CAPTAIN MILTON WESLEY DAMRON
Based on an article by Kenneth W. Behringer
THE DAMERON-DAMRON FAMILY NEWSLETTER
Volume 22 Spring 1992
Milton Wesley Damron was born on 10 May 1824 in Weakley County, Tennessee, to JOHN DAMRON JR. and SARAH ELIZABETH SHULTZ. (Lawrence 1, George 2, Lazarus 3, Moses 4, John 5, John Jr. 6, Milton Wesley 7).
John Damron Jr. was in New Madrid County, Missouri, in 1816. He married Sarah Shultz in Illinois and lived in Franklin County, Illinois, in 1818 and 1820. By 1830 the John Damron family was living in Weakley County, Tennessee, where Milton Wesley had been born. According to census records there were about six Damron families living in Weakley County in 1830. The family later moved to Barry County, Missouri. They lived in the portion of Barry Co. that became Newton Co. in 1838. In the later part of 1844 John and Sarah Damron along with several other families started to Texas as part of the Mercer Colony. Another family in this group was the John Pennington family. A daughter of this family was to become the wife of Milton Wesley.
The Mercer Colony was the last of the empresario grants that played a major role in the settling of Texas. The boundaries of the Mercer Colony were vague and covered most of north central Texas and reached south to near Waco. The charter recognized prior legal claims of earlier settlers. Unlike the colonies headed by Stephen F. Austin and others chartered by the Spanish and Mexican governments, this colony was approved on 29 January 1844 by Sam Houston, President of the Republic of Texas, in spite of opposition of the Texas Congress. The following day congress repealed all laws authorizing the president to form colonization contracts. After many years of bitter disputes the courts recognized about 120 claims out of over 700 claims filed in the Mercer Colony territory. The claims of John Damron and John Pennington were among the last that were accepted. Others that were disapproved were claims by a George Damron and a John Damron.
John Damron Jr. died on 3 April 1856 in Ellis County, Texas. After his death his widow converted to Mormonism and moved with the younger children to Utah where she died in 1859. Some of their children went on to California.
Milton Wesley Damron and SARAH PENNINGTON married on 29 January 1848 in Henderson County, Texas, and soon moved to Milam County, Texas. They are listed in the 1850 census for Milam County but likely lived in what is now Bell County. (Milam County was the "parent county" for many present day central Texas counties.) He and his family lived on the Lampasas River near Comanche Gap before moving to the Little River area. His father-in-law, John Pennington, started a mill on Salado Creek in the town of Salado in Bell County.
Milton Wesley was a member of at least one of the early "Ranging Companies." These are not the famous Texas Rangers but groups established to offer some protection from Indians that raided early settlements. He served as a "private" but no doubt learned many valuable lessons in tactics and organization that were to serve him well in the near future. He was involved in hunting down at least one band of Indians that came from western Oklahoma in the late 1850s and killed several settlers. Both parents of a Riggs family were killed. Two of the young boys avoided capture by hiding in the bushes, but their two sisters were taken captive. The band of Indians hastily fled to avoid one of the Ranging Company patrols. One of the girls was dropped and the other slipped off her horse and soon found her sister. The next day they were found and taken to the Damron home. They were taken to other relatives. A few days later the oldest girl recognized a white man with "a big nose and curly hair" as being part of the band of Indians. He identified other white men, and three of them were hung.
Milton Wesley Damron was a member of the first grand jury in April, 1851, in Bell County. He was an early Justice of the Peace and was a charter member of the "Bell County Agricultural Club," serving on a correspondence committee. He was also a Mason. In 1858 he was one of the "commissioners and citizens of the county of Bell" that petitioned the state of Texas for assistance in building a courthouse and jail. The reason given was the extra expense that came about because counties to the west that had little or no law. There is no record of action taken by the State.
Milton Wesley and Sarah were the parents of three daughters. SARAH DAMRON, was born in October 1849, and died as an infant. LOUISA CATHERINE DAMRON, was born 16 Aug. 1856. By the time that MARTHA SALADO DAMRON was born on 30 November 1860, the family had moved to Salado so that the girls could be educated in the newly founded Salado College.
