, Elizabeth MARTIN…….. son, Thomas D. (McDonald) MARTIN & wife Harriet MARTIN, plus second wife, Gatsey (LEE) MARTIN…….Josiah S. MARTIN, who died before 1870…Josiah purchased land from Willliam L. Jones, 1864, (deed seems to read “on Steele Creek”)……I have found the grave of Lucinda Elizabeth MARTIN, wife of Thomas Fletcher LOADER…they are buried in Riverside Cem, Iredell…..Also, at Riverside Cem, is a grave marked “MARTIN, Thomas D., Co B, 31 TX Cal CSA”, which I believe is the Thomas D. MARTIN, above…….Any help regarding my MARTIN graves would be so appreciated……..

News from the Bosque Citizen
December 15, 1887

H.L. Long ran over to Beaumont Friday on a short business trip.

Rom Wortham has built a neat yard fence around the Wortham house.

Mr. Baxter on Main Bosque was the recepient last Friday night of a fine daughter.

Dr. Clint Jones keeps himself supplied with the most improved surgical instruments.

Young Bob Swenson has been promoted to assistant superintendent of the Texas Central Railroad.

Mrs. F. A. Logan of Tyler is visiting her daughter Mrs. J. A. Gillette.

Miss Mary Cearnal of Walnut is visiting Col. W. H. Lockett’s family.

Dr. Olive had a runaway horse and buggy Saturday night. The vehicle was smashed but horse and driver escaped injury.

Rev. Wiley Jones the new circuit rider will preach at the M. E. Church next 4th Sunday.

May 10, 1888

Mr. E. Winston left Morgan Sunday to attend the bedside of her father at Gilmer Tx, who is not expected to live.

James Greer the boy from the Brazos and kid candidate for sheriff showed his handsome and genial countenance here Saturday.

Col. Tom Griffin is laid up with a broken arm.

The next time you meet Uncle Billy Andrews and Ed New ask them why they now wear a smile that is childlike and bland.

Lee Cox of Iredell is now engaged in buying cattle.

The speeches of R. H. Kingsbury and J. I Vincent at Walnut Springs Saturday are highly complimented by Morganites for their true ring of democracy.

Perry W. Ownby of Walnut Springs was called Saturday by telegram to his sick brother in law J. T. Duke in Robertson County.

There is a wonderful collection of old newspapers at the Bosque County Collections in Meridian, starting with the late 1800’s they hold a wealth of information for those researching early Bosque County. Visit their website at for more information on the resources they have available.

I still want to encourage everyone to take time to record your family history and stories. Don’t let those wonderful memoies slip away, be sure to talk to your older realtives and record their stories. Also, send in your Bosque County stories and queries, there are a lot of families and areas of our county that haven’t been touched upon yet in this column, I would really love to have those included.
If you are researching your Bosque County families online be sure to visit Bosque Co. TXGenWeb site at  you’ll find a wonderful collection of information provided by other researchers. This column will also be available weekly at this site. If you would like to submit a story or query about your Bosque County family
to this column please mail them to: LaDawn Garland c/o The Bosque County News, P.O. Box 343, Meridian, TX 76665, fax to (254) 435-6335 or email me at