Milton Wesley Damron was the first Tax Assessor and Collector elected in Bell County. He was elected three times and resigned in January, 1862, to organize at least two cavalry companies that served Texas in the Civil War. A distant cousin, JOHN NOLAN DAMRON, was appointed to fill his term as Tax Assessor and Collector.
The History of Bell County states that "In January, 1862, Captain Milton Wesley Damron led out another company of cavalry. The members of the company, mounted, and in military formation on the west side of the courthouse square in Belton, elected their officers. Miss Etta Shanklin on behalf of the ladies, presented the company flag in Belton on the day of their departure, and the company rode away to the training camp. A leather belt and scabbard, worn by each man, secured and housed as a side arm, a short sword or "bolo" forged from a large steel file, the craftmanship of our local smithies, James Lambert, John Danley, and Jas. P. Coop. It was rather a vicious-looking weapon!"
While the companies were being organized and even after he went on active duty, Milton Wesley was involved in planning for the support of the families of soldiers. Records indicate that he contributed very liberally to these funds.
Captain Damron's company traveled to Dallas where it was accepted into the Confederate Army on 20 January 1862 as Company D, 18th Regiment, Texas Volunteer Cavalry. Colonel Nicholas H. Darnell was the regimental commander. Records indicate that Company D was made up of men from Dallas and Athens. However, the original muster records show that most of the first soldiers were from Bell County. The regiment was first sent to "Indian Territory" where it soon had problems with the "departmental commander" over the election of officers and the selection of campsites. It was shortly assigned to Arkansas Post located on the Arkansas River near its junction with the Mississippi River. Arkansas Post was an ideal location that allowed the South to defend against a much larger force. General Grant decided that the area had to be captured before the final assault could be made on Vicksburg, Mississippi.
On 10 January 1863 Union forces launched a major assault on Arkansas Post. Suddenly, a young soldier started to wave a white flag and shouted "Raise the white flag by order of General Churchill!" After giving up their arms the Confederates discovered that the order had not come from any officer but was the idea of Private Thomas Clark Reed. Captain Milton Wesley Damron was on leave at the time of the surrender. He was soon assigned to command Company E of the 17th Texas Cavalry, comprised of men from Ellis County and a few members of his original company who had avoided capture at Arkansas Post. This company served the remainder of the war west of the Mississippi. The majority of Captain Damron's original company were imprisoned at Camp Douglas, Illinois, near Chicago and were later exchanged. They were then merged with other units and served east of the Mississippi in the Army of Tennessee as dismounted cavalry. They saw service in the battles of Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Missionary Ridge, Kenesaw Mountain, and the siege of Atlanta.
After the war Milton Wesley Damron was evidently elected to the Texas Legislature that was scheduled to meet in the fall of 1866. There is a question if the legislature was actually allowed to meet as a majority of the members were former soldiers and officials under the Confederacy. About this time the Union Army was placed in control of Texas and the other states that were part of the Confederacy. The U.S. Congress soon passed laws prohibiting former officers and high officials from serving in the occupied South. Very soon "Carpetbaggers" and "Scalawags" were in control and several years passed before the people gained control over their lives and property.
Little is recorded about Milton Wesley and Sarah Damron after the end of the Civil War. There is a mention that he spent the rest of his life as a farmer and rancher in Bell County, Texas. Sarah died on 29 September 1876. Milton Wesley died on 28 April 1887. Both are buried in the city cemetery in Salado, Texas. Louisa Catherine Damron, married JAMES HERMAN AIKEN and lived in Salado. Martha Salado Damron, married JOHN RICHARDSON and moved with him to Hoquiam, Washington.
1. Records of Charles Chaney, Leonard L. Damron, and Kathy Near
2. Story of Bell County, Texas, Vol. I and II
3. Mercer's Colony by Gifford White
4. The History of Bell County by Tyler
5. Salado, Texas: It's History and People by Shanklin
6. Bell County, Texas, Records, Vol. I, by Hill and Martin
7. A Memorial and Biographical History of McLennan, Falls, Bell and Coryell Counties, Texas
8. "Time Lapse," an article that appeared in Civil War Times Illustrated, date unknown
9. Tombstone, Salado, Bell County, Texas
SEE: Article on Milton Wesley Damron in the Texas Handbook of History Online
*The Sons of the Texas Republic have listed him as a citizen in the Republic of Texas (1836-1846), and a marker has been installed at his grave.
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